Features

6 Best Gaming Smartphones (Q1 2018)

Each phone has its own power!

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It’s easy to dismiss gaming smartphones as any flagship phone that’s currently available. There’s truth to that, but there also some factors we want to consider when looking for a smartphone that’ll be primarily used for mobile gaming like display size, battery life, and any accessories that’ll help improve the gaming experience.

Without further ado, here are our top six picks for the best gaming smartphones:

Apple iPhone 8 Plus

Whether you like iOS or not, you can’t deny that iPhones (especially the latest releases) are one of, if not the best mobile gaming platform. Apple’s devices run smoothly and are favored by developers so it’s a no-brainer that games released for iOS are guaranteed to be in tip-top shape. We chose the iPhone 8 Plus here because of its larger display at 5.5 inches and bigger battery compared to the iPhone 8, and it doesn’t have a notch that gets in the way like with the iPhone X.

SEE ALSO: Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus Review

Motorola Moto Z2 Play

Motorola’s game-changing Moto Mod accessories make their Moto Z series special. If you pair the Moto Z2 Play with the Gamepad Moto Mod, it’ll be an instant portable console. The Gamepad adds dual control sticks, a D-pad, and four tactile action buttons which mean you don’t have to rely on touch controls anymore. Also, the Moto Mod magnetically attaches to the phone with no wireless pairing required and has its own built-in battery. The gaming accessory works with the much powerful Moto Z2 Force, as well.

SEE ALSO: Moto Z2 Play Review: To mod or not to mod

OnePlus 5T

If you’re looking for an Android powerhouse but don’t want to shell out much cash, the OnePlus 5T is the way to go. With its top-of-the-line specifications and beautiful AMOLED display, the OnePlus 5T is an ideal gaming smartphone without breaking the bank. It even has an insane amount of storage and memory options available if you need more space to keep your big games in your pockets and running in the background while you do other stuff on the phone. The display’s 18:9 aspect ratio also makes gaming more immersive than the conventional 16:9 ratio.

SEE ALSO: OnePlus 5T Review: T is for Trendy

Razer Phone

When we were shortlisting our gaming smartphones, the Razer Phone was already on the top of the list. The phone is focused on being a true gaming smartphone since it’s made by Razer. It’s got the latest specifications to play popular and demanding games, a 5.7-inch IGZO panel with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate, front-facing stereo speakers, and a long-lasting battery. It also has other features to make it a daily driver, but you can immediately tell that the Razer Phone is built for gaming.

SEE ALSO: Razer Phone Review: Best smartphone for gaming?

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

One of the best and biggest Android smartphones is the Galaxy Note 8. It positions itself as a productivity phone with its S Pen and accompanying features, but thanks to the powerful processor, it can run demanding games, too. Its curved 6.3-inch Super AMOLED display is not only huge but also among the highest-rated displays in the market which will spoil you with pleasing visuals. While its battery is not as high capacity as others, it’s still sizeable at 3300mAh and the efficient processor can provide long hours of gaming.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Hands-on: Redemption Story

Xiaomi Mi Max 2

Gaming smartphones don’t have to be expensive, especially for those who are fond of graphics-intensive games which are mainly shooting or racing titles. Some are just in for casual or multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games. For that, we recommend the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 — a large smartphone with midrange specs but sits in the budget price point. Its large 6.44-inch display is ideal for any game and the Snapdragon 625 can handle tasks pretty well. The phone is priced under US$ 270 (or even cheaper depending on where you buy it), making it the cheapest gaming smartphone on this list.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Mi Max 2 Review: A worthy successor?

Apps

Ultrahuman: The essential app to get you through quarantine

Getting through isolation days through workout and meditation

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Taking care of our physical and mental health is very much important now more than ever. With everything that has been going on in the world, it’s not surprising that people are taking extra steps to advocate and practice self-care.

One way to do this is by adding good habits everyday and being disciplined to sustain these habits.

With self-care as one of their ultimate goals this year, Martynne and MJ decided to try Ultrahuman: an all-in-one fitness app that includes all the good habits they are currently incorporating in their lives — from workout to meditation.

For a few weeks, they put the app to a test and this is their verdict:

Meditation

Martynne: I am a huge advocate of meditation and it has been a life-changing practice for me, as someone who finds a hard time focusing and being in the present.

Ultrahuman has a wide range of course options that can match a specific mood or emotion. One of my personal favorites is the Managing Anger course, which helped me take a step back, consolidate my feelings and give compassion to myself throughout the process.

The Singles option with one-time meditation tracks helped me become more mindful and grounded whenever I feel overwhelmed in the middle of a workday. The productivity course, on the other hand, kept my eyes glued to my laptop screen until I finished what I needed to do.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, though, is the visuals seem basic to me, and the “dark” interface is much more fitting for the workout option.

Workout

MJ: When gyms are closed and home workouts aren’t fun anymore, how do you remain committed to your fitness goals? That’s what Ultrahuman did: Filling the gap by providing fun workouts and challenges that you can do in a span of weeks. It’s similar to how Nike Training Club presents their videos albeit more personalized.

