Despite selling more than other segment, the budget phone industry doesn’t offer the most exciting offerings available in the market. Positioned more for affordability, these phones often cram in lackluster specs to reduce costs.
Luckily, with improving technologies, it has become possible to finally pack in midrange (and even flagship) features into an affordable package.
Following this trend, ASUS has launched their own take on high-spec’d budget phones. And it’s quite the mouthful to say — the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro (M1).
On paper, the Max Pro offers an impressive spec sheet that will leave both you and your wallet happy. However, paper doesn’t speak for actual performance. Let’s see how ASUS’ budget phone performs in the real world.
Modern but uninspired design
Despite swimming in deep budget phone territory, the Max Pro looks and feels remarkably well. Thankfully, the phone doesn’t share in the tacky plastic tradition that its market is known for. It fits in an all-glass front, metal rear panel, and polycarbonate framing.
Much like the phones of today, the Max Pro minimizes its upper and lower bezel. Likewise, it almost completely eradicates its side bezels. Fortunately (and unfortunately, for some), the phone does not have the controversial camera notch.
On the rear, the phone squeezes its dual cameras into the top-left corner, much like the iPhone X and the Huawei P20 series. Also, the rear carries a fingerprint reader.
Overall, the Max Pro offers a refreshing upgrade from the usual fare of the budget phone market. It handles very well and weighs considerably less, despite packing in quite the punch under the hood.
Sadly, the design is still nothing to write home about. Even if it refreshes the genre, the phone offers an uninspired design that just follows the same beats of its contemporaries. It feels just adequately premium.
Vanilla, too vanilla
After testing several ASUS phones in the past, the brand’s usual fault lies in how bloated its software is. Often, ASUS packs obnoxious bloatware into all their phones. Thankfully, the Max Pro breaks the trend.
Out of the box, the phone comes installed with the latest Android 8.1 Oreo. It doesn’t cram in custom ROMs or unnecessary apps. It’s as vanilla as vanilla gets.
Unfortunately, being vanilla also creates its downfall. Even today, most smartphone makers still add their own custom flavor to Android. On the other hand, ASUS hasn’t added anything to the vanilla Android experience.
As a result, the Max Pro outs an Android experience that pales in comparison to even the Google Pixel’s version of vanilla Android.
Packing in the power
For its price, the Max Pro sports a Snapdragon 636 chipset, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. With that, the phone positions itself as one of the few budget phones to offer midrange performance.
From an actual performance standpoint, the Max Pro can handle most of the games I threw at it. Confidently, it can play less graphically intensive games like Clash Royale and Pokémon Go. Similarly, it can play more intensive titles like PUBG Mobile and Sniper 3D.
Sadly, with the latter set of games, the Max Pro does slightly hiccup its framerates. For intense gamers, this presents a nagging obstacle especially for multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile. Even with 50 ping, the game lags every once in a while.
For the most part, however, the phone plays adequately well. It was a joy to play for hours.
Additionally, it keeps comfortably cool throughout hours of just playing games. At most, the phone’s rear central panel slightly heats up to lukewarm levels. Regardless, it never reaches a point wherein it’s too hot to touch. As far as positioning goes, my hands only barely touch any of the hot spots while playing.
For benchmarking fans, the Max Pro clocks in a score of 114,117 on AnTuTu. The phone is a confident performer both on paper and in real life. However, if you’re going for the heavy gamer route, I suggest a hardy memory card to supplement the paltry 32GB.
Loves the day, hates the night
Despite carrying a dual rear camera setup, the Max Pro doesn’t perform well when it comes to taking photos. While it can take photos well during the day, the loss of light drastically reduces the quality of photos that it can take.
On the rear, the phone sports a 13-megapixel plus 5-megapixel shooting combo. It can shoot adequate photos; however, the camera distinctly amps up contrast to an abnormal point. Vibrant photos display well, but high-key photos are starker, lacking the visual unity of better cameras.
