Reviews

Google Pixel review (3 months later)

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Three months in, and we’re still using the Google Pixel as our main Android smartphone. With all the Droids we’ve been reviewing lately, that says a lot.

We took our time with this review, as we felt features such as the camera and Google Assistant needed a long evaluation period before we could come to a conclusion — and we were right.


These are all our Pixel findings after a quarter of a year.

The design didn’t grow on us

Sad to say, the bland design didn’t get better with age. As much as I appreciate the symmetry in front, too much space is wasted on the unused bezels — space which could have been used for dual-front-facing speakers like on the Nexus 6P.

I also can’t forgive the upper-back portion. I honestly thought there was a greater purpose for the glossy glass, yet all it did was record my finger smudges, saving it for a day when someone steals my phone and uses the marks to unlock it using my fingerprints, which brings us to our next point:

It greatly benefits from a case

Despite its finely crafted metal body and perfectly sized 5-inch frame for single-handed use, you’re better off buying a case the moment you get a Pixel. The glass area surrounding the fingerprint scanner is prone to tiny scratches no matter how careful you are, and the metal area can get quite slippery.

We were fortunate enough to find a perfect case for the Pixel, Nillkin’s Super Frosted Shield. The red version matches our black Pixel perfectly, while its grippy texture and shock-absorbent material made us less worried about handling such an expensive phone.

Google Assistant has a long way to go

I really wanted this feature to succeed. I really did, but the commands I want it to perform the most aren’t there yet. Getting Google Assistant to open specific files in Drive, search for certain people in my Photos app, or even just help compose simple emails is frustrating at times.

And those aren’t on random apps, either. Assistant should be able to do every function possible on Google’s official Drive, Photos, and Gmail apps. Having it set reminders, check the weather, and play games with you are cool and all, but those can easily be done without the help of artificial intelligence.

Battery life is generally superb

The quality Pixel’s battery life is debatable. I’ve heard a lot of bad things; at the same time, I’ve experienced fine endurance when I needed it most. Getting five hours of screen-on time over the course of one and a half days has become commonplace, and that’s a good thing. Turn off the full-time voice activation and minimize LTE use, and you should manage two days on one charge.

Nothing beats its camera

To this day, nothing trumps the speed and fluidity of the 12.3-megapixel camera and its app. Although Apple and Samsung can state their own cases why their cameras rule, the Pixel camera makes smartphone photography so seamless, and does so without any fancy optical image stabilization or second lens.

Photo after photo, I’m always impressed by the Pixel’s outputs. Its HDR mode is in a category of its own, and I highly suggest keeping it on at all times to boost colors and handle tricky lighting situations. It’s my go-to camera when the sun fully sets, and the 8-megapixel selfie camera is good too despite the lack of promotion.

This phone never slows down

Its Snapdragon 821 processor may be outdated soon, but in no way can the Pixel be considered slow. Unlike most Android handsets, this phone maintains its original speed for months. A lot of credit should be given to the 4GB of memory and lack of microSD card expansion, which would otherwise slow down the interface because of potentially sluggish external storage.

Its Android is a strange “stock” Android

It feels so strange using a Google phone which doesn’t have a truly pure Android operating system. Sure, it’s on the latest 7.1 Nougat version and replaces the user interface built by the Nexus series, but it still feels like I’m using a third-party skin.

Don’t get me wrong: The visuals are spotless and swiping from below to open the app drawer should have been implemented a long time ago; I just get the feeling Google will revise the design all over again in the next Pixel phone, especially if a manufacturer other than HTC takes the lead.

Waterproofing is sorely missed

Having used a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge before taking on the Pixel and playing with Sony’s Xperia XZ from time to time, I feel bad about not possessing some level of water and dust proofing on this phone. It’s not everyday I go on beach trips or deal with splashes, but the peace of mind just isn’t there.

Unlimited full-resolution photo uploads is a superb deal

As someone who constantly moves from one device to another, placing everything on the cloud is vital in ensuring all my files are accessible. While any decent smartphone can back up photos and videos for me, none can do it as well as the Pixel.

Having all my pictures and videos automatically synced to my Google Photos account at full resolution means I never have to worry about instant quality loss or degradation over time. I love how this is a permanent feature that adds so much extra value to the Pixel’s high asking price.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I could just end the review here and tell you there’s no better Android smartphone than the Google Pixel right now, but I have to share a few more thoughts.

