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With the Nova 3 now rolling out to more markets in the world, we can’t help but ask: Did Huawei just create the P20 killer?

In this video, we unbox the new Huawei Nova 3, discuss why it’s an important phone, and show you where it stands compared to other Huawei phones and its closest competitor, the Honor 10.

Hands-On

Vivo APEX 2019 hands-on: Holes were just a legend

And buttons were never known

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Remember when every other smartphone had a notch and Vivo showed us a concept without one? That was exactly a year ago.

That device, the APEX 2018, did not become available in the market, but the all-display concept — with a pop-up camera and under-display fingerprint scanner — has since rolled out to Vivo smartphones you can buy today.

This year, they came up with a new concept phone — one without any buttons or holes. The APEX 2019 won’t be available for purchase as well, but as is the case with Vivo, we can expect some of these experimental features to trickle down to actual smartphones in the near future — first in the NEX line, and then to the V series.

The design

The premise of Vivo’s concept phone this year is simple but also controversial: a singular piece of glass you can interact with; one without any buttons or ports.

They believe that the display should be the exclusive focal point of human interaction, eliminating other design obstructions by reimagining them using other technology.

Vivo calls this approach Super Unibody — a phone carved out of a single piece of glass.

Unlike any other smartphone, there is no metal frame to hold it together on the sides. There are no physical buttons either. Of course one could argue the display is a separate piece of glass altogether.

To further drive home the simplicity concept, there also aren’t any speaker grilles, USB-C port, headphone jack, SIM card tray, or a selfie camera.

Even the back cameras are flushed against the body. If you must take a selfie, the back is reflective enough to be used as a mirror.

We were shown this concept phone in three colors: Meteor Gray, Quartz White, and Titan Silver. The white one especially is a looker and is smudge-proof.

While the phone isn’t going on sale, the next-generation Vivo NEX will probably come in these three colors as well.

To say that it’s beautiful would be an understatement. It’s a pleasure to look at and hold.

The challenge for up and coming brands like Vivo to make their mark in this very saturated and fiercely competitive smartphone market is sometimes undervalued. We appreciate how they are doing their part to innovate, as well as paint a picture of what smartphones of the future could look like.

How will the phone work without buttons or ports?

Vivo believes good design respects user habits. So while they took away all the physical buttons, it doesn’t mean the functions aren’t there anymore.

Vivo moved a lot of said functions to the part you interact with the most: the screen.

Combining pressure-sensing technology and capacitive touch, Vivo was able to reimagine the power and volume buttons here on the side.

You can’t really press them anymore, but there is haptic feedback so it would still resemble the feeling of touching actual buttons.

Oh, and the speakers? Vivo is trying screen sound casting technology once again. When we tried it on last year’s APEX we found that it wasn’t really loud enough to replace real speakers.

This year, Vivo says the choice of materials and shape of the glass at the back of the APEX 2019 make all the difference. They weren’t kidding. The sound coming out of the display is actually loud and clear.

Full-display fingerprint scanning

It’s only been a year, but we can’t forget it was actually Vivo and its partner Synaptics that put under-display fingerprint scanners for smartphones on the map.

It’s still not as good nor as fast as physical fingerprint readers, but since most of its competitors have caught up, Vivo hopes to elevate the tech even further by making the entire display a fingerprint reader.

It employs what Vivo calls fingerprint light. As the name suggests, pixels light up as an additional light source to help scan your fingerprint. We tried it and it works as advertised.

How does one charge or transfer files without a single port?

While it’s technically not a port, Vivo put inductive charging pins called Magport on the back of the phone as a charging and data transfer solution.

The Magport-to-USB cable magnetically latches on and the phone starts charging immediately. It should work the same way when transfering files.

One thing we would have wanted to finally see Vivo implement, and it would have made a lot of sense for this concept device, is wireless charging.

A wireless charging solution is an easy thing to do for Vivo, but the company says it’s wireless data transfer that’s still not very reliable right now.

