Reviews

Honor Watch Magic review: Fitness band trapped in a smartwatch’s body

In a good way

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The title of this Honor Watch Magic review might have you thinking that I’m dissing it. But that’s completely the opposite. In this era of smart devices, it’s the kind of watch I would happily slap on my wrist.

But my needs are different from yours, so here’s my month-long experience with the Honor Watch Magic.

Classic watch look with an AMOLED touchscreen

The Honor Watch Magic is one of many smartwatches that mimic the look of more traditional wrist watches. For anyone who still feels lukewarm about getting something that screams “smartwatch” this is a good thing.

This allows for some more versatility in terms of mixing and matching with your outfits — something you can’t do if you only have a fitness band. And no, you shouldn’t be wearing your fitness band everywhere, all the time.

The Honor Watch Magic comes in either black or silver although in the Philippines, it’s currently only available in black. One can argue it’s a little less versatile than silver, but there are still plenty of third-party straps you can purchase to make it work in different occasions.

It also only comes in 42mm which is kind of a sweet spot for smartwatches — neither too big nor too small. The 1.2-inch AMOLED display can get really bright if it needs to, so you don’t need to worry about checking the time when you’re underneath strong sunlight. However, it might be a little too bright — even if you turn the dial to just one — when you’re inside the movie theater.

There’s also a healthy selection of watch faces. I’m pretty easy to please so I immediately found a few that work for me. But if that isn’t the case for you, you can always download more through the Huawei Health app.

Smart enough

The Watch Magic has features you’d expect to find from a smartwatch. There’s find my phone, the usual step counter, and notification alerts — which I opted to just turn off altogether.

However, unlike pricier wearables, it does not have a way for you to act on these notifications. You can’t answer calls or reply to a message directly on the watch. You can think of it more as an extension of your phone.

But being unable to act on the notifications isn’t why I turned most of it off. I get a sh*t ton of messages from so many chat apps everyday. So much so that it’s really affected my focus. So I limited the notifications to just the Slack app as well as calls. Besides, I’m trying this thing where I’m looking at screens less. Not going so great, so far.

The watch promises a battery life of about a week and I did get about 4-5 days when the notifications were still on and about 5-6 days when I dialed them back.

Fitness band in a smartwatch’s body

Most of the magic on this watch has to do with its health and wellness features.

The TruSleep feature was the one I was most excited to test since I have been having trouble sleeping for a while now. After spending about a week tracking my sleep, I found out that I only average about three hours of deep sleep.

It also gave tips on how to address my sleeping problems. Regretfully, I haven’t been able to follow, and I stopped wearing the watch while sleeping over the last two weeks. It just doesn’t feel comfortable. I prefer something like this that I can wear over my head for sleep tracking.

Had a few days that this was my average sleep 😴

Then there are the workouts. The Honor Watch Magic can track a multitude of things from outdoor walking, running, cycling, mountaineering, and even swimming. The watch even has a dedicated button that will take you straight to the workout options.

Each one will provide you with data related to your specific workout so you know exactly how you’re doing and how you’re progressing. It even has customized courses to make sure you get the most out of your workouts.

Thing is, the most I did with the watch was some light running and walking. It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to do my regular workout which involves playing a lot of basketball — a sport that sadly isn’t exactly supported by the Watch Magic. Besides, wearing a huge watch while shooting hoops kind of looks douchey.

The only real fitness lesson I can impart with you here is to find a workout that you’ll stick with. After which, that’s when you decide which wearable to get to properly track your progress.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

Personally, I was never into wrist watches. I’ve gone on several stretches in my life without needing one — which could explain my spurts of tardiness and general feeling of losing track of time. Literally every watch I’ve ever used in my life is a gift from someone else. And I think that’s what the Honor Watch Magic is. It makes for a perfect gift.

At PhP 7,490 (US$ 147), it’s probably the best value smartwatch available in the Philippines at the moment. With its size, style flexibility, and overall functionality, it’s a perfect gift for anyone you hold near and dear to your heart.

The Honor Watch Magic is the perfect entry point for someone who might still be on the fence about getting a smartwatch and is reluctant to spend north of PhP 10,000 (US$ 200). It looks like a regular watch, has the basics of a smartwatch, and is quite a powerhouse as a fitness companion.

