Hands-On

The marriage of engineering, technology, and design

The Mate Xs 2 reminded us of what we used to love about Huawei

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Thin. Light. Flat.

These words got me ecstatic, knowing that it’s been years since the first foldable devices came out and these aren’t the words we used to describe them.

Huawei certainly has come a long way, fighting head-to-head with Samsung back in 2019 in bringing a taste of the future.

The company, pressing on after the US-Google-Huawei fiasco, strives to refine its portfolio of foldable smartphones.

Now, in case you’re confused, the first foldable — the Huawei Mate X — was launched in 2019. Huawei introduced the Mate Xs in 2020, and then the Mate X2 in 2021. Later that year, Huawei also brought the P50 Pocket, the direct rival of the Galaxy Z Flip 3.

In 2022, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 undoubtedly succeeds the Mate Xs, continuing its prominent outward-folding design. Let’s take a look at the world’s thinnest and lightest foldable yet.

Elegantly refined in a design that’s imperfectly perfect

One thing I like about Huawei’s smartphones is how they all look classy and elegant. The formula they’ve used to win many hearts over — as seen on the Huawei P and Mate line from a few years ago — is carried vehemently to its foldable lineup.

Up front, when folded, the Mate Xs 2 looks like your regular slate. Tall, boxy yet somehow curvy, and looks and feels sturdy. It has a 6.5-inch OLED display, much like the same slab you see today.

Behind that sleek glass is the folded, extended screen. It makes the device look thick when you check its bottom. But somehow, the cuts and edges fit perfectly, housing the speaker grilles, the SIM Card slot, and the USB-C port.

Flipping the device, you’ll find the extension of the screen. It snugs tightly, locking beside the camera strip together with a button that unfolds the Mate Xs 2.

When you press the button, it releases the lock and the screen rises.

Releasing the lock allows the device to stay in the same position. Yes, it’s still up to you to force it to get that large, square-like screen you expect out of a foldable device.

But let’s forget about that for a moment. Underneath, you can find a diagonal plaid pattern in a leather-like texture. While I loved anything and everything white, Huawei refined the way black smartphones should be. J’adore!

This one has more personality, looks sophisticated, and — beyond the marvelous appearance — has a sense of functionality, too. The texture aids the phone in keeping it durable and scratch-resistant.

A friendly reminder that style without substance is nothing. Don’t be fooled by grand showcases if it only exhibits lavishness without addressing the more important stuff.

Thin but not like ice

Upclose to its back, you can find the hinge gluing the screen together. Huawei attributes its precise and fluid movement to its new-generation Double-rotating Falcon Wing Hinge design.

With this proprietary technology, I’m still gobsmacked by how Huawei packed all the components tightly. This feels like the ASUS Zenfone 8 which shrank its components to achieve a compact form factor, but with a trickier and more intensive process.

Nevertheless, this fusion of engineering and design allowed Huawei to create the thinnest, flattest, and lightest foldable — with no visible crease.

Regardless of the angle and lighting condition, the Mate Xs 2 really doesn’t exhibit any crease on its display.

It makes the smartphone usage pleasant to the eyes — and even your fingers, simply because the crease is barely felt. And frankly, you’re more likely to swipe and scroll on the right side of the phone instead of the part where the hinge is.

While the Mate Xs 2 is pretty thin, weighing only 255g with a thickness of 5.4mm when unfolded, it’s easy to carry and hold.

Even when folded, which comes with a thickness of 11.1mm, the Mate XS 2 is easily gripped and fits your spaces like any slab smartphone.

Gorgeous, “sturdy” display

Besides the huge leap in engineering and design, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 is emblazoned with top-of-the-line display technology.

With already a creaseless screen, the unfolded device sports a 7.8-inch high-resolution OLED display. It reportedly packs a billion colors and supports P3 wide color gamut.

With an artistic rendition of Weathering With You through a 4K wallpaper, the Mate Xs 2 exhibited rich and vibrant colors.

Watching a show is quite different though, especially with its strange aspect ratio. It doesn’t provide a full-screen experience even if you rotate the screen.

But fold the phone back… and you can enjoy an immersive viewing experience. It was delightful to watch Encanto and sing along with Isabela and Mirabel Madrigal.

Aside from the beauty and grandeur of the Mate Xs 2’s display, Huawei made sure it’s durable. The Mate Xs 2 adopted a bulletproof Composite Structure screen with a protective film, support layer, and rotating shaft.

I haven’t had a chance to test its resistance to drops, crushing, or impact. I still believe foldables are fragile, even with their claims of being ‘sturdy’ and ‘reliable.’

