Reviews

Huawei P30 Pro review: A camera story

Same tale, new chapter

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After the Mate 20 Pro launched, I wondered how Huawei would differentiate the latest Mate from the next P-series phone. The Mate 20 Pro has everything, including all the features missing from the P20 Pro. It was simply complete.

Seeing the P30 Pro for the first time, the P20 Pro’s previous hype — and the Mate 20 Pro, by extension — wasn’t there. I wondered: How exactly is this better than the Mate 20 Pro aside from a higher DxOMark score?

I was also hesitant switching from the Galaxy S10+ to the P30 Pro as my daily driver. Samsung’s flagship became a personal favorite of mine. There were certain things that hit me after moving my accounts to this Huawei phone.

It’s heftier than the Galaxy S10+. It wobbles when laid flat on a table because of the camera protrusion. It has no 3.5mm audio port or stereo speakers. And, Huawei’s EMUI skin still isn’t at the level of other Android coatings.

Yes, these are minor complaints that go away with a week’s worth of use. Still, these little things can make or break the experience. They can question a user’s pricey purchase from the get-go.

But then, I fired up the camera app and all my doubts became background blur.

I won’t get into the technical aspect anymore. (We have a full hands-on for that.) So, let’s look at what the P30 Pro can really do.

By now, from the countless advertisements and testimonials, everyone knows that the amazing zoom capability — going from ultra-wide 0.6x to 50x — is the P30 Pro’s highlight. While reaching the max results, zooming to 10x hybrid zoom is actually quite usable.

As many tech reviewers have said, the 50x zoom is a bit of a gimmick and quickly loses its magic after a couple of weeks. It does, however, come in handy when you really need it, like for this moon shot:

Another one of the P30 Pro’s specialties is night mode, which became a staple Huawei feature since the P20 Pro. With the new quad Leica system, there are noticeable improvements, but not by much compared to the Mate 20 Pro.

Many would agree that the Pixel 3 has a smarter implementation with Night Sight, which is better at retaining colors in darkness, but the P30 Pro is the king of illuminating subjects with close to no light. There have been numerous occasions wherein auto mode was more than enough, and I didn’t even need to swipe towards night mode.

In general, auto mode did the trick every time, both for the front and rear cameras. I tried my best to love Huawei’s AI scene optimizer this time — it didn’t work out with all their past phones for me — but I just couldn’t take its insistence to darken subjects, blur out every single background, and take its sweet time doing so while I try to shoot a moving object.

Lots more can be said about the P30 Pro’s cameras, but all you really need to know is that there’s no better set of smartphone cameras in the current market. DxOMark hit the nail on the head this time and few would disagree.

If you need more convincing, look no further than my tour around Paris with the P30 Pro. This piece proves just how capable the premium handset is at being an all-in-one device. Not once did I think of taking out my mirrorless camera to snap a photo of a landscape or person. When I did, it was only for picturing the phone itself.

But then you have to wonder if there’s anything more to the P30 Pro than just its spectacular cameras. Yes, there definitely is, but it’s not much different from what we’ve already seen on the Mate 20 and P20 lineups. Most features, from reverse wireless charging to EMUI 9.1 and SuperCharge, are unchanged.

Not to say that reusing tried and tested formulas are bad, but this doesn’t spark joy either. When comparing the P30 Pro to the Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the newest model is simply a combination of the two previous flagships, carrying over the curved OLED panel and high-end processing power.

However, Huawei didn’t leave out refinements. The P30 Pro is much comfier to hold with more ergonomic curves; a vibrating screen replaces the need for an earpiece during calls and works great; plus, the display’s notch is at its smallest size yet. In addition, the Kirin 980 chip is more optimized and runs smooth thanks to the 8GB memory and 256GB storage.

Huawei somehow also found a way to increase battery life even further. While the Mate 20 Pro was the endurance champ of 2018, the P30 Pro is 2019’s frontrunner. I use my phone tirelessly for browsing, writing, editing, hotspotting, picture taking, and gaming on the go, but the P30 Pro never asked for a full charge until the day ended. Getting upwards of six hours of screen-on time is expected here.

