Tipping point: that pivotal moment in time where all the conditions are right, your status bar maxes out, and you level up from protégé to hero.
For some it comes by divine moment; others still by hitting critical mass.
For Huawei, this milestone is achieved with the launch of its P20 and P20 Pro. Unveiled today in Paris, these monumental smartphones will one day be remembered as the devices that ushered the company into ubiquity.
But first, as soon as they hit shelves early next month, they are meant to be enjoyed. Earlier this week we spent some hands-on time with the P20, and here’s what you can look forward to.
Designed to stand out
In person and in the hand, the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro look stunning and feel amazing. They are improved over last year’s models with rounded aluminum corners, a glass back that shimmers when hit by light, and just the right amount of curves to give it a softer feel.
But what’s most impressive is the phone’s range of color options. One color in particular stands out; it’s called Twilight, a gradient finish that fades from purple to blue and then green. While the Twilight P20 looks good in photos, nothing comes quite close to the moment when the sun’s rays hit the phone’s back and it explodes with color.
Earlier this year, I spoke with Huawei’s Chief Brand Officer Gloria Cheung about the importance of color and how a variety of finishes has always been important to the Huawei design story. While many folks gravitate to standards like black, silver, and gold, it’s nice to see options like Twilight, Midnight Blue, and the other gradient finish Pink Gold.
Huawei is clear about its intent to fuse both art and technology, and hopes that the P20 will attract a generation of users that care as much about technology as they do art, fashion, and pop culture. It’s evident too in its choice of its launch venue, The Grand Palais, also home to Chanel’s haute couture fashion shows.
Both phones sport the new trend of taller but narrower displays, with near edge-to-edge screens and you guessed it, a notch. Having also used an iPhone X, the notch doesn’t bother me as much, but if it’s notch your thing, there’s an option to fill the space around it with black giving your P20 a more traditional look.
Unlike most phones that come with a notch, the phone still has a bit of chin, enough space for a fingerprint sensor which also acts as a home button with gestures for going back and multitasking. The saves you that tiny bit of screen real estate normally taken up by on-screen buttons. I like that the fingerprint sensor is up front, even if it ruins the all-screen illusion.
P20 vs P20 Pro
The phone comes in two sizes: the 5.8-inch P20 and the 6.1-inch P20 Pro.
Both phones are slightly different with the P20 Pro the obvious superior sibling. It has the better OLED display, more memory, water and dust resistance, and a bigger battery.
While we are unable to verify at this point, Huawei promises the P20 Pro should last as long as last year’s Mate 10 Pro, which lasts me about a day and a half on a single charge.
Even with the switch to a glass back, neither phone gets wireless charging. Reps from Huawei tell us wireless charging speeds are not fast enough to justify the feature. With its bundled supercharger though, you can go from zero to 58 percent in 30 minutes.
There are some concessions that need to be pointed out. Neither model has a headphone jack and no room for expandable storage; instead, the phone comes bundled with a 3.5mm audio to USB-C adapter, and a generous 128GB of storage space as the standard.
The P20 is only splash resistant. I would have loved to see it come with the same water resistance as its big brother.
For a complete rundown of specs, check out our launch article.
The Best Cameras
If there’s one place where Huawei’s spent the most development, it’s on its cameras — which are, as of today, the highest rated by independent camera rating firm DxOMark.
It’s not hard to see why. There are tons of improvements to talk about: tweaks that make it easier to focus on subjects quicker, to new sensors that produce better colors, and super slow-mo 960fps video capture just so that its competition does not get a leg up.
Many will (secretly) appreciate the high-res 24-megapixel selfie camera, which is often left out of high-end phones.
The P20 Pro again gets the better end of the stick in terms of cameras. In fact, it has not just two like on the standard P20 (one monochrome and another with color), but three rear Leica cameras; one is a 3x zoom lens (more than the 2x we’re used to from the likes of Samsung and Apple), one black-and-white camera, and one incredibly ridiculous 40-megapixel main camera.
While that’s a great conversation starter, one of its biggest camera achievements comes in the space of low-light photography. Without getting too technical, Huawei managed to squeeze in an image sensor that’s larger than those found on all of the best camera smartphones available today, and boosted its maximum ISO to 102400 which is in DSLR (not smartphone) territory.
They claim the P20’s low-light abilities are so good that it can shoot at one lux of light, which is basically close to pitch dark.
Hardware improvements are only one half of Huawei’s camera story.
Since last year’s Mate 10, artificial intelligence has played a role in how well its cameras perform. That phone could detect objects and adjust camera settings to best suit the conditions and the subject.
On the P20, we’re seeing AI take a more active role. Huawei is calling it AI-powered Master Photography. Think of it as the right photography skills for the right moment.
