iNO 2 Review: The non camera phone successor to the iNO One

iNO 2 (or iNO Two) is the successor to the hugely popular iNO One. The iNO One owed its success to being of the few non camera android phones available, but was plagued by numerous complaints of software bugs and slow speed.

The iNO 2 comes at a higher retail price of $328, as compared to the iNO One, which retailed for $268. So expectations of the iNO 2 are high. Let’s review the iNO 2 and see if it’s worth the difference in price. It’s now available from MyMobile, an online retailer at $298. Which is a $30 discount.

Comparison of the iNO one and iNO 2
iNO one on the left, iNO 2 on the right

Hardware

First impressions: The iNO 2 is freaking light and thin compared to other phones. I haven’t got a chance to actually weigh it, but it’s both lighter and thinner than my nexus 4. It has a metalic band at the side ( similar to the iNO Magic). No more uncomfortable feeling when holding the phone that the iNO One had due to some weird gap.

Comparison of the thickness of the iNO 2
iNO one on top, iNO 2 below

The back of the iNO 2 is the same plastic clamp cover as the iNO One. Dust collecting. But still looks slightly more elegant.

Back Cover of the iNO 2
iNO 2 on the left

The display of the iNO 2  at 4.3 inch is larger than the iNO One, which is always a good thing. The screen this time is an amoled screen, which supposedly lowers battery consumption. Unfortunately, it comes with all the disadvantages of an amoled screen as well. When viewing stuff on a white background, the display looks grainy, even with its 720p resolution. This is due to its amoled pentile arrangement. Effect is not so obvious when viewing things of other colours, or when the phone is held further away. In fact photos actually look quite nice. Colours might be too saturated for some people’s preference, while some would like to strong colours.

Setting the display brightness to auto would usually result in the screen being too dark (again associated to amoled screens), although there are apps available to resolve this. Also the screen seems to have a different tint at different brightness levels, which can be disconcerting when the brightness levels are being adjusted automatically. On the bright side, the colours look amazing.

Specifications

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850/900/1800/1900
3.5G Network UMTS 2100 HSUPA 21 MBps on downlink
Active Dual Sim SIM1: 3G or GSM SIM2: GSM Only
BODY Dimensions 125 x 65 x 7.9
Weight TBA
DISPLAY Resolution 540 x 960 AMOLED, 257 PPI Capacitive Touch Panel
Size  4.3 inches
MEMORY Card slot MicroSD (T-flash) up to 32GB
Internal 8GB ROM 1GB RAM
FEATURES OS Android OS, 4.2 Jelly Bean
Chipset MTK6582 Processor Quad Core 1.3 GHZ
Graphics Mali 400
OTHERS Features G-sensor Compass Bluetooth v3.0, A2DP Support WIFI 802.11 b/g/n FM Radio
BATTERY Type Standard battery, Li-ion
Capacity 1500mAh
Standby Time up to 240 hours

Dual Sim

The iNO 2 comes with a dual sim slot. Interestingly, one is a normal sim, and one is a micro sim. When there are two sims inserted, you can choose which sim you want to have access to the 3G networks. (buried deep within settings). The other sim will be restricted to just 2G data. You can also set which sim’s data plan you want to be active. When there is only one sim card, you can use either slot and still have access to 3G. Selection of which sim card to use can be auto or manual, and there will be an orange line to indicate which sim card is active when you’re messaging or calling.

Software

Software is your standard Android 4.2.2.  I’ll repeat what I said for the iNO Magic.

Because the phone is based off a mediatek SOC, there’s no way it will get updated to later versions of android. So don’t dream of Android 4.3, let alone 4.4. and later.

Androidpolice has a list of stuff that you’ll be missing from 4.3, You’re not missing out THAT much yet, since the phone’s hardware does not support most of changes. Things you will be missing out on are stuff like OpenGL ES 3.0 and the WiFi scanning mode can be enabled without connecting to a network for better location tracking without using GPS. Also you won’t have the Android 4.3 buttery smoothness, but the iNO Magic is powerful enough that you won’t really notice. At least the phone comes with Android 4.2.2. You can still install the google experience launcher, and various other google programs that came with 4.4. (like the clock) So it’s not that great a loss.