At the same time, some aspects feel inadequate for a flagship smartphone at this point. Aside from the issues mentioned at the start of this review, the P30 Pro isn’t stellar at video shooting. While it’s great to have that ultra-wide-angle lens to cover more, audio recording isn’t always on point, and it sucks to lack 4K shooting at 60fps.

Finally, the under-display fingerprint scanner needs to improve faster. We’re a couple of generations in. I still wish manufacturers would stick to the capacitive type found in older models like on the P20 series. The convenience is already here, but the speed and accuracy aren’t.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you value camera performance more than anything else in a smartphone, you really don’t have to look any further. The P30 Pro is 2019’s top camera phone so far, and it would take a lot to dethrone it. And even if the Mate 30 Pro beats it later this year, this set of cameras will stand the test of time, similar to what the P20 Pro has been doing.

Unfortunately for Huawei, the Galaxy S10+ is equally fantastic, and checks boxes that the P30 Pro doesn’t, such as the audio port, faster reverse wireless charging, and better overall feel for the exterior and Android UI. Until the OnePlus 7 and Pixel 4 come out, it’s these two flagships you’d have to choose between at the top.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review: For Pro Users!

Is it worth the $400 premium?

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What makes a smartphone ultra? We dissect the extras that make Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra the phone for power users.

Is it worth the $400 premium vs the Galaxy S21? What’s been added, what’s been taken away, and does it make a difference?

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy S21 Review: Samsung’s Best for Less!

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Accessories

HiFiMAN Sundara review: A WFH audiophile’s dream

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HiFiMAN Sundara

Because of today’s work-from-home lifestyle, everyone is rushing to grab the best laptops, PCs, webcams, and microphones to support their new home office. However, one overlooked accessory has yet to receive its time under the spotlight: a good pair of headphones. It’s even worse if you have audiophilic tendencies like I do. Today, I found one of the best price-for-value pair of cans well suited for both the home office and the hi-fi home audio setup: the HiFiMAN Sundara.

A pillow for your ears

Compared to anything I’ve tried in the past, the Sundara is extremely comfortable on my ears. When you’re looking at a headphone’s comfort, you’re considering a minmax combination of various factors: weight, cup size, clamp pressure, and flexibility. The Sundara handles all of those quite handily.

For a sizable pair, they are remarkably light; they don’t put too much pressure on your skull. Further, instead of the whole headband pushing down on your crown, the Sundara uses a suspended headband to cushion the weight. The softer secondary headband rests itself comfortably on my head without exerting too much pressure or trapping heat.

The earcups are also of notable size. They can fit my relatively smaller ears well. Though I do feel a bit of scrunching inside the cups, I never felt any pain or discomfort from wearing the pair for hours. I can wear the Sundara for four to six hours at a time without any pressing need to take them off.

HiFiMAN Sundara

In terms of durability, the Sundara is more than capable of withstanding major usage. Except for the two plastic portions at both ends of the headphones, the Sundara is made almost entirely out of metal. I did drop the headphones once while using it, and I couldn’t find a single scratch or dent. On a related note, the cups’ metal grille makes for an interesting but minimalist design — an epitome of its namesake, the Sanskrit word for “beautiful.”

Finally, since the headphones are open-back, leakage will always be a problem. However, compared to other open-back cans, the Sundara don’t leak as loudly. Likewise, even without noise cancellation, outside noise is only mildly annoying. That said, anyone sitting next to me can definitely hear whatever I’m listening to. And I can definitely hear whatever is happening beside me.

Playable in any genre

Armed with a planar magnetic driver, the HiFiMAN Sundara has one of the most impressive soundstages I’ve heard for a pair of cans in its price point. In practically any genre that I put the headphones through, there’s a remarkable level of depth. It’s almost as if I’m there where the music is happening. Christopher Tin’s orchestral To Shiver the Sky sparkled with every instrument, from wind to string to percussion. It’s the closest thing to attending a concert, especially in today’s times.