Coming up NEX

The APEX 2019 is also Vivo’s first 5G device powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855. It has 12GB of RAM, 512GB of internal storage, and runs on Android Pie — all of which are specs and features we can expect to see on an upcoming Vivo NEX smartphone.

Oh, and one last thing, because there’s no SIM card tray on the APEX, we’ll likely see a combination of a regular SIM card and eSIM once this concept trickles down to a retail product.

Are you excited about Vivo’s vision of the future? If you could imagine the smartphone of the future, how would it look and what would it do?

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Gaming

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the game fit for those who dare

A hands-on look at the story of the Shinobi warrior

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I have to admit: I hardly hear much about games that focus on the Eastern side of the world that aren’t Pokémon or Dragon Ball. But, I do like games that have some sort of historical background to them, say folklore or modern history. And wouldn’t you know it, FromSoftware and Activision pull out one from underneath all of us.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice dives into the world of a reimagined 16th century Japan, ravaged by countless wars. It is an open-world, action-adventure game made by the same guys behind Dark Souls. I got the chance to see what this game is all about, and here are some of my initial thoughts.

We start with an insightful backstory

I did appreciate that the first ten minutes of the two and a half hours worth of gameplay gave a good backstory on Sekiro and his humble beginnings. He started out as a simple boy, found at the crossroads of war. A samurai offered to nurse him in his early years, until he grew old enough to be a protector of his lord. However, gameplay picks up on a much older Sekiro, so playing through a childhood with lots of fighting didn’t seem to be that important.

The overworld of early Japan is breathtaking! FromSoftware really did a good job with the visual presentation of the whole game. What stood out to me the most was the detail not just on Sekiro, but also on all his enemies.

It plays well into the whole open-world aesthetic, in that it allows you to explore everywhere and grab as much as you can, including extra items to use for healing or fighting. And you probably want to do that to prepare for all the tough battles ahead.

Waking up a one “good” armed man

After 30 minutes of trying not to die, I arrive at this garden with a mysterious samurai who basically challenges Sekiro to a duel. After the duel you’re supposed to lose, the samurai not only takes your master but he also slashes your arm off. You then wake up in an old temple, and the first thing you gaze upon is a wooden arm attached to your shoulder.

That wooden arm is called the Shinobi Prosthetic, and you can actually do some crazy stuff with it. I was only able to try the prosthetic arm with a Grappling Hook that allows you to travel much faster. It’s a simple press of the L2 button on any “hook” you can sling onto, whether it’s a tree branch or a rooftop. It’s like being Spider-Man minus the webs!

Apart from the Shinobi Prosthetic, Sekiro also carries his trusted katana to slice and dice enemies. It’s his only form of defense, but at least it doesn’t break! Pressing R1 multiple times lets you continually attack opponents until they are too weak to fight back. On paper, combat looks easy to do, right? Well…

Nothing comes easy for a shinobi

Let’s be real: This game has a difficulty spike that rises faster than the sun does in Japan! Although, this isn’t necessarily surprising from the developers that brought you Dark Souls. The whole deal is having the right amount of aggressiveness when dealing with enemies. You use Circle to dodge incoming attacks and L1 to block strong attacks (mostly with weapons). But even that won’t stop your opponents from beating the living hell out of you if you don’t fight back.

Of course, you are alerted when the enemy is about to strike you heavily, giving you a chance to block the attack properly. It’s a healthy dose of combat, mind games, and reading the situation accordingly. I can’t even count how many times I’ve died, then resurrected but still died trying to fend off strong enemies. And some of them even have guns and cannons shooting at you, dealing heavy damage.

Is it worth playing through and through?

In the short amount of time I got to play it, I really think that Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a great game. It’s got great visuals, fast-paced and aggressive gameplay, and an enjoyable open-world experience. But again, I really can’t stress enough that this game is difficult. If you enjoy a challenge, you will definitely enjoy this game.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will be available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game will be released on March 22, 2019, priced at PhP 2,799 in the Philippines, SG$ 69 in Singapore, MYR 219 in Malaysia, and THB 1,790 in Thailand.

