Reviews

Huawei Nova 2 Lite Review: Premium features made affordable

That blue color is <3

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As previously established, the Nova 2 Lite is an attempt by Huawei to reach out to those looking for a more affordable option that doesn’t skimp on features usually seen on higher-tier models. At just under US$ 200, is it a capable daily driver?

Look and feel

With a 6.5-inch chassis, the phone does feel longer in my hand. But, its thin form factor balances things out and makes for a comfortable grip.

There’s a little bit of chin and forehead up front, but the side bezels are really slim due to its display.

We especially like the design of the phone’s rear. Although made of plastic, it has this attractive shimmer to it depending on how the light strikes it. It’s really an eye-catching piece — more so in this vibrant blue color.

It also slips easily into a pocket. Remember not to sit on it, though!

Button placements for the power and volume rocker are well-placed and easy to reach on the right side of the phone. Same case for the fingerprint sensor on the back.

FullView display

The screen real estate on this phone is quite large. The Nova 2 Lite sports a 5.99-inch display and boasts a FullView panel as seen on its pricier sibling, the popular Nova 2i.

It also has the same 18:9 aspect ratio which means you get more content at one glance since the phone is taller.

The panel’s resolution maxes out at HD 720p but content consumption, like watching videos on YouTube, can take advantage of the extra space on its display using the fit-to-zoom feature. Colors are vibrant but not too saturated, and brightness is sufficient even under broad daylight.

Triple-camera setup

One of the highlights of the Nova 2 Lite is its rear dual cameras (13- and 2-megapixels) that combine the image and produce a shallow depth of field. Having this effect gives more character to your shots because it leads your attention towards the subject.

We initially didn’t see much of its effect during our hands-on since the phone wasn’t running on the latest software back then. When the update was released, we were able to fully take advantage of what the secondary camera has to offer.

This effect could be done by simply enabling the Wide Aperture mode after launching the Camera app. An aperture level slider then appears which allows you to control the amount of depth you want to add to your shot.

It does a good job at separating the subject from the background, but of course, there are instances when the software isn’t 100 percent accurate (see above photo).

Additionally, phase detection autofocus (PDAF) is present. We shot some moving subjects and it does a good job of minimizing motion blur.

Taking care of the selfie department is an 8-megapixel camera. It is then accompanied by a toning flash that Huawei claims will step up your selfie game by providing a soft touch of light.

It even has its own brightness slider so you can control the amount of light you need. Below are selfies taken with different intensities of brightness. As seen on the last sample, it even shoots decent photos in total darkness.

Another feature made available for the Nova 2 Lite is the Perfect Selfie, also found on the Huawei P10. Think of it as a preset of beautification effects specifically customized for your face.

It’s been a pretty effective feature since it remembers you and, according to some of the girls on our team, feels like having your own makeup artist that knows exactly what you need.

Overall performance

Running the show is a Snapdragon 430 chipset coupled with 3GB of RAM. This made everyday usage easy tasks for the handset.

Not only that, it can also handle games on low to medium settings. Rules of Survival? Check!

The phone comes with built-in 32GB of storage which is expandable through its dedicated microSD slot.

You’d be happy to know that it already runs Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box. There’s also Huawei’s EMUI 8.0 overlayed and it comes with its set of bloatware.

Giving juice to the handset is a 3000mAh battery which performs impressively. The Nova 2 Lite can last 24 hours on a single charge with data connectivity — that’s actually impressive considering some phones today could barely make it until you get back home at night.

Other notable features

As mentioned earlier, it has a fingerprint sensor at the back and it works quite well.

For added security, Huawei included a face unlocking feature. It does work well and unlocks the phone in less than a second when you’re in a well-lit place. Go indoors where light isn’t as good, and it takes a little longer to verify if it’s really you.

It’s a really cool feature, don’t get me wrong. But, it could come across as gimmicky at times since the fingerprint scanner is still a faster and more reliable way of unlocking the phone. But then, we still appreciate that it’s there and always available if ever the user prefers it.

Is the Huawei Nova 2 Lite your GadgetMatch?

We’d like to give props to Huawei for offering phones features usually seen only on more premium devices. This shows that you don’t need to shell out a lot just to experience Huawei’s technology.