What I worry about is the folded part of the screen, since, without a case, the surface directly touches the folded rear. While Huawei assures us with an aluminum alloy protective frame around the screen that keeps it scratch-resistant, I can’t help but feel anxious whenever I place it on any rough, hard surface.

Is there power under the hood?

Okay, let’s talk specs. Huawei, for most of its flagship devices, pushes the limits of its hardware. It runs on EMUI 12, comes with an 8GB RAM and 512GB of ROM, a 4600mAh battery capacity capable of 66W SuperCharge, and a 120Hz refresh rate.

The only drawback that got me taken aback is its processor. Sadly, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 houses a Snapdragon 888 4G. While we have the thank the US government for that, the processor is somewhat limiting especially in terms of future-proofing.

Don’t get me wrong, Snapdragon 888 is still powerful. But plenty of chipsets are going above and beyond, and this flagship foldable getting left behind.

As for the user experience and the lack of Google Mobile Services (GMS), this has been addressed multiple times — from ways to augment your experience to the improvements Huawei made, especially for HarmonyOS. But that’s a story for another time because there are plenty of features to talk about.

Are the cameras still flagship-grade?

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 houses a 50-megapixel True Chroma camera system, including a 13-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera. Upfront, it has a 10.7-megapixel selfie camera.

A few tests here and there made me think that the photos are color-accurate, detailed, and flagship-worthy. But that wouldn’t be fair to be this subjective when I hardly have any photos to showcase. Hang tight! As of this writing, we’re brewing something cool about its cameras.

Anyhoo, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 — like its previous iterations — comes with a Mirror Shooting mode where the photographer can take a photo while the subject can see how they look on the rear screen.

This is similar to most foldables nowadays. Frankly, it’s a handy feature that might come in handy when you travel or want to capture an iconic moment.

Remembering the love for Huawei

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 reminds me of everything we’ve loved about Huawei. Elegantly-designed smartphones. Sleek and vibrant display technology. Impressive hardware. Huge leaps in engineering and design. Actual innovation.

The only barriers that propel it from taking back its crown are the people who can’t adapt to a new user experience, and the geopolitical issues surrounding the company. Nevertheless, the Mate Xs 2 is Huawei’s proof that they can still be a trailblazer, and they’ll probably keep on doing so.

Price and availability

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 retails for PhP 99,999. It will be available in Shopee, Lazada, or the Huawei Store. Learn more about the flagship foldable on Huawei’s website.


Editor’s Note: The article has been updated with new information. Previously, the story indicated pre-order details.

Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 Hands-on: What’s New?

Any differences from last year’s Galaxy Z Fold3?

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Samsung paved the way for foldable smartphones that transform into tablets.

That engineering marvel made the Galaxy Fold possible.

After three years, the Galaxy Z Fold continues to evolve.

The Galaxy Z Fold4, while it may look almost the same as the Z Fold3, offers upgrades that one should consider.

What are those changes?

You should definitely watch our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 hands-on for you to find out.


Pre-order the Galaxy Z Fold4: howl.me/1782498420013699516

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 Hands-on: Flip That!

Watch Before You Buy

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Of all the foldables that have been around for the last few 3-4 years, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has been the most fun.

Today, Samsung unveiled the new Galaxy Z Flip4.

While it looks exactly like last year’s Galaxy Z Flip3, it comes with some nifty improvements.

But should you rush out and pre-order though?

Head over to our Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 hands-on video to know more.


Pre-order the Galaxy Z Flip4: howl.me/1782498419600267258

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Hands-On

Nokia G21: Stock Android experience

Guaranteed updates on a budget smartphone!

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Nokia is refusing to throw in the towel as the company tries to keep its footing, at least in the budget segment. This year, the Nokia G21 found its way to the Philippines, promising a stock Android experience without breaking the bank. But will it deliver?

Robust build

Nokia brings in what it’s good at — a robust design with a penchant for durability. The Nokia G21 looks and feels sturdy, although I’m sure it isn’t as strong as Nokia’s phones from two decades ago.

It’s painted in Nordic Blue, which seems Navy to me, and at certain lighting conditions, appears green-ish. There’s a striking, horizontal pattern that adds texture when you hold the phone and touch its rear.

The camera island is a little bit embossed, but it doesn’t protrude that when you place the phone on a flat surface, it’s almost even. The disparity isn’t noticeable.

More importantly, the heft is quite tolerable, even for those who have tiny, frail hands like yours truly. But when compared to other budget smartphones, it’s a bit light.

