Features

Best Midrange Smartphones from $300 to $600

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When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best midrange smartphones retailing from US$ 300 to US$ 600.

Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our two other lists for best budget and premium smartphones.

Here they are in no particular order:

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 ($500)

It was the original Mi Mix that put borderless phones on the map, but it’s only with the Mi Mix 2 that Xiaomi can say they finally refined the concept. Now easier to hold and smarter in execution, the newest Xiaomi flagship has an improved pair of cameras and some of the best specs you can find on a phone priced at US$ 500.

REVIEW: Xiaomi Mi Mix 2

OnePlus 5 ($479)

The OnePlus 3T has finally been unseated from our list, and what better way than by its successor, the OnePlus 5. The price may have gone up, but you get even more flagship-level features this time around: a much faster Snapdragon 835 processor, up to 8GB of memory, and an additional camera at the back capable of zooming in on subjects.

REVIEW: OnePlus 5

Huawei P10 ($580)

While it may seem odd placing Huawei’s latest and greatest smartphone on a midrange list, the P10’s price is surprisingly competitive, especially when compared to other flagships launched alongside it at Mobile World Congress 2017 (MWC). If you’re after something a little more beefed up, there’s always the more expensive P10 Plus.

REVIEW: Huawei P10

Vivo V7+ ($345)

Slim bezels have finally become mainstream on midrange smartphones thanks to the Vivo V7+. Although it no longer has a dual-camera setup like its predecessor, image quality is still top-notch for the price, and the new Snapdragon 450 chipset proves its worth in terms of performance and energy efficiency.

REVIEW: Vivo V7+

Moto Z2 Play ($499)

We’re not including the Moto Z2 Play on our list just because it’s one of the few modular smartphones to come out this year (the Moto Z2 Force being the other one); in fact, it’s a solid handset with or without Moto Mods. We can thank the efficient Snapdragon 626 processor, super-fast fingerprint sensor, and clear Android skin for that.

REVIEW: Moto Z2 Play

Updates as of October:

  • Replaced Xiaomi Mi 6 with Xiaomi Mi Mix 2
  • Replaced OPPO R11 with Vivo V7+

Updates as of September:

  • Replaced ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom with Xiaomi Mi 6

[irp posts=”19162″ name=”Best Budget Smartphones below $300″]

First Look

ASUS VivoBook S14 Unboxing and First Impressions

Just the right size and power?

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ASUS decks out stylish yet powerful laptops. For instance, the new VivoBook lineup comes with the latest 11th-gen Intel chipset, along with various colors befitting any personality and lifestyle.

Designed with a youthful vibe for a younger audience, the ASUS VivoBook S14 shows-off what it’s made of.

Out of the box, the VivoBook S14 greets you with its sleek, matte-like finish.

Underneath the laptop, you’ll see the usual guide and warranty booklet.

Of course, it comes with a charging cable and adapter, and a set of stickers.

A laptop that’s beautiful in black

Taking the laptop out of the box, the ASUS VivoBook S14 presents itself in a sleek, beautiful Indie Black. This color used to grace laptops from a decade ago but was abandoned in favor of parading colorful variants.

ASUS brings back the color in a classy manner — applying a matte-finish to make it look expensive. In varying angles, the Indie Black can also subtly look like Navy Blue or Dark Gray.

The curves and edges are designed flawlessly, without removing essential ports. I personally find this thoughtful, seeing how most devices we use haven’t transitioned to USB-C. The ASUS VivoBook S14 offers a balanced experience for everyday users — making the laptop a perfect companion for the daily grind.

The laptop opens easily, thanks to its bar-like hinge. Its silver body is unlike any laptops in its bracket, evoking a premium, classy appeal. Touching it feels like your fingertips were gracing a brand new SUV; it’s exciting and invigorating.

Surface you’d love to grace your finger on

The trackpad provides a touch experience decent enough so you won’t need a mouse. Additionally, ASUS reinvents the trackpad by applying a feature evident in its premium lineup — a NumberPad. Tapping the touchpad icon will turn the trackpad into a LED-illuminated numeric pad. Calculator, whomst?

The keyboard is perfect for everyday use. It’s not too big or small — just the right size. Aside from designing the keys smartly, the keyboard has secret functions that can boost the laptop’s performance.

