Features

How you can relieve lockdown stress with video games

In these stressful, uncertain times, it’s not too late to play

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We are at an unusual and uncertain period in our lives. The pandemic has forced most people indoors, and honestly, it’s just been stressful. My day-to-day activities already include work on the weekdays, which is already stressful in its own way. But the news, the case count, and the amount of things that are NOT being done right to deal with the virus, what else is there?

I’m pretty sure everyone else is feeling the same way. I’m also certain that everyone is finding a way to relieve themselves of stress while indoors. Some of you turn to physical activities that serve as an equivalent to, say going to the gym. Some even try learning new things while at home, or catch up on that Netflix series you keep blowing off.

And then, there are some of us who remembered they have an untouched console in their room. Or, they remembered that they have games installed on their phone that they’ve hardly touched. I’d even go as far as saying that some of you didn’t even know that there are websites where you can play games with your friends online.

Gaming is everywhere, and is for everyone

I’ve always had this belief that everyone has been exposed to a video game at least once in their lifetime. My own personal history with video games started when I was three years old, when I received a PlayStation. Nowadays, kids receive much more advanced technology to play popular games like Fortnite. And recently, people realized that you can even play games on your phone.

Playing video games, when you have access to it, is one great way to pass the time. Whether you play online or have some playmates at home, it’s a great way to just relax and enjoy your “me-time.” When you’re feeling a little stressed with work or you feel down, a good game can get you going.

So how does one actually do that?

A way to connect with people

I had a brief chat with Ian Tan, Asia-Pacific Gaming Lead at Lenovo over the topic of video games in the face of this pandemic. One of his key insights into how gaming is shaping the world at this very moment is that people are finding more ways to communicate with one another. He mentioned how Discord, which is basically the “Skype for gamers” had opened features like its Go Live to accommodate large groups of people.

We live in a time when human interaction has now been severely limited. You can’t even visit your relatives who live nearby for fear of contracting the virus, as well. Video games provide an avenue for people to simply connect with one another, when physical interaction seems impossible. As Ian said, the challenge was simply to “keep each other engaged,” especially with their company’s initiatives during the pandemic.

Keep yourself in shape

Imposing a quarantine means that you will remain indoors at all costs, so outdoor physical activities are a no-go. In fact, in some countries, some gyms and fitness centers are temporarily closed while there’s still a pandemic. Any sort of physical activity you plan to have is now basically limited to just the confines of your own home.

Lucky for you, there are some video games you can lean on to for some physical activity while indoors. One popular game is the Just Dance series, which features a ton of songs and choreographies to choose from. Of course, for the current version of Just Dance 2020, you can enable Sweat Mode, which calculates how many calories you’re burning while dancing.

For Switch users, there’s also Ring Fit Adventure which uses real exercise routines while giving you an adventure. Of course, for the most part you need the accessory to play it properly so be sure to get it if you wanna give the game a try. For both these games, to some extent, you’ll be able to get some exercise going. Or, possibly get your mind off the stress of the world.

Time to “git gud”

Now, the stress of the pandemic may get to you when you’ve been stuck at home for a long time. But if you’re a gamer, you do appreciate this extra time on your hands to focus on one thing you want to be: the best there is! Even if you just casually play a game you love, this is also the time for you to learn how to be better at it.

Ian shared with me some initiatives Lenovo Legion had to engage their consumer base while on lockdown. One of these initiatives is the rise of Legion where they host a series of online mini-tournaments designed for amateur and semi-pro players. They opened the invitation to most parts of Asia, across most eSports titles like CS:GO and DOTA 2. Even in competition, their emphasis was more on the fun aspect of it.

In these uncertain times, you need some form of stress relief. It can be working out at home, trying out new things, or attending to your old personal projects. Of course, if you picked up a console along the way, there’s always that option too!

Accessories

Huawei Freebuds Pro Unboxing and First Impressions

Sounds as good as it looks

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Huawei has been killing it in the personal audio department and everyone should really start paying attention. Adding to the lineup is the Huawei Freebuds Pro. It’s their answer of sorts to the likes of the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3.

This is what the front of the box looks like. It’s a pretty tiny box.

Freebuds Pro

A closer look shows the name of the product in gold. 

Flip it over and you’ll see some highlighted features. 

Take out the top cover and you’re immediately greeted by the Freebuds Pro. 

Here’s a look without the plastic covering.

