Whether it’s making resolutions to change your life for the better or just violently expelling the contents of your stomach at a New Year’s Eve party, the end of the old year and the dawn of the new is often used as an opportunity to leave the burdens of the past behind and make a fresh start. If you’ve been considering getting a new smartphone or tablet, now is an auspicious time to do so with one of the fine devices listed here.
The Kindle Fire
The Kindle Fire is on this list not because of its own merits, but because it caused the hardcore Droid revolution that led to this countdown. When it was released it caused waves in the industry, causing other manufacturers to play catch up. I picked up a Fire on Black Friday last year and was disappointed with its slow speed, clunky OS and seemingly endless supply of bloat ware. However, its release led directly to Google’s Nexus 7, which proved the original Apple-fighting point that Amazon was trying to make. Every other device on this countdown owes a debt to the Fire and though I cannot recommend you buy one, (buy the Fire HD below) I can tell you that you wouldn’t see any of these devices without it.
HTC EVO 4G LTE
This is a device that is sure to go underappreciated due to its carrier. The EVO 4G LTE from Sprint has the hardware to compete with any hardcore Droid device on the market but being on Sprint will surely blunt its sales and its real-world performance. The original EVO – a phone that this writer had the pleasure of owning- was one of the best phones of its generation. It was able to put up a fight with the iPhone 4 and prove that Android was a true power device OS.
The 4G LTE is an EVO in name only – the phones share no parts or design, but what a design this is! “To say the HTC Evo 4G LTE is a looker is, well, a serious understatement,” says CNET, and damn is it true! Supplementing its sex appeal are specs that make this one of the best hardcore Droid devices out there, with a speedy dual-core processor, a crisp display and a kickstand for all of your media-consuming needs, this is a great choice for anyone with the misfortune to have a Sprint contract.
The HTC Rezound is yet another underappreciated device coming from the evergreen HTC brand. Running a custom version of their Sense OS specifically for Verizon users, this 9-month- old device still has the guts for glory and a recent update to Android 4.0 should extend its shelf life even further. It is also the first phone to feature Beats By Dre audio, and according to TechRadar, the quality doesn’t disappoint. As they put it, “The Rezound definitely brings the booming bottom-end that’s often missing in portable players.”
The dual-core snapdragon processor under the hood provides more than enough power for any of your hardcore needs, and clever task-management on the processor allows this to be one of the first Verizon phones that allows simultaneous surfing and talking. Deals on this phone should be plentiful so if you’re looking to get your hardcore on, you should look for this gem before it’s taken off the shelves.
Kindle Fire HD
The Kindle Fire HD is the long awaited follow-up to the Kindle Fire released last year. As mentioned before, the original Kindle Fire was a mess of underpowered CPUs and a bloat ware ridden operating system. The Fire HD takes everything that was wrong with the original Fire and throws it out the window- the screen is gorgeous, the design is subtle and beautiful and most of all, the CPU is faster. According to Engadget, “The media-focused UI customization that the previous tablet couldn’t really handle is far more responsive now,” and this says a lot. The old Fire was a good idea in a bad package – this new device is what the original Kindle Fire always should have been.
Motorola Droid Razr MAXX
The first Droid Razr had it all: a design so sexy that you’d have trouble keeping teenage boys away from it, an HD display, dual-core power, Android 4.0 and a Kevlar body tough enough to protect it from bullets. The Droid Razr MAXX takes all of that amazing power, and 4G LTE speed and adds to it the one thing every hardcore Droid user needs: an impossibly long-lasting batter. TechRadar really says it perfectly: “Motorola claims that the 3,300mAh battery will provide 17.6 hours of talk time, which blows its rivals, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 (11.6 hours) and iPhone 4S (8 hours), out of the water.” With that kind of battery life, you might be able to get at least 1/100th of the way through your game in GTA III.
Asus Transformer Infinity
This tablet is the most powerful Android device on our countdown, & one of the most impressive Android machines money can buy. And speaking of money, save your paychecks because this baby will set you back almost 500 bucks; that’s iPad territory. Surprisingly though, this may be the only hardcore Droid machine in the countdown that can put up a fight against Apple’s golden boy. Not only is it thinner & less expensive than the iPad, but it also comes with a keyboard, Android 4.0 and a screen that can make grown men cry. As if the specs weren’t enough, ZDNet nails it on its looks: “The short answer to the design question has to be ‘yes’.” Simply put: if you’re a Droid-only person like me – this is your only choice for iPad like power, portability and sex appeal.
