Gaming

HP Envy x360 Review: Gaming power in a small package

It gets pretty hot and loud, though

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Gaming laptops are known to be heavy and bulky. It’s also a struggle to bring one outside because of the relatively short battery life. So, are there any alternatives? Well, this new notebook from HP will not replace gaming notebook, but it’s a portable device that’s more powerful that its competitors.

The Envy x360 is a 13-inch convertible powered by AMD’s latest Ryzen processors. Is it any good? Does it live up to the promise? Let’s find out.

This notebook has a 13.3-inch Full HD display

With slim side bezels, it’s more compact than most 13-inch laptops

It’s got a well-designed 360-degree hinge…

There’s a striking pattern to complement it

… that lets it convert into a tablet

It supports both pen and touch input

The webcam is paired with an IR scanner

For facial recognition using Windows Hello

On its left are a full-size USB 3.1 and combo audio jack

The power key, microSD card reader, and vents are also on this side

Another USB 3.1 plus a versatile USB-C are on the right

There’s also the charging port and volume rocker

The speakers occupy the top area of the keyboard

There are two more speakers at the bottom

The keyboard is surprisingly good despite its size

Well-spaced with good amount of travel

The touchpad is pretty good, too!

Gestures are difficult at times, though

Premium at all angles

For those who are unfamiliar, the Envy series of HP notebooks sits between the high-end Spectre series and the mainstream Pavilion line. This year’s Envy x360 inherited the design cues and characteristics of the Spectre line of PCs without the high price tag. That being said, this notebook looks and feels premium like a true expensive device. The whole body is made of aluminum with a matte finish.

The only available color option is this Dark Ash Silver, so there’s really no other choice for those who prefer a lighter finish. Don’t mistake it for being dull and boring though, because the subtle pattern near the hinge is quite a head turner. Also, the new minimalist HP logo is a conversation starter.

Aside from being a gorgeous-looking device, the Envy x360 is an ultra-portable notebook. Its 13-inch profile is significantly smaller than other similarly sized notebooks in the market due to its micro-edge bezels. Let’s not forget it’s using Gorilla Glass, too.

With its smaller body is a compact keyboard that is surprisingly great. Prior to the Envy x360, I was using the Lenovo C930, which is not exactly a small laptop. I loved the spacious keyboard on the Lenovo (as always), although HP is able to cram a well-spaced layout and it didn’t take long before I adjusted to it.

I can’t say the same for touchpad, though. It’s responsive, but it uses a third-party Synaptics driver as opposed to the native Windows Precision. Multi-touch gestures are present, but aren’t as precise.

Very capable considering its size

Usually, laptops with dedicated graphics have to be thicker and heavier, but not this one. The interesting feature of the latest version of the 13-inch Envy x360 is its processor: HP shifted from Intel to AMD.

My unit is powered by a Ryzen 7 2700U processor with Radeon RX Vega 10 graphics. Compared to other Intel-powered notebooks that only have integrated graphics, the Envy x360 is more adept in gaming and editing.

With an ample 8GB of memory and a speedy 256GB SSD for storage, I’d say the configuration is balanced — especially for its size. Unfortunately though, the memory is not upgradable, but the storage is.

As a consumer notebook, the Envy x360 is pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home. It’s bloated with a few HP apps and trial software that are just wasting storage space. It’s a good thing everything runs smoothly out of the box. When I installed the latest October 2018 update of Windows 10 though, it experienced some hiccups. AMD is not known to push the latest drivers on time, so a future update should patch the minor performance issues.

When it comes to gaming, the Ryzen 7 chipset shines. Usually, laptops this size can only run PC games on low settings but thanks to the prowess of the Radeon RX Vega 10 unit, I was able to play CS:GO well on high settings. Fortnite is nicely playable when you turn down the resolution, as well. My favorite, Cities Skylines, is also enjoyable on medium settings despite the occasional frame drops.

Battery life could be better

HP claims 11 hours of battery life based on its tests, which sounds impressive but real-life usage is nowhere near that number.

My usage of the Envy x360 varies, but the average battery life I get is around five hours. This includes consistent Wi-Fi connectivity, web browsing (using both Chrome and Edge), and a couple of Modern Family episodes on Netflix. When I put my gamer’s hat on, I only get two and a half hours on a single charge.

When it comes to charging, the included 45W power brick fills up the notebook to full in two hours. What’s great about the Envy x360 is it can also be charged through the USB-C port. Any 40W and above Power Delivery charger should work fine.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you want a powerful notebook without the high price of the more popular Intel processors, the Envy x360 with AMD’s Ryzen 7 is a viable option.

For PhP 63,990 or roughly US$ 1,215, you can have a premium machine that has more than enough computing power for everyday chores. It’s also a portable laptop than can run games on good quality settings, render videos and/or photos faster, and entertain on the go.