The phone is a looker, no doubt about that. From its eye-catching back panel to its slim form factor, the Nova 2 Lite delivers to impress both aesthetically and ergonomically. It doesn’t look or feel like a budget phone at all.

The display resolution might not make you drop your jaw, but it’s vibrant and enjoyable enough for media consumption at home or on the go. Add to that its FullView 18:9 setup that offers a little more screen real estate for your browsing.

Photos come out decent and it’s always nice to know that you have extra control over aperture and beautification right at your disposal.

Bottom line is, we have minimal gripes about the Nova 2 Lite, but it is more than a capable device to use for your everyday adventures. Pricing for Southeast Asia are as follows:

Singapore – SG$ 298

Philippines – PhP 9,990

Malaysia – RMB 799

SEE ALSO: Huawei Nova 2 lite Unboxing and Hands-on

Laptops

Dell Latitude 7390 2-in-1 Review: The complete business laptop

Yet another great business laptop from Dell

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It’s not every day that I get to review devices designed for business. If you haven’t noticed, there are laptops meant for average consumers while others are for enterprise. What I have here is part of the Latitude lineup from Dell, which is basically their business-oriented series.

I’ve always loved using a ThinkPad (when it was still under IBM) back in the day when bulky and heavy laptops were a common sight, and the Dell Latitude 7390 2-in-1 kinda gives off the same vibe but with a modern kick, of course. Since the name already implies it, this business laptop has a 360-degree display hinge. That means it can all do the usual modes we’ve seen on other 2-in-1s in the market.

Right off the bat, the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 is not the most interesting laptop you’ll see. Let me run you through the physical aspects of the laptop starting with the display.

This 2-in-1 laptop has a 13.3-inch IPS screen with a 1080p resolution, multitouch input, and Active Pen support. According to Dell’s specs sheets, it’s got Gorilla Glass 4 which explains why the display feels so smooth when I use it as a touchscreen, yet it’s tough and scratch-resistant.

You can also see that it has pretty slim side bezels — a trend not only found on smartphones. The top and bottom portions of the display are about the same size as with most regular laptops, which means you get a webcam that’s in a proper position. The extra bezel real estate also acts as resting place for your thumb when using the 2-in-1 in tablet mode.

As for the ports, the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 has plenty! This is what I love about business laptops, they don’t compromise ports and they stay away (as much as possible) from dongles. On the left side, we have two USB 3.1 Type-C ports (with DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3 support), a full-size HDMI 1.4, and a USB 3.1 Gen 1.

To the right is another USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, a microSD card reader, 3.5mm combo jack, and a Noble Wedge Lock slot. The power button and volume rocker are also on the right side, making them accessible even if the laptop is positioned differently. There’s also a SIM card slot in select models (like mine) if you want to put a data SIM for LTE connectivity.

For a modern and sleek laptop, the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 has a plethora of ports. It’s not that bulky either and I find its size to be just right for my lap. Most ultra-portable notebooks I’ve used lately only have a couple of USB-Cs, so having full-size ports brings back the convenience I missed. No dongles, no adapters.

Another business-like trait of this laptop is its keyboard. If you’re already accustomed to short-travel keys, typing on the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 is a breath of fresh air. It’s not as great as I’d like it to be because it’s a bit on the mushy side; I want a more positive response when typing like what I get from mechanical keyboards, but without the clicky noise. Having said all that, the keyboard is still a joy to type on.

The trackpad, on the other hand, is so-so. It’s a two-button touchpad using Windows Precision Drivers with a smooth yet textured surface. I definitely prefer glass touchpads, but this ain’t bad either.

The overall color of the device is black which makes the laptop look stealthy yet appealing. Even my colleagues prefer the look of the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 over some of the other laptops we’ve reviewed. But, as the one who used the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 as a daily computer for three weeks now, there’s more to the looks of it.

Built from magnesium and coated with soft-touch matte black paint, the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 feels solid and sturdy. The matte coating certainly helps with the grip and overall feel of the laptop. There’s no creaking and I never had an issue with the display’s hinge — no wobbling whatsoever. Perhaps, the only gripe I have about having an extra firm hinge is not being able to open the laptop with one finger.

A business-minded design is not necessarily blunt

When we went to Taipei for Computex 2018, the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 was my daily driver, and I was thankful for having it with me. The particular model I have has an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 with 8GB of memory and 256GB SSD. That’s more than enough to keep the laptop from slowing down when I have multiple programs open.

