When the Nintendo Switch launched, one game dominated all conversation: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The highly anticipated flagship title captured hearts everywhere with its “open-air” freedom and ability to approach situations from any angle imaginable. Gamers were transported back to their school days of sharing secrets and trading stories on the playground — “You did what to kill what?” and “I didn’t know you could use that to do that!”
But that was well over a month ago, and if you got the Breath of the Wild then, your time in Zelda’s fantasy world of Hyrule is probably winding down. Or maybe you’d like to put off beating Ganon and see what else the Switch has to offer. Luckily, the system has plenty of games to complement one of the greatest ever made.
We included Snipperclips in our list of the best games of 2017 so far, and for good reason. The Switch exclusive is the other killer app of the launch lineup, and is able to provoke shouts of annoyance and delight in equal measure. You play as two pieces of paper that can cut each other into any shape to solve different puzzle types. The closest game to Snipperclips is Crayon Physics or Scribblenauts in the amount of leeway in solutions that it affords the players.
Snipperclips is ideal for two, and is the showcase for the Switch’s built-in multiplayer — even Snip and Clip, the player characters, evoke the shape of the Joy-Con controllers themselves. Because the game comprises a series of brainteasers, casual and even non-gamers can join the fun. Early on, the solutions to the puzzles were fairly one-note, although this could be indicative of our lack of creativity. Our solutions usually involved variations of turning each other into bowls or combining ourselves into one big bowl (see the screenshot above). But eventually, the game opens up with variety; you and your partner must use your lateral thinking abilities to the utmost. If you always have a ready Player 2, Snipperclips is essential for your Nintendo Switch library.
Consoles have typically launched with a racing game that pushes the hardware; Fast RMX — a futuristic arcade racer like F-Zero or Wipeout — fits the bill for the Switch. Digital Foundry has called the Switch exclusive “perhaps the most beautiful portable game ever,” and it’s easy to see why. Fast RMX has twelve racing machines blitzing along at hundreds of kilometers per hour on tracks with tornadoes and thunderstorms. The visuals work in concert with the sound design and HD rumble (you can feel those tornadoes vibrating in a circle in your hands) for a multisensory spectacle.
The game is a technical marvel. In handheld mode, Fast RMX runs at the Switch’s native resolution (720p) at 60 frames per second. When docked, the game runs at a dynamic resolution (but mostly 1080p), still at 60 frames per second. Even more impressively, these specs are maintained when played in splitscreen two-player and even four-player modes, which is just sheer technological wizardry. If you’re going to buy one game from this list, get Fast RMX. Its full-fledged single- and (online!) multiplayer modes, with time attack in a future patch, provide almost infinite replay value. Not bad for something developed by five people.
Graceful Explosion Machine
Shoot-em-ups are perfect games to be entranced by, and Graceful Explosion Machine is a beautiful and engaging exemplar of the genre. A timed exclusive for Switch, the game is a side-scrolling shooter where you pilot a spaceship through four planets to get home — these aren’t games that you play for the story, but for the mechanics. And Graceful Explosion Machine delivers the mechanics in spades. It kits you out with all the gear at the start: a basic gun, a melee energy sword, screen-clearing homing missiles, and a long-distance Kamehameha-like blast. Then, the game leaves you to figure out how to chain together explosions with grace and efficiency.
The result is a score attack game as good as Geometry Wars and Resogun. The frantic, in-the-zone chase after the combo multiplier, as well the drive to be stylish in weapon use, is reminiscent of Bayonetta or any of Platinum’s masterpieces. It helps that Graceful Explosion Machine’s art direction is clean and easy to parse no matter how hectic the chaos becomes; HD rumble also provides a unique feel for each weapon. A ranking system (that peaks at S+ for a perfect run — no hits and an unbroken multiplier) plus global leaderboards round out the package. Earning an S+ and seeing that you’re only 27th in the world keeps you coming back for more.
Snake Pass is a mascot platformer with a mascot who can’t jump. A 3D collectathon to rival Yooka-Laylee, Snake Pass puts all of its challenge in what is usually the most intuitive part of platformers: moving the player character. Every minute detail of controlling Noodle the snake’s movement is in your control, from the orientation of his head to whether he’s gripping a surface. It’s a puzzle platformer where your body is the puzzle — Banjo Kazooie and Captain Toad meet QWOP and Octodad.
