Reviews

Huawei P10 review

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Huawei P10 review

I’m holding the Huawei P10 right now and wondering: How is this any different from last year’s P9? And more importantly: How can this compete against 2017’s flagship smartphones?

Physically, the only real difference between this and the P9 is the placement of the fingerprint scanner. The P10 now chooses a front-mounted fingerprint scanner which includes some gesture controls — more on that later — and a clean, free-of-functions rear. There isn’t even a camera bump.

Other than that, it’s tough to tell the two apart while holding them: The P10’s curvy 5.1-inch frame feels just like the P9’s 5.2-inch body, the display continues to have a Full HD LCD, and there’s still no water or dust resistance.

You can get a better look in our unboxing video:

As you’d expect, what really sets it apart from the P9 is on the inside. Huawei added a newer processor (an in-house Kirin 960 compared to last year’s Kirin 955), more memory for the base model, a larger battery, and — you guessed it — an upgraded dual-camera (one with 20 megapixels and the other with 12 megapixels) infused with the newest generation of Leica co-engineering.

That’s all well and good; successors are meant to introduce incremental upgrades in order to maintain brand recognition and please long-time fans (right, LG?). The underlying issue here, however, is how it looks and feels compared to phones that launched around the same time. I’m talking about the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, and even the older Xiaomi Mi Mix and Huawei Mate 9.

There just isn’t anything exciting about the P10. What made the P9 so special was its one-of-a-kind Leica branding during its release. While it didn’t exactly leapfrog its image quality over rivals, it helped make marketing it easier and break Huawei into European territory, selling over 10 millions units in the process.

Huawei P10 review

The P10 uses the exact same formula: sleek, one-handed use with a high-quality camera and Huawei’s own flavor of Android. If you want something even better, go for the 5.5-inch P10 Plus; it has a higher-resolution Quad HD display and slightly better camera, owing to its brighter f/1.8 aperture compared to the P10’s f/2.2 opening.

This isn’t to say the P10 falters when it comes to taking photos. In fact, we took it out for a spin and were pleasantly surprised by the colorful results. See them for yourself in our “24 Hours in Barcelona with the Huawei P10” feature. The two sensors (one full-colored and the other monochrome) work in tandem to produce sharper images — just no optical zoom tricks here, sadly.

[irp posts=”11235″ name=”24 Hours in Barcelona with the Huawei P10″]

And that’s what the P10 is all about. It looks good, feels great, and has a set of cameras anyone can use like a pro. You could stop reading here if you’re already convinced, but I suggest reading on to see my pros, cons, and everything in between during my time with Huawei’s latest flagship.

What I loved

Let me get this out of the way early: The P10 is faaaaast. Coming from a Pixel, which many consider to be the epitome of Android fluidity, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by another phone’s speed for a long time. But here I am, enjoying the buttery-smooth interface and lightning-quick fingerprint scanner. Everything opens so quickly, even Facebook’s resource-hungry app and graphics-intensive games like Asphalt 8.

Huawei P10 review

A lot of this can be credited to Huawei’s use of machine learning to understand your usage patterns and optimize apps as you go along, although I wasn’t expecting the performance boost so soon into my experience with the P10. Of all the apps I use frequently, only the camera takes a while to load from a cold start, but I’m comparing this to the Pixel, which seems like its entire existence is dedicated to its class-leading camera.

The P10 also gave me excellent signal and data speeds on my 4G+ network. And while this would normally destroy my battery within a day, the 3200mAh battery somehow manages to keep going until the sun rises. Heck, even when it doesn’t, the fast-charger that comes in the package is efficient enough to charge the phone within one and a half hours.

What I disliked

Huawei is doing the best it can to cater to long-time Android users from all brands and deliver its own user interface at the same time, but the execution is just ugh most of the time. Just setting the phone up from scratch is such a chore once you start repositioning the quick settings icons on top and digging through the Settings menu.

Huawei P10 review

I mean, really — you must dig deep to find the options you want at times, and it’s extra infuriating when you find the same setting in different menus. All other Android Nougat phones I’ve used were able to simplify the interface, including fellow Chinese brand Xiaomi. With the P10, I have to go to Advanced Settings to configure Simple Mode, and stumble through four different settings menus in the Camera app for minor tweaks.

One good thing I have to say is Huawei brought back the app drawer like on the Mate 9. This means you don’t have to swipe through numerous pages to find an app like on iPhones. This is vital for users like me who need dedicated space for large widgets that can be accessed instantly from the home screen.

What I feel indifferent about

Another life-changing option you can toggle is whether to use on-screen navigation buttons (Back, Home, and Recent Apps) or enable gestures on the fingerprint sensor to navigate. Wanting more space on my screen, I chose to actually make use of the otherwise unutilized space on the bottom bezel.

Huawei P10 review

Until now, I’m left wondering if this was a good idea. A single tap acts as Back, holding for more than second brings you back to the Home screen, and swiping left or right opens the app switcher. It’s definitely something you have to get used to, and will turn you into a swiping wiz after a week, but I wish it were customizable. Swiping up or down seems more logical for activating the app manager, and holding it feels more natural for turning on Google Assistant.

