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.

Hands-On

Dyson Airwrap hair tutorial and real-life hold test

Is it hard to use? Does it really work?

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The Dyson Airwrap, ever since its announcement, has been the stuff of hairstyle dreams and legends. The high-tech curling iron revolutionizes the way we do our hair!

But, does it really work? Can a normal girl like myself actually get her hair to look as fab with this new-fangled hair gadget? I put it to the test.

In the video above, you see me doing my hair and the final looks. I try a total of two styles — curly and straight — and take my ‘do out and about to see if my hair would hold. And yes folks, this was only the second time I used the Airwrap on myself, ever.

The results impressed!

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Stay tuned for the full review of the Dyson Airwrap on Her GadgetMatch. For similar topics and features, visit the website here.

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Hands-On

All the fun things you need to know about the OPPO’s RX17 Pro

Here’s what it can do

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My smartphone is the one thing that I hold most on a daily basis — more than my boyfriend’s hand or my pet dogs. This device is almost always on my body. That being the case, whatever phone I use automatically becomes an accessory. I want my phones bright and beautiful. If you’re anything like me, a fan of pretty things, continue reading.

This is the OPPO RX17 Pro that was just unveiled in Milan, Italy. It’s one eye-catching device.

To get the confusion out of the way: Yes, the OPPO RX17 Pro is the same phone as the R17 Pro.

First of all, let me state on record: This is one pretty phone. The gradient back is actually made of matted glass (apparently that’s a thing now) and that gives this device an extra oomph. It also means this thing feels great in your hands: Premium with just enough heft.

This right-to-left gradient look, named “Radiant Mist” by the Chinese smartphone company, is tantalizing to say the least. I couldn’t stop staring at it!

This phone will not match all your outfits, though. Even better, it will make all your outfits. It’s the perfect statement piece.

But, as in all things, we all know that looks aren’t everything. What else can this thing do?

I spent some time with a test unit in Milan, and here are my main takeaways. Take note, however, that this particular device isn’t running on final software yet so there might be a few minor differences when the actual units ship out.

Now, without further ado:

Its screen invites attention

That 6.4-inch AMOLED screen looks bright and crisp — great for watching YouTube or for Netflix and chilling. 👀

And look, ma! A notch that isn’t as obtrusive, thank heavens! That tiny teardrop up top is actually something I don’t hate. You sort of forget it’s even there.

This almost all-screen design insists on having it all: There’s an in-display fingerprint scanner on this phone. Simply press your finger to that fingerprint design on the display and voila! That’s not all, though. It’s also capable of face unlock and it’s pretty smooth.

Custom beauty mode and more

Being a smartphone from Asia, the RX17 Pro has a built-in beauty mode on its 25-megapixel selfie camera.

They take it a bit further with not just AI beauty mode (which was previously on R-series devices); there’s also a custom beauty mode which allows for facial adjustments depending on your own personal preferences.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: OPPO’s beauty mode is one of the best out there — if you add these on with moderation.

Stickers, stickers, and more stickers

On to the fun stuff… there are also built-in stickers and so many of them! Here are just a few cute examples as there are pages and pages of them.

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You can also create your own Omoji — think Samsung AR Emoji, OPPO style. Basically, you make sticker avatars based on your face, dress the sticker up then send to your friends as GIFs or videos.

I can’t say it will turn out looking really like you, though, because mine didn’t. See example below:

There are also pre-set AR stickers and those are pretty cute and very fun — I had a blast “testing” these out.


It raises the bar

The Smart Bar, that is.

This added feature is a hovering bar on the screen that brings you to a mini menu for faster access to certain apps.

You can customize apps that go on here and even move the bar around on the screen at your convenience.

More and merrier cameras

There are three cameras on this phone’s back: The main shooter is a 12-megapixel dual aperture camera (that just means the camera adjusts to different lighting scenarios to get the best-possible photos), a second 20-megapixel shooter, and a 3D TOF camera. That last camera supposedly allows for 3D and AR capabilities, but that feature wasn’t ready on this test device.

There’s a Portrait Lighting feature, much like Apple’s, on this phone. As my patient boyfriend has so willingly shown below, there are many different photo styles you can get. The cutouts, despite the busy background, looked pretty good.

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This phone highlights its low-light capabilities with a new “Night” feature. AI combined with optical image stabilization ensures better photos in scenarios that aren’t so well lit. I put it to the test at the RX17 Pro launch event:

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Like the previous R-series phones, there’s also AI built into the camera that automatically adjusts settings depending on the scenario for optimum photo results. All that’s left for you to do is keep shooting and photos turn out like this.

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Of course, I’d have to spend more time with this camera, but these initial samples have pretty much impressed.

All other things

Other notable features include a Snapdragon 710 processor with 6GB memory and 128GB storage which makes for a smooth running phone. And as a first for an R-series phone, it’s equipped with a USB-C port and SuperVOOC charging. Yep, that’s the same one on the OPPO Find X Lamborghini Edition which zooms to full charge in 35 minutes.

For more details on this phone’s specs, you can watch GadgetMatch’s full hands-on here.

A day and a half with the RX17 Pro and it’s performed pretty well. Not to mention, it totally looked good with my outfit.

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Hands-On

Apple iPad Pro Hands-on: Can this replace your laptop?

Apple says it’s like a computer, but unlike any computer

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We go hands on with the new iPad Pro and give you our first impressions. Apple’s top-of-the-line tablet is available in two sizes,12.9 inches and 11 inches, but they’re even smaller than previous models because the bezels have been reduced.

Two other big changes to the iPad Pro are the omission of Apple’s signature features: the home button that enables Touch ID, and the Lightning port. In their place are the new TrueDepth camera technology first seen on the iPhone X and a USB-C port — the latter opening up so many possibilities for the iPad Pro.

Special thanks are in order to the following people who made this video possible:

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