Hands-On

Honor 7A hands-on review: Back to budget

Did Huawei hit all the right notes?

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After Honor released smartphones that match the premium P20 series in terms of performance (but at a much easier-to-digest price), it’s easy to forget that Huawei’s sub-brand has had a strong budget game, as well.

Going down the very bottom of the pricing ladder will bring you to the Honor 7A, which launched in China in early April and in India later in May.

I got my hands on a unit, so here are my early impressions.

As budget as can be

With a starting price of US$ 130 in both China and India, it’s a no-brainer that you’re getting a basic smartphone in the Honor 7A. But as Xiaomi and ASUS have proven, selling at a low cost doesn’t necessarily mean the device will suck.

In front we have a 5.7-inch 720p display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, which conforms to the newer standard without applying a camera notch. Instead, there’s a small amount of bezel at the top and bottom. This consequently brings the fingerprint reader to the rear.

The body itself is light thanks to a mostly plastic construction and a glass front that doesn’t feel like it can withstand scratches. If you’re planning on using the Honor 7A as a primary phone, you better find a decent case right away.

What impresses me most is the triple-card slot, allowing you to have two SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time — helpful for travelers and to expand the lacking 16GB of storage. On the downside, it uses an outdated micro-USB port with no fast charging.

Surprising cameras

From afar, it looks like this handset has a dual-camera setup on the back and front, but that’s far from the truth, as well as earlier news on this phone.

The Honor 7A variant I have here has a single 13-megapixel camera on the rear and an 8-megapixel selfie shooter in front. What’s great is they both have an LED flash.

Unfortunately, the extra illumination doesn’t help improve the output that much. Unless there’s a strong amount of light, I’d always find noise in my photos and softness on my subjects.

But when you get it right, the results can be surprisingly good. Here are a few samples from my short time with the cameras:

Up and down performance

In an unusual move, Honor chose to equip this phone with a Snapdragon 430 processor, which is quite good for this price range, but isn’t Huawei’s own Kirin chip. No complaints from me, however; I’d pick the reliability of a Snapdragon processor any time.

Going through the EMUI 8.0 interface (appropriately based on Android 8.0 Oreo), is pleasantly snappy except for when too many apps are active at once. I felt the stuttering begin once I started flipping through five apps. It was most apparent when I wanted to take a photo; both picture taking and photo viewing had noticeable lag in between.

I played a couple of graphics-heavy games, namely Asphalt 9 and PUBG, to test how far the Honor 7A can go. As expected, they were playable, but the visual settings had to be turned down to low since the phone has only 2GB of total memory to work with.

Since the processor is efficient, the 3000mAh battery drained gradually even while playing for an hour straight. Without gaming, the phone can easily last an entire day of usage with mobile data or Wi-Fi always on.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It’s too early to tell if the Honor 7A can stand up well against the likes of the ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) or Xiaomi Redmi S2, but it’s safe to say that it’s an attractive option if you’re a fan of Honor and on a shoestring budget.

The Honor 7A doesn’t have a standout feature like its two aforementioned rivals — the former has a large battery while the latter takes great photos for the price — so this really does seem catered toward Huawei users who want something more affordable.

As it stands, the Honor 7A is a solid entry in this competitive, bang-for-buck space. It’ll start rolling out to more countries soon, and will help Honor spread its honorable name across more market segments.

Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy Fold hands-on: An expensive sneak peek into the future

It’s not for everyone

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2019 is the year of the foldable phone. First in the ring was Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. Announced in February, it was supposed to launch as early as April. As we all have probably read or heard, its early release to reviewers was met with a lot of issues. Samsung had to delay its official launch.

Over the last few months they’ve been busy reworking the Fold; now it’s tougher than ever and ready for the real world.

A reintroduction

In some ways you can think of the Galaxy Fold as a 7.3-inch tablet that you can fold into a candybar phone with a 4.6-inch display.

When folded, all buttons are on the right hand side of the device: volume rocker, power button, fingerprint sensor, and its SIM tray.

On the bottom a USB-C port and speaker grilles.

What’s changed?

Samsung focused on addressing the main issues that plagued its first release. Some users previously peeled off what they thought was a screen protector that turned out to be a very important protective layer. That layer is now tucked under the bezels so you don’t even know it’s there.

There’s also a cap that is meant to prevent dust and dirt from getting underneath the protective layer.

The hinge, too, has been reinforced. The gap between the hinge and the display has also been reduced.