The Dark Souls of snake-based games, Snake Pass is equal to From Software’s skill-based series in providing both frustration and relaxation. But once you get past this high initial learning curve — it’s a bit like driving a weird, heavy, ropey car — the game becomes more deliberate, and is a matter of planning where you want to slither next. Noodle’s ridiculous contortions are greatly enhanced by the game’s production values, which show the effectiveness of Unreal Engine 4 in rendering cartoon visuals (and the ease with which the Switch supports an off-the-shelf engine). A soundtrack by David Wise of Rare fame transports you to the Nintendo 64 era, when you played these games for the sheer fun that they entailed.
Lego City Undercover
The only non-indie on this list, Lego City Undercover is the best the Lego series has to offer. While other Lego games practically required you to be familiar with the fandoms they spoofed, Lego City Undercover shines on its own merits with an original story that stars supercop Chase McCain as he infiltrates the criminal underworld of the titular Lego City. The game is a Grand Theft Auto that, as trite as the phrase may be, truly is fun for the whole family. Its pop culture references range from Columbo to The Shawshank Redemption to, of course, The Matrix. Dad jokes abound.
Originally a Wii U exclusive, Lego City Undercover returns on the Switch with a bevy of improvements that include a 1080p presentation when docked, vastly improved lighting, and — perhaps most important of all for a Lego game — local co-op. You will need an extra pair of Joy-Con or a Pro Controller to get in on the two-player action, though. The open world of Lego City is nowhere near the breadth of that of Breath of the Wild, but sometimes it’s just comforting to play a game that tells you what to do. Best of all, the Switch’s portability makes Lego City Undercover the most complete handheld Lego game to date, and allows you to snap up the game’s hundreds and hundreds of collectibles wherever you are.
[irp posts=”12150" name=”Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls III: Ranking the Series”]
Smartphone makers need to stop chasing numbers
How close are we to smartphone launch fatigue?
The year 2019 has to be one of the busiest for everyone in the mobile technology industry. A decade back, it was dominated by the likes of Nokia, BlackBerry, and Motorola. Samsung was just gaining momentum and Huawei simply existed in the consumer electronics space.
Back then, we saw one-year refresh cycles for phones. Apple would release a new iPhone every year, Samsung’s S and Note series were a huge hit and each got an upgrade every year, and all other brands started following a similar format. Then came a time when HTC, LG, and Samsung would compete to build the perfect flagship.
With the introduction of new players like Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO, and Realme, strategies and product launches have drastically changed. These new players rule the affordable and midrange segments and have managed to dethrone Samsung in terms of market share.
But this quick rise to fame has been on the back of repetitive launches. Earlier, a year-long cycle was maintained for each series and this was slowly brought down to six months. Now, we see a new phone launching every one to three months. And each new offering undercuts the previous product. Basically, even if they belong to a different lineup, they end up killing the previous one.
In an attempt to cover every possible price bracket, each of these new launches is also accompanied by a host of configuration options and limited editions. While there is no doubt that this has made the buyer a king in terms of choices, the market is headed in stormy waters from a long-term point of view.
Each of the new offerings come with incremental upgrades. It’s something you can definitely live without for a long time, but your purchase is bound to age quickly. And this brings to an even more important question, are smartphone makers blindly chasing numbers?
Should smartphone makers give up or should they just keep chasing numbers?
A couple of years back, every brand wanted to offer as much RAM as possible. We’ve reached a point where a full-fledged Windows 10 laptop comes with 8GB RAM and a “mobile” operating system like Android needs 12GB.
2018 was all about chasing the screen-to-body ratio figure. Just to get a few more points, brands tested out pop-up cameras, water-drop notches, and even cut-outs. Now, thanks to the rise in popularity of mobile gaming, the processor is a crucial part of the phone.
Recently, Realme’s CEO, Madhav Seth had an interview with the folks over at GSMArena and when asked about the quick update cycle between the Realme 3 and Realme 5 Pro, this is what he had to add:
Now if I say for 3 Pro and between 5 Pro, what would be the difference, mainly? I’d say there are two differences: the performance doesn’t compromise much because I don’t play this game of this processor – the 710 and 712. There isn’t much of a difference between your day-to-day usage. Even while you are gaming, there’s not much of a difference. There is a difference, but not that drastic.
Yes, the executive agrees there’s “not much difference”, but there is a difference. And the brands are able to cash-in on this. A difference of just two digits between the 710 and 712 has given brands an opportunity to launch a brand new product within just four months.
How many megapixels do we really need?
