Reviews

Honor Play Review: The budget flagship

Setting up a new category among smartphones

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When Honor started, it was introduced to be just another Huawei phone or a sub-brand of one of the most popular phone makers in the world. Honor worked its way up and since they offer similar-performing products compared to Huawei at a cheaper price, they gained a following.

When the Honor 10 was introduced to the global market three months ago, it was already a bang for one’s buck. The phone offers flagship specifications for around US$ 450 and has a premium design with gradient colors.

Nothing is stopping Honor from challenging the market and the Honor Play is their latest weapon of choice to attract power users that don’t want to spend much on a phone. Starting at just US$ 300, the Honor Play is a flagship smartphone priced within the midrange segment.

It’s got a large 6.3-inch display with a wide notch

The 409ppi resolution is incredibly sharp

The notch contains a 16MP selfie camera and a few sensors

Face unlock is better than before

The small chin at the bottom proudly says it’s an Honor phone

It’s not totally borderless but this is better than thick bezels

It has a hybrid card slot for nano-SIM and microSD cards

It could have been nice to have a dedicated microSD card slot

To its right are physical buttons for power and volume

They’re pretty slim for my liking

The top is virtually empty…

There’s just the noise-canceling microphone

While the bottom is quite busy

The headphone jack, USB-C port, microphone, and loudspeaker are here

The back is mostly identical to a flagship phone from Huawei

It’s like a P20 but with a metal body

Common yet premium design

If you’ve been reading about Huawei phones lately, you’d immediately notice that the Honor Play looks a lot like the Huawei P20 and its variants. To make theirs a bit different, Honor did make some changes. Instead of a glass back, the Honor Play has an aluminum unibody. This makes the phone cold in hand (when unused) and feel solidly built.

Like any unibody phone, the Honor Play has antenna lines to let radio signals pass through. The antenna lines blend with the overall color of the phone, akin to the iPhone 7’s style.

Thanks to the display’s tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio, the phone is easy to use with one hand. While we’re talking about the display, I’ll point out that the cutout or the infamous notch is pretty wide. It’s not as slim as the P20’s and is definitely not as small as Essential Phone’s, but it’s got an advantage: it appears to have an extra sensor (probably infrared) to aid in facial recognition in the dark.

The fingerprint sensor on the back is always present when you don’t wish to use facial recognition as your phone’s security measure. It’s indeed quicker to unlock the phone using fingerprints since the reader is already one of the fastest.

Overall, there’s nothing to complain about the Honor Play’s design and construction. It’s got the premium design of more expensive devices, has quicker facial recognition than the competition, and it definitely doesn’t feel like anything in its range. There’s quality to the phone’s body and that alone is a huge advantage.

But, of course, there’s more to know about the Honor Play. Let’s now talk about its specifications.

Flagship performance has never been so affordable

The Honor Play is rocking a Kirin 970 processor with up to 6GB of memory. It’s essentially the cheapest Huawei P20 alternative performance-wise. I kinda feel bad for Huawei P20 users, to be honest, because Honor is offering similar performance in a cheaper package. Even Huawei offers P20-like performance with the Nova 3. The Honor 10 and Huawei Nova 3 are already affordable alternatives, but the Honor Play is the cheapest.

What does the Kirin 970 have? It’s currently Huawei’s most powerful chipset available, but the successor is just around the corner which kind of explains why it’s now cheaper to produce. You’ll have flagship phone performance with the Honor Play thanks to its processor.

The phone I have for review has 4GB of memory, but there’s a 6GB variant available in select markets. Even with 4GB of memory, I didn’t encounter any lag during my time with the phone. The phone runs EMUI 8.2 on top of Android 8.1 Oreo, which is not exactly the most visually pleasing (or maybe for me), but the extra features are handy for everyday use.

The phone will not be called “Play” if it’s not for gaming. The Honor Play comes with GPU Turbo out of the box, but it only benefits two games as of writing: Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and PUBG: Mobile. With its already-capable processor and Mali-G72 MP12 GPU, the Honor Play can easily handle these games on high settings without stuttering. Other graphics-intensive titles like Asphalt 9: Legends and Darkness Rises are also highly playable.

There’s not much to like about its cameras

There may be two cameras at the back of the Honor Play, but the secondary shooter is purely for depth sensing. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with an f/2.2 aperture while the second one is a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Of course, there’s AI on board and like we’ve seen with the Honor 10, it’s a hit or miss.

Basically, when you have AI turned on, it automatically processes the image based on what the camera sees. But, for most of the time, it looks like it’s just driving up the saturation and contrast. Good thing you can always turn this off to get a more natural-looking image. Also, the f/2.2 aperture doesn’t help take a brighter image in low-light environments.