With ASUS’s Intelligent Performance Technology, you can switch between different modes that perfectly suit your usage.

Simply toggle the Fn and F hotkey combination, and you can switch between Whisper Mode for a cool and power-saving operation; Balanced Mode for optimized performance, thermal, and power parameters; and Performance Mode which boosts the laptop’s performance up to 40 percent for heavy workloads.

A vivid, dream-like experience

Unlike the previous VivoBook S14 I’ve tried, this one comes with beefier specifications. It’s equipped with Intel’s 11th-gen Core i7 chipset, assisted by NVIDIA MX50 graphics (Intel Iris XE for other units).

This makes it easier for the laptop to balance battery life and performance, compared to previous models. It’s powered by up to 16GB of RAM with a large capacity PCIe SSD for superfast storage and experience.  You can access anything swiftly.

Moreover, the VivoBook S14 sports a 14-inch NanoEdge display that can handle a 60FPS frame rate. Its thin bezels and Full HD display offer vivid visuals; an exceptional color reproduction augmented by wide viewing angles. It’s truly a treat for content creators and everyday users.

First Impressions

There’s a lot to explore in this new ASUS VivoBook S14, but it remains true to its promise: a stylish, powerful laptop for anyone. It’s lightweight and offers just the right size — in its form, keys, and screen.

It fits in my bag and blends with my personal stuff. It’s truly a match for anyone’s personality and lifestyle. And it has the right power apt for content creation or everyday usage. In essence, it’s the perfect balance most people are looking for.

The ASUS VivoBook S14 comes in a variety of colors. The 11th Gen Intel Core i5 variant comes in Indie Black, Resolute Red, Gaia Green, and Dreamy White. Meanwhile, the 11th Gen Intel Core i7 comes in Indie Black and Dreamy White.

Pricing and availability

The ASUS VivoBook S14 S433 i5 and i7 are now available in ASUS Concept Stores, IT Multi-brand Stores, ASUS E-Store, ASUS Shopee, and ASUS Lazada official stores. They retail for PhP 49,995 and PhP 59,995, respectively.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and ASUS Philippines.

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Features

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy Note 5: 20 changes in 5 years

A testament to Samsung’s smartphone superiority

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Note 5 vs Note 20 Ultra

I clearly remember the day Samsung announced the first-generation Galaxy Note last 2011 at IFA Berlin. Back then, it got all of the attention because it’s one of the first few “phablets” with a gigantic 5.3-inch display, simply dwarfing the 4.3-inch-touting Galaxy S II. Other than the big screen, the inclusion of S-Pen is what set it apart from other contenders.

Ever since that release, I’ve dreamed of owning one — until I had my first Note with the Galaxy Note 5. Five years later, I had the chance to get my hands on the newest Note flagship, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Image by GadgetMatch

As a long-time Note fan, it’s amazing to see how Samsung tried their very best to keep up with the smartphone game by undergoing certain improvements and changes. It’s also been a while since we’ve had a dedicated Galaxy Note comparison article so why not make a new one?

After riding that nostalgia train, I tried listing down 20 changes from Galaxy Note 5 to the latest Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — that’s five Note generations passed in just five years. Here’s a testament to Samsung’s smartphone superiority.

1. Size

One obvious change is with their sizes. In 2016’s standards, the Galaxy Note 5 is simply one of the biggest smartphones you can own alongside its cousin, the Galaxy S6 Edge+, as well as Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus. But with a larger display, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra simply makes the Note 5 look like a “regular-sized” piece of slab.

2. Display

Speaking of display, the Galaxy Note 5 has a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a 60Hz refresh rate. On the other hand, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra sports a massive 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with a smoother 120Hz refresh rate.

The new display tech is a huge step-up not just for the Note line, but for Samsung’s mobile display technology. Other than the large size gap, the Note 20 Ultra also features a curved edge display that first made its debut on the Galaxy Note Edge.

3. Material

The Galaxy Note 5 was the start of a new era where removable batteries became a thing of the past. While nothing much has changed with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, its back is now matte instead of the shiny and glossy back of the Note 5 that’s super smudgy and prone to fingerprints and hairline scratches.

