Reviews

Huawei Mate X2 review: Better and refined

Third time’s the charm!

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The year was 2019 when the war on folding phones began. It was Huawei versus Samsung and in February of that year, I was in Barcelona, Spain to see them both.

Samsung had just announced Galaxy Fold a week prior and at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), it was displayed behind a glass box. Right out of the gate, Huawei seemed to be more confident allowing a select few journalists some hands-on time with the Mate X.

What made the rivalry exciting was their differing approaches. Samsung’s phone folded inwards, while Huawei’s phone folds outwards. And only time would tell which form factor was the better design choice.

Fast forward to 2021 and it looks like the debate is settled. On its third iteration, Huawei’s Mate X2 folds outward like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold2 but offers a bigger screen and a different hinge mechanism. But which phone is better?

New look

So let’s get right to it. What I like most about the new Mate X2 is that when folded shut, its width is about the size of your typical smartphone.

Meaning, just like last year’s Mate XS, even if you didn’t open it up it’s just as functional as any Android phone of your choosing albeit thicker this time around. A result of this inward folding design.

I didn’t mind the heft or the thickness as much. But mileage may vary depending on what you’re used to.

Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2, you’re getting more screen real estate on the outside. And maybe, more importantly, an aspect ratio that’s friendly to more apps.

The exterior screen measures 6.4 inches and is an OLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate. When it comes to folding phones, my stance is that the experience closed should be as good as the experience opened.

So when it comes to the outer screen — I like the Mate X2 better. While larger than its first iteration, most apps feel squished on the front screen of the Galaxy Z Fold2.

Screen

When you open up the phone, the second display awaits — a foldable OLED panel that measures 8 inches diagonally, also with a 90Hz refresh rate.

One can say the experience is the same when shooting between screens because the refresh rate is similar. But on paper, the Galaxy Z Fold2 has that super-smooth 120Hz panel.

Crease

Huawei says there is a “magnetically-controlled nanolayer” that reduces reflection. And while we’re comparing, the Mate X2’s display is slightly larger and there’s no pole hole for a selfie camera — meaning the experience is uninterrupted.

But also if you prefer to take video calls this way, you’re out of luck. Because of its new hinge design, too, the crease is less pronounced versus the Galaxy Z Fold2.

Hinge

Despite not having an inside selfie camera and a faster display, I prefer the Mate X2’s display better. Thanks to the way the phone is designed.

When opened, the phone’s shape resembles a wedge. It’s thicker on one side, and this is supposed to be where you hold on to. By doing so, it shifts the center of gravity so much so that the phone feels lighter because the side that’s unsupported isn’t as heavy.

I also have a feeling that this new hinge design is sturdier since it puts less tension on the foldable display when folded. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Form factor

With a completely new form factor, Huawei had to rebuild the hinge design on the Mate X2 from scratch. Huawei claims the gears that make up the hinge of the X2 have a tensile strength that’s tougher than the world’s safest car.

While they now both fold the same way, the hinge design is different from the Galaxy Z Fold2. When you fold a Mate X2 shut, its display forms a teardrop shape and tucks away into this cavity — similar to what Motorola does on the razr.

It seems to be more gentle on the display versus a hard fold and is one of the reasons the crease isn’t as pronounced. It’s also one of the reasons why there is hardly any gap when closed.

Here, compare that to the Galaxy Z Fold2. Depending on how you see it, one possible con of this new design is that the display won’t stay put when you prop it up in tent mode. So, nope. You can’t use it as a mini laptop.

Selfie

Upfront, the Mate X2 has a capsule-sized double punch hole for its 16-megapixel selfie camera and depth sensor. Selfies taken with this front camera look good and the depth sensor does a good job at producing good cutouts.

As with most Huawei phones, your skin comes out looking softer which I think — while not 100 percent au naturelle — makes one look better. You can also dial it up with skin beautification mode.

Camera

One of the reasons why the Mate X2 is thicker on one side is because of its camera system. It has a total of four cameras on its back: a 50-megapixel primary camera, a 16-megapixel ultra-wide lens, and two telephoto cameras — one with 3x optical zoom, the other with 10x optical zoom. The 10x telephoto lens uses periscope technology, which takes up a lot of space.

Let’s see how these cameras perform on their own and versus some of the Mate X2’s competitors.

Took these photos on a cloudy day by the Flatiron District — the iconic building is still under construction but it’s still a good spot for this comparison. While the photos are similar, the Mate X2 didn’t do as good a job as bringing out the highlights.

Notice how the tree by the colorful Eataly container cafe is almost black.