HTC One X
The One X is AT&T’s entry in the countdown and boy is it a special device! Easily AT&T’s hottest Android phone, this one will surely appeal to hardcore users thanks to its Tegra 3 quad-core processor and Nvidia graphics and, according to Engadget, “[it is] our first Tegra 3 Smartphone to arrive for testing and it doesn’t disappoint.”
Match that up with Android 3.0.3 (with 4.0 sure to come), 32 GB of internal memory and a 4.7-inch HD display and you have a phone that was practically built for hardcore gaming, modding and all around Droid intensity. People may not be a big fan of HTC’s Sense OS, but the raw power makes up for any shortcomings. If you’re on AT&T and need your Droid fix, this is the only option. Can you explain what modding is?
Samsung Galaxy SIII
As far as Android phones are concerned, the Galaxy SIII is without a doubt the darling of 2012. The processing power alone is enough to make a lesser nerd break down in tears, but it’s when you get to the finer details that things get simply fantastic. The 4.7-inch OLED HD is one of the most magnificent screens ever fitted to a phone and its 1.5 GHz dual-core processor allows Samsung’s Touch-Wiz UI to run at lightning speed. For hardcore Droid gaming there is no better third-party device. CNET UK’s verdict of this phone is a perfect way to wrap up this review: “It’s the Ferrari of the Android circuit so it’s very expensive… But if you’re a power-loving Android fan hankering to trouser a monster, look no further”
Google/Samsung Galaxy Nexus
As far as Android phones are concerned, this is the big daddy. As Techcrunch says “There is no doubt about it – this is a premium handset and is up there with the iPhone 4S.” They are right: no other phone on the market gives you access to the pristine stock version of Android 4 or the comfort of knowing you will be the first to get. 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 and so on… The Galaxy Nexus may not be the sexiest phone, & its specs may not match up with the Galaxy SIII but the pristine smoothness of Jelly Bean, the brilliance of its lag-less camera, & the full suite of Google apps means this is the Android phone to have. Its age means that today you find it for the bargain bin price of around 75 bucks, but for your money you’re getting a device that is not only designed by Droid users for Droid users, it’s also the single most complete Android experience around. They say that if you want to see the real Spain, you have to go to Madrid; well, if you want to see the real Android, you need a Galaxy Nexus.
Google Nexus 7 and Nexus 10
These are really the obvious choice for the number one spot – it can be no other way. The Nexus 7 not only shocked the Android world, but it was a clear message from Google that Android is no two-bit operating system and that sleek design coupled with blistering speed is not solely the territory of Apple. At what zdNet calls a “game-changing price” of just $199, Google’s device is obviously also a contender against Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and though the Kindle Fire HD might cause quite a stir it is clear that Google won this round. Hardcore gamers can rejoice over its quad-core power and the best stock Android 4.1. Couple that with a brilliantly simple design, and it’s obvious Google has made a tablet that is simply brilliant.
It’s younger yet bigger brother- I can only assume the eponymous “nexus” is a network of time travel portals- the Nexus 10 ups the ante by trading in the Nexus 7’s 7-inch 1280×800 pixelscreen for a 10-inch screen featuring double the resolution at 2560×1600. It also features a new processor that does better in most benchmarks, though the Nexus 7’s quad-core architecture still surpasses it in some tasks.
The Nexus 4 is the newest smartphone from Google.and comes equipped with a 1.5 gigahertz quad core processor and two gigabytes of RAM to keep everything running quickly and smoothly. It runs Android 4.2, comes with a variety of useful Google apps, and can rapidly exchange data with nearby devices via Android Beam
There are two models, letting you choose between 8 or 16 gigabytes of internal storage. One potential downside is that there is no memory card slot, so there’s no way to expand its capacity. On the other hand, using services like music streaming on Google Play allows you to outsource much of your phone’s storage needs to the Google cloud, making internal storage less of an issue.
Your best option for buying one of these without tying it to a contract from a phone service provider is ordering it from Google directly through the Google Play store, which sells it for much less than most retail outlets. Unfortunately, a combination of high demand and supplier problems mean that Google Play is out of stock at the time of this article’s writing. Unless you are extremely impatient and/or wealthy, you’re better off waiting for them to get more instead of going elsewhere, since other retail outlets are charging hundreds of dollars more for an unlocked Nexus 4.
Samsung Galaxy Note
The Galaxy Note is a sort of hybrid device, straddling the boundary between smartphone and tablet. Some publications have taken to calling it a “phablet,” a grotesque portmanteau that we should all pray never catches on. There’s nothing grotesque about the device itself, however, which features a sizable 5.3 inch screen, a 1.4 gigahertz dual core processor, and support for the Android 4.1 operating system.
By John Igeilnik