Performance and Battery Life

I expect the performance of the phone to be similar to that of the iNO Magic. Similar to the S4 mini, the only other top end non camera phone you can get hold of. No lag using twitter/instagram/ surfing net etc.

Benchmark scores

Antutu:

iNO 2: 16483 (slightly lower than the iNO Magic) Good rating given for CPU, RAM and Graphics

iNO One: ~5000 (OMG)

S4 Mini: ~18500

LG F5: ~15500

Quantcast: 5825 CPU: 17753, Mem: 3315, I/O: 4944, 2D: 565, 3D: 2549

I had some issues with the GPS of the iNO 2. I’m not sure if it was hardware or software related. Hopefully it’s software and could be fixed in the future. 75% of the time, the GPS worked well and locked on fast. But while using it, 25% of the time, the GPS position will jump around so much that navigation becomes impossible.

Battery performance

The iNO 2comes with a 1500mAh battery. To test out the battery life, I looped a HD video clip, at 50% brightness, with wifi on (but not connected), and 3G data on. Background synchronization was left on with data transferring over 3G network, with apps that I typically run on my phone (i.e. email, google+, whatsapp, google newspaper and more).  Battery went from 100% to 0% after 5 hours and 30 minutes. This is surprising, because the phone has a much smaller battery than the iNO Magic, but lasts almost the same duration.

Ino One (with a new battery) lasts 3 hours and 50 minutes. Pathetic.

For those that are concerned, ino mobile is working on an external battery pack that will double the battery life of the phone. It’ll act like a cover at the same time, and allow for qi wireless charging. The phone is light enough now, that I think it won’t be an issue even with the extra cover

Availability

The INO 2 is readily available in Singapore. There are a number of distributors carrying it, and you can get more details from INO.

They are also available online from Qoo10; which is pretty convenient since delivery is cheap and you can use Qoo10 coupons to further offset.

Also, certain SAF camps do not allow detachable USB cables. The phone comes with the standard detachable USB charger. However, you can purchase the non-detachable USB charger or battery pack for office use. For e.g. the 5600mAh Non Detachable Micro USB Powerbank

Conclusion

Loved the iNO 2, especially after using the iNO One for so long. It’s fast and lag free, so no complaints there. Some people might complain about the battery life. It’s a valid concern, but it applies to many smart phones, and I’ve learnt to keep the phone charging in office.

Screen is a little different from what i’m used to. But still looks great watching shows.

I’m concerned about the price. At S$328, it’s 30 bucks more than the iNo Magic, which is a phone that’s essentially the same specifications. In fact you might say the iNo Magic has more capabilities.

Having said that, there’s arn’t that many options for a non camera phone

A S4 Mini at similar performance specifications retails for $768, while the LG F5 retails for $418. But the LG F5 while smooth, the performance is a level below the iNo 2 as it is only dual core.

Regardless, I think the iNO 2 is a much better quality product then when the iNO One came out, and is a phone worth considering. If you’re upgrading from the iNO One, the iNO 2 is definitely worth it.

iNO Magic review: good package with a small price, but is it cheap enough?

The iNO Magic is iNO Mobile’s first attempt at a full fledged camera phone. Equipped with a quad core processor, a 8 megapixel camera, a 5 inch display, the iNO Magic tries to bring a complete phone package at a cheap price to the consumer. In addition, the phone includes a new rear “magic” sensor, (hence the name) . iNO Mobile was kind enough to loan us a set for review, and we hope to find out if this phone is worth coughing out S$299 at its retail price.

ino magic

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Review: Nook Color from Barnes and Noble

Hello! Welcome to GadgetReactor. We are a technology blog in Singapore and you read more about us here. As the iPad 2 starts making its launch around the world, an unknown little tablet has grown in popularity and started creating its own waves in the budget tablet department. The Barnes and Noble Nook Color is a 7 inch e-reader, developed based on Android. It has a brilliant display, 16 million colors on a top of the line IPS display, with a resolution of 1024 x 600. It is remarkably similar to the specs of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, differing in the availability of the 3G connection, GPS, camera, and an inbuilt microphone. The caveat is that a stock Nook Color from B&N has majority of the android functions disabled as it is primarily an e-reader, but it can easily be hacked to unleash the full potential. Oh, I also forget to mention, the Galaxy Tab retails at approximately S$988 while the Nook Color can be purchased for US$249 or approximately S$345 with shipping included.

