ASUS ZenWatch review: subtle and stylish, with a few shortcomings

The war for your wrist isn't going to wind down any time soon: We've already seen the industry's biggest players take a stab (in some cases, multiple ones) at perfecting their wearables. ASUS isn't quite as prominent as other names on that list, but that just makes its $200 ZenWatch all the more interesting The Taiwanese company -- probably best known for its quirky phone-tablet hybrids -- has put together an inaugural smartwatch that's dripping with style. In fact, it's the first smartwatch I've worn that's ever attracted random compliments from passersby (in two countries, no less), not to mention the first one that didn't make me feel like a complete nerd while wearing it. Alas, it takes more than just a sweet face to make a smartwatch worth owning.

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YotaPhone was inarguably one of the quirkiest smartphones released last year, with not one, but two displays. This curious marriage of LCD and E Ink was certainly a manufacturing achievement, but limited uses for the secondary screen meant it simply couldn't live up to its potential. Undeterred, Yota Devices announced earlier this year it was cooking up a sequel, and today it's ready to launch the new and improved YotaPhone 2. Its fresh design, high-end specs and bigger, higher-resolution displays are welcome upgrades, but most importantly, a thorough overhaul of the handset's software means you can now make full use of the low-power E Ink screen, which has also been granted touch functionality for this generation.

I've spent a fair amount of time with the device, and have to say that it's the most interesting smartphone I've ever used. Like its predecessor, the YotaPhone 2 is still very much a niche proposition with narrow mainstream appeal. That being said, Yota Devices has more or less achieved what it set out to do last year: Make a handset with an E Ink display that has several, legitimate use cases. Whether these will actually tempt you into picking one up is another matter, but the second screen is no longer an oddity; it's an asset.

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Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

Samsung's wearables strategy seems to be: "Throw everything at a wall and see what sticks." In a little over 12 months, the electronics giant has launched six -- yes, six -- different smartwatches, each with its own unique personality. The latest is the Samsung Gear S, and its particular claim to fame might be the most ambitious yet: It's the first Gear watch that lets you make and receive calls from your wrist, no phone required. Yep, the Gear S actually has a 3G modem inside it, along with WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS radios. It's basically a watch that's also a phone. You can even respond to emails using a tiny onscreen keyboard. But, at $350 a pop, can it replace your phone? And more importantly, would you want it to?

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HTC RE Camera review: a fun personal shooter with room to grow

My father's camcorder was a common sight on childhood vacations. Trips to Mount Rainier, the Oregon Coast, Disneyland, skiing, weddings -- you name it, there's video evidence of my siblings and I enjoying time together. I'm lucky to have grown up in an era where this technology was available, but today these memories can be captured more easily and with less sophisticated (read: less expensive) equipment. We have quick and easy access to cameras at a moment's notice, thanks to smartphones and tablets, and now another form factor is starting to gain momentum: personal cameras. With the exception of the GoPro, this genre is now seeing an influx of small, hand-held devices that are small enough to put in your pocket or bag and can still take decent photos and videos.

HTC is one of the companies rushing to get into this space with the RE camera (pronounced "Ree"), an awkwardly named gadget that's shaped like a tube, packs a 16-megapixel camera and 1080p HD video capture and features cross-platform support so Android and iOS users alike can take advantage of it. Can this tiny camera take the place of my father's camcorder? What else is it good for? And is it worth paying $200 even if you already have a smartphone camera? Keep Reading to find out.

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Amazon Fire HD 6 review: great value for a $99 tablet

Here's a question: How did Amazon know it was time to make a $99 tablet? Because of focus groups? Its ace marketing department? Close: user reviews. Let's not forget that Amazon is best known for its retail empire, so when lots of people start buying cheap tablets, the company catches on quickly. And when shoppers start giving them lousy user reviews, well, Amazon notices that too. After reading lots of write-ups from disgruntled customers about tablets with chintzy build quality, the company decided it could do better. The Fire HD 6, a 6-inch tablet priced at $99, is the company's cheapest and smallest slate yet, and it's designed to take on all those unreliable no-name devices that shoppers seem to hate so much. Suffice to say, it offers some great value for the price. Here's why.

