Thursday, March 8, 2012

How To Choose Best Suitable Phone or Tablet For Google+ Hangouts?

The crowning achievement of Google’s budding social network by far is the ability to communicate with up to nine other people across the world instantly, and for free. Since the arrival of Hangouts, Google+ users have done everything from communicate casually to conduct trans-continental business meetings. There’s no limit to what those nine people can do, or how long they can do it. To make things even better, users can even enter a Hangout from an Android or iOS device, be that a tablet or a phone.

If you are an active Google+ user, you may consider how well your next device performs in a Hangout as a tie breaker when choosing your next gadget. Over the last week, we’ve gathered the top devices across manufacturers, operating systems, and mobile networks and put them all to the test. So, what is the best phone or tablet for a Google+ Hangout?





NEON VS Non-NEON

On paper, most of the hardware required for a Hangout is the same across most of the smartphones capable of joining the Hangout. For the most part, you’d think that the better camera, or the higher quality microphone setup would be the qualities you would look for in terms of what would be best for a Hangout. At the core, what you are really looking for is a chipset that supports hardware acceleration, specifically for video. This architecture type is called NEON. A device with NEON architecture enhances video encoding or decoding, graphics in things like games, and image/speech processing. NEON devices will handle Hangouts much better than non-NEON devices.

If you have an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, your device supports the NEON architecture. For Android devices, you’ll need to do some checking to see if it is supported. Using either a file manager on your device, locate a file called /proc/cpuinfo and open it. If you are unable to access this file from your phone, you can download the Android SDK and access the file using the Android Debug Bridge. If you see the word neon on the Features line, then your device supports NEON extensions.

Phones

To measure which device performed the best overall in a Hangout, each device was put through a series of tests. Each device was tested indoors and outdoors in a variety of situations including wind, conversations happening in the background, multiple people addressing the Hangout, and alone in a quiet room. Conversations in the Hangout were also measured for quality consistency. Each of the devices were tested individually, and each of them were tested in as similar a fashion as possible.



This test yielded several interesting results. HTC and Samsung devices of the same generation performed almost identically, with a single exception. The results from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in a Hangout were wildly varied. In some tests, the results would be great, while in practically identical situations the Galaxy Nexus was nearly unusable. Motorola’s two most recent devices, the Droid 4 and the Droid Razr, also showed a significant variety in results. Despite being the newest in their lineup, the Droid 4 was by far one of the worst performing devices in every situation.

When comparing the iPhone to the Android batch, the iPhone 4S performed well above most of the Android devices, but struggled with noise cancellation in most situations. If there was wind or other people talking, the phone was often unable to handle the distortion and the audio would suffer. The phone that performed best out of the devices tested was the Samsung Galaxy Note. The high resolution of the screen allowed for a very clear and very large image of the other users in the Hangout, while the microphone placements on the device allowed for sound cancellation and external noise suppression.


TabletsThe birth of the mobile OS inside a larger glass slab gives us access to devices that we can both set in a stand on our desk to admire, as well as take with us anywhere. Unfortunately, when it comes to hardware, most of these tablets really are just giant phones. Because of this, the Hangout experience on a tablet is typically the same as the experience on the phone. In most cases, the front facing cameras and the microphones are even the same as what is seen in their phone counterparts. Still, as more tablets are sold every day, it is important to know which delivers the best experience.

As with the phones, the current generation of devices outperformed the previous generation, with a few outliers. The HTC Flyer, having recently been upgraded to Honeycomb, took a serious performance hit when the upgrade happened, leaving the device much slower and seriously affecting the quality of things like Hangouts. The Motorola Xoom running Android 4.0 would load the hangout quickly, but the quality of the video and audio made it seem like the tablet was constantly in a bathtub. The Xyboard and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 were the best of the Android Tablets, but neither handled background noise very well.

The tablet that performed the best in every situation was the iPad 2. The lack of an LTE radio in the iPad 2 makes Hangouts outside less than great if the Hangout is full, though aside from not being able to filter out wind the iPad still outperformed the others by a healthy margin.
Final Thoughts

Whether you are a casual user, or someone who has decided to make the service part of your daily routine, Hangouts will continue to play an active role in Google+. There are plenty of services out there that offer bits and pieces of what is being offered by Hangouts, but none so far have been able to compete with the stability and quality found in this service. Over the next year we will start to see faster processors, better front facing cameras, possibly even LTE for Apple devices, and that is going to further shape how Hangouts are being used. With that in mind, it is not hard to see when someone would want their next gadget to be “Hangout ready”.

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2 comments:

  1. Since this is this is the Googlepusblog, I request that you update this post. I'm really interested to see Ipad3, Ipad mini, Microsoft Surface, etc. on this list. This is officially outdated, yet you have great results in search engines. It leaves a dissapointing result without too many other options for this review. I'd even submit my own reviews if it would help you update this list.

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