Hands-On

ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie hands-on and camera review

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ASUS has just released the latest in their ZenFone line, and they went all out releasing not just one, but a number of phones, for different types of users. One of the models that I’m particularly interested in would be the ZenFone 4 Selfie.

Marketed as an entry-level phone, at least compared to the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro which was also released, this bad boy boasts the ability to capture all your possible selfies — and capture them well.

Girl taking selfies with the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie

I got my hands on this lean, mean selfie machine and here are my initial thoughts.

Look and feel

The ZenFone 4 Selfie is a decent-looking phone equipped with the new ZenUI which means a cleaner interface.

ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie

Flip it around and you get a special surprise: A glittery back! For those who aren’t as amused by glittery objects, no need to worry, as this detail isn’t so noticeable under normal lighting conditions. ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie glittery back

The ZenFone 4 Selfie has a unibody build that’s surprisingly light — almost too light. And yet, for a phone with a 5.5-inch screen, it feels bigger and wider in my dainty hands. I could tell immediately that I’d have trouble holding it for those one-handed selfies.

Girl taking selfies with ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie, screen facing the camera

Yep, using two hands for selfies

A noticeable detail on this device is its unique camera placement. Instead of having both shooters on one side as most selfie phones are prone to doing, the ZenFone 4 Selfie has its cameras positioned on different sides of the phone’s front.

ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie cameras

The bottom of the phone has a capacitive home button with a built-in fingerprint scanner, plus the back and multitasking buttons beside it.

ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie bottom

The audio jack is found on the top of the phone; the volume rocker and the power button are on the right side; the triple-slot tray which can house two SIM cards and a microSD card is on the left; and a micro-USB port and speaker grilles are at the bottom.

Camera test run

It’s not called a selfie phone for no reason. The ZenFone 4 Selfie is equipped with dual cameras up front featuring 20- and 8-megapixel cameras, the latter one with a 120-degree view. This means selfies both in wide-angle and bokeh mode — something most selfie phones don’t offer together.

ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie photo sample

Beauty Mode + bokeh + wide angle

Another winner is the phone’s beauty features found in the built-in camera app. A slew of beauty mode options are available — from skin softening, to eye enhancement, and even cheek thinning — for all your selfie needs. An additional ASUS app, the SelfieMaster, also enables users to shoot video and livestream in beauty mode.

Selfies with minimal beauty mode on the ASUS Zenfone 4 Selfie

The rear camera is a 16-megapixel shooter. Here are more sample shots with the camera: 

Other specs

Holding the ASUS ZenFone 4 selfie camera

An efficient Snapdragon 430 chipset powers this selfie phone which runs on Android 7.1 Nougat. It has 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, expandable to 2TB via microSD and a battery capacity of 3000mAh.

Selfie verdict and first impressions

When companies attempt to produce an entry-level handset, the cameras are usually the first get downgraded. The ZenFone 4 Selfie changes that. On the lower-end spectrum, this particular phone gives you a lot and more when it comes to photography.

More selfies with the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie

Undeniably, this smartphone packs pretty powerful shooters and very detailed beauty options for your pictures. I am very pleasantly surprised and I look forward to more selfies taken with ASUS’ ZenFone 4 Selfie series.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ZenFone 4 launches with Pro, Selfie, and Max models

Hands-On

OPPO A3s hands-on: A budget champion

Let’s consider this as an F7 Lite

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The focus in today’s smartphone market is on the midrange segment. However, the budget category is also a strong market, especially for developing countries or for people who are looking for a no-frills phone.

Here we have the OPPO A3s, a competitively priced phone that keeps things in balance to give great value for your money.

It’s got a 6.2-inch HD+ display with a pretty wide notch

A budget full-screen phone

The notch houses the selfie camera, earpiece, and sensors

There appears to be an infrared sensor for face unlock

To the left are the volume buttons and card tray

The buttons are quite hard to press

In true OPPO fashion, it’s got three card slots

A microSD and two nano-SIM cards are accepted

The right side only has the power key

The sole button on this side

The bottom is pretty busy with the speaker and micro-USB port

There’s also the audio jack and microphone

The back is pretty plain with just the rear cameras

There’s no fancy gradient or pattern here

Looks and performs like an F7 Lite

With the F9’s waterdrop notch already becoming popular, a wide notch feels quite like an outdated design. But for a budget phone, it’s something we should accept. Actually, it got a similar design to the F7’s which was released earlier this year.

The phone’s 6-inch display is an IPS LCD panel with a modest HD+ resolution and 19:9 aspect ratio. The screen’s quality is on par with more expensive models, minus the pixel density due to the lower resolution. But when it comes to color reproduction and viewing angles, there’s nothing to complain about.

With the latest ColorOS 5.1 on top of Android 8.1 Oreo, the user interface of the A3s is the same as with the F9 and even the more expensive Find X. It looks a lot like iOS, as always, with a hint of Android Oreo. I still have some issues with it though, like the difficulty of dismissing notifications.

As for the overall design of the phone, it’s mostly polycarbonate but it’s of high quality. It might feel plasticky on the hand, but there are no creaks or loose parts to worry about.

The plain back of the A3s might appeal to buyers who don’t want flashy patterns and fancy gradients. You can put on a case, since the design of the rear doesn’t really matter. Speaking of, there’s a transparent jelly case included in the retail package.

Specs-wise, it’s quite tricky to recommend the A3s for those looking to have a powerful midranger. Why? It has a Snapdragon 450 processor with 2GB of memory and 16GB of expandable storage. The processor is more than capable for games, apps, and everyday use, although the low 2GB of memory and limited 16GB storage are bottlenecks.

I tried to fill up the phone with graphics-intensive titles which take more than a gigabyte. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any issue with graphics performance as long as they were set to default. But, I did encounter a low memory warning after downloading a few heavy games.

