Hands-On

The ASUS ZenBook S13 does the job while looking good

Those bezels are really slim!

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Some laptops are meant to look flashy, while some focus on a specific feature to make them stand out. It looks like ASUS came up with something that ticks both of those in the form of the ZenBook S13. It’s got a premium-looking design, the slimmest bezels in town, and specs that allow you to do more.

Since the ZenBook S13 is about accomplishing things and looking good while doing it, you won’t see cheap plastic on this laptop. The S13 is built with an all-metal chassis with a spun-metal finish for that signature ASUS touch. It’s not just made for show as it’s durable as well.

ASUS says the laptop goes through a series of stress tests during production that include drop, shock, vibration, and even altitude tests. This ensures each unit meets the military standard for extra toughness. So don’t worry about accidentally subjecting it to stress inside your bag, for example.

Design-wise, the company went with an elegant Utopian Blue color and an ErgoLift that we’re pretty familiar with. Once the lid opens, it lifts the chassis for a more comfortable typing experience and better audio performance through its down-firing speakers. But, the most important function of this design is to allow airflow underneath for better cooling so it can perform longer and faster.

When you get past the entertaining lifting action, you will then be greeted by its 13.9-inch display that maximizes its borders. On paper, the company is proud to claim the title of the world’s slimmest bezels at 2.5mm and world’s largest screen-to-body ratio at 97 percent. The thin border does make the Full HD screen pop out more, especially when you’re watching videos online and on full screen.

The company was also able to make the laptop smaller than previous 13.9-inch models like its very own ZenBook 3 Deluxe. Weighing a little over a kilo, the ZenBook S13 is really easy to carry around and is compact enough to seamlessly fit inside backpacks.

As we mentioned during our first look, the clickable trackpad doesn’t give much space to move around. Although we really couldn’t expect much considering how thin and compact this thing is. Good news, though: There’s an embedded fingerprint sensor on the upper-right corner for an added layer of security. It scans fast and is a quicker way to access your account than typing your password.

Speaking of typing, the keyboard is a joy to use. The keys have good travel, are easy for fast typing, and are back-lit so using it at night or in a dimly lit environment is never a struggle. It’s an immediate appreciation for how it feels natural while typing.

Sound quality is sometimes overlooked, and I’ve always wanted my laptop to have good speakers. The ZenBook S13 features a bottom-firing Harman Kardon sound system and they actually deliver great quality. It can get pretty loud, too, filling up an average living room easily.

In terms of connectivity, there are two USB-C ports on the left side with support for fast charging, data transfers, and external displays. Meanwhile, a single USB-A is on the right side along with a 3.5mm audio jack for microphone/headphones input. These total to three USB 3.1 ports that are ready to accommodate input for working alone or presenting on a meeting. Oh, and there’s a microSD reader built into the S13.

And if you still need more, ASUS says there’s a bundled Mini Dock that adds two extra USB ports and HDMI for the S13. It basically has your necessities covered to deliver that presentation.

Of course, all these features mean nothing if the internals are not up to the task. Inside, this thin laptop is equipped with up to an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA MX150 GPU. ASUS takes pride in the S13 being the world’s slimmest laptop with a dedicated discrete graphics.

If needed, you can add up to 16GB of RAM to maximize what it can do and thanks to this tandem, I was able to sit down, pull it out of my backpack, and do light video editing even on the go. It runs Windows 10 Pro and storage comes in at up to a 1TB SSD for faster boot up from sleep when you resume working.

For this part, I probably know what you’re thinking: How’s the battery life on something this small with not-so-basic internals and a larger display? Well, ASUS claims a battery life of up to 15 hours on a single charge.

In real-life usage, I was able to use it to browse the internet for a good hour and a half, edit photos while blasting music through its loudspeakers, and edit videos for about four hours before needing to plug in again. Basically, it lasted longer compared to similar laptops I’ve used before. As a cherry on top, it has fast charging, achieving about 70 percent of juice within an hour.

There hasn’t been an official list of prices for the different configurations, but according to reputable websites that have the same specs (Core i7, GeForce MX150, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD), it retails for US$ 1,399.

Hands-On

Make moments tangible with Instax Square Link

Time to print those core memories!

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instax square link

Life looks pretty in squares — that’s how Instagram shaped our favorite moments in the past decade.

