HTC U Play Review: Just about design?



They may not be as popular as before, but HTC is still around making Android phones. It’s hard to make a dent to the popularity of other phone brands, although with good-looking phones, HTC is on track to keep itself relevant. In the sea of aluminum and plain glass smartphones, the HTC U Play stands out with its design.

It looks plain at first sight

Beautiful design for a midrange phone

If you buy a phone based on its looks, this will be one of your top choices. Like most smartphones with a premium build, the U Play combines aluminum and glass with a unique look on its back. HTC calls it “liquid surface” as it’s designed to look like liquid paint beneath the glass back. The result is a glossy phone that’s prone to smudges. But! It’s one of the best-looking ones in the market.

Our unit comes in black, but it has a greenish tint when light hits the back panel

The phone on hand feels wider than most 5.2-inch devices I’ve held and that’s due to thick side bezels it has. It makes the phone a bit stout, while the aluminum frame gives a satisfying cold touch and doesn’t warm up easily. There are no issues with the overall build and design of the U Play, aside from the missing 3.5mm audio port.

No 3.5mm headphone jack!

The fingerprint scanner, which works really great, is located on the front of the device. It also acts a home button (it doesn’t press down, though) accompanied by two navigation keys on both sides. One-handed use is not a big concern here unless you really need to tap the four corners of the display.

Familiar HTC Experience

Android skins have been toned down in recent years, with the exemption of those phones from China. HTC Sense — that’s what HTC calls its user interface — sits in between my preference of a clean slate Android UI and a custom one. HTC’s take on Android gives the phone a mature personality over the playful icons of other manufacturers.

HTC Sense hasn’t changed much in the past couple of years

It’s stuck on Android 6.0 Marshmallow for now, and we’re hoping HTC will push out an update in the coming months. That comes with no guarantee, though, as with all third-party manufacturers. Anyway, having a dated version with a skin on top doesn’t give you the impression of running on old software.

Not exactly the latest in the market

HTC is trying to win back select markets where they have become dormant — such as Southeast Asia — by releasing phones like the U Play, which comes with a Helio P10 processor from MediaTek. With the new Helio P20 already available, it’s disappointing to see an old processor running on a new phone.

It still runs on Android Marshmallow

Processor aside, it has more than enough memory at 4GB and spacious internal storage at 64GB. I can easily open and switch from one app to another without any hiccups. So far, I didn’t encounter any signs of the phone slowing down under pressure. If only it were powered by a newer processor, I’d like the U Play more than just its physical appearance.

Can you “Play” all day?

The U Play comes with a 2500mAh battery and its processor is not exactly the most energy-efficient in its class, so I didn’t really expect it to last long. But, it still managed to hang on before a work day ended and I was able to get around three to four hours of screen-on time depending on usage. It also features fast charging, just in case you need a quick boost before hitting the road.

The most beautiful thing about the phone is its back

As long as you don’t play games much, a full charge is enough for one-day usage. There are battery-saving features that can be turned on to stretch out the remaining juice.

It takes good photos and bright selfies

The UltraPixel makes a comeback here, but it’s now found on the front. The 16-megapixel front shooter is sensitive to light, allowing you to take a selfie even in dark environments. It also has a wide-angle lens, so you can fit more people in a frame. Here are Isa’s selfie shots:

The rear camera doesn’t sport an ultra-sensitive sensor to help shoot in dim scenarios, but it has optical image stabilization. We’ll give the U Play a thumbs up for having OIS since not all midrange phones have it. Captured images with the 16-megapixel rear camera are pretty impressive with proper white balance and a good amount of details. Also, the Auto HDR kicks in whenever you need it.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It has a good camera, beautiful design, and the HTC name. What it doesn’t have are the latest Android software and midrange processor. It’s a difficult recommendation now but with its looks, no doubt it’s an attractive phone to buy. If only HTC can push a Nougat update as soon as possible, I’d have a change of heart about the U Play.

The handset is priced at GBP 399 or SG$ 548. It’s not exactly competitively priced but the aesthetic appeal of the U Play gives it a lasting impression. That’s what HTC does best: Design.

SEE MORE: India, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines may get better HTC U11

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‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ spoiler review: A new story in old clothes

Beware of spoilers ahead



Beware, dear reader. This review features major spoilers for Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.

One of my guiltiest pleasures is reading through AITA threads on Reddit. AITA means “am I the asshole,” a question that concludes every post of this type. Internet strangers ask other internet strangers whether their actions deserve scrutiny. Most of the time, these threads end with a “YTA” (you’re the asshole) or an “NTA” (not the asshole) verdict. However, on rare occasions, an AITA thread warrants an “ESH” verdict, meaning “everyone sucks here” or an unwinnable situation where everyone is an asshole.

