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Life Pure XL Full HD, 16MP, (32 GB+3GB RAM) - Factory Unlocked ("Black")
Life Pure XL Full HD, 16MP, (32 GB+3GB RAM) - Factory Unlocked ("Black")
Price: $362.63
10 used & new from $283.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed Review of the BLU Life Pure XL Phone, December 21, 2014
When the Fire Phone by Amazon was released as an “unlocked phone” with the ability to operate on any GSM network, I became interested in looking into other unlocked phones out there. I’ve had a couple requests to do an in-depth review on this phone so I’ve looked into it and this is what I’ve discovered:

*** UNLOCKED ***

Two-year contracts are quickly becoming a thing of the past as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and others are pushing a program I can only describe as a “phone lease.” You essentially pay nothing up front for the phone; instead, you make monthly payments until the phone is paid off. Almost all of these plans let your trade-in your phone before it’s paid off for an upgraded phone. For example, AT&T has a program where you make 20 monthly payments for the phone, but you can trade it in after 12-months and continue paying on the new phone you get. That said, these unlocked, no-contract phones are becoming more and more popular.

*** OVERVIEW / CONCLUSION ***

I like to put the overview, conclusion, and pros and cons at the beginning of the review in case you’re short on time. For the detailed info, read the review below.

The Pure XL runs the older 4.2.2 Android operating system which is now two generations behind. It has a fast yet somewhat outdated Snapdragon 800 processor, an average 32 GB of on-board storage (about 25 GB actually available for use), and an impressive 3 GB of RAM. The operating system is slow, the GSM service is very limited (pretty much limited to T-Mobile) and the build quality is “blah.” Where it shines is with its decent battery life, amazing cameras, graphics, and display, and decent processor which unfortunately, is choked by the bloated, heavily modified Android operating system.

It’s definitely a nice phone in the unlocked category and although its price may fool you into thinking its a subpar phone, you’ll be surprised at how well it performs. The Nexus 5 still remains my top pick in both the Price Category, and Unlocked Phone Category. Another phone, which I have not reviewed yet but hope to soon, is the OnePlus One Phone which is less expensive and offers more functionality, namely the 4G LTE connectivity this phone lacks, a faster Snapdragon 801 processor, and from what I can tell, a slightly better build quality, and 64 GB of on-board storage.

*** FINAL SCORE ***

7.0 out of 10. (3.5 stars)
It was hard to score this phone because of the extreme pros and cons. Most of the time the phones are either good or bad, but the Pure XL has some extreme pros and cons. That said, let’s look them over:

*** PROS AND CONS ***

I’m going to start with the pros and cons first and then if you want more detail, you can read the full review or skip to the sections that you want more info on.

PROS:
DISPLAY - Nice, 5.7” LCD display with good color saturation and clarity
PROCESSOR - The Snapdragon 800 processor is a proven CPU and although it’s a bit dated now, it still packs enough punch to get the job done.
CAMERAS - The 8 megapixel front facing camera (yes, it’s that nice), and the 16 megapixel rear camera produce nice photos. Somewhat grainy in dark light which is very common in any smartphone, even the high end Galaxy Note 4, for example. Beautiful daytime shots.

CONS:
OPERATING SYSTEM - Android is a great operating system, my favorite in fact, but the manufacturer has bloated it to the point that its quite sluggish.
BUILD QUALITY - I’ve always felt the Samsung phones felt cheap with their plastic bodies although they’re my personal favorites because of how well they’ve consistently done in tests I’ve done on them. This phone also has that cheap feel and it’s due to the relatively low weight, and the cheap plastic housing. No metal here, unlike the iPhone and others.
LACK OF REMOVABLE BATTERY - With its unibody plastic construction, the back is not removeable and as such, neither is the battery.
CELL SERVICE - It’s an unlocked phone… great. But it lacks 4G LTE support! This is a major pitfall in my opinion and it’s something that could have been implemented without increasing the cost of the phone too much. This was a huge mistake by the manufacturer, in my opinion.
CARRIER LIMITATIONS - Due to the limited GSM availability, you are pretty much limited to AT&T’s 3G service which is slow, or T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 service which is pretty good. Even though the phone is unlocked, if you want fast data speeds, you’re pretty much limited to T-Mobile’s network in the United States.

Now that we’ve covered the basic pro’s and con’s let’s dive into the details, and as always, I’ll start with the display:

*** DISPLAY ***

The phone has a beautiful 5.5” 1080p IPS LCD display coming in at 400 ppi which is significantly better pixel density than much of the competition including the iPhone 6, but not as good as the Galaxy Note 4. The display produces really nice color quality, saturation, and contrast. It’s on par with many of the other smartphone displays being used on the pricier Samsung, Apple, LG, and Nokia devices. As is becoming mainstream with smartphones nowadays, the display is protected with the Corning Gorilla Glass. For the price you’re paying for this phone, the display is very well worth it.

*** PROCESSOR, ON-BOARD STORAGE, AND GRAPHICS ***

The Life Pure XL uses the tried and true Snapdragon 800 processor which is good and bad. It’s an excellent processor, however, it’s quickly becoming outdated as the Snapdragon 801 and the current 805 (with the 808 and 810 in the works but not being used as of today.). To give you a comparison, the Snapdragon 800 this phone comes with is a quad-core 2.2 GHz processor with an Adreno 330 GPU, whereas the Snapdragon 805 is a quad-core 2.7 GHz processor with an Adreno 420 GPU. I won’t go into all the differences between the two, but besides the higher clock speed and better GPU, the Snapdragon 805 supports a lot more features that other manufactures have in their devices.

There is 32 GB of on-board storage but no expansion card slot so you are limited to the available 25 GB of actual useable space. Wired connection for charging and data transfer is through a standard micro-USB slot and the phone uses a standard Micro-SIM card.

The graphics are nice and smooth with no screen tearing thanks to the excellent Adreno 330 GPU which is currently being used in the pre-September 2014 devices (previous generation.) such as Amazon’s Fire Phone, Google’s Nexus 5, most of Amazon’s HDX tablets, and others. I’m not going to go into a ton of details on this GPU because it’s still very new and is being used in the previous (pre-September 2014) production smartphones and tablets. The newest Adreno 420 is just now being implemented in the major brand name smartphones and tablets including Google’s Nexus 6, the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S5, Amazon’s HDX 8.9, and LG’s G3 Cat 6. Most of these phones were released within the past few months (around September of 2014.)

The phone records in full 1080p at 30 FPS. Video quality is great, as is the picture quality. (Read about the amazing cameras, below.)

*** CAMERAS ***

This is where the phone shines in my opinion. The front camera is 8 MP which is amazing because most smartphone manufacturers skimp on this camera and some even use this sort of megapixel camera as the main rear camera. The rear camera on the Pure XL is where I was really impressed! Image quality is simply amazing in my opinion with the exception of low-light situations, although you’re going to find this with most smartphones. There are some pre-loaded apps for picture taking but nothing amazing. There is no image stabilization so expect some slightly blurry shots when the shutter speed is low such as in low-light situations.

*** OPERATING SYSTEM ***

The Pure XL is running a heavily bloated/skinned Android 4.2.2 which is unacceptable for a number of reasons. First, it’s two generations behind Android’s current Kit-Kat release, and second, its bloated/skinned use of the operating system makes the phone extremely sluggish and slow. Even flipping through screens in the browser were jittery and at times, unresponsive.

Unlike other phones in this category, all of the apps are on the home screens so you’re either going to have to create a bunch of folders or deal with a bunch of home screens because of the lack of the app drawer. In short, BLU took a quick Snapdragon 800 processor and choked it by over-modifying the Android OS. Amazon did the same thing when it forked the Android OS to create its Fire OS. I was not happy with that use of the Android OS, and I’m equally unhappy with the Pure XL’s use of the Android OS. The phone loses points in this area for sure.

*** SIZE AND BUILD QUALITY ***

The Pure XL is a sizeable phone due to its 5.5” display. Dimensions are 5.93” high, 2.95” wide, and 0.37” thick. Build quality is pretty much on par with the Samsung Galaxy line with the somewhat cheap feeling, glossy plastic unibody design.

