Hands-On

Honor 8S Hands-On: Looks premium, feels basic

Is it worth your money?

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2019 is far from ending, yet phone manufacturers keep producing budget smartphones that cater to the needs of most users. If you can still remember, the Honor 8S was announced in the Philippines in July 2019.

In this digital age, a lot of people are looking for smartphones that do not have a hefty price tag. There are consumers who just want a basic phone regardless of the design. Honor went the other way around with the 8S as they did not compromise the overall look of the phone despite its price.


A refreshing design

The design on the back of the Honor 8S is something you barely see on smartphones today. It has dual-texture with a smooth finish on the upper part, while the bottom has the line texture for grip.

There are two color options: Blue and black. I like black in general but not with phones as it looks basic throughout the years. The blue option is also nothing special; kudos though as the layered design makes the color flow in different directions.

Looking at it even felt nostalgic as I remember the Lenovo Vibe Shot and some old Sony Cyber-shot digital cameras that have the same design language.

Long live, headphone jack!

In this country, a lot of people are still using wired earphones (or headphones). No one really likes dongles but people invest on them anyway just to use 3.5mm-powered audio peripherals properly. Unlike Samsung who started ditching the audio jack, Honor giving 8S a headphone jack is a relief.

C’mon guys, it’s 2019!

If I would wish any New Year’s Resolution for phone manufacturers, that would all be about using USB-C for budget smartphones instead of the old-school micro USB. It’s 2019, USB-C is the standard: faster data and charging speeds, less cable clutter.

The front design will not disappoint you

Although notches do not look cool anymore (as if they ever were), budget smartphones with tiny ones still look better than having thick top and bottom bezels.

This budget smartphone is packed with a 5.71″ FullView DewDrop Display. The screen is not as crisp or bright as any other IPS-LCD smartphones out there, but it gets the job done. It’s enough for indoor usage and visible when the sunlight is not too harsh outside. Just remember to untick Auto-Brightness in Settings and maximize the brightness slider to its full potential when you are using it outside.

You can still hide its DewDrop notch

This feature is common among Huawei and Honor devices but I still like how you can hide the notch as it may bother some (or most) people. After all, activating the feature will make the phone look symmetrical in design because of the equal distribution on the screen’s upper and lower part.

It feels basic, but in a good way

Unlike other smartphones with a glass back, the Honor 8S feels lightweight due to its polycarbonate back. For people with small hands, this phone is grippy enough.

One-handed usage, anyone?

If you previously read my Xiaomi Mi 9T review, I told everyone how I like big phones because I have big hands. This time, the Honor 8S is nowhere near that category. Technically, its fullscreen display sounds big on paper but based on my experience, most people would enjoy holding it even with a single hand — more ideal when you watch videos on YouTube or Netflix.

Your Social Media phone on-the-go

#StanLOONA

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name them. The phone performs just right when it comes to social media apps. Posting, tweeting, sharing Instagram stories, they all work just fine.

Performance is just right for its price

Just a refresher, this phone packs a MT6761 Helio A22 chipset by Mediatek. This is the base model so it is equipped with just 2GB RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. Worrying about more storage for your photos and videos? It still supports microSD expandability of up to 1TB.

Performance-wise, there’s nothing astonishing. To be blatant, I have experienced hiccups while using the phone, from scrolling through home screen pages, dragging down the notification menu, and even playing with games such as the not-so-graphics-intensive Alto’s Odyssey. I was not expecting anything grand. It’s just that, other budget smartphones are still capable of performing well. Too bad the Honor 8S is not one of them.

You have no choice

This phone doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, but the Face Unlock does the trick. It works well under dark lighting conditions, just like how it was advertised. I guess having this “security” measure is better than just typing your PIN every single time.

The design doesn’t speak for its cameras

The Honor 8S’ camera-centric back design doesn’t speak well for its 13-megapixel rear camera (with a wide aperture of f/1.8).

I understand that this is a budget smartphone, but I think camera quality should not be an exception as several budget phones proved that they can still shoot good photos despite the price range they belong to.

I would not give this phone a hard time as some photos look decent enough, but after much observation, some photos would start looking grainy once you get to shoot indoors, even if natural light is present.

It was also surprising to see a “Pro” camera mode. Too bad trying it does not give justice to the photo itself. Night shots are nothing different. Even the selfie camera is lackluster.

Battery performance is surprisingly good (but not its charging time)

The Honor 8S only packs a 3,020mAh battery. Although the phone’s performance is sluggish because of the chipset, it is power-efficient enough to make the phone last.

