2017 has been an incredible year for smartphones. Bezels are getting smaller, cameras are breaking new grounds, and artificial intelligence is playing a bigger role. Don’t think for a second, however, that last year’s handsets are any less relevant.
Despite their age, the phones listed here are still solid choices for your next purchase. Some are a lot cheaper now, but be warned: They may also be more difficult to find now.
Here they are in no particular order:
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
This was the first choice to come to mind when compiling this list. The iPhone 7 Plus is an excellent option to this day for two reasons: It looks identical to this year’s iPhone 8 Plus, and it’s much cheaper than the iPhone X. Updating to iOS 11 will also make it feel like a newer phone.
LG’s V20 symbolizes the end of an era; it’s the last flagship smartphone from a major brand to house a removable battery. But that isn’t the V20’s only claim to fame. It also delivers an excellent video and audio experience, as well as an underrated secondary screen for faster multitasking.
Huawei Mate 9
As great as the Mate 10 series is, we must not forget how well-rounded the Mate 9 was. Even though the bezels aren’t up to today’s standards, the extra-large build feels lovely in one’s hand. Mix in the dual-camera setup and its revolutionary machine learning software, and you have a handset that keeps getting better.
You don’t have to look any further than all the camera shootouts the Pixel won to see how great of a camera-phone it is. To this day, we still use the original Pixel for shoots and recording Facebook Live shows. And it’s got something the newer Pixel 2 doesn’t have: a 3.5mm audio port.
ASUS ZenFone 3
Our one complaint about the ZenFone 3 when it first launched was its price. But now that it’s discounted, we’re looking at a great all-around phone. Its Snapdragon 625 processor and 4GB of memory are still the standard setup most midrange handsets follow today, and the build quality is as premium as ever.
At first glance, the Moto Z doesn’t stand out in this cutthroat list; however, its edge comes in the form of Moto Mods. Even the newer modular accessories work with the aging handset, making this an affordable yet powerful gateway to the world of feature-rich attachments.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
It’s easy to forget how the Galaxy series once looked now that the Infinity Display of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 are engraved in our minds. And yet, the Galaxy S7 Edge is still a beautifully shaped device with a conveniently placed front-mounted fingerprint scanner. The planned update to Android Oreo will raise its stock even higher.
If there was one smartphone that was a cut above the rest in 2016, it was the OnePlus 3T. As an improvement over the original OnePlus 3, the newer version had it all: a reliable camera, impeccable build quality, the fastest interface of its time, above average battery life, and a mouthwatering price for its specs.
Xiaomi Mi Max
It was tough choosing just one Xiaomi phone from their comprehensive 2016 roster — the Mi Mix and Redmi 4 Prime came to mind, as well — but the Mi Max won out for being their best multimedia option. The massive screen and generous battery capacity make this the go-to choice for movie watching and gaming on the go.
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Realme 5 vs Huawei Y9 Prime (2019): Camera shootout
Can budget phones deliver an amazing camera performance?
Nowadays, smartphones — even those belonging in the budget category — produce outstanding images for their price. Such examples are the Realme 5 and Huawei Y9 Prime (2019), priced at PhP 7,990 and PhP 12,990 respectively. But will a PhP 5,000 difference in price mean an improved camera capability? Or have we come to the point where affordable smartphones are all stunning, no matter the price range? Let’s find out in this camera shootout.
#1 – Landscape
#2 – Murals
#3 – Flower
#4 – Scenery
#5 – Backlit
#6 – Ultra Wide
#7 – Regular
#8 – Zoom
#9 – Building
#10 – Auto
#11 – Greenery
#12 – Selfie
#13 – Portrait Mode
#14 – Food
#15 – Dusk
Excited to see the results? Here they are:
Realme 5: 1A, 2A, 3B, 4B, 5A, 6A, 7A, 8A, 9B, 10A, 11B, 12B, 13B, 14A, 15B
Huawei Y9 Prime (2019): 1B, 2B, 3A, 4A, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9A, 10B, 11A, 12A, 13A, 14B, 15A
If you analyze the photos well, both phones produce sharp and vibrant images. However, there’s a big difference in focal length, color balance, and post-processing. The Realme 5 produces faded, cooler, and closer photos while the Huawei Y9 Prime (2019) captures wider, brighter, and saturated photos.