Freebuds Pro

It’s a little tricky to take out but underneath all that is the USB to USB-C Cable and a box.

Pull out the cable and the box and you get this.

Here’s a closer look at the cable. 

And here are extra soft silicone plugs so you can find the perfect fit for your ears.

Now, let’s go back to the Freebuds Pro. Here’s the back of the charging case with the Huawei text. 

You flip it over to open it and reveal the earbuds. 

The buds are tinier — the tiniest they’ve released over the past year.

On the bottom of the case is the USB-C port. 

And on its right side is the bluetooth pairing button. 

But if you simply open the case next to a Huawei phone — here it’s the Huawei Mate 40 — it’ll immediately detect it and ask to pair. 

When you press connect, it’ll show you right away how to operate the Freebuds Pro. 

After that, it’ll show you the battery life of each Freebud Pro and the case. 

As mentioned earlier, in terms of the size of the stem, it’s a lot smaller than the previous two releases. 

The cases also vary in shape and size.

Here’s what they look like when worn. 

First impressions 

I’ve only had the Freebuds Pro for a little over 24 hours at the time of writing. I’ve since used it on a video call meeting and to listen to the Eyes Wide Open album by TWICE.

I Cant Stop Me GIF by TWICE - Find & Share on GIPHY

So far, it’s performing exactly as advertised. It carries over the noise-cancellation excellence from the Freebuds 3 and Freebuds 3i. In fact, the Freebuds Pro combines the best practices of the aforementioned devices thanks to a number of engineering and design choices.

Sound quality is also right around what I expected based on my previous experiences with other Huawei audio products. It’s certainly two steps above the Freebuds 3i in terms of overall sound quality.

SEE ALSO: Freebuds 3 review | Freebuds 3i review

Music comes off as crisp and clean as the Freebuds 3 but we’ll have to try it out for a little longer for a more definitive take. Same goes for the battery life.

The controls are also more intuitive. If you are coming from the Freebuds 3, it is a little different. Here’s a photo of me assuming the controls are the same. Nope, I didn’t pay attention to the prompts during set-up. What an idiot.

Price and availability 

In the Philippines, it retails for PhP 7,999 — around PhP 1,000 cheaper than the launch price of the Freebuds 3 (PhP 8,990).

Pre-order period is from November 27 to December 3. If you pre-order you’ll get freebies worth PhP 3,989.

  • Huawei Band 4 — PhP 1,890
  • Entertainment Gift Package — PhP 2,099

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The Huawei Mate 40 Pro’s cameras are actually smart

Perfect for lazy point-and-shooters

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Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Part of writing tech reviews means I also take product photos for a living. It may seem easy at first, but I can guarantee that it takes some practice to get good shots. The same is true for when we take sample photos.

However, I’m human (occasionally trash) and I get tired and lazy too. I had a different article in mind for this feature at first but I wasn’t too happy with some of the shots I took with the Huawei Mate 40 Pro.

But then it hit me. Isn’t this the whole point of having a smartphone camera? It’s supposed to do a lot of the processing and beautification on its own. So what I’m going to show you right now are some of the shots I was “moderately okay” with to showcase just how smart the Mate 40 Pro is as a point-and-shoot-camera.

Insane HDR

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

The level of detail in this photo is already impressive on its own. The pot with the dead plant/s (I’m not much of a plant person, sorry) is placed against the light source which is the window.

Despite that, not only was the Mate 40 Pro able to produce a shot showing the pot’s details, it also captured the view outside the window.

Not impressed? Here’s what it looked like right before I took the photo.

A little mind-blowing, right?

10X Zoom is the zoom sweet spot

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro can go all the way up to 50X Zoom. But we all know maxxed out zoom levels don’t really produce images you’d be inclined to post on social media.

Thankfully, (and as you can see in the plant screenshot) the camera app actually guides you to different shooting perspectives for optimal use.

When you fire it up, you have the normal distance or 1X zoom. Click the button on the right and you go straight to wide. Click to the left of 1X and you have 5X zoom, and click to left most node and you have 10X Zoom.

So how good is it?

This was taken in 1X at night while I was taking a brisk-ish walk around our compound.

What did I tell you? Lazy shot, right? But it looks fair. The scene was aptly lit and the night mode wasn’t very aggressive. But put your attention on the figure in the middle. Here’s what it looks like after shooting in 10X Zoom.