Comfort features

What most people enjoy about budget phones is their comfort features — stuff you’ve always wanted to stay in a smartphone.

On the right, you can find the volume rockers above the fingerprint scanner which doubles as a power button.

At the bottom, you’ll be glad to see a USB-C port along with the speaker grilles.

On the left side, you can find the SIM tray slot along with a quick button for Google Assistant. Up top, there’s a 3.5mm audio jack.

The tray offers an option for a single or dual SIM, along with a dedicated microSD card slot.

The upsides

Running on Android One, the Nokia G21 exhibits a near-stock version of Android with few modifications. It puts a focus on Google services, housing essential apps you might need for your connected lifestyle while still running on Android 11. The operating system might be a bit late considering how Android 13 started rolling out.

Nevertheless, there’s still relief in knowing that a budget phone like this — which usually doesn’t get favorable treatments from smartphone manufacturers — will get two years of OS updates and three years of security updates. After all, running on Android One means Nokia gets the updates straight from Google.

Frankly, I missed seeing the cleanliness of Android One. It’s simple and efficient — easy to the eyes and to the user experience. Every app you’ll use is basically under Google. For instance, checking images would prompt you to check Photos app because there’s no Gallery. Gmail automatically becomes your mailing app. Chrome is the default browser. Entender?

Surprisingly, it comes with the Netflix  app built in so you can enjoy worthwhile content when YouTube gets tedious for you. Furthermore, you can watch your favorite shows or continue using the smartphone from day to night with its humongous 5050mAh battery. It might take a while for it to fully charge though, given that the unit ships with a 10W charger. Although, the G21 can handle up to 18W of charging. If you have a third-party Power Delivery (PD) charger, it’s high time you use it.

At the very least, let the phone charge while you sleep. Think of it as the two of you bonding by recharging through the night.

The downsides

The Nokia G21 sports a 6.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 90Hz refresh rate. With a 20:9 ratio, you can enjoy your favorite shows albeit the waterdrop cutout can get distracting when watching on full-screen mode.

I was catching up with The Rising of the Shield Hero and the experience is as budget as it gets. Nothing stellar, just a smartphone delivering what’s expected out of it. Visuals aren’t vibrant and audio isn’t as loud as most smartphones in the same category.

At the very least, this smartphone is totally acceptable for anyone looking for an affordable smartphone that they can use as a daily driver.

In terms of gaming and even multitasking, the G21 struggles. It runs on a Unisoc T606 chipset, an octa-core CPU inside, and a Mali G57 Mp1 GPU. The configurations for the smartphone are 3GB/64GB, 4GB/64GB, and 4GB/128GB.

IMO, even if you get the 128GB variant, it won’t be enough. There’s a considerable delay in accessing the phone after unlocking it with facial recognition or other security measures. The same goes for the fingerprint scanner, which you’d think is the faster option among all unlocking methods.

Opening the apps usually takes a while since the phone flashes the app’s logo for a second or two before it shows the interface. While the delay is minuscule for most people, it’s still puzzling since the slow, laggy experience happens even when I haven’t consumed most of the storage.

I only installed Roblox and Ni no Kuni to test the device and of course, get a dose of my favorite games. Playing Ni no Kuni is a real challenge, especially with its graphics-intensive setting.

I was able to play, of course, but it comes with annoyances when it doesn’t load as quickly as I would like it to be. I’d recommend not playing on this device unless you have the patience to deal with the inevitable delays.

Hit-or-miss cameras

Let’s get this out of the way. The Nokia G21 is equipped with a 50-megapixel primary camera, a 2-megapixel macro lens, and 2-megapixel depth sensor. Its selfie camera houses a single 8-megapixel wide lens. Here are some samples we’ve taken for you to peruse:

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Nokia G21, by any means, can’t be considered a daily driver worth buying. It’s something you’d probably get if it’s the only phone available in the nearest stores and you badly need one. After all, it retails for PhP 9,990 and is available in a Nordic Blue colorway.

Its saving grace is the promise of OS and security updates, thanks to its Android One program. There’s a guarantee that Google will extend its lifespan as long as it can.

Ideally, there are different budget options you can get for under PhP 10,000. There’s the Redmi Note 11, the vivo T1X, and even the Infinix Note 12.

On the off chance that you already have a primary phone, the Nokia G21 has plenty of use cases as a secondary phone. For one, its long battery life and robust build give me the peace of mind that I can rely on it as a companion when I drive a motorcycle. It’s durable and can last longer when needed.

Just because it’s a budget phone with plenty of compromises doesn’t mean there are no use cases for it at all.

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