Before it was about being the slimmest, then front cameras overtook the importance of the rear shooters, and now it’s about the display. Since Xiaomi popularized the borderless design, other manufacturers followed. Of course, such high-end features will eventually come to cheaper devices just like the Huawei Nova 2i.
Huawei has a habit of giving their devices confusing names. Just to be clear, the phone we’re about the review is also known as the Honor 9i in India and Maimang 6 in China.
The first thing to notice is its near-borderless 5.9-inch display
It runs EMUI 5.1 on top of Android Nougat
A micro-USB port, along with the speaker and 3.5mm audio port, is at the bottom
This is a dual-SIM model which accepts two nano-SIM cards
The back is simple yet premium-looking
The dual rear camera setup is parallel to the fingerprint reader
The FullView display is its major selling point
One of the reasons why you’d want the Nova 2i is for its display. Even before borderless display tech comes to Huawei’s flagship, it’s already available on their new midrange phone. They call it FullView and, at least on the Nova 2i, it’s not as edge-to-edge as the Samsung Galaxy S8. But it’s visibly sharp thanks to its 2160 x 1080 resolution.
While the display is vibrant and clear, the 18:9 aspect ratio doesn’t go well with the usual widescreen videos on YouTube and other video streaming apps. The tall display is more suited for general use of the device and web browsing. Not all apps support the new standard, yet, so the phone asks the users about scaling the app so it can fit the display.
If there’s anything the Nova 2i lacks, it’s stereo speakers, but the 3.5mm is always ready for any wired headphones you have lying around.
Blazing speed for a midrange phone
A beautiful display should be complemented with good performance, and the Nova 2i has compelling specifications. The phone is powered by Huawei’s latest home-baked Kirin 659 processor with Mali-T830 MP2 graphics. It has 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, which is expandable via a microSD card. On paper, the Nova 2i is already an impressive device and we’re happy to share that it translates to real-world performance.
Running on the device is EMUI 5.1, the same skin that any Android Nougat-powered Huawei device has. As expected, the custom UI brings in a number of additional features, which are also found on top-of-the-line devices.
During our time with the Nova 2i, we never encountered any lag or even slight hiccups. We did notice slow app loading times at first, but the phone eventually became faster as we used it. Games run well on the device, too. Our staple titles like Asphalt Extreme was extremely playable on high settings, while NBA 2K17 (which is a true graphics- and memory-intensive app) should be set to medium for smoother framerates.
Bokeh on the front and back
Aside from the FullView display, the Nova 2i also boasts the popular dual-camera setup. But this has two pairs of dual cameras, making it a quad-camera smartphone. For the rear, we have a 16- and 2-megapixel combination while the front has slightly lower 13- and 2-megapixel sensors. Enabling the wide-aperture mode lets you set your desired bokeh depth, while portrait mode detects faces for beautification.
In broad daylight, the photos are pleasing and well balanced. I do like how the photos look natural and there’s not much processing done. In darker environments, the camera doesn’t try to brighten the image, which keeps the noise levels down. It’s a slightly different story for selfies, because it tries to give the brightest possible image, thus you get small smudges and soft details in the dark.
A battery that can last the whole day and more
Huawei was able to fit in a 3340mAh non-removable battery inside the metal unibody of the Nova 2i. Too bad though there’s no SuperCharge (Huawei’s fast-charging feature) available. The use of a micro-USB port rather than the newer USB-C is a letdown, but that depends on who you ask. It could have been a great opportunity to introduce the reversible port to this segment.
The battery was able to last me a whole eight-hour work day and then some. It’s always good to have some spare juice left before reaching for the charger.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
We always end our reviews with this question, and for this one, I’d say it’s most likely a yes. I find the Nova 2i to be fitting for anyone who is looking a new smartphone that doesn’t lack any essential features and offers the latest, too. And for its PhP 14,999 (US$ 290) price tag, its shortcomings are acceptable.
Even compared to the early player in the borderless midrange game — the Vivo V7+ — the Nova 2i is an easy choice for those who want balance. The selfie game is stronger on the V7+ though, and OPPO might be the one to match that soon.
[irp posts=”19801″ name=”Huawei finally overtakes Apple in smartphone sales”]
POCO X5 Pro 5G review: Must-have mid-ranger?
Business as usual for POCO
Standing out in a crowded mid-range segment has become increasingly difficult in 2023. It isn’t enough to hit home runs; to stand out, you need to hit grand slams. To be a game-changer, a smartphone needs to be a generational talent.
It’s difficult to be painted as generational, especially because mid-rangers, by nature, face compromises that force manufacturers to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible. A mid-ranger truly needs to be special, so it can be undeniable rather than undesirable.
