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.

Laptops

ASUS VivoBook X412F Review: A great midrange option for work and school

For those who need a fresh start

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Not everyone can afford a premium device. Even if the specifications entice you to buy that nice laptop, the ultimate decision point is in its price and value to you. Parents and young professionals starting a new job would know.

ASUS regularly comes up with great midrange selections for students and young professionals. That seems to be what the ASUS VivoBook X412F is: an all-around midrange device for productivity and day-to-day tasks. But if you’re currently a student or working full-time, should you consider this device?


Here’s a rundown of the device’s specifications:

It has a 14” HD anti-glare display

It’s powered by an Intel Core i3 processor and an NVIDIA MX230 graphics card

It comes with both a USB Type-A and Type-C port

Has a fingerprint reader on the touchpad

It gets the job done for its intended purpose

The model I used came with an Intel Core i3 processor, which won’t deliver great performance on paper. But after using it for a while, I can say that it really isn’t the case. It kept up with the numerous tasks I threw at it, whether it was writing documents or watching videos. Do take note that this device only comes with 4GB of RAM, so obviously you won’t be able to do a lot more.

It also helped that it comes with a 256GB solid state drive installed. Using SSDs provide a significant boost in loading times, which allowed me to get more tasks done. I would still prefer to have the more powerful Intel Core i5 option installed to maximize performance.

You can play games on it, just don’t push it

The VivoBook X412F comes with an entry level NVIDIA MX230 graphics card. Upon reading this, my initial thought was that gaming was possible — and it was. The catch is, well any game that doesn’t require so much graphical power will run smoothly. Games like CS:GO, Minecraft, and Rocket League do reach a hard 50 to 55 frame per second cap.

But like any other non-gaming laptop, using this strictly for gaming is highly discouraged. This device was not exactly designed to be a gaming machine, even if you get the units with more powerful processors on it. Plus, you will definitely feel the heat on your keyboard when you play for too long. So, I’m not saying that you can’t use it to play games; don’t use it just to play games.

It lasts relatively long, as long as you’re using it properly

Upon initial testing, I did get around five to six hours on one full charge. It’s long enough for you to just browse the internet, watch a few videos or movies, and type down reports. Doing some form of photo or video editing decreases that number by just a bit. It took two to three hours to fully charge the device from zero.

Battery life when playing games on it is just what you expect it to be. I got close to two hours and 30 minutes before having to plug the charger. Again, you can play games on this device but it’s not meant for strictly just gameplay. 

The webcam is surprisingly decent

One of the key critiques I’ve had over most laptops centers around their webcams. Most built-in HD webcams, when used for the first time, are not as “high-definition” as promoted. Images and videos either look blurry or grainy, which won’t help during conference calls.

With the VivoBook X412F, the webcam is decent at best — which is all you could really hope for. Under good lighting conditions, image quality on this 720p webcam feels more “high-definition” than most. I observed relatively less grain than most other laptops I’ve tried, which is great for video calls at least.

Other features worth considering before you buy

The VivoBook X412F comes with a fingerprint reader on the touchpad. Setting up Windows Hello was pretty fast, but I found the sensor to be pretty sensitive after. Even if I had already cleaned my fingers and wiped out the sweat, the sensor sometimes won’t read it.

It also comes with a chiclet keyboard without the number pad on the right side. Key travel, for me was decent and took just a short while to get used to. Sadly, it wasn’t backlit which I would have liked — especially for working late at night. 

Finally, you get what you can with its display. It’s only a 14-inch HD display, which doesn’t leave you much room for proper viewing angles and color accuracy. The one good quality it has, in my opinion, is that it’s an anti-glare screen. I used the device outdoors several times, and even at 70 percent brightness I could still see the contents of my screen.

Is the ASUS VivoBook X412F your GadgetMatch?

The ASUS VivoBook X412F is one device that truly caters to those who want an affordable yet premium experience. It comes in a package that promises great productivity and portability, and lasts a long time. It’s a total fit for students and young professionals looking for their first school or work laptop. Of course, that’s only the case as long as it is used for its intended purpose.

