QLED vs OLED, not the same tech.

Update: OLED is not without it’s issues. One issue is reverse vignette, this is where the screen appears darker on the inside than the outside. Vignette is an effect that you see in some photos and even in movies, inside is brighter than the outside. Sometimes done purposefully, other times it’s due to the use of a wide angle lens, it bends the light in such a manner that it creates the effect. You can remove reverse vignette on an OLED panel by adjusting the OLED light, contrast, and brightness of the screen. This is not noticeable in content however, and you really have to look for it in order to see it.

Vignette effect.

/Update.

I just saw what Samsung is charging for their new QLED TV sets, and are they insane? They are marketing their new television line as some form of LED technology, then pricing it similar to what LG is charging for their OLED sets. Well let me tell you, one is better than the other. I’m writing this article in the hopes that you won’t get fooled in to buying one of those over priced LCD screens from Samsung.

There are two types of OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technologies. W-OLED and RGB-OLED. Samsung bet all it’s money and research on RGB OLED, and lost. They have since dropped out of the OLED panel race. Due to RGB-OLED high price and degradation of the blue OLED pixel this technology proved to be too expensive to manufacture for large format displays. LG opted for the W-OLED or White Oled technology, which is a white LED with RGB filters. LG won, this is the perfect OLED technology for large format displays and soon other manufacturers will follow LG in their footsteps.

After dropping OLED panels as a display technology Samsung released new branding for their LCD panels, they called this QLED or Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode. The description of this technology is somewhat based on a lie or false promise. I believe this branding is meant to fool the consumer into believing they are buying something that the technology is not. There are no Light emitting diodes or LEDs inside the QLED panels. QLED is a passive LCD screen with a quantum dot colour filter and LED edge lighting. The only difference between QLED and an LCD/LED TVs (LED is an LCD panel with LED edge lighting) are the quantum dot filters, everything else is business as usual.

QLED sounds like OLED, but OLED it is not. While the W-OLED and QLED technologies on paper may look and sound the same, the name is where this similarity ends. I believe that Samsung QLED technology is inferior to LGs OLED and Samsung will lose a lot of market share due to it’s price and the underlying technology of using LCD panels.

OLED is an emitting technology, each pixel is capable of producing it’s own light. Benefits to this are that OLED panels have infinite contrast ratios as each pixel can be individually turned off and on. Blacks are true black, similar to what plasma and crt televisions were capable of offering in the past. OLED is a natural replacement for Plasma Television owners and Home Theater enthusiasts. OLED screens can be viewed in a bright room, even when you have sunlight hitting the screen.

QLED on the other hand is a LCD panel with a passive colour filter(quantum dot layer) and an edge LED array which is used as a back light for the screen. If sunlight hits your screen it renders the image unwatchable. QLED sets might be held to a higher production standard than normal LCD panels however they still come with issues such as banding, light bleed, uniformity concerns, and motion blur. Even with local dimming that QLED panels possess, they have a lot of light bleed. In bright rooms, unlike OLED, QLED screens wash out and become unwatchable. In dark rooms the light bleed from the back light detracts from the viewing experience.

OLED sets have virtually no motion blur, no light bleed, no banding, near perfect uniformity, and are perfect for viewing at an angle with virtually no colour shift. I say virtually because sometimes the light refraction coating on top of the screen can make whites appear with a slight pink/purple tint. This happens primarily when viewing the screen at an angle. The tint shift effect of the refraction coating is not very significant, and even with this shortcoming of the LG OLED screens they still look much better than any high end LCD panel I have laid eyes on. Have a look at the picture it demonstrates the coating tint shit effect. Note the left side of the screen is slightly warmer than the right side.

Yes quantum dots much like OLED do produce more saturated colours. But at the price Samsung wants to charge for a set you are better off picking up an OLED set from 2016. The 2016 LG B6 series can be picked up for around $ 2500 USD, and I guarantee you the picture quality is better than anything Samsung can offer for twice the price in their QLED lineup. Sony and others are also getting into the OLED Television game and some more sets are on the way to market. OLED prices are being driven down and they are becoming more affordable. QLED might soon be a technology of the past. If Samsung is not able to decrease the price and improve the quality of QLED displays OLED will be the clear winner. Even with some of the OLED shortcomings, such as brightness fading, this technology has a lot more benefits than QLED. I use mine as a monitor too, while there is some image retention I have not noticed it and retention on W-OLED is not permanent. OLED sets are closer to the picture quality of CRT and Plasma televisions than any LCD on the market right now. Also SDR (vs HDR on Samsung) content looks much better on an OLED panel.

The bottom line is Samsung could not afford to stay in the OLED game with their RGB-OLED tech. Now Samsung is trying to sell you an inferior technology marketed as something that it can not compete with. W-OLED screens are cheaper to produce and produce a better visual experience.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_dot_display

https://www.oled-info.com/oled-tv

http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/english/news/industry/2891-w-oled-vs-rgb-oled-samsung-lg-show-different-techs-large-displays-ces-2014

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HDR is here, sigh…

First, here is a good quick article on the difference of 8-bit vs 10-bit colour. Give it a quick one, two. Thumbs up the guy that took the time to write that.

My opinion is as follows.

