24 Hours Series

24 hours in Beijing with the HTC U11

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It was my first time in China.

Our friends from Huawei flew us to Beijing as part of their media tour. After all the work was done, we were taken to some of the city’s most famous spots.

The HTC U11 used to have the highest-rated smartphone camera in the world — beating Google’s Pixel. But alas, the newer iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus proved to be more capable shooters and took the second and first spots, respectively. Ranking aside, join us as we take this handset’s camera for a spin.

Welcome to China as seen through the eyes of the HTC U11.

Tiananmen Square/Forbidden City

Our first stop was Tiananmen Square, which also leads to the famous Forbidden City. The area buzzed with tourists from different parts of the world; you see them walking, looking around, and taking selfies. To blend in, I switched to full-on tourist mode and quickly snapped one myself.

Thousands of tourists flock to the Square on a daily basis for its rich history — albeit with some unpleasant events. Being a communist country, surveillance around Beijing is tight. Hence, lampposts adorned with security cameras are a common sight around the city.

A few minutes of leisure walking led us to the entrance of the Forbidden City. For the unfamiliar, it was named as such since no one was allowed to enter or leave the place without the Emperor’s permission during the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century. This included the Emperor’s servants and wives.

China’s founding father Mao Zedong (aka Chairman Mao) has his photo mounted right smack in the middle of the entrance. Placards flank the photo with the words, “Long Live the People’s Republic of China” on the left and “Long Live the Great Unity of the World’s People” on the right. The above photo was taken using the phone’s panorama mode, hence the distortion.

The entire palace is made of exactly 980 buildings, all with a similar design exemplifying traditional Chinese palatial architecture. Structures are mostly painted in red with golden highlights, since yellow is the Emperor’s color. This combination of red and yellow brings a good contrast to the blue sky that the HTC U11 was able to distinctly capture.

The Chinese are keen on details which are truly evident when you wander inside the walls of the City. Every corner you see either has designs or symbolism embedded in them, like the tip of this roof with a dragon inside a circle. Apart from the craftsmanship and its significance, they are also good test subjects for our camera, as it’s able to bring out details and show a natural depth of field without any software assistance.

This photo shows good contrast between the highlights and shadows of the bronze artifact. You can see its ability to show details for the bright areas as well as the dark patches, meaning it can balance the exposure effectively even on Auto shooting mode.

It’s the same case for this beat-up motorcycle. Even with the subject sort of lit from behind, the U11 was able to maintain composure in the shadowy area of the front tire. Meanwhile, saturation on the Chinese flag stands out.

A good reference for color accuracy: Light colors and yellows maintain detail alongside neutral colors, shades of red are well represented, and cold blue sunglasses contrast the overall warm tone of the image.

The Great Wall

Our next stop was the Great Wall of China, which is about an hour bus ride out of the city. Like a dragon resting on the mountains, the Great Wall welcomed us with breathtaking views.

It was cloudy when we got there. The wind was blowing pretty strong, too. The gray sky created an overcast vibe and gloomy color, but thanks to the HDR feature of the U11, it was able to give the photo a livelier look by balancing the dark and light areas.

Again, there were lots of tourists taking in the sight of this Wonder of the World. Some of them were wearing brightly colored clothing that worked positively for our test shots, as they broke the prevalent green and brown color of the mountains.

Just a few minutes later, it started raining so we had to rush to one of the watchtowers for shelter. I quickly snapped this photo and the camera was able to show the contrasting areas with a fine gradient in between. The bricks also added an appreciated texture to the photo.

Indoor Shots

After the tour was over, we headed back to town to have a nice meal. It was also a good chance to shoot indoors with available lighting.

A natural bokeh effect was once again achieved by focusing on a close subject. Some digital noise can be seen here, but that’s understandable when shooting indoors with no extra lights.

With the camera’s large aperture (f/1.7), the U11 could achieve a natural-looking exposure with a shallow depth of field. This is why only selected parts of the flowers are in focus.

For me, balance in exposure and faithful color reproduction are the strong suits of HTC U11. During the time I used it for my trip, the handset’s camera was able to show details both in highlights and shadows without overcompensating. Colors were also rendered as you’d see them in real life. This could be a good or bad thing depending on the user, since some like the extra vibrance other phones apply to their photos.

Bottom line: The HTC U11 is a capable travel buddy that could replace your point-and-shoot camera for your out of town or international adventures.

SEE ALSO: HTC U11 Review: Better than the Pixel

 

24 Hours Series

24 Hours at the World Cup with the Vivo NEX

The most festive time of the season

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After four long years, World Cup season is here again and that means two things: exciting football matches and festive, happy fans. There is no getting around the fact that sports, especially football, have a unique way of uniting people.

Regardless of controversies, the World Cup is fascinating in so many ways. I used to stay up late (read: 4am) and go to bars just to watch my favorite teams and players because of the difference in time zones. This year, I was lucky enough to fly all the way to Russia to finally experience the world’s biggest sports event live and document the whole experience with Vivo’s new flagship, the Vivo NEX.