The newer Note also feels more premium even without a case because of the new material. Although the Galaxy Note 5 has curved edges on its back, it still failed to achieve better ergonomics because of its flat front which the newer Note has managed to ace because of its symmetrical design. Also, the aluminum frame was replaced by a sturdier and more elegant-looking stainless steel frame.

4. Ports

Samsung still kept the micro USB port on the Galaxy Note 5. The Galaxy Note 7 paved the way for the introduction of USB-C in the Note series — which the Note 20 Ultra still has today. Other noticeable differences are the placements of the S-Pen and speaker grilles and the removal of the 3.5mm audio jack.

5. Sensors

To make way for that edge-to-edge display, Samsung has excluded the physical fingerprint scanner on the Note 5. While it was still present until the Galaxy Note 9 (just moved at the back), the newer Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is equipped with an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint reader which made its debut on the Galaxy Note 10 series.

Other than that, the heart rate sensor of the Note 5 was also removed and is nowhere found on the latest Note flagship. This sensor has moved to smartwatches which is more widely available compared to when the Note 5 first came out.

6. S-Pen

Samsung introduced the clicking mechanism on its digital pen with the Galaxy Note 5 to imitate a retractable ballpoint pen. Several generations after, the mechanism still exists but the new S-Pen of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a Bluetooth connection for Air Actions. It’s also battery-powered and can be charged through its slot.

The fine ergonomic when writing is still there but the newer one is slimmer and has a slimmer nib. Other than that, the Note 20 Ultra has a 9-millisecond latency which makes scribbling and sketching closer to reality as if you’re writing on a paper.

P.S.: Both versions of the S-Pen work on both devices; Note 5’s S-Pen works on the Note 20 Ultra and vice versa. I accidentally inserted the Note 20 Ultra’s S-Pen all the way to the Note 5 slot but of course, the older S-Pen won’t fit inside the new S-Pen slot.

7. Rear Cameras

Their rear cameras also signify the biggest jump in Samsung’s Galaxy Note line. The Galaxy Note 5 sports a single 16-megapixel f/1.9 camera sensor on its back. During my early time with this phone, it took a lot of great shots in such form factor. That’s a realization that Samsung seriously focused on their camera department.

Five years after, the megapixel size of the main sensor multiplied nearly 6.5 times! Other than the 108-megapixel f/1.8 camera, you also get two 12-megapixel telephoto and ultra-wide lenses, making it a triple-camera setup. The additional ToF 3D and Laser AF (Autofocus) sensors make the quality better than ever.

If you like all those large numbers, the newer Note 20 Ultra can record in an ultra-clear 8K/24fps resolution while the Galaxy Note 5 can shoot at 4K/30fps max — and both resolutions aren’t fully-maximized up until this day.

8. Front Camera

A larger hole doesn’t mean its better. The Note 20 Ultra has a bigger 10-megapixel f/2.2 front camera compared to the 5-megapixel f/1.9 selfie shooter of its predecessor. Video quality is better at 4K/60fps max while the latter can manageably shoot up to 2K/30fps.

9. Sound

Other than the new designation for their speaker grilles, one notable change is the inclusion of stereo speaker in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The Galaxy Note 5 only had a mono bottom-firing speaker. This makes the multimedia experience better and more dynamic.

Those microphones were also leveled-up. You get to record crystal clear and a surround sound audio with the upgraded mics found in the Note 20 Ultra.

10. Software

Samsung’s ultra-buggy and bloatware-filled TouchWiz that’s found on the Galaxy Note 5 got replaced by One UI with a more striking and visually-appealing set of icons and animations.

The new UI is a drastic change for someone like me who used TouchWiz for a long time, considering it was one of the biggest drawbacks of owning a Samsung smartphone in the previous years.

11. Processor

Samsung ditched the Snapdragon variant for the Galaxy Note 5 in favor of their very own Exynos 7420 chipset. Several generations after, Samsung brought back the two chipset options with a Snapdragon 865 variant as well as the Exynos one. Fair enough, my review unit came with the Exynos 990 processor.

