Reviews

Huawei P20 Pro review: 3 months later

Does it get better with age?

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I’ll be honest: New smartphone releases don’t excite me the way they used to. As much as I enjoyed using the Mi Mix 2S and Galaxy S9 as my daily drivers for most of early 2018, they’re practically the same as their predecessors.

It takes something special to win me over. The massive gold-trimmed Mi Mix did that for me in 2016, and so did the notch-pioneering Essential Phone last year (once its price dropped, of course). But let’s be real: Neither of these phones had decent cameras. As pretty as they were to look at, in no way could they replace my mirrorless camera on trips.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a Huawei bandwagoner, but the P20 Pro has been doing it all for me, and I’m not just talking about the fantastic cameras. Having spent significant time with both the Pro and non-Pro versions, they’ve been my go-to phones midway this year.

P20 Pro versus P20 (not) Pro

Before having the privilege of using the P20 Pro as my current daily driver, I had the regular P20 in my pocket. While this may have been for OOTD purposes, it became the basis for my experience with the Pro, and a reference to Huawei’s current-generation capabilities.

Isa already wrote her comprehensive thoughts on the P20, which largely reflect how I feel about the non-Pro model. It’s sized just right for hands both big and small; the cameras are above the competition (in most cases); and its color options are simply gorgeous in person.

Blue P20 on the left, Pink Gold P20 to the right

The P20 Pro is all that and a little more. Since it’s larger, there’s more screen real estate from its 6.1-inch 1080p OLED display and it houses a more generous 4000mAh battery — both of which are much-appreciated upgrades for power users.

Other differences aren’t as significant, like the stereo speakers and stronger waterproofing on the Pro model, but are again features that add value to the more expensive variant. Are these enough to justify the added premium? Not really, yet we haven’t touched on the main reason for buying a P20 Pro: the Leica-infused triple-camera setup on the back.

The mooore, the merrier

There are a total of four cameras on the P20 Pro, three of which are on the rear. They are: a 20-megapixel monochrome camera, an 8-megapixel sensor for additional zoom, and a primary shooter with 40 megapixels at its disposal. What does this all mean? The best imaging capabilities on a smartphone by a long shot.

People (us included) have become skeptical of DxOMark’s ratings and how they affect potential users’ perception of the best camera-phones, but there’s some truth in the soul-crushing dominance the P20 Pro experiences at the very top of their mobile chart.

Although it’s a given that every smartphone generation delivers a decent upgrade in image quality each year, none have dotted their exclamation point as much as Huawei has. It’s already been three whole months since the P20 Pro was unveiled, and no newer handset till now has even come close to dethroning its cameras’ performance.

I’ve already taken the P20 Pro across the world and used it to document my trips. I rarely say this, but this phone can definitely replace my consumer-grade mirrorless camera. Like the cameras, there are three things they specialize in, namely incredible image quality, unmatched zooming abilities, and nighttime photography like no other.

You can find a bunch of samples in my New York travel piece, along with a few more from my recent trip to Taipei right here:

Whether I’m taking shots at night or under broad daylight, with or without color, the P20 Pro absolutely delivers. I can’t count how many times I’ve been amazed by the results and thankful that I left my dedicated camera at home.

Even the zoom comes in handy when I’m traveling or shooting at an event. With a dedicated lens for this purpose, the P20 Pro can optically zoom up to three times. What’s even more impressive, however, is the image quality at 10X zoom.

Using a mix of optical and digital zoom (and some advanced software tricks), photos shot at the maximum length turn out usable, which is something I can’t say for the majority of cameras out there.

While the 24-megapixel front camera seems like another recipe for success, it doesn’t hit the same high notes. Not that it’s bad by any means — and trust me, I’ve had worse — but selfies simply don’t match up to anything the main cameras produce.

This can be considered the weakest aspect of the P20 Pro’s shooters. It takes steady hands to produce sharp images, and the sensor seems to struggle a bit with groups (something Isa pointed out, as well).

It seems to me like Huawei marketed the rear cameras so strongly in order to make people ignore the weakness of the selfie cam. It’s a shame, but this leaves some room for improvements in the next flagship. Last year’s Mate 10 Pro proved that Huawei knows how to polish its selfies.

Downsides? There are a couple.

