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

Features

3 months with the Samsung Neo QLED 4K TV

Extended quality time with a superb TV

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Neo QLED

I was supposed to only have about two weeks to a month with the Samsung Neo QLED 4K TV. But the heightened restrictions due to the record number of Coronavirus cases in the Philippines extended that duration. Nearly three months in, and I’m now dreading my life without the TV.

We’ve already discussed at length the various features of the Neo QLED 4K TV — the QN85A model to be exact. In this article made in collaboration with Samsung, we detailed how it’s great for practically anything you’d use your TV for. Whether that’s for chill movie nights, binge-watching TV shows, and even next-gen gaming. This TV has it all.

But here, I’ll detail what it’s really like living with the TV for three months, what I love about it, and what I think Samsung can improve on.

The processor makes a world of a difference

Neo QLED

During the time I had the Neo QLED 4K TV with me, we also shot the video for the Samsung Crystal UHD TV. It’s another very good 4K TV offering by Samsung but one that’s a little friendlier to your wallet.

The one thing that jumped out at me is the speed by which I’m able to jump from one app to another, and launch various settings and features so much faster on the Neo QLED 4K TV. Other than the gaming and extra features that I’ll discuss more later on, it’s this very noticeable difference in speed that really hammers home the price gap (Around PhP 70,000/ US$ 1380) between the two.

Of course, there are other factors like the processor, materials used, and all the other extra smart features, but it’s this tiny quality of life addition that I think might be often overlooked when talking about these TVs. It’s also the processor that enables all these other extra features.

Extra feature

Since I’ve already broached on the topic, I figured I might as well discuss one of them here. I’ll jump right ahead to the one extra feature that I found surprisingly fun, if not helpful.

The Samsung Neo QLED 4K TV lets you display images from two different sources at once. It can be any combination of an app, any of the HDMI input sources, and even your smartphone.

Some combinations I’ve used are as follows:

VLIVE + Twitter on my smartphone — Every now and then, my favorite K-Pop idols go live on the VLIVE app. For real-time translations, I rely on the kind-hearted and hard-working KOR-ENG translators on stan Twitter.

PlayStation 5 + YouTube — I once tuned in to a product launch while playing an NBA 2K game. I don’t really need the audio on NBA 2K, especially if it’s just a quick exhibition game. This way, I still got to chill and play while still listening and glancing over the product launch.

Netflix + Analytics app — Some days I just have whatever show running for white noise, and then have Google Analytics show up on the screen so I can monitor the traffic on our website.

Is this burn-in? 

What I found most surprising is the burn-in like effect I experienced after coming from Game Mode. It’s silly to think this is actually burn-in as Neo QLED is fundamentally different from OLED.

But during the earlier weeks I spent with the TV, some elements of the pause screens from NBA 2K21 and Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut were left on-screen even after I was done playing.

Neo QLED

That NBA 2K logo isn’t supposed to show up there

I reached out to Samsung about this but have yet to receive a response. I’ll update the article when they comment on the matter.

That said, the “after-images” didn’t stick though. My solution was to turn off the TV for about 20-30 minutes. Sure enough, that did the trick. I also didn’t encounter this again towards the tail end of my time with the TV.

Speaking of things no longer happening after using the TV for a while, I experienced a few hiccups with Game Mode. Part of the TV being Smart is knowing when you’re playing or not. It knows when the HDMI for your console is active or not and toggles Game Mode on/off accordingly.

Game Mode glitch

During my first few weeks with the TV, there were instances when I would turn-off the PS5 but the Game Mode remained turned on. You have to dig through the settings menu to turn it off which was a bit of an inconvenience. But after a while, this also stopped happening.

In both experiences, it appears as if the TV learned from my usage pattern and adjusted accordingly. It’s one of the things about it that gives me confidence that the Neo QLED 4K TV gets a little better with time.

Other than the aforementioned, Game Mode delivers as advertised. I hit 4K/60fps consistently and gaming was nothing short of an immersive and cinematic experience.

Cinema at home

Perhaps my favorite thing about the TV, and what people mostly want to get out of their TVs, is the absolute cinematic experience. Especially now that cinemas are still closed in the country. The 55-inch TV was my primary movie companion.

Watching movies old and new from the various available apps — Netflix, Apple TV, HBO Go — was nothing short of a treat. Elevating the experience further is the accompanying Q600A Soundbar. If you’re a huge movie and TV buff, I cannot recommend enough to get a soundbar. The high-quality audio helps in bringing over that audio-visual excellence we miss while movie theaters remain closed.

This photo was taken on an iPhone 11 Pro. See the black bars up top, this is a shot of the TV. It looks this good up close.

I just know the watching experience is gonna be drastically different when I switch back over to my old TV that’s screaming to be replaced. This is peak picture quality the way you want to enjoy it. Whether you like watching exactly as the director intended, or if you’re into that super smooth, hyper-realistic setting you usually see when these TVs are on display, there are more than enough settings here to tweak things to your liking.

