Hands-On

Apple iPhone X Hands-on Review

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Ten years ago Apple unveiled the original iPhone. I had that phone and can still remember how it felt when I first held it in my hands.

Back then, there was nothing quite like the iPhone, but much has changed over the last decade. While Apple shaped the smartphone world as we know it, many other players have come and made their mark on the space. And for us gadget enthusiasts, there’s no better time to be alive.

While the 10th-anniversary iPhone, the iPhone X, doesn’t start shipping till this Friday, November 3rd, we got our hands on the device early. I unboxed it yesterday, and feelings of the original iPhone came flooding back.

While some will debate the merits of any hype surrounding the iPhone X, the phone’s launch marks an important next step for Apple. This phone embodies everything they’ve learned thus far, and more importantly, the future it envisions.

For Apple, this is the future.

Unlike all the other iPhones released in the last three to four years, this one looks different. Its signature feature is its edge-to-edge display. Its back is now made of glass, and the frame is forged from stainless steel.

The iPhone X has the tallest screen on an iPhone to date, but is significantly smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus. It’s also the first iPhone with an OLED display, and right off the bat you’ll notice that colors are richer.

While I love my big-screen TV, I still consume most content on my phone, mainly Netflix and YouTube. I’m thrilled about the Dolby Vision and HDR10 support, which paired with the iPhone’s stereo speakers, should make the mobile video-watching experience a whole lot better.

To achieve the iPhone X’s new edge-to-edge look, certain concessions had to be made.

There’s a love it or hate it notch up top and the iconic circular home button that also acted as a fingerprint sensor has been removed for good.

Behind the notch up top is Apple’s TrueDepth System — probably one of the most important pieces of technology on this new phone. This combination of infrared cameras, dot projectors, and a high tech neural engine is what allows for a combination of features including the new Face ID face unlock system which replaces the fingerprint-based Touch ID.

When Apple first announced the iPhone X, my biggest concern was about the reliability of Face ID, especially since in the absence of a fingerprint sensor, this is your only biometric option.

While I’ll need more time with the device to say if I’ll ever miss the home button, I can say that the technology is fast. And didn’t take a lot to set up. In fact it was much easier to set up than adding a fingerprint on previous iPhones.

All you have to do is position your face in the circle and move it around in a circle. Because the TrueDepth System can map face and measure depth, it enables the selfie camera to take portrait-style photos and use the iPhone’s new Portrait Style Lighting Effects.

Emoji gets a new twist too with a feature built into the messaging app called Animoji that can recognize and track facial expressions to animate a set of 12 different emoji. You must check out our first impressions video to see it in action.

Here are some sample photos taken with the rear camera:

While Apple has been pretty serious about a consistent experience across all its products, the new iPhone X diverts from what Apple users have come to expect.

First, its power button is now called a side button. To power off the device, you’ll need to press down on both the side button and volume up button. Press once on the side button and it turns off the display; press and hold it to summon Siri.

The absence of the home button also introduces a whole range of gesture-based navigation controls.

From any app swipe up from the bottom of the display to go home; swipe up and pause to bring up the multitasking window; swipe down from the right side of the notch to bring up the control center; swipe down from the left side to bring up the lock screen slash notification panel; and swipe down from anywhere else on the screen to bring up the search menu.

It takes a whole lot of getting used to, mostly because swiping up and down did other things on previous versions of the iPhone.

I think that, in a nutshell, lays the predicate for our review coming soon. While we are excited about everything the iPhone X has to offer, because it’s so different from previous iPhones, we’re curious to see how we’ll feel when we’ve made the iPhone X our daily driver over the next week or so.

There are other things worth looking into. How important is its A11 Bionic Chip? Is battery life good as Apple promises? Is wireless charging a feature that no one will use even if it’s something us tech journalists have sorta demanded?

We’ll be publishing a full review really soon, but in the meantime, let us know what you’d like us to find out about the iPhone X. And while you wait for that review, here’s our unboxing and hands-on video.

SEE ALSO: Apple iPhone X Unboxing and Hands-On

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy M20 hands-on: Give the users what they want

Awakening of the sleeping giant

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Samsung has been the smartphone market leader for half a decade now, and its flagship phones continue to be an inspiration for everyone. However, while the brand is dominating in developed markets, it has taken a massive beating in the developing ones.

