Hands-On

Apple iPad Pro (2020) hands-on: Not a laptop, more than a tablet

Is it a good laptop replacement?

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The new iPad Pro is more powerful, has a high tech sensor for AR, works with a mouse and trackpad — there’s even a Magic Keyboard. With all these new features, is it good enough to replace your laptop?

What’s new?

This is officially the fourth generation iPad Pro — following the announcements in 2015, 2017, and most recently 2018, where Apple first debuted this form factor.

It comes in two sizes: 12.9 and 11 inches. Its camera bump is now similar to the iPhone 11 — squarish with two rear cameras, a first on the iPad.

Like the 2018 model, this iPad Pro comes with Face ID as its biometric security option.

How much better is it than the 2018 model? On the outside, there’s only the camera bump to tell both models apart. Button, port, and speaker arrangements are all the same; even the dimensions are the same. It also comes with the same 1 meter long USB-C cable, and 18W charging brick.

As with most Apple updates, it’s what’s on the inside that matters. There’s a new A12Z Bionic Chip which is much more powerful than the 2018 model.

While we don’t usually do benchmark tests, this new chip scored higher than the previous model in both CPU and GPU tests.

Camera and LiDAR technology

The new iPad Pro now has a 10 MP ultra wide angle camera to go alongside its 12MP wide camera.

I understand tablet photography is often frowned upon, but Apple really sees the iPad Pro as a device for content creators like me. Aside from being able to to edit entire videos on apps like Luma Fusion, Apple wants the iPad Pro to also be a device you can use for video capture.

Both cameras shoot 4K video, and just like on the MacBook Pro, it’s got 5 studio microphones built in.

That ultra wide angle camera also comes in handy when you’re scanning in documents, which the iPad is great for especially if you need to make annotations — the Apple Pencil is made for that.

Reps from Apple also tell me that the cameras work in conjunction with the new LiDAR scanner that’s built into the device. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. If you’ve heard of it before it’s probably in relation to self-driving cars where the technology is also used.

LiDAR works by sending beams of light at your surroundings and creates a map of objects in the space around you by measuring the time it takes for the light beams to bounce back.

The new LiDAR scanner is meant to elevate the augmented reality experience on the device, which Apple is committed to making a reality, pun intended.

One great example of this is the upcoming AR game Hot Lava. With LiDAR technology, the iPad Pro is able to accurately detect objects in a room, that in-game elements can interact with them — including humans in the scene.

The IKEA app which I used a lot while designing my apartment is also getting an update. It will soon be able to recommend matching furniture or accessories based on what you currently have.

There are scientific applications, too, like the Complete Anatomy App that uses Lidar to measure the range of motion of someone’s arm in real time.

With LiDAR, it’s also easier to set up AR applications. Previously you needed to scan your surrounding by moving your device around.  Now you just launch the AR app to start.

Magic Keyboard and trackpad function

With the Magic Keyboard, the iPad Pro gets elevated, giving it an iMac-esque feel.  The elevated display means you don’t have to look down as much.

Built into the hinge is a USB-C port so that you can keep your iPad charged while in use. The hinge is sturdy enough to keep the iPad Pro propped up at all times. 

I think what makes the Magic Keyboard even more exciting though is the built in trackpad. iPad OS 13.4 brings this functionality to the iPad.

Swipe gestures work just like on the Mac: swipe up with four fingers to see all your open apps, scroll down with two fingers to scroll through web pages. It works just like on a computer just reimagined for a touch screen device.

On the screen, instead of a pointer you’ll see a circle instead. When you hover over menu items they get highlighted to indicate they’re being selected.

It transforms into a vertical bar when you’re highlighting text. You can easily copy text like you would with a right click or a two-finger tap.

If you’re editing a long document, you can also move entire blocks of text by simply dragging them. It’s the same thing if you’re using a mouse. Third party mice work, too.