First HDR should not be called HDR. It should be called Colour+ or something. Because it’s not what traditional HDR is or does. There are 3 HDR formats as of this writing, HDR, HDR10+ and, Dolby Vision.

HDR offers a singular benefit which is the colour depth, but as is with Dolby and Samsungs HDR10+ everything else about it is a gimmick. Just like Curved screens, and the likes of 8K Televisions. Perhaps 8K is useful for larger cinema screens but to me as a consumer 8K won’t offer any value in the near future. HDR offers a singular benefit, this is the wider colour gamut or depth(10 bit vs 8 bit). This has been a long ways in the making and started in the days of DVD past.

While yes the capability of the wider colour gamut or depth is welcome, things such as changing meta data is riding on borderline gimmicky and stupid. Also I would prefer there be no changing meta data in my video streams, thank you very much. I’d rather my Television have less capability to spy on me than they already do. I’m looking at you Samsung. I don’t own any Samsung products by the way, and there is a good reason for that, explosions and spying aside, I don’t buy into what they sell. While LG has adopted HDR and Dolby Vision(Netflix), Samsung has opted for HDR and HDR10+(Amazon). Amazon opted to adopt the HDR10+ standard.

I have experienced both Netflix and Amazon HDR, except for HDR10+ on Amazon. Based on my experience I will say this; the quality of Netflix and Dolby Vision leaves something to be desired. While it can offer benefits for edge lit LCD panels I see no benefit for OLED TVs. The idea behind Dolby Vision is such that it adjusts the contrast and brightness levels so that one can see the darks or shadows in a scene better and with greater detail than before. Is this true? Yes, somewhat but it comes at a price. To me it reeks of gimmick that only Edge Lit LCD panels benefit from. Let me explain. The problem with edge lit LCDs is that if a single pixel on the screen needs to be lit, and depending on the TV weather it has local dimming zones or not, the entire screen or sections of it will be lit up with the back light to provide illumination to the single pixel. LCD pixels are a passive technology and do not emit light. That is not the case with OLED. This means that on LCD/LED/QLED panels you will see a beam of light dropping down from the top to the bottom for a single pixel on an edge lit LCD panel, or LED panel as the manufacturers like to call them. QLED does something similar as well. While Dolby Vision aims to minimize this. Testing DV(Dolby Vision) on the LG 65UH8500 which is an LED edge lit LCD TV, this effect is very noticeable. Dolby Vision somewhat corrected this problem, but I also noticed that the contrast, the whites and, overall brightness of the image suffered in DV. Having watched and tested many DV shows, it was all the same across the board. Most noticeably in Luke Cage, DV rendered the image and show unwatchable and I had to make adjustments to the DV settings. Note that this was a calibrated television screen. In Marco Polo it did improve the dark scenes, however during the bright scenes I noticed that the colours and whites were way off. The whites weren’t white anymore and colour had a dark brown tint to it. But then again Netflix streaming quality is nothing to rave about. While Amazon streaming quality is slightly better than Netflix, this is only true for their UHD stuff. Also Amazon’s HDR implementation is a little simpler than DV and having watched the Grand Tour in HDR I can say, it’s just ok. HDR is simple and does what it’s supposed to without gimmicks. It adds a larger colour gamut, while HDR10+ and Dolby Vision add changing meta data to the stream. Thanks but no thanks.

The likes of 4 HDR standards exist right now, or soon will. Each vying for TV supremacy.
This smells to me like the next format war, Beta Max vs VHS, HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray, well Dolby Vision vs HDR10+ is here. So get ready folks, get ready to stop buying new TVs because a new format war is about to come to your living room.

Also did you know that that UHD television in your living room will not display UHD Television content for a long time, if ever, except for a couple channels. For the most part TV producers opted for HDR instead of UHD resolution. On top of that, said live television HDR format is a new standard which has not been added to any TV manufacturers lineups yet. Planned obsolescence? Maybe. Who knows maybe it’s just a firmware update, but if you’re dreaming of watching sports in UHD, think again, it might not ever happen. Yes Direct TV streamed some UHD channels last year, but have a look around, most Television broadcasts are still in 720p or 1080i, nothing has changed in the last little while.

So as it stands right now the only benefit HDR offers is via UHD-BluRay. You get uncompressed HDR video with wider colour range and uncompressed audio. However, UHD-BluRays aren’t flying off the shelves either. I have a sneaking suspicion that UHD BluRay will go the way of BetaMax, HD-DVD, and the Dodo. As such I could not recommend a new LCD panel that supports HDR at the moment to anyone. Let alone UHD LCD panel, that is unless you plan to use it with a PC. There really is no benefit at the moment to the average consumer purchasing a UHD TV unless you are buying a large format screeen, 80″ + I’d say. Be patient, sit and wait, watch, and then make an informed purchase.

If you’re are going to upgrade your LCD panel do it because you’re upgrading it to an OLED TV. That is the single best upgrade you can make to your TV, you will be stunned at the difference between OLED and LCD. Once you look at OLED you will realize how trashy LCD, LED and, Samsung’s QLED panels really are. This is truly the future of Television displays, and Goggles rumored $800 Million investment in LGs OLED technologies is proof of that. Christ, go to any robotics hobby shops and they are stocking OLED monochrome displays, some even colour. OLED is the future display tech for the time being. QLED or Quantum dot Light Emitting Diodes are just LCD panels with a gimmicky name to try and fool you into buying Samsung’s panels which are LCD/LED edge lit displays of the last 10 years past.