Gaming

NBA 2K21 review: Fading glory of basketball

Apart from a few fixes, it doesn’t try to reinvent anything

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As of writing, we’re still in the midst of the NBA Playoffs taking place in Orlando, Florida. As the NBA turned to a quarantine bubble setup, the game just doesn’t feel the same. Fortunately, this time of the year — as weird as 2020 has gone — brings one constant thing to NBA fans alike. That’s right, a new NBA 2K video game!

NBA 2K21 comes around with almost the exact same flavor as its predecessor. It’s still the same kind of sports simulation that mirrors pre-pandemic NBA basketball. The live crowds, the clutch plays, and the jaw-dropping moments — it’s the same full NBA experience. But is this version of the game worth even looking at, now?

Is there anything new to look forward to?

Rodneil: There really wasn’t anything that’s remarkably new that was announced leading up to the game. It’s a little disappointing. But that may also be because 2K has already done everything it can do on the PS4/PS4 Pro platform?

Gab: I personally had zero expectations coming into the game. I got to play the demo a little bit and I got a glimpse of some of the changes — like the shot meter. Also, that demo pretty much jinxed the NBA Finals by putting the Bucks and Clippers in it. But again, it’s still the same NBA 2K game as before.

What made NBA 2K21 stand out from last year?

Gab: In my opinion, they didn’t do much to make this version stand out in any way. It’s still the same core experience as the previous two games. However, they tweaked the Pro Stick a little bit to add more fluidity to certain actions done in-game. And of course, there’s the change in the shooting controls when using the Pro Stick.

Rodneil: Some face scans and overall character models for players in the all-time and classic teams also look better. Previously, they looked like “lite” versions of players models in current teams, but no longer seems to be the case. 

That said, some classic teams are in desperate need of more real players. If all 2K has rights to are just five players from that classic team, that isn’t much of a team. Either they put more thought into the generic players or they just scrap the team altogether and just add them when they have at least 8 players from that team. 

What about the game modes? Are they any different from before?

Rodneil: I only really spend most of my time on three game modes: Quick Play, MyCareer, MyLeague/MyGM. For MyLeague/MyGM, I mostly customize the experience to my liking. Since I grew up looking up to players that entered the league around the 90s to 2000s, I would usually load user-created rosters and relive a particular NBA season. 

I’m not sure if there are enough players like me, but I think a good addition would be a “What if” or “Legacy” option in MyLeague. What it will do is let you relive a particular season and make your own trades. 

Of course, I understand the challenges of getting the rights to all the players but perhaps what 2K can do is highlight user-created rosters that can be used for each mode but have the year change from 2020-201 to whatever season you’re trying to relive. 

Gab: Apart from the usual Quick Play and MyCareer, I do play MyTeam from time to time. Even in the previous versions, I always found myself going through this game mode to take a break from getting triple-doubles in MyCareer. I honestly felt that this time around, there’s actually an incentive to keep playing.

The usual roster of mini game modes and weekly challenges are there, which also ultimately test your game skill. This time, they even included a whole progression-type of reward system like how most shooter games have battle passes. Essentially, you earn XP to level up and earn rewards as you reach certain levels.

This is honestly a great addition to MyTeam as a whole. Before, I felt like there’s really nothing much you could do in it when you’ve finished the challenges. With this added feature of a progression-style reward system, I get to explore more of MyTeam.

Speaking of MyCareer, how did NBA 2K21 handle it?

Gab: MyCareer this time around was disappointing, at best. Last year, they did an entire college stretch, and it just felt like it wasn’t worth the wait. While I applaud going all the way back into a high school root, it just made the tedious part even more so.

For starters, I don’t know if it’s pretty common to switch sports in your senior year of high school. But somehow, that’s how this story begins: with Junior switching to high school basketball at the wake of his dad, Duke’s death. It doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the MyCareer experience, and instead makes the campaign longer.

Rodneil: The whole prep-to-pro thing just feels really out of place now. Plus your player during that period just doesn’t feel like it’s worth playing.

I want a story that chronicles an NBA journey, not some forced narrative about who I am as a player.  It’s called MyCareer but every year it just keeps feeling like the story doesn’t match the game mode. 

