Tag Archives: hands on

Deezer review

Deezer review

Music streaming is all the rage at the minute. With Apple acquiring Beats Music, and streaming becoming part of the UK music charts, we can be sure that this is the way music consumption is going. As less people begin paying for music downloads, streaming services such as Deezer are becoming far more popular. The concept of all you can eat music for a small monthly fee is actually rather exciting.

I have had been using Deezer for about a year now and as such I have had plenty of time to get to grips with the service and write this, hopefully, balanced Deezer review. I have also used both iOS and Android applications, though this review has been constructed using the iOS app. Both are ultimately the same however and differ little from the web version.

I am not an audio engineer or an expert in the field, so this Deezer review is concerned with my own experience of using the service.

I hope you find this informative.

Background

Deezer is a music streaming service which allows users to stream or download music for a small monthly fee. Similar services include the likes of Spotify, Beats Music and Google Play Music. Deezer was founded in 2006 by Daniel Marhely and initially launched in France in the guise of Blogmusik. Due to copyright infringements the company was actually shut down, but was relaunched in late 2007 as Deezer. The idea was that some of the revenue made by on site advertising would go towards paying copyright holders.

Although Deezer managed to sign up the four major record companies, they struggled to cope with rising costs. In 2009 the previously free service introduced a range of paid subscription options. Although uptake of the premium service was slow to start, telecommunications giant Orange soon  became a key shareholder and premium subscriptions surged.

Today, Deezer is one of the worlds most popular music streaming services and boasts a catalogue of about 30 million tracks. Deezer is available in 182 countries and this year became available in the US – historically a very difficult market to crack.

Presentation and navigation

Deezer menuDeezer is certainly a very pretty service to use, and the iOS app is very well presented and easy to navigate. The main menu can be accessed by the menu button at the top of the screen or quite simply by swiping the screen to the right. This is where you can select what you want to do. From here you can choose to access music recommendations, access music charts and radio channels, your own music library and synced music and playlists. There are also links to other apps and access to the apps settings.

A quick swipe to the left will hide the menu bar and reveal whichever feature it is that you are currently using. The app itself is very fluid and the graphics are very pleasing to the eye. The whole thing just feels really well designed and runs very smoothly. Its clear that a lot of though has gone into the design and the result is that it is simple to use and easy to navigate. You will rarely find yourself lost in the interface.

Features
Deezer is packed with cool features and one of my favourites is called ‘hear this’. Accessed from the top of the menu, Hear this presents itself as a music feed with a feature called ‘Flow’ at the top and music reccomendations beneath. ‘Flow’ basically takes all of your music content and music that you have streamed in the past, and stitches it all together in a non stop music feed.

Underneath ‘Flow’ are all of your music recommendations, based on your listening habits. This is easily one of my favourite featuresDeezer flow as it constantly recommends new artists, albums, tracks and radio channels which I may be interested in. This is particularly good because it recommends relevant content which fits within my music tastes, and it is an invaluable tool in discovering new and fantastic music. I have discovered so many news groups and bands through recommendations and I am not sure what I would do without it.

The ‘Explore’ feature gives access to Deezer recommendations. These are not personalised but rather generic recommendations. Also found here is the option to break down these recommendations regionally. So if your interested in seeing whats hot in South America for example then you have the option to do this.

IMG_0756Another feature gives access to Deezer charts. This shows what is currently popular on Deezer. This is broken down into Tracks, Albums, Artists and Playlists and is structured in the usual charts format. I find this very useful when looking for contemporary popular music and is perhaps one of my favourite features.

Deezer has a really great choice of radio channels. These are based around music genres (e.g pop, rock, hip hop etc) and Artists. For example if your into Maroon 5 the you can select this radio channel and listen to this particular group and other similar groups/artists. The genre feature is practically the same but plays music which belongs to that genre. Again this is a really fantastic feature, and one which I haven’t really used enough. This offers so mush variety and if your struggling with what to listen to at any given time then it is so useful to just default to a particular radio channel and let Deezer select the play list. Deezer Radio

Of course one of the main features of Deezer is the ability to just search for whatever you like. Wether you want the latest Ed Sheeran album or Arctic Monkeys single, you have so much choice with about 35 million tracks to choose from. There is a handy search icon to the top right of the interface where you can search to you hearts content. You always have the option to stream the track or download it. Either way you can add it to you library, but with a premium subscription you can download it to your device for offline use.