OLED or go home I say. This is what the industry should be concentrating on.

References:

http://www.techhive.com/article/171223/10_bit_color.html

http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/directv-4k-uhd-masters-broadcast/

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/10/google-offers-at-least-880-mln-to-lg-display-for-oled-investment-electronic-times.html

http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/hdr-tv-high-dynamic-television-explained

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-high-definition_television#Americas

The Nexus Root Toolkit experience

A quick post here…

I must have root, I always must have root on my Android smart phones.

Since my first Android smart phone, the Motorola XT720, I have always rooted my phones and threw on a custom recovery. Yes it might void my warranty, but I go through phones faster than underwear.

I kid you not, I have some bad mojo when it comes to smart phones, I lose them or break them very quickly. This is why I have 3 backup phones sitting in my drawer at home, just in case, I never know with my habits.

Recently I had the pleasure to use the Nexus Root Toolkit. It`s a collection of applications and adb commands used to backup, restore, custom recovery, root and un-root all and any Nexus branded devices. This kit also pulls all the necessary applications and images from the web if necessary. The Tool kit has many options and menus, I will only cover the basic ones here that are needed for rooting and backing up the device.

Whats nice is that qbking77 has a YouTube video of the entire Nexus 4 rooting process, it is also linked from the WugFresh site. It does not get any easier than that.

adb shell is a command line tool knows as the Android Debugger Bridge it is used to send commands to an Android phone that would otherwise not be available in the OS via GUI. One particular command that comes to mind is the backup command. It allows you to backup all your applications and your phone state via adb command shell.

This shell is available via the Android SDK kit for free on the intewebs. Useful for non nexus users if you`re gong to root your phone and you have already put some mileage on it.

Some other applications available in the root kit are SMS Backup & Restore which is available on Google Play, and Call Log Backup & Restore from the same developer.

All these tools are available in in one neat little package with instructions on how to backup, unlock, root, and restore your applications. Anyone that has ever installed an application is able to use this method to root a Nexus device. A lot of it is automated, and if it is not it gives you step by step instructions with screen shots on how to perform said task. When I rooted my Nexus 4 I was expecting to start from scratch as unlocking the boot loader of a phone wipes it`s contents, and a previous attempt a few years ago to backup my phone via adb failed. You could imagine that I was skeptical when I saw the backup option in the Nexus Root Kit.

My first backup attempt via the root kit failed and yielded a backup file with the size of 0kb. If was my own fault though, there is some user interaction required on the device when performing the backup steps. I was not quick enough to click accept when prompted for permission on the phone. So I tried again, and the backup yielded a 4GB backup file, and took about 30 min. Success!

Then I proceeded to backup my SMS messages, this process installs the actual application on your phone and the user is presented with steps on backing up their SMS.

Then came the unlocking and rooting parts, which in my personal opinion were the easiest steps of the whole process. Your phone will be rebooted several times during all this but in the end you will have root and your boot loader will be unlocked allowing you to install certain applications and custom ROMs like CyanogenMod. Also you can backup your entire phone to a file with a custom recovery, so if you decide that you want to try different ROMs you can restore your phone to a previous state in minutes.

Of the whole process the most difficult part was installing the proper drivers on the Windows machine. Followed by the application backup.

One thing worth noting, when restoring the adb backup via Nexus Root Toolkit after unlocking and rooting your phone, sign into your Google account on the phone or your paid applications will not be restored.

The rooting process has become super easy, I remember rooting my first phone and it was a pain in my ass.

Also check out Lifehackers The Always Up-To-Date Guide to Rooting the Most Popular Android Phones, if you do not own a Nexus device, it`s a good resource for rooting.

The Device that Saved my Home Theatre

I enjoy movies and TV immensely, I have since I was a kid. As a teen I used to stay up till 4am on fridays and saturdays watching old school films on the local channel. If I ever have an hour or two of free time it’s a coin flip between video games, TV show or a Movie. I live in a 3 story apartment building, and I’m positive that my neighbours must hate me by now. I crank the shit out of my volume, on a 0-100 volume scale I hover around 65, and 75 if it’s action packed and full of awesome effects. My go to movie for testing sound effects is the first 20 minutes of Star Trek First Contact, I’m sure there are better movies out there for testing audio system setups but Star Trek holds a special place in my heart.

Home Theatre

The entire setup, sans the rear surrounds.

My Home Theatre setup is as follows. The TV is an LG 60” Smart TV, beautiful picture except for the fact that mine was shipped with a defect in the panel. I am in the process of getting it replaced but since it is the time of year where manufacturers are switching to their new product line LG has no stock of 60” TVs at the moment. Funny fact, when the repair guy showed up at my place to have a look at the TV and opened it up, the label on the LCD panel inside read SHARP. He also said he has never seen a panel with the issue that I have. Smart TVs are nice having the option of netflix right on the TV is a nice add on, and the LG magic remote is a pleasure to use it is similar to the likes of the Wii remote if you’ve ever used one.

Panel and Problem

Panel defect, top left, dark pixels. Sharp panel on the inside.

