Hands-On

ASUS ZenFone 5 First Impressions

Back and better than before

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It was only six months ago when the ASUS ZenFone 4 series launched, but here were are, trying out a radically different successor in the ZenFone 5.

Not to be confused with the original ZenFone 5 that came out in 2014, the model we have here is not an entry-level handset by any means. In fact, it has the makings of a series-defining product.


ZenFone 4 (left), ZenFone 5 (right)

For this generation, ASUS chose to focus on artificial intelligence to optimize every aspect of the phone from the battery usage to the cameras. But why only make AI a big deal now? According to ASUS, it’s because the technology is now ready for it, and it’s more practical in everyday gadgets.

And while there are multiple variants to take note of — ZenFone 5, higher-end ZenFone 5Z, and ZenFone 5 Lite to start — they all share the same mantra ASUS has been pushing for years: empowering luxury.

ASUS gave us a preview of a pre-production unit of the main ZenFone 5, and these are my initial impressions.

A trendy design

There’s no doubt the ZenFone 5 takes inspiration from its competition, from the chunk bitten off the top of the near-borderless display to the placement of the dual rear cameras. ASUS claims this design is essential to providing a large screen without compromise.

What really stands out is the edge-to-edge IPS LCD up front. It’s 6.2 inches in diameter and has an unusual 19:9 screen ratio, but this combination feels natural in my big hands. The chin was kept a little thick so the navigation buttons at the bottom are more accessible.

The panel itself has a 2246 X 1080-pixel resolution and 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. That puts the ZenFone 5 near the top of the most bezel-free phones available today.

Although very light when held, the phone’s curved edges make gripping the body comfy. The signature circular design on the glass back also makes a return, and the fingerprint sensor can be found near the center.

Intelligent software

ASUS calls the ZenFone 5 an intelligent phone beyond anything else. There’s artificial intelligence throughout the handset, from the display and ringtone, to the camera and overall performance.

For the ringtone, the volume dynamically adjusts depending on the room’s ambiance, and there’s this feature called AI Boost, which lets you choose between optimizing your Android experience for faster performance or longer battery life (whichever you find more important).

We weren’t able to truly test all these features and how they enhance the user experience, but we can tell the ZenFone 5 is much more intuitive than previous generations.

This is also credited to the new and improved Android interface, ZenUI 5.0, on top of Android Oreo. It’s cleaner and less cluttered by duplicate apps from third-party companies, but we’ll have to wait for a retail unit to say just how much smoother the software is.

Smartest hardware yet

The brains behind all these AI tricks is in the new Snapdragon 636 chipset and its neural processing engine (NPE). This part of the processor performs tasks in a more efficient and dynamic way that gets better through time, and it comes with up to 6GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage to boot.

One of the best AI implementations within the ZenFone 5 is on the cameras. Using the 12-megapixel main camera and 8-megapixel wide-angle secondary shooter, the camera app can automatically detect what type of scene you’re looking at and intelligently adjust settings accordingly. There are 16 preset types in total.

Up front, we have an 8-megapixel selfie camera that uses AI once again to help beautify your portraits. And since there’s no longer a fingerprint reader in front, the front camera can also handle face recognition duties for quick logins.

Other useful features are stereo speakers (making good use of the notch on top) which are quite loud, a large 3300mAh battery with smart charging, and the inclusion of a physical audio port for headphones and external speakers.

Impressions so far

It’s difficult to provide a solid verdict given the short time we had with the pre-production model, but I’d say the package has promise with its greater focus on optimization and user experience.

We’ll have a full review once a retail unit lands in our office. Till then, be sure to follow us on social media and visit GadgetMatch.com daily to catch every update.

Computers

ASUS Zen AiO 27 hands-on: A step up from before

Your next home PC?

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Let’s take a break from laptops and check out this desktop PC from ASUS. This is the Zen AiO 27 and it looks so much better than any of the previous all-in-ones we reviewed from the Taiwanese company.

Coming from the iMac-like Zen AiO Pro and Vivo AiO, the Zen AiO 27 is a welcoming sight. But, is it any good?


Let’s find out in this hands-on.

This AiO has a gorgeous 27-inch UHD display

It’s also a touchscreen

The bezels surrounding the screen are slim

ASUS brings NanoEdge to desktop PCs

It has an outward notch at the bottom for the webcam

With an IR sensor for facial recognition

There are four speakers located at the back

ASUS claims it’s a 16W quad-speaker setup

Quick-access ports are on the right side of the base

L-R: USB 2.0, Thunderbolt 3, 3.5mm combo jack

The remaining ports are all at the back

L-R: Ethernet, 3x USB 3.1, HDMI-In, HDMI-Out, Power

The front has two LED indicators and an SD card reader

The LEDs show if your PC is on and functioning

The base even has a wireless charging pad

Charge your phone while you’re working

A full-size wireless keyboard comes in the box

It has all the keys but its very plasticky

There’s also a bundled wireless optical mouse

Pretty basic but it gets the job done

The Zen AiO design upgrade we’ve been waiting for

ASUS’ new Zen AiO 27 finally gets the design upgrade it deserves. It’s not an iMac copy-cat anymore and it looks even better than Apple’s desktop PC. ASUS certainly took a step forward in design; however, I’ve seen better-looking AiOs running Windows 10 like Dell’s new Inspiron desktops.

