Reviews

Huawei P40 Pro review: It’s complicated

Told through lines from old RnB songs

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I don’t know about you but to me, a lot of 90s-2000s RnB songs evoke a deep sense of longing that’s unique to its time. That sense of longing is mostly what I felt as I put together this Huawei P40 Pro review.

That said, I recognize that feelings aren’t facts, so we’ll certainly throw in the facts that lead to these feelings. This article is probably best experienced while listening to the songs indicated. The playlist is here and also towards the end of the article. I threw in some other songs there for good measure. 😉

Sexy love, girl the things you do. Keep me sprung, keep me running back to you

Ne-Yo’s “Sexy Love” feels like the honeymoon stage of a relationship. When I first saw and held the Huawei P40 Pro, this was the prevailing feeling. It felt perfect. Its overall footprint along with the curved sides make it easy to hold in one hand. It’s also significantly lighter than its predecessor, the P30 Pro, but without losing the premium heft we tend to expect from flagships built on glass.

For context, prior to getting a hold of the phone, I’ve been splitting my time between an iPhone 11 Pro (a little too small) and a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (a little too big). The P40 Pro hits the sweet spot in the middle in terms of size.

Elsewhere on the phone you pretty much get the standard stuff. All lined up on the right side are the power button and the volume rockers. Curiously, Huawei stepped away from the no-button, double tap volume controls introduced in the Mate 30 Pro.

At the bottom you’ll find the SIM card tray for both the SIM card and Huawei’s proprietary nano memory card. Alongside it are the USB-C port and speakers.

You ain’t the girl I used to know 

That honeymoon stage feeling was short lived as soon as we tested the vaunted cameras equipped on the P40 Pro. The phone has a quad-camera setup: 50MP wide main camera, 40MP Ultra-wide lens, 12MP periscope lens, and a ToF sensor.

I have to admit, relating the camera performance of the P40 Pro to Omarion’s “Ice Box” is over dramatic. The song talks about trying but being let down. For the most part, you’ll definitely still get really good photos on the P40 Pro, but there are some glaring weaknesses.

The unit we have sports the Deep Sea Blue color, but we didn’t think that blue would bleed too much into the photos. Take this shot of a basketball for example. Looks fine on its own right? Except, that’s not the accurate color.

Here’s the same scene taken with an iPhone 11 Pro. This has a more accurate color reproduction of the scene. I can’t tell you which one looks better in your eyes, so I’ll leave it at that.

If you go through this comparison with other Android flagships, you’ll likely notice the same. For reference: (A) Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, (B) OnePlus 8 Pro, (C) Huawei P4o Pro, (D) OPPO Finds X2 Pro.

Oddly enough, when the scene called for more blue, the P40 Pro produced a more color accurate photo than the S20 Galaxy S20 Ultra. For the record, I personally think color accuracy is important here. It gives you more leeway to control colors if you opt to post-process them.

The night mode and huge sensors can also be self-defeating. Sometimes you just want to capture a nice silhouette shot, but the way this phone is built and processes photos, it just won’t let you.

In the samples below, C is the Huawei P40 Pro. You can see how much it brightens up the scene compared to the rest of the phones: (A) Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, (B) OnePlus 8 Pro, (D) OPPO Finds X2 Pro. This isn’t automatically a bad thing. It just depends on the type of image you want to capture. But for silhouettes. This just isn’t it.

That said, the camera isn’t bad at all. You’ll still be able to take wonderful photos and portraits like this one by our good friend Kate below. This one was taken in Portrait Auto with some minor color editing to take a little bit of the blues away.

 

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We’ll have more comparisons coming so just watch out for that. Huawei has claimed better video on the Huawei P40 Pro. Regrettably, there hasn’t been any significant chances to test this. But we will do it as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Trust me when I say that I’ll be okay. Go on girl, go on girl

If you’ve ever been cheated on, I’m sure you’ve had Ne-Yo’s “Go On Girl” on repeat as I have. I digress. But the line I indicated above speaks to the attitude Huawei has towards losing Google Mobile Services (GMS).

Imagine having one of the core features of what makes a smartphone smart taken away. That’s exactly how it feels when you get cheated on — like your heart is being ripped apart. It hasn’t been easy but Huawei has done a fairly admirable job moving forward from such an ordeal.

As I have mentioned in a separate piece, you pretty much can now get most of the apps you’re used to using on your smartphones. There’s been no shortage in Huawei’s awareness campaign to drive this point home.

Essentially you have at your disposal the AppGallery along with third-party services to help you acquire all the social media, finance, and entertainment apps you regularly use.

One of the biggest concerns is security and Huawei has never shied away from talking about it. They even detailed the steps they took to make sure the AppGallery is safe and secure.

App availability is also ramping up. In the Philippines we already have Viber, WeChat, Lazada, SnapChat and some pretty useful ones like GCash, PayMaya, SHAREit, and Canva among others.

In Singapore, transportation and ride-hailing apps like ComfortDelgro, TADA and RYDE have already made their way to the AppGallery.

The same is true for your favorite games like PUBG, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and Asphalt 9. You can all get them on the P40 Pro and you’ll have no problem running them thanks to the Kirin 990 5G SoC.

If what you’re looking for isn’t available, you can go to the AppGallery wishlist to let Huawei know, and then head on over to a third party service like APKCure or APKMirror to get the app.

What about the Google stuff? Well, therein lies the rub.

Without you girl (Google), my life is incomplete 

I’m sure you all saw this coming. Google is such an integral part of all our digital lives. Whether or not that’s good or bad is a different discussion altogether, but the fact remains that right now, everything they offer is a must-have.