Harman Kardon AVR 2650

Harman Kardon AVR 2650

The receiver is a Harman Kardon AVR 2650, 7.2 surround, 3D support and in general just beautiful sound. It is capable of plethora of audio codecs, as well as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. I have yet to get the Audio Return Channel to work but whatever, modern TVs have optical output, so really it is not a dealbreaker for me. Also a device connected to my receiver does not allow ARC, but we’ll get to that later in the article, essentially this limits my options with ARC. It also has network connectivity which allows music streaming from internet radio or a local DNLA server. Yes, I could have went with other receivers that have better on screen display, and more features, however I was not willing to sacrifice the audio quality that Harman is known for just to get a few extra bells and whistles.

The JBL loft series speakers are connected to my receiver, and a Polk Audio subwoofer. I have 2 Loft50s for fronts, a Loft20 center speaker, two Loft30s for surrounds, and a Polk Audio PSW10 subwoofer. This setup is nothing special, but it does the job. In the future I hope to upgrade to an Axiom setup, drool… http://www.axiomaudio.com/. Now I had no idea JBL was owned by Harman until I bought them, so I assume I matched up the setup quite nicely. I got a really good deal on these speakers too, boxing day is a blessing. I pretty much got a good deal on most of my equipment, I’m a bit of a frugal man so I save where I can. Sound reproduction is excellent. At first when I bought these speakers I had trouble finding the appropriate crossover settings and reading online yielded only suggestions and no exact settings for this option on my receiver. At first I was running the receiver at default settings, which was I believe was 100 for all speakers, boy was I ignorant. Is sounds so much better with the right settings. It’s like night and day.

So what is crossover? Crossover frequency is the frequency point you set at which the speakers start to feed their information to the subwoofer. This is set by the room acoustics, speaker frequency range… etc. There are a lot of factors involved in this measurement, and this is why I could not find an exact metric for my setup online. You kind of have to calculate/quess it. I found a good article explaining this crossover feature on Cnet, check it out it really goes into depth of crossover http://forums.cnet.com/7723-7596_102-308924/what-is-crossover-setting/. This is where the EZset/EQ swooped in to save the day, it pretty much took all the guesswork out of the equation for crossover. Set it and forget it. Well not exactly, after the EZset setup my crossover frequency I went in the menu and tweaked the distances and levels of the speakers. This involved a measuring tape and listening to music in 5 channel stereo. No this is not the device that saved my Home theatre, this is the device that helped me get the most out if it.

Finally I have all this connected to my network which hosts a home server sporting the Linux UnRaid distribution, with movies, TV, and my Music on it which is all reachable directly on a SAMBA share or via a DNLA server of the Plex flavour. Actually a friend of mine turned me onto this server OS and I couldn’t be happier with the switch from Windows to Linux. Check it out both UnRaid http://lime-technology.com/ and Plex Server http://www.plexapp.com/. Plex is nice because it does transcoding for PS3 and Xbox 360, and can be installed on WIndows, Mac, or Linux. I also have a PS3 an Xbox 360, HTPC, Gaming Computer, and a Bluray/DVD/HDDVD player connected to the receiver.

The Problem

Some call it video stutter, audio drops, there are so many names for it. I call it, bad programming, however before I continue I need to explain to you what EDID is. EDID stand for Extended Display Identification Data, EDID id is how an Xbox or PS3 tells a television set that it is connected to to the display, that it exists, and what resolution it is capable of. And the communication goes something like this…

EDID

Anyways the problem I encountered was one that i really did not notice until I got my new LG TV. I upgraded from a 5 year old 46” Samsung LCD to a new 60” LG Smart TV.

When I had my Samsung connected to the receiver I had the occasional video flicker, mostly on my HTPC. My gaming and other video devices didn’t really cause any problems.

So I didn’t really think much of it. I bought a new TV, I wall mounted it, and started it up. At first it worked flawlessly. Yeah it worked, it worked until i restarted the television, this is where you should insert hours of cursing and troubleshooting. The only way the whole setup would work is if I turned it on in a specific order as per the receiver troubleshooting guide. Even then sometimes this did not help at all, and when I did manage to get video going there would be other issues I would experience. I would have to turn everything off for 5 min and try again. Check out my video on YouTube… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIFTPkttjrI

I blamed the receiver at first, as did hundreds of other people on Amazon. This is wrong, it is not the receivers fault, it is actually a combination of both receiver and the television set. Mostly however it is the television set and bad programming. But how do you know this Dave?

Well, this is not my first run in with an LG television and bad EDID communication. My first instance was about 2 years ago, I was setting up a Patriot Box Office in the basement and connecting it to an LG TV. Nothing, that is what I got on the television, no sound or picture. Now I knew this worked because as soon as I connected the PBO to my Samsung television, the PBO booted up and I was able to watch videos and listen to music.

The second run in was with my Fathers LG LCD. I was over at his place and I had my Dell XPS laptop with me and an HDMI cable. We decided we wanted to watch a movie where my laptop was the source. Once I connected the laptop to the TV I got a video but no audio. I tried several cables, and finally came to the realization that it’s not going to happen.

The third incident is in the form of my own Home Theatre. Oh man I was so livid when this first occurred, new TV, good surround but yet I can’t watch anything without audio or video dropping out. It also affected my Xbox 360 and PS3, the 360 would flicker really bad and I could not get any audio or video on my PS3. So came the hunt for my solution.

