Hands-On

Huawei MateBook X Pro hands-on

The most unusual camera placement

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Huawei’s newest release isn’t a smartphone and yet, this new device is also making news.

Released in Barcelona at MWC 2018, the Huawei MateBook X Pro is a powerhouse wrapped in one handsome package.

This machine looks sleek and feels premium. It’s very compact and it has a good weight to it — manageable for a laptop, but not too light for it to feel cheap.

It’s about the same size as a MacBook Pro and about the same thickness. Side by side with the Apple laptop, you see the glaring similarity in size.

At its thinnest point, it folds to 14.6mm. It houses two USB-C ports (yay!), a USB-A port (the option not to live a dongle life!), and audio input (double yay!). The premium metal unibody comes in two colors: space gray or mystic silver.

The Huawei MateBook X Pro has a beautiful 13.9-inch screen, bright and vivid at 450 nits. Look at those almost non-existent bezels! This laptop’s screen-to-body ratio is a whopping 91 percent.

And as if that wasn’t enough laptop screen goodness, the MateBook X Pro has 10-point touchscreen capabilities!

Now seeing all that screen, you may be wondering: Where is the webcam?

Because the laptop’s screen bezels are so small, there obviously isn’t any space for the camera. Huawei has a very interesting camera placement solution.

They put the laptop cam on the keyboard! Yes, you heard that right. This button on the keyboard turns into a camera!

Though pretty ingenious, the camera placement still makes for awkward photo angles. (But really, what laptop cameras can take photos that look good, right?) What’s great about this “recessed camera,” however, is the fact that its placement promises ensured privacy when the camera’s not in use — you’re not going to need tape on that webcam anymore!

The device also has a pretty wide trackpad on it — the better to work on!

What really impressed me was how loud this thing’s quad-speaker setup is. At MWC, I accidentally played a video as we were shooting this, and trust me, the whole room heard it. Even better, the whole room heard it in Dolby Atmos, which this device is capable of.

It also has a quad-mic system which means the laptop can hear and record you perfectly from all 360 degrees.

This machine is powered by an Intel Core i7 or i5 processor with memory of either 8GB or 16GB and storage options of 256GB or 512GB. It’s also equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card. That means you should be good for tasks like video editing, or even light to casual gaming. It has a battery capacity of 57.4Wh which totals 12 hours of video playback — that’s a lot of show episodes, people!

Of course, this device is capable of Huawei Share which is an easy transfer solution powered by Bluetooth from any Huawei device to the MateBook X Pro. If you’re on a Huawei phone, this creates a great fuss-free ecosystem between gadgets.

SEE ALSO: 24 hours in San Diego with the Huawei Mate 10

SEE ALSO: Follow our MWC 2018 coverage!

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Apple iPhone XR Unboxing and Hands-on

Did Apple skimp on this one?

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You’re probably not expecting this video to drop until Friday, but here it is! We have the iPhone XR early.

In this video, we find out if there are accessories Apple left out to make this phone more affordable, and if its display and camera are subpar compared to its more expensive brothers.

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Nokia 6.1 Plus hands-on: A compelling midranger

The benefits of Android One

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HMD Global continues trying to lift the Nokia phone brand to where it was before. While they’re still far from being on top again, the current Nokia phones are quite compelling. The latest we have is the Nokia 6.1 Plus, which is practically the Nokia X6 we first heard of in China.

This is Nokia’s first notched phone. While that doesn’t necessarily make it any better, this is a stepping stone for Nokia as they embrace the popular design choice for modern bezel-less devices.

Is the Nokia 6.1 Plus any good? Here’s what I have to say.

It’s got a 5.8-inch Full HD+ display

With a tall 19:9 aspect ratio

The notch houses the front camera, earpiece, and sensors

Thankfully, the notch is pretty small

The chin gives the phones a bit of a balance

It also shows the Nokia logo

There’s a hybrid card tray on the left…

You have to choose between a second SIM or microSD card

… while on the right are the physical buttons

One for power and another for the volume

On top are the audio port and noise-canceling microphone

There are also some antenna lines all around

It’s rocking a USB-C port! 👌

Beside it is the loudspeaker and main microphone

The back is a slab of smooth glass

Like the Nokia 7 Plus but with a different material

The fingerprint reader sits below the camera module

Easily for the index finger

Android One assures you with the latest updates

Quite a lot of other printed words, as well

It owns a common design

Design-wise, there’s not much to talk about. The look and feel of the Nokia 6.1 Plus are not that different from its competitors. It’s got the same aesthetic of the ASUS ZenFone 5 with an aluminum frame sandwiched by curved glass. Nokia claims to use Gorilla Glass 3 to make theirs stronger and scratch-resistant.

The display of the phone measures 5.8 inches, so it’s more pocketable than most smartphones today. It also has a tall aspect ratio of 19:9 which makes it easier to hold in one hand. The Full HD+ resolution is sharp at this size and there’s nothing to complain about the overall quality of the phone’s display.

The notch might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to be fair to Nokia, this is their first attempt. There are other Nokia phones without a notch that consumers can buy if they dislike it. The cutout is not as obtrusive as the iPhone’s, but there are no complicated sensors for facial recognition. Good thing the rear fingerprint reader is accurate and fast.

Overall, the Nokia 6.1 Plus stays true to the notion of Nokia’s build quality. The design is nowhere near iconic, but you’re not paying much for the phone either.

Performance is smooth as butter

The smooth operation of Android that we come to expect from Nokia phones is also present on the Nokia 6.1 Plus. The handset is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor paired with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage. It’s a pretty standard midrange setup that’s able to perform smoothly even with a number of apps running in the background.