For example, if you’re taking a photo of your mom, the camera detects this and changes to portrait mode so you get that nice background blur. Slightly crooked composition? The camera will show a horizon line indicator so your photos are perfectly framed.
But where AI really steps in and impresses is image stabilization.
Huawei says its AIS is so good, that it’s basically solved an age old problem in photography: long exposure night shots without a tripod. The phone can shoot four-second handheld photos while artificial intelligence and machine learning can compensate to remove any or all motion blur. Not even my US$ 3,000 Sony A7S II, which is one of the best low-light cameras today, can manage that.
The P20 and P20 Pro run on Android 8.1 with an EMUI 8.1 skin. Huawei promises it’s at least 50 percent smoother and more responsive than previous models, but it’s still not close to stock Android which would have been the cherry on top of the P20 pie. There are plenty of gems under the hood, though.
Huawei Share 2.0 makes it easier to share files to and from a PC or Mac as long as you are on the same wireless network. You can share files wirelessly without having to install any apps on your computer, photo albums are curated by AI, PC Mode still lets you connect to a monitor for a full desktop experience, and then there are partnerships with Amazon and Alibaba so you can point your phone at objects and buy them right then and there.
Is the Huawei P20 your GadgetMatch?
You’ll have to wait and see. For now, we cannot wait to put the phone through its paces and see how it performs in the real world.
But I’ll tell you this: Where the P20 and P20 are concerned, Huawei has pulled out all the stops, and has delivered on all fronts. Both phones are exciting to look at and packed with all the right features.
Lenovo Yoga S730 hands-on: Not the Yoga you used to know
Still, it’s a great notebook
Since Ultrabooks or laptops that are premium and portable came into the PC market, it’s been hard to ignore their appeal. They’re sleek and at the same time powerful. There’s no sacrifice needed just to have a reliable notebook that you can put in your bag with ease.
A number of manufacturers have come up with their own style for the next-gen laptop, but it was Lenovo who inked the Yoga brand into our minds. A Yoga laptop can instantly transform into multiple modes, but the one I have here is different.
Let’s take a look at the Yoga S730.
It has a 13.3-inch IPS display…
… that can lay flat on a table
There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right…
… and a USB-C port for charging on the left
It has a pretty large touchpad
Windows Hello is present via the fingerprint reader
It’s indeed a lightweight notebook
Thin and really light
First things first, the Yoga S730 doesn’t have a 360-degree hinge despite having the “Yoga” moniker attached to it. Lenovo now has a new naming scheme that classifies all of its premium notebooks as Yoga. What matters now is its model name, which is S730. The “S” denotes that it’s part of the slim and sleek lineup. If you want a true Yoga that’s a convertible, you gotta look for the letter “C” in the name.
I know it’s confusing, but that’s what Lenovo is pushing for now. So now, not all premium notebooks from Lenovo will have a bendy display; however, the 360-degree hinge is part of the premium package a Yoga offers, right?
Anyhow, the Yoga S730 features a 13.3-inch IPS LCD with a Full HD resolution. It’s nowhere near the sharpness of MacBook’s Retina Display, but it’s crisp enough for its size. I even find it even more pleasant to look at than my other 13-inch notebook with the same resolution. Perhaps, the Dolby Vision feature really works on Lenovo’s screen.
I also do appreciate the slim bezels surrounding the display. It’s not edge-to-edge like Dell’s XPS 13, but it’s close enough. Despite having a 13-inch screen, the Yoga S730 is just as big as a good old 11-inch netbook from yesteryears.
With its size, it’s pegged as an ultraportable notebook. At just 11.9mm thin, the Yoga S730 is Lenovo’s slimmest Yoga notebook. With that, I worked on the laptop for a few days at a coffee shop. Indeed, it’s light and easy to carry around; however, I find the keyboard to be a bit shallow. The typing experience is not quite what I expected from a high-end Lenovo notebook.
The whole body of the laptop is made from sand-blasted aluminum. It’s cold to touch, which is always welcome.
Capable of more
Inside, the Yoga S730 is powered by an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage. It’s a specced-up variant, so you don’t have to compromise performance over mobility.
Without a dedicated graphics unit though, the Yoga S730 won’t be able to handle intensive games as well as gamers would like. Casual titles will run just fine (even CS:GO and Sims 4), but don’t expect it to be a portable gaming laptop despite its high-end specifications.
The Yoga S730 doesn’t have any full-size HDMI or USB ports, a sacrifice that has to be made in order to keep the laptop slim. Instead, it has three USB-C ports; two of which supports Thunderbolt 3.
