Nokia Asha 311 review

Considering how much noise Nokia makes about its Microsoft partnership in recent times, you would be forgiven for thinking all its phones ran Windows Phone. Au contraire. Nokia continues to be creating a Series 40-based line of cheaper, basic smart phones primarily aimed toward budget-conscious mobile users — its Asha range of handsets.

Early Ashas were Qwerty or keypad-clad creations however the once Mighty Finn has now unboxed some fully touchscreen options, including the Asha 311, that’s available SIM-free for around £100.

Nokia is hoping these swipe-friendly Ashas can be snatched off shelves by Brits seeking an inexpensive alternative to the cheap Android. But is that wishful thinking?

Should i purchase the Nokia Asha 311?

The Asha 311 is unquestionably cheap but it is not affordable enough to place clear blue water between itself and the gaggle of budget Androids clamouring to your cash.

The Nokia Asha 311 is a candybar-shaped blower running its ye olde Series 40 operating system.

To compete with the might of Android, the Asha 311 really has to be £50 or £60 cheaper to even begin to be worth considering. Instead, it’s currently in regards to the same price. It’s now possible to pocket a terrific ‘droid for £100 — giving access to scores of apps on Google’s Play store, a 1GHz chip and a roomy 4-inch screen.

So you get much better value to your hard-earned cash buying into Android, and a slicker, more capable smart phone on your pocket, so there’s really no reason to decide on the Asha over a respectable budget ‘droid.

The Asha 311 is an improvement on Series 40 devices from years passed by — having had a spit and varnish within the usability stakes and key apps pre-loaded — but it’s still much more gnomic, frustrating and flaky than a number of ‘droids in its budget.

The 311 might entice dedicated Nokia fans who’re already well versed inside the ways of Series 40. But everyone else is healthier off adopting a capable budget Android reminiscent of the Huawei Ascend G300, the T-Mobile Vivacity or — for a smidge more money — Sony’s Xperia U.

Design and build quality

Nokia hasn’t pushed the boat out for the Asha 311’s design — beyond offering a typical candybar blower in some bright shades (including popping pink and brilliant blue). It’s no stunner but it is not hideous either.

The 311 looks pretty shiny but it’s terribly plasticky.

The front of the telephone is all touchscreen aside from a plastic cap on the base, topped off with a silver bar that wraps all of the way round the back of the telephone. At the front, this bar houses Nokia’s trademark call buttons (one in all that is also the facility/cancel key). At the right-hand edge you furthermore may get a volume rocker and a physical lock key — which i discovered just a little stiff to press.

Siting the ability key at the front isn’t amazingly intelligent design — if you are cramming the telephone right into a packed bag, i discovered it will probably turn itself on if switched off.

Overall, the telephone has a really plasticky feel and — because of its high-shine curved backplate — a habit of tumbling from your hands at inopportune moments.

Build quality feels pretty rigid, but applying pressure will generate a couple of plasticky squeaks. I also found that since the back is so shiny, it’s annoyingly hard to take away to get on the battery, SIM and microSD card slots. It is a case of applying both thumbs and keep pushing.

There are three external ports all sited at the top edge: Nokia’s proprietary power port, a micro-USB socket for transferring media to and from a pc and a three.5mm headphone jack.

The 311 has a comparatively slender waist considering what a tiddler it’s.

Screen

The 311 stands proud from fellow Ashas together with the 201, since it lacks a physical keyboard or keypad. Instead, you get a three-inch full touchscreen display, toughened with Gorilla Glass.

Its resolution is simply 240×400 pixels, which equates to a lowly density of 155 pixels per inch. At this resolution, when fully zoomed out of a desktop website comparable to the CNET UK site, text is absolutely illegible and you’ve got to tap to zoom in to read every block of text.

Overall, the display lacks crispness and has a hazy appearance — so photos and internet sites look murky and poorly defined. Colours also look more muted than vibrant.

The touchscreen’s responsiveness isn’t bad, but it surely feels sluggish when responding in your taps. A slight feeling of inertia accompanies everything you do. This lag is likely to be the fault of the Series 40 software than cheap screen hardware.

Loading screens — you will need to eyeball your justifiable share of those bad boys.

Series 40 and apps

Series 40 is one among Nokia’s legacy operating systems from mobile days passed by. In these smart phone-dominated times, it lags far behind the Speedy Gonzales duo of Apple’s iOS and Android.

On the Asha 311, Series 40 isn’t as old-fashioned because it was once, displaying various borrowed elements from iOS and Android — equivalent to a grid of round-edged icons and a tray which might be swiped down from the end of the house screen to get to certain settings. 

When you flick to scroll throughout the icons, they arrive to rest with a bump and bounce after the last row is reached (just like the iPhone’s icons).