Perhaps, the best asset of the Zen AiO 27 is its display. It’s a 27-inch IPS LCD panel with a UHD resolution and multi-touch support. The display is Pantone Validated for color accuracy and it has ASUS’ NanoEdge design for slimmer bezels all around.

Although, like on smartphones, slimmer bezels come at a cost. ASUS had to put an outward notch to house a webcam and, for some reason, they placed it at the bottom. When I tested the webcam, it was showing myself from an awkward angle. As a consolation, it’s also equipped with an IR sensor for hands-free face login with Windows Hello.

The Zen AiO 27’s stand lets users view the display from multiple angles. It can tilt and swivel, plus the height can be adjusted with one finger. There’s no option for rotating the display, but that’s okay.

Design-wise, the Zen AiO 27 is a thing of beauty. I do appreciate its brushed metal-effect finish of really dark blue (darker than navy blue) with gold trims and accents. The audio and visual department of the PC delivers top-notch quality as well.

Slim and powerful, but not enough for 4K

All of the power of the Zen AiO 27 comes from beneath. The components are all housed in the base of the PC, which is neat and practical. How so? There are two storage slots and memory is user upgradeable up to 32GB.

The specs of the model I have are impressive with an Intel Core i7-8700T processor, 16GB DDR4 memory, 512GB M.2 SSD, and 2TB HDD. It also has discrete graphics using NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1050, which is kind of old but still very capable.

The base also has a Thunderbolt 3 port and features Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band gigabit-class Wi-Fi. Needless to say, it runs Windows 10 Home out of the box.

I have no complaints with the general performance of the Zen AiO 27 thanks to its incredible specifications. I can easily multitask with multiple windows open and quickly render images from Photoshop. The configuration is also enough to ensure smooth video editing.

When it comes to gaming though, it doesn’t hit the mark. While the GTX 1050 GPU is good for games like Fortnite or anything with similar graphics power requirements, it’s not enough to push pixels in UHD.

This means you can’t take full advantage of the crisp display of the Zen AiO 27. It’s best to keep the game’s resolution in Full HD to have at least 60fps in not-so-demanding titles. Too bad I can’t enjoy Cities: Skylines in 4K.

I wasn’t able to try it out, but the Zen AiO 27’s can also act as an external monitor since it has an HDMI-in port. Any HDMI-connected source can use the UHD display as a second monitor.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The ASUS Zen AiO 27 is indeed premium with an asking price of PhP 149,995 in the Philippines. It’s available through ASUS Concept Stores nationwide.

Of course, if you are to build your own desktop PC, you could get more power with the same budget. You could even still use an ASUS monitor, keyboard, mouse, and components since the company also sells those.

What you won’t get is the convenience of a plug-and-play, space-saving AiO. It’s like bringing out a laptop and plugging in the charger. If only ASUS included a better wireless keyboard and mouse, it would have been a better package.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo offers largest secondary touchscreen yet

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Hands-On

Realme C2 hands-on: The new budget king?

Cheap yet good

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After releasing a midrange phone capable of handling graphics-intensive games, Realme is back to catering to the budget segment. The successor to the entry-level Realme C1 is here, and it doesn’t look like a rebranded OPPO phone anymore.

The Realme C2 is the company’s newest affordable phone. Designed to be really friendly to people’s wallets, is the Realme C2 worth the hard-earned money?


Let’s find out in this hands-on.

It’s got a 6.1-inch IPS LCD display

With a pretty low HD+ resolution

The power button is on its right side while…

A plastic button for the plastic frame

… the volume keys and card tray are on the left

Two separate buttons for adjusting the volume

The card tray accepts a microSD and two SIM cards

A triple card tray is always great to have

The micro-USB port and 3.5mm jack are at the bottom

Along with the microphone and loudspeaker

The phone’s back features a prism-like textured pattern

It easily resists fingerprints

It’s certainly different from your typical budget phone

The camera has a yellow ring for added style

Unique-looking body

Since the Realme C2 is a budget phone, it’s not packing the best hardware available. It doesn’t have a powerful processor, but it has a body that’s unique. It’s pretty hard to sell an entry-level device with its low specifications, although the Realme C2 is not reliant on its power alone.

Realme markets their new phone to have what they call a “Diamond Cut Design.” The Realme C2 doesn’t have any fancy stones, although it has a textured back panel that kind off mimics the look of a shining diamond. It’s still made of plastic, but I certainly appreciate this over a glossy, smudgy glass-like back.

In front, it has a 6.1-inch display with a dewdrop notch that’s way smaller than before. The screen’s resolution remains at HD+ which is not the sharpest panel available, yet it’s alright. I find the display to be adequate for everyday use.