Forget the numbers! With normal usage, it survives for a day. In times when you want to detoxify out of social media by not using your phone and just let it standby, it would last you two to three days. With those extra power-saving modes, the phone could even last for almost a week.

Charging time is not in any way fast as it would take two hours (utmost) to fill it up — I mean what should we even expect from a micro USB-equipped phone?

Is the Honor 8S your BudgetMatch?

The Honor 8S currently retails for PhP 5,490 (US$ 105). There are other selections when it comes to budget smartphones, and this phone is a runner-up in that list.

If you are the kind of user who just wants a smartphone that looks good regardless of the overall performance, the Honor 8S is right for you. This is specifically recommendable for parents (or grandparents) and kids alike — basic phone functionality without minding additional bells and whistles.

Hands-On

OPPO A9 2020 Hands-On: Massive and Playful

For every kind of junkie

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OPPO recently streamlined its smartphone lineup. From Find and Reno, OPPO introduces us to the newest A series. On paper, it seems the A-series is a combination of the F-series and former A-series. Sitting in a sweet spot between an affordable price range and incredible performance, the OPPO A9 2020 is shaping up to be a contender in a sea of smartphones fighting for the crown in the midrange category.

With Xiaomi and Huawei firmly in the lead, can OPPO put up a fight just like it did with its F series? Let’s find out in this Hands-On!


Starting with looks, the OPPO A9 2020 gives in to a premium-like design

It has a dedicated fingerprint scanner and a quad-camera setup on its rear

You can find the power button here…

…While the left side houses the volume keys and sim card slot

Its top is clear, but its bottom shows-off its speakers, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a USB-C port

It has a 6.5″ IPS LCD screen with a waterdrop notch for the front camera

The OPPO A9 2020 prides itself with its new design that took inspiration from its R-series. In addition, OPPO focused on the phone’s display, reinforcing its IPS LCD screen with a Toughened Corning Gorilla Glass 3+.

Moreover, its screen has new features such as the Sunlight Screen which allows you to adjust the contrast so you can read the screen, even under strong direct light. It also has a Blue Shield which filters out blue light, relieving your eyes from fatigue and strain and protecting your eyesight.

Going big and definitely not going home

Sporting a Snapdragon 665 chipset along with an 8GB RAM, 128GB storage (which you can expand up to 256GB of external memory), the A9 2020 really joined the battle of offering power to midrange devices. OPPO decides to make everything flashy and… big.

For instance, it boasts a humongous 5000mAh battery that can last you throughout the day. Furthermore, it’s capable of reverse wireless charging (through OTG) so your friends can rely on you when their phones run out of battery.

Gamers will find delight with the A9 2020. Thanks to Game Boost 2.0, OPPO’s accelerator technology aims to resolve latency, reduce touchscreen lag, and optimizing energy consumption to avoid overheating.

OPPO decided to up their game for entertainment junkies, too! Packed with Dual Stereo Speakers and Dolby Atmos sound effects, expect a superb, immersive audio experience.

Smarter, smoother

The A9 2020 runs on ColorOS 6 based on Android 9.0. Now, its interface is cleaner and smoother. Icons look cute with their subtle gradient tones.

It also comes with smart functions like Smart Assistant, Riding Mode — which lets you remain uninterrupted by notifications and incoming calls — and a Music party app which lets multiple phones connect in the same LAN through a Wi-Fi hotspot for synchronized listening.

Navigating the phone is now easier with a single hand, too. Through Gesture Navigation, you can return to the home screen, check out recent tasks, switch pages and applications by just swiping up, left, and right.

Cameras for all angles and scenarios

The OPPO A9 2020 shows off its highly versatile camera setup. It has a 48-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens, a 2-megapixel portrait lens, and a 2-megapixel mono lens on its rear.

On its front is a 16-megapixel camera with AI Beautification technology which automatically identifies your skin tone, age, gender, and skin color for customized beautification, giving you a pretty yet make-up free look.

More features include artistic portrait styles, ultra night mode, and 4K video shooting. More sample photos here:

Is the OPPO A9 2020 your GadgetMatch?

If you’re into massive and chunky smartphones with a solid build, the OPPO A9 2020 might be a good match. It offers power and performance for gamers and entertainment junkies, and its smartphone has a versatile camera setup to appease your needs. While there may be Xiaomi and Huawei leading the midrange category, OPPO definitely cooked up a powerful yet affordable phone that can go toe-to-toe with its rivals.

The OPPO A9 2020 is available in two colors: Space Purple and Marine Green. Its retail price is PhP 15,990 and will be available for pre-order starting September 20 until September 27 in Lazada, and through OPPO stores, authorized dealers, and e-commerce partner sites like Shopee, Akulaku, and Argomall on September 28.