Now, if you’re wondering what an ESH situation looks like, look no further than the 2010 cult film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Though the film wowed everyone (this dorky writer included) with gaming-inspired graphics and a love for all things nerdy, the titular character (or anyone in the film) is hardly someone to be emulated. The evil exes are stereotypes of jocks, nerds, and musicians. Ramona Flowers admits to dumping her exes for selfish reasons. Scott himself dates a highschooler and cheats on her with Ramona.

So, when Netflix announced an anime adaptation of the iconic series, the biggest question in my mind was: “even the cringey parts?”

A tale of two Scotts

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an action-romance flick centered around the titular Scott as he fights Ramona’s seven evil exes for the right to exclusively date her. The anime adaptation starts off with the same beats.

Scott, a jobless twenty-something from Toronto, lives platonically with his gay housemate Wallace Wells. As he drifts around without a job, he plays bass for local indie band Sex Bob-omb and dates Knives Chao, a teenage highschooler. Everything changes when he meets the (literal) girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers. He finally finds a purpose for his precious little life.

It’s not all flowers, though. His blissful ignorance sours when Ramona’s first evil ex, Matthew Patel, crashes a Sex Bob-omb gig. So begins his seven-stage quest to win the girl. As expected for a first boss, the all-powerful hero of the story…


Subverting all expectations, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’s first episode ends with the sudden death of its titular hero, pitifully exploding into three measly coins.

A tale of Ramona

What happens when you kill off the main character in the first episode? You shift focus to the other main character, of course. The captivating second third of the series is a whodunit — or in Young Neil’s words, a “whodidit” — featuring Ramona as she crosses off her exes as suspects in Scott’s death… or is it disappearance? After reviewing security footage, she discovers that an unknown entity teleported Scott away, faking his death in the process.

More than a cross-examination, Ramona’s encounters with her exes turn into moments of reconciliation between the two crossed ex-lovers. Whereas the original story showed that love is messy and that everyone has baggage, the anime series shows that even your emotional baggage is human. Your past relationships aren’t just tools for character development. They have their own story arcs and, yes, sometimes they can use you for development.

In taking Scott away for most of the series, Ramona graduates from being a cold-hearted vixen trying to escape her past into a more rounded individual actively engaging with her past life. She apologizes for her selfish behavior and sees how each ex is doing. Some of them takes crazy turns — such as when Todd Ingram falls in love with Wallace Wells and willingly gives up his vegan powers when the latter dumps him — but that’s just how life works sometimes.

Scott Pilgrim and the baby Hitler problem

If you had the ability to travel back in time, would you assassinate a baby Hitler? While Hitler is an extreme example, the story beat is a common one for time travel tales. Are you willing to commit one atrocity to prevent an even greater one from happening in the future?

Though common, it’s not a plot element I expected from Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. When Ramona figures out which of her exes whisked Scott away, Scott himself shows up on her doorstep and explains that someone else is behind the disappearance: his future self.

In a twist that would impress even the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a future version of Scott travels back in time to prevent his present self from fighting (and winning against) the seven evil exes. In this older Scott’s future, he won and got Ramona, just as it happens in the original story. But it’s not a rosy ending. Soon after marrying Ramona, the couple hit a rough patch and decide to separate. In his anguish, Scott travels back in time to save himself the heartbreak.

If you knew a relationship was going to end in misery, would you go back in time to save yourself from ever entering the romantic tryst? Though the third act takes a drastically different direction, it still falls in line with the messiness of love. Those who’ve been in long-term relationships are familiar with the standard what-if questions like “if things were different, would you still date me?” or “would you go back and change anything about our relationship?”

The choice is yours

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off does not end with a “yes” or a “no.” Instead, after a colossal fight with an older Scott (featuring an older Ramona), both present-day Scott and Ramona realize that their choice in the here and now is more important than knowing what happens in the future.

Problems will still arise, but the right way to tackle them is head-on, rather than running away (as with Ramona) or avoiding them altogether (as with Scott). And you don’t have to deal with them alone.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is not a retelling of an old tale or a sequel to the original. It’s a companion piece. If you loved either of the original graphic novels or the film adaptation, Netflix’s take is essential viewing. It fleshes out familiar characters and fills in the gaps of the original story. More importantly, it tackles themes that a grown-up Scott Pilgrim fan has about life and love.

Is Scott Pilgrim an asshole? Yes, but so was everyone. What are you going to do to change that?


Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is now streaming on Netflix.

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Convenient Smart Home

The Samsung HW-Q600C Q Soundbar lets you ‘feel’ your entertainment

Elevate your home set-up



Samsung HW-Q600C Q Soundbar

Sound isn’t necessarily the first thing that people think about when watching shows and movies. That’s why in choosing the living room or home theater centerpiece, soundbars are usually an afterthought. The Samsung HW-Q600C Q Soundbar makes a compelling case to be what you splurge on to take your home entertainment to the next level. 