For one, finding a unit anywhere in the world hasn’t gotten any easier. Google is experiencing shipment problems through its official channels, so you must deal with a third-party retailer for any chance of purchasing one.

And then there’s the issue concerning its chipset. As fast as it is at the moment, it’ll soon feel slow once smartphones equipped with Qualcomm’s revolutionary Snapdragon 835 processor begin coming out next month.

Finally, let’s talk about the price. Starting at $649 for the 32GB storage variant, the Pixel isn’t cheap, and you’ll have to spend a hundred dollars more for the 5.5-inch Pixel XL, which only adds a better Quad HD resolution and larger battery to its value.

With the soon-to-be-outdated hardware and expensive price tag compared to all the other great phones out there, the Pixel isn’t as attractive as it once was, but for the time being, this will continue being my go-to handset for its camera and updated software alone.

SEE ALSO: A cheaper Google Pixel could be in the works

[irp posts=”9907" name=”A cheaper Google Pixel could be in the works”]

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Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro Review: Twice the power, still affordable

But is it worth the hype?

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The year is far from over and neither are phone manufacturers from releasing smartphones. Although Mi 9T Pro isn’t the newest smartphone release from Xiaomi, it’s one of the most talked about smartphones around and is still the flagship killer to, well, kill.

If you previously read our Xiaomi Mi 9T review, you’d know by now that I’m exactly an Android user. I loved the Mi 9T Pro’s smaller sibling however because of its camera prowess and seamless experience despite its cheap price tag.


Now that I have the more powerful Mi 9T Pro on hand, I took it out on adventures the past few weeks to see whether it can actually live up to its flagship killer title.

Same design, different vibe

If you compare the Mi 9T and Mi 9T Pro side-by-side, it’ll be difficult to tell them apart. The symmetry is there. I like the Carbon Black option for its stealth while the Glacier Blue option is striking, in a good way. Although I’m not a fan of flashy design and colors, I love how there are subtle gradations flowing from both sides.

The red power button is still there, giving it a touch of contrast against its blue metallic body.

Speaker grilles, microphone, USB-C port, and SIM card slot below.

The Mi 9T Pro has a Gorilla Glass 5 back. It’s not the newest generation of Corning’s technology but it’s good enough to protect the phone from accidental scratches. The Mi 9T had none, which was a drawback for a smartphone with a glass back. I loved flaunting its back that I decided not to use the included black case. It’s still good as new and has not acquired any scratches. It feels right in my hand and doesn’t slip easily.

Same screen size, different display

Even Suzy looks confused with the differences in AMOLED and Super AMOLED

Xiaomi’s Mi 9T wowed me before because of its 6.4-inch AMOLED display. It’s an excellent panel, for such a cheap phone, with great viewing angles and contrast.

The Mi 9T Pro still packs a similar 6.4-inch display, but with a Super AMOLED display technology. Watching videos even outdoors is a great experience because it’s brighter and overall a better panel.

The Super AMOLED display is drop-dead gorgeous, so is Yoohyeon

I love its fullscreen display. Not having a notch or punch-hole camera makes a difference for me especially when watching videos. Color calibration is accurate and vibrant, making visuals pop.

Watching TWICE’s Feel Special in 4K made me miss Mina more #GetWellSoonMina

There are only a handful of smartphones with 4K resolution — and it’s not the basis of having a great display. It may not be the best display on a smartphone, but the Mi 9T Pro still delivers excellent entertainment experience even with its Full HD+ display. It’s also more power efficient than the AMOLED display found on the Mi 9T.

Flagship performance at half the price

The Mi 9T was already a great smartphone with the Snapdragon 730, but Xiaomi made the Mi 9T Pro even better. This phone is  equipped with a flagship Snapdragon 855 chipset — something you can only find on more expensive smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and OnePlus 7 Pro.

The Mi 9T Pro feels snappier than the Mi 9T — something I noticed immediately. Opening apps, the animation — they all feel faster. The experience is oh-so fluid and smooth. I can now play my favorite Asphalt 9 game at the highest settings that I couldn’t do (or even install) on the Mi 9T before.

Just like the Mi 9T, it also has 6GB of memory, so switching between apps is seamless.

Having a 3.5mm audio jack feels special (pun intended)

A lot of “Pro” products don’t seem like they meet expectations of actual pro users. If you’re the type of person who prefers the traditional way of listening to music, this phone has a 3.5mm jack — something you don’t see in many smartphones these days.

