Saturday, 30 June 2012



Android jelly bean

We've all seen the new Google Nexus 7 - but what about the new phone and tablet software that's coming your way?
We've spent some time with the new version of Android - dubbed Android 4.1 or Android Jelly Bean to its friends - and while it's not a massive overhaul by any means we've still taken a good look at the improvements.
Project Butter
Jelly bean 4.1

The first thing we wanted to try out was the speed of the interface, as Project Butter is supposed to really push things along. We'll lay it out now: we were using a non-final version of Google's Nexus 7 tablet as a trial device, so it may not be the perfect experience.
However, the under the finger response improvements were definitely tangible; we noticed an much faster response on unlocking, for instance, than we're usually accustomed to on the likes of the Asus Transformer Prime, which is rocking the same Tegra 3 CPU architecture.
The idea is that the CPU, GPU and display all 'lock-step', and while this isn't necessarily the most ground-breaking feature of the whole OS, it will make future Android devices that much more impressive when poked - and that's a Good Thing.
Jelly-bean large verge medium landscape

When it comes to moving things around the home screen, Google really was true to its word - it's so much easier to mess around with widgets now.
However, let's not get ahead of ourselves - Google giving users of Jelly Bean the ability to move icons around when a widget is chucked on top of them is not new; just look at the Motorola Razr if you don't believe us.
But the interface is very neat in action, and especially seeing the widgets resize themselves when you plop them down in a space they can't fit - we can't tell you the amount of times this has gone wrong for us and caused untold frustration.
Flicking icons and widgets off the top of the screen feels highly intuitive as well, although very PalmOS like - we're sure there's some litigation to be had in there somewhere.
Chrome browser
Android jelly bean apps

Android 4.1 will generally come with the Chrome internet browser pre-installed, which is another Good Thing in our books, as it means more cooperation across the desktop and mobile phone and generally leads to better functionality on the phone.
On the Google Nexus 7, the browser is as good as we've come to expect - namely, fast and slick operation when flicking through sites.
We did notice copious amounts of slowdown on more that one occasion - but the ease of which we could flick between tabs at the top of the screen, coupled with the fact we were faced with a pre-prodcuction unit, soon allayed those issues.
Google Now
Android jelly bean

Now here's an interesting one - the idea of making search just that much more intuitive using the power of your voice.
You have to hold down the home button to activate it - which begs the question how this will work when it comes to phones like the Samsung Galaxy S3, which uses the same action to call up the task manager interface.

However,the interface is neat, and you can simply turn on the voice recogntion by saying Google (cool, but pointless as you have to touch the device to activate the app) or touching the voice icon.
In use, you still have to be careful what you say. Asking 'How old is Barack Obama?' will give you the relevant card with all his details (not ALL of them, it's not got his email address or anything) but saying 'show me pictures of the Queen' won't give you anything back.
Android jelly bean Appspace
Android jelly bean keyboard

However, stating: 'pictures of the queen' will get you up and running with an image search. And here's where the plan falls down slightly: if you need to tailor your speech to make it work, something like this need to be more intuitive.
The voice recognition was generally very good though, and you could sense the speed update to word guessing thanks when put in offline mode.
The typing was also noticeably better when using the keyboard - we've never been totally unimpressed with Google's overall efforts here, but the next word prediction particularly caught our eye - it was Swiftkey levels of intuition, but it still managed to help us on more than one occasion.

The last area we want to talk about is the notifications bar, which has been upgraded for this Android 4.1 release. It's a nifty change, as it's got more information crammed into the drag-down menu than ever before.