It’s the same when you zoom out. Notice the ultra-wide-angle camera on the X2 also isn’t as wide as the iPhone 12 Pro Max or the Galaxy Z Fold2.

Taking that 1x camera indoors first at a cafe where there’s enough natural life. I found the X2 continues to punch up the contrast and saturation. Notice the pain au chocolat looks more natural on the Galaxy Z Fold2 and the iPhone.

Indoors with only artificial light — the X2 had trouble focusing on these peaches. I took three shots and they all came out slightly blurred.

I wonder if it has to do with focus distance. Because in this close-up shot of an orchid outdoors, the X2 also struggled to keep focus. Notice how sharp the stamens of the orchid are on the shots of the Galaxy Z Fold2 and the iPhone.

I also did this HDR test with a backlit subject — these trees. Notice how the iPhone in particular but also to some extent, the Galaxy Z Fold2 was able to bring out the details in the grass and the trees despite the conditions.

Of course, where the Mate X2 shines is zoom. Its 3x optical zoom lens gets further than the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Galaxy Z Fold2. And it also has a 10X periscope lens for getting even closer.

Like on the previous model, you can still use the second screen on the Mate X2 so others can see themselves while you’re composing the shot. You just have to shoot with it unfolder or in tablet mode.

These were the photos I took of Chay — as she was able to see herself on the front screen, she adjusts her poses to her liking.

Is the Mate X2 your GadgetMatch?

That depends on what you’re after.

The Huawei Mate X2 is currently only available in China starting at CNY 17,499 (around USD 2699). You can get it in four colors: white, black, pink, and blue — each with matching themes so the insides look just like the outside.

At their current price, foldables in general are not for the average person. This phone is for Huawei fans with deep pockets, and techies who need to live on the bleeding edge of technology.

From an engineering standpoint, I believe the design of the Mate X2 feels like a refinement of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold2. Albeit a bit iterative — from its improved hinge mechanism to the size of the phone when folded.

That said, we can’t still get Google Services on the Mate X2 so that limits its usefulness. So if you’re looking for a foldable phone for everyday use, the Galaxy Z Fold2 makes more sense.

SEE ALSO: I’ve grown attached to the Galaxy Z Fold2

Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S22+ review: Love at first touch

Can’t help but fall deeper

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Galaxy S22+

A cosmic pull. A supernatural attraction. These aren’t phrases one normally says on a smartphone review. And yet, here I am. Falling madly for the Samsung Galaxy S22+. 

However, this wasn’t the case from the get go. First, I saw it in photos and it was alright. Then, I saw the specs on paper. Yeah, that’s pretty good. It was just another flagship, I thought. 

But everything changed when it came to my doorstep and held it in my hands. 

(P.S. All of my subheadings below are taken from the song “One Touch” by Gabe Bondoc. You can play it while you read 🙂). 

One touch and I’m hooked and I am drowning

Galaxy S22+

I am completely aware how overly infatuated I’m coming off and will come off for the rest of this article. But, having been in this smartphone reviewing gig for close to seven (7) years now, I’ve become almost numb to the usual releases. 

Yes, every now and then I take a liking to a smartphone or two. But it has been a while since I really, really wanted to keep and/or buy a phone I’m reviewing. 

The Samsung Galaxy S22+ just felt perfect on my hands. The right width, the right length, and the right thickness. The heft of the device, its shiny metallic edges, and the clean premium finish of the back all scream premium. The material on its back has a smooth, matte feel and finish. It’s both smudge and scratch resistant.


I’m a fan of its button placements too. With both the power button and volume rockers flushed on the right-hand side. It’s easy to slide up and down to press what you need to press.

And the metal lining on the edges feels smooth but grippable and perfectly complements the flat display. 

Excuse me, I don’t mean to be staring

It’s no secret that Samsung consistently offers one of the best displays, especially in their flagship line. This remains true for the 6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel equipped on this beaut. The colors are rich and crisp under favorable lighting conditions. But even in broad daylight, the display is bright enough (1750 nits peak) to be comfortably operated without having to squint. 

Galaxy S22+

I had a grand time watching my favorite shows on the Samsung Galaxy S22+. I’ve had it for a while so I saw a few episodes of the Netflix K-Drama Business Proposal on it. I have also been catching up weekly on the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. For content that supports it, HDR10+ kicks in to elevate the visual experience. 

Galaxy S22+

The display looks so majestic that it prompted me to put the love of my life Momo Hirai of TWICE as my wallpaper. And then of course, there’s the dynamic refresh rate that goes up as high as 120Hz. This means the screen changes its refresh rate depending on what you’re doing. If you’re scrolling through socials and what not, it kicks into high gear to give you a smooth experience. When idle, the refresh rate lowers down to save battery. 