On the flipside, the 8-megapixel front camera can take brilliant selfies in daylight. Likewise, photo quality absolutely crumbles once you take light away. In twilight to nighttime settings, selfies are blurry and grainy messes.
Rock and roll all night
Even with a midrange chipset, the Max Pro’s most surprising feature lies in the battery that powers it. The phone packs in a 5000mAh battery within its light frame.
As you might expect, the phone is incredibly robust, withstanding a lot of abuse before the battery drains to dangerous levels.
To test this, I continuously played PUBG Mobile and Sniper 3D to drain the battery on a 100 percent charge. Happily, it took the entire afternoon to even make a huge dent on its charge. By the end, the phone still had enough to function well at night, hovering around a 30 percent charge.
More quantitatively, one solo match on PUBG Mobile (from lobby to chicken dinner) costs around eight to nine percent of battery. On a fully charged battery, you can play around 10 to 11 matches before the phone finally gives out. That’s a lot of chicken dinners!
Without heavy gaming, the phone can last around two days on just one charge. Once it reaches zero, it takes around two hours to fully charge it again. It’s quite a while by today’s standards, but enough for the phone’s whopping battery.
For its PhP 9,995 price tag (around US$ 200), the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro (M1) is worth every penny. Is this your GadgetMatch? It’s not the best budget to midrange phone out there. But, at that price, who’s complaining?
vivo X80 Pro Unboxing and Review
vivo’s best smartphone just got even better!
The vivo X70 Pro+ was launched just several months ago. However, we’re already having a follow-up!
Namely the X80 and X80 Pro — with the latter being vivo’s latest flagship smartphone.
But what makes it different from its predecessor? And what makes the successor a lot more exciting?
Watch our vivo X80 Pro Unboxing and Review now to find out more!
Samsung Galaxy S22+ review: Love at first touch
Can’t help but fall deeper
A cosmic pull. A supernatural attraction. These aren’t phrases one normally says on a smartphone review. And yet, here I am. Falling madly for the Samsung Galaxy S22+.
However, this wasn’t the case from the get go. First, I saw it in photos and it was alright. Then, I saw the specs on paper. Yeah, that’s pretty good. It was just another flagship, I thought.
But everything changed when it came to my doorstep and held it in my hands.
(P.S. All of my subheadings below are taken from the song “One Touch” by Gabe Bondoc. You can play it while you read 🙂).
One touch and I’m hooked and I am drowning
I am completely aware how overly infatuated I’m coming off and will come off for the rest of this article. But, having been in this smartphone reviewing gig for close to seven (7) years now, I’ve become almost numb to the usual releases.
Yes, every now and then I take a liking to a smartphone or two. But it has been a while since I really, really wanted to keep and/or buy a phone I’m reviewing.
The Samsung Galaxy S22+ just felt perfect on my hands. The right width, the right length, and the right thickness. The heft of the device, its shiny metallic edges, and the clean premium finish of the back all scream premium. The material on its back has a smooth, matte feel and finish. It’s both smudge and scratch resistant.
And the metal lining on the edges feels smooth but grippable and perfectly complements the flat display.
Excuse me, I don’t mean to be staring
It’s no secret that Samsung consistently offers one of the best displays, especially in their flagship line. This remains true for the 6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel equipped on this beaut. The colors are rich and crisp under favorable lighting conditions. But even in broad daylight, the display is bright enough (1750 nits peak) to be comfortably operated without having to squint.
I had a grand time watching my favorite shows on the Samsung Galaxy S22+. I’ve had it for a while so I saw a few episodes of the Netflix K-Drama Business Proposal on it. I have also been catching up weekly on the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. For content that supports it, HDR10+ kicks in to elevate the visual experience.
The display looks so majestic that it prompted me to put the love of my life Momo Hirai of TWICE as my wallpaper. And then of course, there’s the dynamic refresh rate that goes up as high as 120Hz. This means the screen changes its refresh rate depending on what you’re doing. If you’re scrolling through socials and what not, it kicks into high gear to give you a smooth experience. When idle, the refresh rate lowers down to save battery.