All your content is stored in your music library where you can choose to view all your music or just those albums or playlists which you have actually downloaded. Talking about playlists, you can either create your own or access them via the charts feature. One thing I don’t like about Playlists is the inability to search of them. It doesn’t really make sense to me because if you create your own, how have people supposed to be able to search for it? I actually emailed Deezer about this and they acknowledged the issues and said they would pass it on to the development team.

This is one area I feel where Spotify has an edge over Deezer. Playlists are a big deal nowadays and I would like to see more functionality within Deezer.

All in all, the features provided by Deezer are absolutely fantastic and you will struggle to get bored with it. There is so much content to discover, and the interface makes the process much less overwhelming.

Deezer does a lot with social media integration, and you can link in with friends via Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Once connected with friends you have the option to view their viewing habits and share music.

Sound quality

Sound quality is very good I am have rarely heard any deterioration in quality. I spend a good amount of time listening to Deezer via my car stereo and even at high volumes there are few issues with quality. Some of my tunes can become a little distorted but this tends to be older tracks which are not available with high quality audio.

The standard playback quality is pretty average, however premium subscribers get access to the much higher 320kbps which sounds great. Obviously this takes up more space if you choose to download, but sound quality is noticeably better.

If you live in the US then you are lucky as Deezer have just introduced ‘Deezer Elite’. This offers a stunning High Fidelity bitrate of 1411kpbs. This is true CD like quality. No word yet on when this will be rolled out to the rest of the world though.

Price

In the UK you basically get the option of the free ‘Discovery’ plan or for £9.99 a month you can subscribe to ‘Premium+’ which will give you high quality downloads and access to the offline mode. You also have the option to listen to Deezer via different sources i.e. you car stereo or HiFi.

Prices in the US range from $4.99 for the basic package and $9.99 for the premium option, though as mentioned there is a new ‘Elite’ option which starts at $14.99 a month but eventually goes up to a whopping $19.99.

My opinion is that for £9.99 in the UK for what is on offer, Deezer offers great value for money. I would be lost without it. Although it is a bit disappointing that it is much cheaper across the pond. This is pretty standard though where prices are concerned.

Conclusion

Deezer really is a fantastic service which offers some fantastic functionality. The music catalogue is absolutely massive and you will rarely not find what you are looking for. For me the playlist issue is a bit of a pain but certainly not a game changer. I just hope that they add the option to search for Playlists in the future as this is something which Spotify does better.

Since I have been subscribed to Deezer I have discovered so much new content and have found myself listening to things I wouldn’t ordinarily have. This is great as it has really broadened my listening habits. I Haven’t paid for a single track or album since I subscribed to Deezer so for me it represents fantastic value for money.

The interface is beautifully designed, simple to use and just feels so fluid. I love it and as such can thoroughly recommend Deezer to anyone who loves listening to music but finds high street prices too high.

iPhone 6 first impressions

The first thing that strikes me about the new iPhone 6 is just how cool it is. The build quality is excellent and the design just oozes class. What is particularly striking is how light the device is. At first I found it a little off putting but now I’m totally used to it and it feels great.The all metal frame of the iPhone 6 is immensely thin and I love what Apple have done with the power button. If you didn’t already know then this has been moved to the side. It makes it much easier to access, when you consider the new girth!

Build quality aside, the device is lightning fast. Apple tell us it is 25% faster than the 5S but only time will tell wether this is strictly true. What I can say is that I have experienced no lag whatsoever and iOS 8 feels buttery smooth. I love how a light double tap of the home button reduces the screen size for single handed use. It just works and its simple to initiate. The new speaker sounds much better than on the 5S and kicks out some really cool sounding beats. It also placed in such a way that landscape gaming does not result in your hand sitting over the speaker.

Speaking about the screen, this is really stunning. I have never been one for pixel counts and Apples less than full HD resolution is absolutely noting to worry about. The screen looks great and the curved edges just add to the slick experience. Light levels are very good and I have experienced no pixelation when zoomed in. Pixel resolution means little really if your a secure kind of guy and the iPhone 6 shows that its all about the motion of the ocean…if you know what I mean 😉

If your worried about the 6’s size then don’t. Its super thin and fits easily in the pocket. One slight pain is that the new camera lens protrudes from the chassis. This is a bit annoying but as soon as you get a case on it its irrelevant. The camera is amazing by the way and the new slow motion mode is really cool to play with. I don’t want to go into too much detail but the camera focuses really quick and picture quality is ace.

