24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Hong Kong & Macau: Zenfone 3 vs Zenfone 3 Max 5.5

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While I love taking photos while traveling, soaking up the experience will always be my top priority.

I’m fine with quick snapshots knowing I can always go back and post-process my photos later. When you’re traveling, you don’t have the time to fiddle with manual controls, so when it comes down to it, shooting on auto is a compromise worth making.

For me a good smartphone is one that can quickly churn out photos that barely need any tweaking. This especially rings true when you’re on a holiday in one of the most fast-paced cities in the world: Hong Kong.

On a recent trip to Asia’s World City, I brought along both the ASUS Zenfone 3 and Zenfone 3 Max 5.5, to see how much the $200 premium of the former makes.

Morning walk in Tsim Sha Tsui

There are several hotel options for any budget in Tsim Sha Tsui, making it the perfect place to stay. If shopping is your thing, you will want to set aside plenty of time for perusing the numerous shops and malls the area has on offer.

Right from the start of the trip, it was clear that the Zenfone 3 produced more balanced highlights and shadows compared to the Max; see how bright the light hits the top of the bus on the right. The sky is almost washed out on the photo taken with the Max, although the clouds are barely visible in the Zenfone 3 photo, as well.

Avenue of Stars is one of Hong Kong’s must visits. It was under renovation during our visit, so we had to settle for this view a few meters away from the usual photo spot. The Max’s photo seems to have undergone VSCO editing with its natural greenish tint, but really it has #nofilter.

Zenfone 3 photos are generally brighter and much more balanced overall, but the way the Max processes the greens and blues is probably how I would want my photos to look like on Instagram. I like how rich the blues are, and the deeper contrast makes for a little dramatic effect.

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Ferry ride to Causeway Bay

By lunch time, we were hungry. For a change of scenery (or more scenery), we opted to take a quick (and cheap) ferry ride to Causeway Bay instead of the MTR. The Zenfone 3’s dynamic range is the star in this photo; you can even see the skyline!

While the Zenfone 3’s colors are more accurate, it needs to be pointed out that the letters HKT on the ferris wheel are legible in the Max photo, while it’s barely there in the photo shot with the Zenfone 3.

Macau street art

We took another ferry ride, although a much longer one to the autonomous region of Macau. While the city is famous for casinos, Portugese egg tarts, and to a certain extent, replicas of European landmarks, there’s a lot more to the discover in the place.

We took an afternoon stroll along the busy streets of San Malo, going from shop to shop to try every possible food sample. One turn and we found this esquina of Instagram-worthy street art.

The yellow-green tint produced by the Zenfone 3 Max is visible in these comparison photos from Macau.

Focusing was also difficult for the Max, even if these were taken in broad daylight.

The Zenfone 3 also captured more detail compared to the Zenfone 3 Max. You can clearly see the depth of the dents on the concrete in this mural.

What’s a trip to Macau without a visit to the Ruins of St. Paul’s? Fair warning: No matter how long you wait, your Instagram will have to settle for a shot with the thick crowd, or you can get creative and frame it another way.

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Celebrity sightings at Victoria Peak

After sunset, we decided to head back to Hong Kong and take the tram up to the famed Victoria Peak. I tried to take photos of the view from 500 meters up using the two Zenfones, but it was too cold and windy. Wax museum Madame Tussauds was just a few floors below though, so I didn’t let this chance pass to get closer to famous people and characters.

Check out how on fleek those eyebrows are on the left! The Zenfone 3 did a great job capturing the details, while the Max seemingly gave Holly Golightly unwanted jaundice.

Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit-slash-wax-figure was actually closed to the public, but I managed to sneak a photo of the renowned artist from the exit. The difference in the photos is negligible, but this is where I had the hardest time focusing on the Max. All photos except this one had Yayoi’s face blurred out. The Zenfone 3, meanwhile, gave me a lot of good options with minimum effort on my part.

Lady Gaga’s poker face aside, I like the way the colors turned out more on the Zenfone 3. While I tend to up the contrast when editing my Instagram photos, I’m not a fan of how pink my face looks on the Max selfie. I was NOT born that way.

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Last stop: Mongkok

With its neon signs that light the streets, the smell of street food cooking from three feet away, the bustling crowd of tourists and locals alike, endless shopping options, Mongkok is probably the best place to go to for that authentic Hong Kong experience when you’re pressed for time.

The Zenfone 3 captures the red tiles of Mongkok station nicely while the Max’s yellowish greenish tint is quite prominent.

What’s a Mongkok experience when you can’t capture those neon Chinese signs the way they appear in real life? The Zenfone 3’s dynamic range makes a world of difference in these photos. In the Max’s case, the crowd is already too dark, and the signs don’t look very sharp because the lights are a bit washed out.