The fun starts in the city center. As early as 9am, fans from the world over descend to the Red Square in Moscow to squeeze a short tour of the city before the games start in the afternoon.

Among those crowds are these Peruvian fans taking photos with Colombians who brought their glorious headdresses to Russia.

But the real party doesn’t start until you get to the stadium.

Argentines wear their colors loud and proud…

And these three came prepared to cheer on La Albicelestes’s capitán.

Fans from Brazil caught the media’s attention because of their chants and songs…

And these Uruguayans are still hopeful even after more than 60 years of missing out on the major title…

But this fan from Colombia is in Russia to win it all, with a trophy replica in tow.

Whether your reason is to watch the world’s best in what can possibly be his last World Cup…

Or to support and celebrate your country’s national team…

The best thing about watching the World Cup live is not the colorful, elaborate garb that fans wear…

Or celebrating your team’s victory in those grand stadiums…

It’s seeing people from different cultures come together, wear the biggest smiles on their faces, and overcome their differences.


24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Taipei with the Sony Xperia XZ2

This is the city to fall in love with!

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Early this June, the GadgetMatch team flew to Taipei, Taiwan for Computex 2018, the biggest tech show in Asia. It was my first time to travel for work, and my first international trip.

Even though Taipei isn’t on the list of places I’ve always wanted to visit, this trip made me change my mind. This is the wonder-filled city through the lens of Sony Xperia XZ2.

The sun rises very early in this city. My body clock was reset and here, I’d wake up at around five in the morning. I got up without any complaints. Who would with this view from my hotel room?

Before heading out, a quick snack! Here’s a Taiwanese burger: a Zesty Lemon Chicken bao with lettuce. (I tried my best to eat it even though I don’t like veggies).

After breakfast and my morning routine, it was time to start the city tour.

Taipei is filled with alleys, the same scenes I used to see in anime. They also embrace the culture of motorcycles and have a very efficient transportation system. Getting around is a piece of cake as long as you’re able to read and decipher directions.

Our first stop is Taipei 101, the city’s tallest building and world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010. Of course, it’s a sight to behold. As it towers above the city, this attraction is impossible to miss.

Together with Marvin and Dan, we explored Xinyi District where Taipei 101 is located. It was a scorching hot that day and I wish we didn’t all wear dark clothes. The front cam isn’t that great with the Sony Xperia XZ2 compared to its rear, but it can pass.

Going around Taipei involves a lot of walking. Make sure to have comfortable shoes because you know what they say: Your feet’s happiness dictates your mood throughout the day. Despite the spacious sidewalks and open streets, Taipei is generally windy. It’s the perfect setting for a stroll.

If you get tired from walking, Ubike, which are bike rentals, are pretty common throughout Taipei. I even considered using it at some point to get around, but I’m not a very good cyclist. I just kept walking.

We then paid a visit to Syntrend Creative Park, Taipei’s wonder-mall for geeks. It’s a shopping mall divided by levels to cater to different people. The first levels are dedicated to tech, gadgets, and gear. As you go up, you’ll find collectibles and action figures. Up top are places to dine, the kids department, and a co-working space. It can be a day-long trip for families or for those who love to shop around.

Of course, my friends went full-on geek mode. We went to Beast Kingdom, a retailer focused on movie-themed character goods and figurines. We saw stuff from Star Wars, Marvel, and even Disney’s Queen Elsa.

Two blocks away from that mall is Blade Road in Zhongzheng District, home to tech brands and PC stores. If you need something for your gadgets and gear, you know where to go.

I wouldn’t be able to let a single day pass without a selfie. My phone’s gallery usually contains 30 to 50 selfies on days that I find myself cute, but being in awe at my surroundings made me almost forget to take a selfie.

With much persuasion, I was able to convince my friends to visit Keelung River. My heart always yearns for places that have a patch of green or a body of water. Taipei is a good mix of nature and architecture, something I really enjoy looking at.

We crossed the bridge over Keelung River to check out the neighboring Neihu District to see if there are any good cafes nearby. Passing by this Instagram-worthy spot meant I needed to have someone take my photo. Thankfully, my camera is in good hands with my GadgetMatch friends.

We chanced across Love Cafe, Love Food only to find out it’s full. Of course, a nice, small cafe will surely have all of its seats taken, just like how almost every good-looking person out there is already in somebody’s arms. *Plays the anthem for the single buds*

Sunsets are always good, no matter where you are. I’ve never seen a sunset I didn’t like. It just has a familiar warmth that creeps inside you. We went back to the bridge to be able to traverse the riverside so we can head to our main attraction.