For instance, if you're on a call, you can hang it up from the drop down menu now - although this has been a feature of Samsung's TouchWiz for a while.
But there's so much more - you can snooze a meeting, be told when to leave for an appointment based on your location and search history collated by Google, and even send a message to tell people you're going to be late with a quick tap.
We couldn't properly try this whole system without having media on the device to play music, or a boatload of other apps to interact with the notifications bar - but the notion of simply double-finger dragging down on any alert to expand it worked really well, and this is an update people will really like.
Early verdict

Google has made something decent here - the chance to get some cool features for your phone or tablet, but nothing that ground breaking that you'll miss it if you have to wait for your brand to roll it out.
The problem with the Ice Cream Sandwich delays was users were aware their phone would discernably different post update - here, Google has focused on a few new features and made the UI ostensibly the same.
A good move or one that didn't deserve such a hurrah? We'll side with the former argument - after all, this is still new functionality that doesn't cost you a penny, and with it comes extra reasons to buy an Android device.
You won't go out of your way to get Android 4.1, but when it does land you'll likely notice a refreshing boost throughout your handset.

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Friday, 29 June 2012


HTC One X review

New flagship brings quad core power – but is that enough to boost the brand?

The HTC One X brings the best processor, an HD screen and a sublimely thin chassis as the Taiwanese firm looks to recreate the success of the original Desire.

The One X is a phone that's had us intrigued for a while – running a quad core CPU (Nvidia's Tegra 3) plus one of the largest screens on any HTC… and that's without being given a gargantuan name like the Titan.
It's clear from the outset what HTC is trying to do with the One X: shake off the slight doom and gloom surrounding the brand's fall in profits, and bring out a slick, powerful and, more importantly, useable handset that only costs £36 per month (about $57) on a two year deal.
Check out the HTC One X video below to find out the main features it's packing in that slim body.

With Ice Cream Sandwich running from the outset, this is the phone that really takes HTC to the next level – but is it a case of too much, too soon for a brand that's still really just over a decade old?


HTC's phones have been slowly moving towards sleeker design ever since the purchase of One & Co (which may have had more than a little to do with the new naming strategy) and the release of the HTC Legend.

HTC One X review

Since then, unibody designs and smooth lines have been a feature of its devices, and that principle has been evolved with the HTC One X.
However, before you read any further, a note of caution: if you're not willing to accept a pretty large mobile, then you're better off waiting for the likes of the HTC One S – the One X is a large piece of phone estate in your hand.
But it's that large 4.7-inch screen that is such a stunning feature of the One X – it's a 720p HD display packed into a chassis that's only 8.9mm thick. Plus it's also using the Super IPS LCD 2 technology that, while it lacks the vivid colour reproduction of Samsung's Super AMOLED range, really brings games and movies to life.

HTC One X review

We're not going to get into the pros and cons of OLED vs LCD – suffice to say, it's a matter of choice whether you prefer improved contrast ratios or a more true to life colour reproduction. In our opinion, both are excellent and the One X will certainly not disappoint.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, it's got a pixel density (screen sharpness) that rivals the iPhone 4S, but does it on a screen that's over an inch larger. It's one of those devices that you have to see to really believe, but there's a good chance you'll confuse it with a shop model with a static image Sellotaped onto the front.

HTC One X review

The rest of the phone design is, again, pretty subjective. For the large size, it's very light indeed at 130g. That's quite a bit heavier than the likes of theSamsung Galaxy S2 (14g, in fact) but in reality you'll consider it to be almost impossible to feel in the pocket.
See how the HTC One X fares against the S2 in our speed test video:

The rest of the phone is pretty minimal in design. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, we're offered some physical (well, touch sensitive) keys on the front of the HTC One X, meaning the display won't need to jump up and down to show the contextual versions.

HTC One X review

There's an expected volume rocker switch on the right-hand side, a power button on the top (accompanied by a 3.5mm headphone jack) and a microUSB slot on the left-hand side – which also doubles a Mobile High-Definition Link to hook up to a TV.
It's a very sparse offering on a phone that's so expansive in its design, and leads to a very minimalist feel, which will likely appeal to many.

HTC One X review

That effect is compounded by the microSIM slot on the back of the phone, which requires an Apple-esque device to open it up – and there's no microSD support to be found here either, with the battery locked into the unibody design.
While the smaller SIM will be a slight annoyance to those upgrading from the full-size version, the lack of a microSD slot will be a big worry for many, especially as HD movies and large games will play very well on a phone like this.
There is 32GB of onboard storage, but that's not going to be enough for the ilk of smartphone user that wouldn't buy an iPhone until capacity was raised to 64GB.