So, at the surface, Series 40 seems like familiar smart phone territory — with friendly looking icons and swipeable home screens. But legacy baggage soon shows its face inside the kind of inscrutable error messages and parades of confirmation pop-ups, very like the dialogue boxes that haunt Windows PCs.

Another less-than-useful pop-up asks me to make sure I do indeed wish to quit the browser. Grr!

This kind of user interface is how things was once within the bad old days of mobile devices. Happily, UI design has swiped on elsewhere, so there isn’t any should tether yourself to any such neurotic system unless you are a diehard Nokia fan.

One neat touch for those that do a variety of calling is that the dialler entirely occupies one of the vital home screens, meaning you will get to it quickly simply by swiping left from the key screen.  

If you’re wondering about apps, they’re available via Nokia’s Ovi store. Some also come pre-loaded, including perennial favourite Angry Birds (the game’s maker Rovio is, of course, a Finnish company). There’s Twitter and Nokia’s Social app, which allows you to gather social network updates from Facebook et al into one highly social hub. Nokia Maps also comes pre-loaded.

While the variability of apps on Ovi is less extensive than iOS or Android, Nokia has done a handle games maker EA so that you can download 40 of its titles free of charge — provided you achieve this within 60 days of opening up the Games Gift icon.

The web browser is refusing to play nice with the server on this snap.

Performance

Series 40 is not the slickest or easiest OS to make use of, neither is it the foremost error-free. I encountered a variety of errors — especially in the course of the set-up of functions which includes email — which temporarily derailed elements including web browsing and social apps.

Some of the apps also are flaky and/or buggy. Nokia’s Social app, for example, indicates you’ve new Facebook messages when there’s nothing new on your inbox.

New messages, you assert? i feel you meant ‘no messages’…

At other times during testing, the app flaked out entirely — throwing up this less-than-useful message:

Unexpected errors — better or worse than expected errors? Discuss.

The web browser — when it really works — manages to be quick but it is also distinctly low-fi. It loads pages speedily since it serves up a compressed version of the sites, which implies graphics look blurry and poor, but are usually quick to seem. There is a second advantage in that they do not gobble up loads of your data download allowance — so in case you are really keen on 3G data costs, this may be handy.

Web browsing at the Asha 311 means switching between an illegible overview (above), and a detailed-up showing a tiny window of legible text.

The other annoying section of the net browser is that because the resolution is so poor (and the screen so small), you will want tap to zoom in to read text. And, as there’s just one level of zoom, reading a full web site means a number of swiping around as you end consuming each small block of text for your immediate visual field. The end result can feel like attempting to read a dictionary by searching through a keyhole.

The virtual keyboard at the 311 is a keypad-style offering, in place of an entire Qwerty, so there isn’t any denying you are the owner of a candybar blower.

Hoping for full Qwerty action at the Asha’s 3-inch screen isn’t realistic — instead, you get an old fashioned keypad.

Like the OS, apps are generally a touch sluggish to run, so it’s hard to shake the sensation that everything you do at the 311 is ever so slightly behind what your fingertips are asking. In case you are an impatient type, this foot-dragging will soon grate, but when you’re zen about marginal delays, you could not care.

The 311 has both front and rear speakers and might pump out noise pretty loudly — that can come in useful at the school bus. Call quality was ok but voices sounded a tad muffled to my ear.

There’s a three.2-megapixel lens at the 311’s rump, which unfortunately can’t snap a crisp photo for toffee.

Hardware

What hardware do you get on your cash? A 1GHz chip, 128MB of memory and both a 3G and Wi-Fi radio plus Bluetooth — an entire connectivity complement which you aren’t getting on every Asha.

There’s also a GPS chip so that you could make full use of the pre-loaded Nokia maps app.

Also on board is a 1,110mAh battery, which Nokia reckons is nice for as much as 6 hours of 3G talktime, 40 hours of music playback or 744 hours on standby. It’s going to easily last you a day’s poking and prodding, provided you are not an ultra-heavy user.

The 311 has a three.2-megapixel camera at the back. You actually shouldn’t expect anything great from this lens. Test snaps I took came out really blurry and speckled, with chromatic aberration (colour fringing around sharply contrasting objects), grainy noise, haloing and lens flare.

Even on a bright sunny day, the Asha 311’s lens registered a blotchy image that lacked crisp detail (click image to enlarge).

There’s no flash so that you can’t add additional luminosity when snapping in dingier conditions either.

Indoors in a marginally dingier environment, this shot looks distinctly hazy (click image to enlarge).

The 311 records video at a resolution of 480×640 pixels. Again, results aren’t amazing but it’ll serve for making YouTube-quality clips.