Similar to Amazon’s Fire Phone, the Pure XL annoyingly puts the power button on the top which I can’t stand. I constantly hit it when putting the phone in my pocket, causing the display to turn back on and stay on until it times out after 30-seconds or a minute. Bending, squatting, and even sitting occasionally activates the power button. It’s just a pet peeve of mine! Volume control buttons are on the side and the backlit front buttons are nicely placed under the screen. All in all, a decently built phone.

*** CONNECTIVITY ***

The phone lacks 4G LTE… I don’t even know what to say about that. It’s not hard to add 4G LTE capabilities to a smartphone and I have absolutely no idea why BLU decided not to do it. I always pick a major pitfall of a phone I review and on this phone, the lack of 4G LTE is the deal-breaker for me.

As an unlocked phone being sold in the United States, I’m a bit annoyed at the GSM networks it supports which include (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and UMTS (850/1900/2100MHz). This is another deal-breaker for me because it limits the use of the phone primarily to T-Mobile’s network where you’ll at least get HSPA+ 42. You can certainly use it on AT&T’s network but be aware, you’ll be stuck using the slow 3G speeds.

Thankfully, there’s at least a couple pluses to the phone’s connectivity: WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth.

The WiFi is the latest generation which supports the “a/c” protocol although several other reviewers have reported buggy operation of the WiFi with the phone dropping signal altogether or switching between multiple open networks… interestingly, I have experienced this same thing on other products I’ve tested using WiFi ac including other phones and Chromebooks.

Bluetooth is 4.0 which is nice because believe it or not, some of the top smartphone manufacturers aren’t even using it yet. Sad, but true.

*** If my review has helped you at all, please let me know in the comments section. I love getting feedback from readers so I can tell if the review was helpful or not. I do my best to provide as many details as possible because I know when I’m researching different products, I like having all the info in one spot… it just makes it easier. I wish you the best of luck in your search for your smartphone and please, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask! ***

DISCLAIMER: I do not own this phone, however, I had access to it for review purposes.


Fire HD 7, 7" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB - Includes Special Offers, Black
Fire HD 7, 7" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB - Includes Special Offers, Black
Price: $114.00

349 of 377 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed review of the Fire HD 7 - A great entry-level tablet at a great price!, November 30, 2014
The Fire HD 7 is a great entry-level Fire Tablet that includes a 7" 1200x800 216 ppi pixel density display. Pixel density wise, this is the lowest off all the Fire Tablets but is still decent enough where you're going to get a nice picture on the display. It's by no means an "iPad killer" or "Galaxy Tab killer" and you really shouldn't purchase it for that purpose. This particular model is really tailored to reading Kindle books, streaming video, browsing the web, checking email, and so forth. Bottom line, It's a great deal at $139. I'm going to compare the features of the HD 7 with the features of the other Fire Tablets to help you make an informed decision on which model to go with:

*** DISPLAY ***

The display is a 7" 1200x800 resolution display with a 216 ppi pixel density which is not great, but not horrible either. It is the lowest pixel density of all the Fire Tablets with the Fire HD 6 coming in at 252 ppi, the Fire HDX coming in at 323 ppi, and the Fire HDX 8.9 coming in at 339 ppi. The human eye really can't distinguish individual pixels beyond a density of about 300 ppi so you're not going to be getting a noticeably pixelated display by any means. All in all, this is a nice display.

*** PROCESSOR, GPU, AND ON-BOARD STORAGE ***

The Fire HD 7 comes with a respectable 1.5 GHz quad-core processor with enough power to run almost all of your content with ease, including smooth video playback. It comes with a mediocre 1 GB of RAM which really is not sufficient in my opinion but it is what it is. THis is not an iPad or Galaxy Tab killer by any means, but it gives you just enough power to use the essential Amazon services you need.

The HD 7 is substantially less powerful than the Snapdragon 2.2 GHz and 2.5 GHz quad-core processors that come with 2 GB or RAM and come with the higher end Fire Tablets, but at the same time, those tablets cost quite a bit more ($179 for the HDX and $379 for the HDX 8.9) so you're getting what you pay for.

Onboard storage is available in either 8GB (4.5GB actually available to use) or 16GB (11.6GB actually available to use.) There shouldn't even be an 8GB version in my opinion as 4.5GB of usable storage is pretty pathetic, even with cloud storage availability. I'd recommend the 16GB over the 8GB version in a heartbeat.

*** BATTERY LIFE ***

I say this in all my reviews, I swear, there should be a penalty for under-delivering on battery life claims. While Amazon claims the Fire HD 7's battery lasts about 8 hours with mixed usage, I experienced about 6 hours which included video streaming, web browsing, and downloading via WiFi.

*** WI-FI AND 3G SERVICE***

The Fire HD 7 comes with a single band, single antenna WiFi as opposed to the dual band, dual antenna MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) WiFi that you get with the HDX and HDX 8.9. MIMO technology lets you download and upload simultaneously while still allowing you to be productive on the tablet by multitasking, watching movies, etc. It is certainly a better WiFi and takes advantage of the 802.11a/c WiFi which is blazingly fast, but for the average consumer needs, the single band, single antenna WiFi is still sufficient for downloading content, browsing the internet, and streaming video content.

Neither the Fire HD 7 or Fire HD 6 come in a 3G version so you are limited to using WiFi. Honestly, I don't really see the point in needing 3G anyway as you can download content, browse the web, check email, etc. from any place with a WiFi hotspot which is basically every Starbucks, McDonalds, and countless other establishments, not to mention your home WiFi network.

*** CAMERA AND AUDIO ***

The HD 7 comes with a mediocre 2 megapixel rear-facing camera which is kind of pathetic in my opinion. Although you can record in 1080p, with only 2 megapixels, don't expect much in terms of picture quality. I got better pictures with a 4 year old smartphone than what the HD 7 produces. Even the HDX 8.9 has an average 8 megapixel rear-facing camera so you're not missing out on much there.

Audio is standard Dolby audio so nothing special but it's still decent in terms of sound quality. The Fire HDX 8.9 comes standard with Dolby Atmos sound technology which is simply amazing! You really have to hear it to appreciate it. If you simply need a standard audio experience, the Dolby Audio on the HD 7 is more than adequate and is by no means "crappy audio." A good pair of headphones makes all the difference in this department.

*** WEIGHT AND BUILD QUALITY ***

Weighing in at nearly 11.9 ounces, the HD 7 does have a nice heft to it that gives it a nice, durable feel. To give you a comparison of weight, the iPad mini which is basically the same size of the HD 7, weighs in at 11.7 ounces, virtually identical in weight to the HD 7

Build quality feels solid, as is the experience you'll get with the entire Fire Tablet lineup. None of them feel "cheap" by any means.

*** APP AVAILABILITY ***

Fire OS is a forked Android operating system, meaning it's a heavily modified Android OS so some standard Android apps will work on the Fire HD 7 but keep in mind, since Amazon is in such a fierce competition with Google and Apple in terms of their app stores and music sales, Fire OS will not allow you to install or run any of the core Google apps such as Google Drive, Calendar, Docs, Slides, and so forth... even YouTube, which is owned by Google is banned, as is the Starbucks and Foursquare apps. There are nearly 250,000 apps available on the Amazon App Store which is pretty impressive given how young the Fire OS is, so you're likely to find alternative apps to satisfy your needs in this tablet.

*** CONCLUSION ***

As is the case with any of Amazon's devices including the Fire Tablets, Fire Phone, Fire TV, and even the various Kindle models, the more of them you buy into, the more immersed into the Amazon ecosystem you become which can be good and bad. I can say, having Fire TV along with a Fire Tablet and a Fire Phone, combined with an Amazon Prime membership is going to give you a great experience as all of the devices work together to bring all of Amazon's services right to your fingertips (and television!) With a simple flick of your finger on the HD 7 or Fire Phone, you can send the video you're watching straight to your Fire TV to continue watching it.

You can also stream all of your free video and music content across the various devices, and with the free cloud storage for all your Amazon content, everything from your music, photos, videos, and documents are safely stored and available 24/7 in the Amazon Cloud.

