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”]

Gaming

Forspoken review: Outspoken with little to speak of

Wait for a sale

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Forspoken

It doesn’t take a lot to create a decent roleplaying game. All you need is a fish-out-of-water character, a vast open map, and a seemingly endless list of objectives. Though it has all three, Forspoken struggles to keep up with its pretenses as a Western roleplaying game.

First, the good

Credit to where it’s due, Forspoken is a fun game for the first few sections. Exploring the incredibly huge map with magical parkour is enjoyable. Eclipsed only by Elden Ring’s Torrent, magic parkour is one of the most innovative ways to quickly traverse large distances, especially after learning more advanced techniques.

Likewise, fighting balanced enemies with limited powers provides enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes in Athia. Neither the player nor the first enemies feel overpowered.

Unfortunately, the game’s novelty quickly evaporates after you figure out that you have to repeat the same motions dozens upon dozens of times. Forspoken’s map is much larger than it ever should have been. Though abundant in number, every point of interest is separated by large distances, some platforming challenges, and a battle sequence. The greater map is empty. Do this over and over, and the game gets stale quick. With adequate rewards, this shouldn’t be a problem, but Forspoken also suffers from a communication issue.

A communication issue

For most roleplaying games, completing an objective on the map usually nets palpable rewards for the player: a significant experience boost, new skills, new gear, or a bag of loot. An open-world game necessitates a lot of exploring. Even if a game is repetitive, earning substantial rewards is satisfying, at least. Forspoken does not have this — not in an easily discernible way, at least.

Treasure chests, which account for most of the points of interest on the map, reward players with a litany of crafting materials. Most of which will go unused because the game doesn’t easily tell players how to use them. After a dozen hours of collecting materials, I had a wealthy cache of each ingredient to make practically anything. Even then, I had little idea where each one went.

The map’s major rewards — new cloaks, new nail arts, and experience — also do little to explain how Frey improves with each completed objective. Clearing out an enemy camp, for example, rewards players with +1 magic. The game does not tell you how much damage that conveys. Certainly, after completing a few of these, Frey feels stronger, but it’s not easy to see how much stronger, especially when most enemies are bullet sponges with absurd health pools anyway.

Plus, these don’t even scratch the surface of objectives wherein the main reward is literally just a lore dump you have to read from a menu.

Forspoken

Difficulty shouldn’t always mean more enemies

Another issue with clearing out Athia’s large map is how Forspoken handles difficulty. Though there are options to adjust difficulty, the game relies on a limited bag of tricks to make it more difficult for players: increasing enemy health and quantity. In moderation, relying on this strategy works. However, Forspoken does this to an obnoxious level.

Prepare to fight five mini-bosses in one encounter for a lore entry. What compounds this issue more is an insane enemy health pool which causes encounters to last a lot longer than they should. One mini-boss encounter took me 15 minutes, even with appropriately leveled gear and the right spells.

Because of the sheer number of enemies, an encounter can stun-lock Frey for an absurd amount of time. The player can hardly prevent this since it relies on chance. Despite offering a wide array of moves, the risk of knockbacks shoehorn players into a slow run-and-gun tactic (which might not even play into an enemy’s weaknesses), instead of using each ability to the max.

On paper, Forspoken’s combat offers a fluid way to take down enemies by seamlessly switching between spells and moving through the battlefield with magic parkour. Unfortunately, an imbalance in enemy strategies bogs the game down in prolonged sequences that often reward players with only middling boosts.

Forspoken

A lack of optimization

For a game released on modern hardware, Forspoken took a while to launch. The game was delayed a few times. Given how delays often work, you’d think that it would release in a fairly optimized state. It’s not.

Though I haven’t hit major game-breaking bugs, there were a number of performance dips throughout the game. Even on performance-focused settings, framerates dropped to a standstill when there were high particle effects on screen. Frey constantly clipped through the terrain and found herself stuck on finnicky edges (which sometimes required reloading from previous saves).

The game is also dragged down by numerous cutscenes. Though not a bug per se, it’s not a great sign of optimization that the game has to pause for a cutscene just to show enemies arriving. For a game featuring fluid movement and combat, Forspoken often takes players out of the action by pausing for unnecessary cutscenes.

