Reviews

Honor 6X (aka Huawei GR5 2017 or Mate 9 Lite) review

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Honor 6X

The Honor 6X isn’t an entirely new phone. Although it experienced an international launch earlier this month, it’s been around since its original unveiling in China last October. We’ve been using it since acquiring a unit at CES 2017; here’s my take on the midrange smartphone.

Hold on… Honor what?

Honor is the hipper, more youthful sub-brand of Huawei. The latter is all about class and the highest-end features, whereas Honor caters to youngsters on a tighter budget. The 6X is the latest in the series, and it starts at $250.

Honor 6X

The Honor 6X has a heavily skinned Android operating system called Emotion UI 4.1

The version we have on hand has 3GB of memory and 32GB of internal storage that’s expandable using a microSD card. There’s also a variant with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage costing $300. Both have a 5.5-inch Full HD display and hybrid dual-SIM card tray.

In certain regions, this phone goes by the name Huawei GR5 2017 or Mate 9 Lite. That’s so confusing! This has to do with the Honor brand being sold exclusively online wherever it’s available; by branding it under Huawei, markets that prefer offline sales, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, can identify the phone a lot easier.

Why should you care?

The Honor 6X might look like a typical metal-bodied Chinese smartphone, but its edge lies in having a dual-camera setup at the back. While it doesn’t provide optical zoom like on Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus or improved image quality similar to the Huawei Mate 9, you can produce photos with added blur in the background, even after taking the shot.

Honor 6X

The lens on top does the picture taking, while the other one handles depth information

This is made possible with one 12-megapixel camera capturing the scene and another 2-megapixel sensor recording depth information. Snap away all you want in the camera app’s dual-camera mode, and readjust the focus point and amount of background blur whenever you feel like it in the pre-installed gallery app.

Is the extra camera worth it?

Yes, but it takes some practice to get it right. You must also understand that while Huawei loves comparing the Honor 6X’s photos to those of real cameras, the shallow depth-of-field of the 6X clearly looks fake to trained eyes. Once you get the hang of it, creating artsy photos becomes fun, as long as it’s done in moderation.

After selecting a focus point, you can make the aperture opening as wide as f/0.95 (lots of background blur) or much smaller at f/16 (no blur at all)

How about the main camera?

After spending days in dual-camera mode, I eventually got tired of all the afterthought needed and switched to using just the main 12-megapixel shooter full time. It’s only here I uncovered most of the camera’s weaknesses.

As much as I like the simplistic camera interface and easy application of filters, the shooting speed isn’t that great. Shots taken at night are also incredibly noisy. The LED flash helped when subjects were close enough, but I otherwise avoided relying on the Honor 6X to produce anything presentable under crappy lighting.

Honor 6X

The camera bulge is rather thick and long

The 8-megapixel selfie camera has the same nighttime problem, and even though daylight snaps were fine, the focal length is kind of narrow, so you won’t be able to fit lots of friends or much of the background.

Here are some of the best samples I took:

So, is there anything special beyond the cameras?

Not really, but I do appreciate the build quality. The all-metal body reminds me of the OnePlus 3’s, which means it’s solid and a pleasure to grip. The fingerprint scanner is fast, as well — typical of Huawei. Everything else is painfully average, from the screen’s maximum brightness to the speaker’s max volume.

The battery life can be described as just good enough. It’ll net you four hours of screen-on time through a day’s worth of mixed usage; a little more over a course of two days if you leave mobile data off or lower the display brightness. Fast charging is available using the bundled charger, bringing the 3340mAh battery to full in less than two hours.

Honor 6X

The 3.5mm audio jack is still present

If you’re looking to turn this into a mobile gaming machine, expect average graphics performance. Titles such as Asphalt 8 and the NBA 2K series are too much to handle for the Honor 6X on the highest settings. Tone them down, and you’ll get acceptable frame rates.

Any deal-breakers?

This is totally my own opinion, but I’m not a fan of Huawei’s Android interface. It feels so outdated and unintuitive compared to other Android skins: The notifications shade covers the entire screen; it takes an extra swipe to access quick settings; the app overview menu isn’t snappy enough; and customization options are minimal.