My heart won’t slow ’cause of you
The Galaxy S22+’s overall performance will really keep your heart racing. Normal, day-to-day interactions with your phone just feel extra sharp. The many features mentioned above coupled with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 powering this phone keeps it humming no matter what you do.
Keeping up with the news in the morning, checking socials to see what you missed, using messaging apps to keep in touch whether for work or personal matters – all of these just feel like a breeze. And the ONE UI 4.1 skin on top of this Android 12 flavor definitely contributes to just how things flow when you use this smartphone.
I didn’t do a lot of gaming, though. To test it, I defaulted to my go-to which is a few hours of Call of Duty Mobile. As expected it runs without hiccups on high graphics settings. There’s a game manager of sorts here that I didn’t tinker with much. It’s not too different from the ones implemented in previous Samsung phones. Some key features include focusing the phone’s resources to gaming and limiting or completely blocking notifications.
Battery life is also admirable. One afternoon, I used it to tune into a friend’s wedding via Zoom. The entire ceremony lasted roughly around two (2) hours. In that period, the Galaxy S22+’s battery went from 82% to 76%.
Naturally, that isn’t the single indication of its battery performance. I generally start my days at around 9AM and end at around 8PM. On days that I’m glued to my laptop, with only occasional glimpses on the phone, I would end the day between 60% to 70%. On days that I’m out and about and rely on it a lot to get work done, my day ends with around 25% to 35% of battery left.
You’re looking fine today, not that I only noticed now
I have already done an entire separate article about the cameras on the Galaxy S22+. It’s one of the things that I enjoyed the most about the phone. It’s almost as if it’s impossible to take a bad photo with this on hand.
Easily switching between lenses is great. But what’s even better is how the quality and color reproduction doesn’t vary much from lens to lens. Check these samples out.
And you can even use 10X Zoom with barely any detail loss, especially if it’s a photo that you’re just uploading on social media.
That versatility is unmatched and is fantastic for quick, run and gun shoots like the one I did during the opening of the XM Studio in Singapore.
I am thoroughly impressed and extremely satisfied with the quality of images it produces. And that’s saying a lot seeing as my regular daily phones include an iPhone 11 Pro and an OPPO Find X3 Pro. Both of which are excellent shooters in their own right.
Oh and yeah, “Nightography”.
You think there is a way that I can get you to stay?
You see, the thing about the Galaxy S22+ is that with just the first touch, you already know you’re in contact with something that you should hold onto for dear life. I can’t tell you how many oohs and aahs I got after letting other people hold it in their hands. It just has that effect.
Additionally, the phone is a smooth amalgamation of many other standout phones. It has the breathtaking display of Samsung phones, an overall footprint that feels like an iPhone 12/13 Pro Max, cameras that rival those that partner with notable camera brands, and much, much more. All of that comes in this package that looks and feels well-built on a phone that is easily an all-rounder performer.
Truly, I never want to let it go. And that’s not something I always say about smartphones. So here’s to hoping that this high praise leads to the Galaxy S22+ staying with me more than a little while longer.
The Samsung Galaxy S22+ 5G is still available today in Samsung stores near you, via online at Samsung.com, or at your preferred telecommunication service provider. Pricing information on our key markets are linked in the following: USA | Singapore | Philippines.
I know it’s been a while since its release. Despite all the hype long gone, it’s still a phone you won’t regret buying.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising Review
Charming, action side-scroller
Back in March, I wrote about my brief experience with Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. Now having played the rest of the game, I can safely say that you get more of the same. It is a fun and charming side-scrolling action RPG.
A prequel game
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a prequel game to Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. More specifically, the events in Rising take place about a hundred years ahead of the events of Hundred Heroes. The games are also linked to the PlayStation Classic Suikoden.
Don’t fret, though, as the game won’t leave you wanting. It is very much a complete experience clocking in at around 20 hours of gameplay, give or take.
