Buyer's Guide

ASUS Holiday: Laptop Buyer’s Guide

There’s an ASUS laptop for everyone!

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With the holidays around the corner and gift giving on everyone’s minds, I figured it’s time for another Buyer’s Guide video, for those of you looking to splurge on a Windows laptop for yourselves or your loved ones.

If you follow me on social media, you have probably noticed that I miss Taiwan. Usually my trips there have been to visit ASUS.

Since I can’t be there in person this year, I’ve partnered with them to feature some of their best laptops from the 2020-2021 release cycle.

ExpertBook

For the business savvy user, ASUS has its ExpertBook line, which comes with enterprise security features that are required by most big companies for office-issued devices.

The new ExpertBook B9450 is the world’s lightest business laptop weighing in at just 880 grams, or 1.9 pounds.

This is largely because it’s built with magnesium-lithium alloy instead of aluminum. If you’re a business traveler this alone is reason enough to consider it.

Despite its weighing next to nothing it’s packed with plenty of performance power and battery life, including the latest Intel 11th generation processors, up to 32GB of memory, and up to 2 terabytes of storage space. Its 66 watt hour Battery is also rated to last up to 24 hours of use, which is insane.

It’s got the same Ergo Lift Hinge and Number Pad found on the ZenBook.

Charging is quick too. With the bundled charger you can get from 0 to 60% in just 45 minutes. Worth mentioning is a cool design feature where the charging indicator is located in front of the device.

It’s got a generous amount of ports as well: two Thunderbolt 4  USB-C ports, one USB Type 8 port, a full-sized HDMI port, a mini ethernet port via micro HDMI, a Kensington lock slot, and a headphone jack.

Enterprise users will also appreciate its host of security features: biometric unlock using either your fingers or an IR camera. There’s also a WebCam Shield for even added privacy and an optional Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip for storing passwords and encryption keys.

The ExpertBook B9450 is built for this new world where everyone is teleconferencing. It’s got four 360 degree far-field microphones, and a feature called ClearVoice mic that uses Artificial Intelligence that can filter out unwanted noise  so you sound great during Zoom calls.

Finally, what’s incredible about this machine is that despite how light it is, it also boasts of military grade toughness.

ASUS says it’s been tested to the extremes: heat, cold, vibrations, and dust; the lid can endure up to 30kg of force; its keyboard is spill-proof; and it’s rugged enough to withstand drops.

For the enterprise user on the go, I recommend the ExpertBook B9450. Models start at US$ 1,299 and goes all the way up to US$ 1,999.

Check out the ExpertBook B9 series here.

VivoBook

For those who don’t want to spend a lot of money, ASUS’s VivoBook line is a good place to start. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, I recommend the US$ 699 VivoBook Flip.

Powered by a Ryzen 7 system on a chip and packed with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid state drive, it’s got more than enough performance power.

Whether you need a machine for school work or an affordable option for starting a small business, that AMD Ryzen chip is a 7 nanometer CPU, which means it’s also incredibly power efficient.

Like all of the laptops featured in this video this one is slim and light, thanks to the aluminum alloy that’s used on both its chassis and lid. The top cover has a matte finish that contrasts nicely against its glossy hinges.

The design feature I like the most about ASUS laptops is something called an ErgoLift Hinge. This gives these laptops a more ergonomic lift when opened — hence its name.

This means you’re typing at an angle. It also creates an air pocket for better cooling.

True to its name the VivoBook Flip can open up all the way and flip around. This 360 degree hinge mechanism means you can prop it up in tent mode for watching movies or like a tablet for taking notes.

ASUS ships the VivoBook Flip with a stylus; it’s got a touch screen too.

Let’s talk about ports because there are a lot of them: a full sized HDMI port, two USB-A ports, one USB-C port, and a microSD card reader.

The VivoBook Flip comes with a full sized keyboard that’s spill-resistant. This is perfect for folks like me who always has a drink when working.

It’s got a dedicated Function Lock Key so you can easily switch between Function and Hot Keys. Notice too, the enter key has a yellow outline around it. ASUS calls this design element the Gen Z key, which reflects this generation’s questioning of old systems and striving for positive change.

ASUS promises almost 12 hours of battery life on a single charge and it comes with a fast charger that can get you from 0 to 60% in 50 minutes.