With a device like this, you can only do so much. While tasks such as photo, video editing, and gaming are possible, it proves to do more harm than good. If you really want to get the most value out of this laptop, I suggest you use it mostly for its intended purpose.At PhP 32,995 (US$ 629) for the 256GB + 4GB RAM unit, the ASUS VivoBook X412F is a great productivity device for work and school. That is, if you will use it for work or school-related activities.

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Philippines

Nokia 8.1 review: What took you so long?

Solid but feels dated

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There’s a Filipino song called “Bakit ngayon ka lang?”. Loosely translated, it means “what took you so long?”. The song talks about a missed romantic opportunity — of someone else coming along while you’re already committed to another. That’s almost exactly how I feel about the Nokia 8.1.

The phone — known in other markets as the Nokia 7X — was first announced in December 2018. A full seven months later, it arrived in the Philippines. And a lot has happened in those seven months.


Performance on par with midrangers today

Before I proceed, let’s get some of the specs talk out of the way. The device is powered by the Snapdragon 710 SoC along with 6GB of RAM with 128GB of internal storage which is expandable via a microSD card. That’s not bad. At all. It’s even near-flagship territory… in 2018.

One thing about the Nokia 8.1 though that will never feel dated is its OS. The phone is part of Google’s Android One program which means this is running Stock Android. If you like it vanilla — like a lot of purists do — then this is one of the phones that offer that clean experience. Right now it’s still on Android P, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can side load Android Q beta as it is a partner device for Android’s developer preview.

Google cards are quite useful

The chip together with vanilla Android makes for a smooth and snappy experience. Most of the time I’m either just browsing or working on my phone and doing so on the Nokia 8.1 one was a very pleasant experience.

I have said this countless times but in case you’re new here, I don’t really play mobile games. The only time I ever really do so is when I have to test phones. On the Nokia 8.1 I only played Honkai Impact 3, which is a pretty graphics heavy game. The phone had zero trouble running the game and it looked especially stunning on the phone’s 6.18-inch PureDisplay screen (which we’ll get to shortly).

This means the phone will likely have zero problems running some of the most played games today like PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. If you play these games with this phone and don’t get that Chicken Dinner or that MVP, then you only have yourself to blame.

A display sent from the heavens

The PureDisplay screen technology is really pulling its own weight. When Nokia said this phone offers a higher contrast ratio and sharper output, it felt like it was even underselling it. The screen is vibrant and the colors and images look sharp all without looking too saturated.

It doesn’t have any of that crazy 90hz or 120hz display that we’ll find on 2019 flagships, but dare I say, the Nokia 8.1 probably has the best display in its price point.

I hid that notch eventually

I’ve often found myself happily watching on this phone while slowly being sucked into the YouTube rabbit hole. Speaking of watching videos on this display, I opted to turn the notch off altogether. The notch still looks like the one present on the iPhone X which came out in 2017. It’s 2019 and personally, I’d rather have a full bezel than be bothered looking at that kind of a notch.

Watching vertical FanCams is great on this thing

That said audio on this thing is far from perfect but it’s passable. The sound it produces isn’t as full as I hope to hear from phones when in speaker mode, but you can remedy all that by plugging in headphones because our good friend jack is still present on this device. Listening on wireless earbuds also offer a nice experience.

The build screams premium

One of the first things I noticed about the Nokia 8.1 is its build. The body is built with 6000-series aluminum with an all-glass back. And it feels pretty darn expensive. So much so that I was wondering why it didn’t come with any case in the packaging.

At first I was really hesitant to bring this around due to the lack of a case, but over time, my hands have grown accustomed to the glass finish. And I feel blessed every single time I touch it. There’s something about the build in finish that just screams premium.

The fingerprint sensor is at the back. And it feels like a blessing every time I touch this thing

It’s not fragile at all though. Being the clumsy oaf that I am, I may have accidentally dropped this phone twice already. The phone sustained zero scratches and zero damages. This is one tough cookie.