After years of innovation, Samsung’s in-house chip improved so much that it can keep up with its Snapdragon counterpart. Performance in the new Note has been topnotch. Meanwhile, the 5-year-old Note 5, although usable, suffered from stutters and lags mainly due to software and hardware degradation.

12. RAM and Storage

In today’s standards, the Galaxy Note 5’s 4GB RAM won’t be enough for the everyday needs of a pro user. Meanwhile, the newer Note 20 Ultra has triple the amount of memory with a whopping 12GB RAM that helps you do multitasking with ease.

Storage options for the older Note were only limited to 32GB and 64GB, while finding a 128GB variant was very rare. This year’s Note starts with that storage capacity, followed by 256GB and 512GB, plus a microSD slot for better expandability — which the Note 5 failed to keep during its time (making it the only Note device without a dedicated memory card slot).

13. Power

Over the years, every Android smartphone has significantly increased their battery capacities. Although Samsung faced the hardest bang with the battery fiasco of the beloved Galaxy Note 7, they have learned their lesson by improving their batteries’ safety and technology in every Note (and even S) flagship phones.

Generations after that, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was able to pack a beastly 4,500mAh battery over the Note 5’s minuscule 3,000mAh unit.

14. Charging

Charging technology has vastly improved over these years. With the bundled 25W charger, it can fill it up from zero to 100 percent in just 70 minutes. Buying an optional 45W charging brick would speed it up more.

On the other hand, the Galaxy Note 5 has a lower battery rating yet charging speeds are a little bit longer at around 90 minutes with the bundled 15W charger.

15. 5G vs 4G LTE

5G right at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig (PH)

As you can see in the photo above, 5G speeds in the Galaxy Note 5 Ultra are instantaneous over the regular speeds you get while using 4G LTE in the Note 5.

It’s not totally a deal breaker for now as there are only a handful of 5G-enabled hotspots around the world that can maximize this feature. Still, it’s amazing to see how Samsung made the latest Note future-ready.

16. Desktop eXperience

This is a feature that’s totally missing on the Galaxy Note 5. Die-hard Samsung users would know that Samsung DeX was first introduced in the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 series via an optional dock. This is made to level up the use of their flagship smartphones by hooking up an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse into the dock to mimic a desktop-grade experience.

Although this isn’t new on the Note 20 Ultra, the ability to use it wirelessly is definitely a bump-up to make a wireless and cordless DeX-perience. And yes, it successfully runs on my MacBook Pro just via a single USB-C cable.

17. Water and Dust Resistance

Another Note-worthy feature that’s not in the Galaxy Note 5 is an IP certification rating. The old Note can withstand tiny splashes but it simply wouldn’t protect it from a full immersion in water and dust.

The Galaxy Note 7 had an IP68 rating, making it the first Note device to do so. It basically makes the phone withstand dust and water of up to 1.5 meters for thirty minutes. This rating continued generations after up until the latest Note 20 Ultra.

18. Android Software Support

For the first time in forever, Samsung has committed to a three-year support to Android software updates — which will make the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra receive an Android 13 update in 2022. The current phone runs One UI 2.5 based on Android 10 with an upcoming One UI 3 based on Android 11.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Note 5 only lasted until Android 7.0 Nougat with TouchWiz Grace UX while the ability to run Android 9.0 Pie with One UI was entirely based from the Custom ROMs of several modders found at XDA-Developers.

19. Color Options

The Galaxy Note 5 was available in four different eye-catchy colors: Black Sapphire and Gold Platinum were the most common units people were rocking that time while White Pearl and Silver Titan were harder to find.

On the other hand, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has three colorways with Mystic White being the common denominator among the two devices. There’s also a neutral Mystic Black unit and a more premium-looking Mystic Bronze color — and the photos above prove that claim.

20. Launch Price

With all the spec bump and feature upgrades, it comes as no surprise that the latest Note 20 Ultra retails more than double the price of the Note 5 from five years ago.

The base 32GB model of the Note 5 retailed for US$699 (PhP 32,990) while the base 128GB Note 20 Ultra 5G was launched at US$ 1299.99 (PhP 72,990).

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Huawei MatePad T 10: A Family’s GadgetMatch

Built for different needs

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Gadgets, for the most part, take away the family quality time. We’re glued to smartphones, laptops, and TVs that we forget to bond with the people close to us.

