Features

Best Video Games of 2017 (Q3 Edition)

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Deep into 2017, there’s still no end in sight to the flood of excellent video game releases. To help keep you from drowning in the goodness, here are the ten best games of Q3 2017 ordered by release date.

Splatoon 2

Nintendo’s funky fresh team-based competitive shooter is back and better than ever. Splatoon 2 features the same solid foundation of spraying ink to control space and eliminate opponents, but with new weapons, new skills, and new modes. The biggest change is that you can now play it on the go, as it’s on the Nintendo Switch.

Available on Nintendo Switch (July 21)

Pyre

What do you get when you cross basketball with fantasy and visual novel mechanics? You get Supergiant Games’ Pyre. It’s a character-driven drama played at the spaciest of arenas and with the highest of stakes: freedom. Revel in the art and ruminate on heavy decisions that will stick with you for a long time. Read our review for a more in-depth breakdown!

Available on Windows and PlayStation 4 (July 25)

Tacoma

There’s a mystery in the space station Tacoma, and it’s up to you find out what happened to its missing crew. Rifle through drawers, access personal computers, and scrub through conversations of holographic projections in real time. Unfold the untold stories of every staff member in a chill yet eye-opening experience.

Available on Windows and Xbox One (August 2)

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Mental illness has never been quite so sensitively depicted in big, blockbuster games until Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. You take control of Senua, a Celtic warrior dealing with psychosis that’s made worse after a traumatic event. Cut down enemies, recognize patterns in the environment to solve puzzles, and wrestle with your inner demons in a harrowing visual tour de force.

Available on Windows and PlayStation 4 (August 8)

Sonic Mania

SEGA’s old blue furry mascot has seen better days. It makes perfect sense then that Sonic’s best adventure in years is a trip back to the golden years, but with a twist. Sonic Mania has you replaying old favorite stages remixed for the modern era alongside brand new levels that match the design of a 90s child’s wild imagination.

Available on Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch (August 15)

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Nathan Drake’s treasure hunting days may be over after Uncharted 4, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had exploring ancient architecture and shooting mobs of mooks. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy puts you in the boots of sassy thief Chloe Price and partners you with stone cold mercenary Nadine Ross in a tightly paced, action-packed caper through the jungles and caves of India. Check out our review for a full analysis!

Available on PlayStation 4 (August 22)

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Who would have ever imagined that putting guns in the hands of Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and Princess Peach would turn out to be a good idea? The makers of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, apparently, as this cutesy turn-based strategy mash-up with the raving Rabbids is the best video game crossover of the year. Put your thinking cap on, and lead your crack squad of Nintendo icons to tactical triumph in a colorful world.

Available on Nintendo Switch (August 29)

Destiny 2

Fighting aliens was the only consistently good thing in the first Destiny. Destiny 2 makes everything else about this online sci-fi first person shooter bigger and better. Whether you just want to shoot your way through spectacular set pieces by yourself or team up with friends to conquer hardcore coordinated challenges, you’ll be having fun and looking cool while you’re at it. Get all the details by reading our review.

Available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (September 6). To be released on Windows (October 24).

Divinity: Original Sin II 

If you’re looking for the closest thing to authentic Dungeons and Dragons-style role playing in a good-looking computer game, your search stops with Divinity: Original Sin II. No other RPG right now respects player choice in character creation, combat, and conversations, and rewards it with satisfying battles and superb narratives. Play it by yourself or with a companion!

Available on Windows (September 14)

Metroid: Samus Returns

Although it’s technically a reimagining of a classic, there are enough changes to the elegant 2D side-scrolling action adventure formula in Metroid: Samus Returns to justify revisiting it. New controls and abilities give you more options to fight and traverse, while the sleek visual upgrade highlights the fun like never before. It’s a good reason to dust off that 3DS!

Available on Nintendo 3DS (September 15)

SEE ALSO: Best Video Games of 2017 (Q2 Edition)

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Hands-On

Cherry Mobile Flare S7 Plus hands-on: A step-up

The company’s greatest contender

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Cherry Mobile recently launched their new Flare S7 series, which is essentially their main smartphone lineup for the year. The greatest offering among the bunch is the Flare S7 Plus, a device with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a 2018 phone.

Since it’s from Cherry Mobile, you’d expect the phone to be cheap, right? Price-wise, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another affordable phone.

Here’s what I got to say about the Flare S7 Plus.

Cherry Mobile has officially joined the notch wagon with a borderless 6.18-inch display. It’s a Full HD+ panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it’s Cherry Mobile’s best display yet.

It’s vibrant and produces vivid colors, but the user interface kind of ruins the beauty of the display. It’s best to download your preferred third-party launcher and customize to your heart’s content.

Unlike with other midrange phones, the Flare S7 Plus’ notch is pretty wide and there’s a reason for it. The phone is equipped with more advanced facial recognition hardware including an IR camera. This ensures higher accuracy, faster unlocking, and even better face detection in low-light.

If you’re not a fan of face unlock, you can always resort to the fingerprint sensor placed on the back of the phone. Based on my usage, the fingerprint reader is faster most of the time than the face unlock. Good thing you have the best of both worlds.

Now that we’re on the back of the phone, let’s talk about another special feature of the Flare S7 Plus. Finally, Cherry Mobile embraces a more elegant design using a glass back and metal frame. I was told that they used Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so it won’t scratch easily in your pocket or on the table.

Since we we have a glass back, it’s possible to put in wireless charging and the company did just that. Simply place the phone on any Qi standard wireless charger, and let the magic happen.

It’s not exactly magic per se, but it’s amazing to have your phone charge by placing it on a table. This phone costs less than half of most flagships that don’t even support wireless charging.

Of course, you can always charge this phone’s 3050mAh battery through the reversible USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port because, sadly, the Flare S7 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Cherry Mobile bundles a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter inside the box, so you can still use your legacy headphones as you please.

Powering the Flare S7 Plus is a MediaTek Helio P60 processor. We have already tried the capabilities of this chipset with the OPPO F9, and it definitely delivers great performance. If you’re into benchmarking, you’ll be glad to know the Helio P60 scores higher than its competitors.

The phone also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage which is pretty standard nowadays. It boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but there’s no word when Android 9 Pie is coming.

The gaming performance of the Flare S7 Plus is above average, which is what you can expect from the Helio P60. The Mali-G72 MP3 GPU works well with intensive games, but you must reduce the graphics quality a bit to get consistently high frame rates.

As for the cameras, the Flare S7 Plus has capable shooters that are probably the fruit of Cherry Mobile’s investment in improving their R&D when it comes to picture quality. The phone has dual rear shooters using a main 16-megapixel RGB sensor and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. In the front, there’s another 16-megapixel selfie camera that’s paired with the IR sensor when needed. Check out the samples below:

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An additional feature of the front sensors is FlareMoji. Using the IR sensor and facial recognition, you can animate cutesy characters. Check this out:

It’s essentially like Apple’s Animoji, but the tracking is nowhere near as smooth as with the iPhone. Anyhow, it’s still enjoyable to use.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For just PhP 11,999 (US$ 225), the Flare S7 Plus offers a lot. You get a great premium phone with midrange power, beautiful display, and a plethora of extra features like wireless charging and an IR face scanner. The software UI is quite a letdown, but you can always download a launcher from the Play Store.

If you’re wondering what the Flare S7 Plus is in other markets, it’s also called the BLU VIVO XI+ and they share similar specifications and design.

SEE ALSO: Cherry Mobile announces Flare S7 series with three new smartphones

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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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