Pretty darn good cameras

I have to come clean and say I never really had too many chances to take photos during the testing phase. I’ve mostly just been at my desk or in a conference room which aren’t really ideal for taking photos.

The second lens acts as a depth sensor

So for samples I just took some quick shots around my place using the ZEISS-powered 12- and 13-megapixel dual-cameras. Hopefully I find some time to get a life outside of work for the next review. If you know a girl looking for a date, feel free to hit me up. I don’t bite… unless? Anyway, check out the samples below.

Quick note, features like Pro mode and Bokeh are also present on the 20MP front-facing camera.

Is the Nokia 8.1 your GadgetMatch?

And so, here we are. I’ve had nothing but mostly nice things to say about the Nokia 8.1. For a phone that was launched in late 2018, it can still square up with several midrangers in 2019. But the price, therein lies the rub.

At PhP 19,999, it’s not crazy expensive. It’s just that for a few thousand pesos less, there are actually better options. It’s hard to justify this purchase when  phones like the Realme 3 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 9T exist — both of which came within the seven months that the Nokia 8.1 was nowhere to be found on the archipelago.

Calling the folks at Nokia to bring their phones to the Philippines faster next time

Sure, those don’t have the build that the Nokia 8.1 has but the Realme 3 Pro offers much of the same performance for a more affordable price. And the Xiaomi Mi 9T actually feels like a 2019 phone with its triple-camera setup and a pop-up camera that makes way for an actual full screen display.

If you’re a Nokia stan — and I know there’s a lot of you out there — I can’t fault you for wanting this device. I get it. It’s pretty nice. But it’s really just a little too late. Timing is everything. Both in love and in smartphone releases.

*plays “Bakit ngayon ka lang?

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Accessories

Traveling with the Moment Lens

Is the Moment lens a worthy travel buddy?

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Phone photos become our very own souvenirs whenever we travel. More than something we upload on social media, they’re pleasant memories we can flip through when we’re back to the reality and routine of our lives. As such, it pays to have beautiful shots of the landscapes and sights we visit.

Earlier in July, I went to Hokkaido, Japan. To help me achieve said beautiful shots, I had with me a Google Pixel 3 and an 18mm wide-angle lens from Moment. It was my first time using a Moment lens. If you’re not familiar with Moment, they make special phone cases that can be pimped up with lenses that help elevate the photos you take.


Is the Moment lens a worthy travel buddy? Yes and no.

It’s great for taking landscape shots

Any tourist attraction can be turned into desktop wallpaper with the wide lens.

You also get to see the bigger picture. There’s a certain splendor added to a façade when you capture it from a wider angle.

It’s handy for when there’s limited space

In one of the farms we went to, there was a veranda where we wanted to take photos. It was great for portraits but not for capturing my outfit. There was not much space for the person taking the photo to move back to, so we got help from the wide-angle lens to capture a wider perspective and a full body shot.

It’s a hassle 

While it’s easy to plug the lens onto the case, the extra step of looking for the lens inside the bag is a hassle, and ironically, takes you away from the moment you’re trying to capture. Imagine getting a stranger to take a group photo of you and your friends at a restaurant — everyone would be waiting for you to find the lens in your purse and attach it to the phone — it ruins the moment a little bit.

I can also do without the extra weight and the extra space it takes up in my tiny bag. A less rugged-looking case would also be nice.

The Moment lens does offer wonderful improvements to my vacation shots. If you’re particular about how artfully angled your shots are, you’ll find that a wide-angle lens is a great addition to your arsenal. However, if you’re like me who is content with what your camera phone has to offer, you may find the lens unnecessary. With the Google Pixel 3 and a little post-processing, I was actually able to get nice shots even without the Moment lens.

“Ironically, the Moment lens takes you away from the moment you’re trying to capture.”

Traveling means you have limited time to spend in a place. Make the most out of it with a device that has all the camera features you need. In 2019 there are already plenty of phones with built-in wide angle and telephoto features, from different price points that you might want to consider instead.

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