The Ultrahuman app comes with guided videos from renowned trainers, and watching their instructions during your exercises felt like having a live session with a personal trainer. Unlike most fitness apps that offer video-on-demand workouts, Ultrahuman remembers that we are all beginners, offering a collection of videos through challenges that suit different levels.

After living a sedentary lifestyle, I knew I have to ease up when working out again. The app did wonders in helping me stay active by gradually increasing the difficulty of my challenges, without straining my body or having myself complain about how difficult a certain workout routine is.

Sleep

Martynne: There was an instance that I had a bad case of insomnia and I needed something to put me to sleep.

I tried listening to Ultrahuman’s Bedtime Stories and it reminded me of the sleep podcasts I used to listen to on Spotify.

The voices are relaxing, and the stories come with meditation and sound effects, but I realized I can be impatient with slow stories. I resorted to the app’s soundscapes and brain music, and they helped a lot to relax my brain and finally shut my eyes off.

I don’t exactly know what’s the science behind brain music, but they really work sometimes.

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Accessories

Nokia E3100: Trying new buds for work to workouts

Yes, Nokia has earbuds now

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Nokia E3100

Nokia and I go way back. It was the mobile phone brand of my youth. Our history includes a series of phones that predate the existence of touchscreen ones we use now. Everyone had a Nokia device then. In recent years, it’s become a rarity. So imagine my surprise when I first heard that Nokia is now making earbuds. How did it fare against the audio giants of our time?

First impressions

I got a hold of the Nokia E3100 Essential True Wireless Earphones. Compared to my old set of earbuds (Anker Zolo Liberty+), this one’s battery case and earbuds are extremely light, almost the same weight as a tube of drugstore lipstick.

The buds can operate up to 2.5hrs with a single charge, and up to 10 hours with help of the rechargeable battery case. Super convenient to pack if we still had our old lifestyle of going out daily.

On the job

I used to be able to maximize my earbuds on my commute — listening to music or watching series whenever I’m in transit. Nowadays, I mainly connect my headset to my laptop for Zoom meetings and other virtual work calls.

The Nokia E3100 did not disappoint on the sound side. Audio from the people I’m in the call with was always clear and crisp. But, it can be a hit-or-miss as a mic. The earbuds have a built-in microphone on the right side, but my experience with it left me wanting. There was a point when I had to switch back to the laptop microphone in the middle of a call just so people can hear my voice clearly.

Nokia E3100

On the mat

I also tried the Nokia E3100 for a few home workout sessions. Since the earbuds fit my ears perfectly, there’s no fear of it falling out in the middle of jumping jacks.

Another nice surprise is how you can easily skip or repeat tracks via push button controls on the earbuds. Less distractions to your exercise momentum! The only time I have to reach for my phone is when I want to switch to a different playlist.

Nokia E3100

Is the Nokia E3100 your GadgetMatch?

It’s reliable as an earpiece for listening to music, working out, and watching series. But when it comes to the demands of working from home, the current built-in mic just won’t do.

Nokia has to work on the voice sensitivity and responsiveness of the earbuds’ mic in order to take on this new age of virtual calls and meetings.

The Nokia E3100 retails for PhP 1,999 (US$ 41)

Buy here

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Hands-On

OPPO A74 Hands-On: The 7 things I love about you

A budget smartphone that doesn’t feel like one

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The OPPO A74 was announced not too long ago. While the OPPO A94 is just around the corner, the A74 comes with a lesser price tag — but that doesn’t mean they scrapped a lot of features.

Frankly speaking, I’ve enjoyed using it for about a week now. For the record, this is actually my first time trying an OPPO phone. I’d say, it’s not a total slouch because (in Miley Cyrus’ voice), “there are 7 things I love about you”.

1. Premium-like design and feel

First thing’s first, the phone’s back is made entirely out of polycarbonate plastic. While it’s not prone to cracks and shatters, the phone simply scratches too easily — regardless if you safely put it on tables. Fortunate for clumsy users, there’s an included clear case inside the box.

That said, I still like its premium-like look. As I always say, I’m not the biggest fan of flashy, gradient smartphones but this Midnight Blue colorway looks elegant on its own. I’d pick it over the blander-looking Prism Black option (even if black is one of my favorite shades).

On hand, it feels slim and lightweight. I barely felt the heft when holding the phone with my one hand despite that large display. The curves flow well with your hands, too. Most smartphones these days have a slightly uncomfortable feeling due to sharper phone corners.

2. Crisp and vibrant display

As we’re already on the topic, the A74 packs a 6.43-inch AMOLED display — the same display found on the A94.

The display is vibrant enough even under the harsh sunlight. While it only has a Full HD+ resolution, it still looks crisp. The only downside of this one is the lack of faster refresh rate. I know what you’re thinking. Some affordable smartphones offer faster 90 to 144Hz displays. In return, you get a less bright and vibrant IPS-LCD display.