My fist impressions are really positive and there is no doubt the iPhone 6 is set to become one of the best handsets of all time. Stay tuned for a full review.

Please comment below and let me know how you are enjoying your you iPhone 6.

What I love and hate about Samsung’s GS5

What I love and hate about Samsung’s Galaxy S5.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 has been one of the biggest smartphone releases of the year. Its easy to see what people love about the device, but what about its flaws? Having owned the phone since release I can honestly say I have tested it to the max. Read on to discover what I love and hate about the device:

The things I hate:

Whilst the S5 is by no means an ugly device, it does leave a lot to be desired. Samsung never seem to listen to consumer feedback and even after 5 incarnations of the Galaxy smartphone Samsung has shown no signs of incorporating metal into its designs.

The micro USB port on the bottom is just stupid. I feel like a surgeon trying to get it plugged in to charge on a night. With the lights off its impossible. After a few beers…well I’m sure you get my point! Its by no means an easy task.

The screen always wakes up in my pocket. Ill be walking down the street when ill hear the touch tone key pad in my pocket. Or it will start dialling random numbers from my pocket. Perhaps the unlock button is too sensitive or just in the wrong place? It also regularly restarts itself because of the unlock button being depressed in the pocket. I have never had another phone cause so many issues from the pocket.

The external speaker is not very promising. Compared to the HTC One the S5’s speaker is a bit pants. Audio output via the headphones is also not as good as it could be and I’m always finding the volume doesn’t go loud enough.

I have found a number of software glitches. The whole voice activation has just stopped working all together. It started as an intermittent fault but now doesn’t work at all – even though it is enabled in the settings. Another problem is that sometimes apps don’t shut down properly and get stuck in the notification bar or on the lock screen. It means having to restart the device. The camera app is also a bit strange in that you cannot access the ‘mode’ option sometimes. I have no idea what causes this. Im not too concerned about this glitches however as I’m sure they will be resolved with future updates.

The finger print reader is s**t. There I said it. Its nowhere near as intuitive as that of the iPhone 5S as it requires two hand operation. It also rarely recognises my finger print unless I scan it exactly right – there is a sweet spot which is really difficult to master. The backup password option is also a bit frustrating as you are presented with the full qwerty keypad and have to use both letters and numbers as part of your password. On the iPhone you are just presented with a number pad. I wish you had this option with the Galaxy. The whole experience just lacks polish and is a little frustrating.

The things I love:

The device is very quick and responsive. Touchwiz is very smooth for once and switching between the home screens is glitch free. The device is ample powered and really eats through all the latest apps and games. The processor is clocked slightly higher than on the HTC One M8 which gives it a bit of an advantage. Im not sure why Samsung didn’t opt for 3GB RAM but it matters little as 2GB is just fine. Everything runs smoothly and the device is a pleasure to use.

The screen is easily the best I have ever seen. I was very impressed by that of the HTC One M8 but the S5’s Super Amoled HD display wins hands down for me. The colours really pop and contrast is excellent. Viewing angles are also very good and sunlight legibility is amongst the best I have seen. The screen really is stunning and has to be seen to be believed. Having owned an iPhone 5S for a number of months I find the S5’s screen really refreshing. I no longer have to squint to see things and browsing the internet is great. watching videos and playing games is also a really great experience on the S5 with the screen really bringing everything to life.

Battery life is excellent. I can use the device all day quite intensively and if I have less the 30% battery life when I go to sleep then its a bad day! there is also a battery saving mode if you need it. I use the built in pedometer all the time and as such I would have expected this to effect battery life. It doesn’t however. Smartphones rarely last more than a day on a full charge but I am really impressed with the S5’s endurance.