The Hunt

I spent hours on the net reading about the problem, searching, researching, reading, and then reading some more. Scratch that, not hours but days. Then one night at 1 am when I was looking at other receivers I stumbled upon this review on Amazon http://goo.gl/m8Na9. Whaaaaaaaa?!?…. yup… “Video issues like yours occur when HDCP or EDID information doesn’t sync properly between the receiver’s HDMI repeater and your TV.” Bells and whistles went off in my head, and I wanted to do Dance of Joy http://vimeo.com/6530632.

I found the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. Beer! Kidding, I had finally found my culprit, right there in black and white from experts was exactly what was going on. I kept reading reviews on the HDMI detective and EDID issues. Most users had the problems with their HTPC and Receivers, but it all seemed very familiar to me. I found a couple reviews and complaints about receivers in general and this problem was not isolated to just HTPCs.

I thought I found the solution but I wanted to make sure. So I kept digging and reading, trying to find weather or not this EDID issue could be resolved by a device one of the posts mentioned. Nothing concrete, but I said “Screw it!” I’m going to pick one up anyways and give it a try. Worst case scenario I can send it back, with Amazons amazing customer service this will be a non issue.

Gefen HDMI Detective Plus

Gefen HDMI Detective Plus

The Solution

This is where the Gefen HDMI Detective comes in. http://goo.gl/gbW4r . Like a superhero swooping in to save a damsel in distress, the HDMI saved the day. I bought mine from Amazon. It was very easy to setup, literally it took less than 5 min.

Gefen HDMI Detective Plus in action.

Gefen HDMI Detective Plus in action.

The Gefen HDMI Detective Plus attaches to the HDTV display’s HDMI input connector for initial programming. Power is applied and the HDMI Detective Plus reads and stores the attached displays EDID to the internal memory. Then the HDMI Detective Plus is attached to your source HDMI output and it will never lose EDID again.

The HDMI Detective Plus includes 5 built-in selectable generic EDIDs that can be used for meeting standard home theatre setups. They can be selected by moving the dip switches between the different settings. I used one of the preset settings that come pre programmed with the device.

EDID

EDID 5 was my preset of choice, it can handle DTS, Dolby and 1080p is its native resolution. This was good enough for my Home Theatre setup and, 3 months later it is still up and running no more video or audio drops.

Conclusion

At the time of writing this, one of these devices will set you back about $130. You can find them for cheaper but rarely. If you’re like me this does not even cover the cost of cabling and shelving I had to buy for my system.

All in all this is a must have device for any Home Theatre, most setups have an HTPC if that is the case this device can save you a head full of ache. I paid the $130 and didn’t even look back, I’ll have this for the life span of my system and it is a small price to pay for a piece of mind.

Side Notes

For those of you that have EDID problems with your PC and a TV set check out this thread in the AVS Forum about changing the EDID on your video card driver. Otherwise you will need the Gefen HDMI Detective. http://www.avsforum.com/t/1091403/edid-override-thread

Update

Just a quick update.

I wanted to mention a few things about the receiver I have, mainly the crossover frequencies and an observation.

The crossover fq settings are as follows:

Front: Large

Centre: 60 Hz

Surround: 40 Hz

Subwoofer: Present

Mind you, these are based on my room size, device, and speakers. JBL, Loft 50, 30 and 20.

Update 2

Since writing this I am on my second H/K AVR 2650 receiver. The HDMI board on it blew last week. I have decided to return it to Amazon, who by the way has the most excellent customer service . I’m really pleased doing business with them and will continue to do so. I have decided to buy a Pioneer VSX-1123-K receiver from Amazon, or a local retailer if I can find it for a similar price.

Update 3

Both HDMI boards were bad on the two Harmon Kardon receivers. With my new Pioneer I no longer need this device, and it sits collecting dust in a box somewhere. Since this issue I have learned to avoid Harman Kardon hardware. The consensus is that since 2009 and the move of all manufacturing and design to China these devices have drastically dropped in quality.

Nerd on Nexus 4

Every time I try and publish this post I discover a new feature and try thoroughly review it. Well enough is enough.

But before I begin let me share a few opinions and observations about all the major OS distros in the mobile market.
Image

BlackBerry 10

Immature operating system. It is somewhat open source and I believe that it will succeed in the market and is here to stay. It has some struggles ahead, however QNX is the only Real Time Operating System (RTOS) out there, that gives it a real advantage over the competition making it the only multi tasking devices out there. It powers vehicles and equipment on the space shuttle, it is robust and reliable. One benefit BB10 has is the fact that porting Android apps to BB10 is very easy for developers and their market place will grow exponentially in the next year. Once the BB10 dev kits are able to port Android OS 4+ application there is no stopping it.
One thing I dislike about BB10 is the menu system, it is very primitive, but hopefully that will change in time. Personally I think this is a good cross between Android and iOS.