After all of that, is this still worth playing?

NBA 2K21 serves the obvious mixed bag of great basketball with roughly the same mix of game modes to boot. The action, player movement, and dynamic player moments is still top-notch. And while questionable decisions were made to the core gameplay, it’s still a joy to play even when you’re just passing time.

If you were getting into NBA 2K21 with a lot of expectations, I assure you that you will be disappointed, at best. An extended MyCareer storyline, coupled with not-so-stacked Classic teams for Quick Play don’t seem to incentivize you to maximize the game. While MyTeam actually gets some shine, I was sort of hoping every other game mode did too.

In the end, you will still consider getting this game, and possibly go for the Mamba Edition if you’re dead set on the PlayStation 5. If you still love playing the game of basketball from the comfort of your home, it will surely bring you that. 

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Lifestyle

Nike Air Max 720 Review: Wearing the tallest Air Max ever

A shoe that’s ultra thicc and chonky

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The new Air Max 720 may not be as futuristic-looking as the recently-announced Air Max 2090, but Nike still hopes that their 2018-launched sneaker would appeal more to regular sneakerheads and casual wearers alike.

Aside from the fact that they launched more than a handful of colorways for this sneaker line, Nike is also slashing prices for most of these pairs. But what makes the Air Max 720 phenomenal like the rest of the Air Max line? Is it a sneaker you should cop or drop?

Inspiration

Image by GadgetMatch

For a non-sneakerhead (or for those who aren’t aware), Nike’s Air Max 720 was heavily-inspired by nature. The OG colorway was based from the Northern Lights (or also known as Aurora Borealis), thus a visual explanation on how they combined violet/purple, and iridescent streaks around the shoe.

Also, the “720” naming scheme was derived from the 360-degree visibility of the Air Max cushioning — both horizontally and vertically.

Image by GadgetMatch

It looks like somebody had fun playing with colors in Nike’s design lab. Other pairs even depict lava flows, sunset, sunrise, eclipse, and even the Milky Way — plus more in Nike’s Air Max 720 silhouette portfolio.

Packaging

Let’s start by doing a quick unboxing. Unlike other Air Max 720 colorways, my pair comes in this nifty black box — just with shiny, embossed logos and a big “Air 720” text that reveals the subtlety of the glitters when hit by light.

Again, nothing fancy inside. Instead of the iridescent foil wrap, it comes with a white paper wrap with black logos that covers the pair.

Finally, this one reveals the Air Max 720 in Anthracite Black colorway. My first choice was actually the Metallic Silver but it’s not available in the size I prefer. Unlike other loud color options, I picked this one for its stealthy look that goes well with most (if not all) of the outfits I wear.

Image Credit: David Cabrera via Sole Collector

Just for comparison purposes, here’s how the usual packaging looks like when you buy another color option that showcases complete gradience or iridescence.

Image by GadgetMatch

Design and Build Quality

Getting closer to the sneaker itself, the legendary Nike swoosh comes first on the wave-like layer just below the boomerang silhouette (more like an inverted Nike swoosh).

Unlike other Air Max 720 pairs with a smooth mesh fabric and synthetic upper, this colorway comes in a mesh with series of perforations around it. Don’t be confused, it’s still a legit Air Max 720. Nike just loves playing around with their shoe materials.

Another Nike swoosh can be found at the front part, just inside the flipped boomerang outline. Those series of lines really imitate a lava flowing — which Nike has thought about when they’re first making the shoe.

Finally, here’s the star of the show! This is the unique cushioning unit with the ‘720’ monicker on it. It may look like it will explode when you step on it, but it’s durable enough to withstand heavy steps and stomps.

The Air Max 720 is currently Nike’s tallest Air Max unit. With a 38mm height, it easily dwarfs the 32mm ante of the Air Max 270 React. If you’re someone who’s looking for an instant height booster, this sneaker easily serves the purpose. I have an average height of 170cm but I instantly went up to 174 cm after wearing this pair.

A sneaker inspired by nature should also care about the nature. Nike says 75% of the shoe’s material is made from recycled manufacturing waste which helps the company achieve a sustainable future goal.

