Features

Best of 2016: Budget phones under $300

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Funds not enough for a premium smartphone? No worries, there are plenty of excellent options on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

We’re in the golden age of smartphone parity, where fast specs and fancy features are no longer limited to Apple’s iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxies.


Take fingerprint readers, for example. They’re everywhere now, from China to Cupertino, upscale or down and dirty. In fact, four out of the five devices that make our list can tell fingerprints apart.

We’re in the golden age of smartphone parity, where fast specs and fancy features are no longer limited to Apple’s iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxies.

And that’s really just the start of it. In 2016, the budget phone market is so competitive that there are plenty of phones that can give you a premium smartphone experience for less. No compromises.

To give you a hand, we’ve picked the 5 best smartphones under $300 to choose from. Considering what phones in this price point were like a year or two back, having five to choose from is a luxury even the cash-strapped can afford.

Vivo Y55 ($165)

Vivo Y55

Vivo Y55

The Vivo Y55 is the cheapest offering on this list, but don’t let it’s value mislead you into thinking it’s categorically the worst of the lot. Far from it, actually. We thought it would make a fine addition to this page because of how surprisingly good it is for the price. For roughly $165, you’re getting an iPhone look-alike with an iPhone-inspired paint job, a decent 8-megapixel camera, and a capable processor. The Y55 isn’t a pity case; it’s one of the best items you can buy this side of Android land.

[irp posts=”7340" name=”Vivo Y55 unboxing and review”]

ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser ($245 for Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 with 4GB RAM model)

gadgetmatch-zenfone-3-laser-20160722-02

ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser

ASUS unleashed a boatload of ZenFones this year. And between the Max and the Laser, the latter takes photography more seriously, boasting a 13-megapixel camera that works well enough to occasionally maintain focus on the subject while blurring out the background. It’s good to see the fast laser autofocus system around the back, as well as the improvements ASUS has made under the hood. The healthy 4GB of RAM, in particular, stands out, and makes the Laser more future-proof than other budget blowers.

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Moto G4 Plus (starts at $249 for 2GB RAM and 16GB storage)

Moto G4 Plus

Moto G4 Plus

A fantastic Android pick that comes in at a relatively low starting price of $249, the G4 Plus undercuts some big names yet offers much the same performance, not to mention near-stock Android Marshmallow (with Nougat on the way shortly). The uninspired design and copious use of plastic may turn off some people, but they’ll be missing a damn fine handset that embraces Google’s vision of Android.

[irp[irp posts=”7651" name=”Moto G4 Plus review”]

OPPO F1s ($265)

OPPO F1s back

OPPO F1s

China-based OPPO has once again impressed us with a bargain handset that goes beyond taking nice shots of people’s mugs. Slapping a 16-megapixel camera on the front should turn heads; but it is the other things that are likely to hold your attention in a positive way. The fingerprint sensor hidden under the home button works fast and offers extra functionality; the rear camera doesn’t let down the awesomeness of the selfie shooter one bit; the LCD display is large and colorful enough to enjoy movies and games on.

[irp p[irp posts=”7385" name=”OPPO F1s review”]p>Vivo V3 Max ($285)

Vivo V3 Max

Vivo V3 Max

A superb, reasonably priced smartphone, the V3 Max has the brawn and beauty to match the greats. A metal design that looks and feels better than it costs? Check. Solid battery life and quick charging? Check. All the hallmarks of a quality modern smartphone, particularly a good low-light camera, a fast fingerprint reader, and internals that would make most phones blush? Check, check, and — wait for it — check. Take a bow, Vivo. You’ve done it again.

[irp pos[irp posts=”1944" name=”Vivo V3, V3 Max Hands-On Review”](Note: All prices excluding that of the Moto G4 Plus are based off of suggested retail prices in the Philippines.)

Automotive

What makes the 2020 Range Rover Evoque one of the safest vehicles in the market?

It boasts a five-star safety rating

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Just recently, the 2020 Range Rover has been introduced to the Philippine market. And while it’s got the latest tech to make the riding experience easier and more comfortable, it’s also considered to be one of the safest vehicles available right now.

For starters, its Euro-spec model has received the highest possible rating (five stars) from the Euro NCAP safety rating. According to reports, testers were particularly impressed with its automatic emergency braking for pedestrian and cyclist detection.