This is the ASUS VivoBook, my value for money pick that starts at US$ 699. Look out for some online deals as I’ve seen it retailing for just around 500 bucks.

Check out the VivoBook 14 M413 here.  

Check out the VivoBook Flip 14 TM420 here.

ZenBook

If you’re looking to get real fancy, this next laptop has got all the coolest features one can find on a laptop today.

The ZenBook is ASUS’s most premium laptop and that’s pretty clear from the way it looks. Machined out of aluminum, its jade black finish is accented by red copper accents and diamond cut chamfers.

Etched on its lid is a circular pattern that’s become a design signature on ASUS’s products for years now.

The ZenBook Flip S is only 14mm at its thickest point and weighs in at 1.3kg.

Like the VivoBook, the entire ZenBook line also has the ErgoLift hinge designed for better ergonomics when typing, as well as increasing space ventilation and heat dissipation.

Because this is the Flip variant, that means the screen opens up all the way so you can use it like you would a tablet. Our unit came bundled with the Asus Pen 2.0 stylus that comes with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. It’s perfect for both note taking or engaging the creative side of your brain.

Despite its compact form factor it’s got a full sized backlit keyboard that’s almost flushed against the edges of the device. There’s an extra column of keys  for Home, Page up, and Page Down that you don’t usually find on laptops.

If you’re missing dedicated number keys, just press and hold on the top right corner of the trackpad. It will light up revealing the Number Pad. You can also swipe on the top left corner to bring up the calculator. This dedicated Number Pad is such a great feature for those who on programs like Excel or Google Sheets.

The headline feature of the ZenBook Flip has got to be its 4K OLED display. It’s not something you see on everyday laptops, and the same kind of tech that’s on the most desired TVs today.

This display makes it the best kind of laptop for watching movies on, with excellent contrast and rich vibrant colors.

It’s an excellent display for content creators, too, whether you’re editing videos or photos. The color accuracy on this machine is top notch.

This maxed out ZenBook Flip S comes with all the good stuff: an Intel  i7 processor, 16GB of memory, and 1TB of storage. Its 67 watt hour battery is rated to last up to 15 hours on a single charge.

If you’re looking to splurge on a premium laptop that looks and plays the part, I recommend the ASUS ZenBook Flip S. This 4K OLED model retails for over US$ 1,600, but you can also get the non-OLED FullHD model for almost half the price: US$ 899.

For even more savings get a Ryzen-based ZenBook for as low as US$ 839.

Check out the ZenBook Flip S here.

Which ASUS laptop is your GadgetMatch?

If you need a durable, thin, light, and secure laptop, get the US$ 1,299 ExpertBook.

The best Asus laptop for school or those on a budget is the US$ 699 VivoBook.

If you’re looking to splurge on the more premium and fully-specced out laptop ASUS has on offer, get the 4K OLED ZenBook for US$ 1,600.

Watch the full video here.

Accessories

Should you buy the Sony WF-1000XM4?

Here’s a quick guide

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Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony is back again with another top-of-the-line pair of true wireless (TWS) earbuds and it’s one that’s worthy of your consideration. Roughly a couple of years after the launch of the Sony WF-1000XM4, we now have the Sony WF-1000XM4. Should you spend your hard earned cash on it? That’s what we’ll try to answer.

We do have a pretty comprehensive review of the WF-1000XM4. But if that’s a little too long for you, consider this article the TLDR. Let’s dive right in.

It’s within your budget

It should go without saying but in hard times such as now, one shouldn’t mindlessly splurge on the shiniest new tech out there. That said, if you can shell out PhP 13,999 (US$ 280 / SG$ 379 / MYR 1099) then by all means, grab this pair. It’s easily one of the best devices in its category and is definitely worth every penny.

You’re an Android user

Sony WF-1000XM4

STAYC’s “Stereotype” is bop. Give it a listen.

Sony has this tech called LDAC. While it’s not exactly hi-res audio, it’s likely the closest thing to it. Here’s an entire explainer from the SoundGuys if you want a deep dive on it. And sadly, this format isn’t supported by any iPhone as of writing. To experience the absolute best audio quality that the WF-1000XM4 has to offer, you’re better off being on Android.