While we’re on the topic, mouse and trackpad support isn’t exclusive to the new iPad Pro. All iPads that will get this update support this functionality. The Magic Keyboard will also work with the 2018 iPad Pro.

iPad Pro vs MacBook Air

Another question I get a lot is whether it’s good enough to be an alternative to the MacBook Air? Is it powerful enough? Is it just an oversized iPhone?

With this latest iPadOS update, the iPad encroaches more on Mac territory. Having said that, these are still two different kinds of devices.

The iPad Pro is still a tablet so it’s a great device for reading books or magazines, not to mention watching videos on a plane especially when you’re flying economy.

It has a touch screen display, which means apps built for the iPad are optimized for touch, and in some cases that makes more sense.

It also has pen support making it a great device for taking notes the old way, or sketching and drawing.

It’s thinner and lighter. I love the portability of the iPad and love how I can squeeze my 11-inch iPad into my man bag, which is not something I can do with my MacBook Air.

As a creator having the two cameras on its back are a plus too. If you get the cellular model, that also means you can have internet connectivity everywhere you go.

If we’re being literal, balancing the Smart Keyboard Folio or Magic Keyboard on my lap is not as easy as the MacBook Air for example. In that sense, it doesn’t make a good laptop replacement.

The iPad Pro also isn’t necessarily cheaper than a Mac so you don’t buy it to save money. All this extra functionality I just talked about, you pay for.

The cheapest MacBook Air starts at US$ 999. The cheapest iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil will cost you at least US$ 1,107.

Ask yourselves which apps you use on a daily basis. If you edit on Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier for example, you’re stuck with the Mac. The Mac is also better at file management.

If these aren’t things you need and you’re lured by pen support and portability, then go for the iPad Pro.

I want to correct the impression that you can’t get desktop browsing experiences on an iPad.

Since iPadOS 13, a desktop version of Safari has been included so things like Google Docs and WordPress work just fine.

Is the iPad Pro your GadgetMatch?

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that starting with the 2018 model, the iPad Pro has been one of my most favorite devices of all time — apart from my iPhone that is.

I just love it. I love all the things that I can do on it, and I love the portability that it allows.

Is it for everyone? As its Pro branding suggests, this is a device for those who have more specialized needs. Those who need more power for things like photo or video editing, for professional illustrators and artists. It’s perfect for creators on the go.

If you just need an iPad for surfing the web, or taking notes, watching videos or playing games, Apple makes many capable iPads that you can get for less.

Should you get the 2018 model instead? The answer really depends on what you plan on using the new iPad for and how big of a discount you should get.

If you plan on using it for things like video editing, take advantage of the newer more powerful processor. Also remember iPad Pro updates come every 2 years.

It’s also great for students, but because of its price tag I think you’re better off getting the iPad or iPad Air. They will do the job as well.

Is it a laptop replacement? It’s not, and Apple is clear that that isn’t the point here.  It’s about having different kinds of devices that match what it is you’re trying to do. If I were to paraphrase, it’s to make sure each kind of user has his or her own GadgetMatch, even if the line between the iPad and Mac is now blurrier than ever.

One thing I’ll say is this: While tablets continue to struggle to find relevance, there’s still plenty of reasons to get an iPad.

Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy M31: How long does a 6000mAh battery lasts?

We took the phone out for a spin!

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Having long-lasting device is a must when you need to stay connected.  When Samsung proudly introduced the Galaxy M31 with a  6,000mAh battery, it’s like god heard my woes. No more reliance on power banks and hogging wall sockets!

But how long does a 6000mAh battery last, especially for someone who’s overly attached to his smartphone? To find the answer, we fully charged a Galaxy M31 to see if it will last more than my ex-flings (or a day, in this case).

Hour 00: Making you mine

It was 2:20 PM when I took the fully charged Galaxy M31 to finish setting it up, and personalize it as my new daily driver for god knows how long. If you’re familiar with Samsung’s One UI 2.0, navigating the phone is a breeze.

I installed my essential apps — particularly Spotify — and spent at least an hour and a half to finish personalizing the phone. It was almost four in the afternoon when I decided to take a nap, with the battery currently sitting at 96 percent.

