Hands-On

Huawei P20 and P20 Pro Hands-on: A revolutionary step forward

Seeing more with three main cameras

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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.     

Artificial Intelligence

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.

Software

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.

Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy M31: How long does a 6000mAh battery lasts?

We took the phone out for a spin!

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Having long-lasting device is a must when you need to stay connected.  When Samsung proudly introduced the Galaxy M31 with a  6,000mAh battery, it’s like god heard my woes. No more reliance on power banks and hogging wall sockets!

But how long does a 6000mAh battery last, especially for someone who’s overly attached to his smartphone? To find the answer, we fully charged a Galaxy M31 to see if it will last more than my ex-flings (or a day, in this case).

Hour 00: Making you mine

It was 2:20 PM when I took the fully charged Galaxy M31 to finish setting it up, and personalize it as my new daily driver for god knows how long. If you’re familiar with Samsung’s One UI 2.0, navigating the phone is a breeze.

I installed my essential apps — particularly Spotify — and spent at least an hour and a half to finish personalizing the phone. It was almost four in the afternoon when I decided to take a nap, with the battery currently sitting at 96 percent.

Hour 02: Vibing with your quirks

Thirty minutes later, I woke up from incessant sweating caused by a vexatious, humid atmosphere. When I checked the phone, I wasn’t surprised to see it drop to 95 percent. After all, Spotify was still playing on the background. I started prepping up to take a bath while dancing to “Mamma Mia” (I do hope youngins still know this classic).

Most of my Sundays are usually spent doing different hobbies, but having to test a phone’s battery life derailed my perfectly laid up weekend plan.

In lieu of doing things that feed my soul, I watched The Half Of It on Netflix and played Mobile Legends: Bang Bang in between supper, hourly snacks, skincare, and prepping myself to sleep.

Hour 08: Quarter good

Even with an annoying notch, watching and playing on a Super AMOLED screen is still a treat. I’m accustomed to using flagship smartphones, but the Galaxy M31 packed a punch for a midrange phone.

It’s powered by an Exynos 9611 chipset (which caused some heating), and a 6B RAM, and 128GB internal storage. A hiccup-free experience is guaranteed!

It was 10:10 PM when I turned the Wi-Fi off so I can sleep peacefully. The battery currently sits at 76 percent.

Hour 15: Staying strong

My nights are constantly haunted by my crushing regrets. In between interrupted periods of sleep, the phone’s battery sat at 75 percent. I decided to get out of the bed around 5 in the morning, planning a full day ahead.

I started catching up with news while hydrating myself with lemon water. Afterward, I opened my favorite app — Nike Training Club — to perform morning stretches. It offers quick, guided workouts for different purposes: strength, endurance, mobility, and flexibility.

Before I start my workout, I brought along my Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Fit E. If you’re deep into Samsung’s ecosystem, you’ll be disappointed with the unavailability of Galaxy Buds’ plugin, so no wireless listening for you. Although, you can rely on the Galaxy M31’s loudspeakers. Thankfully, the phone still connects seamlessly with my Galaxy Fit E.

At 6:25 AM, the battery dropped to 70 percent after conducting my morning routine. Do note that Spotify is constantly playing, even when I’m not actively using my phone. (Life without music sucks.)

Hour 17: Picture-perfect memories

It was almost seven in the morning when I started shooting a friend’s baked goods. As I sung to Taylor Swift’s “Death by a Thousand Cuts”, I let myself have fun using the Galaxy M31’s quad-camera setup.

I wrapped up around 7:19 AM with a 67 percent battery life. I took a bath and drove to Starbucks to get my favorite cold brew. Along the way, I took some selfies and snaps and uploaded them to Instagram Stories.

Hour 20 to 28: The last hurrah

I was back at my desk around 10 AM and started my daily grind. The phone sat at 43 percent after heavy and constant usage. I pulled my laptop and started working. Even with a bigger screen, I still used my phone to respond to messages, moderate social media pages, and watch on Netflix while eating.

The phone’s battery dipped to 15 percent at 6:48 PM, when my shift was about to end. To my astonishment, the Galaxy M31 lasted more than 28 hours on a single charge.

I charged the device at 7:08 PM and left it while I had dinner, took a bath, and did some house chores. It took at least three hours to fully charge the device from 15 to 95 percent, using its 15W fast charging adapter via USB-C.