The level of detail at 10X Zoom, and at night at that, is simply astonishing. It’s such a clean shot given the conditions it was in.

Night Mode is unreal

While we’re at it, let’s talk about the Huawei Mate 40 Pro’s Night Mode. Huawei, in recent years, has done a pretty good job with their night mode. As I mentioned, it’s no longer overly aggressive when it doesn’t need to be.

But when there’s little to no light source, Night Mode really kicks into high gear. Here’s a screenshot of the basketball court before I took the photo.

If I’m not mistaken, this was around seven or eight in the evening. There’s a faint light around the court, but since there’s a pandemic, we can’t really use it to play hoops. That’s why it’s lights off for now.

But here’s the final shot.

Personally, I think the post-processing was extremely aggressive here. The AI was working extra hard filling-in what it thought the colors were of the sky and the trees. It missed a little bit on the ring though as it isn’t green at all in real life.

That said, this is a fantastic showcase of what the Mate 40 Pro’s Night Mode can do even in near pitch-black scenes.

Here’s a bonus night mode shot just to showcase how good it is on an adequately lit scene.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Trying (and failing) at toy photography

The following morning, I decided to try my hand at ‘toy photography.’ So over the pandemic, one of the things I did to cope was buy a few anime figures. But it’s not something I’ve actually done before so this was mostly just for the heck of it and to see how the Mate 40 Pro can do under ample light conditions.

I shot poorly (I think), but the Mate 40 Pro did a lot of heavy lifting. It only occurred to me that perhaps having this colorful a backdrop wasn’t the best idea for highlighting a toy figure.

But here’s the portrait mode shot.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Any Shoto Todoroki stans reading this?

It’s a little darker than in real life, but the background blur is fantastic. Look at the lights on the building in the background. The subject could have been clearer if my hands had been steadier but overall, this isn’t bad at all.

I didn’t really read up on how to do this before trying it but based on some stuff I’ve seen online, toy photography is also about highlighting the details. The zoom function shines here again.

On the left is the 1X shot and on the right is the 5X Zoom. The quality suffers a little but it still manages to showcase the underfoot details of the figure.

I tried taking a closer shot with a bright background. The Mate 40 Pro still captured a fair amount of detail with ample lighting on the subject despite the overpowering source of light on the background.

Again, I wasn’t really too happy with the background so I figured I’d wrap things up. I took one last shot — a face close-up using 5X Zoom.

I haven’t spent that long of a time with the Mate 40 Pro so I was having trouble with focusing. Despite my shortcomings, the image still came out a little okay.

When I actually tried (a little)

A little later on we had to shoot a video for Huawei. It was a rush project so I figured I’d meet up with MJ to wrap things up quickly. With his influence, I actually tried taking proper photos and here’s how they came out.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Oh and here’s portrait mode on an actual person.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Perfect for point-and-shooters

I’m willing to bet most people really don’t want to bother with too many settings or tweaking things here and there. The Huawei Mate 40 Pro really shines in this aspect as the combination of its hardware plus AI shooting does a lot of heavy lifting for most users.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

But my general advice is still try a little (haha). It won’t take a lot of effort to capture something amazing when you have the Mate 40 Pro with you.

Watch our Huawei Mate 40 Pro Unboxing and Review.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 rumor roundup: Exynos vs. Snapdragon, no chargers, S Pen support

Coming early in January!

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Is it too early for a Samsung Galaxy S21 rumor roundup? Normally, Samsung’s next flagship gets its time under the spotlight starting sometime in January. However, according to some recent eager-beaver news, Samsung isn’t wasting precious time next year, potentially launching the Galaxy S21 earlier than usual. Now, besides the earlier debut, we have a charitable bag of Galaxy S21 rumors and leaks.

Here are the juiciest Galaxy S21 details you absolutely have to know:

What’s in a name?

Revealed in August, one of the earliest details about next year’s flagship revolved around the Galaxy S21’s name. For the second time in a row, Samsung is ditching the contiguous naming scheme of the previous year.

Last year, the Galaxy S20 series skipped ten numbers from the Galaxy S10 from two years ago. Before that, Samsung had always used a plus-one naming scheme for the flagship series. Now, the company is returning to the plus-one scheme, ditching a Galaxy S30 (for now).

Though the name doesn’t reveal anything about the phone’s insides, it sets a nice precedent and sets the stage for any forthcoming reports.