With every core memory uploaded in our social media feed for the world to see, there’s still something poignant about keeping a hard copy of your favorite moments. It feels nostalgic to be reminded of the good things in your life.

That’s what the Instax Square Link delivers. The newest instant printer comes in square, as compared to its previous siblings in the instax link lineup.

The sweet spot

The previous instant printers come in the usual mini film prints, and a wide, rectangular one. Having a square format provides a sweet spot for instant prints since it’s neither too big nor small.

Even the design of the device itself looks almost square, albeit taller. It sports the usual big button in its center that powers up the device, while there’s a smaller circle on its top-left part for linking the device to your smartphone.

It’s still as straightforward as it gets, whether you’re already familiar with previous instax printers or not. You simply click the big button until it lights up, link it to your smartphone and confirm the serial number found on the bottom side of the device, and do all the magic inside the app — which you can download via App Store or Play Store.

instax square link

New device, new features

The instax Square Link carries all the good things from the previous instax printers through its dedicated app.

You can still make personalized stickers, continuously print your best moments with just a press of a button, and collage and edit your photos in frames. They’re pretty much the same features you can find on the instax Link WIDE and instax mini Link 2.

instax square link

However, instax introduced new features that make printing more exciting. Now, instax takes AR to a new level by allowing users to print with personalized AR effects, accessible using a QR code.

It also included a feature where you can chat with a friend or loved one and have the conversation printed as text bubbles to add a more personal touch for those who are in long-distance relationships.

Printing your favorite moments

instax square link

While the new features are a much-welcome addition, I still stick to what Instax is good about. At its core, it’s still printing your favorite moments and of course, sharing them with the people you love.

Back then, I would print my photos and keep them to myself — inside photobooks and boxes that would never see the light of day unless I’m feeling nostalgic.

Being surrounded by new people encouraged me to be more giving, rather than just being selfish with my memories. And instead of constantly seeking validation and sharing my favorite moments with the world, I now love the idea of being intimate and sharing my core memories with only a handful of people.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

instax square link

The Instax Square Link is still an instant printer like its siblings. If square formats are your thing, this is easily your GadgetMatch. For wide, rectangular prints, there’s the instax Link WIDE.

And if the original, mini-sized film prints are what you’re after, you can never go wrong with the instax mini Link 2. Whatever formats you want, there’s an instax for you.

The instax Square Link comes in Ash White and Midnight Green. It’s available in all authorized Fujifilm instax dealers nationwide and Fujifilm’s online flagship stores.

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Hands-On

90 days with the Galaxy Z Fold4

A three-month affair with Samsung’s high-end foldable

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Galaxy Z Fold4

The first time I laid eyes on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4, it felt like seeing a friend whom you know has gone through several character developments.

It’s not a love-at-first-sight scenario unlike what struck me when I saw the Galaxy Z Flip3. Despite having a marvelous time using the Fold’s predecessor, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of having a long-time affair with this foldable smartphone.

So I gave it another try — 90 days, that is. Just like that hilarious reality series brimming with loathsome personalities.

30 days

On the first month of having the Galaxy Z Fold4, I treated it like a partner that I’m becoming acquainted with. I thought of it as an ex-lover who got better, trying to win my heart again.

The first thing I did was personalize it to my liking. I ordered a case from China that would make me happy while using the device while keeping it protected from scratches and dents — if it accidentally slips.

Using it bare, you can feel that the device is lighter than its predecessors. True to the company’s claim. It’s like a classic tale of shedding a few pounds and increasing your worth. The Fold is more attractive when it’s lightweight.

Yet somehow, it didn’t feel safe and secure in my grip. It’s slippery, too massive in my tiny hands, and still felt fragile despite proving its immense durability over the years.

A smartphone with an almost US$ 2000 price tag is certainly delicate, no matter how you look at it.

With the phone case I bought, the Fold felt heavier but it gave me assurance that it was protected from anything that might break it.

Arm and eye candy

I’ve brought the Galaxy Z Fold4 to meetings, events, and conferences. Every time I whip it out of my bag, I pique the crowd’s curiosity.

The Fold4 isn’t a shiny new toy anymore. But it bedazzles anyone who sees it for a multitude of reasons. Expensive, a unique form factor, and surely, an innovation to most eyes.