My heart won’t slow ’cause of you

The Galaxy S22+’s overall performance will really keep your heart racing. Normal, day-to-day interactions with your phone just feel extra sharp. The many features mentioned above coupled with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 powering this phone keeps it humming no matter what you do. 

Keeping up with the news in the morning, checking socials to see what you missed, using messaging apps to keep in touch whether for work or personal matters – all of these just feel like a breeze. And the ONE UI 4.1 skin on top of this Android 12 flavor definitely contributes to just how things flow when you use this smartphone. 

Galaxy S22+

I didn’t do a lot of gaming, though. To test it, I defaulted to my go-to which is a few hours of Call of Duty Mobile. As expected it runs without hiccups on high graphics settings. There’s a game manager of sorts here that I didn’t tinker with much. It’s not too different from the ones implemented in previous Samsung phones. Some key features include focusing the phone’s resources to gaming and limiting or completely blocking notifications. 

Battery life is also admirable. One afternoon, I used it to tune into a friend’s wedding via Zoom. The entire ceremony lasted roughly around two (2) hours. In that period, the Galaxy S22+’s battery went from 82% to 76%. 

Naturally, that isn’t the single indication of its battery performance. I generally start my days at around 9AM and end at around 8PM. On days that I’m glued to my laptop, with only occasional glimpses on the phone, I would end the day between 60% to 70%. On days that I’m out and about and rely on it a lot to get work done, my day ends with around 25% to 35% of battery left. 

You’re looking fine today, not that I only noticed now

Galaxy S22+

I have already done an entire separate article about the cameras on the Galaxy S22+. It’s one of the things that I enjoyed the most about the phone. It’s almost as if it’s impossible to take a bad photo with this on hand. 

Easily switching between lenses is great. But what’s even better is how the quality and color reproduction doesn’t vary much from lens to lens. Check these samples out.

Samsung Galaxy S22+

And you can even use 10X Zoom with barely any detail loss, especially if it’s a photo that you’re just uploading on social media. 

Samsung Galaxy S22+

That versatility is unmatched and is fantastic for quick, run and gun shoots like the one I did during the opening of the XM Studio in Singapore. 

I am thoroughly impressed and extremely satisfied with the quality of images it produces. And that’s saying a lot seeing as my regular daily phones include an iPhone 11 Pro and an OPPO Find X3 Pro. Both of which are excellent shooters in their own right.

Oh and yeah, “Nightography”. 

Samsung Galaxy S22+

You think there is a way that I can get you to stay?

You see, the thing about the Galaxy S22+ is that with just the first touch, you already know you’re in contact with something that you should hold onto for dear life. I can’t tell you how many oohs and aahs I got after letting other people hold it in their hands. It just has that effect.

Additionally, the phone is a smooth amalgamation of many other standout phones. It has the breathtaking display of Samsung phones, an overall footprint that feels like an iPhone 12/13 Pro Max, cameras that rival those that partner with notable camera brands, and much, much more. All of that comes in this package that looks and feels well-built on a phone that is easily an all-rounder performer. 

Truly, I never want to let it go. And that’s not something I always say about smartphones. So here’s to hoping that this high praise leads to the Galaxy S22+ staying with me more than a little while longer. 

The Samsung Galaxy S22+ 5G is still available today in Samsung stores near you, via online at Samsung.com, or at your preferred telecommunication service provider. Pricing information on our key markets are linked in the following: USA | Singapore | Philippines

I know it’s been a while since its release. Despite all the hype long gone, it’s still a phone you won’t regret buying.

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Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising Review

Charming, action side-scroller

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Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

Back in March, I wrote about my brief experience with Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. Now having played the rest of the game, I can safely say that you get more of the same. It is a fun and charming side-scrolling action RPG. 

A prequel game

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a prequel game to Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. More specifically, the events in Rising take place about a hundred years ahead of the events of Hundred Heroes. The games are also linked to the PlayStation Classic Suikoden.  

Don’t fret, though, as the game won’t leave you wanting. It is very much a complete experience clocking in at around 20 hours of gameplay, give or take. 

It’s primarily set in the mining town of New Neveah. That premise plays a big part in how the game plays out. The mining areas contribute to the development of the town, which in turn help you improve and level up along the way. It’s a well thought-out gameplay loop in a very fantasy-esque JRPG setting. 