All in all, this is a nice tablet but unless you're on a tight budget and need to stick to this price range, I'd really recommend jumping right up to the HDX 8.9 as it offers so much more and can legitimately replace an iPad or Galaxy Tab with ease, and for around the same price point. If your budget limits you to this device, you won't be disappointed with it, but it isn't going to compete with the iPad or the Galaxy Tab.

*** If you found this review at all helpful, please take a moment to let me know. You can also leave a comment or ask questions in the comments section below. I try my hardest to provide you with the most information I can to help you make an informed decision on whether or not to purchase a product. Thanks for taking the time to read my review! ***
Comment Comments (20) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 25, 2014 6:56 AM PST


Amazon Fire Phone, 32GB (Unlocked GSM)
Amazon Fire Phone, 32GB (Unlocked GSM)
Price: $449.00

2,797 of 2,852 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed review of the Fire Phone. Amazing phone with some amazing limitations and equally amazing Amazon integration!, November 29, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Let me preface this by saying, my 5-star rating is based on what this phone IS, not what it ISN'T as this is the only fair way to review the phone. But, I am going to go over both so you know what you're getting yourself into:

*** INTRO ***

This unlocked Fire Phone (which is the same as the AT&T version with horrible reviews, only it's unlocked), is an all around excellent phone with some pretty cool technology not found on other phones. The big thing to remember here is who the manufacturer is: Amazon. That said, it's important to realize that the phone is going to be centered around the Amazon ecosystem. Many of the 1-star reviews on the AT&T version were written by people who didn't read the description or reviews before dropping a lot of money and committing themselves to a 2-year contract.

This all started with the Kindle, and has since evolved into the Kindle Fire Tablets, and now, the Fire Phone. As is the case with Microsoft and Apple, Amazon is in direct competition with Google and Apple in terms of their "App Stores" and their music sales, hence the reason you're not going to find Google Apps or iTunes on this phone... we'll go into that in more detail below, but let's start with the display:

*** DISPLAY ***

The display is a standard 4.7" 1280x720p TFT LCD screen so its not the super high-resolution 4K or quad-HD displays that are becoming mainstream on new smartphones. The Fire phone comes in with a 315 ppi pixel density which is not bad, but it's lower than a lot of the competition. In short, you're eyes are not going to distinguish anything above 300 ppi so the Fire Phone's display is perfectly adequate. *** DETAILED TECH ALERT! *** If you're happy knowing the screen is acceptable, skip to the next section... if you want all the techy details, read on. To give you a comparison:

Samsung's Galaxy S5 LTE-A packs 576 ppi pixel density into its 4HD 1440x2560 super AMOLED display which I'm pretty sure is the highest pixel density out there at the moment. LG's G3 comes in at 538 ppi, and Apple's iPhone 6 Plus has a 401 ppi pixel density. So, you're not getting the highest pixel density display by any means, however, at 315 ppi, it's probably the best all-around pixel density for a couple reasons: First, you'd really have to strain your eyes to make out a difference above 300 ppi as the human eye has limitations with seeing anything with more saturation than this. Second, having a pixel density of more than 300 ppi can actually prove to be a problem as every pixel requires a tiny amount of power and the more pixels you have to power, the faster the battery drains.

On top of the screen sits a Synaptics S3310B touchscreen controller with 10-finger sensitivity. While I haven't verified the display manufacturer, it is interesting to mention that the pixel pattern used on the display is unlike anything seen on any other phone. Not sure how to describe it other than a sort of up and down "wavy" look but it likely has something to do with the Dynamic Perspective (3D) system.

UPDATE: 12/03/2014: Many phone and tablet displays now come with an oleophobic coating on the glass which prevents fingerprint smudges. This is NOT the case with the Fire Phone. Comparing the Fire Phone to my Galaxy Note, the Fire Phone collects fingerprint smudges so easily, there's no point in even trying to keep them off the glass as simply holding the phone will render the front and back glass completely covered in fingerprints. The Samsung Galaxy Note does not show fingerprint smudges because of this oleophobic coating.

*** CAMERA ***

Remember when DSLRs were 13 MP and were considered professional grade cameras? I have one myself. Well now, the Fire Phone sports a 13 MP camera that takes advantage of unique image-stabilization technology and a super-fast shutter (fastest on the market), to make beautiful quality pictures even when your hands are trembling from your eighth cup of coffee! The Samsung Galaxy phones were considered the best in terms of photo quality but I have to say, after using the Fire Phone, they have some catching up to do.

The camera has digital zoom for both still photos and video. This has been a commonly asked question that is not addressed anywhere in the product description that I can see. Spread your fingers open across the screen to zoom, close your fingers across the screen to zoom out.

One of the best features of this camera, besides the incredible optics, is that it has a flash! My goodness, adding a flash is so simple that I'm surprised we still have phone manufacturers not adding a flash to the camera. The flash, combined with the exceptional quality of the optics, make for an amazing camera and you will definitely enjoy the quality of the photos you get out of this phone. Also, like the rest of your content, it is all stored in the Amazon cloud for easy access and safe storage.

*** PROCESSOR, ON-BOARD STORAGE, AND RAM ***

The Fire Phone comes with a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor which includes 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 330 GPU. This is Qualcomm's flagship processor and it's designed to offer high performance with low power drain. Is it all that it's cracked up to be? Well, in my experience, it seemed adequate but it wasn't as snappy as other processors found in competitor's phones. *** DETAILED TECH ALERT! *** If you're happy knowing the processor is adequate but not anything breathtaking, skip to the next section. For detailed info on the processor, read on:

The Snapdragon 800 series has 4x Krait 400 cores that are capable of running as high as 2.3 GHz and includes an Adreno 330 running at 450 MHz. RAM is pretty standard at 2GB and is the LPDDR3 type at 800 MHz. Although Qualcomm claims the processor is designed to be high-performance while using low power, it actually seems more focussed on performance than power savings. It's based on TSMC's 28nm High Performance for Mobile (HPM) chipset, as opposed to the low power 28nm LP (low power) polysilicon chipset. While the Adreno 330 GPU is capable of encoding and playing back UHD (ultra high definition) 4K video at a very high 120 Mbps H.264 speed, Amazon has chosen to keep the video recording at 1080p, obviously for power savings purposes. All in all, the Snapdragon 800 is a good processor but for some reason, I just didn't get the peppy performance I was hoping for.

The on-board storage is a basic flash drive system manufactured by SanDisk (Model SDIN8DE4-32G 32 GB NAND FLASH), while the RAM is provided by Samsung (Model K3QF2F20Da-QGCE 2 GB LDDR3 SDRAM).

*** GRAPHICS ***

I won't go into detail here as the graphics quality is directly linked to the processor and its Adreno 330 GPU but suffice it to say, the graphics are what you'd expect from any other smartphone. They're high quality, responsive, and in my experience, they don't lag. There's no screen tear or other problems, at least not that I've noticed. All of your games should run smoothly and with great graphics. The same obviously applies to video recording and playback.

*** 3-D VIEWING (DYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE) ***

3D viewing, or as Amazon calls it, "Dynamic Perspective" is a cool feature that uses four cameras that you can see on the front of your phone, along with infrared technology manipulate the image. The cameras and infrared constantly monitor your head movements and the tilting of the phone and adjust the image accordingly, allowing you to look around objects, and essentially see them in 3D. I think this was primarily designed to improve shopping experience on Amazon, although it works great for games, the map service, and other graphics including some pretty cool screensavers that display in 3D as you move the phone around.
*** DETAILED TECH ALERT! *** Here you go: The Dynamic Perspective technology is pretty basic and is achieved simply by using four OmniVision brand cameras, each relying on an individual infrared (invisible) LED to monitor head movements, and controlled by the OmniVision OV680 image processor, along with an Invensense MPU-6500 Six-Axis accelerometer/gyro. Nothing too sophisticated, but what a mouthful, and it does prove that Amazon isn't cutting corners on the phone's internal components as these are the newest, top of the line components on the market.

