Published

on

Google’s ‘a'(ffordable) line-up may be long overdue because of the pandemic — but after several months of waiting, we finally have one on our hands.

Cheaper than last year’s US$ 399 Pixel 3a, the US$ 349 Pixel 4a might just be the most affordable flagship killer contender you can get over the 2020 iPhone SE and the OnePlus Nord.

But can the mid-tier specifications and less-fancy phone features justify its affordable price tag? Head over to our in-depth Pixel 4a review here.

Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: Vanilla flagship

No weird gimmicks, just the fun necessities

Published

on

Mi 11

Xiaomi’s promise of providing a fantastic price-to-feature ratio on their devices seems to have finally extended to their flagship. After dancing around the US$ 1000/ PhP 45,000+ range, they now give us the Mi 11. A smartphone that’s undeniably a flagship at just EUR 749/ PhP 36,990. Now that’s a great deal.

What makes the Mi 11 a flagship? 

There are a lot of indicators, but most people like to look at the specs to determine which category a smartphone should fall under. And on paper, the Mi 11 is no doubt a flagship.

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Display: 6.81” AMOLED with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Cameras: 108MP Wide + 13MP Ultra-wide + 5MP Telemacro
  • Configuration: 8GB RAM + 256GB ROM
  • Battery and charging: 4600mAh with a 55W charger in the box

If you’re solely playing the numbers game specs-wise, this is undoubtedly a flagship. And if you factor in the price, this might just be the best value flagship in the market right now.

Naturally, you’re curious about what it’s like to actually use the phone right? That’s what we’re here for.

Buttons-wise, everything’s on the right side

Mi 11

Being right-handed, this is a design choice I personally really like especially for a smartphone with as big a footprint as this one. Sliding my thumb upwards from the power button to adjust the volume while holding it in a single hand is convenient. Just not sure how lefties feel about this.

At the bottom you’ll find the speaker-grille, USB-C port, and SIM card tray

Mi 11

Not much to write about here. These are all pretty standard stuff. You can say the same about the back of the phone. Nothing too fancy about its backplate so you won’t feel bad covering it with some sort of case.

Holding the phone can be tricky

Something to take note of is how both the display and the back taper to the side of the phone. This makes the sides feel really thin. I imagine this was made with the intent of making it easier to hold the phone with one hand. It achieves that goal. However, for people like myself who have chubby hands, it’s easy for parts of your hand to touch the sides of the screen and trigger gesture navigation or hold the display in place even when you’re trying to scroll.

Jeon Somi is so freakin adorable

It’s a minor inconvenience at most but do expect a bit of annoyance especially when trying to use the phone with just one hand. This issue wasn’t persistent when using the phone with two hands.

Having reviewed several phones, I’ve found that my personal sweet spot in terms of display size is somewhere between 6.2” to 6.4”. Anything beyond that already starts feeling a little too large.

Media consumption

Naturally, one of the benefits of having a larger screen is a better media consumption experience. While this is true for the most part, I still personally would have preferred a slightly smaller screen.

That said, if your hands are big enough, this won’t be an issue. If your hands are small enough, it may also come to a point where you’re treating this almost as if it’s a mini tablet and that sort of works too.

Who’s watching Vincenzo right now?

But yeah, the AMOLED screen is great. The 8192 brightness levels are bright enough even under direct sunlight. There’s going to be some glare but nothing you shouldn’t be able to adjust too.

The issues with media consumption though had more to do with the processor and the software, not the display.

Turning the heat up 

I have developed this unhealthy habit of mindlessly viewing one TikTok video after another at night right before I fall asleep. Normally, I wouldn’t notice the time pass but I did so when I tried the same thing with the Mi 11.

Follow @moneyhealthcheck/Antonette Aquino on TikTok for some quality financial advise 👌🏼

In the first few days that we had the phone, it heats up significantly after just around 12-15 minutes of viewing. I tried having it cool down and watched a few more videos on YouTube and the same thing happened.

