Reviews

Huawei P20 Lite Review: A P20 without labels

A Nova 2i disguising as a P20

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Since the grand Huawei P20 series launch in Paris last March, the attention has been on the Huawei P20 Pro. Of course, the top dog gets the spotlight it deserves. Amidst the praises Huawei is getting, it seems like people are forgetting that there’s a shy midrange variant in the series. A variant that doesn’t have any camera branding and high price tag — the Huawei P20 Lite.

The P20 Lite joins the slew of new midrange phones to be released in the market. It follows in the footsteps of the Mate 10 Lite which is also known as the Nova 2i or Honor 9i in certain regions.

It has a 5.84-inch FullView display

With a 19:9 ratio and Full HD+ resolution

The infamous notch makes an appearance

It’s for the front camera, sensors, notification light, and earpiece

There’s a bit of a chin for the Huawei label

No fingerprint reader on the front

To the right are the physical keys

Short one for power, long one for volume

While on the left is the hybrid card slot

Either have a second SIM or a microSD card

There’s nothing to see up top…

Just the noise-canceling microphone

… because everything is down below

The audio port, USB-C, and loudspeaker all together as usual

The back definitely looks a Lite version of the P20

No Leica branding — just “Dual Lens”

The dual camera module protrudes outside

A nice touch but a bit prone to scratches

Common design of the P20 series

The trio of P20 devices from Huawei share a common design with just slight adjustments to distinguish each. For the P20 Lite, you can tell it apart due to the rear placement of the fingerprint reader and lack of Leica branding. This gives the P20 Lite the advantage of having a clean front with just the Huawei name sitting on the chin.

With a display measuring 5.84 inches (display sizes are getting very unusual lately) and bezel-less design, I find the P20 Lite easier to handle than other phones with a similar display size. The better ergonomics of the device can also be attributed to its rounded metal frame and smooth glass back. Compared to the Mate 10 Lite’s (or Nova 2i) all-metal design, the P20 Lite looks more stylish. If you don’t mind wiping off the smudges every now and then, the P20 Lite will appeal to you more.

The notch is not visible when the display is turned off, but there’s a way to hide it even during usage. In the settings, just head to the Notch menu under Display and you can choose to use the default setting that fully extends the screen’s real estate up to the notch (app compatibility varies, though) or just hide it. The upper portion will then just act like an extra display for notifications, system icons, date, and time.

Huawei has a clever trick that addresses my concern about notched displays. When in landscape orientation, the interface automatically eliminates the use of the pixels beside the notch. This will give you an unobstructed interface in any app, may it be games, video streaming, or even system apps like Settings or Gallery.

Performance is still the same

The P20 Lite is powered by the Kirin 659 — Huawei’s go-to home-baked processor for their midrange phones. It’s also the same processor found in the Mate 10 Lite (or Nova 2i), which is pretty disappointing. Why? Because there’s no significant performance boost even though the P20 Lite is the latest from Huawei. That’s not saying the Kirin 659 is a bad processor but a new phone should have a better processor, especially since it’s part of the latest P20 series.

The unit I have for review has the highest configuration possible for the P20 Lite with 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage. The hybrid card slot accepts a microSD card just in case 128GB is not enough to store your files.

If you’re looking for a gaming phone, the P20 Lite might not be the best option in this range. The gaming side of the Kirin 659 is handled by the Mali-T830 MP2, a fairly okay graphics unit. What I mean by that is it can run games but not in their best state. PUBG Mobile runs in low settings while NBA 2K18 has to be somewhere in between low and medium. Still, it can play older graphics-intensive games in max settings like Asphalt Xtreme.

Android Oreo-based EMUI 8.0 is available out of the box which means you have the latest software Huawei has to offer. EMUI doesn’t differ that much from other Chinese-made interfaces that blend together iOS and Android experiences. For one, the app drawer is off by default, so the apps are available right on the home screen. The icons look a bit too playful for my liking, but I eventually got used to them. I must say though, EMUI 8.0 feels cluttered with inconsistent icons — some are rounded while some are squared. I hope Huawei comes up with a better UI soon which should be available as an update.