HTC One X review

The rear of the phone features the 8MP camera, which protrudes quite a lot from the handset, but thanks to the slightly curved nature of the chassis, doesn't affect the phone too much when resting on a table.
The power button on the top of the phone can be quite hard to hit with the phone resting in the palm if you've not got the largest hands in the world, although the travel is such you'll hit it pretty accurately most of the time, which is something some phones fail to manage.
The size is the main design issue we can see for most people – this sleek-looking, lightweight phone will appeal to both men and women, but those with smaller hands will struggle to use the HTC One X effectively without doubling down on their digits

HTC One X review

We reviewed the white version of the One X, and it's worth noting that in a few hours it was quite dirty with fingerprint smudges and the like, so be warned you might want to fork out for a case too.

HTC One X review: Verdict

New flagship brings quad core power – but is that enough to boost the brand?

When we got our hands on the HTC One X, it was a mix of trepidation and excitement. How would our first quad core phone on test fare? Could HTC make an HD screen fit well into a phone? Would we get annoyed at the lack of a microSD slot?

We've answered all those questions and more in this in-depth review, and it's clear that the HTC One X is a top-notch phone - but one that just, justmisses out on being the third member of the five star phone clan due to having a substandard battery compared to its peers, even with the recent update to try and rectify the issue.

Oh, where do we begin? The super-thin chassis. The HD screen. The beautiful graphics. The next-generation Android platform, all rolled into one.
We liked

Essentially, this is EXACTLY the kind of phone we want to see at the top end of its range if it wants to stay relevant in the smartphone business. Fusing top level CPU power with a beautiful screen (and a whopping one at that) and really thinking about how it wants to strip back its skin on top of the latest version of Android without compromising its identity.
Then there's the likes of integrated DropBox storage, Beats Audio enhancements and the upgraded music player. Plus the improved lock screen, the speedier internet browser and the camera that's among the most feature-rich on the market.

We disliked

We say this is EXACTLY the phone HTC needed to make, and while the One X battery issues have been looked at, we're still not massive fans when a phone manages to power down regularly before bedtime.
The battery life is such a shame here - all the other niggles, like the touchscreen sensitivity and apps failing to register a press, have been eradicated by HTC.
But that battery is a key thing to so many users, and for that reason we have to be hard on this otherwise superb device. Sure, in idle mode the HTC One X survives just fine... but we don't buy a phone to not use it.

Oh, and we nearly forgot the criminal oversight that constitutes the lack of a microSD card slot. Sure, 32GB is plenty, but Android users love to be able to hotswap. Apple has just about managed to get away with it thus far, but we know the lack of said storage slot is going to put off a number of buyers.If we have a GPU with 12 cores, then we want to have a gaming session that lasts more than 2 and a half hours. If you give us an HD screen, make it so downloading a movie then watching it isn't the only thing the phone can do before we need to charge again.


Let's not beat around the bush here: we love the HTC One X. You can see how we feel about the battery life, but it's not an insurmountable problem... it's just frustrating that you'll have to be frugal at times with your smartphone usage to get through the day.
But beyond that the HTC One X is a beautiful piece of kit. It's stylishly designed, light, has a cracking screen and comes with enough future-proofing to make us believe our grandchildren may still have one.
The fact it's rocking the latest version of Android will appeal to many too - except those that don't want to get involved with the complexity of Google's OS.
It's not a tricky system to learn, but whether you buy the HTC One X will come down to two things: do you want a phone that rewards you the more you explore its features? And do you mind having to keep a bit more of a strict eye on that battery level throughout the day?
If the answer is yes to the first question and no to the second, then we have good news: you've just found your new phone. The HTC One X is feature-rich, well designed and not another clone in the smartphone market - plus it's got a fancy CPU, gorgeous screen and grand design.
In short: the rivals better step it up in 2012 if they want to stop the HTC sparking a big revival for the popular smartphone brand.

Thursday, 28 June 2012


Google Nexus 7 review




Getting up close with the latest tablet challenger

We nabbed a good chunk of hands on time with the Google Nexus 7, the new challenger in the tablet market.