UI needs a refresh

Neo QLED

The UI isn’t terrible, but it’s due for a redesign.

Functionally, we’re pretty okay with the TizenOS running on Samsung TVs. But it’s due for a visual refresh. For a TV that’s pushing the edge in features, image processing, and panel quality, the UI is starting to feel dated.

Other than the look, Samsung can also work on getting better, faster access to certain settings. I don’t think this will happen any time soon, but I hope they’re able to apply some design principles from ONE UI to the TV to make it look more modern and feel more smooth.

Worth every penny

Samsung Neo QLED

Despite detailing some issues with Game Mode, I am still of the firm belief that the Samsung Neo QLED TV is worth your hard earned cash. Whether you go for 4K or push things further with the 8K model, what you’re getting here is a top-of the-line entertainment hub. One that will last you for years.

I’m already having separation anxiety as I type the last few words on this article. I consume a lot of media, and I’ve never had it delivered to me as good, as crisp, and as heart-thumping, as the Neo QLED TV.

It’s a TV I would absolutely recommend to anyone looking to splurge on a really good home entertainment centerpiece.

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Cameras

The Sony ZV-E10 is exactly as advertised

Great for vlogging and beginners

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ZV-E10

Sony’s newest vlogging camera — the Sony ZV-E10 — is the first in their vlogging series of cameras with an interchangeable lens. Does it make all the difference? Is it good for everyday use? And is it really built or vlogging? These are just some of the questions we tried to answer as multiple members of the team tried the camera for themselves. Here’s what we had to say.

What did you think of the build quality? Did it feel sturdy? Was it too light? 

ZV-E10

Leez: The Sony ZV-E10’s build is every minimalist’s pipe dream. It blends functionality and probability well. But, it is really light. So much so, that it was worrying at times. The lightness of the build is an obvious pro and a confusing con because your brain doesn’t think something light is particularly “sturdy”. But, I’d say after using it, it’s both lightweight and sturdy.

MJ: The Sony ZV-E10 feels lightweight when you use it to shoot photos and videos — even if you shoot single-handed. However, you can feel its weight when you use its grip. It felt sturdy, but I was scared the whole time since I’m used to heavier cameras. I thought I was going to drop it at some point.

Rodneil: Coming from someone who regularly uses an a6500, the ZV-E10 definitely felt light and not sturdy. But after using the ZV-E10, the ‘not sturdy’ claim may not be accurate. And its lightweight is perfect for its intended use of vlogging.

Do you think the overall controls and configuration would be easy for a beginner to get used to? 

ZV-E10

Leez: The Sony ZV-E10 doesn’t have a rough barrier of entry when it comes to learning how to use and play around it’s features. For me, it was pretty simple and easy to use. If there’s a catch though, it would be the painful focus.

I’m more used to manual focus since my camera’s focus is broken. But, while using the ZV-E10 to shoot, it had gone completely out of focus for a good half hour. It took a while to fix the focus but it does seem that the camera struggles a lot with figuring out what the subject is–favoring what is closest to the camera. So, I’m assuming this would be a nightmare for someone who likes working with foreground shots.

MJ: If it’s your first time to have a camera, you’d probably learn it quickly. Assuming that Sony is also your first. But if you’ve used different cameras before (and still consider yourself a beginner), you might have a hard time, too. Which is what happened to me.

The ZV-E10 and I played tug-of-war when it came to controlling our shots. For instance, the camera suggests a subject to focus on, even if it wasn’t my intended subject and I was aiming for an uncommon shot. To put it simply, the ZV-E10 works for a beginner’s hand and eye rather than someone experienced.

Rodneil: I think, for everyone who’s answering here, we all had a bit of trouble with focus. Sony’s autofocus is fantastic especially when detecting faces. But it’s a bit of a disadvantage when you’re taking product images with the model’s face visible in the frame. The autofocus prioritizes faces which isn’t always to our liking. However, again, for its intended vlogging-use, it’s fantastic.

It shouldn’t be hard to figure out for any first-timer. You won’t be overwhelmed with too many physical dials and controls. There will be an adjustment for more experienced users, but for anyone just starting, it shouldn’t take too long to get used to.

Is there anything in your usage that particularly stood out?

ZV-E10

Leez: Most of the camera features are useful. It was reliable and easy to access. But, if there’s something that I appreciate about the ZV-E10, it’s that it’s really lightweight. I just don’t particularly like lugging around heavy equipment when shooting or filming so, making sure it didn’t weigh heavy on my flimsy arms was a huge plus. Perhaps, that’s why most people often end up filming and vlogging with their phones sometimes: most cameras are heavy and bulky to bring along. I think the ZV-E10 lives up to what it promises in that regard.

MJ: I have a love-hate relationship with beautification. Sometimes I like it since it helps when I’m looking worn out after being out in the sun. But sometimes, the smoothing is unnecessary when you badly want to highlight details.

Rodneil: Personally, I struggled with the general lack of granular control. I didn’t realize I adjust so much per shot using my own camera. It was only after using the ZV-E10, which encourages a more point-and-shoot approach, that I became more aware of my camera-shooting habits.

