Features

Best of 2016: Budget phones under $300

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Funds not enough for a premium smartphone? No worries, there are plenty of excellent options on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

We’re in the golden age of smartphone parity, where fast specs and fancy features are no longer limited to Apple’s iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxies.

Take fingerprint readers, for example. They’re everywhere now, from China to Cupertino, upscale or down and dirty. In fact, four out of the five devices that make our list can tell fingerprints apart.

We’re in the golden age of smartphone parity, where fast specs and fancy features are no longer limited to Apple’s iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxies.

And that’s really just the start of it. In 2016, the budget phone market is so competitive that there are plenty of phones that can give you a premium smartphone experience for less. No compromises.

To give you a hand, we’ve picked the 5 best smartphones under $300 to choose from. Considering what phones in this price point were like a year or two back, having five to choose from is a luxury even the cash-strapped can afford.

Vivo Y55 ($165)

Vivo Y55

Vivo Y55

The Vivo Y55 is the cheapest offering on this list, but don’t let it’s value mislead you into thinking it’s categorically the worst of the lot. Far from it, actually. We thought it would make a fine addition to this page because of how surprisingly good it is for the price. For roughly $165, you’re getting an iPhone look-alike with an iPhone-inspired paint job, a decent 8-megapixel camera, and a capable processor. The Y55 isn’t a pity case; it’s one of the best items you can buy this side of Android land.

[irp posts=”7340″ name=”Vivo Y55 unboxing and review”]

ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser ($245 for Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 with 4GB RAM model)

gadgetmatch-zenfone-3-laser-20160722-02

ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser

ASUS unleashed a boatload of ZenFones this year. And between the Max and the Laser, the latter takes photography more seriously, boasting a 13-megapixel camera that works well enough to occasionally maintain focus on the subject while blurring out the background. It’s good to see the fast laser autofocus system around the back, as well as the improvements ASUS has made under the hood. The healthy 4GB of RAM, in particular, stands out, and makes the Laser more future-proof than other budget blowers.

[irp posts=”3508″ name=”ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser hands-on”]

Moto G4 Plus (starts at $249 for 2GB RAM and 16GB storage)

Moto G4 Plus

Moto G4 Plus

A fantastic Android pick that comes in at a relatively low starting price of $249, the G4 Plus undercuts some big names yet offers much the same performance, not to mention near-stock Android Marshmallow (with Nougat on the way shortly). The uninspired design and copious use of plastic may turn off some people, but they’ll be missing a damn fine handset that embraces Google’s vision of Android.

[irp posts=”7651″ name=”Moto G4 Plus review”]

OPPO F1s ($265)

OPPO F1s back

OPPO F1s

China-based OPPO has once again impressed us with a bargain handset that goes beyond taking nice shots of people’s mugs. Slapping a 16-megapixel camera on the front should turn heads; but it is the other things that are likely to hold your attention in a positive way. The fingerprint sensor hidden under the home button works fast and offers extra functionality; the rear camera doesn’t let down the awesomeness of the selfie shooter one bit; the LCD display is large and colorful enough to enjoy movies and games on.

[irp posts=”7385″ name=”OPPO F1s review”]

Vivo V3 Max ($285)

Vivo V3 Max

Vivo V3 Max

A superb, reasonably priced smartphone, the V3 Max has the brawn and beauty to match the greats. A metal design that looks and feels better than it costs? Check. Solid battery life and quick charging? Check. All the hallmarks of a quality modern smartphone, particularly a good low-light camera, a fast fingerprint reader, and internals that would make most phones blush? Check, check, and — wait for it — check. Take a bow, Vivo. You’ve done it again.

[irp posts=”1944″ name=”Vivo V3, V3 Max Hands-On Review”]

(Note: All prices excluding that of the Moto G4 Plus are based off of suggested retail prices in the Philippines.)

Features

What does the GPU Turbo do to your phone?

Is it more than just a marketing gimmick?

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It’s been two months since Huawei rolled out the GPU Turbo update to its smartphones. Promised with a 60 percent increase in performance and reducing 30 percent on power consumption, a lot of fans and users were excited after the announcement.

Back then, everyone (including me) was hyped about lag-free games and longer battery life while playing. However, upon receiving the update, I began to wonder: Has GPU Turbo delivered what it promised?

What’s inside the update?

GPU Turbo was originally marketed as an improved gameplay experience, available only to PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

The Game Suite app, which comes with the update, offers an uninterrupted gaming feature, hiding all notifications when enabled (except for calls, alarms, and low-battery alerts).

Mistouch prevention is another feature to avert users from clicking the back and home button while playing — perfect for when you want to focus on your game.

Screenshots by Miguel Pineda, Huawei Mate 10 user

To some older smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10, the Game Suite App offers three performance modes: Gaming mode, which improves game performance but increases power consumption; Smart mode, which balances performance and power consumption; and Power saving mode, which saves power but reduces game performance.

For the newer Huawei P20 Pro (which I’ve been using) and Honor Play, it only has a gaming acceleration mode to toggle on or off.

Thoughts on the reduced power consumption

Because I used the Mate 10 before and recently transitioned to the P20 Pro, I’ve experienced the GPU Turbo update in both phones and I can guarantee that they’ve delivered on lowered power consumption.