UPDATE: 12/3/2014: The dynamic perspective is pretty cool but I have a feeling it's using a LOT of power. It can be a little jittery at times but for the most part it's nice and smooth. See the "BATTERY" section below for details on the major battery drain issue.

*** TILTING AND TURNING, AND WHERE THE HELL IS THE BACK BUTTON?! ***

While we're on the topic of dynamic perspective and moving the phone around, it's worth mentioning that this phone relies HEAVILY on tilting and turning to make things work. By this I mean accessing hidden menus, the "back button" that you'll notice is physically lacking on the phone but works by tilting the phone forward or swiping upwards on the screen, and so forth. Get ready to start twisting and turning the phone because that's how you navigate through things! It takes some getting used to and honestly, it's a little buggy at the moment, being quite unresponsive and lagging at times. Another reviewer actually mentioned that while trying to show off the phone to some co-workers, the whole twisting and turning was so buggy that it was accessing things it wasn't supposed to and not accessing the things it was supposed to... pretty embarrassing.

*** AUDIO ***

The Fire Phone uses Dolby Digital Plus so nothing exceptional in this category, although it does automatically control volume and create a "virtual surround sound" but nothing breathtaking. The Kindle Fire HDX uses Dolby Atmos which is far superior in terms of audio quality and I'm honestly not sure why it wasn't included in the Fire Phone unless there were size constraints or something. The audio is decent but after hearing the Dolby Atmos sound through the Kindle Fire HDX, I noticed a huge difference! The included headphones aren't anything special but they are good quality from what I can see.

Some people have asked me to elaborate on the sound. All I can say is, "it's average." I compared the sound to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 3, and the Fire Phone doesn't even come close to the sound quality of the Samsung line. Again, it's not horrible, it's just average and may be better than many other phones out there. To me, it's just average.

*** BUILD QUALITY ***

Weighing in at about 5.6 ounces with a rubberized frame an aluminum buttons, the Fire Phone does have a nice heft to it that gives you that "this feels solid" feeling, similarly to what I experience when picking up an iPhone and the opposite I get when I pick up my Galaxy Note 3.

The Fire Phone makes use of the newest line of Gorilla glass which is good and bad. Scratch resistance wise, it's a good thing. The bad is you're going to get the usual smudges and a higher chance of the glass breaking, especially since it's glass on both the front and back. Another reviewer actually dropped the phone from a short distance of maybe a foot onto a table and a corner of the phone dented, although the glass stayed intact.

The buttons are CNC machined aluminum and feel solid... not loose and wiggly like some other phones do, and are very responsive and well laid out.

The internals (guts) of the phone are mostly Qualcomm components (no surprise there), along with a few pieces made by SanDisk (on-board storage), Samsung (RAM), OmniVision (cameras and image processor), Synaptics (touchscreen), along with several others. What's nice about this is Amazon isn't cutting corners on the internals... in fact, they're using some of the newest, top of the line components on the market right now.

*** BATTERY LIFE ***

I swear, there should be a penalty for lying about battery life! Nearly every phone, tablet, Chromebook, or other tech device I've reviewed has claimed a battery life higher than what it really is. It's annoying, but at least Amazon gives you a disclaimer of "actual results may vary." While the battery life is good, it's nowhere near 22 hours of talk time or 11 hours of video playback. While I could go a couple days of average usage before needing to recharge the battery, I certainly wasn't talking for 11 hours each of those days. Throw in app usage, game playing, web browsing, email pushing/syncing and so forth and that battery drains really fast! ***UPDATE: Turning off Dyanamic Perspective has drastically helped battery life but it is still not that great.) ***

As is the case with any tech device utilizing a battery, the longer you use the device, the shorter your battery life. For example, when I first got my Galaxy Note 3, I could go a couple days without recharging... fast forward 6 months and I'm lucky to get even a day's worth of usage before the phone starts beeping at 10% battery life. I'm expecting the same thing from the Fire Phone.

UPDATE: 12/5/2014: The battery life is now officially the biggest pitfall of the phone, in my opinion. I woke up this morning with the phone plugged in and at 100% power. After just 1 hour and 54 minutes of use, mostly browsing the web, listening to music via Bluetooth, checking a couple emails, and making a 15 minute phone call, my power was down to 69%! I took a screenshot and will post it in the "customer photos" section later today. The screenshot clearly shows how much time has elapsed since the battery was fully charged, and what it is at now. The largest majority of that power, according to the phone, was used by the Fire operating system. The next highest amount was used by the screen, which is set to auto so it's not even that bright, followed by the Silk browser, and voice calls. The biggest thing I used the phone for this morning was listening to music which only used a couple percentage points of the power! This is UNACCEPTABLE and is the worst I've experienced with any other phone I've reviewed. I emailed Amazon about it and am requesting another phone to see if perhaps mine just has a defective battery. Are you having a similar problem with your battery? Let us all know in the comments section below so we can see how wide-spread this problem is.

*** APP AVAILABILITY ***

There are nearly 250,000 apps available on the Amazon App Store which is pretty impressive given how new the Amazon ecosystem is, compared to the competition. The Fire Phone comes pre-loaded with the core Amazon apps such as messaging, email, calendar, maps, weather, Silk browser, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon App Store, and of course a "shop" app that allows easy access to purchasing items from Amazon. I won't go over every app that comes installed as Amazon has provided a list in the product description. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others are pre-loaded but you'll notice right away that the YouTube app (owned by Google) is not. More on that debacle below:

*** GOOGLE COMPATIBILITY ISSUES ***

As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, Amazon is in direct competition with Apple and Google in terms of app and music purchases so the first thing you'll notice is even though this is an "Android based phone," some of your most used Android apps are not going to be installed, nor can they be downloaded from the Amazon App Store. However, after a week or so of testing, another customer and reader of this review, Jason Singleton, has discovered a way to load the Google Play Store and the core Google apps and they run without problems! Read the update below for details:

UPDATE: 12/08/2014: Jason Singleton, one of the customers who read this review, informed me that he has found a way to easily sideload the Google Play Store and core Google apps and they function normally without problem. I tested it myself and it works! They also auto-update as normal. He was kind enough to create a webpage with detailed photos and instructions on the process and it can be found at: http://www.yourbountyhunter.org/firephone/. He also included my instructions on sideloading, so if you combine our instructions, you'll be able to get your Google Play Store and apps running on the Fire Phone in no time. *** PLEASE NOTE: Attempt this at your own risk. Since you are not rooting your phone, in a worst case scenario, you should be able to do a factory reset if there were any problems. Keep in mind, however, since this is not an Amazon recommended process, don't expect MayDay service or customer care to help you much with problems arising out of you sideloading the Google Play Store or Google apps onto the Fire phone. ***

The lack of Google apps was initially a huge deal breaker for many, but now that we've found a solution, hopefully more people will give the phone a chance. The price is constantly fluctuating so get it when the price is right. It started at $199 for Black Friday, shot up to $449 the next week, and now is back down to $229. I'd get it now before the price goes back up!

So how do you "side load" an app? Read below:

*** SIDELOADING INSTRUCTIONS ***

1. Start by launching the Settings app on your Fire Phone
2. Select the "Applications & Parental Controls" section
3. Once you're there, select "Allow non-Amazon app installation"
4. Slide the switch next to the first listing on the next page and wait for the warning!
5. You'll get a warning telling you you're putting your personal data at risk by sideloading. This is just a last ditch effort by Amazon to stop you from using apps other than theirs although the warning is legitimate as Amazon has no control of those non-Amazon apps in terms of privacy of your personal information.
6. You'll need to find your Android apps using a Chrome app that allows you to download the APK for free apps to your desktop.
7. Once you've downloaded the APK file to your desktop, you'll need to upload it to Dropbox or a similar online storage service that has an app available for Fire Phone (since Drive isn't available on the Fire Phone, forget about using that!)
8. From there, you'll install the app by opening the APK file
9. Amazon's Fire OS will recognize the app and install it. And that's basically how side-loading works. It's a pain but it's worth it if you really need that app! *UPDATE: On of the customers who participates in the comments section of this review has listed instructions on how to sideload the core Google apps. His name is Jason and his instruction are on Page 8 of the comments, or somewhere around there. He set up a webpage with photos and step-by-step instructions on how to do it.