No quad-cameras, no Leica

One might mistake the P20 Lite as the regular P20 at first glance. That’s because they do look alike but the former has no Leica branding. Still, the P20 Lite is a capable phone for mobile photography. It has dual rear cameras — a combo of 16 and 2 megapixels with bokeh mode available.

Too bad the secondary sensor is just for analyzing depth in the image — not to shoot monochrome, extreme wide-angle, or for telephoto imaging. There are multiple modes available including “Pro photo” to manually set the camera settings.

Here are the samples from the rear camera:

The front camera is also equipped with a 16-megapixel sensor which easily makes the P20 Lite a contender in the selfie race. Like with other selfie-centric phones, the P20 Lite has built-in beauty mode but Huawei’s approach is more simple with just an option to choose from Level 1 to 10. A number of cute stickers are also available in the camera app.

Even without any Leica label to brag about, the P20 Lite can hold up on its own. The rear set captures good-looking images both in well-lit and low-light environments. Don’t expect it to excel in the dark, though; the f/2.2 aperture is not enough to make it see more than competing phones with a bright lens opening. Of course, the selfies are top-notch thanks to the number of megapixels the front sensor has. The beauty mode is a bit behind against OPPO’s and Vivo’s new midrange phones, but it works just fine.

Fast-charging and long-lasting

A sizeable 3000mAh battery is sealed inside the body of the phone. Through the USB-C port, the battery supports Huawei’s own fast charging technology. Thankfully, the phone comes with an 18W fast charger, so there’s no need to purchase a separate one. A quick 15-minute charge was able to give 17 percent of power while charging the phone for an hour provides up to 53 percent. A full charge took more than two hours — longer than expected.

A phone with a 3000mAh capacity should be able to last the whole day, and the P20 Lite definitely can. With my usage, a full charge lasted a whole day and that includes about four hours of screen on time. That’s also with mobile data and Wi-Fi turned on, making phone calls, social networking, music streaming, and picture taking. My everyday phone use is already considered heavy; with lighter usage the P20 Lite can even last longer.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Unlike with the V9 and the F7, the P20 Lite is not much of an improvement from last year’s model. The phone might not be the direct successor of the Mate 10 Lite or Nova 2i, but I would have loved to see a spec bump rather than just a design overhaul.

Well, if you value design more, the P20 Lite’s premium build is its key selling point. It basically has the body of the regular P20 but with midrange specifications. The black variant I have here looks sleek and handsome, but there’s also a feminine option in Sakura Pink and a striking Klein Blue.

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Realme 2 Pro Review: Recon phone

A data gathering exercise

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The Realme 2 series is the company’s announcement that they’re no longer a sub-brand of OPPO. However, there are still plenty of traces of OPPO in these devices. The Realme 2 Pro is their top offering and for better or worse, it still feels like an OPPO phone.

If you think this looks and feels a lot like the OPPO F9, you can’t be faulted. Save for a few differences, these two phones are practically twins. From the form factor, to the notch, and even the cameras, these phones almost remind me of that famous Spider-Man meme.

The more obvious difference are the colors. The OPPO F9 went with the trendy gradient look while the Realme 2 Pro goes for more solid color options.

The unit we have for review is the more subdued Black Sea, but the phone is also available in Blue Ocean as well as the color I would have loved to have (hello, folks from Realme): Ice Lake.

Another key difference is the chip powering the devices. The OPPO F9 runs on a MediaTek Helio P60 processor while the Realme 2 Pro went with the Snapdragon 660. Further justifying the Pro on its name is the 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM on our particular review unit.

For reference the Realme 2 Pro also comes in a 4GB and 64GB configuration, as well as a 6GB and 64GB configuration.

The steady

In that regard, the Realme 2 Pro felt about as snappy as you can expect from a phone rocking those internals. I don’t play a lot of mobile games and only really played Dragon Ball Legends in my little over a week with the device, and it handled it with zero problems.