Conclusion

The Nokia Asha 311 could be the most easy to make use of Series 40 device Nokia has ever made, but that’s damning it with the faintest of praise. It’s saddled with legacy baggage that throws up cryptic error messages and annoying confirmation requests far too often to make it a pleasure to exploit. Here’s old technology given a brand new lick of paint to check out and pass it off as a significant competitor to slicker rival operating systems.

Unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool Nokia fan, you’re much better off spending your budget on a good ‘droid. Indeed, it’s possible to get a robust, capable Android handset — comparable to Huawei’s excellent Ascend G300 — for a similar because the Asha 311. So unless there is a radical price drop or some really compelling contracts coming down the road, there is no reason to harass with Nokia’s candybar.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 review

There are not any gimmicks here. No GPS. No geocoding. No 3D movie mode. The Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is a compact point-and-shoot through and thru, and your entire better for it.

Sony’s addressing a extremely specific user’s needs here — one that wants a high-end compact without an interchangeable lens, for whom price is not any object. It’s give you an all-metal body, a high resolution and a fattened-up sensor.

What really sells it, though, isn’t its specs however the stills it produces, as my day shooting on the beach with it confirmed.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 can be purchased for around £500, an outrageous price that demands extraordinary results. Let’s have a look at if it delivers.

Sensor

The DSC-RX100 has a 20.2-megapixel sensor producing 5,472×3,642-pixel images. More interesting than the resolution, though, is the dimensions of the sensor itself. It measures 13.2mm by 8.8mm, so it has around four times the skin area of the sensor in a customary point-and-shoot. Sony’s engineers have taken benefit of this and made each photosite physically larger, which implies it performs well under a much broader range of lighting conditions.

With a massive sensor, the DSC-RX100 can shoot accurate colours and avoids lost detail in shadow areas and clipped highlights in brighter parts of a picture (click image to enlarge).

In low-light conditions, the DSC-RX100 can ramp up its sensitivity without introducing undue noise, whilst you also needs to see fewer clipped highlights in shots taken under brighter skies.

This paid dividends in my tests. In images with extreme contrasts, comparable to the fairground stall within the shot below, it captured accurate tones at either end of the size. The intense canopy fronting the stall could easily are getting over-saturated, however it didn’t. The inner of the stall might have been lost, however it wasn’t.

The DSC-RX100 did a superb job of balancing the exposure on this shot, with a lot of detail within the darker interior of the stall (click image to enlarge).

When shooting directly into the sun, even the hard shadows on facing surfaces aren’t dialled all the way down to pure black. The seaweed-covered breakwater (pictured below), is characterised by deep shadows on the subject of the camera. Again, the seaweed is accurately rendered and may easily be recovered in post-production, do you have to choose, by lifting the shadows and leaving highlight areas as they’re.

I was shooting towards the sun here, however the DSC-RX100 has retained a high level of detail within the shaded seaweed at the nearest end of this breakwater.

In more evenly-lit positions, the DSC-RX100 handles vibrant colour extremely well, right around the spectrum. The flower beds within the frame below were shot in bright, direct sunlight, with the sun behind me. The outcome accurately reflects the unique scene.

Despite these particularly vivid colours dominating a huge part of the frame, more muted tones elsewhere have still been truly recorded. an identical proportion of the frame is occupied by clouds and both these and front of the war memorial have retained a lot of texture, despite their narrower palettes.

There’s a split during this image between the very vibrant flowers with reference to the camera and the muted clouds and war memorial, yet the DSC-RX100 has done a terrific job of recording each area faithfully (click image to enlarge).

Low-light performance

Sensitivity runs from ISO 125 to ISO 6,400, extendable to ISO 80/100 with an approach to push it as high as ISO 25,600 using multi-frame noise reduction. Compensation allows adjustments of +/-3.0EV in 1/3EV steps.

Pushing up the sensitivity didn’t pose any problems in my tests. Even at a reasonably high setting, the consequences are very clean and largely freed from grain. The shot below, taken beneath a pier, looks comparatively bright — certainly brighter than it was in real life — as I’d hiked the sensitivity to ISO 800 to minimize the exposure time so i’ll shoot and not using a tripod. The frame was exposed for 1/20 second at f/2.2 and there is little or no grain to be found anywhere inside the picture.

This hand-held shot was captured at ISO 800, or even when zoomed to 100 per cent, the extent of noise is impressively low (click image to enlarge).

Even at ISO 6,400 — a degree where you’d expect significant degradation from many other cameras of an identical size — the evident dappling was slight, very even, and rarely had any detrimental effect at the image.

This frame was shot with a manually selected sensitivity of ISO 6,400, yet the grain within the image is minor, subtle and doesn’t cause any lack of detail (click image to enlarge).

Lens

However welcome a big, high-resolution sensor may be, it’s impossible to understate the significance of the lens in attaining accurate, tightly-focused shots.