*** MOVING DATA FROM YOUR EXISTING PHONE ***

I'm not going to give all of the instructions here as you can find them on Amazon but I will say, it was a fairly easy process moving from Google to Fire OS. I was not able to try it on Apple or Windows phones but I'm sure the process is similar. It wasn't complicated, at least not any more complicated than transferring from Apple to Google and vice versa.

Transfer of your music happens through the USB cable. Your computer should recognize the Fire Phone as a drive and you simply copy and paste your iTunes music library into the Music folder on the Fire Phone. After the music files are copied over, you're good to go. I easily paired the phone to my car via Bluetooth and all of my music was available while driving.

*** PROS AND CONS ***

It wouldn't be a review without a summary of the pros and cons so here they are... they will be updated as I test and evaluate the phone further:

* PROS *

1. THE DISPLAY: The display is a standard 1280x720 display with a 315 ppi pixel density which is more than adequate and exceeds what the human eye can distinguish in terms of individual pixels. By not pushing 500+ ppi density, the display uses less power than those screens.
2. THE PROCESSOR: Using a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and Adreno 330 GPU, you're getting one of the fastest processors available for mobile phones at the moment. While it wasn't quite as peppy as I was expecting, it was still pretty darn fast and responsive. It's also designed to be performance focused while using less power than previous generations.
3: THE CAMERAS: With a 13 megapixel rear camera with image stabilization and the most advanced micro optics available on any mobile phone at the moment, this is one of the best features of the phone. The camera automatically detects images that could benefit from HDR (high dynamic range) and allows you to shoot in HDR if desired.
4: DYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE: A cool feature that presents graphics in 3D, including images from the maps app, games, Amazon product images, and even phone wallpapers.
5. BUILD QUALITY: From the rubberized frame, CNC machined aluminum buttons, and front and rear Gorilla glass, durability is very good. This doesn't mean you can drop the phone and expect it to survive... it's still prone to the glass breaking, just like the iPhone but for scratches, the Gorilla glass provides great protection!
6: APP AVAILABILITY: For being such a new ecosystem, Amazon has done a nice job of adding nearly 250,000 apps to their app store, many of which are less expensive than the ones found on the iTunes store and Google Play Store.
7: SIDELOADING ABILITY: Because Amazon is in direct competition with Apple and Google in terms of app and music sales, Amazon has purposely left out any Google owned apps and services. One of my readers, Jason Singleton, has found a way to easily sideload the Google Play Store and the core Google apps. The apps also auto-update as normal and so far after a week of testing, all appears to be working fine. *** Keep in mine, you do this at your own risk. Since you're not rooting the phone, worst case scenario is you should be able to factory reset the phone, however, don't expect much help from the MayDay service or customer service if you're having problems with your Google services. *** A link to his instructions is provided in the Google App Compatibility section, above.
8. INTEGRATION WITH OTHER AMAZON PRODUCTS/SERVICES: From the benefits of Prime membership, to integration with Fire TV, and the Kindle Fire tablets, the Fire Phone does a great job of making integration with other Amazon services a breeze. You need to commit to the Amazon ecosystem to make full use of this, but when you do, it's amazing what you can do!
9. PRICE: In order to sell the Fire Phone, Amazon has had to slash the price from more than $600 without a contract, to $199 for an unlocked, contract-free version. On top of that, they're throwing in a free year of Prime membership, essentially taking the cost of the phone down to $100.

* CONS *

1. AUDIO: Unlike the Kindle Fire HDX which utilizes Dolby Atmos sound technology (which is phenomenal), the Fire Phone uses Dolby Digital Plus which is decent but nowhere near Dolby Atmos quality. Why Amazon left Atmos off of the Fire Phone is beyond me as it's so much better than Dolby Digital Plus.
2. BATTERY LIFE: Compared to other smartphones, battery life is horrible and I am absolutely shocked that Amazon is claiming it to be 22 hours of talk time. In 8.5 hours are barely touching the phone, only listening to music via Bluetooth for 30 minutes, checking email twice, and taking two photos, I was down to 76% battery life!
3. TILTING/TURNING: I understand the concept behind the navigation using tilting and turning of the phone, it is still very buggy and could use some improvement. A simple "back button" would've been nice; instead you need to tilt forward and hope it works, or slide your finger up the screen and hope that works!
4: SIDELOADING: I have this as a pro and con because while it's a very useful feature, Amazon makes it very inconvenient to use it, further strong-arming users to stick to the Fire OS and abandon the non-Amazon Android apps.

*** CONCLUSION ***

In all honesty, I kind of miss my Android phone but like most things, you learn to adapt over time and while I'm mostly likely going back to my Galaxy Note 3, this Fire Phone is fun to play around with at the moment. Like switching from an iPad to a Kindle Fire Tablet, this is an all-in type thing... you have to commit to the Amazon ecosystem or you're not going to be satisfied. If you're already using a Kindle Fire, Fire TV, and so forth, the switch will be easy as you're just adding another device and essentially improving upon the use of your other Amazon devices in the process.

A simple flick of the finger on the Fire Phone sends the video you're watching to your Fire TV... your Kindle books from your Kindle Fire tablet are available on your phone, shopping on Amazon is even easier, as is downloading music, videos, and television shows. If you're heavily invested into the Android ecosystem and rely on Google services for your day to day activities, you're going to get frustrated with this phone... seriously... you have to be committed to this ecosystem or be a casual phone user where the ecosystem doesn't matter as long as you can make calls, text message, check your email, and browse the web.

What seals the deal right now is the price. At the time of this review, the phone is now available unlocked for $199 which includes a free year of Prime membership (which is normally $99 itself.) Essentially you're paying $100 for a smartphone with no contract, so even if you use this as a backup phone, it's worth it. It's kind of sad that Amazon has had to drop the price to this level just to sell the phone, but they probably expected this as they're essentially trying to pull customers away from the "Big 3" (Apple, Google, and Windows) and make them feel welcome in the new ecosystem.

Based on the specs of the phone, the quality of the display and internal components, the app availability, the 3D features, and the price, this phone really does earn a 5-star rating for what is IS. I would never buy this phone at $600 out of contract or even $199 in contract, but at $199 unlocked, without a contract, and a free year of Prime, you really can't pass this deal up.

*** UPDATES ***

As I continue evaluating and testing the phone, I will periodically add update information here:
*** Updates have been made to the DISPLAY section on 12/02/2014, the BATTERY section on 12/02/2014 and 12/08/2014, and the GOOGLE APP COMPATIBILITY section on 12/03/2014 and 12/08/2014. See those sections and look for the "UPDATE", which will appear under the main information.

*** If this review has helped you in any way, please take a second to let me know. You can also leave a comment or ask questions in the comments section below. I try my hardest to provide you with the most information I can to help you make a confident decision on whether or not to buy a product. Thank you for taking the time to read my review! ***
Comment Comments (263) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 24, 2014 7:43 PM PST


Kindle Paperwhite, 6" High-Resolution Display (212 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers
Kindle Paperwhite, 6" High-Resolution Display (212 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers
Price: $99.00

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed review of the Kindle PaperWhite - best e-reader out there but not a huge upgrade over the last generation, November 28, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've used many Kindle's over the years, starting with the original one which I still have and still works to this day. The Kindle PaperWhite addressed many of the issues I had with previous Kindle models and generations and this new 2nd generation PaperWhite brings some small but noticeable improvements over the 1st generation.