Technology may have been in the way of our relationships, but we can use it to bring the connection back. With the right device, we can strengthen the bond inside our homes.

This Holiday season, take the opportunity to stay closer using the Huawei MatePad T 10.

GadgetMatch for the Family: Spending quality time together

The MatePad T 10 can help a family strengthen their bonds by spending quality time together. With an entrancing 9.7-inch HD display, families can share the tablet when watching movies or TV shows.

Its vibrant display delivers a stunning visual experience, augmented by Huawei’s proprietary ClariVu Display Enhancement Technology — which boosts image and video quality, upping detail, contrast, and more.

Coupled with Huawei’s Histen 6.1 software, families can enjoy a surround sound experience. Truly, it’s a theatrical audio-visual treat for the whole family.

GadgetMatch for Moms: Working from home

For busy parents, sometimes work doesn’t stop during the Holidays. With a smart tablet like the MatePad T 10, parents can work at the comforts of their own home while bonding with their families.

The MatePad T 10 — even with an affordable price tag — also carries Huawei’s top smart features evident on their premium lineup. Work seamlessly by using Huawei Share and Multi-Screen Collaboration, where you can transfer files easily between your smartphone and tablet.

Both devices can also be used simultaneously, so you can work remotely, without being tied to a desk. For video conferencing needs, the MatePad T 10 has a noise reduction feature so you don’t have to worry if kids are being rowdy.

GadgetMatch for Dads: Helping the kids learn from home

Holidays can also be a time for learning. Stay-at-home parents can help kids utilize MatePad T 10’s versatility.

Make learning easier when you use certain features such as eBook Mode and Eye Comfort Mode which delivers a pleasing reading experience.

The tablet intelligently adjusts the brightness and contrast, filters blue light through a certified TÜV Rheinland panel, and send health-related alerts to ensure you have a healthy experience.

It’s also lightweight which makes it easy to hold. No more worrying about strained arms caused by similar yet heavy devices!

GadgetMatch for the Older Siblings: Spreading the holiday cheer

Leave it to the older siblings to be the DJ and play some holiday tunes. With the MatePad T 10’s quad-channel speaker system engineered by Harman Kardon, you can revel in an immersive sound enveloping the spaces.

Even though the built-in speakers are loud enough to fill a room, there’s a headphone jack in case you want to connect the tablet to a bigger speaker system.

It also has a 7250mAh battery, which lets you play holiday tunes on loop for hours. Powered by Kirin 710A and EMUI’s power-saving technology, the MatePad T 10 can even last longer!

Have a ball whenever Mariah Carey graces any Spotify playlist. If you’re not into Spotify, AppGallery and Petal Search Widget makes it easy to find the apps you might want to install.

GadgetMatch for the Kids: Create and play to heart’s content

Kids don’t have to keep on learning and watching videos all day! The MatePad T 10 supports Huawei’s M-Pencil (with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity), so anyone can write and draw accurately on the tablet.

Moreover, the tablet sports a powerful chipset and a custom Mali-G52 GPU supporting GPU Turbo 3.0, so kids can effortlessly switch between apps and play graphics-intensives games. Even better if it’s an educational game!

There’s also a dedicated Kids Corner, helping parents to create a safe, manageable space for children. Several features can help deliver a secure experience. For instance, the tablet creates an alert whenever the kid’s face is too close to the screen. Parents can also tailor the experience to make sure kids access only the apps that are suitable to their age.

Huawei’s Christmas Treat

The Huawei MatePad and MatePad T 10 retail for Php 20,990 and PhP 6,999 respectively. Purchasing the MatePad comes with freebies up to PhP 1,378 such as a Free Huawei MatePad Cover and 15GB Huawei Cloud storage for 12 months. Meanwhile, the MatePad T 10 comes with 15GB Huawei Cloud Storage, too.

Moreover, the MatePad Family comes with special gifts perfect for Christmas. Starting November 27, the MatePad T8 comes with a free Moon Night Light while the MatePad Pro comes with a free Entertainment Gift Box.

Consumers can pay through credit card installment in all major banks up to 24 months with no interest rate in official stores and authorized dealers.


This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Philippines.

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