On paper, here are the top features that you’re getting with the HW-Q600C. 

  • Dolby Atmos/DTS:X 3D sound from every direction. 
  • True 3.1.2ch Sound — Overhead audio with two up-firing channels.
  • Q Symphony 3.0 — TV and Soundbar orchestrated in perfect harmony when paired with select Samsung TVs.
  • Adaptive Sound — Sound optimized for each scene.

Set-up is also quick and easy. You have the option to use either the included HDMI cable or if you’re a stickler for a clean look, just connect via Bluetooth. Although, for best results, we recommend using the HDMI cable. Just be creative with your cable management. 

The Subwoofer also isn’t too big that it’ll distract from the look of your TV set-up. It can sit unassumingly right next to your TV stand. 

It also comes with a remote control. With it you can change the sound profile. You have four to choose from: Standard, Surround, Gamer Pro, and Adaptive. Although, I’ve mostly just used Surround. You can also control the volume of the subwoofer. If you’re using a compatible Samsung TV, you don’t really need to use it. Otherwise, it’s handy to keep around. 

So, what’s it like actually using the thing? It’s absolutely an elevated experience. 

Feel your entertainment

Feelings are never easy to describe. That’s why I say the HW-Q600C makes you feel your entertainment. Clean, clear, crisp sound has a way of immersing you in whatever you’re watching. And on certain content, the booming bass engulfs you completely. 

It’s really hard to put into words. If I were to visualize the feeling, it would look something like this: 

The booming bass, in particular, is what really sucks you in. The feeling is about as close as you’ll get to being in the VIP area of a concert or event. If you’re listening to music, you can almost feel your heartbeat synchronize with the sound. 

This is why I mostly stuck with the Surround sound profile. The two up-firing speakers go a long way in making you think like you’re actually surrounded by the sound. Then the subwoofer comes in to deliver a thumping bass. 

A new home cinema experience

Samsung Neo QLED

I was feeling under the weather during one of the weekends that I had the HW-Q600C. I decided to have my annual rewatch of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame to help make myself feel better. It felt like a new experience again watching with the soundbar connected. 

The clearer dialogue was more heartfelt and the high-octane action more bombastic. It almost took me back to the time when I saw the films in cinema for the first time sans the loud cheers from the rest of the movie-goers. 

This feeling remains true even when you’re not watching blockbuster titles. With this set-up, I also watched a couple of weekly animé that I keep up with. In episode 42 of Jujutsu Kaisen, there was an emotional exchange between two characters. You’ll appreciate the voice acting more when experienced with the HW-Q600C. 

The same thing can be said even for short form content. I have a terrible habit of doom scrolling YouTube Shorts and TikTok before sleeping. But it’s almost an entirely different feeling too using your TV with the soundbar. It makes the already addicting content even more attention-grabbing. 

3D sound when you game 

Samsung OLED S95C | NBA 2K23

NBA 2K23

I played three games while testing the HW-Q600C. Each one with a different feel. Each one also drastically improved with better audio. This is particularly true with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. The game is a technical marvel visually. But playing with just the TV audio might leave you wanting. In fact, when I was reviewing the game, I had to resort to using headphones. This isn’t the case anymore with the HW-Q600C hooked up. It’s cliché to say, but now that I’m slowly going through my second playthrough, it is a hundred times more immersive. 

The other game I played is Tales of Arise: Beyond the Dawn. This one’s an actual review. It’s with this title that I had to tone down the subwoofer a little especially during combat. It gets pretty loud and thumps a lot when the characters shout their special moves. 

Lastly, there’s NBA 2K24 — my personal destresser. With the HW-Q600C, I started hearing things I couldn’t during my other playthroughs. Things like the ball bouncing and the on-court chatter sound clearer. Something about the soundbar helped isolate those sounds from the game commentary and music.  

White noise, music background

That SaChaeng verse in ‘Cry For Me’ by TWICE is intoxicating

Even when I’m not completely immersed in whatever’s on the TV, the soundbar still helped in elevating the experience. During work days, I like to have music playing, especially when I’m handling more mechanical tasks. I fire up YouTube and jump right into the TWICE, LE SSERAFIM mix on YouTube when I need a picker-upper. Other times when I’m not exactly thrilled with the kind of volume of emails I get, I turn to the angsty rock music I used to listen to in my teenage years. 

Sometimes I just have basketball or gaming podcasts playing while I sift through more work or while preparing meals. 

I probably sound like a broken record already at this point, but all these activities feel a little different when the sound is coming from such a quality machine that is the Samsung HW-Q600C Q Soundbar. It’s as if I go through my days with background music like I’m the main character of a show or movie. 