I'll go over some of the basics and elaborate on them as needed, starting with the screen:

*** SCREEN ***

The Kindle PaperWhite comes with a nice 212 ppi screen which is noticeably crisper and bolder than the standard, entry level Kindles, yet still slightly lower than the Kindle Voyage which boasts an impressive 300 ppi resolution. While it's nearly impossible for the human eye to see individual pixels at 300 ppi, 212 ppi isn't that far behind. UPDATE: The new screen boasts an impressive 25% increase in contrast (the manufacturer, E-Ink, claims it's actually a 50% increase) and a 22% better reflection prevention. This new display is called "E-Ink Carta" and replaces the 1st generation PaperWhite's "E-Ink Pearl" display. Faster page turns are also achieved by the new display due to the way the screen handles changing the "e-ink" between pages. Comparing my 1st gen and 2nd gen side-by-side, I didn't notice a huge improvement in contrast or "ink" saturation, however, when comparing my 1st gen to my brother's 2nd gen, the difference was very noticeable. So, either I got stuck with a dud, or I just need to tweak some settings on mine.

The screen is a touchscreen and is very responsive and accurate; something that is sometimes a problem with touchscreen eReaders that are either unresponsive or inaccurate, forcing the user to press harder or very precisely touch areas of the screen to get a response.

*** BACKLIGHT ***

One of the biggest complaints of the 1st generation PaperWhite was the backlight, mainly due to the noticeable shadows seen at the bottom of the screen, especially when used in dark rooms or at night. Although I personally felt the shadows were not that big of a deal and most of time I never even noticed them, because so many people complained, Amazon went ahead and fixed it so this is probably the most noticeable upgrade from the previous generation.

The backlight can be adjusted, as needed, which is nice as having it at a high-brightness level at night is actually hard on the eyes and for some people, makes it difficult to use for long periods of time. The opposite is true in bright light situations where the backlight being turned up higher actually helps make it easier to read.

*** BATTERY LIFE ***

Amazon claims the Kindle PaperWhite can go weeks (up to 8 weeks mentioned on some websites out there) but in real use case scenarios, the battery life is nowhere near that level. While the PaperWhite does have decent battery life, it is more likely to be in the one to two week range, not four weeks and certainly not eight weeks, especially if you're using WiFi at all to download new books, or to get your daily reads delivered such as newspapers and blogs.

The PaperWhite charges very quickly so you shouldn't have any worries about topping off the battery as needed. The battery life is perfectly acceptable and adequate and you should have no problems even on week or two long vacation, for example, especially when compared to alternatives like a tablet, Chromebook, smartphone, etc.

*** SIZE AND WEIGHT ***

The new PaperWhite is the same size as the last generation which is nice because it allows you to reuse your current case. While I'm sure this has irritated the case manufacturers, it certainly is a nice thing for us! Even better, although the PaperWhite retains its size, it does take a slight trim in the weight, coming in at 7.3 ounces, compared to last generation's 7.8 ounces... again, not really noticeable, but a small improvement nonetheless.

Regarding cases, I would strongly recommend getting one of the magnetic cases because they automatically turn the PaperWhite on and off simply by opening or closing the cover. It's a simple AutoWake feature but it does come in handy as you don't have to mess around trying to find the tiny on/off switch every time you put your PaperWhite away or take a break from reading. I'm not sure which case I have but I think it's the Amazon brand case and it works really well. I do know I bought them at the same time as they had a bundle sale at the local electronics store I purchased them from.

*** PROCESSOR AND ON-BOARD STORAGE ***

This new generation PaperWhite is noticeably peppier and much more responsive than the first generation, mainly due to the new "E-Ink Carta" screen which has replaced the older "E-Ink Pearl" display. While the first generation wasn't slow by any means, it is nicer to have the faster response time as it helps avoid tapping the screen twice to turn the page, only to find out you've skipped a page and have to go back!

On board storage is 4GB (increased from 2GB just recently) which will handle a library of thousands of books, not to mention you have free, unlimited cloud-based storage for your content. If you got a PaperWhite with 2GB of onboard storage, it still is one of the new versions but it was manufactured before Amazon made the switch to 4GB of storage. Unless you have over 1,000 books, you won't even notice the difference as the 2GB is capable of holding about 1,100 books I believe.

*** X-RAY FEATURE, HIGHLIGHTING, AND DICTIONARY ***

Amazon has kept the X-Ray feature so those of you who have the previous generation and are considering upgrading, rest assured, the X-Ray feature is still here and has been upgraded to allow more functionality. More and more books are being preloaded with X-Ray data by Amazon and even it it's not there, you can always use the Wikipedia option to do a search.

Those new to the X-Ray technology, it is a capability on the PaperWhite that allows you to click on a character name, for example, and find all references to the character in the book. This is very helpful for novels when a character name comes up that you've seen before but forgot the details about. It's also helpful for non-fiction books when you need to find all references to a particular item or topic.

The "highlight" feature allows you to highlight (in black-and-white of course) a particular passage in a book and save it so you can go back to it at a later time. You also have the option of turning on an option that shows you other popular highlights from other readers of the book. This is a VERY useful feature, especially for non-fiction books as 99% of the time, the highlights other users have made, point out very important sentences and paragraphs in the book. Note that this feature does not show EVERY reader's highlights, it only shows the most popular ones and even tells you how many readers have highlighted a particular section. Again, this can be turned on or off if you find it distracting.

The dictionary feature works by allowing you to click on a word you don't know or need clarification on which brings it up in the dictionary.

*** OTHER MENTIONABLES AND REVIEW UPDATES ***

Something to keep in mind is the PaperWhite does not come with audio output so unlike the Kindle Fire tablets, listening to audiobooks is not an option on the PaperWhite. If you need audio features, you may want to look at the Kindle Fire lineup as audio capabilities are not available on the PaperWhite, standard Kindle, or the Kindle Voyage.

As has been the case for a while now, the Kindles come in either a "with special offers" or "without special offers" version. Personally, I always buy the "with special offers" version because the advertisements, mostly for books, do not bother me as they're really only seen on the screensaver and are not seen when reading the book. Sometimes they actually recommend books that may interest you, but more importantly, I really don't think it's worth spending the extra $20 just to get rid of them. If you think they'll bother you, get the "without special offers" version, or you can upgrade to that version at a later date after purchasing the PaperWhite.

*** CONCLUSION ***

This is still my favorite Kindle as it packs the most bang for the buck and is very affordable, especially when Amazon throws it on sale. While I don't think it's worth upgrading from the 1st generation, if you don't have a PaperWhite at all, I'd definitely recommend going with this version. Those with the first generation: I'd really recommend holding off for the moment until more substantial upgrades are made to the PaperWhite, but if you want to upgrade anyway, you certainly won't be disappointed.

*** If this review was at all helpful to you, please take a second to let me know. You can also post a comment or ask questions in the comments section below. I always try my hardest to get you the most information possible to hopefully help you make a confident decision on whether or not to buy a product. Thank you for taking the time to read my review! ***
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2014 9:57 AM PST


Kindle, 6" Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers
Kindle, 6" Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers
Price: $59.00

1,102 of 1,128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed Review of the Kindle, November 28, 2014
As has been the case for years, Amazon sloooowwwwly adds new changes and features to the Kindle. This one is no exception. If you've used a Kindle in the past, you're not going to notice much of a change with this one, but since there are some minor upgrades and so forth, I'll briefly go over them:

*** SCREEN ***

The new Kindle is touchscreen and has the typical matte finish with the slightly gray/off-white paper looking background. It's certainly not bright white, but it's also not LCD looking (dark gray.) It does NOT have buttons for page-turning as the older generations do. If you simply must have the page-turning buttons, please search for the older Kindles that offer that. One last thing regarding the screen: this is not a Kindle PaperWhite or Voyage where you have a back-lit screen... this has an unlit, off-white Kindle screen. I will say, the text is noticeably crisper and bolder than I've seen with previous generation Kindles and I believe that's because Amazon is using E-Ink's new "Carta" displays instead of the previously used "Pearl" displays. I love that and have been waiting for years for E-Ink, the Taiwan based company that makes the Kindle screens for Amazon, to improve them. It looks like they're finally getting it!

The new Kindle's screen resolution is 167 ppi which is slightly lower than the Kindle PaperWhite which is 212 ppi, and substantially lower than the Kindle Voyage which boasts an impressive 300 ppi (individual pixels at this density can not be distinguished by the naked eye.) Price-wise though, the base model PaperWhite runs $99 at the time of this review, and the Voyage base model runs $199 so you can see, the more you pay, the better the resolution and features. 167 ppi is fine though... in fact, most webpages are 72 dpi to give you a comparison.