They then added that the Evoque performed really well in all tested areas. These include frontal-impact tests, moderate overlap tests, side-impact tests, and more. Check out this video from Euro NCAP showing the Evoque undergo rigorous crash tests.

Apart from keeping the driver and passengers safe, the Range Rover Evoque is also safer for the environment. It uses a low-friction engine design which the company says has reduced nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 90%. It is also the first luxury compact SUV to be certified for emitting 80mg/km or less of pollution — passing the Real Driving Emissions stage 2 (RDE2) legislation in Europe.

This also certifies the Evoque for more than a year ahead of RDE2’s scheduled implementation on all new vehicles by 2020.

Adding to that is the fact that the SUV comes in a Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) option that allows you to maximize your fuel efficiency. The less gas you burn during your drive, the less pollution you emit.

Apart from those performances and achievements, the Evoque also boasts technologies that further ensure safety of those inside and outside the vehicle. We previously mentioned the company’s ClearSight Rear View Mirror that works when the rear view is obstructed and the world’s first Ground View technology for squeezing in tight spaces.

Together, all these work together to and make the Range Rover Evoque one of the safest vehicles available in the market today.

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Automotive

The GadgetMatch team goes for ARCC 2019

It’s that time of the year again

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Sunshine TV’s Auto Rally Corporate Challenge (ARCC) season is here to enforce and remind everyone of road safety and driver discipline. It is also a celebration of the popular Sampaguita Rally in the Philippines back in 2001.

If you just heard of ARCC and have no idea what happens during the event, you may quickly read our feature from last year.


Ford had a total of three teams comprised of three members each

Just like the previous ARCC, each automotive brand can send up to three teams with three members per vehicle. And for 2019, Ford went with an all-Raptor lineup to join the competition.

Wii Gamboa of Sunshine TV kicks off the event

What’s different from last year was that this time, we had a solid GadgetMatch team for the driver, time-keeper, and navigator positions. As such, we’ve collected our experiences during the run to show how exactly the dynamics work between the three roles.

Rodneil (time-keeper):

Going into the rally, people were saying the time-keeper had perhaps the most challenging role because he had to do the math. While I’d like to think my math isn’t too shabby, there was more to the role than just crunching numbers.

Rodneil re-enacting his confused look after being given the handbook

Like anyone doing anything for the first time, I quickly entered into a mild panic the moment we were handed the handbook that contained the rally’s route. Sure, we prepared the night before but that didn’t seem to matter for the first few seconds. Luckily Kevin and Dan were a little more level-headed and helped me calm down lol.

It was smooth sailing from there, or at least that’s what I would like to think. I was flipping through the pages making sure I calculate the ideal time to complete a certain leg while also letting Kevin know if we should slow down or hit the pedal to the metal.

Each entry has a corresponding time to get from one point to the next

The second leg was a little bit rougher. We got lost and confused at multiple stops but were able to find our way somehow. The bonus stage was super fun because Kevin really got to take advantage of the Ranger Raptor’s capabilities sliding our way through the wet roads and dodging obstacles.

Even though I honestly wasn’t sure what I was doing 90% of the time, I’d like to think we did pretty okay and more than winning, I really like the teamwork we had during the rally.

Dan (navigator):

As a first-time participant in ARCC, I was both excited and nervous. When I was told that I’ll be the navigator for the team, I felt the pressure to make sure that we’re in the right way. I’ve always been good with directions, especially when I have a map with me. However, the directions included in the rally’s handbook were just arrows with minimal clues (see picture below) and it was definitely a challenge.

Making the right turn is important or it could offset the distance counter

Throughout the race, I had to closely coordinate with Kevin, the driver, so we don’t miss any turns. I also had to check in with Rodneil, the time-keeper, to keep track of the time. The first leg was relatively easy for me since we mostly passed by the expressway and long secondary roads that go around and through the rural areas.

The second leg was a different story. Just as it started, I got confused with the initial directions and the tiny traffic cones. Unlike with the first one, the second leg of the rally was within the city center. I had to deal with multiple intersections and a number of small roads that weren’t specified in the handbook. Sad to say, I was muddled and not able to keep my head in the game.

Overall, I had fun. It was enjoyable to have a different activity. I wasn’t in front of my laptop the whole day which means the rally really took my full attention.