Hour 02: Vibing with your quirks

Thirty minutes later, I woke up from incessant sweating caused by a vexatious, humid atmosphere. When I checked the phone, I wasn’t surprised to see it drop to 95 percent. After all, Spotify was still playing on the background. I started prepping up to take a bath while dancing to “Mamma Mia” (I do hope youngins still know this classic).

Most of my Sundays are usually spent doing different hobbies, but having to test a phone’s battery life derailed my perfectly laid up weekend plan.

In lieu of doing things that feed my soul, I watched The Half Of It on Netflix and played Mobile Legends: Bang Bang in between supper, hourly snacks, skincare, and prepping myself to sleep.

Hour 08: Quarter good

Even with an annoying notch, watching and playing on a Super AMOLED screen is still a treat. I’m accustomed to using flagship smartphones, but the Galaxy M31 packed a punch for a midrange phone.

It’s powered by an Exynos 9611 chipset (which caused some heating), and a 6B RAM, and 128GB internal storage. A hiccup-free experience is guaranteed!

It was 10:10 PM when I turned the Wi-Fi off so I can sleep peacefully. The battery currently sits at 76 percent.

Hour 15: Staying strong

My nights are constantly haunted by my crushing regrets. In between interrupted periods of sleep, the phone’s battery sat at 75 percent. I decided to get out of the bed around 5 in the morning, planning a full day ahead.

I started catching up with news while hydrating myself with lemon water. Afterward, I opened my favorite app — Nike Training Club — to perform morning stretches. It offers quick, guided workouts for different purposes: strength, endurance, mobility, and flexibility.

Before I start my workout, I brought along my Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Fit E. If you’re deep into Samsung’s ecosystem, you’ll be disappointed with the unavailability of Galaxy Buds’ plugin, so no wireless listening for you. Although, you can rely on the Galaxy M31’s loudspeakers. Thankfully, the phone still connects seamlessly with my Galaxy Fit E.

At 6:25 AM, the battery dropped to 70 percent after conducting my morning routine. Do note that Spotify is constantly playing, even when I’m not actively using my phone. (Life without music sucks.)

Hour 17: Picture-perfect memories

It was almost seven in the morning when I started shooting a friend’s baked goods. As I sung to Taylor Swift’s “Death by a Thousand Cuts”, I let myself have fun using the Galaxy M31’s quad-camera setup.

I wrapped up around 7:19 AM with a 67 percent battery life. I took a bath and drove to Starbucks to get my favorite cold brew. Along the way, I took some selfies and snaps and uploaded them to Instagram Stories.

Hour 20 to 28: The last hurrah

I was back at my desk around 10 AM and started my daily grind. The phone sat at 43 percent after heavy and constant usage. I pulled my laptop and started working. Even with a bigger screen, I still used my phone to respond to messages, moderate social media pages, and watch on Netflix while eating.

The phone’s battery dipped to 15 percent at 6:48 PM, when my shift was about to end. To my astonishment, the Galaxy M31 lasted more than 28 hours on a single charge.

I charged the device at 7:08 PM and left it while I had dinner, took a bath, and did some house chores. It took at least three hours to fully charge the device from 15 to 95 percent, using its 15W fast charging adapter via USB-C.

On a side note, the Galaxy M31’s battery is such a rocker when left on standby mode. On a Tuesday afternoon, I left a fully charged Galaxy M31 in a safe. I checked back Saturday afternoon, and I was surprised to see its battery dipped from 100 percent to 33 percent.

Is it your GadgetMatch?

Summing it up, the Galaxy M31 is a capable and dependable midrange smartphone. It offers reliable performance with a battery that can keep up with you for more than a day. If you’re a power user looking for an affordable handset with no bells and whistles, this one is for you.

The Galaxy M31 is currently available in Black and Blue and retails for PhP 13,990 (US$ 283). It’s online-exclusive and will be available for purchase at Samsung’s Online store.