*** SPECIAL OFFERS OR NOT ***

Like other Kindles, you have the choice of purchasing one with "special offers" which is simply a marketing tactic Amazon uses, which, although some people may find annoying, I actually like as it recommends books that I'm actually interested in versus random crap I'd never buy.

*** ON-BOARD STORAGE AND PROCESSOR SPEED ***

One upgrade the new Kindle has is the amount of on-board storage which now allows you to hold thousands of books and of course, it also comes with a slightly faster processor which Amazon claims is 20% faster although honestly, I don't notice the increase in speed. Pages turn quickly and that's all that really matters to me speed-wide. The on-board storage is 4GB, although you also have unlimited access to the Amazon Cloud so there really shouldn't be any worries about storage.

*** BATTERY LIFE ***

Even going back a few years, the Kindle Paper White bragged about a battery that lasted a week versus a day. For very casual reading, that was true with the Paper White although with regular daily use, it was more like 4 days or so, not a week. The new Kindle has a similar claim in that the battery lasts weeks, not days; that appears to be true. You can easily go two weeks with casual reading and most of that is attributed to the fact that there is no on-board light draining the battery.

*** WI-FI CAPABILITY (NOT 3G!)

Books are downloaded quickly through WiFi, usually in less than 30 seconds, and definitely under a minute, unless you have really crappy internet service. THIS IS NOT 3G so you CANNOT download books unless you have access to WiFi. I have never found this a problem as I download my books at home in advance of leaving for a trip or something. Besides, nearly every McDonalds, Starbucks, and hundreds of other retailers and restaurants now offer free WiFi so if you simply must download that book while travelling, go park in a McDonalds parking lot and download the book. It's not worth paying the extra money for the 3G access, especially when it oftentimes raises the product price by $50 or more.

*** DICTIONARY AND HIGHLIGHTING FEATURES ***

Like all new Kindles, the touchscreen has some major advantages, one being that you can click on a word you don't know and pull up the dictionary to learn what it means. Also, you have the option of turning on the "highlight" feature where you can highlight important text AND see what areas of text others have highlighted the most. For someone reading a book for research purposes (writing a paper, review, etc.), this is a nice feature as the parts of the book people find most helpful are usually highlighted, alerting you to its importance.

*** AMAZON PRIME BENEFITS ***

As is the case with all Kindles, subscribing to the Amazon Prime service is going to give you a lot of bang for your buck as you can "borrow" thousands of books for free, and also get special pricing on some items.

*** ACCESS TO YOUR BOOKS ***

Books are stored in the cloud and are accessible by any Kindle device registered to you, as well as from your home computer which gives you plenty of options for reading. Some people use a Kindle PaperWhite or Voyage in bed because of the backlight (as I do) and then have another Kindle that they use for daytime reading. Very rarely do I use my home computer to read the books but it is a nice feature to have for some people.

*** If this review has helped you in any way, please let me know. You can also post comments or ask questions in the comments section below. I try my hardest to include all the important information about the product to help you make an informed purchasing decision and feel comfortable with your purchase. Thank you for taking the time to read my review! ***
Comment Comments (25) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 25, 2014 12:03 PM PST


American Tourister Upright 25, Black, One Size
American Tourister Upright 25, Black, One Size
Price: $59.00
6 used & new from $53.10

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great suitcase with easy to roll wheels and comfortable handle. Good price!, November 28, 2014
This is a really nice suitcase for the price. Nothing special, but it does handle nicely and at less than 10 lbs, it's light enough to be comfortable carrying, even when filled with your travel items.

Size-wise, this suitcase runs about 27.5" x 19.5" x 10.2" so it's large enough to hold a decent amount of your travel items, yet not too big where it might turn out to be a hassle carrying it. The interior is roomy and the outside pockets are useful, unlike some other suitcases where they're basically pointless.

The wheels operate smoothly although I couldn't verify whether or not they were the ball-bearing type, although they feel like they are. The handle extends high enough where the suitcase can be rolled without having to lean over or anything, and does feel durable, not like it's going to snap in half as you wheel it around.

Durability-wise, it isn't any better or worse than other entry-level suitcases and you will likely experience some noticeable fraying with use, and eventually leading to the usual tearing and zipper malfunctions we all experience after years of use. To avoid this altogether, I'd look into the hard-shell or semi-hard-shell cases, although they are going to be priced much higher than this one.

*** If this review has helped you in any way, please let me know. Thank you! ***


Dunlop Standard Tortex Picks, 12 Pack, Orange, .60mm
Dunlop Standard Tortex Picks, 12 Pack, Orange, .60mm
Offered by Woodwind and Brasswind
Price: $3.99
20 used & new from $2.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best brand, texture, and size for most guitar playing styles., November 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
There really isn't much to say about these picks other than they hold up great, have a very natural feeling texture to them, and just sound great with a good set of strings.

I really like the 0.60mm size for most of my guitar playing although I do have some larger and smaller sizes for specific songs/styles of playing. The Amazon price for these picks is comparable to what you'd pay at a Guitar Center or other music store but with free shipping, it's just easier to get them right here.

I am notorious for losing picks so I'd actually recommend getting a pick holder, even if you don't use the adhesive to stick it to your guitar, just to keep track of the picks. I find them in pants pockets, in the dryer almost every time I do laundry, and throughout the house. The pick holder has sort of cut down on that problem!


Acer 13 CB5-311-T9B0 Chromebook (13.3-inch Full HD, NVIDIA Tegra K1, 2GB)
Acer 13 CB5-311-T9B0 Chromebook (13.3-inch Full HD, NVIDIA Tegra K1, 2GB)
Price: $249.00
14 used & new from $249.00

55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Chromebook with a few glitches that will hopefully be worked out, November 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Acer has been dominating the Chromebook market by releasing high-quality, affordable, and reliable Chromebooks that stifle the competition--but does the new Acer Chromebook 13 really offer improvements worth ditching you old Chromebook for this newer one? Let's look at what upgrades have been made and let you decide if it's worth taking the plunge into this new Chromebook.

I'm going to focus a lot on the new processor as it is the first Chromebook to use the NVIDIA Tegra based K1 processor.

*** THE NEW NVIDIA TEGRA K1 CPU ***

Switching to the NVIDIA Tegra based K1 CPU has given the newest Acer Chromebook 13 a peppier power plant while retaining the same 2GB RAM, 16GB on-board storage as its predecessor. The Chromebook c720 was the best Chromebook you could buy until the introduction of the Chromebook 13 although since it's so new, only time will tell if it truly outshines the Acer c720.

UPDATE: 11/26/2014: After using this Chromebook for the past couple months, I have noticed considerable lag and freezing with the new processor. I'm also noticing the Chromebook maxing out its 2GB of RAM simply by having 7 browser tabs open with no apps running. My Acer c720 did not have this problem. Not sure if it's because of the new processor technology or just this particular processor but I am not very happy with its performance at the moment. I'm waiting to hear back from Acer about whether or not a firmware update will be released to fix this issue as others have reported very similar problems.

While the more powerful NVIDIA CPU may seem like a major upgrade, in reality and actual use-case scenarios, the difference will be virtually unnoticeable to the user. Why? Because the Acer c720, running a lower end Intel Celeron processor packed enough power to do literally everything you needed to do on a Chromebook.

The problem with the new Tegra K1 based processor from NVIDIA is that during extensive testing, it is having problems running some apps because of compatibility issues. Why does that matter? Well, since the Acer Chromebook 13 is the only Chromebook on the market right now using the NVIDIA Tegra based K1 processor, many Chrome app developers haven't built their apps to run on these CPU's and as a result, some apps simply won't run on this new model. While this won't affect everyone, especially those of us who only use the core Chrome apps like Google Docs, Sheets, Calendar, Drive, and so forth, it will affect users who heavily use other niche apps available on the Chrome App Store.