Thanks to players like Xiaomi, the South Korean brand has consistently lost market share in countries like India. Samsung slowly prepared itself to change strategy by the end of last year and intends to go hard in 2019. It announced the new Galaxy M-series lineup of phones in the budget segment and the M10 and M20 are the first ones to roll off the shelf.

The M20 has been launched in India for INR 10,990 (US$ 154) and comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. The option with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage costs INR 12,990 (US$ 182). The phone goes up against the Redmi 6 Pro, Realme U1, and even the Mi A2.

To start with, Samsung has opted to go with a basic design, consisting of a plastic body that is curved at the edges and is pretty glossy. The phone is extremely comfortable to hold, and the build quality is top-notch. Even the buttons are very tactile and bezels are smaller.

On the front is a 6.3-inch TFT display with a Full HD resolution and small water-drop style notch on the top. This is the first Samsung phone to feature a notch, and the display quality is surprisingly good. The color production is vivid and satisfying, while the viewing angles are perfect. It is easily visible even under direct sunlight.

For authentication, a fingerprint scanner is located on the rear and it is fast enough. You also have the option of face unlock and it works quickly in well-lit conditions. It has dual-SIM support and there’s a separate slot for microSD card, as well.

Powering the phone is an octa-core Exynos 7904 processor, which is considered to be on par with the Snapdragon 636. It is a very power-efficient processor with more emphasis on the cameras. Day-to-day tasks are handled smoothly and games like PUBG are playable with low graphics.

It has a dual-camera setup on the rear, consisting of a 13-megapixel primary shooter and a 5-megapixel wide-angle sensor. The pictures clicked during daytime are decently saturated but lack sharpness. Even focus tends to get slow in low-light conditions. The wide-angle lens works best in bright surroundings only and is a very handy tool. For selfies, it has an 8-megapixel shooter with built-in beauty enhancements.

It ships with Samsung Experience 9.5 out of the box and is actually well optimized. There is barely any lag and the UI offers a plethora of customizations and features. The company announced that the Android Pie update will be landing soon. Lastly, it has a massive 5000mAh battery that’ll get you through two days of usage.

Xiaomi has been successful because it offers users a balanced product that suits everyone’s needs. With the M20, Samsung goes down the same road. While the recently announced A-series phones were for photography enthusiasts, the M20 is good enough for everything.

The M20 is no disruptor, but an indication that Samsung is gearing up. And as a generation-one product, it’s performing fairly well.

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Cameras

Fujifilm Instax SQ20 hands-on: How good is it?

Trying out the new Motion Mode on doggies!

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Fujifilm’s sequel to their first ever digital/analog hybrid is here and it’s looking better than ever. The Instax SQ20 is one classy-looking instant camera but what can it do? With a set of built-in filters and new features like the Motion Mode, it looks like a promising device.

I finally try it out, with help from some doggies, on our hands-on video.

The SQ20 retails for US$ 199 in the US, PhP 12,999 in the Philippines, and SG$ 299 in Singapore.

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

READ ALSO: Fujifilm Instax SQ10 review

READ ALSO: Prynt Pocket unboxing and review: A printer that prints videos?

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Hands-On

Huawei Nova 4 Hands-on: A ‘hole’ new approach

Does the punch-hole display make a difference?

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One of the reasons why Huawei is always on the news, aside from the controversies, is because they have new phones every other week. I’m still loving the Mate 20 Pro for its amazing cameras, but there’s now the Nova 4 that, in my opinion, will be an interesting option for new smartphone buyers.

The Huawei Nova 4 offers pretty much everything a premium midrange phone should: a nice display, beautiful body, and good cameras. It’s also one of the few phones in the market that has a hole in its display instead of a notch.

Is a punch-hole display more preferable than a notch? That’s what I tried to find out while using the Nova 4 for this hands-on.