It was quite interesting since a 20-minute session of Call of Duty: Mobile didn’t heat up as much as it did when arguably, that was stressing out the processor more.

Mi 11

Final Killcam yo!

Thankfully, this was only during the first few days. There was a software update in the middle of our testing period that mostly resolved the issue. It still gets a little hot, but not to the point where you’d need to put the phone down. Which is perfect for when you’re binge watching on Netflix.

Backtracking a little bit to gaming, we only really played CODM extensively. A first person shooter is fantastic for testing touch input and the Mi 11 was a dream to play on. The display was smooth and the touch input felt snappy. We’re sure it can also handle other popular titles like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Wild Rift, PUBG, Genshin Impact.

Pretty darn good battery

One thing to remember about the Mi 11 is that it supports 5G. And while the chip and perhaps the UI does a lot in managing power consumption, it can still eat into the 4600mAh capacity quickly.

5G speed when you’re a little further away from the source

It’s advisable to manage your 5G usage during the day. If you’re out all day but don’t have to use your phone much, make sure to toggle the mobile data off. We extensively used it on a day that started at around 9AM and we were already juicing up by 2PM.

But that’s really, extensive usage. We’re talking about connecting to a Zoom call, taking plenty of videos, and watching an hour long episode on Netflix all while relying on mobile 5G connection. It’s pretty darn good.

Mi 11

How many apps do you open in a day?

The 55W charger also tops the phone up quickly, so even if you don’t get to a full hundred, you can rest easy that you’ll have plenty of juice even if you were plugged for just a few minutes.

Oh and it also supports wireless charging which further solidifies its flagship pedigree. My personal recommendation is to use it with Xiaomi’s 30W wireless charger.

MiUI needs a little tweak

Let’s start with the good. MiUI is still very much smooth and buttery even if you don’t have the 120Hz screen refresh rate turned on. This was the most pleasant surprise I got since it felt extremely smooth to navigate out of the box. I was surprised to find that 120Hz wasn’t on by the default but it still felt really fast.

The icons are nice, the animations feel fluid, and it doesn’t at all feel bloated. There are pre-installed apps but these ones that you’ll likely use any way like the suite of Google apps, Facebook, and YouTube. I also like that when you swipe left, you’ll get the Google Cards instead of some news feed curated by the manufacturer.

These Google cards are more in line with the news I actually follow

My tiny annoyance came in its system-wide dark mode implementation. The UI felt like it took a few steps back when it forces dark mode on all apps. This results in a less polished dark mode look especially for apps that already have a native dark mode option.

This can easily be remedied by toggling off specific apps by going to Settings >Display > More Dark mode options. It’s a little annoying, but certainly not a deal breaker. I would have loved a smarter Dark Mode implementation but it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.

Either this should be smarter or it should just be turned off by default

Are the images flagship level?

Photos taken by Xiaomi devices have been… a little inconsistent. For instance, we’re huge fans of the Mi 9T Pro, but the Mi 10T Pro felt a bit short for us in certain situations. That said, overall, the cameras are wonderful for some casual point-and-shoot scenarios.

Mi 11

That’s Vincenz holding the Mi 11. He’s 1000x better than me in taking photos

We’ll throw in a few samples below for your appreciation but below them are links to camera shootouts of the Mi 11 vs both the Mi 10T Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for you to get a better picture (pun totally intended) of how the Mi 11’s cameras perform.

Daylight, auto white balance, food, ultra-wide

Night Mode

Selfie and portrait

As mentioned, we dig a little deeper into the photos in the following camera shootouts:

Mi 11 vs Mi 10T Pro

Mi 11 vs Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Mi 11 is also home to plenty of ‘Movie Magic’ features that you can really have fun with. One example is Time Freeze.

We’ll showcase more of those features in a quick video that we’ll embed here once it’s up.

Is the Xiaomi Mi 11 your GadgetMatch? 

Mi 11

The Xiaomi Mi 11 might be the easiest flagship to recommend. The features scream flagship but at a relatively friendly price.