On a side note, the Galaxy M31’s battery is such a rocker when left on standby mode. On a Tuesday afternoon, I left a fully charged Galaxy M31 in a safe. I checked back Saturday afternoon, and I was surprised to see its battery dipped from 100 percent to 33 percent.

Is it your GadgetMatch?

Summing it up, the Galaxy M31 is a capable and dependable midrange smartphone. It offers reliable performance with a battery that can keep up with you for more than a day. If you’re a power user looking for an affordable handset with no bells and whistles, this one is for you.

The Galaxy M31 is currently available in Black and Blue and retails for PhP 13,990 (US$ 283). It’s online-exclusive and will be available for purchase at Samsung’s Online store.

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Hands-On

realme X3 SuperZoom: A potential flagship killer

It all depends on the pricing

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I wrote about realme being a true disruptor and they have a chance to continue on that path with the realme X3 SuperZoom.

On paper, this phone screams flagship.

realme x3 SuperZoom

Display 6.6-inch Ultra-smooth FHD+ display

120Hz refresh rate

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
RAM + ROM 12GB + 256GB
Battery 4200mAh

30W Dart Flash Charge

Rear cameras 64MP Ultra high-resolution wide angle

8MP Ultra-wide angle

8MP Periscope

2MP Macro

Selfie cameras 32MP Main

8MP Ultra-wide

Right off the bat, you’ll notice two things that are present in most 2020 flagships that this phone doesn’t have. One is support for 5G, and the other is wireless charging.

However, those are two features that many people might consider icing on an otherwise perfectly tasty cake. Both 5G and wireless charging are nice to have, but I wouldn’t call them pillar features at this point in time.

Flagship performance

I had a blast using this phone for the past week since setting it up. Having used midrange phones that didn’t offer a higher screen refresh rate for a while and then jumping back to a phone with a 120Hz screen refresh rate, you can certainly tell the difference.

I cannot stress enough how smooth and fast everything feels. Browsing, swiping, toggling from app to app, it all felt seamless and speedy on the realme X3 SuperZoom.

To date, I’ve only used three phones with this feature — the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Find X2 Pro, and the ROG Phone 2. Now, the realme X3 SuperZoom joins that list. That’s pretty good company.

In fact, that Snapdragon 855+ and 120Hz screen refresh rate combo was one of the main highlights of the ROG Phone 2. Naturally, I tried a little bit of gaming on the realme X3 SuperZoom.

I played Call of Duty Mobile for the first time since reviewing the ROG Phone 2. While the performance is largely the same, the experience is a tad bit different.

Not entirely “flagship feel”

This one’s harder to explain. There are certain premium phones that just scream premium owing to a combination of things — the phone’s overall feel, a certain heft, looks, and performance.

While the X3 SuperZoom knocks it out of the park in the performance department, it falls just a tad bit short in the other departments. But I’d like to emphasize that this isn’t an entirely bad thing at all.

The phone — especially the Arctic White variant that I have — looks stunning. The front and back are made with glass, but a closer inspection will show that the sides are made with plastic.

Unlike phones that are north of PhP 40,000 or around US$ 800, it doesn’t have that wholistic glass feel, premium heft, and overall “it” factor. But that’s okay, because it’s not trying to compete with those flagships in that department.

Focusing on what matters

That “flagship feel” is almost an abstract concept and is truly reserved for most premium flagship phones. It’s a luxury.

This brings us back to what I think is the overarching theme of the realme X3 SuperZoom, and perhaps the theme of most realme smartphones —  flagship features for less.

One of those flagship features are the cameras. You’ve already seen the specs up top, so now here’s a quick look at the zoom features. The samples below only go as far as 10X Zoom — which I think is the optimal zoom on this phone.

It can go as far as 60X Zoom, but as I mentioned in previous reviews, the max zoom capacity on these phones isn’t necessarily their best.

I also like the color and detail it produces. Here’s a photo under good daylight.

This one’s indoors with a wide window light source.

While this one is taken at night.

There are a lot more features to explore which we will try to do so in the full review.

Flagship killer? 

There’s a lot going for the realme X3 SuperZoom. Its performance, looks, and camera capabilities are all top-notch. The realme UI — which is unsurprisingly reminiscent of ColorOS 7.1 — is clean AF.

There’s still some bloatware that you can easily tuck in the app drawer, but overall, it adds to the smooth and fast experience with a clean look and a ton of customization options.