Verdict

The Zenfone 3 has a clear advantage over the Max. It’s faster, consistent, more reliable, has better dynamic range, and takes good photos you wouldn’t mind showing off online, even if it’s on auto mode. The photos that came out of the Zenfone 3 Max had a yellowish greenish tint making colors evidently inaccurate.

Although I wasn’t able to show it here, it took more tries for the Zenfone 3 Max to focus properly even when there was ample light on my subject. Its camera also launches much slower, so I actually missed a lot of great photo opportunities for the comparison.

While for its price it takes good photos — and in certain scenarios, even better than the Zenfone 3 — the Zenfone 3 Max 5.5 is built for people with a lot of patience and not a lot of cash to burn.

In several instances, it felt like the Max took forever to launch and took too long to focus, just to get decent shots worth comparing to the Zenfone 3. Although that shouldn’t really be a problem if you’re not in a hurry, I personally wouldn’t choose to use it on my next trip even if I had two weeks to explore a 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.

SEE ALSO: 24 Hours on Sumilon Island with the Honor 6X

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24 Hours Series

24 hours in Mövenpick with the Honor 9X

I didn’t want to leave

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I know you must feel strange to be hearing back from me writing another travel article when last time I tried, I preemptively said that I was horrible at writing about my adventures. Well, you guys might have to deal with reading my silly little travel psychobabble again because I went to Cebu for a weekend and I brought the Honor 9X with me.

Feeling beachy

Okay, this is technically not fair since Cebu is like home to me at this point. I luckily grew up visiting Cebu a lot. My older siblings were born there, so that’s not much of a surprise. On this trip though, my parents opted out of staying in a hotel in the middle of the bustling city. We decided to stay by the beach at Mövenpick. We have never been to Mövenpick before. So, it was going to be pretty interesting to explore the place.

The view was stunning. I didn’t even know what to capture first. It was that gorgeous. When we arrived, the staff were lovely enough to let us roam the area despite not having checked in yet. Mövenpick is pretty. The moment you get dropped off at the lobby, the place instantly assaults your senses with everything beach. It smells, sounds, and feels like you’re at the beach. 

That’s obviously because a few steps farther, you’re already at the beach. The place is well designed to have the ocean breeze flow from the bayfront to the resort lobby. It’s open-spaced.

No such thing as fasting at breakfast

This is the only photo of food I managed to snag before inhaling it. I’m not going to apologize for being a little hangry considering I hadn’t had a meal for hours and I stayed up all night. This is Mövenpick’s poached egg breakfast. Was it good? Yes. I mean, look at it. How could it not be?

I think off the bat, that how the food tasted may have shifted a little considering I was zoning out because of the view. It’s really pretty and honestly, it testing my writing skills (if I have any) to try and find more synonyms to great, pretty, and lovely. 

Dinner at the Ibiza

No, I didn’t take a pill in Ibiza. And yes I know, nobody asked. Mövenpick has this by-the-bay restaurant and bar called the Ibiza. They have live music and good food so if you’ve booked a room, this is the place to be at night. There’s food, an amazing view, and live music. Is there anything more I could have asked for? No. It was perfect.

The Ibiza is open in the morning too. If you want to have your breakfast there, you can soak in the early morning ocean breeze while eating.

Here come excuses

Alright, I didn’t take many photos while in Cebu, at least, not as many as I would like to. I wanted to savor every stunning moment there. I haven’t been back in ages and I’ve barely spent time at the beach. Not to mention, I rarely get to see my little nephew. 

I guess as much as this article is about bringing the Honor 9X with me to show off how the phone is capable of capturing every lovely moment of your travels, it’s good to sometimes be in the moment. It isn’t on the Honor 9X for uncaptured moments. It’s totally on me for leaving it in my bag. Having said that, I think it was good to have eased off bringing the phone along every single second of the trip. I’m more than happy to have lived those quiet undocumented moments.

I’m not saying you should drop taking pictures altogether. It’s nice to have documented moments of a trip especially when it’s somewhere stunning. It’s nice to have something to look back on and to remind us of good times. I suppose it’s just nice to sometimes wean off of being so obsessive with what you can capture and instead, be in the moment.

All photos are taken with the Honor 9X

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Busan

Through the lenses of Redmi Note 8 Pro

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Alright, I’m not that great at writing about my adventures while travelling, so be gentle. Don’t come at me. I often journal about my day, but that’s to keep track of commissions and cookie orders.

Anyways, I went to Busan, South Korea for G-Star. If you guys don’t know, G-Star is one of Asia’s biggest video game expos. Knowing that I was pretty excited to fly to South Korea for it. There was going to be good food, lovely company, tons of skincare and video games — all the things I love. Of course, I was going to be pumped.