Check out these samples shot with AI:

When it comes to selfies, the Honor Play doesn’t disappoint but it has the same over-processed look like with the rear. There’s a 16-megapixel sensor hiding in the display notch which can take decent selfies with extra effects that Honor claims to be part of the phone’s AI. There’s beauty mode, as expected, but it’s not as aggressive as OPPO’s or Vivo’s which is great.

A phone with competitive pricing has to cut corners somewhere, and the Honor Play sacrificed great cameras. Although, if you come to think about it, most phone users usually just post images on social media. Both the rear and front cameras are more than enough to gather likes and compliments online.

No compromise battery life

Inside the Honor Play’s aluminum body is a sizeable 3750mAh battery. That means it can last long on a single charge. Kirin processors have been power-efficient on Huawei phones, and the Honor Play inherits that as well. Also, the USB-C port supports fast charging up to 18W.

I’ve used the phone as my daily driver for quite a while. With my usage, I was always able to get more than 24 hours of battery life on a single charge. I consider my usage to be moderate which includes constant mobile data and Wi-Fi connectivity, social media, Spotify playback, and reliance on Chrome to check websites and do some editorial work on the go. On average, the screen-on time is almost five hours.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a phone that focuses on performance, then the Honor Play is your GadgetMatch. Most of our readers and viewers are fond of the Honor Play because it’s indeed cheap compared to other premium phones, but it’s not perfect. Yet, the price tag of the Honor Play gives it a good excuse.

Like with the Honor 10 or Huawei Nova 3i, the Honor Play’s AI-enabled camera takes a hit. It’s not a bad smartphone camera per se, but it’s something not worth noting. The premium build, quality display, and long battery life are already great features to have in a flagship-grade smartphone this cheap.

The Honor Play retails for PhP 15,990 (4GB/64GB) in the Philippines, and INR 19,999 (4GB/64GB) and INR 23,999 (6GB/64GB) in India.

SEE ALSO: List of Huawei and Honor devices getting GPU Turbo

Reviews

ASUS Zenfone 8 Review: Tiny but Mighty

The compact flagship

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Zenfone 8

In a sea full of big smartphones, ASUS made a detour with the Zenfone 8 by making it smaller than its previous Zenfone 7 predecessor.

Packed with flagship specs such as Snapdragon 888, 16GB of RAM and a 120Hz display, it’s simply their best and most compact phone to date.

But how did ASUS managed to fit in all these powerful internals in such a compact body? Watch our full review video of the ASUS Zenfone 8 to know more.

SEE ALSO: Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

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Gaming

The realme 8 dares to be more

You’re in for a treat

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realme 8

realme has been bringing in the big guns with their smartphone releases. But, it doesn’t come unwarranted when they’ve been stacking good specs instead of just gaming features. They get it: you want to do more than just play games with their phone line-up. Which is why, they released the realme 8 series.

The realme 8 is pretty much the little bro of the realme 8 Pro. It’s got most of the bells and whistles without the big bro powers. So, how does the realme still stack up to be the best all-around smartphone out there for you?

realme 8

Stunning looks that might fool you

The realme 8 has a 6.5-inch AMOLED display with 180Hz Touch Sampling rate. If touch sampling rate isn’t a metric you’re familiar with, it’s your display’s responsiveness to touch. Refresh rate is a whole different metric; it measures how well your display renders frames per second. Both are tangent features of the display. So, they’re different but, equally as important for gaming on your phone.

If you like strutting in style with your phone, the realme 8 teeters into keeping it flashy yet low-key. The phone features a reflective panel with “DARE TO LEAP” across its logo corner. Plus, realme sticks to classy colors with either Cyber Silver or Cyber Black available for the realme 8.

realme 8

The feelsgoodman specs

Let’s cut to the chase. The realme 8 is a great phone. The phone is decked out with an MTK Helio G95 octa-core processor, which pretty much grants the phone its unapologetic great performance. Whether I was browsing social media, binge-watching videos, or playing games, this phone didn’t stutter once.

realme 8

The phone delivers on buttery-smooth graphics. And, games like League of Legends: Wild Rift, Mobile Legend: Bang Bang, PUBG Mobile, and Sky run smoothly on the realme 8. But, are we really meant to be surprised by that? With the phone’s 8G RAM and 128G internal storage, lags just don’t exist in the same sentence. On top of all that, it manages to stay lightweight. The realme 8 weighs only 177g which is pretty impressive with all the features it packs.

realme 8

Battery can take a beating

Yes, it’s almost criminal. The realme 8 comes with a 30W Dart Charge brick. Which ideally charges the phone up to 50 percent within a matter of 26 minutes. I know what you’re thinking. This sounds too good to be true. Well, unlike the stacked disappointments of the past year, the realme 8 pulls through. It went from zero to 20 percent within 10 minutes which is pretty quick.

realme 8

With a 5,000mAh battery inside, the realme 8 can survive well over a day. It came in handy when I’d accidentally left it out uncharged overnight and still used it the next day. But, I’m guessing it would have been a whole different story had I thrown it into ungodly playing and binge-watching hours.