It also doesn’t help that it’ll be stuck at Android 6.0 Marshmallow for a while, and not the significantly better seventh-generation Nougat. The overall performance isn’t that smooth either, mostly because of the middling Kirin 655 processor designed by Huawei itself. You’ll notice heavier apps like Facebook take longer than usual to load, even when the memory and storage aren’t full.

Honor 6X

It uses an old micro-USB port instead of the newer USB-C

And, strangely enough for a 2017 smartphone, the Honor 6X still has a micro-USB port, not the newer and faster USB-C standard. If you’re gradually updating all your chargers for the new port, the Honor 6X will make you regret starting so early.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Huawei is targeting younger crowds for this Honor, which is probably a good idea. It’s relatively affordable, has a newish feature in its dual-camera, and feels like it can handle several drops. The downsides are all things you can eventually get used to, so the Honor 6X may become your GadgetMatch after a few weeks of use. For a handset trying to do everything without breaking the $300 line, the Honor 6X/GR5 2017/Mate 9 Lite is a smart choice.

Honor 6X

Available colors are gold, silver, and gray

[irp posts=”8843″ name=”Honor Magic shows off beauty and brains”]

Laptops

Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

It’s just missing one thing…

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It was during IFA 2018 when Lenovo introduced their latest premium convertible for consumers — the Yoga C930. It doesn’t have a good name, but it does offer everything a Yoga should, especially in media consumption.

Notebooks with flipping displays, like the Yoga lineup, are not just designed for typing. Most manufacturers market their convertibles to be perfect for entertainment, yet they largely fail in one aspect where they should shine — audio.

When Lenovo introduced the Yoga C930 with the rotating soundbar and Dolby Atmos, I hoped that it was not just a marketing ploy. But, is it? Let me share my thoughts about Lenovo’s newest convertible.

No fuss design

The Yoga C930 has a metal shell with a familiar aesthetic from Lenovo. My unit has a dark finish that’s aptly named Iron Gray. If you want a lighter shade, Lenovo is also offering the notebook in Mica, which is close to white. Everything about the body of the Yoga C930 screams premium; nothing here looks cheap or ugly.

To make it more special, the sides and the hinge of the Yoga C930 have a brushed finish. It’s a minor touch, but it’s highly noticeable whenever you’re checking where you should plug your peripherals. I also think that it helps hide unsightly scratches and gives the notebook a bit of shine.

While we’re at it, the available ports on the Yoga C930 are generally okay. It’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports that fully support PowerDelivery, DisplayPort, and USB 3.1 functions. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports employ 4x lanes for PCIe, so you can connect the Yoga C930 to an external GPU, which is good because this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics unit.

Apart from a couple of versatile USB-C interfaces, there’s also a classic full-size USB that we all know and love. Thankfully, Lenovo knows that this is still a widely used port and bringing a dongle just to read a thumb drive is a hassle. The 3.5mm audio port is also available when you need to plug in a pair of wired headphones.

All of the ports on the Yoga C930 are on its left side, leaving the right with just the power button. There are no volume buttons, either.

While I appreciate that Lenovo provided both USB-A and USB-C ports, I was still hoping for more; another USB-C with PowerDelivery on the right and a full-size SD card reader would do. The Yoga C930 is slim, but it’s not ultra-slim like the fan-less MacBook which got away with having one port (or maybe two if you count the headphone jack).

The Yoga C930 has a fairly large 14-inch display (13.9 inches according to Lenovo), but with minimum side bezels. Since this is made for watching videos, the aspect ratio is still stuck at 16:9.

There are two resolutions available for the Lenovo C930: Full HD or Ultra HD. The one I have here is just the Full HD variant, but it still has the key feature: Dolby Vision. The best way to fully appreciate the display is to play an HDR or Dolby Vision-enabled title. You can find some on Netflix if you’re using the highest-tier plan.

The display gets bright enough to be used outdoors and really dim when you need it to. It’s vibrant and has deep blacks even if it’s only an LCD panel.

When watching a video, I prefer to use the Yoga C930 in Tent mode. It can also be used in Stand mode with the keyboard facing down, but for some reason, Lenovo didn’t put little rubber feet to protect the keyboard when placed on a surface. You have to be cautious where you place the notebook or you risk scratching it.