I’m not exactly a heavy-user of laptops since my work is mostly done online, but imagine having Google Chrome with multiple tabs opened and pinned at the same time. I didn’t have to worry about lags and I never had a single issue in performance.

Above is a photo of me remotely working on a bench in one of the spacious streets around Taipei. This is a typical scenario where I have to pull out my laptop and get some quick work done while roaming around. This is when I noticed that the display’s maximum brightness is not enough to battle the sun but if it’s cloudy, the anti-reflective coating of the display (Dell’s claim there is) helps with the visibility of the screen’s content.

Since it’s a 2-in-1, I have to take advantage of the 360-degree hinge. For business, setting the laptop in stand mode (pictured above) puts it in an ideal position for presentations. Or, if you’re like me, you can use it to binge-watch shows on Netflix and enjoy GadgetMatch videos on YouTube.

Before I used the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 as my main laptop, I had been using an ultra-portable notebook and a tablet convertible. The limitations of the two, especially with the ports, were a deal-breaker for me. Maybe that’s why I love using the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 — it has all the ports I need plus I can rely on its robust (but not bulky) body.

It can last the whole day

To be honest, I’d recommend the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 to anyone looking for a laptop that can last on the road. With its built-in 60Whr battery, I can work and play on the laptop for almost 10 hours before it automatically puts itself to sleep. When it’s time to plug it in, the included 60W charger fills up the laptop in just an hour and 45 minutes.

Did I already mention that the laptop charges through USB-C? This means you can use your laptop’s charger for your phone, so you’ll need to bring only one charger for all your USB-C devices.

Charging via USB-C doesn’t only simplify things, it also brings new possibilities. Throughout my usage of the Latitude 7390 2-in-1, I seldom brought its charger. Instead, I carried a pretty big power bank that’s capable of charging laptops through USB-C ports.

If you think power banks are just for smartphones, you’re mistaken. Dell also sells a power bank called Notebook Power Bank Plus with a high 65W power delivery, so it’s capable of charging laptops including the new MacBooks.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Obviously, it’s my GadgetMatch, but my needs and preferences are not the same as yours. If you’re looking for a laptop that complements office lifestyle, the Dell Latitude 7390 2-in-1 will surely be a perfect companion priced at PhP 76,000.

Even if you want a laptop you can use every day that doesn’t limit your productivity, the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 is still a great choice. This isn’t a multimedia or gaming laptop, but light gaming and common editing software (e.g. Adobe Photoshop and Premiere) will work fine.

SEE ALSO: HP Spectre X2 Review: Form over function?

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Hands-On

Vivo NEX hands-on review: The future looks great

Vivo’s best smartphone to date

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In case you haven’t heard, the future is here. In 2018, smartphone manufacturers are finding themselves in a race to designing a truly bezel-less phone.

Engineers will tell you a compromise has to be made in order to achieve that because of all the tech they have to fit into the front of the phone. Some brands opt for a notch to house all of that; some offer minimal bezels and curved edges; others have awkwardly placed front cameras.

Design: More than meets the eye

Vivo, it seems, is at the forefront of this all-display race. On the NEX, the Chinese company offers an exact 91.24 percent screen-to-body ratio, one of the highest we’ve seen on a smartphone. To do that, Vivo had to move things around and put more features under the display itself.

Sure, there’s a tiny chin at the bottom of the phone, but it’s not really something you’ll notice during everyday use, unless, maybe, you’re obsessive compulsive.

On the midrange NEX A, you’ll find a fingerprint sensor at the back of the phone. On the higher end NEX S, the fingerprint sensor is under the display — a feature Vivo first put on the X20 UD and X21. It’s something that might take a lot of getting used to, and in the past week of using the under-display method, I found myself entering my passcode more than using the scanner because it fails too often.

It would have been nice to have face unlock as a backup, but up top, there are no cameras to do that. It’s hidden inside the phone, and shows up only when activated on the camera app, but I’ll talk about that more later.

The NEX also does away with the traditional earpiece and replaces it with what Vivo calls Screen SoundCasting technology, which transforms the display into a speaker. Like most new tech, it works, but nothing beats the tried and tested front-firing stereo speakers found on other smartphones if you’re looking for great audio.