If you fully take advantage of Thunderbolt for extra graphics oomph and external 4K displays, the Yoga S730 will please you. If not, you better do because having Thunderbolt 3 is an added premium you already paid for and it doesn’t come cheap.
Battery-wise, Lenovo promises up to 12 hours of continuous use. Real-life usage might clock in around nine to 10 hours only, though. Also, Lenovo’s RapidCharge technology will fill up the battery up to 80 percent in just one hour.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
For PHP 69,995, the new Yoga S730 is one of the premium yet not-so-expensive laptops in the market. It’s portable thanks to its slim and light body, but it has more than enough power for everyday computing. With its Thunderbolt 3 ports, it also has the ability to have external graphics power when needed.
Lenovo has a competitive laptop here, and it’s an easy recommendation for its specs and price. Just keep in mind that it’s not a convertible despite having the Yoga brand.
Watching TWICELIGHTS on a 75″ Samsung 4K QLED TV
Almost as good as attending the concert
K-Pop girl group TWICE is currently on their first world tour called TWICELIGHTS and due to schedule conflicts as well as an inability to camp out for tickets, I missed all possible chances to see this nine-member group live.
I was devastated after being told that the tickets had already been sold out. This, despite me waking up much, much earlier than I usually do on a weekend and lining up for hours.
So I did the next best thing — watch fancams on the 75” Q90R Flagship QLED 4K HDR 2000 Smart TV.
4K in all its glory
My advice in watching 4K fancams is to select the ones that focus on a certain member. This will give you a better and closer look and really feel that 4K goodness.
That said, the 4K footage will vary depending on the device it was shot at. Some 4K footage don’t do well in concert lighting conditions and when zoomed in which is the case for most fancams.
Despite this, the Samsung Q90R more than delivered. It didn’t matter if I was sitting on the couch directly in front of the TV or over to the side at our dining area. I was getting the same quality no matter the viewing angle.
TWICELIGHTS on the 75” Samsung 4K QLED TV is an absolute joy to watch. Instead of being stuck with a single view, you get to experience the concert from a multitude of perspectives thanks to the various fansites that cover TWICE.
I put together a playlist on YouTube which you can find towards the end of this article. If you see an abundance of Momo and Chaeyoung fancams, this is because those two are my biases.
After watching (and *ehem rewatching) the concert, I had to test what else this TV can do.
The girls already look good in HD, and they look even better when upscaled to 4K. You see, this is what the TV is capable of. Much like its 8K counterpart, the Q90R is equipped with a chip that upscales footage to 4K.
The music videos, which are mostly just in 1080p, look stunning on the 75-inch 4K QLED display. This is especially true for K-Pop videos that are known to be colorful.
Something we quickly noticed though is that some of the upscaled videos appear a little more saturated than usual. Personally, this didn’t really bother me but it might be important to note for those considering to purchase this TV.
Gaming and watching movies
The saturation doesn’t stop at upscaling. When you switch to game mode, the colors tend to switch to colors that some people might find too aggressive.
We played NBA 2K19 on the monitor and some courts almost hurt your eye because of how strong they appear. This wasn’t the case for other games though.
The same is true when watching movies built for 4K machines. It’s a perfect blend of “damn this looks like I’m actually seeing them in real life” while maintaining that cinematic feel. Words aren’t enough, you truly need to see this in person.
With Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video pre-installed, you won’t run out of 4K content to go through. My only gripe is that the TV doesn’t support the NBA App. Basketball is one of the few things I actually try to watch live but that’s not possible unless I have a cable subscription which I have no plans of getting any time soon.
At first I thought this was just a glitch on the particular unit we were lent but Samsung confirmed that they currently do not support the NBA app. However, they added that they are “looking to find ways to improve customer experience by expanding our content services and apps available in our smart TVs.”
There weren’t a lot but I did experience some casting issues on the Q90R. YouTube worked perfectly but other apps like VLive struggled to connect right away unlike when I’m just using a chromecast.
There’s also this little hiccup when you want to watch Facebook videos. The TV will force you to use the Facebook Watch app and have to connect a single user’s account to the TV versus anyone just being able to cast a video as long as they are connected to the same wifi network.
It’s a minor inconvenience although it could be an issue if you have to have more than one person connect their Facebook account to the TV just so they have easy access to the Facebook videos they prefer watching. That said, I don’t imagine a lot of people need to use Facebook Watch to begin with.
Truly a Smart TV
One of the things I truly appreciate about the Q90R is how seamless you interact with it. The remote and the TV’s interface is well thought-out.
The Q90R foregoes the usual remote in favor of what looks like a circular directional pad which works perfectly on the TV’s interface. The other buttons can also be easily located by feeling your way on the remote. Adjusting the volume is as simple as pushing up or down on a button.