Windows Phone 8

I had the chance to play with this OS at a Dell/Microsoft event I attended a while ago. Great OS, very responsive, and should have been a competitor. The fact that they rubbed their developers the wrong way made it suffer. The applications are lacking because when they were switching from version 6 to 7 to 7.5, and 8 the developers had to re-write their applications for each new version of the operating system. Right now Microshaft has two mobile OS versions on the market 7.5 and 8, soon 7.8 and 8. That does not bode well for a company when one version is not compatible with the other and you have 2 user bases. Having said that anyone I know that owns a Windows Phone swears by it. I have to say myself, I was somewhat impressed when I used it, it was easy and a pleasure to use.
Microsoft has money so they might keep throwing it at their Mobile Platform, after all the mobile space is growing rapidly and eating up the laptop space. I don’t use my laptop as often as I did prior to moving to a smart phone. I don’t even have plans to buy a new one.

iOS

Apple was first and they innovated, this statement is somewhat not true. Apple was not first and they did not innovate. Palm, Microsoft and Blackberry were there first. What Apple did was they made an fully featured device accessible to the layman and packaged it in a nice shiny wrapper. They took an MP3 device and they added the phone feature. iOS evolved into what it is today. I have to say, it has not evolved much in the last couple years. It is following the route of Google these days adding cloud based services and add ons. It needs to keep doing that in order to stay alive, but they are ignoring their operating system and it is becoming stagnant. They need to overhaul it soon and bring it into the modern era of mobile operating systems, it is almost 6 years old and really not much has changed. iPhone 5 is a perfect example of this problem Apple has. I’m thinking that iOS overhaul is happening soon, considering they are planning to move the OS to the Mac platform it is only logical that some changes will happen. Perhaps the overhaul will happen on the Mac platform first and the changes will trickle down to their mobile devices. We will see, but I think if iOS will move to the desktop platform that will be the end of Apples successful run and they will fade into obscurity where they dwelled prior to their iPod success. I digress and it is only this writers opinion. Apple has a leg up on Android in regards to operating system upgrades, since there is no hardware fragmentation the OS can be pushed to older devices and optimized for them. This is not the case with Samsung. Here is where Apple has the leg up on the competition. They control the hardware and software design completely making them more attractive to the corporate market and for business use. Until recently they were the only kid on the block that could brag about that.

Android

The android OS varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Samsung will have a different interface than HTC, and HTC will have a different interface than LG, Motorolla, Android vanilla… etc.One experience is not like the next, this is however what attracts manufacturers to the OS, they can customize it to their liking and make it their own. The licensing fees are also almost non existent. So there is a cost factor.

Then we get to the service providers, AT&T, Amazon, and Rogers all have their own marketplaces, or are in the midsts or creating them. But that’s not the end of it either, once we get passed the service providers, and manufacturers we have version fragmentation. One device version is not like the next.
My first forte into the Android environment was with the Motorola XT720 on Wind Mobile in Canada. I upgraded from a BlackBerry 8830, a solid device that needed to be rebooted at least once a couple days due to memory leaks in theOS. The XT720, a $400+ device at the time runing version 2.2 of the android OS with the promise of being upgraded to version 2.3.6. That upgrade never happened the manufacturer backtracked on their promise to upgrade. You should have seen the Motorola forums in regards to this upgrade, holy shnikes, I don’t think they could press the delete button fast enough to keep up with the flaming posts. I destroyed that phone, I literally threw it against my bedroom floor and it shattered into a thousand pieces. Let’s just say that my patience ran out. The phone would drop calls, not connect to make calls, randomly reboot, and be completely unreliable. One positive note however, the camera was gorgeous. It took beautiful pictures and amazing quality videos, if anything they got that right. I have not been able to find an Android phone since then that came even close to the quality of pictures and video as the XT720. The construction of the phone was also solid and it had some weight behind it. Here is hoping that Motorola in Google’s hands will come out on top again, because their phones are solid, however their support and device longevity is less than acceptable.
After I destroyed this phone, the next day I went out and got a Nexus S, the difference between the two devices was night and day. The Galaxy S was reliable quick and just worked. It served me well for about 6 months, until I decided to upgrade to the Galaxy Nexus. I fell in love with the Android Vanilla experience and after being subjected to the XT720 I was completely sold on the Android OS. By this time this was my third android device. I only had my Galaxy Nexus for 3 weeks. I lost it on a Ski hill while Snowboarding, it was angry as I paid for it out right $650, it was a birthday gift to myself. Shit happens, and it happened because of my own stupidity. So I decided to sign a 3 year contract and get a Galaxy Note. I had this device for about a year, two months shy of a year actually. I love the screen size, it is very legible and comfortable. Phablets are nice, but impractical for people on the go, even for someone with my size. I could use it with one hand no problem, and I could fit it into most pockets, but to be honest it was a little too large. I believe the sweet spot is between 4.7” and 5” screen, for me personally. Samsungs Touchwiz on the other hand is a horrid raping of the Android OS. I have no idea why they are the #1 Android hardware manufacturer, I was not impressed, it looked like the dumbing down of the Android OS to make it look like the iPhone.  If I wanted an iPhone I would have went out and bought one. On the second day off owning the phone it was rooted, Clockwork Mod was installed and a custom ROM flashed. It stayed like that for a while, until I flashed Cyanogen Mod 10 on it and it started giving me random reboots. Finally I decided, no more! Time to go back to the Nexus brand, where I was happiest with Android. I considered all my options, Android, iOS, WP8, BB10. However none of them had the community and support as Android. I also would lose some of my Nerd functionality if I moved away from Android. Then there are google services, simply amazing. None of the Other OS come close to the online services and how they are intertwined like Google’s. They need to unify some of their online services, for example I don’t like that you can accept a video call either via G+ hangouts or GTalk, again their fragmentation problem. What I’m saying is that Google’s Android is good but far from perfect, a true Nerds mobile operating system, and I will give you a glimpse why.