Nearly everything else at its price point is missing one key feature or two. That’s not the case with the Mi 11. It’s not a smartphone that pushes the boundaries in terms of specs or tries something wildly different, but it ticks the right boxes of what a baseline flagship should be. It’s a complete experience with little to no compromise.

Continue Reading

Lifestyle

43-inch realme Smart TV review: Picture-perfect quality within reach

The basics and features of premium TVs made more accessible

Published

on

Smart. That’s how I’ll describe life in 2021 and beyond. From phones, vehicles, appliances, and even a toothbrush — everything’s getting smarter. But smart devices almost always come at an expensive price tag. There may be affordable options but there’s always a compromise. Sometimes, you’ll just have to say, “you really get what you pay for.”

Say no more, folks. Popular smartphone maker realme expands its portfolio, bringing in smart devices as part of realme TechLife. And we know they make lots of affordable devices that won’t break your bank.

In lieu of this, realme aims to make technology more accessible so we can enjoy living a smart, connected life.  One of realme’s key products is its Smart TV lineup — a centerpiece for every connected home.

Wait, what? realme has a Smart TV lineup?

Yes, you read that right. Just a refresher in case you haven’t been making GadgetMatch.com your daily habit, realme launched its Smart TV lineup last 2020. It comes in two sizes: a 32-inch and 43-inch model, with varying differences.

Both models found their way to the Philippine archipelago, and we’ve got our hands on the 42-inch variant. And from here on, I’m going to share my experience with realme’s latest Smart TV.

Setting it up

Let me preface this story by saying that I’m the type of person who would ask for help. It’s simply because I’m too lazy or I don’t want to use my brain cells in trying to figure out how something works.

When I unboxed the package, I took out the 43-inch Smart TV which weighed 6.7kg, enough for most people to carry on their own.

On the inside, you can find two base stands and four screws that you’ll need for installation. There’s also a quick start guide, instruction manual, and a warranty card.

What I really loved right away is the remote control — it’s small and looks neat with its minimalistic approach. But don’t let its size fool you: It’s fast, responsive, and made navigating the TV easy.

Since it was an Android TV, I signed in with my Google account fairly easily. It also instantly connected to the WiFi, and happy to report it maintained a stable connection and didn’t disconnect abruptly unlike some of your ex-lovers.

The installation and setup were relatively easy for someone who doesn’t want to think. It also boosted my self-esteem, seeing how proud my self-proclaimed strong, independent self was, for being able to set everything up on my own.

Connectivity and customization

I mentioned that the Smart TV instantly connected to the WiFi, but in case you need to know, it supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, Infrared, and Bluetooth 5.0 for different wireless connections.

You can pair your Bluetooth-powered speakers, game controllers, and microphones. It also comes with three HDMI ports, two USB SPDIF ports, DVB-T2 for your digital TV, and Ethernet ports — for your wired connectivity needs.

Going back to my point about it being an Android TV, it’s because it runs Android TV OS based on Android 9.0 — which makes the interface simple and easy to navigate. It also personalizes and modifies recommended content based on your viewing and search history, and of course, to your liking.

The remote control or even your smartphone can also access the TV’s Google Assistant, which lets you customize your whole experience using your voice.

Picture-perfect viewing

The Smart TV evoked a premium-looking impression with its thin, inconspicuous bezels and edge-to-edge panel. It also gave an immersive experience even with just a 1920×1080 resolution.

Thanks to its Chroma Boost technology, the overall picture quality looks magnificent. In case you didn’t know about it, realme’s smartphone cameras use the same tech — improved brightness, color, contrast, and clarity  — which result in high-quality photos and stunning output.

With this, the Smart TV’s picture tuning looked visually appealing especially with its vibrant colors and ultra-high brightness of up to 400+ nits. I didn’t have trouble watching any shows even when harsh sunlight enters my living room. The picture quality looked even more alive at night or when the room is dark.

