Features

5 keys to making the Google Pixel 2 a success

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I make it no secret that the Google Pixel was, to me, one of the best smartphones of 2017along with the OnePlus 3 and 3T, of course. And yet, it came with its fair share of flaws that the successor could potentially rectify for an even better experience.

The Pixel 2 and its larger equivalent (Pixel XL 2? Pixel 2 XL?) will arrive on October 4. Unlike the iPhone X launch, however, leaks for the pair have been scarce, with only a handful of renders floating around the web giving us clues.

Even info on the partner manufacturers have been kept under wraps. Rumors point to HTC coming back to create the smaller Pixel, while LG will try their hand at making a Pixel from what they’ve learned designing the V30.

In any case, we’re half a month away from the big reveal, and I’ve compiled my wishlist for what will hopefully be 2017’s best phone.

Please trim the bezels

I think we can all agree that no phone looks more last year than the original Pixel. The thick bezels on the top and bottom with nothing maximizing their space — like stereo speakers or a fingerprint scanner — got scrutinized by critics and consumers alike.

Now that most major brands have jumped on the near-borderless bandwagon, it’s only natural for Google to follow suit. The render above was leaked by Android Police a couple of months ago; it still has that Pixel aesthetic minus the unsightly bezels, but we can’t say for certain if this design will fly. Hopefully, Google has more planned out.

Please make them water-resistant

Another weakness the Pixel phones shared was the lack of any level of water and dust resistance. Yes, this was 2016, but rivals Samsung and Apple added the feature on their own phones at that point after Sony popularized it.

With HTC and LG expected to take the helm and having produced the water-resistant U11 and V30, respectively, chances are high for this feature to pull through for both Pixels. They better.

Please don’t touch the 3.5mm audio port

What do the newly released iPhone X, Essential PH-1, and HTC U11 have in common? You guessed it: no port for headphones and speakers.

Leaked case renders for the Pixel 2 hint at the exclusion of the port, since there’s only one gap that’s seemingly reserved for the more vital USB-C port. I’ve already invested in Bluetooth headphones in anticipation of this year’s complete shift to wireless audio, but unless Google promises a much larger battery capacity in exchange for the loss, I’d rather keep the hole.

Please make them easier to buy

Whether it was Google’s fault for not anticipating the demand of their first-ever smartphone (not counting the Nexus line) or HTC simply not being fast enough in manufacturing, the Pixel and Pixel XL were so difficult to find in stores — especially for the larger storage variants and that Really Blue color.

With more experience under their belt and the possibility of two factories producing the Pixels, this shouldn’t be an issue anymore. And if we’re going to be optimistic, more widespread international availability would be great, as well.

Please focus on designing the best smartphone camera ever

Fun fact: The two top-rated smartphone cameras in the world are created by Google and HTC, based on DxOMark’s ratings. We shouldn’t expect anything less than stellar from the next flagship produced by the two companies.

The question is: Do we want dual cameras on the new Pixel pair? I’m a firm believer that two cameras working in tandem don’t necessarily equate to better image quality — as the original Pixel has proven — but settling for a single shooter may hold back certain sought-after features, something like the iPhone X’s portrait mode and Galaxy Note 8’s optical zoom. Whatever the case, I hope Google applies the same setup for both the regular- and XL-sized models like they did last year.

I’ll be looking back on this list come October 4. Make these happen, Google!

SEE ALSO: HTC U11 Review: Better than the Pixel

[irp posts=”17685″ name=”HTC U11 Review: Better than the Pixel”]

Camera Shootouts

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Mi 11: Camera Shootout

Camera duel between 2021’s newest smartphones

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Just recently, Xiaomi launched the Mi 11 outside China. We quickly tested it against Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra — which is one of the newest smartphone flagships around.

Again, this is a blind camera shootout with photos completely randomized. Someone in the comments section pointed it out and yes, it’s as clear as the sunny skies that this is like an examination where you have to jot don your picks on a piece of a paper (or through your notes app) and find out the answer at the latter part of the article.

As usual, no additional post-processing was done aside from compiling and resizing the photos. Let’s dive right into this camera battle!

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

Comparing shots taken with natural light may look easy, but it’s harder than it seems — especially if we compare each phone’s HDR capabilities.

#1 (Ultra-Wide)

#2 (Ultra-Wide)

#3 (Wide)

Auto White Balance (AWB)

Some sensors might be created equal but when it comes to AWB, there are phones that accurately depict the scene you see in real life — and some that take it too far.