Nexus 4 and the Nexus program

Design and Feel

The $350 16GB version of the LG Nexus 4 feels like a premium phone. The glass on both sides gives it a very nice tactile feel and one will think they are holding something worth at least $600. Prior to making the plunge I read all these online reviews about how the S3 feels a lot better and nicer in your hands than the N4. I’m sorry but these reviewers are out to lunch, either that or Samsung is paying them off.
In this writers opinion Glass feels more premium to me than cheap plastic. Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, and Galaxy S3 have all the same thing in common, they sport the same cheap plastic housing. I’ve owned two of those three devices and I have friends that own the S3, the Nexus 4 is a clear winner here in my opinion.
One thing that worries me here is that it is glass, dropping it without a bumper or case might crack it. Mine has the bumper case around it that can be purchased in Google Play.
Since it is glass and prone to smudges this might be a concern for some, but over the one weeks use putting it into and pulling it out of my pocket seems to clean the glass rather nicely.
Definitely not cheap at all.

Operating System

Nice thing about vanilla Android and the Nexus programs, are the OS upgrades. The Nexus S is almost 2.5 years old. It started out on Android 2.3 and as of writing this it is upgradable to Android 4.1.2. Now I can not see it going any further than that on the old hardware however that is somewhat on par with what Apple has going for them. The iPhone 3GS currently supports iOS 6.1, the 3GS came out in mid 2010 that will mean the 3GS receives support for just over 2 years. Google dropped support for the Nexus S on 4.2.1 which was announced on November 2012.

I wish I could say the same about Samsung devices, the truth is they might get one version update and that is it. For example take my Galaxy Note, I had it less than a year and it was upgraded from Android 2.3.6 to 4.0.4, but that was it. The life span of this device in regards to the OS was barely 9 months. This is very common for Android outside of the Nexus program, and one of the main reasons I switched back to a Nexus device. The operating system will be current and up to date a year or two down the road. I will have the latest and greatest flavour of Android for a while to come. Some other manufacturers are even worse when it comes to operating system longevity on their hardware and should be avoided like the plague.

Vanilla Android as seen on the Nexus devices is my personal choice. It simply just works, it works how it’s meant to and that’s that. On the touchwiz interface I have had some applications fail to initialize and launch. More often than not manufacturers mess with the operating system, try and tweak it and fail to realize that their custom interface might impede the standard operation for some applications. I’m not saying all manufacturers are the same, I’m saying that my experience with Samsung was such that I could not get all application to work that work on my Nexus device. This might also not be the case for all Samsung devices, I know that the Note had some bugs and some fixes were issued to the companies phones. This also leads me to believe that Samsung is not prioritizing development, they tout fancy specs at users and confuse them with metrics. Truth is when you overlay an interface on your phone that takes up resources such as clock cycles and memory and consumes a lot of it, your metrics mean squat.

The Android operating system performs rather well when you don’t have a custom UI hanging over it. I find that the touchwiz is rather a slow performer and sluggish. Stock Android is quick responsive and works like a charm. The new application drawer has two sides to it, application notifications and a quick settings drawer where you can turn WiFi, Bluetooth and other settings on and off.

All other features are pretty much standard since Android 4, the new Google search which is accessible by holding the home button and swiping up. Once in the new Google search you can initiate a voice search or a command by saying “google” and following up with a command such as “search for….” or “text <insert name>….”. Pretty much standard stuff across Android and iOS as far as functionality goes. The voice recognition works rather well and is very accurate

Another new feature is the swype style keyboard that Google introduced with their new version of the OS. It takes a little getting used to but typing with one hand has never been as easy as this. A definite winner, and having used swype for the last 2-3 years it is nice to get it as a default with the OS.

Samsung bundles Swype with their UI, it’s a nice bonus and if you can get your hands on Swype I highly recommend it. http://www.swype.com/ Swype definitively comes out on top of the stock android keyboard.

To add $0.02 about the other UIs, touchwiz on Samsung phones is terrible, slow, and sometimes non responsive. Samsung needs to work on this big time. This is why when I got a Note the first thing I did was root it and install Cyanogen Mod. An alternative to rooting and installing a custom ROM is Nova Launcher from Google Play, it gives your phone the ICS/Jelly Bean feel everyone likes. I’ve also seen the HTC Sense interface and how it handles. it is nice and a lot of developers out there like to mimic it because it is light and very intuitive. I’m not sure how far LG and Motorola have come, I haven’t had the experience nor the pleasure to play around with their modern devices.

Custom ROMs are also a nice added bonus of the OS being open source. There is a huge community of developers constantly tweaking and porting features and they are doing a great job doing it. Cyanogenmod is a perfect example of a fully featured and tweaked ROM for the Android devices, it has been ported to a lot of hardware. All you need to do is root your device and install a custom recovery, then the world of Android opens up for you. For more info visit http://www.cyanogenmod.org/

One particular thing I am excited about is Ubuntu on the Nexus devices. This is a feature or rather operating system that will only be available on the Nexus devices, perhaps in the future it might be ported to other hardware but for now it will only be available for Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4. When you dock the ubuntu phones with a monitor and keyboard you will have a full functioning Ubuntu desktop environment. Phone and a full computer in one package welcome to the future of computing.

