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

Vivo outs dual-display phone, China bans iPhones: Weekend Rewind

Brands that are hot and brands that are in hot water

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. Vivo’s new NEX phone comes with two displays

The NEX Dual Display Edition joins the Nubia X in spearheading two-face smartphones in the market. The main display measures 6.39 inches and it virtually occupies the whole front of the phone. On the back is the secondary 5.49-inch display which is always ready for use. Both displays use Super AMOLED panels and have Full HD resolutions.

Since the phone has an all-screen facade, it doesn’t have a front-facing camera. All of the picture-taking duties are handled by the rear shooters of the NEX. There’s a main 12-megapixel f/1.79 camera that’s accompanied by a special 2-megapixel f/1.8 night video camera and a Time of Flight (TOF) sensor.

2. MediaTek’s new CPU brings next-level AI

MediaTek went ahead and introduced its new chipset, the Helio P90, even though the Helio P70 just came out a few months ago. On top of better AI processing, it offers improvements across the board, from boosts in camera features and wireless connectivity to better overall performance.

It should also improve imaging capabilities. The Helio P90 can handle up to a supersized 48-megapixel unit or dual cameras split into 24 and 16 megapixels. 4K video recording at 30 frames per second is possible, as well as 1080p at 120 frames per second.

There’s still no word on which phones we can expect to feature this chip but we’re pretty sure the wait won’t be that long.

3. Samsung collabs with a Supreme rip-off

Earlier this week, Samsung China announced a startling partnership with lifestyle brand Supreme. In lifestyle circles, the red-boxed brand is a haven for hypebeasts.

Sounds good so far, right? The thing is, Samsung’s new collaboration is not with that brand. Instead, the Korean tech company has partnered with a known Supreme knock-off. Strangely, both the original Supreme and Samsung know this fact.

They have since re-evaluated this partnership and disclosed no definite reasons except that they “deeply regret the inconvenience caused.”

4. A loaded OnePlus 6T is now official

It seems like coming with a beefed-up version of a flagship is a thing now. After Huawei and OPPO partnered with Porsche and Lamborghini, respectively, OnePlus introduced its McLaren Edition of the OnePlus 6T.

Not only does it have a carbon fiber pattern and the popular automaker’s logo on the back, but it also has practical features like Warp Charge that outputs 30W and charges the phone from zero to 50 percent in just 20 minutes. That’s McLaren fast!

5. China bans Apple from selling iPhones

Recently, Qualcomm engaged in a legal battle against Apple in China. According to the company, Apple violated some critical software patents.

Long story short, China has issued a guilty verdict against Apple and has banned the American company from selling and distributing most of its iPhones in the country.

The ban didn’t include the new iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. However, iPhone models with older software versions are all under the ban.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

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Smartphones

GadgetMatch Awards: Best Smartphones of 2018

Handpicked by the GadgetMatch team

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Like it or not, there’s no best smartphone this year — or any year for that matter. Rather, there are great smartphones for different users and different needs.

In this set of GadgetMatch Awards, we look at the best of the best by category, from the most practical to the somewhat shallow. We’re sure you have your own winners, so let us know in the comments what you think.

Here we go:

Best Battery Life — Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Rarely do we think: When will this phone finally die? In fact, we often ask for more juice out of our smartphones, something that the Mate 20 Pro effortlessly delivers for us. On top of its class-leading performance and stellar looks, this smartphone can easily last for two days on a single charge — wow!

Best Selfies — Vivo NEX S

This pop-up camera is no gimmick; it takes awesome selfies, as well! From the moment it appears to the time it snaps our HDR-licious selfies, taking self portraits with the NEX S is both a spectacle and a pleasure.

Best Special Edition — Porsche Edition Huawei Mate 20 RS

How do you make an already-premium phone even more special? By slapping on some leather and the logo of a luxury automaker! Yes, the Porsche Edition Huawei Mate 20 RS is by far the hottest-looking smartphone of the year.