The display is Super AMOLED, which means more saturated colors and darker blacks. The viewing experience is great, although I can’t say for certain I will miss the bezel-less experience when I switch to a different phone in the future. Also, it’s bright enough for my day-to-day use outdoors, unless I’m wearing sunglasses.

On the back of the phone is a glass panel. The phone doesn’t have wireless charging or any water-resistance rating. Instead, if you look closely, you’ll find thousands of dynamic color diffraction units.

Compared to bright colors and gradients, the black NEX looks rather boring for a phone from the future. The design feature on the back is so subtle, it only shows when it’s hit by harsh lights.

Yes, the phone emits rainbows like a unicorn.

You can also see it indoors.

Apart from that, the phone looks and feels premium overall. The rounded corners offer a comfortable grip, and it feels like one solid piece of glass with no sharp edges.

And in case you’re wondering: There is a headphone jack.

Cameras: Cool and capable

Having a mechanical pop-up camera has its repercussions, but first let’s take a moment to appreciate how awesome this piece of tech really is.

A handful of curious people actually came up to me while shooting this around Moscow and when I showed them how it pops up, their jaws dropped.

If you’re wary about durability, Vivo says the camera has undergone drop- and dust-resistance tests, and can repeatedly elevate and retract up to 50,000 times. I did the math myself, and that’s around 137 years if you only take one selfie per day and 6.8 years if you shoot 20 each day. At this point, I can’t say if that claim is accurate, but the selfie camera feels well built and hasn’t shown any signs of wear and tear yet.

The whole process doesn’t feel as fast as a normal selfie camera would, only because a physical part of the phone moves; it’s honestly not something that would bother anyone over time. If you check the smartphone you’re using now, you’ll notice that switching to the front camera also doesn’t happen as fast as you’d think. After getting over the wow factor, I got so used to how natural the process is — so much so that I eventually forgot that the front camera needs to pop up before I take a selfie.

Inside is an 8-megapixel lens, with Face Beauty options for both photo and video modes. I appreciate that it makes my skin less oily and eyebags smaller, but I don’t really like how it flattens my cheeks, and makes my irises artificially bigger, rounder, and blacker.

One thing that makes the selfie camera stand out for me, aside from the fact that it literally stands out, is how well it handles dynamic range. For scenarios like this, you either get a blown-out window to keep my face well-exposed, or an underexposed subject with a properly lit background.

Here’s another one I took by my hotel window thanks to the palm gesture. The AI HDR feature on the Vivo NEX is able to balance it out, resulting in a photo that looks as if I have another light source (I didn’t).

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The same AI HDR feature also functions on the dual rear cameras. It works really well, although some photos turn out oversharpened.

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Both the front and rear cameras have portrait mode, which separates the foreground from the background and blurs the latter out. Like most phones we’ve reviewed, the bokeh still looks artificial, but the one taken with the rear shooters looks a lot more polished than that of the selfie cam.

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In indoor and low-light scenarios, the phone does a pretty good job at capturing details and minimizing noise. Some photos have mushier details up close, as it tries to compensate for the lack of light sources.

One thing I always ask myself when testing smartphone cameras is this: Can I rely on it to take Instagram-worthy photos when traveling? In this case, the Vivo NEX ticks that box and that’s saying a lot considering it’s my first time in Russia. My only complaint is the lack of a useful secondary camera. A telephoto or wide-angle lens would be great while watching the World Cup or avoiding crowds in framing touristy landmarks.

Check out more photos I took with the Vivo NEX below and on my Instagram.

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Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Vivo NEX is no longer the concept phone we saw at Mobile World Congress in February. Our first glimpse into the future is here; it’s exciting and looks great.

If you want to be one of the first to step into that, then by all means get the phone if you can and if it’s within your budget. For a smartphone from Vivo, the price is a little steep — CNY 3,898 (US$ 608) for the NEX A, and CNY 4,498 (US$ 702) for the NEX S. That’s more than its other value-for-money flagship counterparts like the OnePlus 6 and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. It’s also only available in China for now.

But what the NEX offers are features other smartphones don’t have. It’s a phone that you’d want to show off to your friends, and they’ll surely want to see it, too.