Viewing angles weren’t a problem, too. You can see the content clearly, thanks to its visual angle of up to 178 degrees. To provide a pleasant experience to different users, the TV lets you choose from seven display modes: Standard, Vivid, Sport, Movie, Game, Energy-Saving, and User.

Chromecast

One of my favorite features on the realme Smart TV is the built-in Google Chromecast technology. Ever since I discovered this feature from my techie friends, I’ve always loved using it on all applicable devices.

Anyhoo, you won’t bother using your brain cells with Chromecast. You can easily connect your smartphone with the Chromecast button (if it shows up) and link your TV. If both devices can’t see each other, you can proceed to the TV’s Settings option and get the code that you’ll input using your smartphone.

Once you’re done, voila! Enjoy using your smartphone as the host or navigator for all your entertainment needs. When I’m alone at home, I stream Taylor Swift’s concerts on YouTube which were remastered in 4K on the TV. I know it only has a Full HD resolution, but we all can agree that having Taylor Swift’s videos is worth playing on whatever screen.

Plus, the main issue here was the sound experience, which brings me to my next point.

Surround sound or just really loud?

Playing Taylor Swift’s concerts on the realme Smart TV is like being at a live concert. I streamed Swift’s videos while I clean the house or when I wash the dishes, singing and belting my heart out as she tearfully sings “All Too Well”.

And there’s a reason why it felt like I was at a live concert: the realme Smart TV uses 24W Quad Stereo Speakers with Dolby Audio MS12B solution. Sounds martian, right?

Basically, the speakers expand the bass frequency and high-frequency width, resulting in balanced audio even at the highest volume possible. It doesn’t sound cracked and distorted even if it reaches a frequency of 20,000Hz — the highest frequency that any human ear can listen to. For comparison, most TVs can only reach a frequency of 11,000Hz.

But for a sensitive person like me, the loud audio can be discomforting sometimes, especially for days when I just want to relax and watch some feel-good movies. My neighbors also complained since I live in a quiet neighborhood, and they didn’t like hearing what I was playing on my television.

Though the Dolby Audio solution fine-tunes the quality, controls the loudness levels and volume changes in a content’s audio, and creates surround sound to make it palatable to our audible range, it’s still recommended to use a soundbar for an enhanced sound experience. Especially if you want it to be really cinematic.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The 43-inch realme Smart TV has a lot to offer. It houses a MediaTek processor, sports a Full HD LED Display, equipped with Dolby Audio-tuned 24W speakers, and comes with Android TV out of the box. It presents a picture-perfect quality perfect for a theatrical experience at home, without paying for an exorbitant price.

Simply, this Smart TV made the basics and features of any premium TVs accessible at an affordable price, for any consumer to experience. The 43-inch realme Smart TV retails for PhP 18,990 and will be available on realme’s official channels and authorized stores and retailers.

Shopee Mega 3.3 Shopping Sale

Heads up! The realme Smart TV will be available on Shopee, in time for the 3.3 Mega Shopping Sale happening on March 3, 2021, at 12:00 AM (GMT+8).

Both models will get PhP 3,000 off; the 32-inch model with an SRP of PhP 11,990 will be available for PhP 8,990 while the 43-inch model with an SRP of PhP 18,990 will be available for PhP 15,990.

Make sure to use the voucher code: GADGETZONE8 before you check out. On another note, ten lucky buyers of the realme Smart TV will get a free realme Soundbar. Meanwhile, first-batch buyers of the TV will get free 12 months extended warranty worth PhP 3,990.

SEE ALSO: realme Smart TV: Price and availability in the Philippines

Continue Reading

India

Xiaomi Mi 10i Review: Master of the midrange

A near-perfect phone, designed for everyone

Published

on

For years Xiaomi has tried to get a foothold in the premium segment, but it just couldn’t hit the right spot. Despite engineering marvels like the Mi MIX series, it didn’t work. The company has also tried releasing a polished midrange phone under the Redmi branding but couldn’t meet inflated market expectations. Will the Mi 10i solidify its push?