For one, I find the Master AI feature, which chooses the best mode for you using artificial intelligence, cumbersome to use. Although it gets the settings right most of the time, it adds a few seconds to the process, and there will be instances wherein it’ll experiment on its own, leaving you forced to watch it switch from one mode to another.

I simply leave this feature turned off and do the scene selection on my own. Need a good nighttime pic? I simply go to night mode and take a four-second handheld exposure. Want to blur the background behind my subject? I’m already in portrait mode. Artsy-fartsy time? There’s monochrome mode for that.

On the other hand, video mode isn’t that great. Even though Huawei managed to improve the stability and clarity of videos, they missed a golden opportunity to massacre the competition outside of just photography.

If you try the super-slow-mo mode, you’ll see how unrefined it is compared to what the likes of Sony and Samsung have done. Yes, it shoots HD videos at 960 frames per second too, but it’s nowhere near as fun or as intuitive to use.

It does almost everything else

Of course, this is first and foremost a smartphone, and we can’t sell it solely on its shooters. But even if the cameras weren’t this good, the P20 Pro stands as one of the most impressive handsets of 2018 thus far.

Give me a moment to be a little technical:

Its Kirin 970 processor, though a bit behind in terms of raw power compared to this generation’s chips, is still a beast for everyday tasks and playing the latest mobile games; the generous battery is more than enough to power through a day of heavy usage with mobile data or Wi-Fi constantly on; and the OLED display, while not the brightest or sharpest out there, has been serving me well.

So, what’s there to consider three months later? Does it truly get better with age?

To get a pure feel of the P20 Pro, I decided to not use a case or any form of protection for it. Fortunately for me, its glass and metal body held up well. It doesn’t pick up scratches easily and the frame of my black variant has a matte finish, providing more grip than I’m used to on slippery glass phones.

And even if the rear cameras protrude a great deal, they don’t show signs of wear and tear after all this time. Their placement is annoying, however; the phone wobbles with every press on the screen while laid flat on a table.

Another constant gripe is Huawei’s uncertainty about going truly wireless or not. As you may already know, there’s no audio port for your headphones, forcing you to use an adapter or wireless earphones. Nothing we can do about that since that’s the direction all brands are heading toward, but having no wireless charging despite there being a compatible glass back seems counter-intuitive.

On the bright side, charging to full takes less than two hours, but that’s if you use the bundled SuperCharge adapter. It’s a proprietary standard, meaning you won’t be able to get SuperCharge speeds with chargers from non-Huawei phones.

The phone will simply indicate “fast charging” when using other adapters and slow down the top-up considerably. As someone who brings multiple devices with me at a time, it bums me to carry a dedicated charger just for the P20 Pro.

Software-wise, EMUI has grown on me. Despite feeling like it’s based on an older version of Android and not the Oreo it’s actually running on, I appreciate the fluidity of the animations and convenience of the quick settings. After uninstalling all the bloatware upon setting the phone up, everything has been fine and dandy since.

I can’t say for certain if it truly got faster the more I used it — Huawei’s machine learning tech is supposed to kick in for this — but the phone does feel as fast as when I first took it out of the box.

And no, the camera notch doesn’t bother me. I’d take it over the mechanical sliding cameras popping up lately.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Fun fact: I wrote this entire review on a P20 Pro. That’s not saying it can replace a laptop; I simply can’t let go of this phone.

There’s little to dislike about the P20 Pro. The only strong argument I have against it is to save your money by considering the regular P20 instead. It’s significantly cheaper in most markets, and lots of users will appreciate the handier form factor.

But if you do end up with a P20 Pro: Congrats! Smartphone cameras don’t get any better than this, and they happen to be on a mostly complete handset.

Gaming

Kena: Bridge of Spirits isn’t for everybody

And, that’s fine

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Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure third-person video game. The game is developed and produced by Ember Lab. In the game, you play as Kena. She’s a young spirit guide who uses her magical abilities to help people pass on into the spirit world.

The game is stunning and deep dives into spiritual aspects like emotional entanglement with the physical word after passing away.

In case you don’t have a working pair of eyes

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a gorgeous game. Stunning yet scuffed at times, this game is nothing short of eye-candy. The background details and character design is just *chef’s kiss*. But, big butt (Editor’s Note: Not sure if this is a typo but we’ve decided to keep it as is), by the way, this aesthetic might not be to some people’s liking. Hear me out: this game looks and feels like you’re playing through a Disney Pixar movie. And, honestly, that might not be for everyone.