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EE has evolved rapidly since it became a household name two years ago after switching on the UK's first 4G mobile network. Today, it's more than just a carrier, with a home broadband business and a selection of own-brand mobile devices, among other things. And now, EE's decided to turn its hand to home entertainment, having recently launched the EE TV set-top box. Free and available only to customers of EE's mobile and broadband services, it's essentially a Freeview DVR with a few tricks up its sleeve. Tying into EE's primary focus on mobile, one of the fancier features is the box's ability to stream live and recorded video to multiple smartphones and tablets simultaneously. But is a free DVR with a couple of advanced capabilities enough of an incentive to get you signed up for the required services (which is sort of the point)? Not really, no.

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There are generally two schools of thought on how to build a wrist-borne wearable. Either make a fancy pedometer that's supposed to stay out of the way, or go the smartwatch route and cram in as many features as possible. Then there's this weird no-man's-land occupied by devices like the Samsung Gear Fit and Garmin Vivosmart. Microsoft's $200 Band falls squarely in that latter category. It's not quite a smartwatch, but it's not purely a fitness tracker like the Fitbit Flex. The Band can pull in emails, text messages and other notifications from your phone. If you're using a Windows Phone, it can control Cortana and put the power of Microsoft's virtual assistant on your wrist.

But it is, to hear Microsoft tell it, a fitness device first. And to that end Microsoft has packed the Band full of sensors, ranging from heart rate, to GPS and the prerequisite accelerometer. And, most importantly, it's the first device to tie into the new Microsoft Health platform, which seeks to outgun offerings like Apple Health and Google Fit. But, as we all know, there are inherent dangers in trying to carve out a third path. The question ultimately is whether Microsoft has built something (both physically and figuratively) that combines all of the most compelling parts of the existing wearable scene. Or, if it's created a sort of Frankenstein's monster that suffers all of their weaknesses.

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Which is easier to juggle on your daily commute: a small smartphone and tablet together, or a 6-inch phone that merges features from both? Consumers once leaned toward the former, but many have lately changed their minds. The so-called phablet has come a long way since Samsung came out with the first Galaxy Note in 2011, and now it's not uncommon to see several of them as you walk down the street. Nearly every manufacturer has at least one or two such devices in their lineup, so it's about time Google stepped in with some outsized hardware of its own.

The company just launched the Nexus 6, a 6-inch phone made in collaboration Motorola that comes with a winning feature list and is just as glorious as the Moto X it shares a likeness with. Aside from being a strong handset in its own right, it's meant to be a blueprint to inspire Google's partners as they work on their own devices. It's not as affordable as Nexus phones from the past two years, but at $649 it's still less than most premium-grade flagships of similar size. With that in mind, let's find out if the Nexus 6 serves as an encouragement... or a disappointment.

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Once upon a time, not all that long ago, Motorola released an excellent flagship phone called the Moto X. Sure, it didn't have the best battery ever and the camera was pretty lousy, but it just oozed charm and didn't leave me wanting for much. Then, just months later, Motorola (with a perhaps little coaxing from Verizon) released a phone that addressed just about all of the X's shortcomings. That, in a nutshell, is the story of the Droid Turbo: Just think of it as the Moto X Plus. But is it really that much better than that other phone we fell for? And will Verizon Moto X owners rue the day they extended their contracts?

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Just because you can do something, should you? Samsung thinks so. Its second experimentally screened phone taps into its hardware R&D and production clout to offer something not many other companies can make, let alone bring to the public outside of a fuzzy proof of concept. And so, following the Galaxy Round, here's the Galaxy Edge. If you take the basic shape and concept, it's the spitting image of the curved-screen Youm prototype spied at CES a little less than two years ago. Now, though, it's a for-real smartphone you can buy. I've been testing it out in Japan, where it launched instead of the Note 4, although both the Note 4 and the Note Edge will eventually be available in the US. Fortunately, despite the unusual, (addictively stroke-able) curved screen, it still packs all of the good things that made the Note 4 such a strong choice. But bragging rights aside, is there enough of an argument for a curved screen? Should you just get the Note 4 anyway?

