Reviews

HTC U Play Review: Just about design?

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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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Reviews

OnePlus 11 Review: Flagship Killer is Back!

Premium, but not overpriced

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After frustrations and disappointment from its solid fanbase, it seems like OnePlus has finally addressed it by going back to their roots.

The new OnePlus 11 may look just like any other Android flagship out there, but they finally brought the price below the US$ 700 mark.

Even without the “Pro” branding, you get “Pro-grade” hardware such as a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, up to 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and a super fast 80W SuperVOOC charging.

Alongside the Hasselblad partnership, you still get that specially-made color processing algorithm for your photos.

But with all the good stuff, there are also compromises.

Are you willing to sacrifice those for the newest OnePlus flagship experience?

Watch our in-depth OnePlus 11 review to find out more!

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Reviews

POCO X5 Pro 5G review: Must-have mid-ranger?

Business as usual for POCO

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POCO X5 Pro 5G

Standing out in a crowded mid-range segment has become increasingly difficult in 2023. It isn’t enough to hit home runs; to stand out, you need to hit grand slams. To be a game-changer, a smartphone needs to be a generational talent. 

It’s difficult to be painted as generational, especially because mid-rangers, by nature, face compromises that force manufacturers to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible. A mid-ranger truly needs to be special, so it can be undeniable rather than undesirable.

The POCO X5 Pro 5G is the Chinese brand’s latest attempt at bringing a game-changing smartphone to the ultra competitive segment. They’re branding the X5 Pro 5G as ‘The secret to win’, a device that will help students and young professionals succeed with whatever challenges they’re facing. 

It’s one thing to make a hefty promise, but it’s another thing to walk the talk. Does the POCO X5 Pro 5G stand and deliver, or is it just another self-proclaimed game-changer exposed as a wannabe flagship killer? 

Design: Puts the MID in midrange

 

Remember when I said that manufacturers tend to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible? Right out of the box, even without holding the phone, you already know where POCO decided to make its necessary sacrifices. 

Allow me to describe this design with a Gen Z word made popular by Long Island’s very best in professional wrestling: mid. The X5 Pro 5G’s design, is quite frankly, mid. It doesn’t stand out in the mid-range segment, nor, does it even impress for any unique personality quirks. You’d prefer to purchase a unique case for this so you wouldn’t hesitate to bring this out during parties.

Durability: A phone that will last through an Iron Man Match

POCO X5 Pro 5G

First impressions matter, but they aren’t everything. While the X5 Pro 5G isn’t for those looking for love at first sight, its choice of materials will leave you impressed in the long run.

This phone simply works. It clearly isn’t the prettiest phone, but pretty doesn’t always mean substantial. Plastic is still the most practical material for a smartphone, and POCO’s choice of plastics for the X5 Pro 5G hit the mark. It’s so durable, in fact, you could confidently use the phone without a case even when walking around the streets of Metro Manila. 

The X5 Pro 5G’s battery performance enriches its durability. During the review period, I had the opportunity of using the phone not only as my main daily driver, but also as my primary hotspot source during remote work situations. Even for extremely heavy users, this is a phone that can last you through the day. In rare cases when you’ll need to charge in the middle of the day, the X5 Pro 5G comes with a 67W charger out of the box (yes, they still have chargers out of the box! Big W here by POCO). 

Performance: Will have you feeling like a generational talent 

POCO X5 Pro 5G

Most manufacturers hope to position their mid-rangers as bang-for-you-buck devices that can bring flagship-level technology. It’s a hefty promise. Most brands tend to miss the mark, one way or another. 

Coming from a flagship daily driver, I was already expecting a drop in performance when the X5 Pro 5G came in. Right out of the box, to my surprise, it didn’t feel like there was any drop in overall performance. Even a week after, the X5 Pro 5G’s maintained the smoothness it came with from Day 1. POCO did not miss the mark.

The 120 Hz refresh rate certainly helped accentuate that feeling of smoothness, especially when going through daily social media scrolling. But even when testing with a relatively high-intensive game such as DB Legends, the X5 Pro 5G and its Snapdragon 778G processor went through the gauntlet with relative ease. Relative to other mid-range phones, that’s generational. 

Camera: Consistently colorful 

POCO X5 Pro 5G

There’s a common misconception that when you have more cameras, the better shots you’ll get. Having multiple cameras isn’t enough; choosing the right lenses and having software that processes shots properly matters even more. 

I’m happy to say that at the very least, POCO was able to choose the right lenses for its multi-camera setup. Supporting its 108MP wide camera is an 8MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP macro camera. Other manufacturers have missed the mark by taking out the ultra-wide, but thankfully, POCO did not make that mistake. 

The ultra-wide lens performs relatively well too. The difference in quality between the main lens and the ultra-wide isn’t as drastic as you’d expect. It captures detail very well, and HDR is on point too. 

Users concerned about their social media image don’t have to worry. Its ultra-wide lens is good enough for your much-coveted Gen Z selfies. 

Performance outdoors is definitely better. There’s a noticeable drop in quality when taking indoor shots, but its nothing too criminal. 

Night mode on the X5 Pro 5G was decent too. On this shot of my very good friend’s jersey, it captured the details well, although there’s noticeable grain in the background. 

In terms of processing, the X5 Pro 5G comes out with consistently colorful shots, which is to be expected at this point. It ups the saturation to intense levels, and shadows can be overblown at times. It’s nothing too concerning, just something to consider before posting your photos on the ‘gram.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

POC X5 Pro 5G

With an SRP of PhP 16,999, the POCO X5 Pro 5G presents itself with an intriguing list of features. At first glance it won’t impress, but its value as a smartphone is all about what’s under the hood. It’s a powerful device that gets the job done. Whether you’re a busy workaholic, a student who’s trying to survive through modern hybrid setups, or a gamer who wants to pick up endless W’s, the POCO X5 Pro 5G is a great choice to have if you’re looking for a weapon that will bring you victory in whatever battles you’ll face. 

The POCO X5 Pro 5G may just be better than you, and you’ll know it. Its design is mid, but everything else, you wouldn’t hesitate to call generational.

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Computers

Apple M2 Mac mini Review

More Affordable, More Powerful

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Apple silently revealed the 2023 M2 Mac mini to the world.

Back in 2005, the Mac mini G4 was the cheapest Mac you can buy for US$ 499.

Almost 18 years after, the Mac mini still is the cheapest Mac at just US$ 599.

That’s still a lot of savings versus buying a US$ 1299 iMac.

The biggest difference? The newest Mac mini runs two of the most powerful chips right now — the M2 and M2 Pro.

But is it actually the right Mac for you?

Watch our Apple M2 Mac mini review now!

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