Now, that’s not to say it’s terrible on iPhones or any other device. In fact, we’ve used this on both an iPhone and a Mac and the audio quality is still a blessing to the ears. You’re not getting the ‘absolute best’ but it’s still better than most others.

You care about the environment

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony moved away from the usual box you expect from devices of this caliber. Instead, they’re using recycled packaging for the WF-1000XM4. It’s plastic free and is made from a special blend of paper.

It’s a move to the more sustainable side of things and it’s one we’re totally down with. Besides, if you’re looking for that premier feeling, there’s no shortage of that on the device itself.

You’re not a fan of the AirPods design

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony WF-1000XM4 with the Huawei Freebuds Pro. Don’t have AirPods on hand, sorry.

Pretty much every other manufacturer who jumped on the TWS market followed Apple’s cue. That means TWS earbuds that have a stem. While we’ve gotten used to the look over the years, the general perception is still that if it has a stem, it’s an AirPods copycat. This despite other brands giving their own spin on it.

The stem isn’t just for show though. For most of these earbuds, they serve as a mic. During our tests, they’ve generally performed better in call situations over ones that don’t have them.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 is still pretty decent for voice and video calls, so if you can live with that and want something that doesn’t stick out of your ear too much, then this is the choice for you.

You want something for multiple uses

Multiple uses in every kind of sense. The WF-1000XM4 promises up to eight hours of music playback with noise cancellation switched on, and the case can supply an additional 16 hours of battery life via charging. That’s pretty consistent with our usage.

Trust us, you’re not gonna have these on for eight hours straight anyway. With its IPX4 rating, it’s water resistant enough to take with you for workouts. After freshening up from exercise, you can use it for a few work meetings here and there. And then you can cap your day by listening to your favorite podcast or music — for us, it’s been a heavy dose of TWICE tracks, STAYC’s “Stereotype” and some Slow Jams to put us to bed.

That’s what regular daily use looks like. And we’ve only had to charge the device after two to three days. Of course, that’ll vary depending on your usage — which, no matter what that may be, the WF-1000XM4 can handle mightily.

SEE ALSO: Sony WF-1000XM4 review: Simply the best

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Buyer's Guide

Best 5G smartphones you can buy today (Philippines)

From flagships to lower midrange smartphones

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5G smartphones are becoming increasingly common these days. Once a flagship-exclusive feature, more and more smartphones are featuring 5G, especially those in the midrange segment. In the Philippines, you have many options nowadays thanks to OEMs bringing their competitive offerings to the market.

While more and more smartphones are coming in with 5G, adoption of the next-gen network is still at a breakneck pace in the country. Major telcos are upping their game though, with many areas receiving 5G connectivity sooner than later. Still, you have to be mindful of the areas without 5G yet — there are still a lot in the country, to be exact.

You don’t have to wait for a country-wide adoption of 5G to take advantage of its benefits though. Through these smartphones, you can now enjoy faster network speeds and flaunt the venerable “5G” icon to your friends. Here are the some of best 5G smartphones you can buy in the Philippines now, sorted by categories.

Flagship (PhP 30,000 and above)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Starts at PhP 69,990)

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra could arguably be the best 5G smartphone from the beloved Korean company to date. It has all the features one can ask from a flagship, including cutting-edge cameras and top-notch performance. 5G connectivity is made possible by next-gen processors such as the Exynos 2100 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 888.

Yes, the camera hump is still there but a refined design and the 108MP wide-angle primary camera should be enough to gloss this over. The Infinity-O display is also here to stay, along with 1440P+ resolution. Coupled with the fact that it now receives up to four years of software updates, the Galaxy S21 Ultra surely delivers in both the hardware and software front.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (Starts at PhP 68,990)

This year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max is one of the first Apple devices to feature 5G conectivity. Upon first glance, Apple’s most expensive and largest flagship may look the same as last year’s model. After all, it still has the same three cameras on the back, and a notch that seems out of place in 2021. Make no mistake, however, since Apple has actually refreshed the design of its flagships to have flatter edges. Plus, there is a brand-new LiDAR sensor on the back along with MagSafe — Apple’s new proprietary wireless charging connector.