On the scuffed end of things, you’ll find that some things glitch through objects and terrain. But, to that, I think it adds to its charm. The silliness is often welcome and strangely expected in the whole gaming sense. This isn’t the first scuffed game to come across a gamer’s life and it won’t be the last. I think each game has its improvements and patches to develop and incorporate and the glitches make the whole experience memorable and meme-able.

The crutch everyone won’t shut up about

This game is weirdly forgettable for people who’ve played a lot of third-person action adventures. Why? Well, this isn’t the first of its kind. Kena: Bridge of Spirits takes from many games before it and blends its inspirations together pretty nicely without overcomplicating its mechanics.

I would say though, that this can be what I personally found to be endearing with Kena. It unapologetically makes for a good entry-level action-adventure game for people who might not normally gravitate to games like it. With its beautiful visuals and memorable take on grievances, Kena pulls at sentimental heartstrings without the stupidly complicated skill building of most other action adventures out there.

Don’t hate the game

Nor, the player. The game is simple. That can be refreshing for some players or just boring to some. Which, I’ll say now, to each their own. Most games under the same category are far more convoluted and complex. So, if that’s something you like, this isn’t for you. And that’s totally fine.

Most of the game plays on collecting cute Rot along the way. And, on top of the usual skill building, most rewards you’ll find in hidden spots are either more Rot or hats for them. It doesn’t really require that much mental gymnastics to play this game. You can play to relax and just enjoy the journey. Which, for me, is great! Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the perfect game for when you want to play with family watching. I’m sure it’ll feel like a movie to them.

Is this your GAME Match?

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game worth trying no matter how familiar you are with video games in the same category. The barrier of entry is super friendly and simplistic so, you won’t need that much video game experience to immerse in the story. Plus, you can customize the game for when you want more of a challenge.

I do have to say though, that this game might fight to keep your interest at times but, it sure can lure you back in. As for me, I was happy to play this game. It was challenging at times and, it might not be the best one on my list. But, it gets honorary points for being simple, gorgeous, and family-friendly.

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Reviews

Apple Watch Series 7: In-Depth Fitness Review

For fitness buffs and starters alike

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In our previous video, Michael Josh did an unboxing of the new Apple Watch Series 7 in Starlight. He even became NY’s next top model as the Apple Watch can also be your next best fashion piece.

This time around, we go all-out to show you the fitness benefits of using the latest Apple Watch.

While an incremental update and lack of new sensors mean little, the longer battery life, faster charging, and larger display of the Apple Watch Series 7 mean it’s even better than before.

Here’s our in-depth fitness review of the new Apple Watch Series 7.

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Laptops

realme Book review: Done right the first time around

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realme Book

The pandemic has brought about major changes on how we depend on our gadgets. We stay glued to our smartphones for hours to stay connected. Most of us also continue with our work from home setup, causing the demand for laptops to continue to rise and opening the market to new players. 

realme tries to steal the scene as they make their laptop debut with the realme Book, aimed at competing at the midrange level where many brands have already made their mark. 

Let’s check out if the realme Book can be a great contender in the laptop arena. 

Familiar yet better  

realme Book

Having a first look at the realme Book, the similarity of its design is undeniable with the MacBook though I don’t really think it’s a bad thing. Its sleek and stylish minimalist design actually makes me feel like I’m using a premium laptop. 

Compared to its smartphones that have those flashy labels, realme veered away from that with their first laptop as they kept the label subtle and you can barely see the “Dare to Leap” mark on one of its rubber feet. 

Its 14-inch sleek aluminum alloy body with matte finish really feels solid and has little or no flex on its slim chassis.

If you’re someone who likes to work in different corners of your home or at al fresco shops, the realme book can easily fit in your bag with its 14.9mm width and 1.38kg weight. When working on a flat surface, the rubber feet on the back actually help the laptop stay stable. 

In terms of port options, you get one USB-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and two Type-C ports, one being a Thunderbolt 4 for the core i5 variant.

realme Book

The USB port was a bit too tight that it required me to exert effort to pull out my USB device. Also, this laptop lacks an SD card slot and HDMI port. It doesn’t bother me that much but it may be a deal-breaker for other users. 

realme Book

Top-Notch Display 

One thing that the realme Book can really boast about is its display. As full HD display is common in laptops from its competition, the realme Book takes it up a notch with its 2K Ultra-HD screen with 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution delivering stellar image quality with sharp detail. 

