Speed rules new generation of phones

Steve Dinneen
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Mobile World Congress saw dozens of new handset releases, as the industry’s big players laid out their stall for the rest of the year. The overriding theme was power, with a new generation of quad-core processors imbuing mobile devices with speeds that were unimaginable even on desktop PCs only a few years ago. The new phones make cloud gaming in your hand a reality, with the ability to render graphics incredibly sharply and smoothly.

MWC was also notable for the emergence of Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE as major players in the consumer market. Tablets endured a leaner year, with few “hero” releases, although the increasingly popular “in-between” market of ultra-large screen smartphones saw some interesting new additions. Here are our pick of the bunch.

Panasonic • Eluga
Panasonic baffled many commentators with its return to the mobile sphere. The Eluga slim, curvy and elegant, although it is let down by a rather nasty plastic back. Its key selling point is its interface with Panasonic's TVs, allowing seamless media playback.

Orange • Santa Clara
This solid but unremarkable handset warrants an inclusion for what is under the hood: namely an Intel chip. The US giant has set its sights on ARM’s near-monopoly on smartphone chips and this handset among its first forays into the sector. Don’t expect to be blown away, but this phone is worth keeping an eye on.

HTC • One X
HTC has struggled to keep the momentum that took it from white-label manufacturer to the sharp end of the consumer market. The One range marks its come-back. The One X – the premium end of the range – is a decent Android option but, unless you're an HTC purist, there are better options.

Huawei • Ascend Quad D
This was probably the most exciting launch of the event: the moment Huawei became a serious contender in the consumer market. The Ascend claims to be the fastest phone in the world and the speed it can buffer video backs this up. It's good-looking, powerful and a serious rival to Samsung's Galaxy S2 in the Android space.

Samsung • Galaxy Beam
Smartphones are expected to do an awful lot these days. But work as a projector? The Galaxy Beam does just that, beaming a 50 inch image onto your bedroom wall using its incredibly powerful back-light. It isn’t the prettiest of phones but it's well worth a look for anyone with a habit of making impromptu presentations.

LG • Vu
A new contender in the mini-tablet/maxi-smartphone field dominated by Samsung’s Galaxy Note. This slick five inch device is a great option for people who watch a lot of mobile video or use their phone as an e-reader. It’s fast, attractive and probably the pick of the bunch of LG releases this year.

Nokia • PureView 808
Nokia continued its rebirth as a “cool” company with the launch of this multimedia-focused device. Its USP is a bafflingly powerful 41 megapixel camera that takes astonishingly detailed pictures. It also has great sound quality for an unbeatable portable AV experience.

ZTE • Era
The Era isn’t the most exciting phone in the world but it is worthy of mention because of what it represents. ZTE went handset crazy at MWC, launching eight new phones in a bid to break into the consumer sphere. The Era is its premium offering – and it’s pretty good. It won’t win any prizes but if you're a manufacturer agnostic Android-user, you could do worse than the Era.