Exynos versus Snapdragon

Separated by months, the Galaxy S21’s processor didn’t pop up immediately after the new naming scheme’s reveal. However, because of the long-standing feud between the Exynos and Snapdragon camps, it’s important to mention the processor early.

Without the actual processors in our hands, no one knows how the two chipsets will perform in real life yet. However, early reports are presenting conflicting results. The earliest of which, coming from constant Samsung leaker Ice Universe, foretells the next Exynos falling to Snapdragon once again. As it is, it looks like business as usual for Samsung.

Strangely, the same leaker backtracked soon afterward. Now, Ice Universe claims that the Exynos 2100 will tower over the Snapdragon 875 next year. To their credit, the most recent report explicitly names the two chipsets. The previous, contrary report only mentions “next year’s Exynos 1000.”

Funny enough, the strange conundrum resolves itself. Recently, Samsung launched the Exynos 1080 chipset, a processor positioned for the midrange segment. The midrange Exynos 1080 will almost certainly fall to the Snapdragon 875’s performance. Meanwhile, the (still-unconfirmed) Exynos 2100 can still outperform Qualcomm’s chipset.

To the left, to the left

Despite its size, the Galaxy S20’s camera island is inoffensive. It’s big, but it’s fine. However, as teased by a few renders and case leaks, the Galaxy S21 is taking a completely different route. Instead of a slightly offset camera island, the upcoming flagship’s camera will flow almost seamlessly from the top-left corner.

To say the least, the new design looks… different. Current reception is mixed. While some are more welcoming toward the new design, a sizable number are decrying the size and the case’s glaring top-left vulnerability.

Charger-gate redux

One of the most controversial decisions this year, Apple recently decided to ditch the free charging adapters starting with the iPhone 12. As expected, the decision met with a lot of derision from both iPhone and Android fans. However, Apple isn’t alone in the decision.

According to some expert analysts, Samsung is following Apple’s lead this time around. Despite mocking Apple for eliminating free chargers, the company is reportedly removing their own chargers from the Galaxy S21 series.

As of the latest report, Samsung is mulling over critical decisions over its free chargers and wired earphones. The Galaxy S21 can potentially lose one or both.

The irony is strong. Further, it’s unknown how Samsung intends to defend a potential removal. For its part, Apple included its decision in its carbon-neutral plan, adding a tinge of environmental ethics to the cost-cutting measure. Samsung can always declare the same. However, the company will likely run into a lot of difficulties defending the removal if it does the same.

Goodbye, Note

Another fairly reliable rumor involves the Galaxy Note’s S Pen. Supposedly, the Galaxy S21 series will feature one variant with an included S Pen. For the first time ever, the flagship series will steal a feature usually exclusive for the premium Galaxy Note series. Out of the project four Galaxy S21 variants, the Galaxy S21 Ultra will offer the stylus (or support for it, at least).

Though relatively harmless on its own, the rumor coexists with another blockbuster rumor going into 2021: the supposed exit of the Galaxy Note series.

As early as September last year, Samsung had already hinted at a potential merging between the Galaxy S and the Galaxy Note lineups. At the time, the fusion made only little sense. The Galaxy Z series, which was poised to take over as the second main series, was only starting to grow.

Now, Samsung’s foldable segment has already grown into its own niche. Samsung can realistically merge its flat slab phones into one segment and establish a dedicated foldable lineup. Although, doing so will naturally eliminate the long-standing Galaxy Note series. But that’s another story for another time.

Early bird gets the Galaxy S21

As the roundup first starts with, the Galaxy S21 series will reportedly launch earlier than usual. For years, the Galaxy S series debuted between late February and early April. Last year’s Galaxy S20 was the earliest launch date in a while: early February.

According to substantial rumors, next year’s flagship will launch even earlier. The most reliable report pegs a January announcement for the series. However, some reports have even claimed a December date. Regardless of when exactly, it’s almost certain that the series will launch much earlier than historical expectations.

GadgetMatch-served Unpacked Invite

At the moment, no one knows exactly why it’s coming out early. Some pundits, especially Samsung fans, think that introducing the Galaxy S21 will space out the year for more launch events spread throughout. Others, including a notable source, think that it aims to capitalize on market share lost by Huawei.

Regardless, we still have a little less than two months for more information to inevitably leak out. Tune in for more information ahead of the launch early next year!

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