If you’re looking for the very best high-end smartphones available, you’ve come to the right place! Every month, GadgetMatch updates this list with the finest devices money can buy, no matter how much they cost.
As a follow-up to our July compilation, this August list takes every newly launched flagship costing more than $600 into consideration, but doesn’t discount the smartphones that continue to make an impact since their launch last year.
Here they are in no particular order:
Samsung Galaxy S8+ ($850)
Was there any doubt about Samsung’s most gorgeous phone making this selection? Armed with the finest processor ever built in the Snapdragon 835, possibly the best single camera in a handset today, and the most refined Android skin to date, the Galaxy S8+ looks to stay on our radar for a long time.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus ($769)
You can’t complete a selection like this without including Apple’s latest handset. And it’s not because an iPhone has to be included; the iPhone 7 Plus is so fast and so smooth, there’s no way we could ignore it. It also gets the nod over the regular iPhone 7 thanks to its far more impressive dual-camera setup.
Google Pixel XL ($769)
While the Pixel XL has its shortcomings — the lack of serious water resistance and oddly plain design spring to mind — you can’t find a more optimized Android smartphone right now. Everything about it is snappy, from the incredible camera to its witty Google Assistant. It’s also got the most up-to-date operating system, unlimited storage for all your photos, plus a better screen resolution and battery life than the smaller Pixel.
LG G6 ($650)
After what many considered to be a failure in the G5, LG went back to the drawing board and crafted a smartphone that looks and feels great, and — more importantly — simply works. We’ve been so fond of the G6’s generous but not-too-tall display, extra-wide-angle camera, and super-solid build quality since we got our hands on it. Buh-bye, modules!
Sony Xperia XZ Premium ($799)
Say whatever you want about its traditional design and seriously high-end pricing, but the Xperia XZ Premium is the only smartphone that competes well against Samsung’s pride and joy, which sits at the top of this list. That’s because this Sony flagship has an equally capable Snapdragon 835 processor and a screen that’ll make you go, “Woah!”
[irp posts=”15600″ name=”Best Premium Smartphones above $600 (July 2017 Edition)”]
24 Hours in Nasugbu
A dreamy sea-scapade through the lenses of the Xiaomi 11T Pro
As they usually say, “unplanned trips are the best.” Like the Quezon beach trip that was decided in a spur-of-the-moment, going to Nasugbu was also ever-spontaneous.
We would’ve gone to Boracay, as we snagged a cheap PhP 5,000 worth of round-trip airfare. But with all the inconsistencies of the government in announcing lockdown restrictions, we decided to let it go and hop on a road trip down south.
Unconventional yet thrilling
Going to Pansol, Laguna, or an overlooking resort in Tanay, Rizal was one of the options to consider. However, we found ourselves driving further extemporaneously.
After two to three hours, we reached Nasugbu, Batangas. Along the way, we discovered a cool, overlooking view of Batangas at night, right before you pass through Tagaytay.
Unpack things, not feelings
At exactly 8:32 PM, we reached our destination. The first thing I did was unpack my stuff. Feelings? You can unpack it later after a late yet sumptuous dinner.
I tested Xiaomi 11T Pro’s photo prowess by taking a photo of that figurine inside the room with just that artificial light around.
Surprisingly, it looked good despite not fully embracing its overall camera performance. I also took a quick mandatory FFTB mirror selfie.
I like how that Depth of Field (DoF) separated me from my surroundings. Maybe the macro camera has its perks after all.
I went outside to get some breezy night air while I let my hair dry. Unfortunately, beaches are closed past 9 in the evening.
While sitting at a chaise lounge, I also captured photos of meat-grilling sessions. The Xiaomi 11T Pro’s Night Mode did a good job, especially with the appearance of fire and smoke. Very unlikely with how most night photos turned out in my review.
I also used it to capture these selfies sans beauty mode — which look good for my liking.
We all need that ✨ Vitamin Sea ✨
We decided to spend the rest of the night with some booze — until my friends got knocked out. I was able to stay awake and witness how the dark sky transitioned into a picturesque, beach view.
There was no sunrise view since Nasugbu is situated on the western side. The saving grace is that sunsets look magical in this town.
The resort looks antiquated; brimming with history among its guests over the years. Thanks to that ultra-wide lens, it was able to capture the place clearly. And without the obstruction of crowds.
It’s probably the best part of this quick getaway: only a few people in sight.