These changes and additions may not interest all users, but it is enough to give the iPhone 12 Pro Max a competitive edge. Couple that with six years of software support and you basically have a flagship worth your hard-earned money.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro (PhP 55,999)

This may not be the best time to adopt a Huawei flagship given the precarious situation the company finds itself in, but the Mate 40 Pro impresses at almost every level. The back design is arguably the one of best out there in the market today.  It hides the camera setup very well, which by the way is perfectly versatile and well-rounded. With a Kirin 9000 chipset running the show, buyers can expect a top-notch performance that punches its weight against Qualcomm and Samsung’s offerings.

The chipset also has a 5G modem built-in to support the next-gen network. For those worried about the app situation, Huawei has come a long way in remedying the lack of Google apps and Play Store on their devices. However, getting some of popular apps still proves to be a challenge though.

ASUS ROG Phone 5 (PhP 39,995)

A 5G-enabled gaming smartphone is what the ASUS ROG Phone 5 is all about, and it never failed on that front. The gaming-centric design is still here to stay, but ASUS surely fitted some cool tricks on the ROG Phone 5 that you may have seen before on certain ROG laptops.

Powering the device is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 with a Qualcomm Game Quick Touch included for best-in-class responsiveness. Truly, responsiveness is the name of the game since its display comes with a whopping 144Hz refresh rate. If those aren’t enough, it also has a 6,000 mAh battery is to keep going whatever tasks you throw at it.

Xiaomi Mi 11 (PhP 36,990)

Unarguably one of the first smartphones to launch with the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, Xiaomi Mi 11 offers 2021 flagship specs at a bang-for-the-buck price. That has been the case for Xiaomi’s flagships anyway, which always have shook the competition with an attractive pairing of specs with prices.

One of the notable elements for Xiaomi’s latest flagship is the more rounded corners of the camera bump, which helps the Mi 11 stay distinct from its competitors. By the way, the camera bump houses a humongous 108 MP primary wide-angle lens paired with a 13 MP ultra-wide and a 5 MP depth sensor. Xiaomi also took the time to refine MIUI for version 12 in the Mi 11. Granted, ads are still a part of the OS but users now have more control over which apps they can uninstall or disable.

Upper Midrange (PhP 20,000 to PhP 29,999)

OnePlus 8T (PhP 29,990)

OnePlus’ tradition of bringing flagship features at bargain prices continues with the 8T, which is more than a refinement of the highly-popular 8 series. 5G connectivity is possible thanks to the included Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor. That processor alone is indicative of flagship performance, and it shows on this device. Everything just runs smoothly, which is also thanks to OxygenOS 11.

Buyers expecting flagship camera performance, however, would be a bit disappointed on the 8T. It is a great all-around camera for sure, but it lags behind flagships in night-time situations. Water-resistance ratings are also absent here as a cost-cutting measure. Finally, it lacks a curved display which is one of the highlights of the OnePlus 8 Pro.

vivo V20 Pro (PhP 24,999)

vivo continues to enjoy success on its V-series devices, which are predominantly midrange devices. The V20 series offers a Pro variant that features 5G, thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor. This Pro variant is exactly the V20 Pro, which the company touts as the world’s slimmest 5G smartphone yet.

Aside from its thin profile, the device packs respectable specs for its class. The processor itself is quite capable, handling games, apps, and some intensive tasks. Likewise, the camera setup is versatile for almost every scenario thanks to the 64MP wide-angle lens coupled with an 8 MP ultra-wide and a 2MP depth sensor.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G (PhP 23,990)

For 2021, Samsung is finally getting more serious about its A-series lineup and the latest Galaxy A52 5G is an evidence for this. Gone are the flashy yet equally divisive design of the yesteryear, now replaced by a minimal yet almost-professional look thanks to a unibody matte finish all throughout the device.

The display also gets a nice bump in the refresh rate department, which is now a whopping 120Hz for the 5G-enabled variant. The processor here is also a win, with Samsung fitting in a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G. The primary rear camera gets a bump to 64MP, while the battery sees modest increase to 4,500 mAh. Almost everything here gets a nice bump, and Samsung is even generous to include IP67 dust and water resistance.