The Chinese smartphone giant got its portfolio sorted at the beginning of 2020 by dividing the three brands — Mi for premium, Redmi for budget, and spun-off POCO into a completely independent brand. Now, Xiaomi has set its priorities straight and aims for the lucrative premium segment, one that’s gobbled by players like Samsung, Apple, Huawei, and to a certain degree, OnePlus, OPPO, and vivo.

The Mi 10i is surely a midrange phone, but it has a lot of expectations to meet. And it’s an important product for Xiaomi since it’s again trying to test the INR 20,000+ range. There’s also tough competition from the OnePlus Nord, Galaxy A51, as well as the realme X3. So, how does Xiaomi’s new offering fare? Let’s see!

How’s the design? Is it comfortable to hold for gaming or streaming?

I’ve got the Pacific Sunrise color option, and it looks phenomenal. The phone has a unique color palette and a premium touch that makes it look much more expensive than it really is. The front and back of the device are protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5, but it has a very satisfying opaque finish that gives it a very translucent look. It may be glass, but it’ll never attract fingerprints, and that’s one of my favorite things about the phone.

The back has a gradient of cyan or light blue and a mix of orange and pink. While colors or gradients are usually personal preferences and range from person to person, everyone I showed the phone to loved it.

You’ll find the power and volume buttons on the right, the USB-C port at the bottom, and the IR blaster at the top. Like the Mi 10T series, Xiaomi has added a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that’s baked into the power button, and it’s speedy.

The rear has a circular camera module that may remind you of the OnePlus 7T, but the Mi 10i has a slightly different design which actually looks quite good. Due to the bigger 108 megapixel primary sensor, the camera module bulges a lot. But it isn’t annoying because the phone is pretty stable on a flat surface and doesn’t wobble like the Mi 10T series.

Xiaomi has added an IP53 rating for water resistance, so you don’t have to worry about splashes or even light rain. Lastly, the phone retains my beloved 3.5mm headphone jack. I hope Xiaomi continues to add it in future phones.

Lastly, the phone weighs more than 210gms. The weight is easily noticeable, and it does get annoying after extended usage. I prefer a lighter phone because it helps with ergonomics and can withstand falls slightly better.

Is the LCD panel immersive? Does the high refresh rate drain battery?

Looks so good, yeah looks so sweet

The Mi 10i has a 6.7-inch LCD display with a 120Hz refresh rate and Full HD+ resolution. There’s not much to say about the screen because it’s like you’d expect it to be. Xiaomi has a lot of experience with these panels now, and the color reproduction is accurate and vibrant, blacks are deep enough, and the viewing angle is top-notch. However, I feel that it could’ve been brighter. Under direct sunlight, it sometimes becomes difficult to view texts and emails on the go.

Yes, an AMOLED display will have deeper blacks, and that’s where the OnePlus Nord gets a lead. But considering the price difference between the two, Xiaomi smartly opted for an LCD panel and added 120Hz support. Day-to-day tasks are smoothly done, and the overall experience of having a smooth user experience pays off in the longer run. Although, you can adjust the refresh rate according to your preference.

The screen doesn’t suck too much power because it has an automatic variable refresh rate that adjusts according to your usage. So, if you’re watching a YouTube video, don’t worry. The panel knows the playback is at a lower refresh rate and makes the appropriate changes. In the end, you’re with a dynamic display that uses resources only when required. And, if you’re desperate to save power, there’s an option to downgrade to 30Hz as well!

How hard can you game on the Mi 10i? Is MIUI optimized?

The Mi 10i is one of the first phones to be powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 750G chipset. It is an octa-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz and built on an 8nm fabrication while the graphics are taken care of by the Adreno 619 GPU. This is also a 5G enabled chipset which comes with Qualcomm’s X52 5G modem for 5G connectivity. My unit has 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage.