I’m not complaining with the A74’s conventional 60Hz refresh rate. For one, it saves battery power, and two is because I value a more color accurate display than the latter. But hey, take my opinion with a grain of salt as it’s just my preference in smartphone displays.

Another thing that makes it look “premium” is the inclusion of its punch-hole camera. That simply looks better versus a dewdrop notch.

There’s always an in-display fingerprint scanner which might not be the fastest, but it still gets the job done and is more reliable than a Face Unlock especially in this particular time.

3. Great for multimedia consumption

“Love resembles misty dream” – IU (2021)

This is already a given since it has an AMOLED display. But other than that, despite having just mono speakers, it’s surprisingly loud with a full sound that doesn’t sound tinny and distorted.

Watch Law School on Netflix if you want your mind to F(ail or function)

While it doesn’t feature any HDR10 capabilities, it’s still a viewing pleasure when watching YouTube videos (especially K-Pop music videos) and Netflix series and films.

OPPO was also able to put a 3.5mm audio jack in such a slim  form factor. There’s a set of earphones inside the box. This is great for users who already have an existing pair and also don’t want to spend fortune for another wireless earbuds.

4. Less-confusing Android User Interface

Out of the box, it already runs Android 11 with the ColorOS 11.1 skin. Over the years, I got used to Xiaomi’s MIUI and Samsung’s One UI but as I get to use their interface for long, the more it gets confusing.

To my surprise, the ColorOS looks clean and tidy. It’s not bombarded with unwanted UI elements and at the same time, I love the overall look and feel of the icons and the interface. I also commend how organized the settings are that aren’t as cluttered as other Android skins.

5. Optimum performance

On paper, the A74 is packed with a Snapdragon 662 chipset, 6GB of memory, and 128GB of onboard storage with an option to expand with a microSD slot through its Hybrid SIM tray. Opening basic apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more are quick. Even switching between apps is snappy fast as long as you don’t get too hard on it.

While it may not sound like a lot, it still is a smartphone capable of running popular titles such as PUBG, Mobile Legends, Genshin Impact, and Asphalt 9.

It also has this handy Game Focus Mode which basically is a game sidebar tool when playing games that turns off unwanted notifications and boosts performance so you can enjoy the game you’re playing.

When I played Call of Duty: Mobile, I was able to play with no stutters or lags. While the graphics setting isn’t maxed out to high, medium seems fine already especially that you can see game artifacts and farther enemies in this setting anyway.

6. Large battery capacity and fast charging support

To makes this a lot better, it packs a bountiful 5,000mAh battery — which is very surprising for me considering it has a slim and lightweight form factor.

If your phone already ran out of juice, there’s a bundled 33W fast charger out of the box. OPPO is true to its words as it’s capable of filling it up for around 54 minutes — same as advertised. And for everyone’s convenience, it’s equipped with a USB-C port.

7. Decent main camera

The OPPO A74 packs a trio set of cameras: a 48-megapixel f/1.7 wide (main) camera, and two 2-megapixel f/2.4 depth and macro sensors. I would’ve wished for an ultra-wide camera instead but they decided to put one on the A94.

While video recording is limited to just 1080p Full HD, its HDR and AI work wonders when shooting photos indoors.

Samples look better when they’re shot outside in broad daylight. If you’re always into posting your photos in social media, the A74 won’t disappoint.

Zooming in on the subject with 2x zoom is still doable but sometimes, it has a hard time focusing. This is already given because it doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto lens. Nevertheless, images still look great even if it’s an accidental bokeh shot.

Just don’t use the 5x digital zoom as it’s not helpful at all. It’s either grainy or blurred with a too healthy helping of HDR processing.

Wide | 5x zoom

Wide | 5x zoom

For night mode, don’t get your hopes up as it’s barely usable in low-light conditions. At first, I thought it was just the blurry camera lens, but after taking two more night shots at around three seconds in wide (1x) mode, nothing has changed.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re a long-time OPPO user and you just want to upgrade your OPPO experience without sacrificing too much on money, the A74 is simply a great smartphone to get. With a price tag of PhP 11,990, it’s simply isn’t the cheapest budget smartphone you can buy right now.

Get the OPPO A94 if you can shell out an additional PhP 2,000 — only if you want a Mediatek chipset, an additional 2GB of memory, and the inclusion of an ultra-wide camera. But if we’re talking about better features, you can’t go wrong with the A74 simply because it has a competitive Snapdragon chipset, bigger battery with faster charging, and most of all, a cheaper price tag.

If you’re keen on trying another smartphone brand, there’s the Redmi Note 10 that has a cheaper retail price of just PhP 9,990 (6GB/128GB variant) with an upgraded Snapdragon 76 minus the ColorOS experience.

If you don’t care about design and just want a smartphone of the same kind, there’s the POCO M3 with identical hardware, but with an IPS-LCD display, a slightly larger battery capacity minus the fast charging — all for a pocket-friendly price of PhP 7,990.

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