In India, the price of this phone has been revealed to be INR 32,999 or US$ 436. That’s roughly PhP 22,000 BUT realme Philippines has been careful to point out that due to “local tax and tariffs,” the pricing will likely be different.

The launch and pricing announcement is happening on July 9 2020, iff they’re able to keep this below PhP 30,000, then we might just have a strong flagship killer contender.

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Hands-On

OPPO A92: The A9 2020 in a different skin

Makes you think it’s new

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There’s nothing particularly striking about the OPPO A92. In many aspects it’s… just right. The battery performance is stellar, and ColorOS 7.1 is in the running as one of my favorite Android skins. Everywhere else, it’s just solid.

It might seem underwhelming on paper, but if you think about it, it’s practically right in line with what you ought to expect from a smartphone at this price. Anything else that goes beyond this is a bonus.

Here’s a quick look at the specs:

OPPO A9 2020

Display

6.5” IPS LCD

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 665

RAM + ROM

8GB + 128GB

Cameras

Quad rear (48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP)

Punch hole selfie (16MP)

Battery

5,000mAh

Unlock

Side-mounted fingerprint scanner

Other connections

USB-C, 3.5mm jack

To me, this represents the baseline of what you should expect from a midrange smartphone. Nothing too fancy, nothing gimmicky, just the right amount of performance to get you through whatever it is you need to get through.

Solid, steady performance

I used the phone for roughly a week. Coming from flagship smartphones, I can definitely feel the difference but it still did what I needed it to do.

Browsing social media and jumping from Facebook, to Twitter, and then Instagram, and then back to Twitter is relatively smooth. There was no significant slow down but, as I’ve mentioned, if you are coming from a flagship you will notice a difference. There’s a bit of a drag, but it’s negligible for the most part.

I didn’t really do a lot of mobile gaming on the phone save for a few Asphalt 9 races. Just like everything about this phone, the experience is… okay.

I did have some trouble when the things on screen I needed to press were located near the edge. The phone just didn’t respond right away and it caused mild stress on my part. Told OPPO about this and it might be an isolated case with the unit I was lent.

Is it really a binge-watch machine?

The short answer is yes. We partnered with OPPO upon the phone’s launch and our talking point is how this phone can probably last longer than you during binge-watch sessions.

With a 5,000mAh battery and no exorbitant features to eat-up that power, the phone does last long. In this video (which I will also reluctantly add in this article), I noted how I didn’t charge the phone after an overnight binge-watch test. I used it sparingly over the next three days and it still didn’t run out of juice.

I can confidently say this will probably get you to a day and a half, even with heavy usage.

That UI is so damn clean

Other than Samsung going from TouchWi to OneUI, ColorOS’ journey from an iOS-wannabe to embracing everything about Android has been one of my favorite Android skin transformations.

There’s still a fair amount of bloatware and an annoying AppMarket, but everywhere else, ColorOS 7.1 is clean, extremely customizable, and just smooth to use and navigate.

You can pick the icon shape and style, and dark mode can even force apps that don’t have a dark mode yet to, well, go dark. It’s still a pretty shaky execution but they do a better job than vivo’s FunTouchOS. That’s at least true for the forced dark mode on the Facebook app.

Is it really an upgrade from the OPPO A9 2020?

This is a rather tricky question to answer. In terms of succession, yes, this is a follow-up to the OPPO A9 2020, but the only real differences are its weight, design. Even the weight part is nearly negligible with OPPO A9 2020 at 195g and OPPO A92 at 192g.

Some significant changes though are the fingerprint scanner location (side-mounted on the OPPO A92 vs rear on the OPPO A9 2020) and the selfie camera (punch hole on OPPO A92 vs waterdrop on OPPO A9 2020).

Side-mounted fingerprint scanner/power button

Otherwise, you get the same quad camera setup (48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP), the same selfie camera (16MP), the same processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 665), and the same configuration (8GB + 128GB). They even share the same launch pricing (PhP 15,990 or US$320).

For the most part, it’s the same phone under a different skin. If you liked the look of the OPPO A9 2020, then go for that one as it should be cheaper now. Personally, I think that design had more of an identity.

The OPPO A92 exists to create the illusion that after only six months, the company might have something new to offer — which isn’t the case. It’s like your ex coming back dressed differently. But deep inside, it’s just the same person.

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