It’s like having a partner that’s both an arm and eye candy. I enjoy the attention I get from the crowd, mesmerizing them as I showcase the Fold’s camera features.

I can take a group selfie like a regular smartphone, or prop it open and use its under-display camera. Furthermore, I used the rear camera to take a selfie, by exhibiting how the secondary screen can act as a mirror when taking photos.

The same trick can be used when taking portraits of friends and acquaintances, so they can strike a pose while giving them a glimpse of how they’d look.

Here are some photos I took using the Galaxy Z Fold4 in different modes:

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

The Galaxy Z Fold4 has a versatile arsenal of cameras at its disposal, breaking the notion that all features of a flagship smartphone should be used to maximize its worth.

After all, people have different preferences and usage regarding the devices they own. With a unique form factor, the Fold sets itself as an everyday device that can adapt to different situations. At least, that’s what I thought of after having the device for a month.

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

60 days

Days with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 got a little bit stale after the first month, seeing how I got swamped with various projects at work.

The honeymoon phase fizzled already, getting used to having the Fold with me at all times.

I’ve recognized its ability to help me catch up with work while on the go. It lets me check designs, communicate through emails and chats while power walking through fifth and ninth avenue in Bonifacio Global City. With it, I can also monitor my platforms through its big screen.

Galaxy Z Fold4

Occasionally, I use it to play SimCity — a game I play to train my decision-making skills by becoming a mayor of a made-up town. The device offered plenty of screen real estate to give me an overview of the game. However, I couldn’t say the same for other titles.

Some would enjoy having the bigger screen on a portable, versatile device as they play graphics-intensive and action-packed titles. I saw some tech creators do it. Not me, though.

It allows me to have a tighter and firmer grip on my device as I smash my thumbs against the display. The Fold4 required me to spread my fingers apart to support the device when playing games.

Entertainment on the go

While I have qualms regarding playing games on the Fold4, the same cannot be said when watching films and TV shows. With its lightweight form factor, it’s easier to hold with one hand when watching videos on the go.

Galaxy Z Fold4

But if I get exhausted, I can prop it up and fold it halfway so it stands on its own. It’s a much smaller screen real estate, but it’s manageable to watch on, especially when you don’t have any phone stand that can support the Fold4’s size.

Lasts for quite a while

For what it’s worth, I’m elated with how the Fold lasted me throughout the day. It didn’t give up on me on days when I’m stuck running around the Fort, traveling between cities, and being out and about.

Galaxy Z Fold4

Most reviewers picked on the device’s battery and “slow” fast-charging, but seeing how I’m the peak, multi-tasking average user — it’s still enough. It could’ve been better, that’s for sure. Especially for days when I leave in the morning and back home at almost midnight. Halfway, I would need to recharge my device.

But truth be told, nowadays, people bring power banks and carry their cables and adapters in case they find sockets to charge their devices on. Besides, the Fold is barely a device you bring along for long days of work outside — it really just isn’t it.

Galaxy Z Fold4

90 days

After spending two months with the Fold4, I found it difficult to keep using the foldable smartphone as my lifestyle changed.

I can only keep up with using it when I’m handling commitments to my work and my sports team. I’ve been using the device as a work notebook in most cases. From tracking down my meetings, hopping on zoom calls at the nearest Starbucks cafe, and catching up with important messages.

Galaxy Z Fold4

As I put more focus on being an athlete, it was challenging to bring the Fold to my training. It doesn’t fit my armband, and it’s heavy for my belt bag and hydration vest. I felt it will impede me from reaching new personal records.

My last race, which was held in Timberland Heights, didn’t give me the opportunity to use the Fold4’s impressive set of cameras.

I had wished it was there with me. To capture my favorite moments of triumph and victory over a grueling race course. But I didn’t since the device wasn’t meant for rugged activities.

As I ended my 90-day stint with the Galaxy Z Fold4, I’ve had epiphanies regarding the device and of course, myself.

It wasn’t meant to be

The Galaxy Z Fold4 wasn’t meant for me and the person I’m becoming, no matter how much I enjoy its features and unique form factor.

Galaxy Z Fold4

It’s like a lesson of learning how to cherish the people we come across. We might be able to delight in the experience of having them with us for a moment in time, but our paths only cross for a short while.