The lens within the DSC-RX100 provides a three.6x optical zoom, corresponding to 28-100mm in a standard 35mm camera. It’s controlled by a dedicated rocker set across the shutter release. Looking on how you’ve installation the control ring that surrounds the lens barrel, that you could optionally emulate a manual zoom by turning the hoop. Do that and a zoom overlay appears on screen to point out you the present 35mm-equivalent focal length and what level of zoom it represents.

The control ring round the lens is great for tweaking settings.

If you do not need to exploit it for zooming, that you may change the ring’s function to address exposure compensation, sensitivity, white balance, creative style, picture effect, shutter speed or aperture. When set to traditional, its function changes counting on your preferred shooting mode. In Aperture priority, it controls aperture. In shutter priority, it tweaks the shutter speed. And in Intelligent Auto, it is the zoom. Here is brilliantly done and is identical to the i-Function system I’ve praised long ago on Samsung’s compact system camera lenses, most recently at the NX210.

My only complaint is that the virtual gearing at the control ring is rather slow, that means you have to turn it some distance to make any significant change. Changing aperture from f/1.8 to f/11 required three turns of the hoop. Going from 30 seconds to at least one/2,000 second on shutter speed took 12 turns.

The control ring might be set to reply in several ways, counting on your chosen mode. Using it in shutter priority mode offers you a handy secondary control for speeding up or, to that end, slowing down the exposure to get the required effect (click image to enlarge).

Any changes you’re making are previewed in real time. Here’s the case whether that you need to perform a physical operation, equivalent to firing the shutter, to implement the change, other than just tweaking a variable, as when dialling down exposure compensation. During this instance, the on-screen preview is a calculated emulation, which must be a boon for less experienced users as they’ll see straight away what effect their changes could have, besides the fact that they do not understand why.

Maximum aperture is a powerful f/1.8 at wide angle and f/4.9 at full telephoto. On the wider end, that are meant to immediately attract portrait photographers, who will find it easy to drag their subjects forward, out of the encompassing scene.

I found it to be extremely accurate and quick to focus in my tests. There has been no evidence of colour fringing on hard contrasts, which is able to sometimes be detected within the corners and along the sides of shots from other cameras. This means that the DSC-RX100 accurately focused the incoming light in sync around the whole frame.

Even in corners and on the edges of frames, i discovered the DSC-RX100’s focus to be accurate (click image to enlarge).

General features

The DSC-RX100 looks great, with a highly retro aesthetic. It’s housed in a metal case with a pop-up flash, a correct rotary mode selector on top and a thumb wheel on the back for dialling in changes. It takes around a second to begin up, and when shooting JPEGs, it’s able to fire a second frame around half a second after shooting the primary.

If you should shoot any faster than this, burst mode hikes the velocity to ten frames per second. I tested this using a category 4 SDHC media card and it kept up this rate for the primary 12 frames, and then it needed to decelerate to clear the buffer.

Sadly, there is no bundled charger — just an adaptor that plugs into the camera and costs the battery in situ. This implies you cannot charge a spare while using the one who comes with it.

The 3-inch display shows up well within the bright outdoors.

The screen is a three-inch LCD with various overlay options, including a digital level that’s rendered green if you end up holding the camera level. It also indicates whether you’re tilting the lens forwards or backwards. i discovered it easy to view in bright sunlight.

The built-in level gauge makes it easy to line up your shots and keep your horizon straight (click image to enlarge).

Video test

The DSC-RX100 shoots Full HD video at 1,920×1,080p resolution, at 50fps. There is a dedicated movie stop at the mode selector wheel wherein you’re able to select bespoke aperture and shutter settings. A separate record button is situated at the rear of the case so as to quickly capture footage while in stills mode.

The results are impressive. Moving pictures demonstrate comparable detail and colour fidelity to the DSC-RX100’s stills, and it reacts speedily and smoothly to changes within the level of accessible light. It is also quick to exchange from stills to video when using the rear button.

The audio track is quite cleanly recorded in case you keep it sheltered from the passing wind. In case you don’t, it’s still possible to listen to it in spite of wind noise reduction active. On a more positive note, the mechanics of the optical zoom aren’t audible in case you use it while filming.

Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is a professional’s pocket camera that boasts a truly impressive resolution for thus neat and compact a tool. The new larger sensor accommodates this while avoiding common downsides of high resolutions, including noise and clipping. Indeed, noise is virtually non-existent so far as ISO 800, or even beyond that, it’s extremely well controlled. Colours are bright and the extent of detail in images is impressive, courtesy of the pointy, bright lens.

Its performance is reflected inside the price, which at £500 is far beyond what you’d expect to pay for a compact. It exceeds the cost of Sony’s excellent Alpha A37 by a hefty 25 per cent. But when you are able to afford it, you will not be disappointed. Here is the simplest compact you should purchase at the moment.