Having a big display is great for browsing images. But the software side of the gallery is not to be neglected either. Coming from Android, which has a great and feature-rich stock gallery we expect the proprietary Optimus, TouchWiz and Xperia galleries to be pretty great. Which one is the best, though?
The LG G2 gallery features stacks of photos in albums, location or time. The different sets are tiled neatly across the screen. You can expand or shrink individual albums using a pinch to zoom gesture, making the elements of the grid of photos either really huge or very tiny.
Once selected, you can view an image close up by pinch zooming or double tapping on the desired area. There is a sliding gallery along the bottom which allows you to quickly browse other images in the album. On the top there are three shortcuts for quickly sharing, editing or deleting the selected photo.
The gallery on the Galaxy Note 3 is sorted into albums, all photos and videos, time, location, etc. There's also a spiral option, which revamps the gallery into a spiral of images and video, which after a while might even get a bit nauseating.
You can pinch to zoom in the gallery and thus manage the thumbnail size. Air view works in the gallery as well. You can hover your finger/stylus above an image and you'll get a bigger thumbnail preview of the image or you can hover above folders to peek inside their contents.
Upon choosing an album (for instance Camera) you're taken into that albums' stack of photos but a swipe to the right will reveal a bar on the left with all the albums. This means you can change albums without going through the gallery homescreen every time.
Viewing photos on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a joy. The screen is ample and the Super AMOLED can give you colors punchier than anything else on the market. If you know what "color profile" is you can enable the Adobe RGB screen mode for accurate color rendering, if not you can just enjoy the vibrant colors of the default setting.
The Sony Xperia Z1 comes with the custom Sony gallery, called Album. Images are organized into groups of thumbnails and sorted by date.
Pictures is the main tab and one of its features managed to impress us: you can make the image thumbnails bigger or smaller, either with a pinch gesture or a sideways swipe. The whole thing is very responsive and hundreds of thumbs fall in and out of differently sized grids in a nifty animation.
There is a second tab here, My Albums, which includes online albums (PlayMemories, Facebook, Picasa) along with albums stored on devices in the local network. Also here are some special albums - Maps and Globe, which use the geo-tagging info to display photos where they were taken, and faces, which groups photos by the faces of the people in them.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a perfectly organized gallery with some nice extra functionality enabled by the S Pen. Along with the impressive screen this is more than enough to earn the phablet the win here.
Runner-up: Sony Xperia Z1. The Sony Xperia Z1's Album app offers lots of eye-candy with cool animations and smooth transitions.
Third place: LG G2. The LG G2 has an excellent gallery, which comes just a feature or two behind its competitors here.
Video playback is one of the things high-end smartphones such as the LG G2, Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z1 will be used for most often. Let's see what our contestants offer in this department.
The video player on the G2 has a fairly simple interface, giving you just a grid of all the videos on the device. There's an alphabet scroll to help users locate videos faster but that's about it. You can, of course, play videos from the Gallery if you prefer its folder-centric organization. For each video you've started, the thumbnail gets a tiny clock icon, which shows how far into the video you are.
The interface during playback is nothing overcomplicated, yet it's quite powerful. The live preview is a YouTube-like pop up preview of the video above the scrubber.
Aside from the regular timeline scrubber, play and pause controls, the Optimus player has MX Player-like controls - a swipe left or right will move the video forward or backwards, while a swipe up or down will tweak brightness. One of the new additions is a Video Speed control (you can set values from 0.5x up to 2x). There's a lock button too, which hides all controls for pure full-screen viewing. Another cool feature in the video player is Live Zooming. You can zoom in (with the familiar pinch gesture) during playback and some serious magnification is allowed, not just a quick resize or fit to screen.
The LG G2 handled everything we threw at it - DivX, XviD, MKV and MP4/MOV up to, and including, 1080p resolution. The AC3 audio codec (among lots of others) is supported, so you don't have to worry about the sound decoding. There are were no issues with higher bitrates and file sizes, either.
The video player also supports all popular subtitles formats. You can open subtitles manually in case the subtitle file is not using the same name as the video file. Non-Latin subtitles are supported as well and there are the usual options of choosing the font, color, size, etc.
LG took Samsung's pop-up play feature a whole lot further with QSlide. In the latest Optimus UI iteration, LG has added a new batch of apps that take advantage of the functionality. Those include the web browser, Memo, Voice recorder, Calendar, Calculator and more. Furthermore, you can launch any of them from the notification drawer.
The video player, found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has the last watched video on top for quick access. Under it there are three tabs - personal (showing you the videos on your local storage), Download (which lets into the Videos store) and Nearby devices, which shows the PCs and players on your local Wi-Fi network.
The grid view is our favorite as it is really highlights the power of the quad-core beast - the visible video thumbnails are actually playing the videos instead of being static images. They play at a reduced framerate and generating those previews takes a couple of minutes the first time around, but it's an awesome feature that shows what can be done when you have processing power to spare.
The chapter preview detects chapters in the video and shows a rectangular grid, with live thumbnails (just like the grid view above). Hovering your finger (or the S Pen) over the timescroll lets you preview part of the video in a small thumbnail - just like YouTube videos do when you hover the mouse of your computer.
Pop up play is here too - it moves the video in a small floating window and you can use other apps on the phone while still watching the video. You can use pinch zoom to adjust the size of the video or move it around, too.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 offered a list of subtitles and lets us pick one. It scans for all subtitles, so the file doesn't have to have the same name as the video file.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 played everything we threw at it. There were no issues with bitrate, resolution or sound (AC3 or otherwise).
Movies, the video player on the Sony Xperia Z1, has a great custom UI, reminiscent of HTPC interfaces. It's connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies and TV shows you have on the phone. It will even download posters for them and for movies, it will download metadata like genre, synopsis, director and cast.
The controls are very minimalist - there's the play/pause, forward and rewind as well as a time scrubber.
The Xperia Z1 didn't experience any difficulties playing 720p and 1080p videos. It loaded them pretty swiftly and that's no surprise considering the hardware that's under the hood. MP4, DivX, X264 and MOV files played without a glitch, too.
However, Sony still refuses to pre-install codec support for AVI, MKV and XviD video file formats. The Movies player didn't play them at all, and neither did it open an AC3-sound DivX video we tried. That's easily fixable with a quick stop over at the Google Play Store where you can get a hold of a third-party video player with an enhanced codec support.
If the system video player on an Android smartphone doesn't cut it for you, there are always other options for free from the Play store.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Samsung's flagship goes the whole nine yards when it comes to video playback. It supports just about every codec available out there and offers cool live pop-up previews, subtitle support, the lot.
Runner-up: LG G2. The LG G2 can match the wide codec support of the Galaxy Note 3 and comes very close in terms of extra features.
Third place: Sony Xperia Z1. The poor codec support meant the Xperia Z1 never stood a chance of placing higher here.