There’s a stainless steel gate with a stone arch paving the way towards the sandy beach of Nasugbu. Xiaomi 11T Pro’s Auto White Balance (AWB) might actually lean more into the warmer side. But notice how overly-warm my sandal-fie was?
Going further, there’s also a wooden gate near the beach. It’s suppose to deter unwanted visitors coming from other resorts. I had a small talk with the resort owner and he shared how low tides are more apparent this season. Sea waves in high tides would reach as far as the stainless, steel gate we crossed earlier.
Just like in my review, the inconsistency of the ultra-wide and wide lens can be seen especially with that less bright shot. Zooming in past 1x means relying on digital cropping via its main sensor. Little did I know that doing so loses that warm White Balance.
Unpredictable like the ocean waves
The Xiaomi 11T Pro’s camera performance is pretty much unpredictable.
While the 11T Pro’s shot looked better because it’s brighter and sharper, that’s actually the camera software’s over-processing. The night shot taken with the Mi 10T Pro was closer to what I saw in person.
Fast forward to the next day, this was how it looked like as early as six in the morning. Astonishingly, the beach shot of the 11T Pro was too cool. Not “too cool” though in terms of quality. The Mi 10T Pro delivered a better shot.
But when you switch to that even wider Ultra-Wide Angle (UWA) lens, the Xiaomi 11T Pro was once again inconsistent AF.
After some time, fishing boats started to appear on the shoreline. I then tried tapping the 2x option for that zoomed shot. The photo turned out way too blue.
Looking around, there’s a fancier resort right next to where we stayed. I took a shot and the warmer White Balance and better Dynamic Range saved the Xiaomi 11T Pro this time.
Xiaomi 11T Pro is pretty consistent in having inconsistent wins and losses. The Xiaomi 11T Pro wins this one due to the preservation of image details and better High Dynamic Range.
Ending this with the last photo before we went home. Not much of a difference but the bluish tint in the sky is evident on the 11T Pro versus the Mi 10T Pro’s less-vibrant sky.
Spicing up this sea-scapade getaway
As GadgetMatch’s Associate Creative Producer, post-processing (or color grading) shots is also part of my job. While we barely post color-graded photo samples on this website unless clearly stated, this section is clearly dedicated to some photos taken with the Xiaomi 11T Pro that were modified through a photo-grading app.
Like what you saw earlier, the RAW versions of these photos looked so bluish to the point that I was like in Avatar. Luckily, post-processing apps were made and I was able to improve it by applying a preset and adjusting all the necessary camera settings such as temperature/White Balance, highlights, shadows, contrast, among others.
I can’t miss another beach photo this time. I asked my friend to take photos of me in this weird all-black get-up.
Then, I just tried to write letters on the sand and made it a candid-looking shot. My friend followed after me (which kinda looked like she was mocking me lol).
I then took over the Xiaomi 11T Pro and took more photos of her.
This is a testament that bragging #NoFilter shots are senseless. Color-grading shots adds more life and story to your photos.
I always tell people that camera angles play a huge part in photography. Just look at how my friend nailed the first shot compared to a regular photo shot from a distance.
The blown out highlights and exposure of the original photos made it look less appealing. Lucky enough, I was able to salvage these photos through the power of color grading.
Candid photos are simply the best for memory preservation. It makes you remember the moments more than the poses you’ve made in front of the camera.
One thing I liked about the beach in Nasugbu is the firmer sand crystals despite having a mud-like color. Those in Unisan, Quezon had white sand but are actually rougher especially when you’re barefooted.
But I do like the clearer blue water in Quezon. The one here in Nasugbu is far more brown just like the beach’s color. And as I remember my regrets of not being able to visit Boracay, it also reminded me how I badly miss the white sand plus the crystal clear and less salty water of the island.
It might seem unfortunate, not to be able to visit Boracay during this pandemic. Being surrounded by two pairs of sweet honey bees doesn’t help either.
But, in all honesty, I enjoyed the company more instead of being awkward. Especially with the bond that we already formed. And yeah, I’m used to being single and alone (and no, this ain’t a sadb0i sentiment).
Certainly, unplanned trips are indeed the best.
All shots were taken using the Xiaomi 11T Pro with a mix of RAW and post-processed photos edited through VSCO.
We made sure all of us were safe and COVID-19 free prior to going to the travel location. All of us are already fully vaccinated but still submitted the requirements needed for in-country travel. Face masks were still worn during the trip and were only removed for the sake of the photoshoot. Social distancing protocols were followed as well.
24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.