Having used the original Fold, I can say that opening and closing i feels more secure. Even if you feverishly snap it open and close. All these changes have been made to ensure the phone survives the rigors of the real world.

One UI has also been optimized for the Fold. Home, back and multitasking buttons for example can be flushed to either side of the display for one handed use.

To open more windows alongside the app that’s already open just swipe from the right side and use apps edge to launch new apps. Closing windows is one tap or swipe away.

When you’re on an app and a notification comes in, you can press and drag the notification to open it as a separate window, so you can respond to a WhatsApp message easily, for example.

Even if you have two displays you can seamlessly switch between both by enabling a setting called App Continuity. That way whether you’re adding a contact on the big screen, or using your map on your small screen, you can close or open the display and continue what you were doing seamlessly.

Imperfect innovation

While the changes are much improved, the Galaxy Fold is not perfect. The front display is very small and is very hard to type on. I’d use it for things like Instagram, maybe. Even then, I’d benefit from the larger display. Not all apps support the squarish form factor, either. YouTube videos of course will only fill to fit a portion of the display. Although there are games like Asphalt 9, that are optimized to fill the display.

The Galaxy Fold doesn’t use a glass display, so there will always be creases in the middle. That’s just a limitation of the technology.

Otherwise, make no mistake — its a top of the line device. It’s got high end specs, and the same cameras as Samsung’s current flagship smartphones: three rear cameras and two selfie shooters up front.

Wireless charging and reverse wireless charging are also available, along with a few other bells and whistles.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I am excited about the Galaxy Fold, and am thrilled that it’s full steam ahead. It’s an early device and it can get only better with time. What needs to happen now is app developers and Android need to optimize for this new, niche form factor.

With a price tag of US$ 1,980 in the US, SG$ 3,088 in Singapore, and PhP 109,990 in the Philippines, the Galaxy Fold is not for everyone — not even for people who can buy it outright. It’s for early adapters who want to get their hands on new technology ahead of everyone.

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Hands-On

Motorola razr hands-on: Futuristic phone in the body of nostalgia

The price we have to pay to move forward

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The iconic Motorola razr flip phone is back — bringing what we love from the past, into the future.

Like many of you, I love a good old nostalgic release, which is why I’m incredibly excited that this phone made its comeback. Of all the phones that ruled the late 90s and early 2000s, there’s nothing more iconic than the Motorola razr V3. It was a sleek, edgy, and fashion forward flip phone. From its launch in 2004, about 130 million razr V3’s were sold — making it the best selling clamshell of all time.

Like the original, the new Motorola razr is a flip phone, so you can answer and end calls like a boss.

Just like the hottest phones of this year, the new razr, too, is a foldable phone; or to be more precise, a phone with a foldable display. The main difference is instead of unfolding horizontally into a square tablet, it folds out vertically.

Inside there is no physical keyboard where there once was. Instead it’s all display — 6.2 inches of Flex View pOLED of it. Surprisingly there’s no noticeable crease on the screen. Motorola says the hinge is designed to flex into the shape of a water drop to avoid this. We’ll have to see over time if this indeed solves the challenge of the folding display technology.

When opened up, the new Motorola Razr feels just like any other smartphone. It’s just as tall and as wide but much thinner; except for the lip at the bottom which houses most of the phone’s components as well as its fingerprint sensor, which is fast and accurate.

When you turn the phone on you’re greeted by Android OS. That means all your favorite apps are right here. There’s a small notch on top of the display to make room for the earpiece and a 5MP selfie camera.

When you fold the phone close, you’ll find that it’s wider than the original razr V3. Motorola says bringing back the clamshell form factor using foldable display tech is meant to solve a customer pain point — portablity.

On the outside, there’s a secondary 2.7″ gOLED Quick View display. It’s not as high resolution  as the main display, but i’ts good enough for showing the time and notifications.

You can also tap to view a notification. There’s also Google Assistant Voice Detection, whichyou can use to dictate a text messages reply.

The Quick View display can also be used for taking selfies using the 16MP rear camera. You can just flick the phone twice to activate the camera. Smiling or flashing your palm will trigger the shutter.

The rear camera features an opening of f/1.7, electronic image stabilization, dual pixel and laser autofocus, dual LED flash. It also serves as the main camera when the phone is flipped open.