Lastly, inside the A3s is a big battery. OPPO didn’t skimp on the capacity at 4230mAh. Expect the phone to last for up to two days of regular use. What’s missing, though, is a fast charger inside the box.

Equipped with decent shooters

Despite being a budget phone, the A3s still has similar features from higher-end OPPO phones like dual rear cameras. Equipped with 13- and 2-megapixel sensors at the back, the A3s can take decent photos with a good amount of details. The dynamic range is a bit lacking, but it’s nothing that photo editing apps can’t fix.

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When it comes to selfies, the 8-megapixel front camera still lives up to the OPPO standards of self-portraits. It features AI-powered beautification which you can always turn on if you feel like taking a fresh-looking image of yourself.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a decent budget phone, then go for the OPPO A3s. Its fast processor and huge battery capacity are already great selling factors. While its memory and storage capacity might turn off some, the budget-conscious should still see its great value.

The OPPO A3s is priced at PhP 6,990 in the Philippines and INR 10,990 in India. There’s also a better variant with 3GB of memory and 32GB of storage which you should get if you can — it’s priced at PhP 9,990.

SEE ALSO: OPPO F9 Review: New design with minor upgrades

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Hands-On

OPPO F9: All about that notch

Is this notch more forgivable?

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In our OPPO F9 hands-on, we go through everything that’s changed, such as VOOC charging and dual cameras coming to the F series. And just when you thought the notch is dead, OPPO is bringing it back two months after the release of its futuristic bezel-less smartphone.

Fortunately, it looks very different from what we’re used to! Is this notch more forgivable?

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Gaming

ZTE Nubia Red Magic hands-on: A stylish gaming phone

One look and you know it’s a gaming phone

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Not all smartphone manufacturers create a gaming phone. Technically, flagship smartphones with top specs are ideal for gaming but they lack the appeal and design. When Razer announced their own phone, it was true to its Razer branding but lacked the RGB lighting we’ve known from PC gaming peripherals.

Good thing there’s the Red Magic from Nubia (a ZTE sub-brand in China) and it’s built for gaming, without the exaggerated looks of the ROG Phone from ASUS.

I spent a few days with the Red Magic and here’s my hands-on.

It looks like a true gaming smartphone

The Red Magic practically screams “extreme gamer” due to its sharp, hexagonal cutouts, red vents and details, and the glowing LED strip on the back.

However, it’s still your usual premium Android device with a 6-inch Full HD+ display. It’s got an 18:9 aspect ratio and, thankfully, there’s no notch that’ll get in the way when playing games.

The top and bottom bezels are not as thin as the Galaxy S9’s, so there’s still some room for your thumb on the side when holding the phone in landscape with two hands.

Overall, the phone feels really solid thanks to its aluminum unibody, but to make things a bit special and more gaming-focused, the back of Red Magic is a bit curved making it comfortable in my hands.

On the side, it has what they call the “Compete Button” which reminds me of the alert slider on OnePlus’ phones. Instead of shushing notification sounds though, Red Magic’s slider puts the phone in tip-top performance. This is useful when you’re about to play a game.

The Compete Button not only improves the phone’s performance, but it also triggers some settings like blocking app notifications to avoid unnecessary pop-ups while playing. You can also set it to block the virtual navigation button from showing up accidentally.

Most importantly, the Compete Button activates the RGB LED strip at the back. It’s a visual cue showing that the Red Magic is ready to take on the challenge. The LED strip has four preset effects: Skyline, Rainbow Ribbon, Laserwave, and Voice Controlled.

It’s fun to play around with the effects, but my personal favorite is the Voice Controlled option. Well, it’s not exactly based on your own voice but rather with the audio of the game you’re playing.

The light strip also acts as notification light if you wish. Just be sure to lay the phone flat on a table so you won’t miss it.

The rear of the phone is quite intriguing but also distinct. There are four red lines on the corners which I first thought are all speakers. But, only one of them is the actual loudspeaker and it’s the one at the lower left. Even though it’s a mono back-firing speaker, it’s loud and has good bass.

When it comes to power, the Red Magic is not lacking but it could have had a better processor. The phone sports last year’s Snapdragon 835 processor which is a step down compared to this year’s flagship phones. At least it’s paired with 8GB of memory and 128GB of internal storage.

The Snapdragon 835 is still a capable processor with the Adreno 540 GPU. I managed to play a number of games on the Red Magic, and the device was able to handle them like magic. PUBG ran smoothly with the highest settings and the new Asphalt 9: Legends was flawless and stunning on the screen.

The Red Magic was even the best-performing Snapdragon 835-powered phone on AnTuTu’s list. It managed to be in the top ten of the most powerful Android phones last June which is dominated by phones with Snapdragon 845 processor.

Does it have good cameras?

A gaming phone still needs cameras. There’s a 24-megapixel f/1.7 rear shooter which takes good-looking photos. Thanks to the large aperture of the camera’s lens, it can take great photos even in low-light.

Here are some samples:

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It might not be the best camera phone around, but that’s not the focus of the Red Magic. It lacks a secondary sensor for bokeh or other effects, but the camera launcher has a couple of modes you can play with including manual shooting. For selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.0 aperture.

Is this you GadgetMatch?

Hard to tell if the phone will impress mobile gaming enthusiasts out there, but the design of Nubia Red Magic is certainly a head-turner. The red accents might be too common in the world of gaming, but the unique RGB LED strip at the back sure gives its own persona.

The Nubia Red Magic is available in China starting at CNY 2,499 for the base variant with 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage. The high-end version I have here with 8GB of memory and 128GB storage is priced at CNY 2,999. In the US, it’s priced at US$ 399 through Indigogo but the funding project is already closed.

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