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realme X3 SuperZoom: A potential flagship killer

It all depends on the pricing

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I wrote about realme being a true disruptor and they have a chance to continue on that path with the realme X3 SuperZoom.

On paper, this phone screams flagship.

realme x3 SuperZoom

Display 6.6-inch Ultra-smooth FHD+ display

120Hz refresh rate

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
RAM + ROM 12GB + 256GB
Battery 4200mAh

30W Dart Flash Charge

Rear cameras 64MP Ultra high-resolution wide angle

8MP Ultra-wide angle

8MP Periscope

2MP Macro

Selfie cameras 32MP Main

8MP Ultra-wide

Right off the bat, you’ll notice two things that are present in most 2020 flagships that this phone doesn’t have. One is support for 5G, and the other is wireless charging.

However, those are two features that many people might consider icing on an otherwise perfectly tasty cake. Both 5G and wireless charging are nice to have, but I wouldn’t call them pillar features at this point in time.

Flagship performance

I had a blast using this phone for the past week since setting it up. Having used midrange phones that didn’t offer a higher screen refresh rate for a while and then jumping back to a phone with a 120Hz screen refresh rate, you can certainly tell the difference.

I cannot stress enough how smooth and fast everything feels. Browsing, swiping, toggling from app to app, it all felt seamless and speedy on the realme X3 SuperZoom.

To date, I’ve only used three phones with this feature — the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Find X2 Pro, and the ROG Phone 2. Now, the realme X3 SuperZoom joins that list. That’s pretty good company.

In fact, that Snapdragon 855+ and 120Hz screen refresh rate combo was one of the main highlights of the ROG Phone 2. Naturally, I tried a little bit of gaming on the realme X3 SuperZoom.

I played Call of Duty Mobile for the first time since reviewing the ROG Phone 2. While the performance is largely the same, the experience is a tad bit different.

Not entirely “flagship feel”

This one’s harder to explain. There are certain premium phones that just scream premium owing to a combination of things — the phone’s overall feel, a certain heft, looks, and performance.

While the X3 SuperZoom knocks it out of the park in the performance department, it falls just a tad bit short in the other departments. But I’d like to emphasize that this isn’t an entirely bad thing at all.

The phone — especially the Arctic White variant that I have — looks stunning. The front and back are made with glass, but a closer inspection will show that the sides are made with plastic.

Unlike phones that are north of PhP 40,000 or around US$ 800, it doesn’t have that wholistic glass feel, premium heft, and overall “it” factor. But that’s okay, because it’s not trying to compete with those flagships in that department.

Focusing on what matters

That “flagship feel” is almost an abstract concept and is truly reserved for most premium flagship phones. It’s a luxury.

This brings us back to what I think is the overarching theme of the realme X3 SuperZoom, and perhaps the theme of most realme smartphones —  flagship features for less.

One of those flagship features are the cameras. You’ve already seen the specs up top, so now here’s a quick look at the zoom features. The samples below only go as far as 10X Zoom — which I think is the optimal zoom on this phone.

It can go as far as 60X Zoom, but as I mentioned in previous reviews, the max zoom capacity on these phones isn’t necessarily their best.

I also like the color and detail it produces. Here’s a photo under good daylight.

This one’s indoors with a wide window light source.

While this one is taken at night.

There are a lot more features to explore which we will try to do so in the full review.

Flagship killer? 

There’s a lot going for the realme X3 SuperZoom. Its performance, looks, and camera capabilities are all top-notch. The realme UI — which is unsurprisingly reminiscent of ColorOS 7.1 — is clean AF.

There’s still some bloatware that you can easily tuck in the app drawer, but overall, it adds to the smooth and fast experience with a clean look and a ton of customization options.

In India, the price of this phone has been revealed to be INR 32,999 or US$ 436. That’s roughly PhP 22,000 BUT realme Philippines has been careful to point out that due to “local tax and tariffs,” the pricing will likely be different.

The launch and pricing announcement is happening on July 9 2020, iff they’re able to keep this below PhP 30,000, then we might just have a strong flagship killer contender.