#4 (Daylight)

#5 (Sunset)

Saturation

AI and computational photography either make or break a photo’s saturation level.

#6 (Wide)

#7 (Wide)

#8 (Zoom)

Zoom

This is to test the limits of Mi 11’s zoom capabilities with one telephoto lens against the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s telephoto pair.

#9 (3x Zoom)

#10 (10x Zoom)

Macro

Although there are no dedicated macro lenses for both smartphones, taking macro shots was possible thanks to zoom.

#11

#12

Food

There’s always a better food shot between two different phones — and it clearly shows.

#13 (Wide)

#14 (Zoom)

Night Mode

To test both phone’s camera prowess, these were taken in a scene without sufficient lighting other than the night city line.

#15 (Ultra-Wide)

#16 (Wide)

#17 (Zoom)

Faces

A comparison for people who shoot a lot of selfies and portraits.

#18 (Selfie Portrait Mode)

#19 (Portrait Mode)

#20 (Night Portrait Mode)

Results

Have you made your final photo picks? Check out the results below:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

1A / 2A / 3A / 4B / 5A

6A / 7A / 8A / 9A / 10B

11B / 12B / 13B / 14B / 15B

16A / 17B / 18B / 19A / 20A

Xiaomi Mi 11:

1B / 2B / 3B / 4A / 5B

6B / 7B / 8B / 9B / 10A

11A / 12A / 13A / 14A / 15A

16B / 17A / 18A / 19B / 20B

Conclusion

Even if we all have our preferences in choosing the best photo, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has proven its advantage in the smartphone camera department.

Other than the accurate White Balance detection, it’s also able to preserve the right amount of details, contrast, saturation, and even performs well under harsh daylight (HDR) or low-light scenarios. Not to mention, all lenses have wider Field of View (FoV) versus its competitor.

Its better AI processing and camera software algorithms also make better foreground and background segmentation. Producing creamier bokeh while being able to keep the details (even fine hair strands) intact.

Mi 11’s camera quality isn’t horrendous. Although it has AWB and autofocus inconsistencies, it was still able to keep up especially with shots taken by its main (wide) 108-megapixel sensor. While these two smartphones rock different sets of cameras including the 108-megapixel sensors (Galaxy S21 Ultra with ISOCELL HN3 / Mi 11 with ISOCELL Bright HMX), Xiaomi still delivered great and promising photos. For someone who wants to get a smartphone with great set of cameras at the fraction of the cost of the S21 Ultra, this is still a solid option.

SEE ALSO: Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Mi 10T Pro: Camera shootout | Xiaomi Mi 11 vs Mi 10T Pro: Camera shootout

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Camera Shootouts

Mi 11 vs Mi 10T Pro: Camera shootout

Similar camera system, different image quality?

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Mi 11 Mi 10T Pro

It’s been years ever since we did a head-to-head camera comparison between two Xiaomi smartphones — and those were the Mi 9T and Mi 9 SE . Leaping to 2021, we finally have a follow-up Xiaomi shootout with the newest Mi 11 together and last year’s Mi 10T Pro.

On paper, the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro has a brighter 108-megapixel sensor with a f/1.7 aperture over Mi 11’s f/1.9 sensor. Regardless, does that bring any significant improvements over the older unit knowing they still ship with the same ol’ Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor?

If you’re down for some challenge, grab a pen and paper (or just open your notes app) and list down your best picks. This is a “blind test” for a reason so photos are completely shuffled. Sticking with GadgetMatch’s camera shootout standard over the years, these were taken and posted as they are without post-processing aside from collage and image resize.

Enough talking! Pick your best photos below.

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

There’s barely any difference in this camera shootout section.

#1 (Ultra-wide)

#2 (Ultra-wide)

Auto White Balance (AWB) and Saturation

The competition obviously starts here where each smartphone has their own way of processing photos — despite being under the same brand.

#3 (Wide)

#4 (Zoom)

#5 (Sunset / Ultra-wide)

#6 (Sunset / Wide)

Macro

Again, no dedicated macro lenses for both of these phones but their telephoto lenses managed to shoot close-up shots anyway.

#7

#8

Zoom

This is to test the limits of Xiaomi phones’ zoom capabilities with one telephoto lens.

#9 (2x Zoom)

#10 (10x Zoom)

Food

Which looks more appetizing in each shot?