Arcane Act III: Gobsmacking finale
I am lost for words
Act III: Gobsmacking finale
This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
I wasn’t prepared for Arcane to end. And for the emotions that astounded me throughout the series’ third act.
I was delaying the inevitable; that this series will come to an end. I delayed watching the final act on purpose, just like I would with any other show I’ve fallen in love with.
But I’ve faced the end and I was utterly speechless. With every episode ending, I found myself dumbfounded with all the revelations, twists, and cliffhangers.
I thought Arcane would be predictable, especially when you base it on the game’s lore, but it wasn’t. And that made me love Arcane even more.
Art that gets better
Just when you thought the animation was already marvelous, it got even more magnificent. The introduction of more characters, sceneries, and changes in the plot often require brilliant storytelling.
Arcane slew it with its visuals, majorly between Ekko and Jinx — childhood friends turned enemies. The two brandished the contrasting ideologies in the city of Zaun.
The fight scenes also got sprightlier, thanks to the advent of HexTech through the weapons. I was ecstatic when Jayce whirled his hammer and he transformed it into a cannon, much like in the game.
Honestly, I wondered why I didn’t have a crush on Jayce when I was playing League of Legends, but I find him bewitching in Arcane.
On another note, Vi’s gauntlets punch through walls and bones with ease. Her clash with Sevika is one of the reasons why I was reminded of my love for martial arts. I can only dream of doing those stunts.
Riot certainly outdid themselves in the visual presentation of Arcane. It was carefully planned and executed. There’s no wonder the series got people hooked — even if they aren’t fans of League of Legends.
Taking a wild turn
Arcane is so damn unpredictable. Knowing the game’s lore could be the endgame, and indisputably the future of these characters. But let’s forget that for a moment.
What Arcane showed is the prosaic, everyday passing through the lives of the champions who lived in and crossed Piltover and Zaun. We even got a glimpse of what Noxus feels like — another empire in the land of Runeterra — through Mrs. Medarda.
Yes, the scheming councilor that our beloved Jayce is knocking boots with, has a parent come over to the City of Progress.
The third act expanded the story and its characters. How their lives are intertwined and divided by the circumstances surrounding them. And how it’s setting up for a war that might take place in the near future.
Unbeknownst to these characters, their lives are connected in ways they’re unaware of.
The collab we never knew we needed
Arcane exhibited different pairings we never expected. Caitlyn, Vi, and Ekko — teaming up to go back to Piltover and clashing with Jinx.
Heimerdinger discovers Ekko’s ingenuity and the two work together. (Bye, Jayce!)
Vi and Jayce shut down Silco’s manufacturing plants.
And even a peace agreement between Jayce and Silco to prevent war.
The series gave a platform to various dynamics; clashing personalities and upbringing brought together for one common goal.
I would’ve thought they’d cross each other in one grand finale, but the ending wasn’t what I expected. But somehow, it’s a serendipitous way to end the first season.
So open-ended, it presented possibilities on what’s next. Fans delighting in coming up with theories on how the story will pan out, especially for Season 2 — which Riot and Netflix have already promised to deliver in the future.
Though a bit anticlimactic, personally, I’m elated that I watched Arcane these past few weeks and it ended the way it was. I didn’t have the good ending I hoped for, but it gave me the opportunity to yearn for more.
Having a second season might give me the answers I’m searching, and the excitement I’ve been looking for. Riot hasn’t disappointed so far, and I’m certain they’ll make a grade with a masterpiece when the next season arrives.
Why you still need a tablet and why it should be the Xiaomi Pad 5
During the early days of tablets, I was among the ones who got hit by the bug to go and get myself one. I remember saving up to buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab and then later on, the Google Nexus 7.
Eventually, smartphones caught up as they evolved into the larger and faster devices they are today. And the middle ground between the smartphone and the laptop slowly went into a drift.
But living with a tablet once again these past few weeks with the Xiaomi Pad 5, my whole perception of tablets changed. These supersized smartphones have gone a long way with what they can do and that they’re so much more capable than ever.
So, allow me to share the things I’ve been able to do with the Xiaomi Pad 5 and why you might also need one for yourself.
Content creation buddy
With the availability of advanced apps nowadays like PicsArt and Autodesk Sketchbook, doing graphic design, creating social media content has never been easier and satisfying on an 11-inch screen and a smart pen.
I personally have managed to leave booting up Photoshop on my laptop and focus on creating content on this tablet and I’ve been loving it so far.
These mobile apps aren’t as advanced as their PC counterparts, but with some creativity, there’s no reason not to be able to pull off amazing results.