The camera is incredible. The device takes really quick and hassle free images. The 16MP snapper takes stunning images and also supports 4K video capture. Close ups look great and the ability to set the focal point is very cool. This is one area where the S5 trumps the HTC One M8. If you want a good camera then the S5 may be the phone for you!
Generally speaking the Galaxy S5 is a great smartphone with many strengths. I previously owned the HTC One M8 but of the two devices I do prefer the S5. The user experience is really nice and everything just seems to work as it should. Im sure the software issues mentioned above will get resolved with future updates and perhaps the finger print scanner experience will evolve a bit. I just wish Samsung would put a little more effort into the design. People are getting used to quality looking devices nowadays and Samsung just don’t seem to get it. The recent announcement that Samsung’s head of design has been relocated may prove to be a good move, indicating that the company may finally be upping its game and reconsidering its design philosophy.

Samsung Galaxy S5

A day in the life of the HTC One M8

I was well impressed with the HTC One M8 when I first laid my eyes on it in the EE shop. Its sexy brushed aluminium chassis and gorgeous curves made the iPhone 5S look almost ugly. I just knew I had to have one so I ordered one immediately. Well it got delivered yesterday and I have well over a full day to form some initial opinions.

As mentioned the build is exceptional. The device feels solid in the hand, has a good weight to it and and the brushed metal finish is really luxurious. The volume rocker now protrudes from the chassis slightly making it easier to use and the power button has moved to to the top right. This makes the device much easier to use but the large size of the device makes one handed operation tricky, particularly if you have small hands. The nano SIM slot is situated to the left of the device, with the very welcome SD slot to the right. The build is one of the key selling points of this device and I think it feels more solid than the iPhone 5S. I am very impressed with the overall feel and quality of the device.

The screen is frankly beautiful. It is pretty much the same screen from the original One but is now slightly larger. It is very clear and colours are nice and vibrant. Sunlight legibility is also very good for a LCD display. I am also quite impressed with the viewing angles. One thing I find slightly annoying is HTC’s inclusion of on-screen buttons. Basically the Android buttons are now incorporated into the screen which means about a centimetre of real estate are being used up. This is fine for the apps which run full screen, but for a lot of games and apps the onscreen buttons are permanently present and don’t disappear. Its a bit annoying but perhaps this is just because of certain apps not being optimised. The bezel at the bottom of the device is also quite large but according to HTC it is not merely empty space.

Performance wise the device runs buttery smooth all the time and I have noticed no slow down or frame rate issues whatsoever. The One runs on a Snapdragon 801 processor with a Adreno 330 in tow. This makes for a great user experience and all is this enhanced by the beautiful Sense 6 User Interface. Sense runs seamlessly with Android Kitkat and makes for a great user experience. You can actually wake up the screen just by double tapping and you have the ability to unlock the phone by swiping upwards even with the phone locked. I am very impressed with the latest version of Blink feed. This looks lovely on the huge screen and is very customisable. I liked Blink Feed on the original One but now it just feels more refined. Zoe is pretty the much the same as on the old device, the only real difference is that it is now accessed through a separate app. Im guessing that this isn’t yet enabled however as upon opening the app it merely says “coming soon”.

For some the camera will be a bit of an off put. Its 4MP camera sensor will not inspire many but others will be impressed with the low light performance and intuitive depth sensor. My experience so far has been a mixed bag. It is by no means a bad camera but pictures do lack some detail. Colours also look a bit washed out in some pictures and other pictures can look a bit artificial. The low resolution also means you lose a lot of detail if you zoom in. Another downsize is that the snapper can only support 1080p video and 4K is a no go. I have had a play around with some of the camera effects and find these quite interesting. I particularly like the ability to change the focus point post image capture. The front facing camera has a 5MP sensor and as such selfies come out pretty good. This is a much higher resolution that most competitors.

As you might expect the front facing Boom Sound speakers are quite exceptional. Sound quality is excellent and the volume goes nice and loud. These are certainly better than what you will find in a Samsung or Apple product and are a key selling point for the M8.

My experience with the One M8 has been a very positive one so far. I absolutely love the build quality which is miles ahead of anything else. Unfortunately my device has a bit of a screen bleed issue. This manifests as two lighter strips that run horizontally across the screen. Its going to have to go back for this reason which is a shame because I really love the phone. Its worth mentioning that call quality is excellent, as can be expected from a HTC device.

A lot of people will have to make a decision between buying this or Samsung’s GS5. The GS5 certainly has a better camera and some extra gadgetry but build quality doesn’t even come close to that of the HTC One M8. Both devices are very good at what they do but one thing I can say is that if you buy the M8 you will certainly not be disappointed.

Image