The new tablet, which weighs in at just 340g, packs a 7 inch screen with 1280x800 screen and comes complete with a quad core Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU, plus a 12 core GPU too.
What's more, the tablet costs just £159 or £199 (depending on whether you want an 8GB or 16GB variant) and will be $199 in the US.

Google Nexus 7

However be warned: there's no microSD card slot nor a rear-facing camera… although we're not sure many people will miss the latter.
It fits nicely into the hand, and although the back is encased in plastic it still doesn't feel as cheap as the price tag would suggest.

Google Nexus 7

Oddly the headphone port is placed at the bottom of the Google Nexus 7 rather than at the top or the side - this creates something of a lop-sided feel when you're playing with the tablet, and we can see wireless headphones being a real boon here.
The overall design is very nice indeed - we wouldn't be upset to pull this out of our bag (or indeed pocket, such is its size) and for the sum of £159, we certainly can't fault it on that front.

As we've mentioned there's no microSD slot to be found, which is really irritating with a tablet like this. There's maybe a very slight financial reason not to put one in (although a lot of budget phones happily pack a dedicated slot) so we suspect this is more cloud-based.
Think about it: 16GB isn't going to be enough to download a cornucopia of movies and store them locally. No, you'll be forced in and out of the Google Play Store, all the while being tantalisingly tempted with all manner of games and shows to watch.
And Google has also got the music element too - while not available in certain territories, the notion of being able to store 20,000 songs in a digital locker is the way forward, according to Google. Not being able to listen to them all locally, apparently.
Google Nexus 7 review
The battery life is a big talking point too, with a very decent nine hours of video playback or up to 300 hours of standby if you promise to be really lean with your tablet.
It's rocking Android 4.1, the latest version of the OS (codenamed Jelly Bean) which adds in a few minor updates to the OS - namely better voice recogntion and the likes of Google Now, which will display cards in a contextual manner when you ask questions of the tablet through your voice or some tippy-tappy typing.
The interface is interesting - on the Google Nexus 7 we tried, the UI was super-zippy in some places, and in other lagged a bit too much to be a simple mis-step.
Opening and shutting apps seemed to be the hardest task - although navigating through the Chrome browser wasn't without its pitfalls either, it seems.
Google Nexus 7 review
There were frequent instances when trying to browse that rendered the interface frozen for a second or two - and then trying to zoom in and out was quite difficult to achieve smoothly.
However, let's be fair here: although the Google Nexus 7 release date is less than a month away, there's still plenty of time to iron out a few kinks, and that's what we felt like we were playing with here.
We should give a big 'shout out' to the new notifications bar though - we really enjoyed the extra informaiton on offer, and are looking forward to giving that a go in real life, especially being able to see which apps are able to make the best use of the extra space and the additional buttons you'll get.
Typing on the Nexus 7 was a decent experience, and we found we quickly preferred doing so in portrait mode.
The suggestions that came up weren't always exact the mot juste but more often than not we were pleased with the accuracy - and the wealth of special characters no more than a long-press away was enticing too. We know, get out more, we should, etc etc.

Early verdict

Google Nexus 7 review

Do we like the Google Nexus 7? Yes, without a doubt. For the money you're getting so, so much: a quad core Tegra 3-powered device with a 12-core GPU and a HD screen.
Then there's the most advanced version of Google's Android, and the fact you can get a wealth of new content in the shape of magazines and an ever-growing library of content in the video department.
Google Now, while not really an exclusive to this tablet, is a neat feature and one definitely worthy of being further explored - get it right and we may have an actual Siri competitor, which would be amazing to see.
Yes, the lack of storage and no camera is underwhelming, but possibly only from a gadget snob's point of view - do we need a camera on the rear of the device? No. Do we need local storage when the cloud is there, ready and waiting? Yes, we still do - and Google's entry into the tablet market could be marred by such an error.
People want media on tablets - they perhaps aren't as bothered about the phone as a personal movie theatre, but when users can only download two or three HD movies onto their device before it's maxxed out - well, that's a cause for concern.
But speaking of concern, there will be some panicked brands out there who have carved out a living making cheaper tablets with low-end specs; the Google Nexus 7 has just blown all of them out of the water.

