Editors' Choice

12 smartphones from 2021 stamped with our seal of approval

GadgetMatch-approved smartphones for 2021!

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If you’re subscribed to our YouTube channel, you’re probably familiar with the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval. But in case you still don’t know about it, it’s a stamp we give for gadgets we really recommend.

A guarantee that the device we just reviewed is worth buying using your hard-earned money. This year, we’ve seen plenty of smartphones parading ‘groundbreaking’ features, but some of them can cost an arm and a leg.

Priding ourselves as a buyer’s guide, here are 12 smartphones we reviewed this year that are worth recommending after considering the phone’s price, features, technology, hardware, software, and more.

And of course, these smartphones are stamped with our Seal of Approval.

Samsung Galaxy S21

As the first major smartphone launched in 2021, Samsung has set the bar high with the Galaxy S21. It delivers where it matters and even better yet is more affordable. That’s a win-win. With its USD 800 asking price — it’s still a pricey phone. But it’s worth it, given all that it offers.

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy S21 review

OnePlus 9

Between the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro, the former gets the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval. The OnePlus 9 is a more well-rounded phone and offers better value for money.

It comes with a host of nifty improvements but is lacking in flair. Still, at USD 699, it’s a hundred less than the starting price of the Galaxy S21 — and so it has the potential to appeal to those who are open to cheaper options.

WATCH: OnePlus 9 review

ASUS ROG Phone 5

If you’re looking for a gaming-specific smartphone, nothing comes close to the ROG Phone 5. Beyond the power and performance that ASUS consistently delivered through the years… this is one refined, well-thought-out device, that meets the demands of gamers.

WATCH: ASUS ROG Phone 5 review

vivo X60 Pro+

Earlier this year, vivo introduced the X60 Pro+ with the goal to be seen as a serious competitor. And the vivo X60 Pro+ achieved that.

It’s got a unique style, offers headline features touted by its competitors, comes with a powerful processor, fast display, and super-fast charging, and in that all-important camera category — it rules!

Based on our camera tests, conservatively one might say it can keep up with the best. Or If we were to be more generous, we’d say in some cases, it does even better. And that’s a big thing to say.

WATCH: vivo X60 Pro+ review

ASUS Zenfone 8

A nondescript phone like the ASUS Zenfone 8 might not be appealing for someone whose job is to look at phones day in and day out. But the Zenfone 8 offers something different. In their pursuit of dyeing ordinary, ASUS set off to fit excellent features in a body of a phone that measured less than 70mm wide by less than 150mm tall.

Further, we respect a flagship phone that starts at 599 Euros. For that price, we can overlook the fact that the phone isn’t pretty. After all, it’s still a top-of-the-line phone but in a much smaller chassis.

WATCH: ASUS Zenfone 8 review

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is many things — a conversation starter, a cool and trendy gadget, a bite out of the future. It might not be perfect since the battery life needs some work and the cameras could be even better, but there’s something about the Flip3 that keeps us coming back for more. And that je ne sais quoi cannot be denied.

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 review

Google Pixel 5a 5G

No matter which way you look at it, there’s plenty of value in a budget Pixel phone like the Pixel 5a 5G. One, you can get Google’s top-notch camera software for less. Two, you get access to Pixel-exclusive software features. And three, you’re guaranteed at least three years of Android updates — more than what any other Android phone maker is willing to commit to.

WATCH: Google Pixel 5a 5G review

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 can be used for reading, navigation, note-taking, and as a computer. Three years in, this device is more high-tech than it originally set out to be. It’s also much more useful.

And with another price cut this year, we’re pretty sure, soon, it will be a phone that more people can actually afford.

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 review

iPhone 13 mini

There are lots to love about the iPhone 13 mini. It’s a small device that still packs a punch. And really, there’s nothing quite like it in the market today.

WATCH: iPhone 13 mini review

vivo X70 Pro+

I know, I know. There was just a vivo X60 Pro+ released early in 2021. Lately, that’s just how most Chinese smartphone companies are. But if you’re in the market for a high-end Android phone with all the bells and whistles, you should consider the X70 Pro+. It’s an excellent phone both on paper and in practice.

And in a world without Huawei, still suffering from the Google ban, and LG, which closed down its mobile phone business this year, we see vivo as the only other manufacturer that’s made a phone that can legitimately rival the best from Samsung.

The vivo X70 Pro+ is one of the best Android phones you can buy today. Period.

WATCH: vivo X70 Pro+ review

iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max

The iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro Max are the perfect phones if you’re the type of person who upgrades only every five years or so. It has everything you want and/or need out of a smartphone, with over-the-top features that both techies, professionals, and average users can enjoy.