Best Design — OPPO Find X

There were tons of jaw-dropping smartphone designs in 2018, but none have wowed us as much as the OPPO Find X’s. The automatic sliding action continues to impress us to this day, and we can’t get enough of the borderless look in front.

Best Charging Technology — SuperVOOC

In terms of new technology, 2018 became the year of faster charging. That said, OPPO’s SuperVOOC tech stands above all with its insane speed. We can’t wait to see it in more smartphones come 2019!

Best Portrait Shooter — Apple iPhone XR

Portrait photography has become a standard feature across all smartphones, but the iPhone XR does it best with a single rear camera. We love how it cuts out the subject and applies the perfect amount of bokeh to our photos.

Best Beauty Mode — OPPO R17 Pro

OPPO has done it once again with a beauty mode we’re proud to use. The advanced post-shot customization and application of artificial intelligence have been taken to another level, and we love ’em!

Best Special Feature — Xiaomi Mi Mix 3

Slide up, slide down — rinse and repeat. No smartphone feature got us more pumped than the Mi Mix 3’s manual sliding form factor, which combines the best of nostalgia and practical application.

Best Display — ASUS ROG Phone

A 6-inch notch-less AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate? We’re sold! The ROG Phone may be a gaming smartphone at its core, but it’s also a perfect multimedia companion thanks to its gorgeous screen.

Best Speakers — Razer Phone 2

Great speakers are such an underrated feature on smartphones these days. Fortunately, we have the Razer Phone 2 to remind us how it should be done. Two powerful speakers facing the user form the best combination we’ve seen all year.

Best Video Shooter — LG V40 ThinQ

LG has yet again brought professional-grade videography to the masses with the V40 ThinQ. While other manufacturers focus purely on photography, this little powerhouse offers a slew of video-recording features that we absolutely adore.

Best Productivity — BlackBerry KEY2

Let’s face it: As much as we’ve gotten used to touchscreen displays, nothing beats the no-look convenience a physical keyboard offers. BlackBerry executed this to perfection with the KEY2, and we’re so glad they did.

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Features

MediaTek Helio P90 arrives with next-level AI and processing performance

Coming soon to midrange phones everywhere

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As previously reported, MediaTek’s latest midrange system on a chip (SoC) is here, and it brings next-generation AI performance to the segment.

Even though the Helio P70 came out only a couple of months ago, MediaTek felt that the P90 is needed to push midrange phones to the next level. On top of better AI processing, it offers improvements across the board, from boosts in camera features and wireless connectivity to better overall performance.

Let’s begin with the most important part: artificial intelligence. It’s what makes the P90 stand out, considering that it’s made for midrange smartphones. It owns an AI engine that houses a dual-core APU (application processing unit) with an AIA (artificial intelligence accelerator), which essentially place it ahead in its class.

These translate to numerous applications in real life, such deep-learning facial detection for quicker logins, real-time beautification and scene recognition for the cameras, and faster processing for augmented and mixed reality apps. Even better: Google Lens is already supported by this SoC.

Speaking of cameras, that’s another highlight here. The Helio P90 can handle up to a supersized 48-megapixel unit or dual cameras split into 24 and 16 megapixels. 4K video recording at 30 frames per second is possible, as well as 1080p at 120 frames per second.

On the connectivity side, it has support for the Cat-12/13 4G LTE bands, and more importantly, 2×2 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 — bringing it on par with more premium chipsets.

Everything is powered by a 12nm octa-core system consisting of two Cortex-A75 processors at 2.2GHz and six Cortex-A55 processors at 2GHz. A PowerVR GM9446 GPU running at 970MHz handles all graphics duties. In addition, CorePilot tech makes sure that everything operates efficiently.

We’re still waiting for word from partner brands on which phones we can expect to pack this new SoC. With CES and MWC coming up in the next few months, we’re sure to hear more about the Helio P90 soon.

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