Is the Samsung HW-Q600C Q Soundbar your GadgetMatch?

It’s an easy yes if you’re looking to elevate how you experience your favorite piece of media. The Samsung HW-Q600C Q Soundbar makes you feel your entertainment in both tangible and intangible ways. It adds something extra to your favorite movies, shows, music, and everything in between.

We have to reiterate that this is an add-on. For most people, watching with just the TV audio can be perfectly fine. The soundbar is for anyone looking for more. 

It retails for PhP 23,999 or US$ 599.99. But as of writing, the soundbar is discounted at every major retailer. A quick web search showed prices as low as PhP 15,749 and US$ 329.99. That means now is the best time to grab one. 

It’s great if you’re pairing it with a Samsung TV like when I had the Samsung OLED S95C. But it works just as well with my non-Samsung TV.

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Philips x Kokoon Sleep Headphones review: a YMMV sleep experience

Read before you buy



Ever since I moved into the city, I’ve been fixated with sleep aids. From white noise to weighted sleep masks to melatonin pills to pillow mists, I’ve tried them all. However, despite my romp through all things sleep, a tech-based solution has always eluded my grasp. Nothing really caught my eye. That said, when the Philips x Kokoon Sleep Headphones dropped onto my lap, it raised my eyebrows.

Headphones and earbuds designed for sleep aren’t new to the industry. Bose, for example, previously launched a series called SleepBuds which were ultimately shelved due to lack of demand. The segment still exists through smaller companies including one from ex-Bose employees. Now, Philips, a big name in its own right, wants to enter the segment in partnership with Kokoon. How did it go? Read on.

Unobtrusive… to a point

Especially for a pair of earphones, the Philips x Kokoon Sleep Headphones has a unique form factor. Instead of just offering two simple plugs, the device has a main body with two coiled wires extending into the two earbuds. You wear it by draping the device over your nape and wearing the two earbuds as normal.

If you’re shopping for devices to wear while you sleep, your first question should be: is it comfortable to wear? Well, the answer is… it depends, honestly.

The reason for its unique design is to shift most of the weight from the earbuds themselves to a body designed to be out of the way. While sitting up in bed, the Sleep Headphones were largely unobtrusive. I barely felt them on me.

Things changed when I started lying down, though. I’m a side sleeper, so anything pressing onto the side of my head is a cause for concern. While the weight of the body wasn’t an issue, your comfort will ultimately depend on your sleeping conditions. For example, I prefer my pillows on the hard side. Though the headphones claimed compatibility for side sleepers, a hard pillow will still cause issues. Sometimes, I ripped the headphones off while I was asleep. One time, I also ended up with sore ears.

Changing to a softer pillow did solve the issue, though. However, asking someone to change the way they sleep might be too much for most. If you’re planning to get these, think about your current sleeping conditions first.

Another subscription

As it says on the tin, Philips isn’t the only brand behind this device. Kokoon, a sleep aid app, is working with Philips for the headphones. To squeeze out absolutely everything from the headphones, you’ll need to download the Kokoon app.

The app includes a respectable library of atmospheric white noise to wind you down for bed. It also has the ability to automatically shut off the audio once it detects that you’ve fallen asleep. The feature works even if you play audio from an external app. Once you’re asleep, the app can also pipe in brown, pink, or white noise to mask potential sources of disruptive noise around you. It can track your sleep, too. Finally, it can subtly wake you up with a smart alarm.

In terms of effectiveness, the Philips x Kokoon Sleep Headphones does a good job of filtering out noise. Even when I wake up in the middle of night, the piped-in white noise helped me get back to sleep almost immediately.

Unfortunately, the full app experience isn’t free. To maximize Kokoon, you’ll need to pay a yearly subscription fee of GBP 35 (approximately US$ 44). While the subscription isn’t the most exorbitant out there, another subscription might turn off most folks.

Thankfully, the headphones work even without Kokoon. Paired with Spotify and a sleep timer, you should be able to use the device normally.

Enough juice for a night

Since you’re ideally using these for the entire night, you should expect enough battery life to last a good night’s sleep. Indeed, it does.

I can reliably get around seven hours of sleep per night. Each night ended with 30 to 40 percent of battery left in the tank. Even if you sleep in, the headphones should still last. However, despite the ability to last a night, the need to recharge another device day after day is another thing to think about.

At the very least, the device charges with a USB-C cable. It also comes with a handy soft case for storage in between sleeping sessions.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Philips x Kokoon Sleep Headphones costs US$ 285. The package includes the headphones, the case, and a free year of Kokoon Premium. It’s quite a hefty price tag for such a niche device.

However, I can think of a few scenarios where these earphones are absolutely worth it: if you live in an area constantly bombarded by noise or if you go on long-haul flights regularly. Otherwise, you might find better mileage from other sleep aids.

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