HiFiMAN Sundara

Though the headphones sport an impressive 6Hz to 75KHz frequency range, the Sundara leans marginally closer to the treble side. Instruments are sharper and tinnier, though still not at an uncomfortable level. However, if you listen close enough, sharp sounds can sound extra sharp on the Sundara, given the right track. Even then, the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop, especially the iconic “Tank!” shines bright with the headphones.

Leaning over to the bass, the headphones can subsist on its own. They deliver a very mellow boom, as opposed to an offensive bombast well-advertised in today’s slew of headphones. That said, the Sundara is not a bass-heavy pair. If you’re looking for a bass monster, look elsewhere. Personally, I’m not a fan of bass-heavy tracks, so the Sundara is just the perfect fit for me. On lighter tracks, especially those from jazz, the bass caresses my ears just enough to tingle. On heavier metal music, like Nightwish’s Human :||: Nature, the lighter bass prevents overpowering and allows other instruments to come through.

For the mids, I’d say that the Sundara is attuned for it as well. I weaved the pair through more poppy tunes, like The Midnight’s Monsters. The vocals rose above other instruments without drowning them out.

Will you need an amp?

If you’re looking for some flaws in the almost-perfect Sundara, you might find it in the headphones’ amplification. The headphones are definitely a pair that can benefit from an external amp.

Just to be clear, the HiFiMAN Sundara can function well enough on its own. Regardless of whether you plug it into a smartphone, laptop, music player, or turntable, the device, sporting 37 ohms of impedance, can deliver audio at a workable clip.

HiFiMAN Sundara

However, according to my own tests, they benefitted greatly from an external amp. And you don’t even need an expensive amp. Even the portable (and affordable) FiiO A3 boosted the headphones to an extraordinary level. If you’re investing your hard-earned cash on the Sundara, you can’t go wrong with forking over a bit of extra cash on a small amp.

Is this your Gadgetmatch?

If you already have a home office setup, then you might like the Sundara. Keep in mind, though; a single-person home office is best for this pair. Because the headphones don’t have a built-in mic or any external functionalities, the pair exists solely as an audio device, not an office tool. It might just irritate any officemates you might have.

That said, the device’s extreme lightness is perfect for moving around the house. After a grueling day of working from home, you can unplug the Sundara from your PC and plug them into your hi-fi/entertainment setup.

With that in mind, though the headphones are light enough to move around the house, they don’t do well for a commuter, especially because of their leakage and lack of noise cancellation.

If you’re interested in the HiFiMAN Sundara, a pair will set you back by US$ 499. It’s definitely pricey. Compared to other more popular offerings, the Sundara belongs in an upper tier. However, for the quality you’re paying for, it’s a good way to start the next level of an audiophile habit.

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Reviews

adidas UltraBoost 21 review: More boost, more fun

Casual and performance hybrid

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It’s a new year which means it’s time for a new UltraBoost and this one’s the best one yet. Today we’re checking out the adidas UltraBoost 21.

The UltraBoost 21 dropped globally this January 28th priced at US$ 180, with a full release of more colorways on February 4th.

Here in Malaysia, the UltraBoost 21 is now available in physical stores as well as our lockdown opens up slightly.

Brief Ultraboost history

Ever since they were announced in 2015, the Ultraboost has always been my go-to everyday sneaker because they’re just so comfortable to wear.

In the last two years adidas has been pumping out two different series of UltraBoost. On one side we have the older, UltraBoost 1.0 to 4.0 retro-ing and releasing in a few newer colorways under the “UltraBoost DNA” branding.

Initially, adidas just kept making small changes to the shoe every year from the UltraBoost 1.0 to the 4.0. They were mostly just changing the knit pattern of the upper which wasn’t really that big of a deal.

However, the DNA models are more for people like me who want the retro style of the OG UltraBoosts and want the comfort of the Boost midsole and Primeknit upper, but just as casual everyday wear sneakers.