I didn’t encounter any hiccups or notice any lag during my time with the phone, but I can say that it loads apps slightly slower than on flagship phones. Of course, there’s no bloatware that hogs resources since the phone is under the Android One program, and it’ll have consistent updates for up to three years.

I wouldn’t say that the Nokia 6.1 Plus is ideal for gaming, but it can handle popular titles. The Adreno 509 GPU that comes with the chipset is more than capable of rendering medium to high-quality graphics depending on the game’s demand. My staple Asphalt 9: Legends racing game runs fine, but it’s definitely not the smoothest I’ve seen.

The camera is more than okay

The Nokia 6.1 Plus is equipped with dual rear shooters and a single wide-angle selfie camera. The main sensor at the back is 16 megapixels accompanied by a 5-megapixel depth sensor. There’s also a dual-tone LED flash to help in taking photos in the dark. For selfies, it’s got a 16-megapixel sensor.

Check out the samples:

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Even without Zeiss branding on its cameras, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is able to take decent photos using both the front and rear cameras. They’re not the most appealing stills, but they’ll do good for social media. You can apply bokeh effects with the rear cameras, but it’s a bit cumbersome to use.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you want to stick to Nokia, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is a convincing choice among its midrange lineup. It’s not as impressive as the Nokia 7 Plus we loved before, but it’s cheaper and smaller. For PhP 15,990 (US$ 300) in the Philippines and MYR 1,149 in Malaysia (US$ 280), it’s a pretty good deal. It’s an even better deal in India for just INR 15,999 or roughly US$ 215.

The phone offers pure Android software with timely updates, a sturdy build, and good performance. It’s an all-around device, but don’t expect it to be an ideal phone for everyone.

SEE ALSO: Nokia 3.1 review: Back to Android One’s beginnings

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Cherry Mobile Flare S7 Plus hands-on: A step-up

The company’s greatest contender

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Cherry Mobile recently launched their new Flare S7 series, which is essentially their main smartphone lineup for the year. The greatest offering among the bunch is the Flare S7 Plus, a device with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a 2018 phone.

Since it’s from Cherry Mobile, you’d expect the phone to be cheap, right? Price-wise, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another affordable phone.

Here’s what I got to say about the Flare S7 Plus.

Cherry Mobile has officially joined the notch wagon with a borderless 6.18-inch display. It’s a Full HD+ panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it’s Cherry Mobile’s best display yet.

It’s vibrant and produces vivid colors, but the user interface kind of ruins the beauty of the display. It’s best to download your preferred third-party launcher and customize to your heart’s content.

Unlike with other midrange phones, the Flare S7 Plus’ notch is pretty wide and there’s a reason for it. The phone is equipped with more advanced facial recognition hardware including an IR camera. This ensures higher accuracy, faster unlocking, and even better face detection in low-light.

If you’re not a fan of face unlock, you can always resort to the fingerprint sensor placed on the back of the phone. Based on my usage, the fingerprint reader is faster most of the time than the face unlock. Good thing you have the best of both worlds.

Now that we’re on the back of the phone, let’s talk about another special feature of the Flare S7 Plus. Finally, Cherry Mobile embraces a more elegant design using a glass back and metal frame. I was told that they used Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so it won’t scratch easily in your pocket or on the table.

Since we we have a glass back, it’s possible to put in wireless charging and the company did just that. Simply place the phone on any Qi standard wireless charger, and let the magic happen.

It’s not exactly magic per se, but it’s amazing to have your phone charge by placing it on a table. This phone costs less than half of most flagships that don’t even support wireless charging.

Of course, you can always charge this phone’s 3050mAh battery through the reversible USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port because, sadly, the Flare S7 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Cherry Mobile bundles a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter inside the box, so you can still use your legacy headphones as you please.

Powering the Flare S7 Plus is a MediaTek Helio P60 processor. We have already tried the capabilities of this chipset with the OPPO F9, and it definitely delivers great performance. If you’re into benchmarking, you’ll be glad to know the Helio P60 scores higher than its competitors.

The phone also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage which is pretty standard nowadays. It boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but there’s no word when Android 9 Pie is coming.

The gaming performance of the Flare S7 Plus is above average, which is what you can expect from the Helio P60. The Mali-G72 MP3 GPU works well with intensive games, but you must reduce the graphics quality a bit to get consistently high frame rates.

As for the cameras, the Flare S7 Plus has capable shooters that are probably the fruit of Cherry Mobile’s investment in improving their R&D when it comes to picture quality. The phone has dual rear shooters using a main 16-megapixel RGB sensor and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. In the front, there’s another 16-megapixel selfie camera that’s paired with the IR sensor when needed. Check out the samples below:

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An additional feature of the front sensors is FlareMoji. Using the IR sensor and facial recognition, you can animate cutesy characters. Check this out:

It’s essentially like Apple’s Animoji, but the tracking is nowhere near as smooth as with the iPhone. Anyhow, it’s still enjoyable to use.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For just PhP 11,999 (US$ 225), the Flare S7 Plus offers a lot. You get a great premium phone with midrange power, beautiful display, and a plethora of extra features like wireless charging and an IR face scanner. The software UI is quite a letdown, but you can always download a launcher from the Play Store.

If you’re wondering what the Flare S7 Plus is in other markets, it’s also called the BLU VIVO XI+ and they share similar specifications and design.

SEE ALSO: Cherry Mobile announces Flare S7 series with three new smartphones

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