Similarly, another department where brands are going nuts is the camera. How many megapixels do you need? Apparently, as many as possible. You’ll always end up clicking a 12-megapixel picture with a 48-megapixel sensor on a normal basis unless you start the dedicated mode. But, on-paper, 48 is a larger value than 12. We’ll also ignore the fact that pixel size or software processing also matters. There’s a reason why Pixel 3 is the best camera phone with just a single 12-megapixel sensor.
While this thought process of amping up numbers has been fairly common in the Android ecosystem, OnePlus has been able to carve out a different niche for itself. Sure, it packs all the latest hardware. However, this doesn’t force it to focus just on specs and launch a new phone every now and then. They have a fixed six-month cycle for years and a secret weapon — their Android skin.
What sets a phone apart from the pack?
OxygenOS is a well-carved product that perfectly compliments the hardware. This is assuring for the user because they know a T-series phone will not practically affect them and the brand won’t forget about software updates after a few months.
Similarly, even Apple relies on a year-long refresh cycle. Their weapon is iOS. This single piece of software lets them completely omit figures like RAM, battery size, and even camera lens details. They don’t reveal the nitty-gritty details because the end-user doesn’t care. It’s an iPhone.
On the other end, even Android players are proud of their software. Xiaomi has MIUI, Realme has ColorOS, and Vivo has Funtouch OS. But the main question is, how long do they last? Software updates are quite often delayed, the UI is bug-ridden, and simply lacks a polishing touch. Not to forget, a few brands like Honor literally forget they’ve launched quite expensive phones and should ideally provide support.
From a long-term perspective, this confidence in products is what makes Apple a “brand”. Even OnePlus and Samsung have achieved a similar status among the masses and consistency and commitment should be the key focus. Samsung has transformed itself from being a TouchWiz meme master to deploying OneUI on every possible new phone.
In the affordable segment, Nokia-branded phones have done a fairly good job. They stick to stock Android and deliver on their promise of consistently supporting older phones. A reputation is formed, something that’ll last.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not favoring stock Android. I’m personally not a big fan. However, I’m stressing that brands keep aside the numbers game and focus on delivering an experience. If you’re just going to assemble hardware, there’s no difference between you and defunct players like Micromax and Karbonn.
GadgetMatch Awards: Best of IFA 2019
Everything from your work to your home
IFA has always been home to some of the best tech releases each year and IFA 2019 is no different. This year we got a device that’s the first of its kind, machines for creators, and plenty of smart things useful for your home.
Here are the best of the bunch.
The follow-up to our favorite from last year, the Nokia 7.2 continues HMD Global’s tradition of building excellent, affordable, premium smartphones.
Veering away from the usual aluminum unibody in favor of a polymer composite, the Nokia 7.2 maintains durability while keeping the weight down to make room for a larger battery.
The phone is headlined by a 48MP camera sensor along with two other lenses: one that’s ultra wide and one that’s a depth sensor. Nokia developed new camera software to go along with the usual Zeiss hardware. This makes for photos with stunning image quality.
The Nokia 7.2 is in every respect what a flagship killer needs to be — combining the best of what the brand is known for, excellent hardware, pure software, and top-notch optics.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
The Galaxy Fold is Samsung’s new Pièce De Résistance, a device that gives users a taste of the future today.
After a major setback following its initial launch, Samsung went back to the drawing board to work on a fix. And if there’s any company that knows how to jump back up after a crisis it’s them. At IFA, the Galaxy Fold made its global return, the new and improved Fold is tougher and more resilient than ever, and most likely, THE foldable phone to beat!
Samsung BeSpoke Refrigerator
Have you ever wished to have a fridge that fits exactly with the design of your new home? There’s nothing more customized than Samsung’s BeSpoke Refrigerator.
Customization is king for this fridge. You can choose your refrigerator size, the number of doors, and a multitude of color combos. Name it, and Samsung will build it. That’s more control than you ever thought was possible with refrigerators.
Thinking about what to have for dinner and actually preparing it can be cumbersome. But it doesn’t have to be with the Bosch Cookit.
You can think of it as either an all-in-one food processor with cooking function. Or an all-in-one cooker with the slicing and dicing built-in. But perhaps the best thing about it is how you can connect it to the Home Connect App for a step-by-step guide on a variety of dishes you otherwise probably wouldn’t even think about preparing yourself.
Being able to prep and cook in the same machine is exactly what we need, where do we sign-up?
ASUS ProArt StudioBook One
There are laptops for creators, and then there are machines for those who need even more power. Engineers, industrial designers, video editors working for video production houses.