At the end of the day, it still boils down to user preference. Regardless of the differences, one can still rely on editing apps to match the photos to their personal aesthetic. On the other hand, we proved a point: Smartphones nowadays — despite the price differences — can produce high-quality photos that aren’t just limited for social media use.
So, how did you feel about the shootout? Let us know on our social media channels!
OPPO Reno 2F: All about the camera
Power isn’t really its strong point
When OPPO killed the F series, we were introduced to the Reno earlier this year. A few months later, the Reno has been succeeded and in its lineup, an affordable version was launched, too.
Meet the Reno 2F. Earlier, rumors circulated about its price being too much for its specifications. Now that it has launched, let’s take a look at whether the price is really justified.
Here’s the Reno 2F in its full glory
The right side has the power button and card tray…
… while the left side has the volume rocker
The bottom houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, primary microphone, a USB-C port, and the phone’s speaker grilles
Its top accommodates the pop-up selfie camera and a secondary microphone
On the back, you can find the quad-camera setup along with the O circle up top and LED flash
OPPO ensured the Reno 2F — as part of the Reno lineup — speaks the Reno’s design language despite it being a toned-down version. It looks classy and premium, especially with its colors shifting when hit by light at a certain angle.
Power isn’t its strong point
On paper, the Reno 2F isn’t that promising. The Reno 2F prides itself with curved edges, a 6.5″ full-screen AMOLED display, and a Corning Gorilla Glass protection.
Taken out of the box, it runs ColorOS 6.1 based on Android 9 Pie. On the inside, it has an 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, similar to how most phones in the same price tag back their internals. Additionally, there’s a MicroSD slot that can handle up to 256GB of additional storage.
It’s also powered by MediaTek Helio P70 and runs a Mali-G72 MP3 graphics card. Furthermore, it boasts of a 4000mAh battery capable of 20W fast charging through VOOC Flash Charge 3.0. Moreover, the Reno 2F includes an under-display fingerprint scanner.
Processor alone, the Reno 2F is losing compared to its competitors and in the midrange bracket. But where the phone truly shines is its quad-camera setup.
All about storytelling
Nowadays, it’s important to have a camera that captures all the moments you encounter in life. We’ve built an age where storytelling is a must whenever we upload our content on social media. The Reno 2F may lack the power expected in its bracket, but it compensates with its cameras.
The Quad camera setup houses a 48-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a 2-megapixel monochrome camera, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Its motorized pop-up camera accommodates a 16-megapixel single camera. The front and rear cameras are capable of Full HD video recording at 30fps.
Now while it sounds good reading about its camera setup, take a look at how these cameras really perform.
Decent shots, balanced colors
In daylight, the Reno 2F is excellent in capturing photos. Even in poor lighting conditions such as yellow lights found indoors, the Reno 2F processes it differently after you’ve taken a shot. It balances the color correctly, which might be difficult if you’re aiming for dramatic and colored shots. But then again, there are editing apps which you can use to get the look you’re going for.
But if there are cases where you’d rather see how accurately it balances the color, the photo above is exactly the way I saw it. A wall decor on top of bricks lit in all its purple glory. Compared to other cameras I’ve tested before, there’s always a cool or warm tint added after the photo was processed.
Even inside cafes and bars filled with too much yellow light that might make your photos look warm, the Reno 2F was able to minimize the tone so it looks aesthetically pleasing. And even in busy backgrounds, the Reno 2F created proper depth as seen in my Maple Vanilla Cold Brew. Of course, this was taken with just the auto mode because portrait mode sucks.
It took several tries to achieve a shot that satisfies me using the portrait mode. As someone who’s not a fan of portrait mode due to its imperfect cutting out skills, the Reno 2F created an excellent cutout, especially for a midrange phone. Of course, we still need more time to test its portrait mode and that’s for another story.