These app developers will likely not be in a hurry to make their apps cross compatible when only one Chromebook model is utilizing the processor, at least not until other manufacturers start using the ARM based processors. And again, there's no guarantee any other manufacturer will. Intel, although known to be the sleepy giant when it comes to introducing new processors, has gotten the hint and is working on a new Intel Core M processor to be used in Chromebook devices and is due to be available in late 2014.

I'm pretty partial to the Intel x86 based CPU's as they're the type you'd typically find in typical laptops and desktop computers and have a proven track record of success in mobile devices such as tablets and Chromebooks. Only time will tell if Acer's switch to NVIDIA Tegra based processors was a good move for the company, or a premature one.

As an avid Linux user who has Ubuntu Linux installed on my Acer 720, I'm also a bit concerned on how the new processor will work with Linux and its apps. Some more detailed testing (which I will update you on) should give us an idea of how well they play together. I know this doesn't apply to most people, however, many of us do use Linux for various reasons and switching processors from x86 to NVIDIA Tegra, could be deal breakers for us.

Since I'm partial to the Intel x86 based processors, I'm personally waiting until later in 2014 when Intel releases its Core M processor before ditching my trusty Acer c720 Chromebook. While the Intel Core M processor based Chromebooks will likely cost a bit more, I personally feel the benefits will definitely be worth it. We should also see the same screen or a slightly upgraded one, perhaps offering touch-screen, or glossy finish versus the current matte finish. Since the NVIDIA Tegra processor is so new to Chromebooks, I want to wait to see how they work in the real-world as people's comments begins rolling in. Will it really be all it claims to be or will the drastic change in processor type be a deal breaker?

*** BUILD QUALITY ***

Like most Chromebooks, with the exception of the outrageously overpriced Google Pixel (top of line model costing nearly $1,500 for a Chromebook,) the new Chromebook 13 sticks to the trend of a plastic body with decent build quality and durability, not much different than you'd find on your typical Windows based laptop.

*** SCREEN "UPGRADE" ***

Going from the 11" screen to the 13.3 inch screen is a pretty noticeable upgrade especially since it addressed repeated complaints from users of the Acer c720 Chromebook, for example. Although the screen is larger and is now Full-HD, it still has the matte finish and is still sort of muddy looking, pretty much the same as the c720 was, although this screen is a bit darker as well. I was hoping for not only the larger screen, but also the image quality. Tight now, other manufacturer's screens are outperforming Acer's Chromebook 13 so Acer really needs to address this problem. We need a nice, clear, non-muddy/washed out, full-HD screen. It shouldn't be that hard to implement.

*** BATTERY LIFE ***

The battery life upgrade from the Acer 720 was not very noticeable at least not for me. At first it seemed like it was but after a couple months of use, I'm noticing that it's about the same as the older Acer c720 and perhaps even a little worse. While I could have just gotten stuck with a bad unit, I'm more inclined to think that the battery life issue is related to the larger screen and more powerful processor. Don't get me wrong, the battery life is still AMAZING when compared to other brands but it is nowhere near what Acer is claiming it to be.

*** CHROME APP TESTING ***

When testing the new NVIDIA Tegra based processor on various apps in the Google app store, I noticed that several apps simply refused to run with the new processor and as I mentioned above, it is highly unlikely that the various app developers will be in any hurry to make their apps cross-compatible, at least until more Tegra based CPU's are introduced into the Chromebook lineup. Several popular games refused to run not only for me, but also for another reviewer so this is obviously a problem both Acer and Google are aware of.
UPDATE: 11/26/2014: I am still noticing significant lag and complete freezing of programs, forcing me to restart the Chromebook to resolve the issue. While this only takes a few seconds to do, it's very annoying when you have several tabs open and have to reopen everything to get back to where you were at. I'm still waiting to hear back from Acer as to whether they're planning a firmware update to fix this issue. If they are, I will let you know and post a link to the firmware update if it isn't pushed to the Chromebook automatically when Chrome updates.

*** OTHER MENTIONABLE UPGRADES ***

Besides the faster processor, which as I said before, will be virtually transparent to the user, the larger full-HD screen, and slightly longer battery life, the Chromebook 13 gets some other small upgrades, or maybe I should say, "changes."
The Chromebook 13 moves to a fanless design due to the power-friendly Tegra based processor, but also manages to only gain a little weight, coming in at 3.3 lbs. (and a mere 0.71 inches thick.)

*** CONCLUSION ***

I really feel that the Acer Chromebook 13 is an amazing machine that has addressed upgrade requests from Acer users, specifically in regards to the display (although the display still has a ways to go to be on par with the competition). Although I'm extremely impressed with the upgrades to the display and battery life, I'm still hesitant to jump on the bandwagon and make a drastic switch from x86 based Intel processors to Tegra based processors. No other Chromebook utilizes this processor and I feel there may be some hiccups with this processor until Google and its various app developers address them. I'd personally recommend waiting for the next model Acer Chromebook to hit the market and see what it offers before making the switch. As many people will tell you, you never want to be the guinnea pig for a brand new piece of technology... it's best to let the manufacturers and developers work out the bugs and buy a product with all of the issues resolved.

However, if you feel the upgrades Acer is offering in this latest Chromebook lineup is worth it, go ahead and take the jump. Acer has consistently impressed me with every new Chromebook model they release and I have confidence the new Chromebook 13 won't let us down.

I'll update my review as I continue to use the Chromebook 13 and post any mentionable issues I discover.

*** If this review has helped you in any way with your research into a new Chromebook, please let me know. I really love helping others when they're looking at upgrading their computers and other technology and I do my best to provide you with as much information as possible along with my own professional experience in working with these products. Thank you for taking the time to read my review and good luck on your search for your new Chromebook! ***


Propet Men's MPED1 Pedwalker 1 Walking Shoe,White Smooth,11 X (US Men's 11 EEE)
Propet Men's MPED1 Pedwalker 1 Walking Shoe,White Smooth,11 X (US Men's 11 EEE)
Price: $75.36
9 used & new from $75.36

5.0 out of 5 stars If you have wide (flat) feet like me, these will be amazing for you!, November 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm a nursing student so I'm required to wear white shoes with my white scrubs to clinicals. Because I'm on my feet all day, walking around hard hospital floors, I needed something wider than the white Nike's I had purchased as they were causing a lot of foot pain for me.

These shoes are BIG, and by big i don't just mean wide. While they are wide, as advertised, they also have a really high sole which adds and extra half-inch to an inch to your height. They aren't any heavier than the average tennis shoes but the sole is MUCH taller. I prefer a shorter sole that's closer to the ground but these things are so comfortable that I'll live with higher sole in exchange for the comfort!

So far, after several months of heavy duty use in a hospital setting, they are holding up quite well and I've noticed no splitting or cracking anywhere. The tread is also decent and even on slippery floors, I didn't feel like I was ready to start sliding or anything.

*** CONCLUSION ***

All in all, these are a great buy. It's hard to find wide shoes for those of us who need them and it's even harder to find them in pure white which is something required for certain jobs, schools, and professions. The price is on the higher side but you are getting a specialty shoe so I think the price is fair for what you're getting.

*** If this review was at all helpful to you, please let me know. I try to present as much info as I can to help you make an informed decision about purchasing before you spend your hard-earned money on a product like this. Thank you! ***


Wasabi Power Battery for Canon LP-E6 and Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS 6D, EOS 7D, EOS 60D, EOS 60Da, EOS 70D
Wasabi Power Battery for Canon LP-E6 and Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS 6D, EOS 7D, EOS 60D, EOS 60Da, EOS 70D
Price: $14.99
3 used & new from $13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars As good as, if not better than the original battery that came with the camera, November 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've always had good luck with Wasabi brand batteries. They are substantially cheaper than the brand name battery and they perform equal to or better than the brand name for less than half the price.

I always keep the original battery the camera came with and then buy two or three of these to keep in my camera bag. They hold their charge well, unlike some of the cheaper brands that use Chinese cells (these cells are made in Japan and they are outstanding!)

If you're going to buy and aftermarket brand battery, I would strongly recommend checking out this brand. I've used them in probably 3 different camera models that require different battery types and I've gotten consistent results each time. In fact, with my older camera, the Wasabi battery has actually outlasted the original!


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