After a full day of gameplay, binge-watching, podcasts, music, and social media shenanigans, the phone gets close to 15 percent at the end of the day. This is impressive with most phones tossed my way with charging alerts by the tail end of my day.

So, if you’re like me, this phone is pretty reliable. It can take a beating and then some. And, when it does need charging, it won’t take long before you get enough juice in to use it again. It’s good to note that it also supports 15W PD charge, lending versatility on its side.

realme 8

Not just a gaming phone

The realme 8 is decked out with all the features you want from a gaming phone but rounds it all out with amazing smartphone features. So, calling this a gaming phone doesn’t feel fair considering it does well even outside the gaming-perfect specs.

One feature that often gets left out with your typical gaming-centric phone, would be the camera. As for this phone, it’s got an AI Quad camera setup. It’s got a 64MP wide-angle lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens, and a second 2MP depth sensor. On the front, the realme 8 has a 16MP shooter with panorama capabilities.

Panorama on the realme 8

Low lighting is just the bane of every mobile phone photography’s existence. If lighting isn’t on your side, most phones will struggle. The realme 8 is sadly not an exception. But, when the sun’s on your side, the photos are pretty good.

The macro looks decent. Just make sure you flood the room with good lighting!

 

The night mode is good too! Stable hands for this mode is key.

The bokeh mode and wide shots on the phone are detailed. Recording videos doesn’t skimp on the 4k experience which is good too. Overall, the phone delivers on all fronts including its camera features. But if you’re looking for big bro camera stats, you should check out the realme 8 Pro.

realme 8

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The realme 8 ticks all the boxes of a quality smartphone. Its got great performance across the board takes really great pictures, has a smooth and responsive display, and lasts for quite some time. And, even if you run out of battery life, its Dart Charge won’t have you away for long.

Overall, this smartphone offers a daring deal. It gives you everything you need and want–and then some more. And, with its PhP 13,990 price tag, it’s the smartphone to beat. Better yet, you can avail of the PhP 1,000 worth of discount on the realme 8 during the flash sale on Lazada starting May 12!

Buy from Lazada

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Laptops

Huawei MateBook D 15 2021: An all around solid choice

It’s no ‘beast’ because iit’s not trying to be

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Being a dominant player in the smartphone scene, I’ve always been curious about how Huawei’s laptops perform.

Having forged their name onto the spectrum of smartphone enthusiasts with their premium Mate series, we know that Huawei has the ability to craft the same caliber for their laptops.

Carrying the Mate branding with its name, let’s take a look if the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen also has the right to be called premium and carry on this reputation.

Performance you didn’t see coming 

The MateBook D 15 2021 is running on the 11th generation of Intel’s Core i5 processor, the 1135G7. Paired with this is the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB DDR4 RAM, and 512GB of SSD internal storage.

On paper, the specs of the 2021 D 15 isn’t really something many of us would consider sensational, but surely this would be more than enough for online classes or even light to heavy work.

I tend to do a lot of photo editing on Adobe Lightroom so I could say that my power requirements do demand a bit of muscle power. The 11th gen Core i5 on the D 15 is able to handle this quite smoothly even with some headroom for web browsing and other multitasking tasks thanks to the considerable amount of RAM.

As you power on the device, you’d immediately notice the swift performance of the D 15.

A surprising contributor to this is its Smart Fingerprint power button which has been carried over from the previous generations of MateBooks.

Automatically tagging your biometrics upon pressing the power button, this move eliminates the need to input your login details which drastically decreases the boot time. I understand this may vary from other users but having recorded the BIOS time at only 2.5 seconds, this has been the fastest boot up time I’ve ever encountered on a laptop.

Classic never goes out of style 

“It looks like a MacBook” was the first comment I’ve heard from the people I was with as soon as I took out the D 15 from the box. Yes, you’ll definitely see the resemblance with Apple’s MacBook line but that’s not to say that it’s a bad thing especially if there are things that Huawei has improved on. Thankfully, this is exactly the case with the MateBook D 15’s body.

The MateBook D 15 2021 has smoother and rounded edges compared to that of a MacBook Pro which makes it more comfortable for your wrists to rest on while still bringing with it that sleek and professional look that we’ve grown to love.