But, on the other side we have the UltraBoost year models which are more performance oriented as running sneakers. This started in 2019 when adidas redesigned the Ultraboost to create the Ultraboost 19 which was a huge change in the line and created a lot of controversy with Ultraboost fans at that time.

A brand new change

This is because, initially, the Ultraboost was more of a casual lifestyle pair first, casual running sneaker second. But this changed with the UB19 when adidas decided to focus on making a more performance oriented running sneaker. It created a bit of drama amongt Ultraboost fans because the silhouette of the shoe really changed compared to previous UltraBoosts.

UltraBoost 20

So we saw the Ultraboost 19 in 2019, the UltraBoost 20 last year, and this year, 2021, it’s the UltraBoost 21.

And boy, has adidas really evolved the silhouette here, with even more Boost than ever before and a LOT of major tech improvements as well, including a new Torsion system, also making use of more sustainably sourced materials in the upper.

With all of that, you have to admit, the UltraBoost21 looks like an aggressive running sneaker through and through.

We got the launch colorway to check out which is Cloud White / Core Black / Solar Yellow. It’s a sweet colorway with these hits of neon yellow on the upper and pink on the sole.

PrimeBlue

Coming to the shoe itself and starting with the upper, adidas is using a brand new knit material called PrimeBlue —  a new version of adidas Primeknit which uses recycled materials like Parley Ocean Plastics in the yarn.

According to adidas, over 50 percent of the upper is made from textiles and over 75 percent of that textile is made up of the PrimeBlue yarn. adidas has also said that they didn’t use any new polyester materials on this shoe so this might just be the most sustainably made UltraBoost so far.

I love that adidas is focusing on using recycled materials more, we saw them work with Parley for years now but it was mostly for special limited edition sneakers or apparel. This is the first time we’re seeing adidas work with Parley on general release sneakers, so to see them stick to this sustainability philosophy for one of their most high-profile shoes, that’s awesome.

So every one of the UltraBoost 21s you buy will be using recycled plastics from the ocean. I love that adidas is doing this.

But of course, the next logical question would be — if the knit here is made out of plastics, how does it feel?

Honestly, it feels the same as standard primeknit. It’s just as soft and stretchy, and just as breathable. It  is a little bit thicker but I think that’s by design. It’s your usual sock-like fit UltraBoost upper.

Some design updates

Coming to the toe-box area, you’ll see the new knit pattern that is similar to previous UltraBoosts except that the knit pattern and the ventilation holes marked by the neon yellow here kind of extends along the upper towards the mid-foot of the shoe.

You’ll also see these heat-pressed details that outline the ventilation holes. I assume these are just aesthetic but they might also add some structure to the upper.

Coming to the midfoot area, you’ll see the semi-translucent TPU midfoot cage that looks similar to the one on the OG Ultraboost. It now has a more aggressive, updated design with these three individual opaque black stripes to make the adidas three stripes symbol.

Instead of being sown into the midsole, this time around the midfoot cage has been shown into the lower part of the upper instead. I’m not too sure why adidas decided to do this, but I do think it looks really cool, and hopefully we won’t see it affect the structure of the upper after a year or two of wearing these.

On-feet, it doesn’t really feel any different on the sides vs older UltraBoosts.

Lacing

Moving upwards, weaving through the midfoot cage are these flat white laces. What I thought was interesting is that out of the box, the laces come laced up through all but the top row of eyelets. I’m not sure why adidas did that, it does feel more comfortable laced that way, but my OCD made me lace them up all the way when I wore them.

I think the top row is for people who want a more snug fit. If you want a more comfortable fit, stick with the way it’s laced out of the box.

Underneath the laces, there’s the PrimeBlue upper. It’s a one-piece booty construction so there’s no separate tongue here. And at the top of the tongue area, is this white patch with the adidas Performance branding debossed in black.

Cups your feet nicely

Coming to the inside of the shoe, you’ll see the exposed knit edge of the collar of the shoe which is surprisingly comfortable and doesn’t rub against the back of your ankle, even with low no-show socks.

