Gaming

Is the Huawei Mate 20 X an underrated gaming phone?

A deeper look at the Mate 20 X

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It’s easy to forget that there are a total of four members in this year’s Huawei Mate lineup. We have the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Porsche Edition Huawei Mate 20 RS, and finally, the Mate 20 X.

While we more or less have a grasp of what the first three can do based on our reviews, the last one — unassumingly considered the gaming choice of the bunch — is definitely the most peculiar.

For one, it’s priced between the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, while having the notch design and audio port of the former and class-leading rear cameras of the latter. At the same time, the Mate 20 X has the biggest screen and battery of the series, pegged at 7.2 inches and 5000mAh, respectively.

It’s massive in every sense of the word, and is practically a tablet compared to every other phone in the market. To make it stand out even more, Huawei equipped it with the world’s first liquid multi-dimensional cooling system that has a vapor chamber and graphene film in a smartphone, as well as powerful Dolby Atmos speakers.

So, how exactly is this positioned below the Mate 20 Pro? Well, it doesn’t have the sought-after under-display fingerprint scanner — instead going for a rear-mounted placement — and the OLED panel’s edges aren’t curved. Plus, the Mate 20 X settles for a slower 22.5W SuperCharge adapter and can’t do wireless reverse charging.

Mate 20 X (left) and Mate 20 Pro (right)

It’s confusing, but at the same time exciting. This is Huawei’s first high-end gaming smartphone, even though it doesn’t really look like one. The ROG Phone and Razer Phone 2 share that crown. Instead, the Mate 20 X is simply big… and I mean really big.

I can’t overstate enough how massive this is in my hand. I’ve used huge phones before like the Lenovo Phab series and whatever Galaxy Note I had at the time, but nothing matches the sheer mass this adds to my young wrists. It’s hefty too at 232 grams or about 50 grams more than the smaller Mate 20 phones.

This is, however, offset by the excellent multimedia experience. Not only are these stereo speakers the loudest I’ve ever listened to on a smartphone — even beating the power of the Razer Phone 2’s output — the Mate 20 X comes with an audio port on top, something the Mate 20 Pro misses out on completely.

It also helps that the notch is much smaller. It’s so negligible on this large panel that I don’t really notice it while watching videos or playing games. Again, this is something the Mate 20 Pro and its obtrusive notch can’t offer.

My only complaint pertains to the screen’s pixel density. While I normally prefer the 1080p standard for its sweet spot between sharpness and energy consumption, certain games don’t look that good when pixel peaking on such a wide display — more on this later.

Helping users grip the phone is a textured back similar to the regular Mate 20’s. The Mate 20 X comes in only Midnight Blue and Phantom Silver, the latter being exclusive to this specific model. Fortunately, a jelly case is part of the package for more grip at the expense of added bulk.

With all these details and differences out of the way, we go back to the question our title asks: Is this an underrated gaming phone? The short answer is yes. Longer answer: It depends on which games you play and how long you can handle such a large handset.

I played numerous games on the Mate 20 X, and the experience varied for each one, ranging from excellent to okay. Each title exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the phone’s gaming prowess.

Asphalt 9 is a perfect example of how ideal the Mate 20 X is for gaming. The 7.2-inch OLED makes each track feel so immersive, and the stereo speakers can cover an entire room when set to maximum volume, just as long as you don’t cover them accidentally with your palms. Since the phone is so wide in landscape orientation, it’s easier to press virtual buttons that are farther apart.

One of the challenges of Ragnarok M: Eternal Love is finding a phone that won’t skip frames while in crowded areas with lots of action, and making sure it won’t overheat at the same time. The Mate 20 X does this better than the Razer Phone 2 thanks to its cooling system and more efficient Kirin 980 chipset. I also liked how this Huawei phone got warm only in one small portion of the rear, to the left of the camera module.

Alto’s Odyssey is nowhere near as resource-intensive as the previous two games, but it definitely demands a strong audio-visual phone to look good. However, one thing that prevents the Mate 20 X from offering the best-possible experience is its lack of a faster screen refresh rate. Unlike the ROG and Razer Phones, Huawei settled for 60Hz here, which is pedestrian for gamer standards. It’s apparent in games like Alto’s Odyssey, which benefit greatly from refresh rates of 90Hz or above.