Sizing and fit

Trying the Air Max 720 for the first time was weird and amusing at the same time. Unlike other sneakers I have, this one felt like I was walking on a huge bubble while part of my feet touch the ground.

Other reviewers said that walking with this pair takes a little bit of a learning curve especially because of Nike’s unique cushioning technology. I honestly enjoyed walking on it for the first few hours. But after around 4-5 hours of casual walking and strolling, I felt sore around my toe area.

If you’re a wide-footer like me, I would suggest going half a size (1/2 or 0.5-inch) up. My foot size is 11 but I should’ve just trusted my instinct to buy an 11.5 pair instead for that added allowance and breathing area. Nonetheless, TTS (true-to-size) runs fine as long as you wear thinner socks or if you have a narrow feet.

Performance

I’m not a gym freak yet when I tried doing home workouts, my movements felt a little bit restricted. I’m neither a professional dancer but I also tried dancing with this pair. If the choreography consists a lot of bending, flexing or even kneeling, the sneaker’s stiff base was one factor that hindered me from freely moving and gliding.

I also tried jumping and stomping on it several times — yet the bubble is firm and durable enough to support my weight (around 75 kilograms). I’ve seen no distortions after testing out its bouncing ability. Still, it’s not as comfortable as my Nike Air Max 97 or adidas UltraBoost’s cloud-like cushioning.

Even if the bounce cushioning is there, this particular sneaker isn’t meant for strenuous activities — especially if it’s basketball or any other sport. Don’t confuse Air Max 720 with the Air Max 270 React as this one doesn’t have Nike’s React technology specifically meant for running.

Is this your SneakerMatch?

If you’re just looking for a casual sneaker to wear when you run errands around the block or just want a new pair for your pandemic OOTD 🤷🏻‍♂️, Nike’s Air Max 720 is definitely worthy to buy. If you want to add over an extra inch to your overall stature, this sneaker also serves that purpose.

But if you’re looking for a pair that’s meant for running, workout, basketball, or any other sport with serious comfort in it, this isn’t the right one to get. Some professional dancers might like the added height boost but if you think you won’t get comfortable with this peculiar Air bubble technology especially if you move a lot around an area, consider choosing another sneaker instead.

The Nike Air Max 720 retails for US$ 180 / PhP 8,995 / SG$ 125 / INR 15,995. I was able to secure this particular colorway but it eventually got sold out except in the US. In men’s sizing, there are other colorways to choose from for as low as US$ 107.97 / PhP 5,939 / SG$ 139.90 / INR 8,497. It’s best to grab these discounted pairs before they totally run out.

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Accessories

In having healthy connections: vivo TWS Neo

Learning the value of unattachment and secure connections

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Earlier this year, I embarked on a spiritual quest to heal my personal issues and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Something I’ve been dealing with for more than twenty years.

Unfortunately, the world paused when the pandemic struck, and I wasn’t able to have my own Eat, Pray, Love moment. Yet the universe — if you believe in that — finds its way to put you back on track. Over the last few months, I’ve been spending some time in isolation to safeguard myself from the invisible virus.

In between my full-time job, household chores, and other errands, I was able to sit with myself while scouring through my deep-seated emotions. In the fifth month of my healing journey, I got the vivo TWS Neo to accompany me in the last stride that helped me close my old wounds.

On removing my expectations

I wasn’t impressed the first time I met the vivo TWS Neo. Bluntly put, there was nothing extraordinary about it. It’s similarly designed with a striking resemblance to the king of true wireless earphones.

Little did I know, the vivo TWS Neo has something else to offer: Identifying what I like and didn’t like about myself through my likes and dislikes about this accessory.

Using it for a month, I got a better understanding of myself. I was able to realize how I tend to fixate on what I want, denying myself the chance to try something new. How I’ve been holding on to certain outcomes that aren’t for my highest good.

So I used it to start breaking my expectations and connected it to my four phones. From the Samsung Galaxy S20, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and to the vivo X50, the TWS Neo connected seamlessly via Bluetooth.

This easy connection made me ponder about my struggles in connecting with and opening up to people. I wish I connect with people as easily as these wireless earphones.