Friday, 22 June 2012


Windows Phone 8 vs Android 4.0 vs iOS

Windows Phone 8 vs Android 4.0 vs iOS 6
What does each OS offer?

When you look at the smartphone market today compared to just a few years ago, you'd be surprised at just how different it is. Today's smartphones are slowly taking on more features of PCs than phones – and none more so than the recent release of Windows Phone 8.
You could put this down to hardware, with high end phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 or HTC One X both powered by quad core processors, but the software is also continually evolving to support it.

iOS 6, Android 4.0 and now Windows Phone 8 are moving quicker than ever, constantly trying to out-do the others to gain more customers, but also to stay at the forefront of an ever-changing market.


Windows Phone 8Windows Phone 8 builds upon the easy to recognise system of "Live Tiles". To those unfamiliar, these are squares placed on the home screen that represent different apps, such as a music player or for messaging, that are interactive.
Whilst remaining fundamentally the same, updates from the Windows Phone 7 interface now bring more customisable tiles, to allow you to squeeze even more onto your screen. Another major update sees the company bringing in data management via DataSmart, which perfect for those on limited contracts.
Android, however, provides interactivity through widgets that can be placed on varying home screens. Standard Android 4.0 defaults to five such screens, but customised overlays can boost this to seven. Android is also highly customisable, with different manufacturers offering their own take with skins atop the standard UI from Google.
Apple uses a tried and trusted formula, based upon simplicity. No widgets, no tiles, just a grid of app icons that you scroll through from the home page. Each iteration has added greater functionality, with iOS 6 strengthening Siri and even locking children out of certain areas.


Windows Phone 8 surprisingly ditches Microsoft's proprietary Bing Maps. On the other hand, its new system is hardly shocking. Windows Phone 8 now brings in the Nokia mapping system, bringing 3D street navigation, and Nokia's Navteq Traffic Service.

iOS 6

Android, somewhat unsurprisingly, bases its mapping system on the well known Google Maps, bringing Street View, 3D and indoor mapping. It provides the sat-nav experience for both pedestrians and motorists through the Navigation app, as well as details of local restaurants, cafés and attractions.
iOS has traditionally also based their mapping on Google's offering. This all changes with iOS 6, with Apple's new proprietary system providing turn by turn navigation, integration with Yelp for business listings, and Siri for voice control. Like the others, there are also 3D maps, a traffic service and a satellite view.
Traffic data is prevalent through all three, although Apple has taken this one step further by allowing anonymised croud-sourced data at the sites of traffic congestion to help you understand what's going on.


Microsoft hasn't skimped on Windows Phone 8's Camera app, getting a new simple, clean look, with a small menu button that accesses the camera's various settings. Nokia branded handsets are also set to bring over the PureView technology that was made famous in the Nokia 808 PureView.
Android 4.0's camera system brought in minor yet noticeable changes. It packs in varying scene modes, customisable levels white balance and exposure, all helping you to create your ideal shot. A panoramic mode and photo editing are also thrown in, alongside the impressive zero shutter lag.

Google Android

iOS 6 builds upon the work from iOS 5, debuted on the iPhone 4S. Continuing the simplicity theme, settings are all sorted automatically, including whether the flash is used or not. Focus is also automatic, unless you specify a certain area by touching the screen. For those who require a physical shutter button, iOS also allows the use of the up volume button as well as the on screen option.


Windows Phone 8 packs in Microsoft Wallet, making use of any NFC technology packed into handsets. This is all set to tie in to varying applications installed on the phone, allowing payment via services such as Paypal. Other applications, such as instant pairing of Bluetooth accessories will also be supported.