Here’s another game that would’ve benefited from a faster refresh rate, as well as greater pixel density. Because the display is so large and there are only 2244 x 1080 pixels, I could see lots of jagged edges on Pokémon Go. You could also blame the developer for not optimizing it on larger screens, but this is something the Mate 20 X should’ve anticipated, as well.

Another minor quibble happens while playing in vertical orientation. When doing so, I often cover the speaker on the bottom with my pinkie finger, as shown above. If I avoid placing any part of my hand underneath, I then have a tough time keeping the phone stable for games like Dragon Ball Legends, which require lots of tapping action.

As for battery life — a vital factor for any situation — the Mate 20 X lasts like it’s made out of batteries. The 5000mAh capacity is plenty and goes for over a day even with lots of video watching and gaming. I could play ten hours straight on this thing and it’ll still have over 20 percent left to call my mom and send that last Slack message of the day.

Does it take forever to charge, though? Not at all. Despite having a slower 22.5W SuperCharge adapter compared to the Pro’s 40W charger, I could still take the Mate 20 X from zero to full in one hour and 50 minutes, with the first 80 percent happening in the first hour alone. It’s just that last 20 percent that takes an additional 50 minutes.

From here on, everything else is pretty much like the Mate 20 and its Pro variant, from the processing power of the brand-new Kirin 980 chip to the class-leading cameras. You can read all about them in our dedicated Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro reviews.

Here are some photos I took in between my gaming sessions. As you can see, they’re easily on the level of the more expensive Mate 20 Pro:

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Is this your GadgetMatch?

As great as the Mate 20 X is in multiple aspects, its sheer size is enough of a deal-breaker to deter potential customers. I have relatively large hands but I literally can’t fully grasp this smartphone. Bigger isn’t always better.

However, if you must have the closest thing to a tablet that can handle any game with ease and kinda fit in your pocket, it doesn’t get much better than this. The loud speakers alone are worth the effort of carrying this beast around.

At the same time, the Mate 20 X squeezes itself into a tight spot. At SG$ 1,148, you may be better off getting the cheaper Mate 20 for its more pocketable dimensions; you could also add a little more for the curvier goodness of the Mate 20 Pro along with its faster charging and more convenient under-display fingerprint scanner.

Comparing it to other gamer-centric smartphones, the Mate 20 X has the clear advantage of having the best cameras of them all. Nothing else comes close, making this the best all-around device for both gaming and photography — a rare feat in the current market.


Editor’s note: Not mentioned in this review is Huawei’s newly released M-Pen. It turns this phone into a Galaxy Note competitor, although you’d have to carry the stylus with you since the Mate 20 X doesn’t have a dedicated slot for it. We didn’t get to test this, however.

Gaming

Black Shark 2 launches with a pressure-sensitive screen

It sports 12GB of RAM!

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Gaming smartphones occupy a strange position in the market. When the category started, it consisted mostly of devices with high-end hardware. The gaming aspect was just a nice addition supplemented by a few gaming-centric features. Sadly, the first gaming smartphones funneled into a premium niche.

Years after, the gaming smartphone evolved into a more versatile device. The category now sports several premium features. For example, Xiaomi has recently launched the Black Shark 2, a gaming smartphone that puts the premium on gaming.

The Black Shark 2 touts a Samsung-sourced 6.39-inch AMOLED screen, pumping out images at 2340 x 1080 resolution. Additionally, the display’s brightness goes up to 430 nits. Latency has also been reduced to 43.5ms. It has motion interpolation, optimizing the display for gaming purposes.

The screen also comes with new pressure-sensitive features. Users can map separate button functionalities for both left and right flanks, like how a game controller works. Both buttons trigger with additional pressure. It will also come with an under-screen fingerprint sensor.

Under the hood, the Black Shark 2 boasts a Snapdragon 855 chipset, Adreno 640 GPU, up to 12GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of internal storage. Liquid Cooling 3.0 will keep the phone in workable temperatures even during heavy gameplay sessions.

For photography, the smartphone carries a dual 48-megapixel + 12-megapixel AI rear camera combination and a 20-megapixel f/2.0 front-facing shooter. Speaking of front-facing, it also has two front-facing speakers, preventing any blockages during gameplay.

Complementing this heavy machinery, the Black Shark 2 will use a huge 4000mAh battery, with 27W fast charging capabilities.