As for the real-life usage and performance, as expected, the device shines at everything you throw at it. Be it a light task or a heavy task; the device is capable of handling it all. Xiaomi has mastered MIUI’s integration with a range of hardware, and the results are visible across all its phones. The Xiaomi Mi 10i runs MIUI 12, which is still Android 10-based (we’d expect Android 11 by now). If you’ve used MIUI before, you know what you’re getting into.

And if you haven’t, don’t worry. The skin is heavily customizable and has a lot of nifty features that are very utilitarian. The RAM management and multitasking was also excellent. Apps stayed longer than I’d expected in the background, and switching between apps did not force reload the content.

All modern games run smoothly on the phone, and there’s barely any lag or stuttering. Though, I did notice some frame drops when playing Call of Duty: Mobile for more than an hour. If you’re expecting any considerable raw performance improvement against the Snapdragon 765G, don’t. The difference is negligible, and you won’t realize it in real-life unless you start mining Bitcoins on your phone.

Most importantly, how’s the 108MP camera? Is it as good as the Mi 10T series?

Just like the Mi 10T Pro series, the Mi 10i gets a 108 megapixel sensor, but it isn’t the same one as the Mi 10T Pro. It comes with a 1/1.52-inch sensor, and Xiaomi claims it’s more compact than the HM1 sensor, which reduces the camera bump. Pictures are usually taken in 12-megapixels via binning technology, retaining details, natural color, and accurate contrast.

One of my favorite things about the sensor is its capability to capture excellent pictures with HDR. The algorithm can cleverly process the image to ensure there’s no excessive noise correction. The sensor can detect colors precisely and adjust exposure even under direct sunlight. The 108-megapixel mode can be accessed in the camera app with more options. The amount of detail captured by the camera in 108MP mode is truly incredible.

Low-light pictures are slightly disappointing because they often over-sharpen details, and the result looks quite artificial. The night mode compensates for this, but it mostly makes the image brighter and doesn’t necessarily optimize it.

Accompanying the primary sensor is an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens that isn’t that wide and struggles to capture detail. The quality degradation is easily visible, and this is definitely a cost-cutting measure for the company. There’s also a 2-megapixel macro and portrait sensor, which are now commonly found on almost all Xiaomi phones. It’s worth noting that the phone doesn’t have optical image stabilization, so if you’re into video, this definitely isn’t for you.

Despite the criticism, I’d say the phone has the best cameras you’d find in this price range. The competition is far away, and the 108 megapixel becomes a deal-breaker for many. Most of the issues I’ve encountered are software-based, and Xiaomi can fix them via OTA updates.

How long can it last? Should I invest in a 5G phone right now?

The Mi 10i 5G has a 4800mAh battery with 33W fast charging, and Xiaomi includes a 33W charging brick in the box. It took me an hour to charge it from 0 to 100, and that’s definitely a good deal. Thanks to Adaptive Sync (variable refresh rate of the screen), the phone can deliver a screen-on-time of more than seven hours in one go. Sometimes, it’ll even go up to eight hours under comfortable situations.

India is yet to roll-out 5G on a commercial scale, and the expected launch timeline from telcos currently stands at 2022. The government is yet to hold a spectrum auction, so there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved before we get to experience it. In my opinion, practical coverage of 5G is still two years away. 5G should be no reason for you to buy this phone.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a phone that excels at everything, then this phone is for you. The design honestly feels flagship grade and reeks premium, the processor is brand new and packs a punch, the cameras are above average and can go the extra mile if you’re a photography enthusiast, and lastly, the battery backup is optimum.

Gamers won’t be disappointed because the chipset is capable enough, and the phone barely heats up. This phone is made for everyone and does not stick to any particular niche. Considering the starting price of INR 21,999 (US$ 303), the Mi 10i is an easy recommendation. And even though we can’t enjoy 5G this year, it’s great to see the market get flooded with options. After all, the trickle-down effect will soon give us affordable 5G phones.

Continue Reading

Trending