Nook Color Specifications
Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.0 x 0.48 inches
Weight: 422g
Processor: ARM Cortex A8 OMAP 3621 @ 800MHz, Overclockable to 1.1 GHz
RAM: 512MB Ram
Memory: 8GB of Internal Flash Memory, Expandable via microSDHC (up to 32GB)
Screen: 1024 x 600 IPS (169 pixel per inch density)
Connections: WIFI B/G/N, Bluetooth

The Nook has a nice charcoal colored case, that has adequate heft and provides a sturdy feel to the tablet. Even though it’s constructed of plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap. The back of the Nook is made of a soft rubbery material, which gives it some extra grip. The bottom corner is open like a loop, though it is more of a design feature than being useful for anything.

While using it as an e-reader is all fine and dandy, the real fun comes in when you hack the Nook for the full functionality it can offer. First up, there are multiple options available for the Nook in terms of the Android Operating System, ranging from Eclair (2.1), Froyo (2.2), Gingerbread (2.3) and Honeycomb (3.0). I have tried Eclair, Gingerbread and Honeycomb and am now predominantly on Gingerbread. It offers the nice compromise between stability (Eclair) and cutting edge development (Honeycomb). In Gingerbread, the interface has been tweaked and it runs a little snappier. Flash 10.1 is available and majority of the apps in the Android market are available. The current disadvantage is that Graphics Acceleration is still not available on Gingerbread. In comparison, the basic Eclair (version the Nook was developed on) has the full functionality. I am currently running Cyanogen Mod 7, based on Gingerbread 2.3.3 which receives tonnes of developer attention and majority of the new developments for the Nook will be seen here. As we speak, basic hardware acceleration for CM7 is has been achieved and though slow, it is a promising sign that we will see full functionality very soon. Honeycomb is also seeing some promising development, with full 2D hardware acceleration in all applications. Exciting times are just round the corner.

Hacking the Nook Color

There are multiple ways to use a customised ROM on your Nook Color.

The easiest method would be to copy the ROM image to your micro SD card and boot your nook with the mSD card loaded. It is as simple as that. A decent image writer will be the win32 image writer (https://launchpad.net/win32-image-writer). SD images for NC can easily be obtained from XDA Sub-Forums : Barnes & Noble Nook Color. Currently, CM7 (Gingerbread 2.3), Honeycomb (3.0) and Nookie Froyo (2.2) have an SmD boot image for you to experiment the various features and trial the roms before you commit to your preferred version. The disadvantage is that this a rom running off mSD is slow and is not optimised, often resulting in laggy performance.

The next method involves flashing the eMMC, which is the Nook embedded storage.

  1. Extract the ClockworkMod recovery (http://legacyschool.us.to/nookdev/clockwork/0.1-ext4/)
  2. Use win32 image writer to burn the *.img file to the mSD
  3. Put rom zip file (don’t need to extract) at root of mSD.
  4. Put the mSD into your NC. Turn it on.
  5. You should see a screen with a lot of options in text. To select use the home (n) button. To go back/up one menu use the power button. To scroll use the volume up and down buttons.
  6. Navigate to Mount and Storage. format all of the following: data, system,and cache. Each require you to separately navigate down to YES to wipe.
  7. Go back to the home screen using the power button and select install zip from SD card, choose zip from sdcard, select the rom zip file
  8. Go back to Main Menu. Select ‘mounts and storage’ and press ‘unmount sdcard’.
  9. Take out mSD. Go back to main menu again and press ‘reboot into system’. Your device will now reboot with the new ROM boot up.
  10. The first boot up might take awhile, so be patient :)

Update (May 2012): The Nook Color has been replaced by the Nook Tablet, which offers a better processor, more ram, and larger storage. However, android development on the Nook Color is still very much active, and despite the lower-end specs, it is still quite usable in today’s context. CM7 has full features activated on the Nook Color, with full hardware acceleration, bluetooth, video playback activated. With the launch of Ice Cream Sandwich, developers are actively trying to bring a stable version to the Nook Color. The XDA Developer Forums are very active and do visit there for the latest details on how to bring the CM9 and ICS 4 experience on to the Nook Color.