Forspoken

Better on sale

Overall, Forspoken is persistently flawed. However, amid the game’s shortcomings, the title still has an exciting combat and movement system. Plus, if you disregard the tedious open world, Forspoken’s linear story, featuring the wide range of abilities, are enjoyable. My interest always bounces back after beating one of the game’s main bosses.

Still, it’s hard to call Forspoken a game worthy of its AAA price tag. It might be better to wait for a discount.

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Computers

MSI Summit E16 Flip review: Creator on the go

A plethora of ways to be as productive and creative as possible

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We all love a good 2-in-1 device that gives us everything we need all in one go. From portability to productivity, devices like these truly bring out the best in everyone no matter what kind of use case you throw at it. Such is the case for MSI, a brand notably known for gaming hardware but has their fair share of productivity-focused laptops, as well.

One such 2-in-1 device under MSI’s portfolio is the MSI Summit E16 Flip, complete with hardware and features for the more well-rounded user out there. With a rather slim form factor, the device would ideally mix both portability and productivity in one. Also, it comes with some external hardware that elevates the productivity just a bit further, as well.

With all these in mind, is the MSI Summit E16 Flip a worthy option for all your productivity needs?

Performing above expectations

The MSI Summit E16 Flip performs rather fantastically for any given situation; whether you’re working or watching, it has the hardware to keep up. Inside this machine is a 12th generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM — a standard for most productivity-laden devices. Most applications run smoothly on this device, which is expected as a daily driver for most tasks.

It also comes with a 16:10, QHD+ anti-glare display, which does provide a bigger canvas for multitasking with multiple windows open. This IPS touch display is quite bright and color-accurate, especially at peak brightness and in broad daylight. Whether you’re working during the day or watching movies at night, this device is perfect for these activities.

Gaming and creating on the go

Much like all other MSI laptops, the MSI Summit E16 Flip comes with a dedicated NVIDIA RTX 3050Ti GPU inside. Although not as powerful as oher mobile GPUs, this one packs a punch for a good balance of gaming performance with high quality graphics. When throwing in Esports titles, the device poured in high frame rates suited for competitive play.

Of course, a powerful GPU also enables greater performance when editing photos and videos in high quality, as well. This is also helped out by the display having a 165Hz refresh rate with a 1ms response rate, so you don’t miss out on any out of place pixels. From our tests, render times for HD videos were decent enough — about 2 minutes for a 15-second video with many visual elements.

A pen and large display for your notes

Part of the package for the MSI Summit E16 Flip is the addition of the MSI Pen for those who prefer a pen over a mouse/trackpad. This additional accessory links up quite quickly, and lasts for more than a day on a full charge. Also, it comes with a few magnetized areas so it sticks to the side of the laptop or the top of the display for ease of access.

Ideally, you’d need something like the MSI Pen if you’re more into drawing illustrations or taking down handwritten notes — and it shows. From legible handwriting to brush strokes, the device was able to pick up on these inputs well. It even supports other Windows gestures like zoom, drag, and multi-select — essentially replicating the wide trackpad.

Although, from our usage of the device, the display has this slight problem with rejecting palms on top of it. While writing with the MSI Pen, it is natural to rest your palm somewhere on the display yet even inputs from that get picked up. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be wary of.

Lasts decently long for consistent productivity

Longevity is another thing the MSI Summit E16 Flip provides, specifically on the battery side of things. Throughout our usage of the device, on normal usage, it lasts around 10-11 hours which is pretty decent for the hardware. Accounting for higher quality videos playing, the device lasted for 9-10 hours on average.

When gaming full time or even rendering higher quality videos, the battery does take a hit, as expected. For full time video rendering, it drained its battery after three and a half hours on average, while gaming cut it down to around two to three hours.

Although, if you need to get back into your productivity workflow, the MSI Summit E16 Flip restores its battery quickly with the charger it comes with. On average, charging the device took around two hours from nothing to full, which should put you back in action.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Starting PhP 130,999, the MSI Summit E16 Flip has everything you need in a 2-in-1 device when you’re on the move. From the hardware to the accessories, it’s a well-rounded machine designed for the multihyphenated or those who work and play hard. Also, its overall design makes it a bit easier to bring around.