For all these users and then some there’s ASUS ProArt StudioBook One — possibly the most powerful laptop in the world today.
Powered by the latest Intel Core i9 processor, and the new NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000 graphics card it can literally handle anything you throw at it — rendering 8K videos, 3D graphics and animation, you name it, this beast of a machine can handle it.
Lenovo Yoga C940 14 and 15
For many years, Lenovo’s Yoga line has set itself apart as the premier 2-in-1s, and this year’s Lenovo Yoga C940 14 and 15 are no exception.
Easily our favorite laptops from IFA 2019, they come with up to a 10th generation Intel Core i9 processor, supercharging workflow and performance. You can even get it with the NVIDIA GTX 1650 to boost overall graphical performance if you need that extra oomph for video editing.
The Lenovo Yoga C940 is a powerhouse 2-in-1 designed for creators and creative professionals.
Lenovo Smart Display 7
We’ve been fans of Lenovo’s lineup of smart displays since they were first launched a year ago. But because of its size, the Lenovo Smart Display 7 has got to be our favorite. The device is petite enough to squeeze into an already cramped bedside table, or in a corner of your kitchen counter.
And for the uninitiated, a smart display is Google Assistant on steroids. It can show and tell your schedule, answer your questions, entertain you with music, videos, and music videos, and keep your hands-free when you’re trying to follow a tutorial.
Lenovo Smart Tab M8
It’s very clear which role the Lenovo Smart Tab M8 wants play. It intends to be your go-to device for entertainment.
With its 8-inch LCD panel display, it’s perfect for more intimate Netflix or YouTube sessions. But when you’re not holding it up, it also comes with a docking station and can function almost like the Smart Display 7.
Huawei Freebuds 3
Huawei has never been shy about putting their products up against Apple’s. And the Huawei Freebuds 3 is no exception. It’s essentially the AirPods, but better.
The Huawei Freebuds 3 clearly has its crosshairs on the AirPods. One look and you know that’s what Huawei was going for. It’s not the earbuds that some people find intrusive. These fit nicely in your ear without feeling invasive.
The other thing that sets it apart is adaptive noise cancellation. The Freebuds 3 is supposedly capable of 15-decibel ambient noise reduction. That’s remarkable for its size and easily blows the AirPods out of the water.
Oh and, it comes in black.
Huawei Kirin 990
Huawei’s Kirin 990 feels like a chip infused with the speed force.
Unlike other chips, the Kirin 990 incorporates 5G components on the same die. It saves space plus enables devices it’s equipped with to reach download speed up to 2.3Gbps, and upload speed of up to 1.25Gbps.
It uses two big, two middle and four little cores to optimize multitasking, with clock speeds of 2.86GHz, 2.36GHz, and 1.95GHz respectively. It’s flat out a speed demon.
LG G8X Dual Screen
LG is staking its claim on dual screens and the company might be onto something.
The LG G8X Dual Screen is an improvement of the similar tech employed on the LG V50 ThinQ. You connect the secondary screen via USB-C (USB-C everything!) instead of pogo pins. It does pretty much everything the first iteration can, but better.
You can tilt the second screen at any angle you like and it also folds all the way so you can use the LG G8X like you would a regular phone. You can go as far as calling this a semi-foldable and we wouldn’t hate you for it.
It also doesn’t hurt that LG opted to keep the headphone jack along with discrete Quad DAC that audio enthusiasts love so much.
While its competitors are going foldable, LG’s approach to innovation is practical, and we cannot recommend it more.
Philips Hue Vintage Bulbs + Smart Buttons + Smart Plugs
If you’re the type to go for a classic look, then the Philips Hue Vintage Bulbs will make you light up.
It’s reminiscent of the old incandescent light bulb, but made with light-emitting diodes instead of glowing tungsten. These new smart bulbs, much like everything on the new lineup unveiled by Philips will now work with Bluetooth. This will make it easier to invite users as you now only need to buy a single bulb to see if you’re open to getting more. Previously, the Philips Hue Hub was a required purchase since the system only worked with Zigbee but Bluetooth changes all that.
Philips also showcased new Smart Buttons and Smart Plugs. The button offers multiple controls. Press once to turn on/off. Press twice to change moods, and long press to dim up or down. The Smart Plug, meanwhile, will let you add lamps and string lights into your entire setup. Pretty neat and handy!
TCL Ray Danz Soundbar
TCL already makes some of the best TVs in the market today, so an equally excellent soundbar was only a matter of time.