There’s an even cheaper variant running Ryzen 5 for PhP 56,990 or US$ 1,080. It’s slightly less powerful when it comes to gaming, but it pretty much offers similar overall performance.

AMD processors do have their issues, but those can be fixed by a patch. Hopefully, AMD and HP push regular updates to keep the machine compatible with the latest games and applications.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

Gaming

Dell G7 review: All the heft and the heat

It’s simply one hot package your wallet hopes to afford

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I’d like to be able to play games wherever I go — provided some stable internet connection. I’d also like to have enough power to afford a device that allows me to do so. But in this world we live in, gaming laptops are things that are just out of our reach. Still, it shouldn’t stop us from trying to save up for them.

One such device is the Dell G7 15, a seemingly compact yet powerful gaming machine. The biggest and most powerful member of the Dell G series certainly brings a lot to the table. Performance and portability are its biggest selling points, especially for the on-the-go gamer. But does it really make the cut?

Let’s find out more about the Dell G7 15.

It comes in a slimmer metal finish compared to previous Dell gaming laptops

It has an NVIDIA RTX 2060 inside for unrivaled gaming performance

Ports for power, connectivity, and storage are placed at the back

It also has a customizable RGB-backlit keyboard

Hefty performance all around

Don’t let the slimmer body fool you; the Dell G7 packs a pretty hefty package. It comes with a 9th generation Intel i7 processor inside, a staple across gaming devices. I got around to doing research, Excel spreadsheets, and some video editing with this device. This, along with 16GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD inside, and you get that kind of speed and power.

Applications load fast, and I almost experienced no lags in trying to do multiple things at once. I even tried loading almost 30 tabs of Google Chrome, while doing some light video editing on Premiere Pro. This device simply does not have the word “lag” in its dictionary as even the most stressful situations keep it going.

Fiery gaming performance

I already knew what I’m getting with an RTX 2060 inside any gaming machine. True enough, my expectations for the highly touted gaming card were met when I tried it on this device. Gaming on this device felt like a visual experience that seemed too real. Color grading for games on the RTX 2060, to me almost comes close to the true colors of objects.

Colors aside, gaming performance with the RTX 2060 was phenomenal. I literally did not experience any lag with all the games I tried on this device, from AAA games to those that require little graphical power. Also, I noticed that visually, nothing was sacrificed for all the power it wields — which is the ideal situation anyway. 

Of course, there’s always a caveat to nice things like ultra-powerful gaming performance. Like most gaming machines, this thing gets pretty damn hot when you play for too long. I personally felt uncomfortable after playing for three hours around the WASD keys. That specific part of the keyboard felt like a frying pan, possibly telling me to take a break from playing Fortnite.

Charging up so quick, it makes you play more

Now, obviously gaming laptops have historically low battery lives. Playing on the Dell G7 for the recommended three hours already drained its entire battery so much. When I wasn’t fully using this device for gaming, I got about four to five and a half hours worth of usage before a full drain. These numbers, honestly don’t provide much in terms of long-lasting performance.

One silver lining to it all is that the device comes with a 60Wh battery that supports quick charging. And that’s not just from the proprietary charging port at the back; even the USB Type-C port to its side allows you to charge the device. The device reached close to 30% within 20 minutes, which is pretty decent compared to the other devices out there.

Of course, the charging brick that comes with the device isn’t so light. Figuratively, this 180W charger packs the necessary juice to supercharge the device. Quite literally, its weight didn’t bother me as much, and I’ve felt heavier chargers in the past. 

The cooling system that’s a little too hot at times

With all that power inside, you need a cooling system that settles everything inside. The Dell G7 has powerful fans inside that basically push all the hot air out. I thought it was a good touch that the Alienware Command Center allows you to control those fans. But, there were a couple of things that bothered me with this cooling system.

First off, in the times I didn’t play games, the fans somehow throttle out of the blue. I don’t know if that’s how these fans work, but I would be deeply concerned if upon startup the fans start to throttle. Second, the fans do take time to throttle when you start playing games, which limits performance overall.

Finally, even while the fans are able to push hot air out, it takes a while for the device to cool down. I get it, you have to be patient — especially when you’re gaming nonstop for three hours. But it wouldn’t hurt for the device to cool down a little faster than that. It’s things like this, along with the fans being loud that leaves you scratching your head a little bit.

Is this your GagdetMatch?

Starting at Php 113,990, the Dell G7 just proves to be one hefty machine. Great performance is already expected from this device, and it surely did not disappoint. This gaming machine comes in a package that just screams power, and I would surely recommend this device to most on-the-go gamers out there.

Of course, it’s simply not perfect. This device does not simply last long enough for you to game full time. Apart from that, it gets pretty damn hot when you play for too long. Even with a quick-charging port and an two-fan cooling system, these simply are not enough.