In this age, you’ll want a phone that can keep up with a fast-paced tech world, and the latest iPhones — whether it’s the Pro or Non-Pro models — can do so.

WATCH: iPhone 13 Pro & Pro Max review

Google Pixel 6

The Google Pixel 6 is, hands-down, the best value-for-money Android phone you can get in 2021. It’s well-built and looks great, lasts long, has excellent cameras, is packed with useful and exclusive software features, all at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

WATCH: Google Pixel 6 review

Camera Shootouts

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Huawei P50 Pro: Camera shootout

Can Huawei’s latest flagship phone keep up with the Samsung’s greatest Galaxy yet?

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The Huawei P50 Pro may not be a direct rival to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra in terms of camera hardware (that’s more the Galaxy S22+), but this is also a good chance to compare and see if Huawei’s latest flagship can keep up with the biggest brother in the whole Galaxy S22 lineup.

Ultra-Wide

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a 13MP f/2.2 shooter while the P50 Pro has a 12MP UWA camera of the same aperture — albeit with difference in the overall focal length / angle.

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Wide

There’s a gap between the main cameras The S22 Ultra has a 108MP while the P50 Pro has a tad smaller 50MP camera — but both still having an f/1.8 aperture.

Can the smaller sensor keep up with the bigger one?

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

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Telephoto Zoom

For a fair and square fight, I only used the first telephoto camera of the Galaxy S22 Ultra versus the Huawei P50 Pro’s sole zoom lens.

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

Portrait Mode

When shooting in Portrait Mode, one smartphone uses its 3x Telephoto Zoom lens while the other sticks with its 50MP wide camera. But which is which?

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

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Low-Light

Once the sunset is out, smartphones tend to change their AI algorithm in making low-light shots brighter but with less noise

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Night Mode

Unlike low-light photos taken using the Auto Mode, Night Mode is more suitable for making night shots pop with the right amount of highlights, shadows, and contrast altogether.

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

BONUS: 10x Zoom

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a dedicated 10x telephoto lens while the P50 Pro only relies on digital zoom and AI when zooming in on 10x.

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Galaxy S22 Ultra P50 Pro

Results

Which are your top photo picks? It may already be obvious to some of you at the beginning but here are the results:

Photo A – Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Photo B – Huawei P50 Pro

Conclusion

Despite Huawei not making the P50 Pro+ variant, it’s still safe to say that this camera shootout between the top-tier flagship phones of each brand is still pretty close.

Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra may have the better camera hardware out of the two, but it doesn’t mean that the P50 Pro is a slouch when it comes to camera performance.

As a matter of fact, it was able to keep up from day ’til night. If we’re looking at the specifics, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a wider main camera whereas the P50 Pro has a wider ultra-wide camera. The difference in optical zoom lenses was also evident.

But in some shooting scenarios, the Galaxy S22 Ultra won especially when it comes to processing HDR (High Dynamic Range), sharpness and details, as well as overall exposure and contrast in most wide and zoomed shots.

And just like in my P50 Pro review, the AWB (Auto White Balance) when using Night Mode (or shooting in low-light for that matter) leans more into the warmer range of the spectrum whereas the Galaxy S22 Ultra is more on the cooler (or maybe neutral) one.

While my P50 Pro vs Galaxy S21 FE camera shootout looks more comprehensive with 60 photo sets, being able to show half in this camera comparison article still proves a point that the Huawei P50 Pro can keep up with Samsung’s latest and greatest smartphone yet.

SEE ALSO: Huawei P50 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Camera shootout

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CES 2022

GadgetMatch Awards: Best of CES 2022

Plenty of new gadgets and tech to be excited about this year and in the future

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CES 2022

It’s not quite the CES 2022 that many envisioned thanks in large part to the surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. But, there were still plenty of new gadgets and tech to be excited about this year and in the future.

Here are our picks for the best of the best at CES 2022.

Best Auto Innovation: BMW Color Changing Car

CES 2022

CES continues to be the home of possibly the coolest things ever and this Color Changing Car from BMW might just be one of the coolest.

The BMW iX Flow uses E Ink technology to change how the car’s exterior looks. The car contains millions of microcapsules as thin as a strand of hair. Much like the E Ink you’ll find inside a Kindle, electricity causes the microcapsules to shift between black or white. Mind. Blown.

Best Smart Mask: Razer Zephyr Pro

Speaking of cool, Razer just gave us a smart mask that is not only helpful during the pandemic but is also pretty snazzy.