With Game Suite, I can put my phone on power saving mode to further save battery. For instance, I was only able to drain the Mate 10 down to 15 percent during a 12-hour road trip despite switching between the games I play and other apps, such as Messenger, Netflix, Spotify, and taking photos and videos every once in a while. The same goes for the P20 Pro.

As a power user, I already get a lot of things done with these highly efficient smartphones and GPU Turbo; these allowed me to do more on a single charge. However, it’s a different case for gaming.

Improved gaming experience, but there’s a catch…

When I started playing games on gaming mode (or game acceleration mode on the P20 Pro), I could run Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on a high frame rate with the highest graphics setting available. Compared to how the game stuttered and lagged during 5v5 clashes, with GPU Turbo, it now runs smoothly, as if I have a smartphone made for gaming.

System notice when enabling the high frame rate on Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and the effects it may have on your gameplay

As shown above, most mobile games will notify their users about the possible repercussions of higher frame rates and using the best settings available. To prove that a smartphone with GPU Turbo can handle this, I sought out to confirm my suspicions.

After asking fellow Huawei users, I found out that after installing GPU Turbo, energy consumption is a lot faster than before. Their smartphones also heat up more easily, especially when playing games with the game acceleration mode on. This isn’t part of what was promised, and it’s pretty disappointing.

It’s not yet perfect

In my experience, GPU Turbo tries to boost performance above a smartphone’s limit hoping that users can experience better gameplay.

GPU Turbo can’t choose when to perform its best. It’s an update that is constantly running in our smartphones without any way to switch it off. We can only hope that Huawei will address these issues for the next batch of updates.

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Hands-On

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Hands-on: Best phone of 2018?

Huawei outdoes itself again

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In an industry where incremental updates are the new norm, Huawei manages to wow us again — barely a year after the release of the P20 Pro. The Chinese company is back with the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro which might just be the best among the best this year.

In this video, we go over the phones’ new designs, updated cameras, and new memory card format. We also go through the differences between the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.

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Features

Huawei Mate 20 vs Mate 20 Pro: What are the differences?

Price isn’t the only factor

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Huawei has once again launched two flagships phones at the same time; one comes with a Pro moniker, while the other does not. Like before, there are some significant differences between the Mate 20 pair to take note of.

While we wait to get our hands on the Porsche Design Mate 20 RS and Mate 20 X, here are the two phones we already know everything about.

Display

One obvious difference is in their displays. While the Mate 20 Pro goes for a notched 6.39-inch 1440p curved HDR OLED display — certainly a mouthful — the regular Mate 20 has a 6.53-inch 1080p RGBW HDR LCD with a much smaller notch.

The Pro model justifies the larger notch by housing a more complex camera system for secured facial recognition, but if that doesn’t matter to you, the regular variant’s Dew Drop notch may be more appealing — and definitely less intrusive.

In addition, the Mate 20 Pro’s OLED tech allows it to curve the edges and equip an in-display fingerprint scanner. It’s essentially the more modern-looking design of the pair.

Performance

Since both models have Huawei’s Kirin 980 chipset installed, pure performance is virtually identical. The Pro and non-Pro also share the same memory and storage configuration of 6GB and 128GB, respectively, although the plain Mate 20 has a more affordable 4GB memory variant available, too.

Another minor difference: The 4200mAh capacity of the Mate 20 Pro, along with the more energy-efficient OLED, provides it with potentially longer battery life than what the Mate 20’s 4000mAh capacity and LCD panel offer.

A more significant advantage for the Mate 20 Pro is its inclusion of a 40W SuperCharge adapter in the package — noticeably better than the 22.5W output of the Mate 20’s. Plus, the Pro version can charge other phones wirelessly using wireless reverse charging tech.

Cameras

Perhaps, you’ll care most about the difference in camera quality and performance. While it’s too early to make photo and video comparisons, an initial look at specs shows that the Mate 20 Pro may have an edge.

There are three modules in place for the Pro: One is a 40-megapixel main camera, another has 20 megapixels and an ultra-wide lens, and the final unit offers 8 megapixels with 3x optical zoom

As for the Mate 20, its main camera has only 12 megapixels, the ultra-wide shooter settles for 16 megapixels, and the 8-megapixel telephoto camera goes up to only 2x optical zoom.

Despite the larger notch of the Mate 20 Pro, they share the same 24-megapixel selfie camera.

Pricing and colors

This part largely depends on where you reside, but in an ideal setting, all five colors — Emerald Green, Midnight Blue, Twilight, Pink Gold, and Black — should be available for both models.

Pricing is another matter, and it again depends per region. In Europe, the Mate 20’s 4GB+128GB configuration retails for EUR 799 and its 6GB+128GB model goes for EUR 849. The Mate 20 Pro’s sole 6GB+128GB variant costs EUR 1,049, making it more expensive by EUR 250 and EUR 200, respectively.

In Singapore, the Mate 20’s 6GB+128GB setup retails for SG$ 998, while the Mate 20 Pro is at SG$ 1,348 — a difference of SG$ 350.

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