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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It's a conflicting time for Apple. On one hand, it's a joyous occasion for the company because its latest iPhones, which come in larger screen sizes than the last, set new sales records worldwide; but on the other hand, its lineup of iPads just experienced its third straight quarterly decline. Coincidentally, this comes just a week after Apple announced its annual tablet refresh, which includes a thinner and more powerful version of the iPad Air along with a Touch ID-enabled mini with Retina display.

Just because it's down doesn't mean it's out. Giving up on a product category isn't really Apple's style, and last week, it offered up the Air 2 as exhibit A. The company made it clear that making a solid top-of-the-line tablet is on the top of its to-do list, so naturally the new 10-inch device got plenty of upgrades in nearly every aspect of its design. Curiously, it didn't give the mini lineup the same kind of treatment: The mini 3 got so little love this time around that the best news about it is the fact that last year's version is now $100 cheaper. Should the new iPads still get a place in the consumer's backpack? Read on to find out.

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Apple's latest desktop operating system, Yosemite, is available today as a free download for anyone with a reasonably new (or not-so-new) Mac. Here's the thing, though: Many of you are already using it. In an unusual twist, Apple not only gave us a sneak peek of the software, but also allowed a large section of the public to take it for a spin while it was still in development. Though the company has declined to say how many people signed up for the beta program (there were a million available spots), we're sure many of you are running it right now, and don't even need to read a full review.

That said, I wanted to finish what I started. Back when I posted my initial preview, I was able to discuss lots of things -- the iOS-inspired design, the new Safari browser -- but certain stuff wasn't ready for prime time. I'm talking about iCloud Drive, Apple's new cross-platform storage service, as well as "Continuity," a set of features that allow Macs to better integrate with iOS. Think: the ability to receive calls on your Mac, or to start reading an article on your iPad and finish it on your laptop. Now that the software is final -- and now that I've had a chance to test all the features -- I'm ready to weigh in. Suffice to say, it's clear that to make the most out of Yosemite, you need an iDevice to go with it. But even for Mac users who don't also own an iPhone (guilty!), this is still a solid upgrade. Read on to see what I mean.

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Smartphones are getting bigger with every generation, every new model. Even Apple, champion of the small screen, has finally caved to the trend. Over the past few years, however, some of the major smartphone players have taken to creating "mini" versions of their top handsets to satisfy those who still crave a smaller device. While these petite imitations benefit from shared design and branding, their hardware specifications are usually no match for the flagships they mimic. Sony does things a little differently, though, shunning the "mini" moniker and preserving as many high-end features as possible in its smaller devices. Case in point: the new Xperia Z3 Compact, which crams the best of the 5.2-inch Z3 into a 4.6-inch body, and is basically everything you could want in a smaller smartphone.

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What began in 2011 as a brand-new phone category has flourished into one of the most popular in the world. Smartphones with big screens (phablets, to some) are now ubiquitous, but it all started with an odd device called the Samsung Galaxy Note. At 5.3 inches, it was a behemoth for its day -- and yet, it sold like hotcakes thanks to its unique S Pen stylus, which provided users with extra functionality, and a copious amount of screen space.

Four iterations later, the Note series has continued to grow, mature and dominate the genre. Not only does the latest version, the Galaxy Note 4, come with the snazziest spec sheet on the market, but it also ushers in a fantastic new direction in Samsung's design. It sure sounds like an improvement over last year's model, and it is. Now that Apple's ready to tackle the Note with a large-screen phone of its own, however, is Samsung's baby still the best in its class?

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Pop quiz, hotshot: When's the last time you saw a Sharp phone in the United States? The Sharp FX from years back? Maybe the FX Plus? If you're anything like me, your mind will hearken back to chunky clamshell classics like this one. Long story short, it's been ages since Sharp has had any kind of mobile presence around these parts. That's something the Japanese company is finally ready to change, and it's aiming to do it with a splash. Enter the AQUOS Crystal, one of the most striking phones you'll ever see. It's finally available for $149 on Boost Mobile now and Sprint will get it come October 17th, but we have questions -- so many questions. Has Sharp figured out a way to crack the all-too-fickle US market? Are we looking at a classic case of style over substance?

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When a company names one of their products after the first letter of the Greek alphabet, it means business. Take Samsung's Galaxy Alpha: The name alone exudes confidence. Although the term typically signifies the first in a series, the Alpha obviously isn't Samsung's inaugural Android phone; rather, it ushers in a completely new design direction for the company. It's not a top-of-the-line flagship device on the inside, but what matters is that it actually looks like one on the outside, thanks to its premium aesthetics, metal frame and sleek body. Samsung has every reason to be confident in the Alpha's design. As always, however, there's more to a device than meets the eye.

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