A warm welcome and stay

We were staying at Haeundae which is a nice chilly beach-side area in November. When we arrived, a kind soul lived in the area and was more than happy to drive us to our Airbnb. If mister Lim somehow stumbles upon this article, thank you so very much for your hospitality and kindness. You were relentlessly kind and there’s no amount of thanking I could do for what you did for us.

He drove us to our Airbnb and offered to take us all out to dinner. He took us to have some sashimi by the bay. It was amazing. I was at loss for words. One moment, we picked a fish; the next, it was skinned, deboned, and chopped up ready to eat.

Haeundae is a pretty touristy spot. Most locals rush here during the summer. Considering we were there mid-November, it was pretty windy and cold by the beach. This didn’t really change how stunningly scenic the place was though. From early morning walks by the beach to the hectic nightlife in the area, you can never go wrong by exploring the area.

When you’re close to the Haeundae beach, you need to wake up early to watch the sunrise. You cannot miss out on seeing the sunrise or sunset when you’re by any beach. That’s my rule of thumb.

If you’d like to explore the place at night, you’re in for a treat. The place is booming with lights and music. We dropped by a street market nearby that sold tons of fresh produce. If you’re daring enough, you can have fresh eel and squid. If there was ever a time I felt strangely lucky to be allergic to most kinds of seafood, it would be that day.

South Korea has amazing food

Before anything else, I just need to say: South Korea has amazing food. I don’t know where to even begin. Just an hour after landing at Busan and I had already fallen in love with the place. It may have been the Somaek talking, but still. There is a growing list of meals I’ve tried in Korea that I will forever miss until my wishful and hopeful return. I can’t even say which one was my favorite since all of them were pretty flipping good.

I already loved kimchi. I know it’s not necessarily a dish in and of itself, but I love kimchi so much I would cut someone for the last serving of kimchi. I’m kidding! Or am I?

Jokes aside, you need to try out sashimi when and if you find yourself in Haeundae. With people being so close to the sea, everything is super fresh. Have that with some soju and beer and you’ll be having the night of your life.

G-STAR 2019

I didn’t get to take too many photos while I was at the convention center because it was so swamped! Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time roaming the expo. The booths were massive and everyone was so kind and approachable! I have Ywiser to thank for letting me join them on the trip.

G-Star 2019 was an intense trip. There were so many eye-catching booths everywhere. It didn’t help how every booth I passed were games I already play, games I have and haven’t played, and games I would kill to play. There were tons of people, left and right.

I would stare longingly at filled up loot bags from booths some people managed to rack up. I mean, as of writing, I’m staring at my loot bag that I didn’t get to fill to the brim with free merch from booths. As a completionist, my hands were itching to attain every achievement, but we ran out of time…

Separation Anxiety

I’ll have to admit, Busan was a memorable trip. If anything, I’ve come back home seriously learning Korean. It was an unforgettable experience. I still wake up craving for some Seolleongtang and I’ve almost completely stopped drinking every night since the trip.

Most of the things I brought back were freebies from the expo, skincare, and a ton of fond memories I’d want to come back to on the next trip. I think, with the Redmi Note 8 Pro, I managed to capture some of the stunning scenery I obviously didn’t want to miss out on.

Busan was lovely and there were no brain-starving zombies. I didn’t get to take a good photo of the bridge where a scene in Black Panther was shot, but if you go, please do. Haeundae is such a scenic place. You can’t help but stop at your tracks and stare.

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24 Hours Series

24 hours in Caramoan

Shot with the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE

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Tucked in the easternmost part of the Philippines, one can find the beautiful Caramoan Islands. Known as the setting for the hit American reality show Survivor, tourists visit this place to rekindle their Survivor dreams.

But Caramoan is more than just a Survivor destination. It’s home to white and pink sand beaches and tropical activities such as diving, swimming, snorkeling, and spelunking. To get to this paradise, you must take a sixteen-hour drive from Manila.

When we arrived, my friends and I opted to do island hopping for one day to see what Caramoan has to offer. I brought the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE — my favorite midrange smartphone this year — to capture my travels for the day.

Perfect summer weather

Caramoan, like other tropical destinations, is prone to rains and storms. Thankfully, we started with a fine, sunny morning. There were no hints of rain clouds and gloomy skies so we were permitted to roam and go on an island hopping tour.

A day won’t start without a selfie. Before we hop on a boat, we took a selfie under the sun to show-off the blue sky, and of course, us.

Tip #1: When in a tropical destination, make sure you’re wearing appropriate yet fashionable clothes. In this case, I wore a yellow tie-dye sleeveless shirt that I can easily take off should I decide to dip into the water.