This is mostly thanks to that padded neoprene portion at the back of the shoe. This extra padding around the heel feels great against your foot but also makes your foot feel more secure in the sneaker as it pushes it forward.

Apart from that your foot is up against the raw primeknit of the upper in a sock-like fit, which is in this neon yellow color here. Using a thicker primeknit material here means the shoe contains your foot a lot better. You won’t have any moments where your foot slips over the midsole.

At the bottom is a neon yellow insole, which says PrimeBlue in a hot pink color.

Ankle-friendly

Moving along, coming to the back of the shoe, the upper extends upwards to act as a pull-tab, just like we’ve seen on UltraBoosts previously. And just like previous versions, this is really comfortable and doesn’t rub against or irritate your achilles which is super appreciated.

Coming to the heel counter, this has also changed dramatically vs the UltraBoost 19 and 20. Instead of being just an outline, it’s a solid TPU element like on OG UltraBoosts, but it is much smaller and doesn’t spill over onto the Boost midsole.

On the lateral side you’ll see the new UltraBoost branding embossed in all-caps. Except for the “r” which is lowercase technically, which is definitely triggering my OCD.

On the medial side there’s no branding but you’ll see this “Primeknit” branding debossed into the upper material. I dont think I’ve ever seen adidas actually put their primeknit branding anywhere so that’s interesting.

More. Boost.

The UltraBoost 21 features a full-length Boost midsole, with this kind of speed-line running along the side of it. But, what’s new here is that there is 6 percent more Boost used than the UltraBoost 20. That already had 20 percent more Boost than the Retro UltraBoosts, so that’s a lot more Boost.

But if it’s just 6 percent more than the UltraBoost 20 from last year, why does it look so much more?

This is kind of a bit of visual trickery by adidas. With the UltraBoost 21, you’ll see that the back of the midsole curves up a lot more dramatically, which makes these easier to run in.

But when you slide your feet into this shoe, it actually sits deeper in the midsole, so that the heel of your foot is kind of surrounded by the Boost all around it. The Boost is not just under your foot but more like cupping your foot.

This is for just the heel area, while the midfoot and fore-foot of will still have Boost primarily underneath it.

So what does this mean? While there is more Boost used here than any UltraBoost before, don’t expect it to be dramatically more comfortable.

It’s definitely the most comfortable UltraBoost ever, especially because of the improvements to the upper and the shape of the midsole. The extra Boost does make a difference, but all I’m saying is don’t expect something a HUGE difference with these.

Just saying that because I know a lot of people are going to see this chunky midsole and the way the Boost is sculpted here, and they’re going to expect a LOT. UltraBoost is already one of the most comfortable sneakers out there and this takes it forward a bit, but don’t expect something crazy.

Boost is a must try

In case you haven’t tried out a sneaker with Boost yet, I encourage you to go on over to an adidas store and try one out as soon as possible.

The big deal here is the cushioning and energy return. You can feel it absorb the impact as you run, and then spring back to return some of that energy to help you take off.

It’s this reason why Boost, and the Ultraboost series in particular is so popular amongst runners and gym goers. It’s not only one of the most comfortable shoes around but it also really helps with casual running or just every day walking around.

Moving downwards, you still have a continental rubber outsole but it’s an entirely new design. The rubber panels are in the usual black, along with this translucent white, and pink panels made up of continental rubber,  which add a bit of pop to the outsole.

Instead of the usual Torsion Bar, adidas is using a new Torsion System called adidas LEP. This new redesigned ‘Linear Energy Push’ torsion system has a stiffer, reinforced material in the midsole to provide runners with less flex in the forefoot and increased responsiveness. You’ll see it here in this wishbone shaped neon yellow element.

This basically means that this shoe should give you more of a spring to your step than before and propel you forward on your runs.

Apart from that, you can see the exposed Boost, with the Boost branding towards the heel area.

I gotta admit, adidas did something pretty drastic with changing up the outsole and I love what they did with it.