The TCL Ray Danz Soundbar, much like anything on TCL’s lineup, promises good quality without exorbitant price tags. It has front-firing and sideways-firing speaker drivers to create a natural and wider resonance to elevate your Netflix and chill experience.
It also worked with Dolby Atmos to produce a 360-degree surround sound without the need for extra upward-firing drivers. As important as is a great display, is great audio, and if you’re looking for an excellent soundbar that doesn’t break the bank, look no further.
Nokia 3.2 Hands-On: Basic but classy
Nothing fancy but really speedy
Nokia has been stepping up its lineup of budget smartphones. Early in 2019, the brand launched a plethora of budget smartphones that are under the Android One program. One of the budget-friendly smartphones introduced was Nokia 3.2. Eager to have that Nokia experience, I took the phone out for a spin.
It’s cheap… but classy
I had high hopes when I first got the Nokia 3.2 in its box. Seeing it earlier in MWC 2019 made me appreciate its look and vibe. Compared to other budget smartphones, it’s classier and sexier. However, the phone feels a little bit downgraded when compared to its predecessor.
Nokia the 3.1 with an aluminum frame, a plastic back, and corning gorilla glass while the 3.2 used only a polycarbonate unibody design. Its plastic back is smudgy and slippery, but the phone has a tighter grip, thanks to its subtle curved edges towards the front.
Even its buttons are subtly protruding on its sides. On the left is a dedicated Google Assistant button, and on the right are its power buttons and volume keys.
Found on its back are the 13-megapixel main camera, LED Flash, and fingerprint scanner. On the other hand, its top side features a headphone jack, while the micro USB port and speaker grilles are found on the bottom.
It also features a 6.2 inches LCD panel on its front display, with a tall 19:9 ratio. It might be disrupting, but the Nokia 3.2 still sports a small notch, housing its 5-megapixel selfie camera capable of AI face unlock. Even though it might be bigger and taller this time, the Nokia 3.2 is definitely a joy to hold.
Stock Android on a budget
The saving grace for Nokia’s disappointing build (at least for me) is its clean version of Android One. That means there’s no bloatware to take up your limited memory and storage.
Additionally, the Nokia 3.2 comes with Android 9 Pie out of the box. This makes it feel faster than its competitors in the budget segment despite having a 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Fortunately, it provides a microSD card slot up to up to 400GB of storage.
An entry-level performance
Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 429 processor, the Nokia 3.2 performs better compared to its predecessor which carried a MediaTek chipset. In addition, its GPU runs on Adreno 504.
This made the Nokia 3.2 handle graphic-intensive games like Mobile Legends even if it was set on the highest graphics setting possible. There were no delay and lag spikes, ensuring smooth gameplay all throughout.
Decent cameras for your everyday needs
Featuring a 13-megapixel main camera with an f/2.2 aperture, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera with an f/2.0 aperture, the Nokia 3.2 takes decent photos. Depending on the lighting, both of its cameras can either take a vibrant, lively reproduced color during daylight or a slightly desaturated photo on indoor and low-light conditions.
Of course, we can’t really expect budget smartphones to have flagship-like cameras. It won’t have quick auto-focus or any fancy features like blurring your background, but it’s the compromise we’re getting when we follow our tight budget. At the very least, make use of natural light and other camera tricks to improve your photos.
Lasts longer than your partner
If there’s one thing I enjoyed with this smartphone, it’s the humongous battery. Packing a 4000mAh battery, the Nokia 3.2 can definitely last a day on a single charge. It can handle your multimedia use and everyday tasks throughout the day, yet it will still have enough juice left to carry you through the night.
However, for a phone carrying a huge battery, it charges slowly at 10W. This phone might just be good for those who love to charge their phones overnight.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The Nokia 3.2 is a contender in the budget segment. It might have a disappointing build and design, but the phone packs with power, performance, and speed, thanks to Google’s Android One program.
With a starting price of PhP 7,990 (US$ 154) for the 3GB/32GB model, Nokia loyalists will find this a real treat. For people looking for a secondary phone, or a primary phone with no frills and just functions to handle your everyday needs, the Nokia 3.2 could be your GadgetMatch.
However, there are still far better options in the budget category, like the Redmi Note 7 and Realme 3. If Nokia wants to come back in its former glory and capture people looking for an affordable powerhouse, they need to join the battle and beat Realme and Redmi in their game, just like Samsung bending over to compete in the tough budget battlefield.
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