LG Heart Rate Monitor Earphone review: good fitness gadget, poor earphones

Heart rate monitors are no longer the exclusive domain of fitness gadgets. The last 12 months have seen sensors make their way into smartphones and wearables, replacing for many of us the need for a standalone pulse monitor. The problem is a lot of these options have been unable to deliver accurate heart rate mesurements, partly because those sensors have to maintain contact with your skin; if they slip, then the readout skips. Maybe LG has the answer, then: Put heart rate monitoring technology into a pair of Bluetooth headphones. If you're like me and are constantly wired for sound during workouts, what could possibly be better?

LG's Heart Rate Monitor earphones link to an iOS/Android app, with absolutely nothing burdening your wrists. LG's fitness app can even add your exercise sessions to a step counter, so long as you buy LG's optional Lifeband Touch fitness band. What's more, the app also integrates with other fitness apps like RunKeeper. It all sounds great on paper, but there's a problem: the headphones don't actually sound good. Let me explain.

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Oppo Find 7 review: A solid phone that faces stiff competition

The Galaxy S5. The One M8. The G3. Every notable player in the overcrowded smartphone space has a flagship, one heroic device that the company pins its hopes on... for a year or so, anyway. For Oppo, a Chinese phone maker whose profile has swelled thanks to a surprisingly solid phone lineup, that flagship is the Find 7: an unassuming slab that looks painfully pedestrian compared to the last time the company went all out. Maybe that's a bit harsh. The Find 7 pairs top-notch performance with one of the highest-resolution screens you'll find on a mobile today -- hardly a formula to sneeze at. But is it worth the $599 asking price? Is Oppo really a mobile force to be reckoned with? Follow me, friends, and we'll figure it out together.

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Amazon Fire phone review: a unique device, but you're better off waiting for the sequel

After producing a long line of e-book readers and tablets (not to mention a set-top box), Amazon has its sights set on the smartphone market. But finding success here won't be easy, even for an established tech giant like Amazon. With the Fire phone, the online retailer is coming in as an unproven underdog, hoping to bring iPhone and Android users into its fold. CEO Jeff Bezos says the only way to do that is to differentiate; to wow potential buyers with new features they didn't even realize they needed. These unique offerings include 3D head-tracking, product scanning and fast help from customer service agents.

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ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C

When it comes to ASUS, buying a full-size Android tablet has usually meant venturing past the $300 mark; even the Transformer Book T100 set you back $349 when it first came out, and that was considered a steal. That's no longer a problem in 2014. ASUS' new Transformer Pad TF103C costs $299 with the company's signature keyboard dock included, or as much as some smaller mid-range slates. While that's potentially a hefty bargain, it begs a few questions: Just what are you giving up to get that price? And is it worth the trade-off when you could likely snag a smaller, but more powerful tablet for less? As I've learned, you're making quite a few sacrifices in the name of a better deal. This is still quality hardware, but you have to know what you're in for.

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Huawei Ascend P7 review: the best mid-range phone you've never heard of

What is a flagship? For some companies, it's about cramming as many features into a device as physics allows. For Huawei, it means something else entirely: Though it creates smartphones for the power-hungry crowd, its most eye-catching devices typically favor mass appeal over brawn. Exhibit A: the Ascend P7, a smartphone that emphasizes design and user-friendliness over a blowsy spec sheet. When we reviewed its predecessor, the P6, last year, we found a gorgeous phone that struggled due to an underpowered engine and lack of LTE. The company promises it's learned from its mistakes, though. So is the P7 the mid-range smartphone you'll actually be proud to show off?

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When I was a tiny tot, I watched Knight Rider and pretended I was Michael Knight, talking to KITT on my watch. Yet now that there are real-life watches that can do even more things, I don't find myself quite as excited as my 5-year-old self was. Smartwatches have been around for over a decade already (remember Microsoft SPOT?), but the category hasn't evolved at the same pace as smartphones. It's not because there's a shortage of digital wrist-worn timepieces. The problem is that there's no common platform for third-party apps, which means there's little potential for growth.

There also doesn't seem to be any vision. Some watches act as Android phones with SIM cards and tiny touchscreens, while others try to establish their own platform to entice developers. Still others have even tried to put fitness bands and smartwatches into one device, to limited success. Even worse, most of the watches on the market today are what you might call "fashionably challenged" -- they simply aren't attractive enough to entice the masses. Google's solution is to extend its Android platform -- which has very strong market share and developer support -- to the wearables genre with Android Wear.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S review: slim design, long battery life, stunning screen

It'd be silly of me to talk about tablets in the past tense -- we still write stories about them daily and clearly, we review them, too. But of the ones we've seen lately, most have been low-end; mid-range at best. The market for high-end slates, once crowded with companies big and small, now looks more like a fraternity. At this point, the only players left are mostly big names like Apple, Microsoft, Sony. And, of course, Samsung. The outfit just announced the Galaxy Tab S, its flagship tablet for 2014. Available in 8.4- and 10.5-inch sizes, it comes armed with the best possible specs, including a stunning 2,560 x 1,600 Super AMOLED screen, 12-hour battery life and a slim build that measures just 6.6mm thick. In addition, Samsung added a fingerprint reader (still a rarity on tablets) and free goodies like popular magazines, Dropbox storage and a six-month Wall Street Journal subscription. The tablet's up for pre-order now, starting at $400 for the 8-inch model and $500 for the 10-incher. So, you can't test-drive it yet, but, as it happens, I've been playing with it for almost a week. Suffice to say, I've enjoyed myself. Mostly.