The whole front is protected by a smooth slab of Gorilla Glass 3, so you don’t have to worry much about scratches. It does come with a pre-installed plastic screen protector.

Overall, the physical design of the Realme C2 is okay. It doesn’t elevate the budget segment with any premium materials, but the textured pattern on the back is a welcome touch. We don’t get to see a smudge-free phone every day.

Decent performance

There’s nothing exciting in the specs department, although the Realme C2 gets its job done. It’s powered by a MediaTek Helio P22 chipset which has an octa-core CPU. Compared to the Realme C1, the Realme C2 is slightly faster and more efficient with its new processor. The model I have has a fairly standard 3GB of memory and 32GB of expandable storage.

Out of the box, the phone runs the latest version of ColorOS 6 with updated icons to give it a different identity over OPPO phones with the same operating system. ColorOS is already based on Android Pie, so it’s pretty much up to date with the core Android features.

So far, the Realme C2 performs smoothly with my day-to-day usage. I have yet to encounter any frustrating lag or hiccup. Multitasking is pretty limited due to its low memory, although let’s not ask too much from a budget phone.

Gaming-wise, graphics-intensive titles are not advisable for the Realme C2. It can run games in low settings fairly smooth, but Asphalt 9 and PUBG Mobile are not fun to play with low frame rates.

Decent cameras

Equipped with a 13-megapixel shooter and a 2-megapixel depth sensor on the back, the Realme C2 can take decent stills in broad daylight. Indoor and night shots can get noisy, but it’s still usable for posting online. It has an LED flash to help fill light, just in case you need to.

For selfies, there’s a 5-megapixel front-facing camera sitting inside the display’s notch.

Check out these samples:

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The phone’s main camera doesn’t have AI scene detection, but the front camera has built-in beauty filters. Surprisingly, it takes good selfies as long as there’s a lot of light available.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

To appreciate the Realme C2, one should see it as a budget phone that tries to offer something different. To be honest, most buyers will just slap on a case to keep their phone protected. However, the Realme C2 doesn’t disappoint in delivering the basics and it’s a well-rounded phone.

The Realme C2 starts at PhP 5,490 in the Philippines and INR 5,999 in India for the entry-level configuration with 2GB of memory and 16GB of expandable. If you wish to get the 3GB+32GB variant, you’ll have to shell out PhP 6,490 or INR 7,999.

Those who find the Realme C2 inadequate could check out the Realme 3 and the Realme 3 Pro. Of course, higher-end models cost extra.

SEE ALSO: Realme 3 Pro review: ‘Pro’ models are indeed better

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Hands-On

OPPO Reno 10x Zoom unboxing and hands-on: An emerald looker

Green with envy

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Receiving new packages excites me. This may or may not be why online shopping gets me on so bad but I digress.

What came in the mail last week, straight from China, was something that I was looking forward to trying out more: The OPPO Reno 10x Zoom that I got to test out in Zurich last month. Also, there were additional package brownie points because the phone comes in OPPO’s new box. I was very curious to see what changed.


Let’s get to it!

The OPPO Reno box isn’t standard sized; it’s a slightly longer version of the typical phone boxes in the market. Love that holo design, though!

Typical box inserts: A sleeve that houses manuals and such — and yes, no one ever reads those so we’re skipping ahead.

The phone in all it’s plastic-wrapped glory. We’re saving the best for last so I’ll move on to what’s under this tray…

Interestingly, OPPO opted for this serious-looking custom Reno case with a sexy slit on the back.

Then we finally have the USB-C cord, the power adapter, and some good-looking USB-C earphones with accents that match the phone. Speaking of the phone, here it is in its ocean green glory.

It’s a great-looking phone to rep. The glass finish on the back gives it that gentle sheen, very classy. In certain lighting conditions, it looks more green than blue — but I’m not complaining.

This thing packs a Snapdragon 855 processor, a 4065mAh battery, and even an in-display fingerprint sensor.

There are no camera bumps on this phone’s three cameras (an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 48-megapixel main shooter, and a 13-megapixel zoom camera). There is, however, a special indented dot under the three cameras to makes sure you don’t scratch said cameras when you leave them on a flat surface.

Then again, you could always just put the case on. Definite protection to this phone but it does add substantial thickness. And since it’s not exactly a small phone, it might not fit your girl pockets or tiny hands.

The plus side of having a bigger device is that it makes for a better Netflix viewing experience. And disappoint, the OPPO Reno did not. The unobstructed AMOLED display partnered with Dolby stereo speakers definitely delighted in terms of binge-watching my shows.

The unhampered view on this phone screen is made possible by a 16-megapixel pop-up camera — one that retracts for self-preservation when it detects pressure or impact.

Being on the OPPO Reno is a great experience so far. It’s fast and snappy and the face unlock is still honestly impressive. OPPO tells me, however, that there are still upcoming software updates to the phone so until then, here’s our first look at video and camera performance on the streets of Zurich where the Reno first launched.

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