While I can always connect a wireless pair of headphones, the good ol’ audio jack is still very handy in a lot of scenarios. I find it useful when playing music in parties that don’t have wireless speakers. Some people still use wired microphones for audio recording as it’s more reliable. Some monopods require wired cables for you to control shutter releases.

Battery life is outstanding

I’m not proud of it but I’m *that* power user. I fiddle around with my phone and browse my social media feed every five to ten minutes. When I’m bored, I watch videos on YouTube or at least two episodes of a series I’m following on Netflix at around 75% brightness. I also play graphics-intensive games every now and then. Despite all of this, the Mi 9T Pro’s battery lasts me my entire day.

Fast charging just got faster

The Mi 9T already has a USB-C port and an 18W fast charger right out of the box — but the Mi 9T Pro ships with a faster 27W charger with Quick Charge 4+ technology.

It takes around 35 minutes to charge the phone from 0% to 50%. It reached 100% after around an hour and 30 minutes. That’s fast for a smartphone with a 4000 mAh battery.

Modern problems require modern solutions, except for these two

The Mi 9T Pro still features an in-display fingerprint scanner and it works most of the time. Not that I’m complaining, but it will never be as fast as a traditional scanner. A side-mounted scanner is always my alternative pick over this type of reader.

I thought there will be at least a difference when it comes to Face Unlock but it still performs sluggish. I would rather use the fingerprint scanner instead of the inconvenience of swiping and waiting for the camera to pop-up. Face unlock isn’t even as secure as it just relies on camera recognition.

The pop-up camera itself performs well

Don’t get me wrong, the pop-up camera is not bad, well at least in taking selfies. It captures decent selfies even when beauty mode is completely turned off.

I like how the selfies don’t look as saturated as other selfie shooters, which gives it a nice touch in persuading your crush to give you a chance to date you.

People who have shorter arms wouldn’t have a problem as the selfie camera is wide enough to accommodate four (or more) people in the frame — just like how a lot of you accommodate people that will never be a part of your life.

Same triple camera setup, but now snappier

You get the same triple camera setup as the Mi 9T that I loved: 48MP f/1.8 wide, 8MP f/2.4 telephoto, and 13MP f/2.4 ultrawide.

There’s a small difference though: the Mi 9T Pro has laser autofocus. This might not sound like much but taking photos with the Mi 9T Pro felt snappier and photos turn out sharper. It’s an understated but very important improvement.

Unlike with the Mi 9T, I didn’t experience errors while using the Mi 9T Pro’s camera

The camera does well with food subjects

But it’s honestly even better with the telephoto lens

Night Mode works really well

But sometimes, it doesn’t do photos justice

The highlights in the neon signs were dimmed after turning on the Night Mode, which made the shots worse.

Using Night Mode on the telephoto lens is great, too

I really love how it captured the filament in these two light bulbs and produced the right amount of shadows and blur in the background.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The maxed-out 128GB/6GB configuration of the Mi 9T Pro is priced at PhP 20,490, while the 64GB/6GB configuration currently retails at PhP 18,990 — which is just a PhP 1,500 difference from Mi 9T’s 128GB/6GB.

A lot of people have been calling the Mi 9T Pro as 2019’s true flagship killer, not just because of its top of the line specs but also because of its affordable price tag.

If you want to have a powerful smartphone with a bright display, snappy cameras, and unparalleled software experience without spending that much, the Mi 9T Pro is for you. If you don’t need the faster chipset and just want an overall great device, then go for the Mi 9T.

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Vivo NEX 3 Unboxing and Review

Vivo continues to innovate

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This is our Vivo NEX 3 Unboxing and Review.

Last year, just in time for the World Cup, the Vivo NEX was born. A play on the word NEXT, it was a showcase of their innovative chops and a taste of what was yet to come in a phone that you could already buy.


In the span of just over a year we’ve seen its iterations and this month, Vivo launched a new NEX. What new innovations does it have up its sleeves?

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Vivo S1 Review: The Skyline’s the limit

It’s near perfect, and that’s why it’s good

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If there’s one thing people should know about me, it’s that I have a strict preference for smartphones. Well, the only thing that’s strict about it is that I only want smartphones in black. It’s all about the subtlety of the device, that it gives off a premium feel.