The POCO X5 Pro 5G is the Chinese brand’s latest attempt at bringing a game-changing smartphone to the ultra competitive segment. They’re branding the X5 Pro 5G as ‘The secret to win’, a device that will help students and young professionals succeed with whatever challenges they’re facing.
It’s one thing to make a hefty promise, but it’s another thing to walk the talk. Does the POCO X5 Pro 5G stand and deliver, or is it just another self-proclaimed game-changer exposed as a wannabe flagship killer?
Design: Puts the MID in midrange
Remember when I said that manufacturers tend to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible? Right out of the box, even without holding the phone, you already know where POCO decided to make its necessary sacrifices.
Allow me to describe this design with a Gen Z word made popular by Long Island’s very best in professional wrestling: mid. The X5 Pro 5G’s design, is quite frankly, mid. It doesn’t stand out in the mid-range segment, nor, does it even impress for any unique personality quirks. You’d prefer to purchase a unique case for this so you wouldn’t hesitate to bring this out during parties.
Durability: A phone that will last through an Iron Man Match
First impressions matter, but they aren’t everything. While the X5 Pro 5G isn’t for those looking for love at first sight, its choice of materials will leave you impressed in the long run.
This phone simply works. It clearly isn’t the prettiest phone, but pretty doesn’t always mean substantial. Plastic is still the most practical material for a smartphone, and POCO’s choice of plastics for the X5 Pro 5G hit the mark. It’s so durable, in fact, you could confidently use the phone without a case even when walking around the streets of Metro Manila.
The X5 Pro 5G’s battery performance enriches its durability. During the review period, I had the opportunity of using the phone not only as my main daily driver, but also as my primary hotspot source during remote work situations. Even for extremely heavy users, this is a phone that can last you through the day. In rare cases when you’ll need to charge in the middle of the day, the X5 Pro 5G comes with a 67W charger out of the box (yes, they still have chargers out of the box! Big W here by POCO).
Performance: Will have you feeling like a generational talent
Most manufacturers hope to position their mid-rangers as bang-for-you-buck devices that can bring flagship-level technology. It’s a hefty promise. Most brands tend to miss the mark, one way or another.
Coming from a flagship daily driver, I was already expecting a drop in performance when the X5 Pro 5G came in. Right out of the box, to my surprise, it didn’t feel like there was any drop in overall performance. Even a week after, the X5 Pro 5G’s maintained the smoothness it came with from Day 1. POCO did not miss the mark.
The 120 Hz refresh rate certainly helped accentuate that feeling of smoothness, especially when going through daily social media scrolling. But even when testing with a relatively high-intensive game such as DB Legends, the X5 Pro 5G and its Snapdragon 778G processor went through the gauntlet with relative ease. Relative to other mid-range phones, that’s generational.
Camera: Consistently colorful
There’s a common misconception that when you have more cameras, the better shots you’ll get. Having multiple cameras isn’t enough; choosing the right lenses and having software that processes shots properly matters even more.
I’m happy to say that at the very least, POCO was able to choose the right lenses for its multi-camera setup. Supporting its 108MP wide camera is an 8MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP macro camera. Other manufacturers have missed the mark by taking out the ultra-wide, but thankfully, POCO did not make that mistake.
The ultra-wide lens performs relatively well too. The difference in quality between the main lens and the ultra-wide isn’t as drastic as you’d expect. It captures detail very well, and HDR is on point too.
Users concerned about their social media image don’t have to worry. Its ultra-wide lens is good enough for your much-coveted Gen Z selfies.
Performance outdoors is definitely better. There’s a noticeable drop in quality when taking indoor shots, but its nothing too criminal.
Night mode on the X5 Pro 5G was decent too. On this shot of my very good friend’s jersey, it captured the details well, although there’s noticeable grain in the background.
In terms of processing, the X5 Pro 5G comes out with consistently colorful shots, which is to be expected at this point. It ups the saturation to intense levels, and shadows can be overblown at times. It’s nothing too concerning, just something to consider before posting your photos on the ‘gram.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
With an SRP of PhP 16,999, the POCO X5 Pro 5G presents itself with an intriguing list of features. At first glance it won’t impress, but its value as a smartphone is all about what’s under the hood. It’s a powerful device that gets the job done. Whether you’re a busy workaholic, a student who’s trying to survive through modern hybrid setups, or a gamer who wants to pick up endless W’s, the POCO X5 Pro 5G is a great choice to have if you’re looking for a weapon that will bring you victory in whatever battles you’ll face.
The POCO X5 Pro 5G may just be better than you, and you’ll know it. Its design is mid, but everything else, you wouldn’t hesitate to call generational.
Apple M2 Mac mini Review
More Affordable, More Powerful
Apple silently revealed the 2023 M2 Mac mini to the world.
Back in 2005, the Mac mini G4 was the cheapest Mac you can buy for US$ 499.
Almost 18 years after, the Mac mini still is the cheapest Mac at just US$ 599.