Google also seems keen to use NFC, using services such as Android Beam and Google Wallet (currently only available in the US). The premier service allows for the instantaneous sharing of contacts, media and apps between two enabled phones, whilst the latter stores your card details to allow instant payment in stores.


iOS 6 brings in Passbook. Whilst not entirely a NFC based app, it does provide a lot of the same features, keeping varying tickets to sports, the theatre, airlines or store cards all in one easy to access, and constantly updated place.
We're expecting Apple to announce NFC capabilities in the iPhone 5 – given the fact rivals are all over the contactless technology,


Windows Phone 8 takes internet browsing very seriously, bringing the latest version of Internet Explorer, IE10. This will help keep WP8 at the forefront of the mobile internet browsing, but also keeps you safe whilst you do. IE10 comes with a phishing filter and SmartScreen service to make it harder for you to be tracked by malicious websites.
Internet browsing on Android is a different affair. The standard browser packs in some very cool security features, as well as the ability to save pages for offline reading and tabbed browsing. Also available is Google Chrome, which ports over many of the desktop features, as well syncing history and bookmarks as well as a slicker experience for Android 4.0 devices.

Android 4.0

Safari on the original iPhone changed the level of acceptability from mobile browsing, and iOS 6 brings over more features such as offline reading and integration to iCloud allowing for tab syncing. Plus there are also Smart App Banners which help sites promote their apps, bringing a richer cohesion to the whole iOS platform.


One area that Windows has suffered from before is microSD card support. Thankfully this is rectified in Windows Phone 8, as now Windows Phone 8 allows for media to be easily stored and accessed via a microSD card, as well as supporting the installation of apps onto it. Elsewhere is the support for 1280 x 768 and 1280 x 720 resolutions on top of the current 800 x 480.
Windows Phone 8
Since Android 2.2, Apps to microSD has been a standard feature, as well as supporting stored media. Android 4.0 also offers a standard, clean-looking music player, and a basic video player that ties in deeply with downloads from the Google Play Store.
Google Music also gives a decent option for storing and accessing your music, and the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 build on the OS to support a fantastic range of video and audio formats too.
Believe it or not… the company that brought us the iPod also has media prevalent on its OS. It doesn't provide microSD support, but Apple has a habit of making devices with large internal storage to compensate.
Media is handled via both wired and wireless access via iCloud to the iTunes store, which has long provided music and films.
However, the screen size of the iPhone is still too small for extended movie watching, although the on-board audio support is among the best around for a music marathon on the way to work, be it on the iPad, iPod touch or iPhone.

Tablet support

Microsoft went out of its way to show off the new Microsoft Surface tablet, but this is running Windows 8. Whilst there is no word from Microsoft as to whether we will see a Windows Phone 8 Tablet, we would bet that it ties in strongly to Windows 8, as they are both based upon the same kernel to allow easy development on both.
As mentioned, Windows Phone 8 also now supports the 1280x768 resolution, so seeing a tablet running the mobile OS is not as far-fetched as it might once have been.
Android 4.0 was billed as the operating system that united both smartphone technology with tablet PCs. It took the best of 2.3 (Gingerbread) and combined it with 3.2 (Honeycomb) to provide a seamless experience that has been shown off well on the likes of the Asus Transformer Prime and there are even rumours of a Google Nexus tablet.

Microsoft Surface

iOS also has a tablet…you may have heard of it… the iPad. Taking the world by storm since its release, the iPad has grown in popularity and is boosted by iOS 6 bringing Siri over from the iPhone 4S to the new iPad.
iOS 6 is scalable, but also basic in some people's eyes, as well as being too similar to the iPhone experience – se Windows Phone 8's compatibility with 'big' Windows could be a big selling point for those looking for a genuine, but compatible, difference between their tablet and smartphone.


Windows Phone 8 builds upon the impressive foundations that its predecessor laid. Bringing over the much loved Live Tiles system, as well as supporting the next generation software, Microsoft has moved its ecosystem to the next level.
Android 4.0 was also a superb refresh of a now established mobile OS. It brings some impressive features, including the multitasking options prevalent on Android 3.2. However with iOS devices selling in record numbers, it's hard to see that dominance being shaken too dramatically any time soon.
Building Android 4.0 from the ground up means that Google has that chance, especially by targeting the budget end of the market, but one factor key to Apple's success is its business market. Tight integration of Windows Phone 8 with Windows 8 could provide a strong platform for Microsoft to continue to stay competitive in a computing market that has seemingly begun to leave it behind.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


Best compact camera 2012: 

 Get the best digital camera for your needs

Best compact camera 2012: 27 reviewed

The Fuji X100 and its hybrid viewfinder is king of all compact cameras.