But you get past that, and the Dell G7 truly serves up one game-ready device. While it is one hefty price tag, the investment looks very promising.

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Gaming

China is imposing a gaming curfew for all children

And spending limits on in-game merch

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It’s a great time to be a gamer! Regardless of which platform you play on, it’s getting easier to find a game of your own. In fact, one of the world’s biggest games today, Fortnite, is completely free of charge. Unfortunately, today’s lax gaming world is a festering hotspot for gaming addiction.

Everyone has their own strategies for combating addiction. For most people, the complexities of real life are enough to keep us away from the controller. However, for a select few, parents (or other authority figures) are keeping gamers away with imposed gaming curfews. Such is the way of life.

However, what happens when a whole country gangs up on every child’s gaming habits? Fortunately, now we know.

Recently, the Chinese government has imposed a curfew and strict spending limits for Chinese children. According to new regulations, children under 18 cannot play between 10pm and 8am. Further, they can play for only 90 minutes per day. (Three hours for holidays!)

For spending, children between 8 to 16 can spend only US$ 28 to US$ 57 on payable content. Finally, underage players must use their real names when playing online.

According to the report, the new regulations stem from growing concerns about poor eyesight and declining school performance.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), the report doesn’t detail how the government will enforce this new regulation. If anything, the report encourages guardians to keep the regulation in mind when taking care of their children.

Thankfully, the regulation is only in China. Six-hour gaming marathons are still perfectly legal elsewhere in the world. Just remember to hydrate and say hi to the sun for a while.

SEE ALSO: Here are the five best announcements from BlizzCon 2019

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Gaming

ROG Phone 2 review: Mobile gaming on steroids

Unapologetically a gaming smartphone

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I have said this countless times in previous reviews — I’m not much of a mobile gamer. But there are plenty of things about the ROG Phone 2 that made me enjoy playing.

When the first generation ROG Phone came out, I have to admit, I may have dismissed it right away. I really wasn’t into mobile games, the design was a little too “gaming” for me at the time, and the cameras were — in the words of other reviewers — craptastic.

A year later, ROG is back for a second playthrough. Armed with the experience and knowledge gained from its first turn, the company knew right away to strengthen its weaknesses.

Unequip: 4000mAh battery, Equip: 6000mAh battery 

In our review of the ROG Phone last year, we pointed out how the 4000mAh just didn’t have enough juice to support all of the bells and whistles of the phone. This is no longer the case.

The 6000mAh battery on the ROG Phone 2 performs as expected. Even with the 120hz refresh rate for the display turned on, the phone would last for nearly two days without charging. That’s moderate to heavy use on a mixed bag of tasks like answering emails, browsing on social media, playing a few rounds of Team Deathmatch on Call of Duty Mobile, and playing TWICE and LOONA songs on repeat.

It even messed up my charging routine because it just didn’t make sense to plug a phone that still has somewhere between 60 to 70 percent left at the end of the day. You’ll quit game first before the phone quits on you.

Charging is also fast AF thanks to ASUS’ HyperCharge technology. While this doesn’t boast of the wireless charging feature that many of its contemporaries at its price range has, it’s not something you’ll miss at all.

Discard: 12MP camera, Pick-up: 48MP camera

The sweeping statement that “cameras on gaming phones are bad” is no longer true. If anyone says this, they’re either misinformed or are just flat-out lying.

The ROG Phone 2 is now equipped with a 48MP lens accompanied by a 13MP wide angle lens. It’s a huge leap from the 12MP+8MP combo found on the first ROG Phone.

Photos taken with plenty of light look pretty darn good.

However, it does this weird JJ Abrams thing where there’s a lot of lens flare on some photos even during the night.

Speaking of the night, while the streets where I grew up in isn’t much to look at, I thought the ROG Phone 2 did well enough in capturing a fair amount of detail in low light situations.

P.S. the last photo in this set is clearly not from my hometown but I thought it was a good representation of the phone’s low light capabilities. Yes, I blurred parts of the image as it’s from an event of another brand. ✌🏼😆

The portrait mode even has this neat trick where you can adjust the level of blur after you’ve taken the photo. This means you can say goodbye to those photos where your subject looks like a sticker plastered onto a blurry background.

The selfie camera went from 8MP to 24MP and there’s plenty of improvement here as well. Although it does apply a noticeable amount of beautification even if you have the option completely turned off.

Unapologetically a gaming smartphone

The thing that might scare off most other buyers is also the very same thing that might attract the gamers who this phone has its crosshairs on. The phone’s design just SCREAMS gaming.

It does seem a little more toned down compared to the first generation, but the ROG Phone 2 is still without a doubt designed with the gamer aesthetic in mind.

This was the very thing that I didn’t like about the ROG Phone. And while I still prefer something that’s a little more subtle, I don’t find the ROG Phone 2’s design as appalling as the first one. Although that’s probably my taste changing more than anything else.