First, let’s start with the basics:

It’s got a notch-less 6.4-inch display

In exchange, there’s a hole for the front camera

There’s support for two nano-SIM cards

No space for a microSD card, though

On its right are the physical buttons

They blend in well with the phone’s frame

The 3.5mm headphone jack is on top

Along with an IR blaster and noise-canceling microphone

At the bottom is the reversible USB-C port

There’s also the loudspeaker and main microphone

The back houses three cameras

And the swift fingerprint reader

The gradient color scheme is present

This has become Huawei’s signature

Can’t deny that it’s from Huawei

From its body to its color, the Nova 4 contains 100 percent of Huawei’s DNA. Gone are the days where we associate every touchscreen phone as an iPhone. Once the gradient color of the Nova 4 shifts, it instantly captivates. The usual question I get when my friends see me holding the Nova 4 is: It that a Huawei?

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a phone with an extreme persona like this Aurora Blue variant of the Nova 4 I have for review. I still prefer my discreet OnePlus 6 in black, but that’s just me. Of course, there’s a black variant of the Nova 4 available as well for those who don’t want a phone that becomes a centerpiece on a table.

The shape and size of the Nova 4 are no different from any premium phone that came out lately. It’s got a glass front and back with a shiny metal frame and the sides of the phone curve gently, making it easier to grip. Overall, I found no issues about the build of the Nova 4, aside from it being smudgy most of the time.

At first, I found the punch-hole to be as annoying as the notch. The hole is larger than expected, but I got used to it. Most apps treat the hole like a notch, so the experience is similar to before. The punch-hole doesn’t have an advantage over the notch in terms of usability.

Where the punch-hole shines is how it’s more tolerable when watching a video in full screen. Some games are not aware of the area the hole is occupying, thus control buttons get covered. Turning off the “full screen display” switch for some games fixes this.

Flagship-grade speed and stability

Enough with the looks; let’s now dive into the internals of the phone. The brain of the Nova 4 is the Kirin 970 processor. It’s the previous flagship 10nm chipset from Huawei’s own labs. It’s also inside the Mate 10 and the P20 series. Moreover, the Nova 4 has the same processor as its predecessor.

Performance-wise, there’s no big difference. This means Nova 3 owners don’t need to upgrade, unless they want a new and different-looking phone. The advantage of the Nova 4 is its upgraded memory to 8GB, although storage remains the same at 128GB.

Android Pie comes out of the box with Huawei’s EMUI 9 placed on top. Frankly, there’s not much new about the custom interface since EMUI 6, aside from the staple features of Android Pie. The heavy skin of EMUI doesn’t affect the performance of the phone, but it’s also not the best-looking.

In terms of gaming, popular titles like Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile are playable on high graphics settings. There’s no sign of hiccups or lag thanks to the optimizations by Huawei’s GPU Turbo.

As mentioned, the hole in the display is considered a “notch” by the system, so you can still hide the area it occupies by diving into the Settings panel. This makes the phone look hole-free, but you lose the extra screen real estate in some apps. So far, there are no issues with system and third-party apps, and I hope it stays that way.

Good cameras with ultra wide-angle lens

When it comes to taking photos, the Nova 4 doesn’t disappoint. It’s got a main 20-megapixel camera paired with an ultra wide-angle 16-megapixel shooter. There’s also a 2-megapixel depth sensor to help in taking portrait shots with bokeh effect. As for selfies, the 25-megapixel front camera can take detailed and pleasing stills.

AI scene detection is available both on the front and rear cameras, so the phone always helps in taking the best-possible photo. Check out these samples:

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Like with most camera phones, the Nova 4 can take good-looking photos in broad daylight. Good thing the quality doesn’t drop when shooting indoors or in the evening. Generally, the Nova 4 is a capable phone for taking photos, except the ultra wide-angle lens doesn’t sport autofocus. Night mode is also available when you need to take photos in incredibly dark environments.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Huawei Nova 4 is a new smartphone with a fresh approach to the notch dilemma. If you dislike the notch, the punch-hole display is your next best option.

For me, the ideal best bezel-less phone doesn’t have a notch or a hole — just like the Mi Mix 3, OPPO Find X, or Vivo NEX. Those phones have their own issues about their approach, however. It’s just a matter of preference at this point because nothing is perfect — for now.

While I wait for the perfect bezel-less phone without moving parts or display cutouts, I appreciate the options given to us. In the end, it’s your choice if you want a notch, a hole, or a mechanism to house the selfie camera. There are also phones without front cameras at all, maybe that’s your cup of tea — or coffee.

SEE ALSO: How the Huawei Watch GT made me believe in smartwatches

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