Dragon Ball Legends is probably my favorite mobile game at this point

I have had experience with other phones with comparable specs and tested games like PUBG, and Iron Blade on them. Those phones handled the mentioned games nicely and I expect the same is true with the Realme 2 Pro.

I do consume a lot of media on my phone. Listening to my favorite songs and podcasts was a pleasant experience. The speakers on this phone do not deliver the best sound but they’re good enough and loud enough for solo listening sessions. It does have a headphone jack so that’s a thing you can take advantage of, as well.

CHNDTR is a Filipino band with major anime and Paramore feels

I also watch a lot of YouTube and Netflix (and chill right after), and I don’t have any major complaints. Would love the display to be more visible under bright sunlight, but I don’t really look at my screen a lot in those situations nor do I watch videos under strong light that often.

Colleen Wing on Iron Fist is a goddess. Fight me.

The bad

I was never a fan of ColorOS and that remains true even on technically a non-OPPO phone. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t make the phone slower or anything. I’m just not down with how it looks and feels in general. I appreciate that it incorporates gesture navigation (get with the gestures people, it’s great!) but other than that, I would switch to a different launcher. But that’s me. If you dig it, it’s all good. I won’t judge.

There’s also the nice touch of a quick access feature sitting on the display on the area right next to the power button. Swipe quickly and you get screen capture options as well shortcuts to some apps.

Silver lining for those like me that aren’t ColorOS fans: During the launch, Realme Southeast Asia Managing Director Josef Wang was asked if they’re planning on making their own and he said, “Maybe next year we’ll have our own OS.” A maybe is always better than a flat out no in OS options, life, and love.

The good-ish

Mostly good, to be more precise. I was pleasantly surprised by how the camera performed under favorable lighting conditions. Check out these two portrait shots taken around noon.

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Both images are sharp and you could be fooled into thinking these weren’t taken with a phone.

It doesn’t perform as well under low-light conditions, but it’s about as good as you can expect from a smartphone in this range.

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There’s also some fun stickers you can play with if that’s a thing you’re into.

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Here are a few more samples you can peruse.

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Recon phone

So who would want this phone? Realme said they’re aimed at the youth. I thought that was pretty vague so I asked for an age range. Wang had this puzzled look on his face but eventually said they’re probably looking at people in college or those just entering the workforce.

Will the youth opt for this phone?

During the media interview with the Realme executives, this is the impression I got. The company is still feeling their way through all of this. As Wang noted, they’re still studying the markets which is why as of writing, we’re still waiting on official pricing for other countries in Southeast Asia.

Realme played it safe with the Realme 2 Pro and for good reason. As a budding company who just spun off, they have plenty of ground to cover. They’re hoping the Realme 2 series will sell enough and give them sufficient data to develop a phone that’s more Realme than OPPO.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

As for the phone itself. Objectively it’s pretty solid. It performs pretty much the way you’d expect it to given the specs.

The UI is a big thing for me. I would have enjoyed this phone more if it had a different skin on top of Android 8.1 Oreo but if you’re used to ColorOS or something similar, the Realme 2 Pro is a solid option that will take fantastic photos under proper lighting conditions.

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OPPO Find X Lamborghini Edition: Testing a $2,000 phone

Will a luxurious phone make me more luxurious?

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I won’t beat around the bush. This is the OPPO Find X Lamborghini Edition and it’s worth almost US$ 2,000 or US$ 1,980 to be precise.

What’s so special about it? See that seal? It’s an actual Lamborghini. No, really, from the Italian luxury carmaker.

I got my hands on this delightful device and I’ve been using it for a few weeks. So, now that I have my own Lambo, what changed? Did using this expensive AF phone make me a classier person? Will I get more street cred because of my flashy phone? What does holding US$ 2,000 in form of a phone feel like?

Because owning such a luxurious device has made me a more gracious person, I shall walk you through my experiences with the Lambo.

It still looks and feels good 

The OPPO Find X Lamborghini Edition has the same signature bezel-less screen of the regular Find X.