Check it out here: http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/android and here: http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/ubuntu-dev-preview-for-galaxy-nexus-nexus-4-coming-next-week-1131567

Another cool little feature I discovered was the ability of the Netflix application on my phone and my LG Smart TV to communicate. This happened on my home Wi-Fi, I downloaded the Netflix app for my Nexus 4, I clicked on a movie and it prompted me weather I wanted to watch it on my phone or on my LG TV. Personally I thought that was pretty slick, it acts like a remote for Netflix on the Smart TV.

netflix

Google Now

This is a gem. I was flying out to Montreal and google now started displaying my flight info… wait a minute how the hell did google now get my flight info?!? Apparently it fetched the information from my email account, not only that it had a direct hyperlink in the email to said email. Some people might find this a bit intrusive, however personally I really don’t care especially when a feature like that makes travelling so convenient. This info popped up about 12 hours before my flight I did’t have to search my email for it, it was just right there. Obviously there is more to google now than that, public transit notifications, stocks, weather, search.. etc. It’s an all in one hub for your day to day information.

googlenow

Hardware

One word, responsive. The 4 core Snapdragon processor and 2GB or RAM make this device a very good contender on the market. It is a modern ARM processor from Qualcomm and it is the fastest out there at the time of writing. The GPU has some impressive performance as well, not the top tier but definitely up there and a contender.
The front facing camera is ok, the resolution is acceptable and performs rather well when video chatting in GTalk or on G+. The main camera is decent, the shutter speed is not one like the Galaxy Nexus but it takes good pictures nonetheless. Here is a low light comparison between the Note and the Nexus 4.

HSPA+ only? I do not see this as being a problem. The speeds between HSPA+ and LTE are negligible. Having used the Galaxy Note in HSPA+ only mode, I did not notice and performace drops between the two. There is a little trick one can perform to enable LTE however. Apparently the N4 comes with the hardware for LTE.

In your dialer enter *#*#4636#*#* then tap on “Phone information”, open “Set prefered network type:”, and select “LTE/GSM auto (PRL)”. Apparently this only works in Android 4.2.1 and as of 4.2.2 google disabled this. Also to note when you reboot the phone it reverts back to HSPA+. Again the HSPA+ only should not be a deal breaker.

Battery

4 cores can suck the juice out of this device rather quickly. I was playing the Simpsons game on the Nexus 4 and my battery dropped from 70% to 30% in just a little over 30 min. My first week of use was mostly all play with the phone, now that the novelty subsided the usage is more dady to day. I went for a run today and listened to an hours worth of music, sent a few SMS messages and the battery dropped only 10%. That’s not bad. To note I also bought an application called tasker on Google Play http://goo.gl/UsUgw. Tasker is probably your best bet when it comes to battery conservation. I have my Tasker application setup so when I leave the immediate area of my home it turns off the WiFi, when I arrive at work Tasker turns my WiFi back on and my phone connects to the WiFi there. It also turns my volumes off at night and turns them back on in the morning right before the Alarm goes of. When my phone drops below 30% Tasker turns the screen brightness all the way down, turns off all data services, and turns off WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, etc. The level of customization is amazing with this application, very powerful. It is very low on the power and resource consumption, I highly recommend it. Just be aware Tasker can be a complex application, if you understand programing logic it will help. http://tasker.dinglisch.net/

Another good practice is to only enable updates, uploads and other data intensive services on WiFi. Whenever possible use WiFi it consumes less power than 3G or 4G.

LTE vs HSPA+, some say LTE can be a battery drainer. I have not found it to be the case. On my Galaxy Note I worked with it having LTE disabled for a week and only worked off HSPA+. Battery usage was the same or close between the two radios.

Storage

One of the biggest complaints I hear about the Nexus 4 is the storage capacity. I would like to provide a different perspective. 16 GB is ample.

Music storage is not a problem, being a Nerd I have a Linux media server setup at home. On this server I have a Subsonic server setup, coupled with the Android application DSub or Subsonic I am able to stream music from my server to my phone. You don’t have a data connection you say, well when you’re at home and on WiFi you can download albums and take them on the go. The application works in offline mode as well. You can even listen to the downloaded songs in other applications if you wish. The application is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux distros. For a small donation you can get a license for the software too. The mobile apps are available for iPhone, Android and WP7. http://www.subsonic.org/pages/index.jsp

Picture and Video storage. I have my phone setup so when I get to a WiFi connection it will automatically start to upload all my pictures and videos to the cloud. Google Photo has an instant upload over WiFi function. If you run out of storage on your phone just delete the files and keep taking pictures.

This is why storage is not a problem, there are enough cloud services out there to help this problem out. More than likely the Nexus 4 came with little storage to promote Gooogle’s cloud storage and services.

Conclusion

You can not beat this phone for the price, under $400 you get a modern mobile device, with modern hardware and software.
Performance is amazing and the build quality is very good. The community such as XDA Developers is a nice bonus, any questions you may have that need to be answered that forum would be a good start.