The Zephyr Pro looks just like the earlier version except for one small detail: speaker grilles around your chin. The mask can amplify your voice for up to 60 decibels at a range of one meter. That said, the mask does not have a voice changer, so if you want to sound like Vader, you’ll have to do it manually.

Best Foldable: ZenBook 17 Fold OLED

CES 2022

ASUS has done it again. The company continues to be a pioneer in innovative PCs — from dual-screen creative devices to 2-in-1 gaming machines. This time, they dabble into foldables with the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED.

It looks like a more refined version of the ThinkPad X1 Fold first showcased by Lenovo. The leaps in tech are massive because of its foldable OLED screen the specs that the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is packing.

Best Sustainability Effort: Lenovo ThinkPad Z

CES 2022

Lenovo is doubling down on sustainability. This is apparent on both the materials used on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z Series as well as the Yoga 6. Here, they used materials like recycled aluminum available in arctic grey or black and recycled black vegan leather.

CES 2022

This extends to the packaging. The materials are made from 100 percent recyclable and compostable bamboo and sugarcane, and the AC power adapter uses 90 percent Post-Consumer Content (PCC).

If you’re the pessimistic type, it’s easy to look at these efforts as nothing more than a corporate attempt to tick sustainability check box. But, this is still a good example and one that other manufacturers can take a cue from.

Best Gaming Laptop: ROG Flow Z13

CES 2022

Technically, ROG is calling this a tablet more than a laptop. The form factor is more reminiscent of Microsoft’s Surface Pro which they say is a device category on its own. Regardless of how you see it, it’s a thin and light, multi-mode device that has the power to handle AAA gaming.

It’s already pretty darn powerful on its own, but like the ROG Flow X13, it can get even more powerful with the existing ROG XG Mobile GPU or the revamped one with an AMD Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU

Best Dual-Screen Laptop: ThinkBook Plus Gen 3

CES 2022

We’ve seen dual-screens on laptops before but not like this. Instead of just occupying the upper part of the keyboard layout, Lenovo opted to put an 8-inch display to the right side of the keyboard of the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3.

Lenovo believes this is a more mobile solution for anyone who is accustomed to using a second screen or display for their workflow. The screen also supports pen input which should also be useful for some creatives.

It’s an unusual placement for such a massive second screen and we’re excited to put it through the paces ourselves.

Best Business PC: Lenovo ThinkCentre neo

Lenovo is no stranger to providing computer support for large corporations. Their ‘Think’ line of devices is present in plenty of offices worldwide. In 2022, they are doubling down on their corporate efforts with the ThinkCentre neo line.

It’s composed of desktop PCs adorned with not only the necessary hardware for proper performance, but also the necessary software for privacy and security. This means companies can rest easy knowing their most confidential information is safe and secure and is easily accessible across their devices.

Best Product Refresh: ROG Zephyrus Duo 16

We’ve all heard of the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But ROG doesn’t seem to care for it as they continue to build on some of the best form factors they’ve released in recent years – more specifically, the ROG Zephyrus Duo 16.

This was first showcased in 2020 and this year it’s getting specs-boost and plenty of refinements to make it even better. The 2022 version is a Windows 11 machine powered by an AMD Ryzen 9 6980HX CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti laptop GPU at 150W with Dynamic Boost for high-end horsepower.

There’s also a version featuring ROG’s new Nebula HDR tech for the ultimate HDR gaming and movie-watching experience.

Best Wearable: Garmin vivomove Sport

Garmin has just brought out a hybrid smartwatch that’s perfect for casual users. The vivomove Sport blends fashion and functionality, even for an entry-level device. It fuses technology with an analog look so you can always track your health, fitness, and connections.

More importantly, the vivomove Sport carries Garmin’s in-depth features without breaking the bank. Truly a watch to be enjoyed by casual users getting into an active lifestyle.

Best Smart Home Device: Samsung Freestyle

Samsung knows how to stand out with the launch of its portable projector called The Freestyle. It’s a versatile, lightweight device that lets you play music and project videos any way you want it. You can watch a show on the ceiling or project it onto your walls – you decide your entertainment experience.

Further, it can double as a smart light on your corner since you can attach it to a standard E26 light bulb socket. A fun gadget worth adding into your smart home, if you have the budget for it.

Best Gaming Monitor: Samsung Odyssey Ark

Odyssey Ark

Samsung’s push into the PC gaming space is stronger than ever. Turning heads at CES 2022 is this curved 55-inch, 4K behemoth of a gaming monitor – the Samsung Odyssey Ark.