You can, of course, use the mic and ask Bixby to do things on the TV for you but personally that’s not my thing. I don’t want to have to speak when interacting with my TV but I find that this can be a useful way for other people.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The 75” Q90R Flagship QLED 4K HDR 2000 Smart TV is an entertainment powerhouse. It’s perfect for family gatherings and inviting a large group of friends for some Netflix and chilling. It’ll set you back at PhP 359,999 (roughly around US$ 7010).
However, if you have an extra PhP 240,000 lying around, you might want to opt for the 8K version which retails for PhP 599,999 (roughly around US$ 11,700) which puts you in better position to be ready for the future. If not, the 4K isn’t shabby at all.
ASUS Zen AiO 27 hands-on: A step up from before
Your next home PC?
Let’s take a break from laptops and check out this desktop PC from ASUS. This is the Zen AiO 27 and it looks so much better than any of the previous all-in-ones we reviewed from the Taiwanese company.
Let’s find out in this hands-on.
This AiO has a gorgeous 27-inch UHD display
The bezels surrounding the screen are slim
It has an outward notch at the bottom for the webcam
There are four speakers located at the back
Quick-access ports are on the right side of the base
The remaining ports are all at the back
The front has two LED indicators and an SD card reader
The base even has a wireless charging pad
A full-size wireless keyboard comes in the box
There’s also a bundled wireless optical mouse
The Zen AiO design upgrade we’ve been waiting for
ASUS’ new Zen AiO 27 finally gets the design upgrade it deserves. It’s not an iMac copy-cat anymore and it looks even better than Apple’s desktop PC. ASUS certainly took a step forward in design; however, I’ve seen better-looking AiOs running Windows 10 like Dell’s new Inspiron desktops.
Perhaps, the best asset of the Zen AiO 27 is its display. It’s a 27-inch IPS LCD panel with a UHD resolution and multi-touch support. The display is Pantone Validated for color accuracy and it has ASUS’ NanoEdge design for slimmer bezels all around.
Although, like on smartphones, slimmer bezels come at a cost. ASUS had to put an outward notch to house a webcam and, for some reason, they placed it at the bottom. When I tested the webcam, it was showing myself from an awkward angle. As a consolation, it’s also equipped with an IR sensor for hands-free face login with Windows Hello.
The Zen AiO 27’s stand lets users view the display from multiple angles. It can tilt and swivel, plus the height can be adjusted with one finger. There’s no option for rotating the display, but that’s okay.
Design-wise, the Zen AiO 27 is a thing of beauty. I do appreciate its brushed metal-effect finish of really dark blue (darker than navy blue) with gold trims and accents. The audio and visual department of the PC delivers top-notch quality as well.
Slim and powerful, but not enough for 4K
All of the power of the Zen AiO 27 comes from beneath. The components are all housed in the base of the PC, which is neat and practical. How so? There are two storage slots and memory is user upgradeable up to 32GB.
The specs of the model I have are impressive with an Intel Core i7-8700T processor, 16GB DDR4 memory, 512GB M.2 SSD, and 2TB HDD. It also has discrete graphics using NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1050, which is kind of old but still very capable.
The base also has a Thunderbolt 3 port and features Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band gigabit-class Wi-Fi. Needless to say, it runs Windows 10 Home out of the box.
I have no complaints with the general performance of the Zen AiO 27 thanks to its incredible specifications. I can easily multitask with multiple windows open and quickly render images from Photoshop. The configuration is also enough to ensure smooth video editing.
When it comes to gaming though, it doesn’t hit the mark. While the GTX 1050 GPU is good for games like Fortnite or anything with similar graphics power requirements, it’s not enough to push pixels in UHD.
This means you can’t take full advantage of the crisp display of the Zen AiO 27. It’s best to keep the game’s resolution in Full HD to have at least 60fps in not-so-demanding titles. Too bad I can’t enjoy Cities: Skylines in 4K.
I wasn’t able to try it out, but the Zen AiO 27’s can also act as an external monitor since it has an HDMI-in port. Any HDMI-connected source can use the UHD display as a second monitor.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The ASUS Zen AiO 27 is indeed premium with an asking price of PhP 149,995 in the Philippines. It’s available through ASUS Concept Stores nationwide.
Of course, if you are to build your own desktop PC, you could get more power with the same budget. You could even still use an ASUS monitor, keyboard, mouse, and components since the company also sells those.
What you won’t get is the convenience of a plug-and-play, space-saving AiO. It’s like bringing out a laptop and plugging in the charger. If only ASUS included a better wireless keyboard and mouse, it would have been a better package.
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