Mining, town-building

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

New Neveah being a mining town plays right into the whole gameplay mechanic. At the onset of the game, the player takes the reins as one of the main characters, CJ. She finds the town in shambles, trying to rebuild. As if that isn’t hard enough, the town also has to deal with monsters and bandits while also managing the slew of treasure hunters and adventurers looking for riches in their mines. 

CJ is there in search of the biggest rune lens she can find as sort of a rite of passage in their clan. Rune lenses are multipurpose magical artifacts. She meets the town’s acting mayor, Isha and agrees to take on odd jobs around the town for a license to do treasure hunting. 

Eventually, she is joined first by the Kangaroo beastman adventurer named Garoo. Later on, Isha joins their party as they not only hunt for Rune Lenses but also try to look for and find out what really happened from Isha’s father – the town’s mayor. 

Town shops as skill tree

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

Areas open up one at a time and the odd jobs lead to the reconstruction of many of the town’s stores and shops. These play a key role in leveling up your party. 

Instead of a skill tree, you run errands for the shopkeepers that help them build and expand the stores. These quests yield Baqua, the game’s currency, EXP, and sometimes even key items. 

The shops are key to getting permanent stat buffs. The Smithery will improve the stats of your weapons. The Weapons Shop unlocks attacks for each character. The Armory outfits characters that enable more platforming and traversal moves and so on. 

This extends to accessories and other items too. Improving the Potion shop unlocks higher level healing potions and other accessories increase in levels. There’s also a dedicated street for Rune Lens/Magic things. You can expand your Stowpack and Resource Bag to carry more items. You can also improve the Rune Lenses you can equip. This imbues elemental magic to your attacks. 

Snappy, 2.5D combat

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

Combat is fairly easy to pick up. Each character is assigned a single button to attack. Pressing the attack button multiple times unlocks combos. There’s also a Synced Attack that deals heavy damage. You execute this by perfectly timing a strike from one character to another. You start of with just two but it also increases in number which is plenty helpful for bosses later in the game. 

As mentioned earlier, you can imbue attacks with magic through Rune Lenses. Anyone experienced in RPGs should be familiar with how the elements work. Water beats Fire, Fire bears Wind, Wind beats Earth, and Earth beats Water (I’m gonna need to double check this but for now this is pretty much how it works). 

There’s a good number of enemy types. You have ground bound ones, flying types, mages, weapon wielding monsters, bandits, and more. 

Each area will have a different elemental variant of these monsters so it’s important to take note which elements you have equipped for more effective strikes. 

Easy to digest lore

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

The beginning of every game can get pretty overwhelming especially when it comes to its story and lore. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is certainly not immune to this. However, it gets significantly easier to digest the more you go through the story. Especially with how the game is designed to keep you coming back to the town, you develop a sort of kinship with them making the entire journey even more worthwhile. 

For experienced JRPG players, there’s nothing here that will surprise you. That said, it’s still a generally tightly told story with satisfying payoffs. 

Also, I already mentioned this in my preview of the game but I think it merits repeating. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising has the look and charm of 90s JRPGs while trimming the unnecessary stuff and making the experience flow more smoothly. If you’re a gamer parent and want to introduce your child to the wonderful world of gaming, I think this is a great place to start.  

Is this your GameMatch?

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

The gaming community is going through a bit of a lull following massive releases to start the year. Some players are opting to clear their backlogs or hunt trophies. But if you’re still looking out for something new but still want a break from the usual third-person RPG or first-person shooter, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is worth giving a try.

The game is easy to pick-up and play. And it’s an easy recommendation for anyone who wants the look and feel of a classic JRPG but without the high demand for grinding. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is charming, fun, and is a great choice if you want to tide yourself over until the next big AAA title comes around. 

Game is out May 11 and is available on PlayStation 4|5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam, Epic and GOG for US$ 14.99/€ 14.99/ £ 12.99

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Reviews

realme Buds Air 3 review: Noise off, rock on

realme’s most powerful noise cancellation to date?

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realme Buds Air 3

Having an amazing pair of earphones has become as essential as our smartphones. From streaming Spotify to videos and Zoom meetings. Even for zoning out in commutes and coffee shops, it helps to have a reliable audio daily driver these days. 

realme has been making feature-packed wireless earphones for the recent years. It seems they’re at it again with the realme Buds Air 3. They declared that this has the most powerful noise cancellation yet.   

Does their claim hold true? Let’s find that out and more. 

Blame it on the ANC  

realme Buds Air 3

Let’s go straight to the star of the show. On paper, realme promises Active Noise Cancellation of up to 42db with the Buds Air 3. And to be honest, I didn’t know how quiet 42db of ANC can be. 