Other than how it looks, the ports, buttons, and camera placement are all geared towards gaming. You still get two USB-C ports. One where it’s usually placed and another for when you’re gaming in landscape mode.

The front-facing camera is also positioned in a way that it won’t be obstructed if you decide to stream your gaming session. A feature you can do thanks to the Game Genie that’s at the heart of this phone.

What kind of gamer are you? 

I was hesitant at first because I primarily do all my gaming on a console. Always have and, I thought, always will — that’s until I got to try the ROG Phone 2.

I really am not one to play mobile games. It’s not a knock on people who enjoy playing them. It’s just that for me, my phone has always been more a tool for work, communication, and media consumption.

But I had to play. I’m not exactly a fan of the more popular mobile games right now so I sought out other games — ones I think I would enjoy.

Before I move forward, I’ll be casually mentioning the accessories that come with the ROG Phone 2. Won’t go into too much detail. You can just watch our unboxing to see what the accessories are. You can check the pricing for each one on this link.

Okay. Let’s play. 

First up was FF15 PE — the mobile version of Final Fantasy XV. Role Playing Games or RPGs are really more up my alley. The game utilizes a lot of swipes and taps on the screen. Which is great if you’re not keen on getting the other accessories that come with the ROG Phone 2.

Next up, I tried Injustice 2. This is also another title that has a counterpart on consoles and PCs. The game is versus fighting and was adapted nicely to mobile phones. Like FF15 PE, it utilizes plenty of swipes and taps. It does have on-screen buttons that you can map on the Kunai Gamepad. I tried the screen and gamepad combo here but that didn’t feel like a natural way to play.

Instead of playing PUBG, I opted to try Call of Duty Mobile. This is perhaps the game I enjoyed the most. The Team Deathmatch mode feels like a throwback to my time playing Counter-Strike waaaaay back in the day. This game plays really well whether you’re just using the phone or if you have the Kunai Gamepad equipped. Quick note though, the right analog stick’s sensitivity is pretty bad for aiming, so I stuck with aiming on the screen instead of using the gamepad.

Next, I played Honkai Impact 3. It’s an Action-RPG and is probably one of the best use-cases for the Kunai Gamepad. The graphics is near-console if not already console-level, and all the buttons you need to press can all be mapped on the Gamepad. It was an absolute joy to play.

I also tried NBA Live Mobile. I’m too cheap to spend on NBA 2K20 and I’d rather play that on my PS4 so for mobile I went with EA’s free-to-play game. It plays alright and you can also get the most out of the Kunai Gamepad here, but I don’t see myself playing this for any other reason than for testing devices.

Lastly, I played Asphalt 9 which had direct integration with the Kunai Gamepad. This was hands down the best experience. The game detected the Gamepad right away and took me straight to a tutorial knowing the gamepads were equipped.

Takeaway? The whole experience is a mixed bag. That’s not to say it’s bad, but wouldn’t be better if the accessories just worked seamlessly with the games?

The one thing holding the ROG Phone 2 back is a wider support from a larger catalogue of games. It’s a tough ask. However, if ROG can get more game developers involved, that could take mobile gaming to another level.

You might have noticed I barely mentioned the other accessories. I think after the Kunai Gamepad, the next most useful one is probably the Mobile Desktop Dock. But that requires you to get a few more other peripherals if you don’t already own them.

The ASUS Wigig Dock can be helpful but if you’re a gamer and you own a TV, I’m willing to bet you also probably own a console. Personally, I don’t see the appeal of playing mobile games on a bigger screen. But that may just be me. If you enjoy it, that’s perfectly fine.

And then there’s the Twin View Dock II. It’s an interesting piece of tech and almost aligns with the foldables that came out in 2019. But like those other foldables, it still feels premature. As of writing, it only really supports two games. You may discover other use-cases for this but I find the price too steep for an experiment.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

To give the ROG Phone 2 a low rating simply because it’s not a smartphone that’s catered for the general public is criminally missing the point.

ROG knows who its market is. I’d like to think this phone was made specifically with them in mind. And if you think that market is small then you must have been living under a rock.

The gaming industry is worth billions of dollars. It’s attracting so many eyeballs that Netflix considers Twitch more of a competitor over other entertainment streaming platforms. That’s how big gaming has become.

So if you played any game, on any platform, for an extended amount of time at any point in your life, I would consider taking a look at the ROG Phone 2. That’s with or without the accessories.

At PhP 49,995, it’s priced right around other flagships that are built for a general audience — fancy cameras, multitasking, a little bit of gaming, and all that jazz. However, none of them are made for a specific set of people that’s steadily increasing in numbers. That’s where the ROG Phone 2 sets itself apart. For the people that this phone is made for, it’s absolutely perfect.

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