Finding the best compact camera for your needs is never going to be easy, because the compact camera market is a very crowded place.
There are hundreds of digital compact cameras out there, waiting for you to ogle them, to scratch your heads over them, and eventually hand over your hard-earned cash for them.
Once the transaction is complete and you're unboxing your newest purchase, a nagging doubt enters your mind: did I make the right choice?

Whichever compact digital camera you might be looking for, we've pulled together a selection of what we believe are the best compact digital cameras on the market now.The right choice, of course, depends on what you want from your digital camera. Maybe you're looking for a high-end compact camera or perhaps you want something more basic to help someone else get started in photography.

Best compact cameras 2012: 

Fujifilm Finepix X100

Price: £695/$1,200
Specs: 12.3MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, 23mm f/2 lens, hybrid viewfinder

Best compact cameras

Fuji created a stir when it announced this retro-styled compact with an 12.3 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor. The fixed 23mm f/2 lens provides a bright aperture for low light shooting and an angle of view roughly equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera.
Its design is aimed to appeal to experienced photographers and enthusiasts, who like direct exposure control with an aperture ring, shutter-speed dial . It also sports a raw image mode and has a unique hybrid viewfinder that combines an electronic and optical finder in the same view.

Fujifilm Finepix X10

Price: £390/$600
Specs 12MP CMOS sensor, 4x f/2-2.8 optical zoom, Manual zoom ring, 1080p HD video

Best compact cameras

Manual controls are easily accessible and pictures can be recorded in a raw image format. Even the zoom ring is operated manually, which is unusual for a compact camera and a large bright optical viewfinder is provided for those who prefer this to using the screen for composing images.Another retro-styled camera from Fujifilm, although this one is quite different to the X100. A 4x zoom lens with a bright maximum aperture of f/2-2.8 is fitted to a metal camera body containing a 1 /2.3î EXR CMOS sensor.
Add in 1080p HD video recording and you have a highly specified camera that justifies the high price tag.

Canon Powershot G1 X

Price: £700/$800
Specs: Large 14.3MP CMOS sensor, 4x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, swivel LCD screen

Best compact cameras

Although the zoom range is limited when compared to other Canon G-series cameras, the trump card of the Canon G1 X is its unusually large sensor. A larger sensor has more surface area to receive light, improving image quality at high sensitivities and boosting dynamic range. Interestingly, Canon has opted to stick with the 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than 3:2 as most APS-C sensors are, even though the sensor in the G1 X is roughly the same height as APS-C format.
In order to make the most of what the sensor can offer, Canon has equipped the G1 X with the latest DIGIC 5 processor, which promises better control over noise at high ISO sensitivities, faster operation and smoother 1080p video recording.
The 4x zoom lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 28-122mm lens on a 35mm camera, and the usual array of direct controls found on G-series cameras should make manual operation a pleasure.

Canon PowerShot G12

Price: £400/$420
Specs: 10MP CMOS sensor, 5x stabilised optical zoom lens, 720p HD video, swivel screen

Best compact cameras

Canon's G-series cameras have been the benchmark by which other high-end compacts are judged ever since the G1 released at the turn of the century. The G12 continues this tradition with it's strong magnesium body, highly sensitive 10MP CMOS sensor, 720p video, 5x Image Stabilised zoom lens and DIGIC 4 image processor.
Experienced photographers will enjoy the direct exposure controls, HDR capability and raw image recording, whereas more casual photographers are catered for by a wide range of automatic scene programs and face detection.
Add to this multi-aspect shooting, and you can see why this compact camera gives interchangeable lens cameras a run for their money.