#11 (Wide)

#12 (Zoom)

Night Mode

The biggest difference can be found here. Had the need to take more shots to show that there’s a difference between how these smartphones process night shots despite having the same camera system.

#13 (Ultra-wide)

#14 (Wide)

#15 (Zoom)

#16 (Zoom)

#17 (Wide)

Faces

For those who are curious to find out which is the best phone for taking selfies, bokehlicious portraits, and even thirst traps.

#18 (Selfie with Beauty Mode)

#19 (Selfie Portrait Mode)

#20 (Portait Mode)

Results

Are you convinced with your picks? Find out the final results below!

Xiaomi Mi 11:

1A / 2B / 3A / 4B / 5B

6A / 7B / 8B / 9A / 10B

11B / 12A / 13B / 14B / 15B

16A / 17A / 18A / 19B / 20B

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

1B / 2A / 3B / 4A / 5A

6B / 7A / 8A / 9B / 10A

11A / 12B / 13A / 14A / 15A

16B / 17B / 18B / 19A / 20A

Conclusion

Despite having the same 108-megapixel sensor (Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX), the Mi 11 and Mi 10T Pro delivered varying image results (saturation, white balance, and contrast) due to different software camera processing and AI algorithm. The differences can be seen among colorful objects, greenery, skies, and even food.

While the Mi 10T Pro’s large f/1.7 aperture showed its true advantage in the night mode shots, most photos taken with the Mi 11 looked brighter under broad daylight. Other than that, the difference in the amount of Depth of Field (DoF) is barely noticeable — except for that portrait mode shot where the Mi 10T Pro looked like it just applied radial blur over the face. And while we’re on the topic, the Mi 11 takes wider selfies over the Mi 10T Pro.

If you’re considering camera alone, you wouldn’t go wrong with the Mi 10T Pro since it sells less than the Mi 11. But if you prefer those “vivid”-looking shots aside from Snapdragon 888, cleaner design, and lighter form factor, get the Mi 11 instead. If you’re looking for some serious camera smartphone (like the Galaxy S21 Ultra), you might just have to wait the Mi 11 Ultra that’s rumored to come sooner or later.

SEE ALSO: Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Mi 11: Camera shootout | Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Mi 10T Pro: Camera shootout 

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Gaming

I’ve lost hope in getting a next-gen console for the foreseeable future

On shortages, scalpers, and struggles from all over the place

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next-gen

If you already have any of the next-generation consoles, you may read this if you wish. But for most of us, myself included, we all shared a collective struggle to snag one of the two highly-anticipated consoles late last year. Unfortunately, such struggle continued even into the new year, even when Sony and Microsoft were pretty optimistic about it to start.

Don’t get me wrong: the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are part of the future of console gaming. We’re talking technologies and hardware that supposedly rivals that of any gaming PC build for more than half the price. Even with a limited game library, game developers are adopting the next-gen consoles moving forward.

However, at launch, almost all units sold out in an instant — and the reasons are quite obvious. Months prior to launch, these companies stated numerous reasons for shortages on launch day. People like me were hopeful that restocking inventory would come soon enough, and would be enough for everyone all over the world.

But why are we still struggling to find a next-gen console?

Believe it or not, this struggle to simply purchase a next-generation console isn’t entirely on the industry itself. Sure, they’re running low on production staff, worldwide deliveries are a little messy right now — but that’s not 100 percent on them anyway. In case most people forgot, there’s still a COVID-19 pandemic happening in most parts of the world.

The pandemic put the video game industry on hold for a bit, as production for the next-gen consoles took a heavy hit. Because of remote working conditions and factories shutting down, Sony and Microsoft went out and said that launch day units will be scarce. I thought that they would just simply delay the launch, but nope — they still wanted to launch in November, on the exact day.

And yet, the next-gen consoles ended up being well-received by everyone — especially the ones that were either sent a unit, or successfully bought one. Both consoles sold out on launch day, mostly due to online pre-orders on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and other retailers. Even here in the Philippines, eight retailers held online pre-orders and immediately sold out within the 5-minute window.

It’s pretty clear to me that there is a high demand for the next-gen consoles wherever you decide to buy one. However, the companies simply cannot provide regular stock as soon as possible due to a lot of factors — hardware shortage, mostly. Yet, Sony and Microsoft do their best to try and release more stock whenever possible so everyone gets an opportunity to buy one.

next-gen

What do you mean, everyone gets an opportunity?