Other than the usual wide-angle usage, it can go into a new vertical cockpit-style rotating display that provides a new gaming experience and allows portrait or landscape orientation for multi-tasking and multi-window setup.

It sounds and looks insane that we feel a little sorry we didn’t get to try it for ourselves on the CES showfloor.

Best Innovation: John Deere 8R Tractor

The intersection between tech and food production is one that isn’t talked about much. Regardless, John Deere continues to innovate in this space. Their latest – the John Deere 8R Tractor – is one for the books.

The tractor is fully autonomous, has multiple cameras for monitoring and can be controlled using Deere’s John Deere Operations Center Mobile app. Farmers can just drop the tractor onto their fields and configure the tractor with simple swipes. They can then leave the field to focus on other tasks while the tractor works. With the app, farmers can change settings, access the tractor’s cameras, and check the vehicle’s status.

Best Lifestyle Accessory: L’Oréal ColorSonic

Dyeing your hair is fun, but quite tedious as a task. And a horrible experiment can send your hair frizzing and looking hideous. With salons still temporarily closed caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are looking for solutions to dye their hair easily and beautifully.

L’Oréal unveiled the Colorsonic — a lightweight, handheld device dispensing the right dose of hair dye, applied through a nozzle of bristles that evenly distribute the color. It makes dyeing your hair easy in less than an hour. So you can dye your hair, rinse, style, and go.

Best VR Device: Sony PlayStation VR2

CES 2022

It’s been over a year since the release of the PlayStation 5. And while it’s still not widely available for everyone, Sony PlayStation has already announced the VR companion for the said console.

The system will come with new sensory features, enhanced control tracking, and higher visual fidelity. On a more technical side, the PlayStation VR2 will come with eye-tracking features, 4K HDR support, foveated rendering, enhanced field of vision, and more responsive controllers called The Sense.

Best TV: Sony A95K

Sony Bravia has always been one of the leaders in TV technology, but in this year’s CES, it looks like they’re taking a big step forward with the Sony A95K.

It features the XR Backlight Master Drive technology which is powered by Sony’s Cognitive Processor XR that precisely controls backlight for incredible brightness, as well as deep blacks and mid tones for a better and more immersive viewing experience.

The Sony A95K is also perfect for streaming and gaming. It has Netflix Adaptive Calibrated Mode and BRAVIA CORE Calibrated Mode for perfect viewing. It also has Auto HDR Tone Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode making it Perfect for the PS5.

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Editors' Choice

Best of 2021: Lifestyle Favorites

Discoveries that complement our new way of living!

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Lifestyle n. the way in which a person or group lives.

This year, the GadgetMatch team discovered lifestyle products — accessories, technology, and other essentials — that complement their new way of life.

These discoveries helped improve the team’s lifestyle, and will continue to do so in 2022 and beyond.

instax Link WIDE: Favorite novelty

In an era where we’re losing time, people, and places — fleeting memories are being immortalized. Instant printers such as the instax Link WIDE helps turn your favorite moments into films or tangible pieces of memories you can hold on to even when everything else has already changed.

Apple AirPods 3: Favorite wireless earbuds

Among all the wireless earbuds that came out this year, Apple’s AirPods 3 still proved to be the king — focused on features that make it appropriate for most people. The upgrades are significant to attract both those looking to upgrade from the previous AirPods, or those who are looking to get their first one. Further, this device is stamped with the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval!

realme Hair Dryer: Favorite styling device

Your hair is your crown, so it makes sense to keep it healthy and make it look presentable at all times. The realme Hair Dryer helped us care for our hair and scalp, and even helped skyrocket our confidence after a good blowout.

Galaxy Watch4’s Body Composition: Favorite device feature

In our quest to lose fat and gain muscle, we’ve come to love the Galaxy Watch4‘s new Body Composition tool. The technology is called Bio Impedance Analysis — basically, little charges of electricity are shot through your body to tell how much is fat, and how much is skeletal muscle. It’s definitely a feature we enjoy using in our fitness journeys.

realme Beard Trimmer: Favorite grooming device

The realme Beard Trimmer ticks the right boxes that first-time groomers would look for: affordable, sleek, premium-looking, easy-to-use, and offers precise cutting. Time to achieve that sexy stubble!

Huawei FreeBuds Lipstick Edition: Favorite fashion piece

From the get-go, the FreeBuds Lipstick looks, feels, and delivers on lavish lipstick vibes. If you don’t look closely, it can definitely fool you! But if you think it’s just a pretty-looking device, that’s where you’re wrong.

The Huawei FreeBuds Lipstick is a lovechild of lush luxury design and cutting-edge technology. It’s still a pair of wireless earphones that offer both a stunning appearance and an excellent audio experience!

