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”]

Lifestyle

Amazon Kindle PaperWhite Signature Edition Review

The best Kindle for every bookworm?

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It’s been a while ever since the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite had a refresh. To be particular about it, its 10th-Generation model was released last 2018 — merely three years ago!

This 2021, the new 11th-Gen Kindle PaperWhite offers better upgrades including a larger and brighter display, as well as USB-C and wireless charging support.

But are those enough to make you upgrade? Or should you wait for the next version of Kindle Oasis instead?

Head over to our unboxing and in-depth review of the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite and watch it in 4K too.

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Accessories

AirPods 3 Unboxing and Review

Watch before you buy!

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If you’ve been holding your money for so long just to buy the new AirPods 3 (also called the AirPods 3rd Generation), this is your chance to finally get one.

But with the absence of removable ear tips and Active Noise Cancellation from the AirPods Pro, would you still consider buying the pair?

Head over to our AirPods 3 Unboxing and Review to help your impulsive self.

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Gaming

Hot Wheels Unleashed review: A childhood dream realized

It’s action-packed and rather nostalgic

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Hot Wheels Unleashed

As a kid, I wanted all kinds of toys whenever we went to toy stores in the city. One of the very first toys I had an obsession over was Hot Wheels. From collecting cars to building tracks in the living room, it became the quintessential set of toys that got me into racing games all this time.

When Hot Wheels Unleashed was released, I instantly knew that this was a game I didn’t want to miss. As someone who plays a ton of racing games, this one felt right at home next to Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Unlike CTR:NF, the nostalgia I felt for this game was more on the side of “playing my toys on a virtual screen” type of thing.

However, if you’re looking for another game to help you pass the time, is this a game worth considering?

A racing game at its core

As with most games involving toy cars, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels right at home as a racing game. It even comes with some of the most standard game modes you can think of for any racing game, so you won’t necessarily miss out if you’re a racing game fan. Where this game sets itself apart is in its easy-to-grasp game mechanics.

Usually, all you have to do is drive around the course and win 1st Place by outspeeding and outsmarting (in some situations) your opponents. You still do that but with some key differences, particularly towards boosting. Honestly, I like the fact that boosts are activated by button pushes and accumulated by drifting. To me, it’s friendly even to new players getting into racing games.

Hot Wheels Unleashed

The other thing I like is the fact that each Hot Wheels toy car comes with its own cart stats, and not just a general one all throughout. This also gives you an incentive to try and get every available model in the game and try them out for yourself. Furthermore, you can even upgrade these stats using Gears, and customize their Livery to however you like.

Creativity and originality in track design

Every racing game needs some interesting tracks to race around, especially with something like Hot Wheels. In Hot Wheels Unleashed, you have access to 5 main backdrops, each with about 8-9 different tracks that come with their own surprises. From high-arching loops to acid pits, each track will have you doing things a bit differently each time you race.

In fact, the first thing I noticed was that the elements in the tracks are quite similar to the actual models in those track builder sets. The designers did an incredible job with maximizing the entire backdrop to produce tracks with enough twists and turns along the way. Also, I would even argue that these tracks let you play around with the driving mechanics.

Now, I have some good news and bad news for you on these tracks. The bad news is that when you start the game, most of the tracks are locked as in-game transactions. If you wanted to unlock them the easy way, just pay a few bucks to get in-game currency and buy them.

However, the good news is you can unlock them by completing the Hot Wheels City Rumble mode. Although it will be an immense grind on your part, but I honestly think it’s worth it!

Wait, you can make your own tracks?!

Yes, you read that right: Hot Wheels Unleashed also allows you to create your own tracks to race on with your friends online. See, one unique mode to the game is the Track Builder, and I guess the name is self-explanatory. To be honest, this game mode was the best and it actually brings me back to my childhood.

Once you start the game mode, you basically have a blank canvas to work with, depending on the main backdrop you choose. After choosing your desired backdrop, you have a variety of track builder pieces to choose from and customize. Also, it even comes with your set of obstacles and boost pads to add some flavor to your tracks.

I absolutely enjoyed going on Track Builder as someone who collected Hot Wheels track sets before. Basically, you can create some of the most death-defying tracks that your younger self could not afford to before. Seriously, Hot Wheels track builder sets are expensive, and this game basically lets you experience this without spending a hefty amount.

Some low points

Much like most racing games, this one doesn’t come with its own set of shortcomings. To no one’s surprise, this game comes with a Hot Pass that allows you to earn more cars, tracks, and track builder sets. The good thing about it is, well, it’s more content at your disposal. At the time of writing, they’re currently running one with Batman vehicles as the main rewards,

The thing I don’t like about it is that you have to pay for it. I genuinely feel that this is something that would have been better off as a Battle Pass-type of package instead of paid DLC. I mean, it’s additional content that people also want to try out but with a rather hefty price tag. Maybe if they did it this way, people would continue to grind out the game.

Another thing that felt lacking in my eyes was the Basement, particularly the customization aspect.

I get it, it’s another main backdrop for your tracks and you can work with a ton of elements when creating your own. However, I didn’t like that the customization was limited to just the exterior design. Honestly,  I was looking for more customization options like moving the furniture around.

A roaring good time

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a racing game that feels right at home with the best of them. From a vast selection of carts to creative and unique track design, it feels fresh to anybody trying to get into racing games. Also, if you grew up playing your Hot Wheels car collection, this takes you back to simpler times.

Again, it’s not perfect and hopefully with upcoming patches, the game does get better. However, they missed out on some opportunities to make it a worthwhile game to play for any occasion. Sure, if you had money to burn, this wouldn’t be an issue; for others, however, they want a lot more without spending too much.

Overall, this game will give you a roaring good time, especially when you just need some down time from all the stress. What made it even more special for me was that this game pretty much made one of my childhood dreams a reality!

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