Just like the original Moto Razr — the new 2019 model is sleek and stylish. With an aluminum chassis and sharp edges. The back side has a carbon fiber-like textured finish that feels like plastic — the only sore spot in its otherwise ultra premium feel. At launch it will only be available in black, but fingers crossed we get other color options too. Motorola says its employed a special zero gap mechanism that gives this foldable display a level of toughness that will survive the rigors of the real world.

In the hands, the phone feels super sturdy. Even if it’s got a foldable screen it doesn’t feel fragile at all. In fact I think I wouldn’t mind just snapping it open and close without a worry.

Button and port placements are like this: volume and power on the right hand side. A USB-C port on the bottom chin as well as speaker. The phone has no headphone jack but ships with a pair of USB-C headphones and a USB-C to headphone jack adapter. There’s also no SIM card slot instead as it only supports e-SIMs. It’s also water and dust and resistant.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

From the star studded guest list at tonight’s launch event, it’s pretty clear that Motorola is targeting the hip, fashion forward market, and not the pro techie crowd. If you look at its spec sheet, this is meant to be a midrange smartphone — with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 710 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a measly a 2510mAh battery, albeit with a bundled 15W Turbo Charger. But specs isn’t really what the new razr is about.

In the US the Motorola razr will be available exclusively on Verizon, and pre-orders start December 26th. It will hit stores beginning January 9, 2020. It will also be available in select markets across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Australia.

The pricetag? US$ 1,499 USD. Is that too much to pay for a futuristic phone in the body of nostalgia? Let us know in the comments below.

Watch our hands-on:

SEE ALSO: The Motorola razr is now a foldable smartphone

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Entertainment

Sony WH-XB700 hands-on: Extra bass, extra flex

Great for travels and even OOTDs

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Today’s gadgets are no longer just mere products. A lot have found their way to our daily lifestyle so it’s also important that they look good while we use them. And for others who are more trend-sensitive, these devices should blend well with their outfit and even character — all while doing what it’s supposed to do.

When it comes to headphones, Sony wants to offer something that you can bring anywhere during your travels while looking discreet yet fashionable. This is where the WH-XB700 comes into the picture. On paper, it ticks the boxes of what a casual listener is commonly looking for in headphones plus it’s geared towards those who prefer a bit of extra oomph in their bass.

It has a simple and straightforward design

Eye-catching but not too loud

Available in solid blue or black color options

We dig the blue one better

Soft padding on the earcup makes it comfortable

Has large cups which we like

Body is made of plastic so it’s light on the head

No problem using it for extended periods

Connects wirelessly via Bluetooth or NFC

Although an option to use its 3.5mm jack is available

Built-in microphone for hands-free calls

Can also connect to your phone’s voice assistant

Comes with 360 Reality Audio

Immersing you more in your music

The WH-XB700, among other models in Sony’s audio line, can be paired to your smartphone. And, using the company’s Connect app, you can tweak and customize your sound the way you like it. But as Rodneil mentioned in his WF-1000XM3 review (we know, confusing names), you wouldn’t really end up adjusting your settings that much.

In terms of sound quality, this pair of on-ear headphones deliver clear highs and decent mids. Vocals could be more pronounced but it’s still not bad. The lows, however, are indeed extra punchy. So if you like playing bass-heavy music like house, hip-hop, and the likes, you’d probably enjoy the extra kick in these cans.

Since it’s wireless, it has to connect via Bluetooth which means it has a battery. We’re glad to report that it has a decent battery life that doesn’t require you to keep on looking for sockets just so you could continue to use its wireless capabilities.

I brought it on one of my overseas trips and was able to use it at the airport while waiting to board, during the 4-hour flight, and while walking around for the rest of the entire day with a good amount of juice left when I got back to my hotel.

Charging time is also not bad with up to 90 minutes of music time just from a 10-minute quick charge.

Having the WH-XB700 for a while is basically being able to conveniently listen to your tunes anywhere you go. It doesn’t have the best audio quality in Sony’s lineup but having its flexibility for usage on-the-go sort of outweighs this shortcoming.

They are also light on the head and easy on the ears so fatigue has been kept down to a minimum. You also wouldn’t have to keep on charging it since it could last a few days of moderate usage.

The Sony WH-XB700 currently retails in the Philippines for PhP 7,999 (around US$ 150). It’s not the best wireless headphones we’ve tried on but it’s actually competitively priced for what it offers. Plus, it looks nice and goes well with almost anything you put on.

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