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OPPO A92: The A9 2020 in a different skin

Makes you think it’s new

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There’s nothing particularly striking about the OPPO A92. In many aspects it’s… just right. The battery performance is stellar, and ColorOS 7.1 is in the running as one of my favorite Android skins. Everywhere else, it’s just solid.

It might seem underwhelming on paper, but if you think about it, it’s practically right in line with what you ought to expect from a smartphone at this price. Anything else that goes beyond this is a bonus.

Here’s a quick look at the specs:

OPPO A9 2020

Display

6.5” IPS LCD

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 665

RAM + ROM

8GB + 128GB

Cameras

Quad rear (48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP)

Punch hole selfie (16MP)

Battery

5,000mAh

Unlock

Side-mounted fingerprint scanner

Other connections

USB-C, 3.5mm jack

To me, this represents the baseline of what you should expect from a midrange smartphone. Nothing too fancy, nothing gimmicky, just the right amount of performance to get you through whatever it is you need to get through.

Solid, steady performance

I used the phone for roughly a week. Coming from flagship smartphones, I can definitely feel the difference but it still did what I needed it to do.

Browsing social media and jumping from Facebook, to Twitter, and then Instagram, and then back to Twitter is relatively smooth. There was no significant slow down but, as I’ve mentioned, if you are coming from a flagship you will notice a difference. There’s a bit of a drag, but it’s negligible for the most part.

I didn’t really do a lot of mobile gaming on the phone save for a few Asphalt 9 races. Just like everything about this phone, the experience is… okay.

I did have some trouble when the things on screen I needed to press were located near the edge. The phone just didn’t respond right away and it caused mild stress on my part. Told OPPO about this and it might be an isolated case with the unit I was lent.

Is it really a binge-watch machine?

The short answer is yes. We partnered with OPPO upon the phone’s launch and our talking point is how this phone can probably last longer than you during binge-watch sessions.

With a 5,000mAh battery and no exorbitant features to eat-up that power, the phone does last long. In this video (which I will also reluctantly add in this article), I noted how I didn’t charge the phone after an overnight binge-watch test. I used it sparingly over the next three days and it still didn’t run out of juice.

I can confidently say this will probably get you to a day and a half, even with heavy usage.

That UI is so damn clean

Other than Samsung going from TouchWi to OneUI, ColorOS’ journey from an iOS-wannabe to embracing everything about Android has been one of my favorite Android skin transformations.

There’s still a fair amount of bloatware and an annoying AppMarket, but everywhere else, ColorOS 7.1 is clean, extremely customizable, and just smooth to use and navigate.

You can pick the icon shape and style, and dark mode can even force apps that don’t have a dark mode yet to, well, go dark. It’s still a pretty shaky execution but they do a better job than vivo’s FunTouchOS. That’s at least true for the forced dark mode on the Facebook app.

Is it really an upgrade from the OPPO A9 2020?

This is a rather tricky question to answer. In terms of succession, yes, this is a follow-up to the OPPO A9 2020, but the only real differences are its weight, design. Even the weight part is nearly negligible with OPPO A9 2020 at 195g and OPPO A92 at 192g.

Some significant changes though are the fingerprint scanner location (side-mounted on the OPPO A92 vs rear on the OPPO A9 2020) and the selfie camera (punch hole on OPPO A92 vs waterdrop on OPPO A9 2020).

Side-mounted fingerprint scanner/power button

Otherwise, you get the same quad camera setup (48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP), the same selfie camera (16MP), the same processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 665), and the same configuration (8GB + 128GB). They even share the same launch pricing (PhP 15,990 or US$320).

For the most part, it’s the same phone under a different skin. If you liked the look of the OPPO A9 2020, then go for that one as it should be cheaper now. Personally, I think that design had more of an identity.

The OPPO A92 exists to create the illusion that after only six months, the company might have something new to offer — which isn’t the case. It’s like your ex coming back dressed differently. But deep inside, it’s just the same person.

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