For a 15-inch body, you’d notice that this MateBook is incredibly thin and light weighing in only at 1.56kg and just 16.9mm thin. An easy carry to coffee shops or even just transferring from room to room at home.

Kind of a nitpick on my part though but one comment I do have with this build was it had a very slight body flex on the right hand portion of the palm rest. I don’t know if this was an issue on the particular unit I’m using but whenever my hand lands on that part, it does feel like it sinks down a tiny bit.

More screen for work and play 

Mentioning the size earlier, the MateBook D 15 2021 has a 15.6-inch FHD IPS display panel. A bit bizarre though, is that at only 250 nits this display felt a lot brighter. I mostly stay just around two or three notches above the lowest brightness setting to keep it at comfortable reading levels.

I wasn’t very concerned with eye strain however, as this display has been certified under TÜV Rheinland’s reduced blue light and Flicker-free qualifications.

With super-narrow 5.3mm bezels and a rating of 100% on its sRGB color gamut, this display is just a tempting movie companion. The large size, almost bezel-less screen and accurate color reproduction truly makes video consumption an immersive experience.

No cramps for your fingers here 

Looking at the D 15, you’d notice immediately that the keyboard is decently sized and its spacing is quite substantial. Key travel on this however, wasn’t very long. While I personally would prefer keyboards with longer key travel over one with a bigger size, the key travel on the D 15 was where it somewhat fell short for me. That being said, I do think this is a matter of personal preference so this isn’t really something that would ruin the MateBook experience. 

You’ll also notice that for a 15.6-inch device, this doesn’t have a number pad on the side of the keyboard which I think contributes to how Huawei managed to extend the spacing of its keys and incorporate a decently sized trackpad below.

Speaking of the trackpad, I really appreciate its size as it’s able to accommodate my multi-finger gestures with precision and with only very minimal input errors.

Still placed between the F6 and F7 keys on the top is the iconic recessed 720p camera that the MateBook line pioneered.

 Power overwhelming

I personally see the battery and charging features of the D 15 to be its main strength. It took me a good 9 hours and 30 minutes running off of its 42Wh battery before it shifted to power saving mode. Meaning, this laptop can easily run you for more than 10 hours under controlled conditions and once you’re able to plug it in an outlet, its fast charger would only take you about an hour to charge it back up.

The 65w charger is quite comparable to a size of a smartphone charger that would barely add weight to your everyday carry. The charger also uses a detachable USB-C to USB-C cable. This makes it easy to replace if ever it gets worn out.

Also, this same cable can be used to charge our smartphones either from the charger or from the laptop as the 2021 D 15 also has support for reverse charging.

Next level of connectivity

A neat addition also on the MateBook D 15 is the inclusion of the new Wi-Fi 6 technology. This gives the D 15 the ability to connect to more frequency ranges for a cleaner and less interrupted connection. While this does require that we connect to a Wi-Fi 6 capable wireless network to fully take advantage of it, it does give us some sort of complacency with some future proofing. Giving us more reasons to hold on to our device for a few more years from our purchase.

In this category we also have quite a selection of ports with the inclusion of a USB 3.2, HDMI and USB-C port on the left side and two USB 2.0 and a 3.5mm audio port on the right.

Tap and drop files? Yes please!  

A handy feature for people who already belong in Huawei’s ecosystem is the Huawei Share with Multi-screen collaboration.

This feature enables Huawei smartphones to connect and share files, apps and even your phone screen with the D 15 by just tapping it on the dedicated Huawei Share portion of the laptop.

Gimmicky as it may sound at first, I have to say, it really does work. And if transferring files from other devices is something you do often, this might be a feature that you could maximize.

Is the HUAWEI MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen your GadgetMatch?

The MateBook D 15 2021 isn’t what we may call a “beast” of a device as it really isn’t trying to be one. This is mainly designed with professionals in mind or simply people who’re looking for convenience, comfort and just an overall pleasant user experience and it does that very well.

A decent performer, sleek looker, ultraportable 15.6-inch device with a lot of nifty features with the Huawei ecosystem, Wi-Fi 6 and its smart fingerprint power button, the MateBook D 15 2021 is what we could really call a versatile machine.

But here is where it gets a little bit tricky. The MateBook D 15 2021 with the older Intel 10th Gen processor is also currently an available option from Huawei. A less powerful alternative but one that could set you back a few pesos which also gets you most of what the 11th Gen version offers.

If you’re willing to spend a little more for better performance though, the D 15 11th Gen is no doubt a solid choice.

The Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen with 16GB RAM is available in Mystic Silver for PhP 59,999.

Buy from Lazada

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