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Sony SmartBand review: a fitness tracker that goes beyond fitness

When you hear the word "wearable," there's a good chance you think of a wristband, probably one that tracks your activity. Ever since Nike launched the FuelBand, your lower arm has become the main focus for fitness tech. Already the rot is setting in, though. Nike is rumored to be leaving the game completely (even if recent events suggest otherwise). Everyone else is still trying to decide what exactly a wrist-worn gadget should do. No one device appears to have figured out the magic formula. Most bands stop at counting steps and logging sleep. But Sony decided to try something different with its $100 SmartBand wearable. It still does the step-tracking thing, just along with other stuff -- like, y'know, logging your entire life. As much as it can with a motion sensor and mobile phone, anyway. So how is it? I strapped one on to find out.

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I doubt ASUS knew it was carving out a place in Android history when it revealed the first Padfone back in 2011. That's not just because it starred in an amazing product unveiling, either -- the resulting Padfone line might be the last surviving example of the "phone-as-brain" movement that fell out of vogue a few years back. In all that time, though, there's one thing US fans could never do: walk into a store and actually buy one. That changes now.

After three years and three Padfones, ASUS has finally brought its curious phone/tablet hybrid to the US in the form of the $200 (with contract, anyway) Padfone X. You'd think years of iterating and refining would result in the finest, kookiest model yet, and on paper that certainly seems to be the case. But what is it like to actually use? Has ASUS managed to put its best foot forward for the Padfone's American debut?

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Adobe Ink and Slide review: A software giant tries its hand at hardware

As big as Adobe is in the software space, the company only announced last spring that it planned to dive into hardware, starting with a cloud-connected stylus and a drafting ruler. The Ink and Slide, as they're called, are accessories that allow the company's creative-pro customers access to Adobe's Creative Cloud service on mobile devices. Now, the final versions are available in the US, and as you might expect, Adobe has a smattering of companion apps in tow for making the most out of what could otherwise be a dear $199 purchase. With hoards of more affordable styli to choose from, are Adobe's efforts really worth the premium? As is often the case, the answer's a bit more nuanced than a simple "yes" or "no."

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The Nokia we used to know is no longer. In late April, the handset maker was finally folded into Microsoft's Devices and Services business after more than six months of courtship. Nokia wasn't ready to be assimilated without once last hurrah, however: It announced a trio of new devices at its new owner's developer conference, Build. The Finnish company had always tried to cater to every demographic, so it was fitting that its last in-house handsets were the top-end Lumia 930 (a global version of the Icon) and the entry-level Lumia 630/635.

The 630 and 635, 3G and 4G variants of the same device, are joining an already-crowded lineup of affordable Lumias. They're distinguished somewhat by launching with Windows Phone 8.1, the latest version of Microsoft's mobile OS, but in the coming months, other WP8 handsets will catch up. That's if curiosity hasn't already driven you to update manually using the developer-account loophole. The 635 is yet to be released, but for now we have the almost identical Lumia 630. Other than offering the newest software, then, is the 630 Nokia's best budget device? A worthy sendoff for the company? A save-the-best-'til-last-type deal? Spoiler's in the headline.

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Samsung is on a mission to build the perfect cameraphone. Low-quality fixed lenses and tiny smartphone sensors are clearly insufficient for photography enthusiasts, but while you always bring your phone to parties, sporting events and trips to the zoo, it's often impractical to haul along a dedicated camera as well. The Galaxy K Zoom is Samsung's response to this dilemma, marrying a 10x optical zoom lens with an otherwise ordinary Android handset. It's hardly the best camera, or the best smartphone, but if you're willing to make some compromises, this may just be the most compelling option yet.

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LG G3 review: the company's best phone yet

Bigger, higher resolution, simpler to use. That's how we described LG's latest flagship, the G3, when we finally got our hands on it last week. The headline feature is, without a doubt, that Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) screen. I've been gazing at it intensely since the review unit landed in my hand. But, the G3's not just a one-trick pony; there's a lot going on under that "metallic skin." Good thing there's a full Engadget review here to tell you all about it.

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HTC created what was undoubtedly one of the best smartphones of last year with the original One. That was later followed up by the One mini, which was surprising in the sense that the handset maker hadn't before attempted a slimmed-down, scaled-back version of any of its flagship devices. HTC's nemesis Samsung established this trend when it launched the Galaxy S III mini, and it inspired many discussions about the ethics of slapping the name of top-tier handsets onto lesser devices. (Sony obviously made an executive decision to avoid the "mini" epithet for its Xperia Z1 Compact, which is actually just a smaller, but equally specced version of the flagship Z1.)

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OnePlus One review: a $300 smartphone has never looked so good

Look at your phone. If you can honestly admit that you love every single thing about it, I have good news: You can stop reading this review, since it won't have an impact on your happiness. But if there's even one thing you wish your smartphone could do better, it means you had to make compromises when you bought it. Everybody wants a perfect phone, but such a thing simply doesn't exist. So, we settle on a phone that has only 95 percent of the features we want, and that... kinda sucks.

OnePlus believes it doesn't have to be this way. Its motto, "Never Settle," represents the fledgling Chinese company's mission to build and sell the perfect smartphone. Its first attempt is the One, a premium-looking device that has customizable firmware and top-shelf specs. Oh, and it'll sell for $299 unlocked and free of contract, which is even less expensive than Google's Nexus 5. Seems a little over-ambitious for a small startup with no official track record, doesn't it? Let's find out if the One is too good to be true.

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