Do you think the interchangeable lens would be useful for people just getting into vlogging/content creating? 

ZV-E10

Leez: Yes. It might be a bit daunting at first for people starting out but it’s a good foundation to build upon more creative outputs. It lets anyone start wherever they are in experience with photography, vlogging, and content creation.

MJ: Definitely. If you know what lens works for you and your content. It also helps with improving your style and quality, since not all vlogs require a talking head. I follow several vloggers who take cinematic content, so I know it’s possible.

Rodneil: I’m on the fence on this one. Yes, because it offers versatility and that’s always a good thing. No, because the lenses are probably going to be heavier if not weigh just as much as the camera. That’s going to present some challenges while shooting. But I guess that’s a minor inconvenience compared to the benefit and more long-term use you’ll likely get.

Which lens did you end up using the most? 

ZV-E10

Leez: I used the 35mm for filming and photographing portraits and sweet bakes. It captured detailed shots but again, the focus was a stuttering mess sometimes so, be warned.

MJ: Prime lens! 50mm works for showcasing details, and I’m very particular about highlighting the important part rather than talking in front of the camera.

Rodneil: We’re all fans of prime lenses BUT that’s because we primarily take product shots. That lens isn’t exactly made for vlogging. You’re better off using the kit lens for that.

Is this something you think most people can easily pack and carry around on a trip? Or on the daily? 

ZV-E10

Leez: Yes, definitely. I think for the interchangeable lenses, it would be good to bring two depending on what your trip is for. A wide lens, a portrait lens, and the prime lens are more than enough, you can even strip it to a wide lens and the prime lens if you want to capture intimate close up moments while having a lens to switch to to capture the stunning outdoors.

MJ: Granted you don’t use every lens you have on hand, this is easily something you can carry wherever you go. You can slip it in fashionable bags that don’t look like camera bags, too, so you can shy away from the eyes of thieves.

Rodneil: Most definitely. I’d say pack the camera along with the kit lens and your preferred prime lens and you’ll pretty much be ready for any shooting scenario when you travel. It’s light, compact, and easy-to-use. It’s a perfect upgrade to the quick shooting we normally do on our smartphones.

Is there any feature that you wish it had? 

ZV-E10

Leez: There’s not much to ask more from the ZV-E10. It’s good and reliable as it is. If there’s one gripe I have with it, it’s the autofocus. If they could tinker with its autofocus to not freak out or stutter as much as it does, that would be amazing.

MJ: Not really. It feels solid for what I intend to use it for, for now. Who knows? Maybe along the way, I’ll end up looking for a feature that it doesn’t have.

Rodneil: I think it’s mostly fine as it is and for what it’s aiming to be. The features and overall build are geared towards vlogging. It’s great for its intended purpose.

The Sony ZV-E10 retails for PhP 39,999/ SG$ 999/ US$ 798.

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Accessories

1MORE ColorBuds 2: Budget Active Noise Cancelling Earphones!

Personalize your sound

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The 1MORE Colorbuds 2 promises personalized and premium sound. To achieve this, the company teamed up with the award-winning audio technology company Sonarworks. Together, they integrated the Sound ID technology into the 1MORE Music app.

Why is this important? Well, SoundID is actually based on the same tech used to record music in over 70,000 recording studios. It’s also what’s used to record the music of some popular artists like Lady Gaga and Adele. With a quick test on the 1MORE Music app, you can tailor the sound of the music you hear to match your personal taste.

The 1More Colorbuds 2 that we have comes in this matte black finish, but it’s also available in white and gold. At the back of the charging case is a USB-C port for fast charging. 1MORE says a 15-minute charge can give you up to 2 hours of playback. It also supports wireless charging so you can plop it down on a wireless charger overnight.

The charging case is pretty small, and that’s because the ColorBuds 2 themselves are smaller than your average in-ear noise-cancelling earphones, which is a pain point for users who have smaller ear canals. If you’re one of those users, the ColorBuds 2 might be something you’d want to check out.

Made with excellence

The 1More ColorBuds 2 is tuned by 4-time Grammy Award winner-Luca Bignardi. He’s a sound engineer who made sure that the earphones deliver a natural and balanced listening experience with abundant details and unsurpassed clarity.

It’s also powered by Qualcomm’s AptX Adaptive audio codec technology, which is a Bluetooth audio codec that ensures that you get premium audio quality even when you’re listening wirelessly.

With all this award-winning technology, the 1MORE ColorBuds 2 retails for just US$ 79.99. If you use our code GADGET2021, you’ll also get an additional $10 off at checkout.

Where to buy the 1MORE ColorBuds 2

Use the code GADGET2021 to get an additional $10 off at checkout

1MORE Website https://bit.ly/3kaNbTG
US Amazon https://amzn.to/2XYdwMg
CA Amazon https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0998YB4R4
UK Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0998YB4R4
DE Amazon https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0998YB4R4
FR Amazon https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B0998YB4R4

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