If money isn’t entirely an issue, this laptop is one great upgrade option out there both as a work machine and a creator hub. Accessory-wise, the MSI Pen should be on your list of must-haves when purchasing this device, in case a mouse doesn’t suit your liking.

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Gaming

Serial Cleaners review: Stealth in the mafia

Outrunning the police, but you can’t outrun the truth

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Serial Cleaners

As seen in most crime movies, clean up duty is one of the hardest things to do. Basically, every little detail must be accounted for when you’re protecting people in high places. As they say, “leave no stone unturned” when hiding the truth of the crime. The moment the clean up guy messes up, normally everything bad happens after that.

In essence, that’s what Serial Cleaners is all about: the life of a person doing clean up duties for murders that take place anywhere. Although, the murders you’re cleaning up is from the mafia you work for. And it’s not just one person handling the cleaning process. As the cleaners gather for maybe one last time before Y2K, they reminisce on the life of crime they chose to protect.

Is Serial Cleaners a game to try and experience in full? Honestly, the work speaks for itself.

Four different characters with a unique take on stealth

Serial Cleaners is the rather riveting sequel to the 2017 game called (wait for it), Serial Cleaner. Bob returns from the prequel and brings together a group of his cleaners for one last night before Y2K. To start off, you get to know just a little bit more about each of the characters. You also find out how Bob recruited them into the business of cleaning up murders.

Each character comes in with their own unique take on how to either successfully hack into systems or hide/dispose of corpses just scattered around as evidence. The key to this game is literal stealth and precise planning of your next move in order to avoid capture, so understanding how they work is key.

Honestly, I felt this was a rather unique way to introduce character stages while staying true to the main idea of the gameplay. Obviously, it’s a step in the right direction to simply let the characters be their own thing, instead of forcing the same gameplay style across all of them. You get to experience everyone in their own way, which makes the gameplay totally varied.

Game controls that could be improved

Overall, the controls of this game feels quite easy to work around, especially during the early stages. It’s even a lot more interesting knowing that you have different play styles to work with, which further deepens the experience. Also, there’s no kind of linear progression in play, so you can proceed however you want.

In most cases with the games I play, I normally adjust controls according to my default keybinds that are comfortable. This was something I applied to most of the actions, like using Bob’s vacuum or running/scaling fences with Dati. Gameplay and progression feel a bit better when you customize your keybinds in that way, but the default ones aren’t bad either. 

Serial Cleaners

If you’re playing this on PC, though, you might have to get used to just using your keyboards mostly. I genuinely found it a bit jarring at first. There are certain actions in the game that fit better with mouse controls, but still solely relied on the keyboard. In any case, there are possible solutions around it. But it would have been nice if the mouse was part of it.

Fantastic art design through and through

Serial Cleaners

What drew me to the game as I progressed through most of the main storyline was how the visuals looked. From the loading screens to all the different places in New York that each level is staged in, a full 90s backdrop works just well with this game. Also, the fact that it’s done in a 2D space instead of 3D is well-suited.

Serial Cleaners

I even felt it when halfway through the game, the mood within the group starts to sour rather quickly. Subtle lighting changes, along with some blood, body-hiding stories, allowed the whole plot to progress in the fashion that it did. Of course, with all the twists and turns along the way, the story ends in any way you decide.

Not much of a bloody mess to clean up

Overall, Serial Cleaners was a fun time to get through for the most part. Although I am in the process of uncovering every possible story ending, I have no problem going through every chapter. With variety in gameplay styles plus a rather DIY-style of storytelling, this game provided an experience that is unique.

The biggest thing with this game is that on PC, you’re limited to just the keyboard for full control. You literally navigate through menus with the mouse anyway, so it made sense to use it beyond just menu navigation. Although, you have the option to use a controller for a better experience. Still, I felt this was a miss in the gameplay style.

Even with the mass amount of murders you have to clean up, Serial Cleaners gave me a glimpse of how a group of misfits managed to keep things bottled up for so long. It’s a story of friendship, cold-blood murders, and doing what you gotta do to not get caught with your hands dirty — a thrill we can all appreciate.

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