That’s still a lot of savings versus buying a US$ 1299 iMac.
The biggest difference? The newest Mac mini runs two of the most powerful chips right now — the M2 and M2 Pro.
But is it actually the right Mac for you?
Watch our Apple M2 Mac mini review now!
Forspoken review: Outspoken with little to speak of
Wait for a sale
It doesn’t take a lot to create a decent roleplaying game. All you need is a fish-out-of-water character, a vast open map, and a seemingly endless list of objectives. Though it has all three, Forspoken struggles to keep up with its pretenses as a Western roleplaying game.
First, the good
Credit to where it’s due, Forspoken is a fun game for the first few sections. Exploring the incredibly huge map with magical parkour is enjoyable. Eclipsed only by Elden Ring’s Torrent, magic parkour is one of the most innovative ways to quickly traverse large distances, especially after learning more advanced techniques.
Likewise, fighting balanced enemies with limited powers provides enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes in Athia. Neither the player nor the first enemies feel overpowered.
Unfortunately, the game’s novelty quickly evaporates after you figure out that you have to repeat the same motions dozens upon dozens of times. Forspoken’s map is much larger than it ever should have been. Though abundant in number, every point of interest is separated by large distances, some platforming challenges, and a battle sequence. The greater map is empty. Do this over and over, and the game gets stale quick. With adequate rewards, this shouldn’t be a problem, but Forspoken also suffers from a communication issue.
A communication issue
For most roleplaying games, completing an objective on the map usually nets palpable rewards for the player: a significant experience boost, new skills, new gear, or a bag of loot. An open-world game necessitates a lot of exploring. Even if a game is repetitive, earning substantial rewards is satisfying, at least. Forspoken does not have this — not in an easily discernible way, at least.
Treasure chests, which account for most of the points of interest on the map, reward players with a litany of crafting materials. Most of which will go unused because the game doesn’t easily tell players how to use them. After a dozen hours of collecting materials, I had a wealthy cache of each ingredient to make practically anything. Even then, I had little idea where each one went.
The map’s major rewards — new cloaks, new nail arts, and experience — also do little to explain how Frey improves with each completed objective. Clearing out an enemy camp, for example, rewards players with +1 magic. The game does not tell you how much damage that conveys. Certainly, after completing a few of these, Frey feels stronger, but it’s not easy to see how much stronger, especially when most enemies are bullet sponges with absurd health pools anyway.
Plus, these don’t even scratch the surface of objectives wherein the main reward is literally just a lore dump you have to read from a menu.
Difficulty shouldn’t always mean more enemies
Another issue with clearing out Athia’s large map is how Forspoken handles difficulty. Though there are options to adjust difficulty, the game relies on a limited bag of tricks to make it more difficult for players: increasing enemy health and quantity. In moderation, relying on this strategy works. However, Forspoken does this to an obnoxious level.
Prepare to fight five mini-bosses in one encounter for a lore entry. What compounds this issue more is an insane enemy health pool which causes encounters to last a lot longer than they should. One mini-boss encounter took me 15 minutes, even with appropriately leveled gear and the right spells.
Because of the sheer number of enemies, an encounter can stun-lock Frey for an absurd amount of time. The player can hardly prevent this since it relies on chance. Despite offering a wide array of moves, the risk of knockbacks shoehorn players into a slow run-and-gun tactic (which might not even play into an enemy’s weaknesses), instead of using each ability to the max.
On paper, Forspoken’s combat offers a fluid way to take down enemies by seamlessly switching between spells and moving through the battlefield with magic parkour. Unfortunately, an imbalance in enemy strategies bogs the game down in prolonged sequences that often reward players with only middling boosts.
A lack of optimization
For a game released on modern hardware, Forspoken took a while to launch. The game was delayed a few times. Given how delays often work, you’d think that it would release in a fairly optimized state. It’s not.
Though I haven’t hit major game-breaking bugs, there were a number of performance dips throughout the game. Even on performance-focused settings, framerates dropped to a standstill when there were high particle effects on screen. Frey constantly clipped through the terrain and found herself stuck on finnicky edges (which sometimes required reloading from previous saves).
The game is also dragged down by numerous cutscenes. Though not a bug per se, it’s not a great sign of optimization that the game has to pause for a cutscene just to show enemies arriving. For a game featuring fluid movement and combat, Forspoken often takes players out of the action by pausing for unnecessary cutscenes.
Better on sale
Overall, Forspoken is persistently flawed. However, amid the game’s shortcomings, the title still has an exciting combat and movement system. Plus, if you disregard the tedious open world, Forspoken’s linear story, featuring the wide range of abilities, are enjoyable. My interest always bounces back after beating one of the game’s main bosses.
Still, it’s hard to call Forspoken a game worthy of its AAA price tag. It might be better to wait for a discount.
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