Kevin (driver):

I’ve participated in ARCC for a couple of times now and I’ve always been the driver every single event. The reason being I feel it’s where I’d be effective the most and personally, I just enjoy driving. As the one behind the wheel, you basically just have to listen to both the time-keeper and navigator to tell you how fast you should go and where you should go.

A steady pace is one of the key things to keep in mind for the driver

Although that may sound simple, you also have to be able to know when to go beyond the recommended speed to make up for lost time, for example, or when to slow down when you’re ahead of the perfect time.

As Rodneil and Dan have already stressed out, the first of two legs was pretty simple and directions were straightforward. We didn’t miss any of the checkpoints and we’re actually pretty confident of our recorded times.

Different cars from different brands ready for flag off

During the afternoon leg, however, the directions were a little bit more complex — making us turn at more corners in short distances which made things a bit confusing. We found our way towards the right direction, though, and were able to make up for a few lost seconds. We even did good time during the bonus stage clocking in half a second past the perfect time.

Overall, it was still an enjoyable event that brought friendly competition between automotive brands. On top of that, STV was successful in making the event not only fun but also serve an important reminder to always follow traffic rules and practice road safety. It was awesome to once again represent Ford Philippines and this time, with our very own GadgetMatch team.

We’re looking forward to next year’s ARCC!

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Automotive

A Father’s Day drive up north

Story time!

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We recently got the Ranger Raptor for the second time to use at this year’s STV ARCC and represent Ford Philippines. And since we had a free day before the event itself happened, I decided to use it and take out my dad along with my brother for a road trip. Good thing Mom had an errand to do that day!

Dad wanted to visit a certain theme park restaurant north of Metro Manila so I agreed and went for it. We already brought the Raptor to a 4×4 route for some off-road action, so now we go for long, paved roads with hungry stomachs.


That’s Dad, my brother Kiefer, and me on the road

After four hours of driving from the south, past the traffic metro, and all the way up north, we reached our destination. The place is called Isdaan Floating Restaurant and it’s at the municipality of Talavera in Nueva Ecija in the Philippines. “Isdaan,” when translated, means “fishery” so it already paints you a picture of what to expect. The restaurant is hard to miss as it has a wide, inviting facade fronted with sculptures.

The staff greeted us with a warm welcome and led us to our private floating nipa hut with koi fish swimming around and under us. Looking at the menu, there were lots of choices from appetizers, meat, seafood obviously, and even specialties that you don’t usually see in city restaurants.

“Guarding” the floating nipa huts

We got Bicol Express (spicy stew), Sinigang na Liempo (pork belly soup), and Binukadkad na Plapla (butterflied fish) from the menu. One of their signatures is a Boat Special. Basically, they offer select dishes in a long sizzling plate mounted on a wooden counter-top that resembles a boat. This was how Bicol Express was served which greatly added to the presentation value.

Food was really great especially the soup. While the service wasn’t too snappy and could definitely be improved, the food compensated for it. It has that home-cooked taste that hits the spot after a long drive.

After eating, we decided to walk around the area and check out the theme park side of the place. There were giant statues everywhere — from the Charging Bull similar to New York’s, Big Buddha of Phuket, and even prehistoric dinosaurs. It does make for great photo opportunities as you’ll see in the following photos.

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Apart from the gigantic and humorous characters, another attraction to find here is a corner to vent out all your pent-up emotions. For a reasonable price, you can choose objects like those plates or coffee mugs that you can smash onto the wall. If you ask me, I feel it’s a bit out of place in this family-friendly restaurant but it still does make the place unique.

Those are all fun but what usually entices people to visit this place is the fact that you can dip your feet in this shallow pond and have large koi fish swimming in between your legs. It might sound weird and it’s probably not for everyone, but the novelty of being able to do it was actually fun.

These koi quickly gather around you as you go near the water

Caught this little guy trying to nibble on his watch

Can’t leave the place without this obligatory shot!

After all the photos were taken and a few minor mishaps (one of us slipping trying to get in with the fish, not telling who), we were ready to go back home. It was another four hours inside the Raptor and we ended up exchanging stories and laughing our way through the expressways while the truck was mostly on cruise control. It was definitely a trip to remember.

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