Contrary to my previous island hopping tour experiences, the view we had here was kinda gloomy. The sea looked silky as it was enveloped by fog, just like a scene taken right out of Pirates of the Caribbean. While my friends were sleepy, I took advantage of taking photographs since the view will be the same for at least half an hour.

Tip #2: If you’re not exhausted, observe and soak up the surroundings. Everything is picture-worthy, only if you know when and how to.

Guinahoan Island

Our first stop was Guinahoan island, where the popular lighthouse is located. You need a ten to fifteen-minute walk before you can reach the summit where a magnificent view awaits.

Tip #3: Never forget your sunblock and if possible, bring a shawl or anything to cover your skin from the harsh sunlight.

I know, I know. We all want to visit the beaches, but this scenic landscape of rolling hills and greenery is too beautiful to give a pass.

Tip #4: There are no trees or any shade so it’s a must to wear your favorite sunglasses whenever you want to have a photo-op.

Of course, there’s a high chance you’ll end up taking the same photos in the same spots with everyone. It’s important to be creative, even when you travel. While I have inspiration for the photos I want to take, it’s best to explore the area and look for a different perspective to be different. As you can see, my friends and I decided to have our photos taken in different spots so our photos wouldn’t look the same.

Tip #5: If you want a fresh take on your Instagram photos, maybe try adding foreground and forget using portrait mode. Swear, it does wonders especially when you have a scenic background.

Manlawi Sandbar

We headed to Manlawi sandbar where we were greeted with floating cottages. This sandbar appears only when it’s low tide, hence, the water is chest-deep for those who are swimming.

Our group rented a cottage — which was part of the packaged tour — where we could eat our packed lunch. We decided to bring reusable plastic containers we have from our homes so we can clean and pack them after. While it’s hard to steer away from plastic use, we did our best to keep the place clean and bring our trash with us wherever we went.

After lunch, we’re ready for another island adventure. Being in a tight space, I wished my phone had a wide-angle selfie meant for group photos like this. Nonetheless, we still tried taking a photo or two with my short arms.

Tip #6: I know selfie sticks are so 2015, but it’s additional safety precaution when taking your photos. Imagine if you accidentally dropped your phone in the water!

While on our way to the next island, I stumbled upon beautiful limestone cliffs and rock formations. Caramoan is like a combination of El Nido and Boracay — filled with limestone cliffs, white and golden fine sand, and blue seas.

Tip #7: Use 2x zoom (or more) to find a suitable frame for a scene you want to capture. It helps especially when the boat is a little bit far for you to take a photo.

Matukad Island

One of my favorites, Matukad Island is a heaven for beach lovers. There’s fine, white sand everywhere, where you’d rather stomp around barefooted and roll over than go back to city pavements. Since this trip is actually a birthday celebration of a friend, we brought Survivor props and played a game.

If I could go back, I’ll be sure to add this island to the itinerary again. I spent a lot of time running around, sitting, and rolling over in the sand. Life is really better at the beach.

This place is majestic, especially during the golden hour. Wherever you look, it’s instagrammable. If taking photos isn’t your thing, you can sit around and ponder about life since it’s peaceful and relaxing.

Tip #8: Wide-angle modes are your friend when it comes to scenic landscapes. Don’t hesitate to use them!

Going back

The sun is going down and we need to get back to the port before the seas get crazy. But before we arrive at the port, the boatman and our guide dropped us off at a small cove with mesmerizing rock formations.

Friendly advice, don’t climb the rocks barefoot. It’s too painful but I endured it to get the pose that I wanted. After twenty minutes, we hopped on the boat to finally go back to the port.

My friends and I were staying in Magindara Guesthouse, a beachfront resort filled with airconditioned cottages to give you that relaxed, tropical vibe. The sand where we stayed at is fine yet brown, but the foamy, bubbly waves compensate. It makes for a perfect profile photo!

Fun nights at Magindara Guesthouse

The sun has finally set and we’re down for a night of drinking and fun moments to cherish. Luckily, the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE can take decent photos using its front and rear cameras. You’ll never miss a moment to capture anymore!

Tip #9: Decent night shots are still a hit or miss. To capture better photos at night, find and lean your angle towards a source of light.

And before everything went south, we asked to take a group photo in front of our boodle fight. The whole experience in Caramoan was fantastic, made even better by my companions and the memories we made.

Caramoan is for the adventurous soul, and it’s a place I would come back to if given the chance. Luckily, the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE was more than enough to capture all the memories of this wonderful trip. I can look back without regrets, and I look forward to the time where I’ll be traveling to this paradise once again.

All photos are taken with the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE.

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