OPPO Reno5 5G (PhP 23,990)

OPPO is shaking things up on the upper midrange segment with the release of OPPO Reno5 5G. It is the smaller brother of the Reno5 Pro 5G, having a 6.4-inch FHD+ resolution instead. Beyond that, it retains almost all of the features including the quad-camera setup in the form of 64MP wide-angle + 8MP ultra-wide-angle + 2MP depth + 2MP macro lens.

With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, the device supports 5G connectivity and features modest performance for almost everyone. It’s not exactly flagship class, but it has the chops to play even the most graphically intensive games. And yes, the 3.5mm headphone jack is still here, which is getting quite rare to find in this price segment.

OnePlus Nord (PhP 21,990)

OnePlus stole the scene again last 2020 when it launched its first Nord device. It was the brand’s another attempt in the midrange segment after the ill-fated OnePlus X. So far, OnePlus’ strategy is working, with Nord driving sales for the brand thanks to its unique set of features including OxygenOS. When it launched in the Nord, it represented an Android purists’ dream.

Since then, the OS underwent major changes in its latest version mimicking another brand’s signature design. Still, it is not as bloated as the others. Beyond the OS, OnePlus Nord offers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor and a quad-camera setup. That camera setup may not excel in one particular area, but it is decent enough for most situations.

Huawei Nova 7 5G (PhP 17,990)

Huawei has put compelling options in recent years, and the Nova 7 5G is no exception. It is one of the first devices in the upper midrange segment to feature 5G, all thanks to the in-house Kirin 985 chipset. The chipset definitely keeps up with everything thrown at it, even on the most intensive tasks. Battery life is also a big plus for the midrange. Finally, its camera is definitely capable of any situation.

The plastic build and lack of a 3.5mm audio jack may put off some buyers, but it definitely is a well-made phone featuring everything one can ask for a flagship at a reasonable price. The biggest drawback though: the lack of Google apps and Play Store.

Lower Midrange (PhP 10,000 to PhP 19,999)

Mi 10T (PhP 19,990)

Xiaomi is only one of the few that dared to offer a 5G smartphone in the Philippines with a sub-PhP 20K price. Yes, the Mi 10T is still dangerously close to PhP 20K, but it represents one of the best bang-in-the-buck devices right now.

First, it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor for flagship performance. It is quite rare for any brand to offer a device with a flagship processor in this price segment, but Xiaomi is not like any of those brands. The Mi 10T also gets a capable camera setup, with triple cameras in the rear providing flexible shooting modes.

TCL 10 5G (PhP 17,990)

Some of you out there may get confused with the inclusion of a TCL smartphone. Include this on your “today I learned” — TCL makes smartphones that are worth a second look. Chief among that is the TCL 10 5G with a price so appealing for buyers who really wanted to have a 5G-capable smartphone.

It’s no slouch too with the features it packs. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G runs the show, and the HDR-capable full HD display is something worth looking at. It even has a glass body which is truly quite rare for the price. Bundle in a headphone jack, and you clearly have a winner with the TCL 10 5G.

moto g 5G Plus (PhP 16,990)

It’s no secret that the primary draw of the moto g 5G Plus is its 5G capability. But there’s more to this phone. It sports a tall 6.7-inch FHD+ display with support for a 90Hz refresh rate, comes with a satisfyingly clean My UX, and equipped with a no-slouch Snapdragon 765G chipset.

Furthermore, this phone promises up to two days of battery life with its 5000mAh battery. And it fills up quickly with its 20W TurboPower charging. It’s easily one of the affordable options you can have if you’re looking for a future-proof handset.

No budget option yet

There are now quite a few 5G smartphones in the Philippines, and there’s more incoming as adoption continues to grow. However, it is quite baffling to see that there are no budget 5G smartphones yet. By the way, budget here means smartphones costing less than PhP 10,000.

One of the probable reasons why is the cost involved in the manufacturing process. Like every other technology, it takes time for the cost of manufacturing to go down especially with the strained capacity and logistics. The same goes for the manufacturing of modems that enable 5G connectivity.

As general advice, buyers rocking a 4G smartphone shouldn’t outright buy a new 5G-enabled smartphone just yet. Yes, it is the future of cellular networks but it doesn’t mean the end for 4G yet. For the greatest and the latest though, smartphones with 5G are the way to go.

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