Ricoh GR Digital IV

Price: £435/$600
Specs: 10MP CCD sensor, 28mm (equiv) f/1.9 lens, 1,230,000 dot 3-inch LCD screen

Best compact cameras

A pocketable camera with a high quality lens, equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera, and a fast f/1.9 maximum aperture. The GR Digital IV follows in Ricoh's tradition of producing high quality compact cameras that are ideal for street photography.
Despite the compact dimensions, manual controls are easily accessible and a 3-inch LCD screen with an extremely high resolution of 1,230,000 dots has been squeezed onto the rear. Images can be shot in raw formats too.
Strangely Ricoh hasn't followed the trend of including HD video capability, the GRD IV will record video, but only at VGA resolution.

Nikon Coolpix P310

Price: £235/$315
Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 4.2x zoom with a fast f/1.8 aperture, Full HD video, Optical VR

Best compact cameras

The Nikon Coolpix P310 builds on the features its popular predecessor sported with a higher resolution 16MP rear-illuminated CMOS sensor, which should enhance the camera's ability to take images in low light. Couple this with a bright f/1.8 lens and you have a formidable, pocketable camera for taking pictures in a wide range of conditions.
If tinkering with raw image files is a feature you desire, this camera may not be for you, since images can only be recorded in JPEG format. But given the bargain basement price, it still represents excellent value.

Olympus XZ-1

Price: £310/$500
Specs: 10MP CCD sensor, 4x optical zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8, 720p HD video

Best compact cameras

As well as being one of the most stylish high-end compact cameras on the market, the Olympus XZ-1 sports a larger than normal CCD sensor and a 4x zoom Zuiko lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8, which both enable this camera to take excellent pictures in low light conditions.
Full manual control is possible, but also a comprehensive range of automatic exposure programs and fun art effects that can be applied to images. Add in the 720p HD video mode and the Olympus XZ-1 is well worthy of consideration.

Canon PowerShot S100

Price: £360/$390
Specs: 12.1MP CMOS sensor, 5x image stabilised zoom lens with 24mm wide angle and f/2 maximum aperture, 1080p HD video

Best compact cameras

Canon's latest advanced compact raises the bar set by the S95 by including a 12.1MP high sensitivity CMOS sensor, manual control, and Full HD video.
The combination of a large 1/1.7-inch sensor with Canon's latest DIGIC 5 image processing chip and the bright f/2 lens delivers excellent quality at high sensitivities. The compact body also provides full manual control, with adjustments applied directly via the bezel around the lens and the ability to record raw images.
A strip of rubber on the front of the S100 gives it extra grip over the S95.

Nikon Coolpix P7100

Price: £349/$449.95Specs: 10.1MP 1/1.7-inch CCD sensor, 3-inch 921,000 dot LCD, 7.1x zoom

Best compact camera 2012

Nikon's P7100 is a close match for the Canon G12 in terms of specification, having the same size sensor with 10.1-million effective pixels and a f/2.8-5.6 7.1x zoom lens with a focal length equivalence of 35-200mm and Vibration Reduction (VR). The 3-inch 921,000 dot screen however, is a tilting unit rather than being fully articulated.
The solid-feeling body is liberally covered with buttons and dials, that give the user plenty of direct control over the most important shooting parameters.
Image quality is generally good, especially from raw files, but colours can be a little on the vivid-side.

Sony RX100

Price: £579/$648
Specs: 20.2MP 1 inch Exmoor CMOS sensor, 3.6x zoom, 1080p video, Bionz processor, f/1.8-4.9 lens

Best Compact camera 2012: 26 reviewed

Though it's a relative small compact camera, the Sony RX100 has a larger than average sensor. In fact its 20.2MP 1-inch CMOS device is the same physical size as the one in the Nikon 1 V1 and Nikon 1 J1, which arecompact system cameras.
We love the build quality of the RX100 and it provides all the controls that demanding enthusiasts expect, plus the ability to record raw files. We especially like the control ring around the 28-100mm (equivalent) f/1.8-4.9 lens that can be used to adjust a selection of features including aperture.
Our tests reveal that the RX100 performs well across the sensitivity range (ISO 125-6400) and it produces, bright punchy images that aren't excessively vibrant.