I tried to listen to “Lo-Fi Beats” on Spotify, a calm playlist that lets me enjoy the novel I’m reading — History Is All You Left Me.

While I read a story about love, friendship, and mourning, my mind wandered in between the pages. I started relating my experience with the vivo TWS Neo to my journey in learning and healing my personal issues.

The value of detachment and secure connections

As I enjoyed the liberty of wireless connection, it helped me realize it’s time to free myself from the past. I’m not bound by any cords, I don’t have to carry all this weight with me anymore.

In between reading and bathroom breaks, I didn’t bother returning the wireless earphones to its case. I always brought it with me to the bathroom while my phone is left at my desk, thinking the connection won’t be disrupted. Plus, it has IP54 water resistance.

Of course, there’s a limit even though it uses Bluetooth 5.2 connection. It’s like how certain romantic connections can be disrupted by distance. Frankly, it’s something I’ve been doing unknowingly. An unhealthy habit I need to fix.

Thankfully, it’s easy to reconnect. The vivo TWS Neo has a good grasp of its connection, where you can just play your songs again through your phone or by tapping it with your fingers.

If you ever have to remove the earphones for a moment (or put it back to its case), the music will stop yet it will play again as soon as you plug it back in your ears.

A healthy reminder that connections don’t necessarily stop when you step away, and you can still pick things up where you left off.

The only problem I encountered was the fit. The open-ear fit didn’t feel secure enough in my ears that I always thought it’s about to fall. This is the reason why I’ve always preferred in-ear ones.

Learning about my preference made me realize the importance of feeling secure in yourself and in relationships. What most people don’t know is that a healthy connection is comprised of two secure and independent individuals. You can’t have a happy and stable relationship if someone’s worried and reeks of insecurity.

Everything is within your reach

One thing I learned and loved about the vivo TWS Neo is how everything is within our reach. I didn’t know the gesture controls I can utilize to fully enjoy my listening experience. Not until I put the effort to learn about it.

The vivo TWS Neo has Slide Control embedded on its stem, allowing you to operate it easily. I was able to access google assistant, answer a call, and control my music by double-tapping.

Calls can be rejected (which I barely do) or hung up (if people are annoying) when you press and hold. I also adjusted the volumes by sliding through the stem.

There’s also a Find My TWS Neo feature, which helps you search for your wireless earphones easily. It will beep through your phone once it’s in the connection’s range — a feature that I wish I could use for all the people I’ve lost.

There’s always a wonderful connection waiting

Diving into a story while listening to music allowed me to drown my emotions and distract myself. Sometimes, I shut the world out by putting the volume on max and using noise-cancellation.

I don’t care if my eardrums explode, as long as I can’t hear people or my thoughts, I’m good. This form of escapism has been an unhealthy habit that I’m actively fixing. Instead of enjoying the TWS Neo’s rich, quality sound (and probably staying in the present), I tend to prevent myself from feeling everything.

But what I learned so far is that sometimes, we have to allow ourselves to stumble and fall, drop our guards, and move out of our comfort zones. Maybe it’s time to stop repeating the same songs you’ve been playing for three months now.

The wireless earphones last for more than four hours and can last a full day when you recharge it through the charging case.

As I close my book to allow my wireless earphones to recharge, I realized that I, too, have to let myself rest. Just like the TWS Neo, I have to recharge (or heal in this matter) so I can enjoy another wonderful connection and listening experience that’s certainly waiting for me.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The vivo TWS Neo might not be an option to most consumers unless you’re loyal to the brand. There are a lot of cheaper alternatives and if you have a few bucks to spare, you can increase your budget range and purchase several contenders such as Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live and Huawei’s FreeBuds.

In the same price range, there’s also the OPPO Enco W31. If your budget is in between and you prefer a connection that’s simple, long-lasting, and seamless, the vivo TWS Neo could be your GadgetMatch. And if you already own a vivo phone anyway, pairing with these should be at the top of your options.

The vivo TWS Neo retails for PhP 4,999 in the Philippines. It comes in two colors: Moonlight White and Starry Blue.

SEE ALSO: Wireless earphones: A life-changing switch?6 reasons why you should switch to wireless earbuds | The art of letting go with Sony H.ear On

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