But the moment I plugged the buds in my ears, I immediately noticed that everything went silent. 

The first time I tried it at home, I was so impressed that I could barely hear the song on the radio which was just right next to me even if I still wasn’t listening to anything yet. 

During the weekend, I watched the replay of BTS’ Permission to Dance concert in Las Vegas. I wanted to test the earbuds further so I brought them with me to a noisy food court in a mall. And the moment I enabled the noise cancellation, all the background music and the chatter of people were drowned and all I could hear was the concert I was playing. 

realme Buds Air 3

Not only were the earbuds good for music but also for calls and conversations. 

I used it for a Zoom meeting and quite noticeably, comparing it to my previous wireless earbuds, I can hear my colleagues better without any distractions, all thanks to the Buds Air 3’s effective ANC and Smart De-Wing Technology. 

Bring the beat in right in your pocket 

realme Buds Air 3

Compared to its predecessor, realme has improved the design with the Buds Air 3. Its case is a bit smaller and is shaped like a pebble so it slides easily even into my small pocket. The realme logo was moved from the middle to the top of the case which I think gives it a unique look. Plus the Starry Blue color variant that we have adds to its elegance. 

The earbuds itself also has shorter stems compared to the Buds Air 2. It feels lighter and fits perfectly in my ears especially with the right size of silicone tips. 

Despite the plastic body with a glossy finish, the earbuds don’t easily fall out of my ears even during those times that I used it while working out at the gym. It’s even a big plus that the Buds Air 3 has an IPX5 water resistance rating so it’s perfect for people who have an active lifestyle. 

Pairing and customization to your preference 

realme Buds Air 3

One thing that I liked about the realme Buds Air 3 is the ease of setting it up. The moment I open the case, it easily connects to my device. As it also supports Bluetooth 5.2, it provides stable connection even at a considerable distance. 

There were times when I’ve forgotten my phone in my room. Despite that, the buds were playing music in my ears while I was cooking in the kitchen. 

It even has a Multi-point pairing feature that lets you simultaneously connect your Buds Air 3 to up to 2 devices. I was able to try it when I watched a recipe video on my tablet and I was able to seamlessly switch to my phone to take an important call. 

realme Buds Air 3

I also noticed that the earbuds support wear detection. It automatically pauses whatever I’m listening to when I remove it from my ear and immediately plays it again when I put it back. I find this useful for when there are important matters to attend to and I can immediately go back to listening the moment I put it back in. 

Easy controls

The controls are as easy as a double tap to play/pause, triple tap to skip tracks and long press an earbud to change between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes. But for those who prefer to tweak to their controls, you can also do so through the realme Link app on your phone. There you can also adjust the audio equalizer, fine tune the ANC and enable or disable the volume enhancer and wind noise reduction. 

The Buds Air 3 also boasts a Game Mode feature which can lower its latency further down to 88ms. This means playing games or watching videos, you probably wouldn’t notice any delay and what you’re seeing is pretty much synchronized with what you hear.

Sound quality and personalized listening 

realme Buds Air 3

These days, I mostly listen to BTS songs and a little rock music from Linkin Park when I have to work non-stop. And when it’s time to chill or take a little break, I tune in to some OPM and jazz music with the Buds Air 3. 

The sound profile of the Buds Air 3 has a relatively rich bass and a somewhat recessed mids which compliments a lot of songs. The bass doesn’t feel too punchy but instead, it’s what I could describe as round sounding. 

Bass lovers would definitely enjoy listening with this but if they prefer otherwise, they can choose to change the equalizer settings on the realme Link app. 

Battery and charging 

realme claims that the Buds Air 3’s battery can last up to 22 hours.

During my test, I averaged around 5-6 hours of casual listening, Youtube streaming and work meetings with Noise cancellation activated most of the time. 

The charging case could charge the earbuds around three times so you can expect a total battery life of 15-18 hours. As for juicing it up, it takes only about an hour to fully charge it. 

Is the realme Buds Air 3 your GadgetMatch? 

I like the sound coming from the realme Buds Air 3. It’s simply a pair that can easily be recommended for lovers of any type of music genre.

But above all, the real stand out feature that this can truly brag about is its excellent active noise cancellation. It’s just perfect for those who really need to focus on a task at hand. Right now, I couldn’t think of a device that competes at this level with this price point. So if these characteristics tickle your fancy, then you won’t go wrong with this one.

The realme Buds Air 3 retails for PhP 3,990 and is available in Galaxy White and Starry Blue. 

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