The realme Book also packs in 100 percent sRGB wide color gamut that enables true-to-life visuals and a peak brightness of 400 nits which maintains high quality image even under direct sunlight. 

What also sets it apart from other laptops is its 3:2 aspect ratio, giving you more vertical room compared to most laptops that are either 16:10 or 16:9. This feature is an advantage when it comes to your productivity especially if you usually work on documents, spreadsheets or social media content for work. 

However, this becomes a disadvantage when you’re watching videos since you’ll have wider black bars at the top and bottom of the screen due to movies and series being usually formatted with 16:9 ratio.  

Another impressive feature of this laptop is that realme was able to fit its web camera on its narrow bezels, unlike Huawei that had to sacrifice a good camera angle with their Matebook’s hidden camera placed on its keyboard. 

realme Book

Comfortable for work 

Speaking of the keyboard, typing on the realme Book is satisfying thanks to its 1.3mm key travel and the sound of its clicks is just right for my preference.

The keyboard also comes with a 3-mode backlit option which you can activate and adjust by pressing the F7 key. This is convenient especially when you have to work or use the laptop for a while during the night. It is also interesting since this is a feature that you barely get to experience on laptops at this price. 

realme Book

Compared to other laptops, the trackpad on the realme Book is pretty huge but doesn’t get in the way of typing. It is also very responsive to the touch and works precisely with all gestures and clicks. 

realme Book

And similar to the Huawei Matebook devices, it also has a fingerprint-sensor embedded power button to boot it up which is actually a handy feature to have in a laptop. 

Power Performance 

As for breezing through tasks, the realme Book is highly capable to give you the best experience being powered by the 11th Gen Intel Core processor. Paired with this is the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 8GB DDR4 memory and 512GB PCIe SSD storage. 

Aside from writing and creating social media content, I sometimes do photo and basic video editing for my side hustles. With the power combo under this laptop’s hood, it didn’t come as a surprise that the realme Book actually handled my tasks smoothly. 

Even with games such as Valorant, I was able to play it at 2K resolution at high settings and it didn’t feel laggy at all. Of course, if you’d want a faster frame rate, you can always lower down your settings to improve your gaming experience. 

realme Book

I also noticed that while playing games, the laptop didn’t feel heated up at all. I checked via HWMOnitor and its temperature was just hovering a little over 60 degrees. This is actually cool for its slim body. I guess we can attribute this to its efficient cooling system with dual 8mm heat pipes and high speed, high airflow fans.

Quick juice up 

When working, I usually take short breaks in between major tasks to refresh my mind. So it’s actually enough for me that the realme Book’s 54 Wh battery can support up to 9 hours of work and leisure, keeping me powered and connected.

And once the battery already ran out, the 65W fast charger got me to a 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes so I was able to conveniently continue with whatever I’m doing.

It’s also a plus that the charger of the realme Book is small and just slightly heavier than a smartphone charger so it’s an easy carry in the bag. It also has the same USB-C cable used to charge our smartphones so you won’t have to carry another charger for your smartphone when traveling. 

Immersive speakers  

For a laptop this slim, I was quite surprised that the sound coming from its down-firing Harman speakers is considerably loud and well defined. 

When I tried listening to my playlists, I did notice that while it did not have as much bass as I would have preferred, it does sound fuller compared to others. When it comes to binging series and playing games, the speakers did a great job of simulating space that sounds pleasant and immersive. I guess I can say, it does sound better than many of the laptops I’ve tried.

Is the realme Book your GadgetMatch? 

As a new player in the laptop market, the realme Book makes a pretty great attempt at laptops and definitely challenges competing and more established brands. 

Sure this laptop may not be perfect but realme has brought their expertise in creating attractive smartphones to this laptop that definitely looks premium for its price. Also with its 2K Ultra-HD display, sleek and sturdy aluminum build, premium design, powerful performance and immersive audio, this laptop is definitely a solid deal for its price. 

The realme Book is available in Real Grey and Real Blue colors and retails at PhP 37,990 for the i3 variant and PhP 47,990 for the i5 variant.

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