For those who want to avail through Home Credit, customers can pre-order the A9 2020 starting September 20 with flexible payment terms of six and nine months with a guaranteed zero percent interest.

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Hands-On

Nokia 3.2 Hands-On: Basic but classy

Nothing fancy but really speedy

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Nokia has been stepping up its lineup of budget smartphones. Early in 2019, the brand launched a plethora of budget smartphones that are under the Android One program. One of the budget-friendly smartphones introduced was Nokia 3.2. Eager to have that Nokia experience, I took the phone out for a spin.

It’s cheap… but classy

I had high hopes when I first got the Nokia 3.2 in its box. Seeing it earlier in MWC 2019 made me appreciate its look and vibe. Compared to other budget smartphones, it’s classier and sexier. However, the phone feels a little bit downgraded when compared to its predecessor.


Nokia the 3.1 with an aluminum frame, a plastic back, and corning gorilla glass while the 3.2 used only a polycarbonate unibody design. Its plastic back is smudgy and slippery, but the phone has a tighter grip, thanks to its subtle curved edges towards the front.

Even its buttons are subtly protruding on its sides. On the left is a dedicated Google Assistant button, and on the right are its power buttons and volume keys.

Found on its back are the 13-megapixel main camera, LED Flash, and fingerprint scanner. On the other hand, its top side features a headphone jack, while the micro USB port and speaker grilles are found on the bottom.

If the notch is troubling you, try hiding it with a wallpaper similar to what I did in the image above.

It also features a 6.2 inches LCD panel on its front display, with a tall 19:9 ratio. It might be disrupting, but the Nokia 3.2 still sports a small notch, housing its 5-megapixel selfie camera capable of AI face unlock. Even though it might be bigger and taller this time, the Nokia 3.2 is definitely a joy to hold.

Stock Android on a budget

The saving grace for Nokia’s disappointing build (at least for me) is its clean version of Android One. That means there’s no bloatware to take up your limited memory and storage.

Additionally, the Nokia 3.2 comes with Android 9 Pie out of the box. This makes it feel faster than its competitors in the budget segment despite having a 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Fortunately, it provides a microSD card slot up to up to 400GB of storage.

An entry-level performance

Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 429 processor, the Nokia 3.2 performs better compared to its predecessor which carried a MediaTek chipset. In addition, its GPU runs on Adreno 504.

This made the Nokia 3.2 handle graphic-intensive games like Mobile Legends even if it was set on the highest graphics setting possible. There were no delay and lag spikes, ensuring smooth gameplay all throughout.

Decent cameras for your everyday needs

Featuring a 13-megapixel main camera with an f/2.2 aperture, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera with an f/2.0 aperture, the Nokia 3.2 takes decent photos. Depending on the lighting, both of its cameras can either take a vibrant, lively reproduced color during daylight or a slightly desaturated photo on indoor and low-light conditions.

Of course, we can’t really expect budget smartphones to have flagship-like cameras. It won’t have quick auto-focus or any fancy features like blurring your background, but it’s the compromise we’re getting when we follow our tight budget. At the very least, make use of natural light and other camera tricks to improve your photos.

Lasts longer than your partner

If there’s one thing I enjoyed with this smartphone, it’s the humongous battery. Packing a 4000mAh battery, the Nokia 3.2 can definitely last a day on a single charge. It can handle your multimedia use and everyday tasks throughout the day, yet it will still have enough juice left to carry you through the night.

However, for a phone carrying a huge battery, it charges slowly at 10W. This phone might just be good for those who love to charge their phones overnight.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Nokia 3.2 is a contender in the budget segment. It might have a disappointing build and design, but the phone packs with power, performance, and speed, thanks to Google’s Android One program.

With a starting price of PhP 7,990 (US$ 154) for the 3GB/32GB model, Nokia loyalists will find this a real treat. For people looking for a secondary phone, or a primary phone with no frills and just functions to handle your everyday needs, the Nokia 3.2 could be your GadgetMatch.

However, there are still far better options in the budget category, like the Redmi Note 7 and Realme 3. If Nokia wants to come back in its former glory and capture people looking for an affordable powerhouse, they need to join the battle and beat Realme and Redmi in their game, just like Samsung bending over to compete in the tough budget battlefield.

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy Fold Hands-on: The Redo!

Refined and ready for release

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This is our Samsung Galaxy Fold hands-on! We revisit Samsung’s foldable phone as it relaunches and check out what’s new!

More on the Samsung Galaxy Fold: Global Availability | How Samsung Fixed it | A more affordable Galaxy Fold?


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