Sizing

Coming to sizing and fit, the UltraBoost 21 feels like it runs true to size. If you have regular narrow feet you can go true to size, but if you have wide feet like I do, you might want to go up half a size.

That being said, I’m a size UK 11 and adidas sent me a size UK11 and it fits great provided I dont lace up the top eyelets.

It’s always best to try the shoe on in a store first to make sure you get the best fit possible.

Performance 

Coming to performance, I still think the UltraBoost is a great neutral running shoe. And the UltraBoost 21 is by far the most comfortable and responsive one yet.

Now, this is not really meant for elite runners, but if you’re looking for a comfortable pair of shoes to run in, or do any sort of workout that requires the cushioning and the responsiveness of the Boost midsole, this is a great shoe

The thing is, visually, it’s a huge difference in terms of design and materials but when you compare it to last year’s UltraBoost 20 in terms of performance, it’s just a marginal improvement in terms of cushioning and responsiveness.

That’s understandable because the UltraBoost 20 itself was also already a super comfortable, great neutral running shoe. And I’m not really sure what else adidas could have done to improve among it apart from the visual updates that the Ultraboost 21 brings.

There’s only so much Boost they can add before things get too bouncy and it feels like you’re talking on a trampoline, so I think adidas kept the balance well here with the 6 percent increase.

Is this your SneakerMatch?

At the end of the day, the UltraBoost 21 is an iterative but meaningful improvement to the Ultraboost performance line in comparison to the UB19 and 20 before it.

Visually, it’s a huge dramatic change while still looking like an UltraBoost, but also looking way more aggressive at the same time.

It is even more performance oriented, and even more comfortable at the same time. Honestly just go into an adidas store and try them on — I’m pretty sure you’ll walk away impressed. Maybe you’ll walk away wearing these.

If you have an UltraBoost 20, or a pair of UltraBoost 19 you might not see a huge difference when you try these on. But, if you have a much older pair of UltraBoosts or never tried on a pair of Boost shoes before, you will definitely appreciate how comfortable a shoe this is.

When it comes to casual running, or general exercise where you need to move a lot, I still think UltraBoost is a must-have shoe.

But even if you just want a comfortable pair of casual wear lifestyle shoes, these are just so darn comfortable that they’re perfect as all-day shoes as well.

And that has always been the beauty of the UltraBoost. It’s a shoe that adidas pitches as performance shoes for casual running and they work great for that. But, it’s also a shoe that’s just so comfortable that it just became a shoe people wore casually as well.

And the UltraBoost 21, checks all those boxes. Definitely recommended.

adidas Malaysia Tips from their adidas Running KL Captain

In case you pick up a pair or just need advice on getting started, here’s a few running tips by Awan, Captain of adidas Runners Kuala Lumpur.

For new runners

  1. Educate yourself on proper warm up & cool down steps through certified individuals. Warm ups are important to prepare your body and gradually increase the heart rate to propel yourself into the rhythm. Often mislooked by most runners, cool downs are equally important as it relaxes your muscles and lowers heart rate to return to your normal breathing rhythm.
  2. Start small by doing easy runs to build endurance over time and slowly increase your weekly mileage.
  3. Strengthen muscles and joints to improve race time and reduce risk for injuries by conducting simple body weights.

For avid runners

  1. Set a milestone for your training sessions, i.e setting a half year or full year objective and tracking your progress by monitoring running pace via device tracking systems.
  2. Understand one’s own running ability to improve performance by diligently doing running drills and weight lifting.
  3. Last but not least, follow a structured training plan to ensure a wholesome workout targeting each aspect of your body i.e nutrition, strength, recovery.

In case you’re a bit nervous about heading outside now, you can tune into the adidas Runner’s  ARKL FB Page, where the adidas Runners Kuala Lumpur Core Team will be conducting Virtual Live Workouts to help improve your running journey.

Each month they have different workouts to cater to the demand of the ARKL members, so do keep an eye out on the announcement posting!

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