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:

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

Entertainment

Sony WH-XB700 hands-on: Extra bass, extra flex

Great for travels and even OOTDs

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Today’s gadgets are no longer just mere products. A lot have found their way to our daily lifestyle so it’s also important that they look good while we use them. And for others who are more trend-sensitive, these devices should blend well with their outfit and even character — all while doing what it’s supposed to do.

When it comes to headphones, Sony wants to offer something that you can bring anywhere during your travels while looking discreet yet fashionable. This is where the WH-XB700 comes into the picture. On paper, it ticks the boxes of what a casual listener is commonly looking for in headphones plus it’s geared towards those who prefer a bit of extra oomph in their bass.

It has a simple and straightforward design

Eye-catching but not too loud

Available in solid blue or black color options

We dig the blue one better

Soft padding on the earcup makes it comfortable

Has large cups which we like

Body is made of plastic so it’s light on the head

No problem using it for extended periods

Connects wirelessly via Bluetooth or NFC

Although an option to use its 3.5mm jack is available

Built-in microphone for hands-free calls

Can also connect to your phone’s voice assistant

Comes with 360 Reality Audio

Immersing you more in your music

The WH-XB700, among other models in Sony’s audio line, can be paired to your smartphone. And, using the company’s Connect app, you can tweak and customize your sound the way you like it. But as Rodneil mentioned in his WF-1000XM3 review (we know, confusing names), you wouldn’t really end up adjusting your settings that much.

In terms of sound quality, this pair of on-ear headphones deliver clear highs and decent mids. Vocals could be more pronounced but it’s still not bad. The lows, however, are indeed extra punchy. So if you like playing bass-heavy music like house, hip-hop, and the likes, you’d probably enjoy the extra kick in these cans.

Since it’s wireless, it has to connect via Bluetooth which means it has a battery. We’re glad to report that it has a decent battery life that doesn’t require you to keep on looking for sockets just so you could continue to use its wireless capabilities.

I brought it on one of my overseas trips and was able to use it at the airport while waiting to board, during the 4-hour flight, and while walking around for the rest of the entire day with a good amount of juice left when I got back to my hotel.

Charging time is also not bad with up to 90 minutes of music time just from a 10-minute quick charge.

Having the WH-XB700 for a while is basically being able to conveniently listen to your tunes anywhere you go. It doesn’t have the best audio quality in Sony’s lineup but having its flexibility for usage on-the-go sort of outweighs this shortcoming.

They are also light on the head and easy on the ears so fatigue has been kept down to a minimum. You also wouldn’t have to keep on charging it since it could last a few days of moderate usage.

The Sony WH-XB700 currently retails in the Philippines for PhP 7,999 (around US$ 150). It’s not the best wireless headphones we’ve tried on but it’s actually competitively priced for what it offers. Plus, it looks nice and goes well with almost anything you put on.

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Features

Sony Bravia X95G and HT-X8500 Soundbar: Perfect home cinema combo

Netflix and chill like a boss

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Before the start of the 2019 I thought new TVs are mostly overrated. Brands will sell you on improved picture quality, better audio, and all of that, but a lot of it felt moot to me.

Every now and then we’ll see something that’s really eye-catching, but other than that, I didn’t think much of Smart TVs. But then I got to try one and I was impressed with what it had to offer. So when Sony offered one for us to experience one of their new ones, I jumped at the opportunity.

Notice how I said experience? That’s because that’s what this whole month with the Sony Bravia X95G and HT-X8500 soundbar — it’s the ultimate home theater experience.

Ultimate Netflix Experience

I hate to sound too hyperbolic but this TV and soundbar combo is truly a match made in home entertainment heaven. This is especially true if a lot of your entertainment revolves around Netflix.

The Sony Bravia X95G is one of few TVs that is recommended by Netflix. It has a Netflix Calibrated Mode so if you’re hooked on any of Netflix’s Originals, you will experience them the way its creators intended them to be experienced when you watch on this TV.

Even the remote control has a dedicated Netflix button that will take you right to the app. It’s also equipped with a mic so you can tell the remote what you want to watch and more often than not, it’ll get the title right.

Watching a few episodes of Vagabond on this TV was something else. The show has a cinematic level of production and it really comes through while watching on the TV. Female Lead Suzy Bae looks extra gorgeous and some scenes really feel like they’re right there with you in the living room.

Taking it up a notch with the HT-X8500 soundbar

What really rounds this up as one of the best experiences though is when you hook the TV up with the HT-X8500 soundbar. It’s not the “smart” soundbar that most other brands offer these days but that actually works in its favor. It’s literally plug and play.

It also doesn’t have any subwoofers you need to attach to it. Instead it has twin forward facing woofers. This not only gets the job done, but it also saves you some space.

With Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the soundbar is able to create this truly wraparound sound. If you dim the lights just right, it truly does feel like your own cinema right at the comfort of your own home.

Connect your consoles neatly

Cables are always messy and the way the Sony Bravia X95G deals with it is by having the cables have a path straight down to its two stands. This helps you come up with a clean setup when you connect whatever console you have at home.

Speaking of which, we connected a PlayStation 4 and the TV’s HDR tech kicked in right away. Right after firing up the PS4, the TV will prompt you to adjust the HDR for the best experience. You only have to do this once but can be adjusted anytime.

If you have more than one console, you need not worry. The TV has four HDMI ports. Three at the bottom and one at the side. It also has three USB ports for whatever you may need them for.

Everything good about Android TV

The Sony Bravia X95G is also an Android TV through and through. This means you get Android on TVs the way Google intended them to be experienced. It’s kind of like a Pixel but it’s TV. And just like the Pixel, this means you get security updates before any other Smart TV.

That said, Android TV still has plenty of room to grow. I would argue that LG’s WebOS and Samsung’s Tizen have come a long way in making sure the TV OS experience is more user-friendly and intuitive.

Not just for movies

Of course, you probably won’t only be watching Netflix on your TV. We don’t have a cable subscription so we can’t tell you how good it translates in this TV. What we do have is YouTube, and even the varying qualities of video uploaded on the platform translates nicely on the TV.

The Sony Bravia X95G is not OLED or QLED which appear to be the leading technologies in the space. It’s a more traditional HDR LED Screen but what really takes the picture quality to another level is Sony’s X1 Ultimate processor.

The chip is able to mimic the high dynamic range and deep blacks of an OLED. At this point, nothing will beat actual OLED but this is about as close as you can get. And it’s pretty darn close.

Just take a look at the photo below. It almost looks like I’m face to face with TWICE’s Momo. The Lord knows how I wish that to be true, but it’s just a TV — one with really amazing tech behind it.

The best home cinema combo

The Sony Bravia X95G starts at PhP 88,899 — that’s for the 55-inch variant. The unit we had was a 75-incher. Meanwhile, the Sony HT-X8500 soundbar costs PhP 22,299.

Together that’s about the cost of the same size OLED or QLED TV but if you get the combo, you already have for yourself what’s easily one of the best home entertainment systems one could ask for.

It’s an incredibly satisfying entertainment experience that would have you Netflix and chilling like a boss.

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Hands-On

AirPods Pro Unboxing and Hands-on

Noise cancellation in a small form-factor

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Just like a Beyonce album, Apple just dropped the new AirPods Pro today! Thankfully I got them early, this is our Unboxing and Hands-On.

These new Pro AirPods sound better, fit more snuggly, and are noise cancelling. All while being more petit than before. Hands-On video is live on YouTube!

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