On the back, glaring in gold is the Lamborghini logo. This phone also has a different back design on that smooth glass back; almost elusive striped markings dubbed by OPPO as the black carbon pattern adorns the whole body.

Of course, there’s a special edition Lambo theme because if you’re paying that much for a phone, they better throw in a custom theme!

As cool as it was (especially for car lovers!), though, I opted to change the theme into something brighter during my time with the phone. 😅

I’ve said it about the normal Find X and I’ll say it again about this Lambo phone: It’s a pleasure to hold. The weight, feel, and that wide, crisp screen make everything feel premium.

The only downside is that the normal OPPO Find X and the Lambo phone are similarly great — which is a good thing if you own the normal Find X, but not such a great deal if you paid the US$ 825 difference for the more expensive phone.

Nonetheless, the Lambo phone does give a classier spin to the phone in black and gold. I mean, if you hold it strategically enough, people should take notice of that Lamborghini logo, right?

Touting such an expensive device day and night is not as easy as it looks. Because I’m secretly not rich (sad reacts 😢), I almost had a mini heart attack handling such an expensive thing that’s all glass. Thankfully, the phone came with a phone case that sports the same Lamborghini logo and stripe pattern that onlookers can accidentally ogle so they can realize how much my phone costs.

It didn’t make me more luxurious but it looked the part

As you may have noticed, I busted out classy AF props for shooting this particular device.

I figured this was as good a time as any to amp up the set design — it’s not every day your phone costs more than 18 bottles of Moet.

Sans the bottles of champagne, we did discover that the Lamborghini Find X looks great with classy rich girl outfits complete with pearl ensemble. I felt straight out of Gossip Girl, except even Blair Waldorf didn’t own a Lamborghini phone, did she?

The best fast charge technology that money can buy

The best thing about this phone comes in form of a brightly colored charger cord and Lamborghini-branded power brick. I sh!t you not (excuse my crassness but this tech deserves the profanity), this phone charges from zero to 100 in 35 minutes. Ten minutes of charging gives you 37 percent and thirty minutes of charging amounts to a whopping 92 percent.

Never have I seen such fast charging times. It’s unreal.

Honestly, charging became such an easy thing for me since using this phone. I just plug it in and it’ll completely charge before you can finish saying supercalifragilistic-holy-fudge-this-phone-is-so-expensive-docious!

Real talk though, because I don’t plug this phone in as much as you would other phones (shout-out to iPhone users), think of all the money you can save in terms of broken cords!

There are matching earphones

OPPO also threw in a pair of matching wireless earbuds because someone had to justify paying that much money for this set.

They come in a case stamped with the Lamborghini logo and automatically connect to your phone after initial pairing. They’re a decent pair of earphones that go well with the whole Lambo look except I seem to have misplaced one of the earpieces (which is not my fault because there is a serious design flaw to untethered earphones!) and now there’s a pit in my stomach when I think of how much that tiny thing probably costs. 😢

Different yet exactly the same?

At the end of the day, it’s still the same great phone.

The features that made me love the normal Find X are still the same features I enjoy on this Lambo: the fast face unlock feature, the awesome display, and the pop-up camera design (it never gets old).

Owning a Lambo *surprise* has not fundamentally changed me. I’m still really, really not rich. Most people didn’t even notice the flashy Lambo logo on my phone. Funny enough, people still only notice the pop-up camera and are still very much amazed by it.

But, I did, and still do enjoy using this phone. It’s a top-of-the-line device and it feels that way. I like it to the point that I keep using it despite having only one Lambo earphone now. 😢

Like a true luxury item, the price really doesn’t make sense. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an awesome, awesome device — if you can afford it.

In the meantime, I’m unsure of how to live my life if I have to go back to charging my phone for more than 35 minutes. Let me leave you now as I sip on not Moet to ponder on my dilemma.

Images by MJ Jucutan

SEE ALSO: OPPO Find X review: All about style, selfies, and that poppin’ camera

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Samsung Galaxy A7 hands-on review: Beyond the cameras

Just another camera-centric phone?