I remember when Datablitz PH held its first online pre-order for the PlayStation 5 back in November, two weeks before the official release. On the day of the pre-order, I received the email with the link to the pre-order form and instructions on how the process goes. However, I was busy around that time, so I asked my sister to check the link for me.

Then, she texted me saying that every pre-order slot was full, even for the Digital Version. Slots went out so fast, it’s like the 5-minute window was way too long. At the moment, I had no complaints because I expected this to happen. This wasn’t the case for the rest of the internet as they took  their complaints to social media on the online pre-order system.

Another pre-order wave started, so more opportunities, right?

A second wave of pre-orders came in just last January, and I didn’t even bother with it anymore. Instead, I decided to lurk around Datablitz’s Facebook page and see the comments on their restocks and, well nothing changed. The claims were the same as the first time: bots from other buyers, while others are able to log in at an earlier time. There were even some conspiring that retailers had internal agreements with other people about it, which I don’t think is the case.

In essence, not everyone gets a “fair” opportunity at grabbing a next-gen console. It sucks that this has been a regular occurrence with premium items like this, and yet no concrete actions have been taken. But, I was thinking that maybe we’re looking at the wrong culprits here.

It isn’t the pre-order system’s fault entirely, and it’s mostly because this was an initiative by Sony and Microsoft given the pandemic situation. We’re trying to contain the virus here, and staying indoors for the most part is the best way moving forward. Still, I think they could have improved the process with every new run.

Wait, how come they have an abundance of stock of the next-gen console?

Instead, allow me to direct your attention to the scalpers themselves; you know, people selling you things for an insanely higher price. You’ve seen these people on a Facebook Marketplace or on Shopee, promoting that they have a next-gen console ready for you. Some of them even go out of their way to offer you a complete bundle to save you the hassle!

It’s not just these people that are participating in the grand sweepstakes for a next-gen console. In addition, there are also these (let’s just call them) unauthorized resellers who also somehow have stock of these consoles. While some of them do sell the console at either a fair or much lower price, there are those that don’t tell you that you have to pay extra fees for them.

PlayStation 5

In essence, these people manage to give you what you want: a next-gen console. The catch, however, is that you have to satisfy these two conditions to get it: be a sure buyer, and be ready to spend tons of money getting it. 

But, I thought that next-gen consoles were in shortage?

That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I kept seeing some of these “sellers” on social media. The fact that they have nearly tens to hundreds of units every other week just makes it hard to believe. Even when both Sony and Microsoft declared a shortage for the next couple of months, the grind continues for these “businesses.”

I say that they’re a business because these sellers claim to be such entities. They’re somehow able to capture a need present in their market, and provide the product or service to address it. As with most businesses, they determine the price such products or services are offered through extensive research and planning. For scalpers and unauthorized sellers, however, price setting is the easy part.

These entities will seek to supply everyone with as many units as possible, and they’ll find ways to procure them in bulk. You know how people were complaining that bots are taking their stock for online pre-orders? Well, some online retailers and news agencies are aware of such technologies being abused that way.

In my own experience asking one of these unauthorized sellers, they told me that they’re supposedly closely linked to the manufacturers. Also in some cases, they are not giving me a full rundown of any additional fees nor any proof of such. Yet, they expect me to simply abide by the payments since I got it for cheaper. In essence, they achieve the same thing as scalpers do by paying more than official retailers.

So, what now? Should we just wait for regular stock?

Admittedly, I’m already thinking that regular stocks of the next-gen console won’t be here for another 7-8 months or so. It’s not just because of the already announced shortages in hardware. Rather, it’s the fact that there is a higher chance that scalpers will get a hold of them first.

I feel like these companies were pretty clear on how they want the next-gen consoles to be received. In my opinion, they truly want to give everyone access to the future of gaming; that maybe you don’t need to spend insane amounts of money for crisp, clean gameplay. You know, something that you can do on a gaming PC but on a much cheaper yet strategic price tag.

PlayStation 5

Yet, these scalpers and unauthorized resellers simply want to make a profit off a need like this. Cry about it all we want, but these people exist and some people partake in their businesses. They’ve practically turned the next-gen console into a true luxury, something that the industry and some governments are trying to go against. 

I’ve lost hope in trying to get the next-gen console for this year, or possibly while the shortages are still in effect. At this point, I’d rather spend that money somewhere else, or invest it in the stock market. We could wait for regular stock all we want, but if scalpers keep getting these from us, there’s just no hope.

SEE ALSO: A somber look at the PlayStation 5 crisis

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