Instead, you’re forced to live with what Huawei wants for you. What I find most perplexing is the gesture needed for accessing Google Assistant. It takes a swipe up from the bottom bezel, to the left or right of the fingerprint scanner. Sounds like a good use of space, right? Yes, if it managed to actually work most of the time. I look like an idiot trying to reach my Assistant after several failed attempts.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

We have to go back to our original questions to get an answer for this. If you’re a P9 user, don’t bother upgrading; if you must, then go for the Mate 9 or the just-launched Honor 8 Pro instead. For a flagship device, the P10 feels so insignificant in Huawei’s lineup, despite being a great smartphone on its own.

Huawei P10 review

Compared to this year’s competition, again, the P10 feels like it still belongs in 2016. I would wholeheartedly recommend it if not for the sky-high EUR 649 ($690) price tag, although you can find it for less in countries like the Philippines, where the pre-order price is only PhP 28,990 ($580), which even comes with a bundled travel kit worth $100.

If you’re inclined to go for a normal-looking phone and not the near-borderless handsets we’ve been seeing lately, buying a P10 is the way to go. Its closest rival right now is the Google Pixel, which is another smallish phone focused on photography and without resistance against the elements. You can’t go wrong with either of them.

SEE ALSO: Huawei P10, P10 Plus improve on an already solid phone

[irp posts=”10970″ name=”Huawei P10, P10 Plus improve on an already solid phone”]

Reviews

Redmi Note 9S review: The healthy, underappreciated middle ground

The right mix of everything in one device that won’t break your wallet

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The Redmi Note 9S, in my opinion, finds itself in a bit of a “struggle.” It follows the seemingly perfect older sibling in the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, although shares most of the same hardware. There’s even its younger sibling, the Redmi Note 9 with the major difference being in the storage options and price point.

You will breeze past this smartphone if you’re an extremist with your decision-making. You’ll either go for the phone that’s the priciest but most powerful, or the budget-friendly one. The Redmi Note 9S will find itself lodged in that gray area.

But, maybe it’s an area worth looking at — for once. Here’s what the Redmi Note 9S is offering:

It has a 6.67” FHD+ DotDisplay with Corning Gorilla Glass 5

It comes with a 48MP AI-powered quad camera

The fingerprint sensor is found on the right side, integrated with the power button

And at the bottom are the speaker grilles, USB-C port, and 3.5mm headphone jack

Overall performance that just hits right

The Redmi Note 9S comes with a Snapdragon 720G processor inside, with the model I tested having 6GB of RAM. Upon initial use, I found the phone to be quite fast and responsive. It was a breeze navigating through MIUI, and how quick apps opened up. Multitasking using different apps went just as expected with the hardware.

Even gaming full time on this device feels just right. MIUI 11 comes with Game Turbo for this device, and I honestly found this very useful for shooter games. Call of Duty Mobile plays seamlessly while hitting around 60 FPS, while Fortnite is fairly decent — mostly because of the 30 FPS cap. The device doesn’t throttle to boost performance, and it even maximizes battery usage.

Plus, the 6.67-inch DotDisplay is pretty bright even under direct sunlight. I even tried playing some games and watch Netflix out under the sun, and I could see the details. Honestly, I felt like I was getting exactly what I needed out of the hardware the phone came with. I just wish that the notch was placed somewhere else since it obstructs your view while watching.

A surprisingly great quad camera

I say “surprisingly” because of how I’m used to smartphones under Php 15,000 having relatively okay cameras. The 48MP AI-powered quad camera setup produced great images with clear cut details in them. Colors don’t seem to be sacrificed with each shot, although I can’t say the same when in the dark.

In my experience, I still spotted a bit of grain but that was mostly when I zoomed in on the images. Plus, you can record 4K videos with the camera, albeit only at 30 FPS.

The selfie camera wasn’t too shabby, either — especially during Portrait Mode. I even felt like my face was glowing with every selfie I took. What did it for me was the way the AI blurred everything else in the background when using this mode. Even when you’re not using Portrait Mode, it’s still a great front camera to put in.

These aren’t Leica-levels of great, nor do they compare to most iPhones out there in terms of cameras. But if you needed an alternative, the cameras on this device come close by a little bit.

The battery just keeps you going for more than a day

The Mi website notes that the Redmi Note 9S can last up to 33 hours on calls, 16 hours watching videos, and 13 hours gaming full time. This mostly all comes from the 5,250 mAh battery inside, which you can also find in the Note 9 and Note 9 Pro. Upon my own usage of it, I got about 30 hours doing pretty much all of that.

At one point, I even did all of these things, went to sleep, and woke up to around 20 percent battery life. I even put up the brightness to 90% while doing all those things, and it’s clear: the phone lasts real long on a single charge.

Charging the device had me a little confused, mostly because of the fast charging capabilities. The device comes with a 18W fast-charging adapter that ran a full charge for about two hours. However, I only felt the fast charging kick in after it reached 60 percent as it took about an hour from 0-60. I mean, at least you still get to use your phone right away when you drain the battery.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Starting at PhP 10,490 (US$212), the Redmi Note 9S finds itself as the great balance of power and affordability. It serves as a middle ground between the budget Note 9, and the premium and powerful Note 9 Pro. It has everything you need in a modern smartphone, in a price range that’s reachable too.

It’s an easy recommendation for anyone looking to buy a great smartphone for any use case. It lasts long enough that you won’t need to charge it overnight, and puts you right back in once it fully charges. I honestly believe you can live with the little grain in the camera and the obstructive notch placement.

All in all, the Redmi Note 9S does not compromise much in terms of performance. Every nifty feature you need in a modern smartphone, it gives you that. It’s the middle child that deserves some loving, too.

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Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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Reviews

LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

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Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

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