The integrated soundbar of the Yoga C930 is designed to always face the user. That’s another advantage of watching videos in Tent mode; the speaker is facing upwards. I get to hear the sound directly without any muffle. I must say, the Yoga C930 has one of the clearest speakers I’ve tried on a notebook. It gets really loud, too.

It even has Dolby Atmos to enhance it further, but it’s not as immersive as advertised. To be fair though, I get to hear the stereo effect better than on other notebooks.

The device is least useful (for me) when it’s in Tablet mode. The Yoga C930 is too heavy to be a tablet, plus the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it feel like I’m reading from a really tall magazine. But, this is where the built-in pen comes in handy. The integrated stylus makes it easy for doodlers to annotate on screen.

Fast but not incredible

Let’s talk about power. The Yoga C930 I have is powered by the latest 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor paired with 12GB DDR4 memory and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Configurations may vary in some regions, so the Yoga C930 in your stores might be more powerful or inferior.

There’s one thing that’s missing though, and it’s not an option anyone can get either: discrete graphics.

As mentioned, the Yoga C930 is not an ultraportable. It has nowhere near the portability of Dell’s XPS 13 or even Lenovo’s own Yoga Book. It’s big enough to house at least a modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 — just like the latest ZenBook from ASUS.

My usage includes multiple tabs on Chrome, some slight editing on Photoshop, and hours of binge-watching on Netflix. I primarily used the notebook for typing and browsing, which are not heavy tasks.

So far, I had no major performance issues during my time with the Yoga C930. I didn’t bother to install games because it lacks discrete graphics.

Of course, the notebook runs Windows 10. I got the October 2018 update just last week, and it made the dark mode better. It matches the gray motif of the device.

It’s ideal for my own use

Putting all the technical specifications aside, the Yoga C930 has been a great companion.

Aside from the soundbar, I also fully appreciate the notebook’s keyboard. It’s not as great as the one on ThinkPads, but it’s good enough for me. It’s well-spaced and has a good amount of key travel.

The touchpad uses Microsoft Precision drivers and it fully supports all the gestures of Windows 10. It has a glass surface and picks up all the inputs. A responsive touchpad and a good keyboard is the combo I need for work.

There’s also something about the craftsmanship of the Yoga C930 that gives assurance that it’s a well-built device. Perhaps it’s the balance between weight and dimensions.

Lastly, the webcam has a physically cover — just like a ThinkPad’s. It’s nice to see nifty features of Lenovo’s business laptops on a consumer device. I don’t have to cover the webcam anymore with a piece of tape.

Great battery life

I am generally impressed with the longevity of the Yoga C930. Lenovo promises all-day battery life, but we all know that is somehow a stretch. Based on my usage, I get around eight to nine hours. I also experience about the same when watching Netflix non-stop.

It’ll not beat records, but I am always assured that even if I leave my charger at home, I know I can rely on the Yoga C930 to get me through a full day.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

You probably already think that this is my GadgetMatch, which I’ll not deny. I had a good time with the Yoga C930, despite its shortcomings. It’s a premium convertible that managed to meet my expectations. I’m hoping Lenovo will soon have an option with discrete graphics. For now, you can maximize the device by plugging in an external GPU.

The Yoga C930 has a starting price of US$ 1,399. It’s a bit pricier than I expected from its specs, but it’s a premium convertible that offers more versatility than regular laptops.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, 330S, 330: Which is right for you?

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Drones

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Review: 1 month in

Not a perfect drone, but…

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We won’t bore you with a rundown of its specs, but instead, we’ll give you the lowdown on DJI’s new drone — what works, what doesn’t, and what’s there to love. This is our DJI Mavic 2 Pro review.

 

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Reviews

Apple iPad Pro (2018) Review: Not just a laptop replacement

It can be so much more

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Apple’s new iPad Pro is more beautiful, more powerful, and more useful. In this review, we answer the question in everyone’s head: Can it replace your laptop?

To see the iPad Pro as merely a possible laptop replacement is an injustice to the purpose it serves. It’s already a given that this is a great tablet, but this is a pro device and is more than just that. Its premium price tag can be justified by what it can enable creative professionals, business people, and even journalists to accomplish.

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