It wasn’t even a “right device, wrong time” situation. It’s simply a case of not being my GadgetMatch. Think of the relationships you’ve had in the past. The connections you’ve outgrown. The people you left behind because you weren’t aligned anymore.

That is my case for the Galaxy Z Fold4. It’s a fleeting affair. A companionship that harmoniously blended into my life for three months. That is until I decided to leave my comfort zone and pursued what really makes my soul jump.

Galaxy Z Fold4

I don’t intend to bring it into the new chapter of my life. But if my path moved once more and we crossed paths, maybe I can take it for another time. Maybe, third time’s the charm. Or maybe, it’s an experience that I will fondly recall in the months to come.

Who knows? The future is uncertain and that’s what makes life exciting. C’est la vie.

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Gaming

One Piece Odyssey Hands-On: Open world, tactical battles

Designed like a true JRPG, felt like it too

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It dawned upon us that BANDAI NAMCO is known for having a string of One Piece video games out there. Across multiple systems, the franchise mostly hosted a ton of role-playing games and some fighting games here and there. This time around, the company is looking for some way to merge the two themes into the next generation.

One Piece Odyssey is the fruit of their labor, and is initially designed to be a “fully-fleshed out JPRG” by their standards. Their new, next-gen optimized title brings together all the role playing mixed with turn-based combat. All in an ideally open world setting. Of course, the stars of the show include your favorite characters from the popular anime itself!

We got a chance to try this game out for ourselves at the Thailand Game Show 2022. Here’s what we think about this upcoming JRPG:

The Straw Hat Pirates journey into the unknown

In One Piece Odyssey, you join the Straw Hat Pirates in an adventure to a mysterious island called Waford. Legend has it that it’s a place where no journeyman has ever come back, as a wild storm covers the island and all nearby areas. During the Thailand Game Show preview, we even got a preview of one of the areas you can visit, Alabasta.

No One Piece game is complete without the full force of the Straw Hat Pirates as some of your favorite characters are here. From Monkey D. Luffy to Chopper, everyone has a role to play especially in a more open world setting. Of course, it wouldn’t be an adventure without some back and forth banter within the crew, especially with the members you take with you. I only wished that the banter didn’t take up 60% of the time you spend playing the game.

Much like any open world game, you also get your fair share of main and side quests with the rest of the crew. With these, you get to explore some of the areas in a whole new way and even discover some secrets to help clear the storm. Visually, everything looked detailed enough and designed well against the One Piece art style.

Turn-based combat with some rock-paper-scissors

As a Japanese RPG, there’s no better way to express it than through turn-based, command-focused combat. For One Piece Odyssey, this comes in the form of enemy Encounters throughout both main and side quests that are usually done with groups of enemies. Much like all other JRPGs, each character comes with their own set of attacks designed for either combat or support.

In a rather unique twist, Encounters come with enemies in which you are either strong or weak against. Think of it like playing Pokémon but with One Piece characters and enemies, which I honestly found pretty cool. Instead of going into every battle and just keep attacking, there’s an added layer of strategy added to it. At the end of each Encounter, your crew members earn XP and even level up to gain some strength and attribute boosts.

Also, as an additional combat mechanic, you can even initiate attacks that deal damage within an area-of-effect and can heal other members, given the open world setting. This is honestly good when dealing with hordes of enemies during specific Encounters. Although, this is only available for a specific set of characters, so choose wisely.

Need more plot details

The thing though is, well, the short demo we played during the Thailand Game Show 2022 didn’t really provide much details on the full story. Somehow, the gang found themselves already within the island areas, fighting a storm that clouds the whole area. Also, there are a bunch of new characters you will meet along the way.

As revealed during the TGS 2022 festivities, One Piece Odyssey comes with the arrival of Lim and Adeo, two mysterious characters with their own sets of abilities. Although, it’s quite unclear as to what their intentions are for the Straw Hat Crew. Hopefully, more details will be revealed soon.

Overall, One Piece Odyssey serves up a promising title for JRPG fans and even One Piece fans alike. I honestly enjoyed the short time experiencing this game, from the exploration to the combat mechanics. If anything, I can give the amount of dialogue in between loading and cutscenes a pass despite how much of your time is consumed by it.

You might have to wait a while for the full game as One Piece Odyssey will be available January 2023 for both modern and next-gen consoles plus the PC.

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