As for video content, the Snapdragon 860 SoC on the Pad 5 slices through the timeline of video editing apps like CapCut and Kinemaster even with multiple layers of hi-res videos.
I tested this even further by editing footage taken with my Sony mirrorless camera and that didn’t seem to be a problem as well.
Seriously, if it weren’t for the limited color grading features of these apps, I could really see myself using this as a legit video editing machine.
Luckily, this concern might just be solved soon as LumaTouch, the brand behind the popular video editing app LumaFusion, has just announced that the app is coming to Android. You bet I’ll be using the Pad 5 with that.
A more portable laptop replacement
As much as I love my laptop, I just can’t deny that it’s a chore to carry around, especially if your only purpose is for light work like word processing. So it makes sense to use a tablet as a laptop replacement since it’s lighter, smaller but also very capable when you need the extra power.
With the Xiaomi Pad 5 weighing only 511g at an 11-inch footprint, this is already an attractive choice. But if we consider that this is already packed with an 8,720 mAh battery that could easily get through a day’s work on a single charge, then that means you won’t even need to bring a charger along with it which makes it even more portable.
And this battery life isn’t just an assumption from Xiaomi. I actually have never had the need to recharge in a full day of using it regardless of what I’m doing. Sometimes I even find myself using it with its previous charge from the day before and that still gets me through the day.
One of the most obvious reasons for people to get a tablet is for its bigger screen with the purpose of using it for media consumption.
In the case of the Pad 5, the screen isn’t the only aspect that improves the media consuming experience but also the stellar sound quality coming from its four speaker setup.
I just finished watching the Netflix series My Name on this and I can say, it does a great job of simulating ambiance as if the sound is coming from different locations. This is brought by the Dolby Atmos mode incorporated in the Pad 5 that really adds to the immersive feel.
Though, this is something you can also turn off if you don’t prefer having virtual surround all the time like for listening to music.
Perfect for play
I’ve touched on the Snapdragon 860 processor earlier in this review, but to further explain this for those who aren’t aware yet, this chip is actually just a couple of notches lower than the brands best offering. In other words, it’s really fast.
It definitely handles the most graphically demanding games available like Genshin Impact with little effort.
I’ve been enjoying FPS games like Call of Duty: Mobile on this with all settings topped up without a hitch. No hiccups, lags or anything, just an enjoyable 11-inch gaming experience. And adding to that experience, the 120Hz refresh rate display makes the game even more fluid than it already is and I love it.
The device also didn’t feel hot to hold while gaming. I’m assuming this is because of the larger body which probably contributes to heat dissipation as there’s more airflow inside the case than compared with a smartphone. So, I think it’s safe to assume that heat won’t be an issue when gaming on this handheld.
There’s also quite a few people sharing their desk gaming setup on Facebook groups with the Pad 5 as their main console so I guess that in itself shows us that it’s a very capable gaming machine.
Your personal notebook, but better
With so many things to learn online, one thing I’ve adapted to doing on the Pad 5 is using it as a high-tech note taking device.
While it’s not as organic as writing with an actual pen and paper and it did feel awkward writing on glass at first, it’s just so much more efficient and less cumbersome to bring along a tablet over actual notebooks.
Along with features like the Xiaomi Smart Pen’s palm rejection which lets us rest our palm on the screen, combined with the 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, it didn’t take long for me to perform natural writing strokes as I would on paper.
And with the ability to selectively screen grab images or take photos of documents using the 13MP camera and attach them on notes for easy references, note taking has certainly been elevated from traditional methods.
Tablets are here to stay
These are just a few of the things I have learned to do while having the Xiaomi Pad 5 with me for a few weeks. While I understand that it’s easy to dismiss the idea of incorporating tablets into our lifestyle, my experience made me realize that there’s so much I’ve been missing out on.
The convenience of having a bigger screen than a phone, a more portable size than a laptop, power when you need it, superb battery life and just the overall experience paired with the Xiaomi Smart Pen, all these have been a game changer for me.
I guess I can officially say tablets have found its spot in my way of life and it’s going to be difficult for me to return to my daily routine without it and I have a feeling you might too.
Whether you are a student, a casual user or a working professional, I think the Xiaomi Pad 5 is a no-brainer choice especially if you’re looking into getting into tablets that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
The Xiaomi Pad 5 currently retails for PhP 19,990 for the 6GB RAM with 256GB storage variant and PhP 17,990 for the 6GB RAM with 128GB storage variant.
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