Anker Nano Pro: Favorite travel accessory

Even with its compact size, the Anker Nano Pro can charge your smartphones smartly and quickly — making it the perfect charging essential to bring wherever you go. It also comes with yummy colors to match your personality!

Nintendo Switch OLED: Favorite gaming console

You still probably don’t need a new Switch (if you currently own one) but you’re really going to enjoy playing on this larger, more vibrant screen.

It reminded us why we love the Switch so much — we can play our favorite games as we would on any other console, but easily take it with us as a portable gaming device on the train, on a holiday, at the park, or just when we would much rather chill outside our patio.

NanoLeaf Lines: Favorite smart home accessory

The NanoLeaf Lines transform your homes into something like a YouTuber’s home, but with more personality. Its ultra-lightweight lightbars create sleek linear layouts and geometric shapes so you can have a unique space that you can call yours.

XTREME Coffee Machine: Favorite home appliance

You don’t have to take a walk or a drive-thru in the cafe a few blocks away, especially when you have XTREME Home’s 1.5L Coffee Machine. It made brewing coffee easier even if you’re used to traditional brewing methods, or you’re just learning how to serve coffee for your loved ones.

Samsung The Frame 2021: Favorite TV

The best technology is the kind that fades into the background. Samsung’s The Frame offers the ability to display art, customize the way the art looks, and have its display optimized for displaying it. And its no-gap wall mount lets it sit flush against a wall. If you value art and design, then Samsung The Frame can easily be your GadgetMatch.

Tempo Move: Favorite workout technology

Tempo’s new sub-$400 system fits into a console table, and we’re loving it! Not only that they have a lot less space than regular home gym systems, but it also uses advanced tech like the LiDAR sensor on your iPhone.

LG PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier VoiceOn: Favorite health device

If you’re someone who’s tired of maskne and uncomfortable masks, then this is something for you. Especially if you intend to talk throughout the day — it makes sure you’re both heard and protected.

Arcwave Ion: Favorite sex technology

The Arcwave Ion helped resolve tension in the age of self-distancing. Our Associate Creative Director proudly took a trip to the Big O and made his sensual sessions reach new heights. Certainly, it’s a device to support you in self-discovery, and self-pleasure while your carnal desires can’t be fulfilled for now.

Ford Territory: Favorite vehicle

Ford Territory

Whether going on a ride alone or with friends and family, the Ford Territory gave us superb comfort and convenience so we can own every moment. As a car, the Ford Territory is more than worthy as a daily driver. As a tech device, the Ford Territory packs in so many creature comforts to keep its riders entertained throughout a drive. It’s definitely a car you’d love to own as a techie today.

JBL Horizon 2: Favorite speaker

Horizon 2

The JBL Horizon 2 provides a multi-faceted sound system for any living space. It comes with speakers with great audio quality suited for those lovely sound trips while indoors. With relative ease, you can connect almost any kind of device with Bluetooth and enjoy hassle-free volume control.

Mujjo Leather Wallet Case: Favorite smartphone case

You can never go wrong with leather, especially Mujjo’s leather wallet cases. They’re functional, efficient for commutes and short-distance trips, durable, stylish, and looks better over time.

Sierra Blue: Favorite color

Sierra Blue is definitely not a color of the year, but a statement to consider and incorporate into your looks and style in the months to come. It’s charming, sophisticated, and subtly makes you look neat, polished, and well-groomed.

adidas UltraBoost 21: Favorite sneakers

The latest iteration of the adidas UltraBoost is more performance-oriented and more comfortable at the same time. You can go into an adidas store and try them on, and we’re certain you’ll walk away impressed. Maybe, you’ll also walk away wearing these sneakers — like we did.

Lenovo M2 Electric Scooter: Favorite mobility solution

Lenovo parades the M2 Electric Scooter as a creative, mobility solution that allows commuters to travel short distances safely and securely. At a time where safe, effective public transportation is scarce due to the pandemic, an electric kick scooter is a warm welcome.

Sony a6600: Favorite camera

When one of our cameras went under repair at the height of the pandemic, we sought solace in the prowess of the Sony a6600. It’s compact, lightweight, yet powerful enough to take on our needs when it comes to product photography, lifestyle shoots, and video production.

Hometown Cha Cha Cha: Favorite Netflix Originals

Hometown Cha Cha Cha is a healing series for a reason. When we live in an era where it’s difficult to process grief, the Netflix Originals series showed us how people uniquely process their emotions in between cheerful banters, heartwarming scenes, and kilig moments.

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