It’s primarily set in the mining town of New Neveah. That premise plays a big part in how the game plays out. The mining areas contribute to the development of the town, which in turn help you improve and level up along the way. It’s a well thought-out gameplay loop in a very fantasy-esque JRPG setting.
New Neveah being a mining town plays right into the whole gameplay mechanic. At the onset of the game, the player takes the reins as one of the main characters, CJ. She finds the town in shambles, trying to rebuild. As if that isn’t hard enough, the town also has to deal with monsters and bandits while also managing the slew of treasure hunters and adventurers looking for riches in their mines.
CJ is there in search of the biggest rune lens she can find as sort of a rite of passage in their clan. Rune lenses are multipurpose magical artifacts. She meets the town’s acting mayor, Isha and agrees to take on odd jobs around the town for a license to do treasure hunting.
Eventually, she is joined first by the Kangaroo beastman adventurer named Garoo. Later on, Isha joins their party as they not only hunt for Rune Lenses but also try to look for and find out what really happened from Isha’s father – the town’s mayor.
Town shops as skill tree
Areas open up one at a time and the odd jobs lead to the reconstruction of many of the town’s stores and shops. These play a key role in leveling up your party.
Instead of a skill tree, you run errands for the shopkeepers that help them build and expand the stores. These quests yield Baqua, the game’s currency, EXP, and sometimes even key items.
The shops are key to getting permanent stat buffs. The Smithery will improve the stats of your weapons. The Weapons Shop unlocks attacks for each character. The Armory outfits characters that enable more platforming and traversal moves and so on.
This extends to accessories and other items too. Improving the Potion shop unlocks higher level healing potions and other accessories increase in levels. There’s also a dedicated street for Rune Lens/Magic things. You can expand your Stowpack and Resource Bag to carry more items. You can also improve the Rune Lenses you can equip. This imbues elemental magic to your attacks.
Snappy, 2.5D combat
Combat is fairly easy to pick up. Each character is assigned a single button to attack. Pressing the attack button multiple times unlocks combos. There’s also a Synced Attack that deals heavy damage. You execute this by perfectly timing a strike from one character to another. You start of with just two but it also increases in number which is plenty helpful for bosses later in the game.
As mentioned earlier, you can imbue attacks with magic through Rune Lenses. Anyone experienced in RPGs should be familiar with how the elements work. Water beats Fire, Fire bears Wind, Wind beats Earth, and Earth beats Water (I’m gonna need to double check this but for now this is pretty much how it works).
There’s a good number of enemy types. You have ground bound ones, flying types, mages, weapon wielding monsters, bandits, and more.
Each area will have a different elemental variant of these monsters so it’s important to take note which elements you have equipped for more effective strikes.
Easy to digest lore
The beginning of every game can get pretty overwhelming especially when it comes to its story and lore. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is certainly not immune to this. However, it gets significantly easier to digest the more you go through the story. Especially with how the game is designed to keep you coming back to the town, you develop a sort of kinship with them making the entire journey even more worthwhile.
For experienced JRPG players, there’s nothing here that will surprise you. That said, it’s still a generally tightly told story with satisfying payoffs.
Also, I already mentioned this in my preview of the game but I think it merits repeating. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising has the look and charm of 90s JRPGs while trimming the unnecessary stuff and making the experience flow more smoothly. If you’re a gamer parent and want to introduce your child to the wonderful world of gaming, I think this is a great place to start.
Is this your GameMatch?
The gaming community is going through a bit of a lull following massive releases to start the year. Some players are opting to clear their backlogs or hunt trophies. But if you’re still looking out for something new but still want a break from the usual third-person RPG or first-person shooter, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is worth giving a try.
The game is easy to pick-up and play. And it’s an easy recommendation for anyone who wants the look and feel of a classic JRPG but without the high demand for grinding. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is charming, fun, and is a great choice if you want to tide yourself over until the next big AAA title comes around.
Game is out May 11 and is available on PlayStation 4|5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam, Epic and GOG for US$ 14.99/€ 14.99/ £ 12.99
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