The Black Shark 2 is already available in China. A lighter 6GB+128GB variant retails for CNY 3,200 (US$ 475). Meanwhile, the stronger 12GB+256GB variant retails for CNY 4,200 (US$ 625). It comes in either Shadow Black or Frozen Silver.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Black Shark 2 shows up in quick hands-on video

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Gaming

Ten university students arrested for playing PUBG in India

Because it’s too violent and distracting

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Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

That’s something ten university students didn’t adhere to when playing PUBG on their mobile phones, which led to their arrests. The incident happened last Wednesday in the state of Gujarat in India, where this specific game is banned.

The report by Channel News Asia says that they were released on bail with a warning shortly after. According to the account of one officer, the students were so “engrossed in playing” that they didn’t notice the police walking toward them.

PUBG was banned from being played a week ago after several authorities, as well as parents and educators, felt the game is too violent and distracting for the youth. A local minister went as far as calling it a “demon in every house.”

As of now, Gujarat is the only state that has outright banned the game in fear of it harming the development of children. Although similar titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends have been cited as being equally detrimental, only PUBG is part of the current ban.

However, to PUBG‘s credit (or rather discredit in this instance), it’s been around longer as a battle royale-style game and has been free to download on mobile devices since its launch.

There’s no word yet if other Indian states will follow suit. Outside of India, PUBG is still experiencing worldwide attention as part of several esports tournaments such as the Predator League.

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Gaming

New avenues open for aspiring esports athletes

Brands are going all in!

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Competitive gaming has been around for quite a while now and in the Philippines, aspiring to be a professional gamer might not be too far fetched of a dream anymore.

The Nationals

Inspired by the PBA or Philippine Basketball Association, brands have come to together to form The Nationals — the first franchise-based esports league in Southeast Asia. The inaugural season will feature five teams and three games.

Here are the five teams:

  1. Bren Epro
  2. HF Emperors
  3. Cignal Ultra Warriors
  4. PLDT-Smart Omega
  5. Suha-XCTN Punisher

These five teams will compete in three games on three major platforms: Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on mobile, Dota 2 on PC, and Tekken 7 on PS4. A sixth team — STI — will join the league on June 2018 after the Dota 2 competitions.

Sizzle reel of fans hyped for The Nationals

Each game will have two conferences. The two conferences will comprise a double round-robin group stage and single-elimination playoffs. Winners of the two conference will then face off later on for the season finale.

The Nationals will be run like any other professional sports league. Commissioner Ren Vitug is hopeful the league will provide a platform where talent can be nurtured.

A tested league model in the Philippines

The franchise-based approach might be alien to international observers whose participants comprise of either clubs or city-based teams. However, it’s a tried and tested formula in the Philippines.

The PBA, which was founded in 1975 and is the longest-running professional basketball league in Asia, is also franchise-based and has been the model for other sports leagues in the country.

While that league is experiencing some issues in gate attendance, it is still running thanks in large part to the financial backing of its member franchises. It stands to reason that this league model might prove to be successful in the Philippines.

The Esports Center

Elsewhere, major Philippine telecommunications company Globe has launched The Esports Center or ESC. It’s a pop-up that will run from March 9 to 24 at Play Nation in UP Town Center, Quezon City. Globe says the ESC hopes to provide a venue where the entire esports community can come together.

The ESC also welcomes those who are into gaming and want to break into the esports industry but are not exactly sure where to start. Globe SVP and Head for Content Business Nikko Acosta says the ESC hopes to serve as the “venue to upgrade [the gamers’] knowledge and gauge their skill levels with others through peer learning.”

Present during the launch was Team Liyab — Globe’s own esports team which was built in partnership with professional gaming organization Mineski.

Team Liyab poses with shoutcaster Rikucasts

Other than mobile and PC arenas, the ESC will also have a place called The Studio. Here, those who are more interested in becoming streamers instead of esports athletes will have a place and the tools to learn more about the craft.

Brand support key in esports growth

Esports has seen a major rise in recent years and brands in the Philippines are going all in. The proclamation of overall support which include not only the athletes’ training and finances but also their emotional, mental, and physical well-being all sound very promising.

All of these are still in the infancy stages, but the prospect for growth and the continued support by brands and fans alike could push the industry to heights once reserved only for traditional athletes. If this continues, it might not be long before we’re having debates about who the G.O.A.T. esports athlete is.

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