Its defining feature is a beautiful, unique design that changes the way we’ve been using the smartphone: under-display fingerprint sensor, the display as a speaker, and a pop-up camera. Even then, the learning curve is not that high if you do decide to switch. Once you get over all the new tech, using the phone will feel as natural and normal as any other phone you’ve gotten used to.

I can’t say for certain that it’s the best in the market today, but this is undoubtedly Vivo’s best smartphone to date. And in so many ways, what Vivo made here is already comparable to a lot of premium smartphones, one that’s more than deserving of your time and consideration.

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Her GadgetMatch

OPPO R15 Pro review: The same old thing in a notched package

Is it worth upgrading to?

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Last February, OPPO released the R15 Pro and I flew to China for some hands-on time with the Chinese version of the device. Finally, the international version has rolled out and I finally got to take this baby out for a full ride.

Notch exactly looking new

The latest R-series device from OPPO jumps on the 2018 bandwagon with a gradient back and a notch — things we’ve seen on at least two other smartphone releases this year.

Of course, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the gradient on this thing looks good. Admittedly, it’s a pretty phone. It feels solid, and the glass back is definitely more premium compared to its predecessors that sport aluminum backs.

The phone has a tiny chin, and of course, a notch. Unfortunately, there’s no option to hide the notch. Fortunately, so many phones have come out with notches that I’ve gotten used to them and it doesn’t even bother me that much anymore.

A fingerprint scanner is still found on the back of the device, and the phone’s facial unlock is pretty precise.

Performance

Heavy social media use and my daily dose of playing Pocket Morty was no problem for this phone. I cruised through my day with this in hand and had no problems whatsoever. It does have the same processor as the OPPO R11s’ so anything that it can do, this device can most probably do, too.

Though this phone takes the top 2018 trends in terms of looks, in some ways, it’s still stuck in the past: It sports a micro-USB port and there’s no wireless charging. It’s equipped with OPPO’s VOOC charging, which gives you zero to 91 percent in an hour. This isn’t bad as the phone’s 3400mAh battery lasts me a whole day of use.

This year, Google decided to let phones other than the Pixel get in on the Android fun by allowing certain devices to take part in the Android P Beta program. The OPPO R15 Pro is one of those phones so if this is any indication, Android P will probably be available on this device soon, too.

Instagram Challenge

Another 2018 tech obsession is AI which promises to make your smartphones even smarter. Of course, the OPPO R15 Pro wanted in on that, too. The phone’s rear cameras are equipped with tech that can recognize different scenes, though it’s not the quickest to do so. In my experience, AI scene detection usually takes a little bit of time and while I do see a little automatic adjustment to the photos when it comes food shots, there’s barely any difference in other scenarios. That’s if and when the camera even recognizes the scene.

Nonetheless, the dual-camera setup on the back featuring the same shooters found on the R11s are pretty capable cameras. Images are good to go straight to your Instagram feed.

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Trust me, this phone is a pretty capable IG tool. I was pretty happy just shooting with this for quick on-location #OOTDs. Exhibit A:

There’s also a Portrait Lighting feature on this device — yes, it’s almost exactly the same as the iPhone’s portrait lighting feature.

It’s a nice add-on, but honestly, I don’t know anyone who uses this feature on their iPhone so I’m not about to start doing so either.

Selfie time

Yet again, the AI beauty mode did not disappoint. OPPO’s beauty filter still remains to be one of my favorites and with good reason: It gives me fresh selfies without looking too fake.

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Of course, OPPO added fun AR stickers to the selfie camera because, why not? There’s also the video beauty mode that I love using and it’s available on both front and back cameras.

Verdict

The R15 Pro is more or less the R11s in an updated package. Aside from a few new features, it packs the same cameras and processor on a more premium-feeling body.

It’s a capable device and a great selfie machine, but I can’t help but feel that this phone missed the wow factor. In the sea of 2018 smartphones, it feels like it’s just another notched device.

Is it worth upgrading to? If you’re on the R11s, you might want to consider holding out for the next release. If you’re craving for OPPO R-series features and that 2018 notched form factor, however, this might be the phone for you. The OPPO R15 retails for CNY 3,299 (US$ 525).

SEE ALSO: OPPO R15 Pro hands-on review: The screen is notch the same

SEE ALSO: OPPO R11s review: Midrange selfie powerhouse

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