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Gaming

Days Gone is the open-world survival game that feels just right

A hands-on look into post-apocalyptic America

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There have been a ton of open-world games for the PlayStation 4. The appeal of exploring an entire game world, all while progressing through a storyline, has not gone away since the days of Grand Theft Auto. For 2019, Bend Studio has its own open-world game to offer, and has been in the works for almost four years.

Days Gone is an open-world game mixed with the elements of a zombie apocalypse due to a great pandemic. When you read that first sentence, you stop and think, “Doesn’t the PlayStation already have a game like this in The Last of Us?” This was my first thought when I got the chance to try Bend Studio’s four-year project. I came in with the expectation that this game, at the very least, should feel and be different.

This is America, after the pandemic

As soon as gameplay starts after the opening scene, my immediate question was, “Is this supposed to be post-apocalyptic America?” The scenery looked beautiful and breathtaking, for a portion of the country ravaged by flesh-eating creatures. Of course, that’s looking past all the decaying bodies, broken vehicles, and abandoned establishments.

There’s actually so much to explore, I’m glad they require you to use the main character’s motorcycle for the whole game. It actually serves as the only usable vehicle for the duration — at least based on my gameplay, and it’s fully customizable. Of course, vehicles are subject to natural wear and tear and loss of fuel, all of which can be fixed by pressing Circle on the engine or fuel tank. On another note, two years into the pandemic and they still have gasoline in gasoline stations?

You either fight or take flight

You play Deacon St. John, a bounty hunter who, at the start of the pandemic, left his wife Sarah in the hands of NERO. NERO is a scientific research lab dedicated to solve the Freaker pandemic. Two years later, Deacon becomes an outlaw with Boozer by his side, confronting a world ravaged by Freakers left and right.

The main premise of Days Gone is survival; you are placed in a world ravaged by creatures known as Freakers that come in many forms. As the main character, you will encounter these creatures (whether as former humans or animals) at any point of the day, along with human enemies from rival gangs/groups. For the most part, I had to scavenge abandoned houses and gas stations for spare parts and guns. That’s how scarce things were.

If there’s one aspect Bend Studio did nail down properly, it’s the horde of Freakers. Usually, when games introduce a horde of infected creatures, they do so in the 10s or 20s. In Days Gone, I experienced a full wave of fifty Freakers coming at me. And, given how scarce resources and ammunition were, it was basically fight or flight. I, unfortunately, chose to fight with just a knife (attack with R2) and fought through ten Freakers before losing all health.

Improving on your survival skills

As Deacon moves around and accomplishes certain tasks, he earns experience points from it. These points turn into skill points to be used on his Skill Tree (swiping down on the Touch Pad). Such skills include the ability to face Freaker hordes better, the ability to craft certain weapons and ammunition, and heightened Survival Vision (R3).

I really felt the need to upgrade some of his skills throughout the two hours of gameplay, such as better aim (L2) when targeting opponents. For the most part, aiming with scoped weapons was pretty hard to control even with the focus assist setting on — especially if you like going for headshots (which I was).

Did it meet expectations?

My challenge for Days Gone was to feel and be different; however, what I got was a game that only felt different. It’s pretty much the same kind of survival, open-world game as more popular titles like The Last of Us. But, you really feel the gravity of the situation you’re in, the realness of a world ravaged by a pandemic, and the need to survive in it.

Bend Studio did promise that Days Gone was going to be different, and I’d like to believe that. Will it be different enough to sell? For now, it’s a game worth trying. Days Gone will be available on the PlayStation 4 on April 26, 2019, at PhP 2,999 in the Philippines, SG$ 79.90 in Singapore, MYR 239 in Malaysia, and IDR 829,000 in Indonesia.

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