For now, I’m pleased with how smartphones are making an effort in perfecting the portrait mode. Until then, I’ll still be iffy about it.
The Reno 2F’s 2x zoom is perfect when you don’t want to move closer to capture the shot you’re aiming for. Case in point: I love bicycles and benches, and I figured it’s going to be a pretty subject. I was carrying a heavy backpack, along with a tripod, which made me lazy to move around. Using the 2x zoom made it easier for me to capture my shot without exerting any effort.
Choose your perspective
We are blessed to have the three important modes in a smartphone on this price range. The Reno 2F lets you capture ultra wide angle shots, a regular shot in Auto mode, and take closer shots up to 5x zoom.
Beautiful in wide
Wide angles are my favorite, especially when I’m taking landscape and architectural photos. The Reno 2F’s ultra wide angle mode is fun to play around with.
Night mode vs Auto
Sitting (and feeling) like a king, I had this photo taken with a wide angle lens which uses an f/2.2 aperture. Curious to see if night modes are getting any better, I took a comparison photo with and without night mode.
If you take a look at the photos, I’d prefer auto if it meant I need to share the photo urgently with my friends and families. The photo taken with night mode is far from perfect, but it opens an avenue for editing and post-processing. When everything is lit, it’s the best time to tone it down, apply your aesthetics, and own the photo.
Selfies are decent when it’s not in beauty mode. Using the auto mode, you get an accurate color balance on your selfie. Applying the portrait mode on your selfie to blur your background adds a green tint to your photo.
Beauty modes are here to stay, but you have an option to turn it off. OPPO boasts of having a smart skin tone recognition which adjusts your skin tone based on the ambient lighting. However, it’s not enough to convince me to use a feature that wipes away my face and makes me look like a doll.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The OPPO Reno 2F is difficult to recommend, especially for buyers looking for a value smartphone. The only advantage of the Reno 2F is its powerful cameras that even I, a flagship lover, like.
If camera is a priority especially when you love uploading in social media to death, then you might want to give this phone a try. Either way, you can just get a mirrorless camera if photography is all you care about.
For those interested to buy this smartphone, it’s priced at PhP 19,990 (US$ 389). It’s available in two colors: Sky White and Lake Green. The Reno 2F is now available in OPPO stores nationwide.
Teaching robots new tricks
Older replacement parts made available
Technology has played a big role in automotive production. In the past, body panels were made by hand — by hammering sheet metal into a mold to get the desired shape. It required individual skills and craftsmanship to produce quality parts and took time to finish.
Today, these parts are all made by machines (or robots) in a process called die stamping which only takes seconds to finish. Thanks to them, car manufacturers can now produce quality products with minimal manpower.
This also allowed car brands to come out with new models with short intervals in between. And with every new update, these robots had to be reprogrammed and replaced — leaving old stamps decommissioned. The result? Owners of older car models are running out of replacement parts.
To address this, Nissan has come up with a process to program robots to create phased out parts. They call it dual-sided dieless forming.
The technique involves two robots working from opposite sides of a steel sheet with perfect synchronicity. Using diamond-coated tools to gradually shape the steel, this technique is cost-effective and can make a wide variety of replacement parts available for discontinued models. Previously, this was not possible due to high costs and limitations on equipment.
Dual-sided dieless forming had previously been considered too difficult to commercialize but thanks to Nissan’s Production Engineering Research and Development Center, the brand made three major breakthroughs.
- The development of advanced programs capable of controlling both robots with a high degree of dimensional accuracy, enabling the formation of detailed convex and concave shapes.
- The application of a mirrored diamond coating to tools, reducing friction while eliminating the need for lubrication. This has numerous benefits, including consistency of surface quality and low-cost, environmentally friendly operation.
- The generation of optimized pathfinding logic for robots, drawing on the ample expertise and press-forming simulation techniques ordinarily used by Nissan’s production engineering teams. This enabled Nissan to achieve high quality results early in the development process.
Nissan plans to continue with this development and pursue mass production.
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