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LG G Watch R review: good looks and improved battery are a step in the right direction

I think it's fair to say by now that smartwatches are no longer the "hot new thing." It's an established product category. The paint might still be a little wet on the whole idea, and some might argue there are areas that still need improving, but these clever timepieces are officially here to stay. That's thanks in no small part to Android Wear, Google's platform that brought some sanity/unity to the wild west of wrist-worn Android tech that came before. With the software side of things taken care of, hardware manufacturers can now focus on the gear.

So far, in terms of Android Wear devices, we've seen efforts from LG, Motorola, Samsung and today, well, LG... again! Barely four months after launching the LG G Watch, the Korean firm is back with another one: the G Watch R. Whereas the G Watch was a square, unpolished and, perhaps, unfinished affair, the G Watch R we're looking at today is a different beast altogether. It has a much more traditional design with a round display, leather strap and more. Was LG just eager to catch the first wave of Wear devices? Is the G Watch R the Wear device it should have released to begin with? More importantly, at $300 through AT&T (making it the priciest Wear device yet), do you want one?

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It's been nearly five years since Google released its very first Nexus device, and by now we all basically get what the Nexus name stands for. It's all about building devices to show off the bleeding-edge version of Android, to give us a better sense of Google's vision of our collective mobile future. That future isn't just phones, either: It's about screens of all sizes, and that's why Google and HTC teamed up to build the new Nexus 9. Now that ancestors like the Nexus 7 and 10 have been forcibly shuffled off this mortal coil, the 9 stands alone as the sole tablet in Google's Nexus hardware lineup. So, does it live up to the standard geeks expect from the Nexus name? And more importantly, is it actually worth the asking price?

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Lumia 830 review: bringing the Icon down to the mid-range

When Nokia released the Lumia Icon earlier this year, it took its polycarbonate design philosophy and went a bit metal -- aluminum, specifically. The result was a premium phone with a fancy body to match. But the Icon's exclusivity on Verizon limited its appeal, and its sibling, the Lumia 930, has yet to make it to US shores. Into that void comes the Lumia 830, from the freshly minted Microsoft Mobile.

With the Lumia 830, priced at $100 with a two-year contract on AT&T ($450 contract-free), Microsoft looks to bring the metal frame and PureView camera branding of high-end Lumias down to the mid-range smartphone level. Of course, there's always the risk of making the wrong sacrifices when trying to lower the price, so did Microsoft shave too many corners off of the 830's aluminum body? I've spent the past week with the global version of the phone as my daily driver to find out.

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Apparently I'm a masochist.

That's an odd way to begin a review. But to give BlackBerry's latest handset, the Passport, as thorough a review as possible, I decided to type the entire thing from the phone itself. My twisted idea came from a realization that this (mostly) square oddity is the first phone with a physical keyboard that I've used since the Motorola Droid 4 in 2012 or the BlackBerry Q10 in 2013. It's not even a normal keyboard by modern smartphone standards -- it's a flattened, hybrid setup with both physical and virtual elements and a curiously placed space bar. Needless to say, it's an odd device, one that truly deserves the ultimate test: Can I use it to crank out several thousand words of text?

Of course, there's more to the Passport than just its odd shape and the company's desire to resurrect a now-antiquated smartphone feature. I'm going to dive into what sets this phone apart from the hundreds of others already on the market -- that is, if my thumbs hold up through the experience.

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Nokia Lumia 735 and yours truly

Last year's Lumia 720 was an awkward middle child. It was more powerful than its 620 cousin, but not so much so that you'd consider it over the 820 unless you just had to have the first budget Lumia with LTE. If you're going to pay a lot more, why not get a lot more? Flash forward to 2014, and the Lumia 735 follow-up (along with the dual-SIM 730) appears to have more of a reason for being -- namely, catering to a selfie-loving public. With a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, more powerful internals and a €219 ($279) price, the 735 promises great self-portraits without decimating your bank account. But is it necessarily your best choice for those "I was there" photos? And more importantly, is it worth buying over both other Windows Phones and the other devices in its price class? You're about to find out.

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