And, here we are! I’ve always wanted to see the Rainbow Bridge. Thankfully, my friends decided to join me to take a look around. We sat by the riverside and watched the lights switch to different rainbow colors. These are the kind of moments I live for: Laughing around and having meaningful conversations while our gadgets are turned off. Sometimes, the most trivial things end up being the most unforgettable memories.

After unwinding, we decided to check out Raohe Night Market on the other side so we could meet with the rest of the team.

Raohe Night Market is popular and crowded, but that won’t stop me from tasting good food and taking a peek inside.

Here’s a guy making our favorite bubble milk tea — something the GadgetMatch team loves.

To cap off the night, we went to the Holiday Star KTV to sing our hearts out and have some fun with booze and music. It was definitely a fun day in Taipei. I didn’t think I’d fall in love with a city the same way I’ve fallen in love with nature’s wonders.

Taipei stunned me and left me awestruck. It’s a wonderful place to wander. Different cultures, good food, a change of scene, and moments you’ll always remember wherever you go. The Sony Xperia XZ2 is a good companion to capture all the details of this vibrant memory.

I hope to explore more of it the next time I’m around. I think I just left my heart in Taiwan, and I can’t wait to be back!


24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in New York with the Huawei P20 Pro

Huawei in the Big Apple

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I’m a fan of both Huawei’s flagship P20 Pro and some sweet irony, so I thought, why not join these two together?

That’s right: I brought the P20 Pro to a country that has no plans of selling it and has the disapproval of the government. It’s a complicated story with many takes and twists, but all that doesn’t really matter to me. I simply wanted to tour New York with the best set of cameras ever equipped on a phone.

Before entering the Big Apple, I was fortunate enough to take a scenic route over the North Pole. Endless layers of ice and water filled my window view, making me glad I didn’t settle for the roomier aisle seat this time.

And here I was, right at the center of New York City! This wasn’t my first time on this side of the east coast, but each visit has been a memorable one — this being no exception.

Yes, more buildings. Rows and rows of skyscrapers and commercial establishments organized in the blockiest of blocks. There are less intimidating sides to NY, but I had work to do.

Here I am taking a break and enjoying the portrait mode of the P20 Pro. When you’re in a big city like this, it’s a good idea to make use of the geometry in the background to add emphasis to your subject. Intersecting lines guide a viewer’s eyes to whatever they point to.

That’s the famous Empire State Building to the far end. While I didn’t get a chance to include the iconic site in my short itinerary, it was always in the background, looming over every shot I took in that direction.

What I was able to get close to, however, was the moon. Yep, with the 10X zoom of the P20 Pro’s triple-camera system, anything’s possible! (That sounded a lot like a paid advertisement but I swear it’s that good!)

Like during my tour through Venice Beach, these green vendors were floating around. Again, I couldn’t figure out exactly what they were selling, but they (and the customers) seemed overjoyed.

Panorama time! And what better spot than at the center of Times Square. Billboards are everywhere here, screaming consumerism and lights bright enough to make it feel like a morning market.

This is perhaps the best spot to take a touristy shot of Times Square. You get a clear look of the George M. Cohen statue with the famous red steps filled with people in the background.

A little-known fact about me: I love visiting churches and appreciating their architecture firsthand, no matter what religion or era. This particular Catholic church has a standout interior, but it’s the exterior that you’ll want to see…

… through a reflection! I couldn’t fit the entire structure on cam, but this shiny building nearby did the trick.

But that’s enough of glass and cement. It’s time to find a different time of green — this time in the solace of Central Park. This is the place to visit if you’re tired of building after building (even though they’re still visible in the background).

This is more like it! Central Park is the ideal spot for both relaxation and getting work done, thanks to the tranquility and friendly neighborhood critters adding life to the scenery.

What’s a park without a picturesque fountain placed at the center? This is me once again taking a break because walking is hard. New York is, without a doubt, a walking city. Sidewalks are abundant and taxi fares are expensive, so it’s best to bring along comfy sneakers to keep your feet from dying. Remember: You only have two of them!

To the side, you might find a street performer if you’re lucky. This man played one of the best covers of Eric Clapton’s “Layla” I’ve ever heard.

But of course, I couldn’t get away from the essence of New York, which are the structures that surround the massive park. Behind every tree is a building ten times as tall.

On my way out, I found Argosy, which is New York’s oldest independent book store, having been around since 1925. It’s filled with books, prints, maps, and paintings both new and old — but mostly old. Going inside for that library-like smell alone is worth the long walk!

When the sun goes down and people begin going home from work, the bright lights of the Big Apple turn on. But while the view from below is grand and all, it takes a rise to the top of the city for a more eyegasmic experience. There are two choices for this: the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock.

For this particular trip to NY, I chose the latter, and what a sight it was! The P20 Pro’s night mode got to show off its full potential here, bringing out the beauty of the big city and its array of lights. It’s debatable which of the two skyscrapers has the better view from above, but from what I’ve been told, Top of the Rock is the place to be when capping off a tour around New York City.


24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.

Continue Reading

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