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A few years ago, megapixels were all the rage when it came to smartphone photography. Producing larger photos somehow equated to better quality — and more aggressive marketing — from those little shooters on older phones.

Fortunately, that craze ended, but we’re now facing a new race to see who can stuff the most number of cameras on a single handset.

Even though dual-camera setups became the standard a couple of years ago, brands like Huawei and LG have been pushing for more. Naturally, competitors including Samsung saw the need to catch up, and even exceed in some cases.

The Galaxy A7 of 2018 is a direct answer to the trending need for at least three cameras on a phone’s rear. In this case, one camera is for regular shots, another is for wide-angle photos, and a third helps power the Live Focus function.

We already had time to experience this unique setup in India, but we now want to answer another question: Is there more to the Galaxy A7 than just its cameras?

The short answer is yes. Not only does the Galaxy A7 have Samsung’s signature AMOLED display and a mostly glass body, it does so at a reasonable price of INR 23,990 in India and PhP 17,990 in the Philippines — both of which convert to about US$ 330.

Samsung’s entry-level Galaxy J series often hovered around this price, so for a Galaxy A phone to hit this point with more premium features is a good deal. (It may also be a sign of Samsung gradually letting go of the Galaxy J lineup.)

Despite the relatively large bezels for a 2018 phone, the 6-inch 1080p AMOLED is both well-sized and a pleasure to look at. As usual, Samsung tends to oversaturate colors, but I appreciate the inclusion of Always On Display (AOD), which keeps the panel partially active to show me the time and my notifications throughout the day.

It’s tough on the battery, though, and I recommend turning this feature off when not needed. The 3300mAh battery capacity is lacking for a phone this size; with AOD on, I only get four hours of screen-on time in a single day. Leaving it off gives me an additional hour, but the phone still doesn’t get over a day’s worth of usage.

Using Samsung’s standard Adaptive Fast Charging adapter, it takes less than two hours to get to full from zero percent. That makes up for the mediocre battery life, although I wish the Galaxy A7 came with a USB-C port instead of the aging micro-USB.

What’s new, however, is the interface. Although it’s stuck on Android 8.0 Oreo, Samsung baked Experience 9.0 into the operating system, so it has the newest gestures and I found that jumping from one function to another is pleasantly smooth.

It helps that Samsung’s own Exynos 7885 chipset is handling all the heavy-duty tasks. While it isn’t the best for gaming — titles like Life is Strange and Asphalt 9: Legends don’t run that smoothly unless graphics settings are lowered — switching through apps while multitasking is seamless, and I can’t remember a time when hiccups bothered me.

I was surprised to find only 4GB of memory inside, but it turned out being enough for my usage case. There were only a few instances wherein I wished my background apps wouldn’t close so soon. What’s better is the integrated storage, which comes in at 64GB with additional room for a microSD card up to 512GB.

Other reasons to consider this phone? There’s a 3.5mm audio port if that matters to you, and the front-facing LED flash is pretty helpful when lighting is terrible during your selfie shoots.

Another thing that’s useful to me but may be annoying to others is the placement of the fingerprint scanner. It’s on the side-mounted power button, which I consider to be an optimized spot no matter how the phone is held or laid on a tablet. Left-handed people might not feel the same way.

Finally, despite the glass body, the phone seems to be a little flimsy. It’s not something I’m confident putting inside my back pocket. Get a case as soon as you buy one, or simply don’t drop or bend it.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It’s easy to recommend the Galaxy A7 for what it is, but there are so many great phones in the sub-US$ 400 segment that it’s difficult to ignore them. Offerings from Honor, Xiaomi, and even Pocophone make the final purchasing decision a tough one.

The Galaxy A7 is primarily for long-time Samsung users looking for something different. Its triple-camera setup is certainly unique in this part of the smartphone market, and the side-mounted fingerprint scanner is a refreshing sight.

At the same time, a lot of Samsung’s familiar features are here, including the AMOLED display and the lack of a notch. It’s certainly the most non-Samsung, Samsung phone you can buy today — until you see the more outrageous Galaxy A9, that is.

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