Then, I got my hands on Vivo’s latest smartphone, the Vivo S1 with all the color at the back. I could tell that Vivo threw subtlety out the window, but don’t let the bright color fool you. This midrange-near-budget smartphone supposedly packs a punch and some nifty features, as well. But does it live up to its potential, or is it just pure aesthetic?


It has a 6.38-inch Super AMOLED FullView display

It comes with an AI triple camera setup at the back

It has an In-Display fingerprint sensor

It comes in two colors: Skyline Blue and Diamond Black

It’s that fast, powerful, and responsive

The Vivo S1 comes in a 128GB + 6GB RAM package that invites a lot of people when you hear it. In 2019, I feel it’s only right to offer smartphones with that much storage and efficiency, and this device is no different. It’s real fast, with a very responsive Funtouch OS 9 to complement it.

Most heavy-duty, RAM consuming apps and games did not deter the phone’s overall performance. I managed to use all of my social media apps, YouTube, and some games running on idle without any lag time. I even tried using the split screen feature on several apps, and still no observable lag in between.

There is an unreal battery inside it

This smartphone comes with a whopping 4500 mAh battery inside, with Vivo touting it can last for more than a day. True enough, it took about 28 hours of regular usage for social media, YouTube, and a few games before I got the battery to zero. I am thoroughly impressed with how this battery held itself together even after a full day’s use.

It also helps that Vivo even included a Fast Charging feature to its charging brick. One full charge took an average of two hours, which is great considering it’s still using a micro-USB port. Come on Vivo, it’s 2019; put a USB Type-C port in there!

It has a dedicated, and effective Game Mode on

One of the things I appreciated about the Vivo S1 was its Game Mode every time I start a game. Enhancements often include devoting more memory for RAM-heavy games, optimizing battery life while playing, and turning off some notifications. I felt this was a big step in incorporating such enhancements during gameplay. Also, at least you get to play in silence instead of having someone’s Messenger head icon pop up.

It also helped that the software optimizes these games on a regular basis. I think that’s one major aspect other companies should try to incorporate with their optimizing software for games. Every time I start up a game, gameplay feels much smoother — especially on MOBA and FPS games.

Triple the cameras and the quality is pretty great

I’ve had different experiences with triple camera setups across devices. Some of them have the details down but miss out on accurate coloring. Others do the exact opposite, producing saturated images or colors without much attention to detail. With the Vivo S1, it’s quite different.

Image quality during daytime and under ample lighting conditions is superb. I noticed a bit of smart blurring with outside shots with just one tap, plus no details were left behind. Even under gloomy weather, colors turned out great and accurate without need for editing. Selfies under the same conditions share the same quality, as well.

It’s an entirely different story when you try to shoot photos late in the afternoon till the night. It’s obvious that the sensors take a bit of time to adjust for low light scenes. The results leave a little much to be desired, with the images having a little bit of grain. Colors are not as accurate, yet details are still recognizable.

Small details that deserve your attention

There are other things that I believe deserve people’s attention with the Vivo S1. First, I think it was clever for Vivo to include a rubber phone case that covers the charging port. It keeps the phone safe, as the port is protected against possible shocks. Although, since it’s made of rubber plastic it is quite flimsy so just be careful tugging it out.

Second, the In-Display fingerprint sensor is pretty easy to set-up and use. Fingerprint recognition is spot on, and I could unlock the device instantly. It also does this swirl effect when you lift the device from a surface, anticipating your fingerprint.

Finally, the headphone jack in 2019 is still a welcome addition to smartphones despite everyone going wireless. It fits well within a budget category for a smartphone that touts near-premium specifications. The built-in speakers also sound great, with some depth when you’re listening to music or videos.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At Php 14,999, the Vivo S1 offers the complete package of great performance and image quality. If you’re not heavy on using it to take selfies or videos, you will definitely feel just how powerful and fast it is for everything else. From social media apps to games, this is a great pickup for anyone with the budget for it.

For those who want to start on mobile photography, there’s potential for this phone. Overall image quality is fantastic under ample lighting conditions. It helps to be wary of your surroundings when you’re taking outside shots, and take note of the smart blurring in between. Take advantage of the different shooting modes as well.

Overall, the sky’s the limit for the Vivo S1. While it does come in aesthetically bright colors, the device lives up to its potential to be a great device for everyone.

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