Sure, Huawei offers alternatives. You can still get on YouTube but through a browser. Same is true if you want to use Google Maps. For emails, you can link your Google accounts to the default email app. The experience, however, just isn’t the same.

Then there are things that, personally, I just can’t live without. Chief among them is Google Photos. For someone like myself who has to switch phones every now and then, having a photo service with unlimited storage, amazing sorting and sharing options, and a robust search and archiving system is just invaluable and irreplaceable.

Browser shortcuts aren’t ideal, but they work somewhat

To a much lesser extent, there’s also Google Cast. I don’t own a Smart TV. Instead, I have Chromecast and it’s fantastic. All my news and entertainment consumption comes from the Internet and being able to seamlessly take that from my phone to my TV is a type of seamless comfort I don’t have access to with the P40 Pro.

That said, I don’t imagine that being an issue for a lot of people. Plus I do have the resources to address this. It’s not as big of a deal, but it still matters.

This is why Sisqo’s “Incomplete” inevitably plays in my head each time I reach out for the P40 Pro. A lot of the things I do are built around Google services and it’ll take a lot for me to overhaul my entire flow to warrant a shift to another set of services.

I’d rather have bad times with you, than good times with someone else 

This is where the “Is this your GadgetMatch?” question comes in. The answer is complicated.

The Huawei P40 Pro is a fantastic phone which is why it’s so frustrating for me that it doesn’t have the things I consider absolutely essential. And that sucks. Big time.

Why do people buy flagship smartphones? It’s because they want the best of the best. I don’t know about you, but to me, the best means not having to think about so much hoopla just to be able to use the services you know and love.

Buying the P40 Pro means buying into whatever Huawei’s going through. It’s a commitment. And right now, they are going through a lot.

Which is why Luther Vandross’ “I’d Rather” fits so much here. To want the Huawei P40 Pro means willingly submitting yourself to the storm the company is weathering right now.

If you’re in, that’s perfectly fine. I admire your loyalty. However, I can’t say that it’s a totally smart decision.


Laptops

Apple M2 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch Review: Four months later

Insanely Powerful!

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Apple silently revealed the revamped M2 Pro and M2 Max-powered MacBook Pros just last January 2023.

While the design isn’t any different from its predecessors, it promises significant boosts in performance.

However, this isn’t meant for those who already owned the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros launched in 2021.

Spoiler alert: This is a huge upgrade from the 16-inch Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro from 2019.

But would you compromise the portability of the 14-inch version over a bigger screen and battery?

Watch our review of the new M2 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro, four months later.

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Features

How well do PlayStation games run on the ROG Ally?

Spoiler: Pretty good

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ROG Ally, PlayStation Dual Sense

The ROG Ally has caused quite a buzz in the gaming community at large. Personally, I’m thrilled at the prospect of owning a handheld gaming PC/console to play games I otherwise would not have access to. I mainly play on my PlayStation 5 (PS5). Naturally, I was curious how some of my favorite games will run on the ROG Ally. 

Things are promising on paper. The ROG Ally is built to be able to run AAA titles. Here’s a quick look at the specs of the unit we had for recap:

Model 

RC71L

CPU AMD Ryzen™ Z1 Extreme Processor 

      • 4nm 
      • Zen 4/ 8 core & 16 threads  
      • 24M cache 
      • CPU Clock: up to 5.10 Ghz 
      • TDP: 9 – 30 watts
GPU With AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Config: 

  • AMD Radeon™ Graphics 
  • RDNA3 & 4G RAM capacity / 8.6 TFlops 
  • 12 CU 
  • GPU Clock: 2.7GHz
Panel Full HD (1920 x 1080), 120 Hz / 7 ms eDP1.4b, 500 nits, IPS-panel, 100%  sRGB, FreeSync™ Premium, Gorilla® Glass Victus™ and Gorilla® Glass DXC,  10-point Touchscreen 

Gyro support

Memory  16GB (LPDDR5 6400Mhz) dual channel LPDDR5 8GBx2 on board  memory
Audio  2 x 1W speakers with smart amp technology, Dolby Atmos®, Hi-Res Audio,  AI Noise Cancellation
Wi-Fi / Bluetooth  WiFi 6E (802.11ax) / Bluetooth® v5.2 
Storage 512GB (for Z1 Extreme config) 

+SD card slot UHS-2

I/O PORT ROG XG Mobile interface (8PCI express lanes) and USB Type-C  combo port (with USB 3.2 Gen2, DP 1.4 support) — (1x)

3.5mm Audio jack — (1x)

Micro SD slot (UHS-II, Micro SD 4.0) — (1x)

Battery  40Wh
Adapter  65W PD adapter, supports pass through charging
Dimensions  280.44 * 111.18 * 21.22 mm

608g

PlayStation Studios on PC 

PlayStation, in the past couple of years, has decided to spread the love and let PC players experience some of the best they have to offer. Currently, there are 12 PlayStation exclusive titles playable on PC. And they’re available on either Steam or the Epic Games Store. 

In case you’re curious the available games are as follows: 

  • Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • God of War (2018)
  • Uncharted: The Legacy of Thieves Collection
  • Destiny 2: Lightfall 
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Returnal
  • Days Gone
  • HELLDIVERS
  • Predator Hunting Grounds
  • Sackboy: A big Adventure
  • The Last of Us Part 1

PlayStation Asia was kind enough to give us codes for three of the 12 titles now available on PC. Here’s how they ran on the ROG Ally. 

Quick note: I played on Performance mode with brightness hovering at around 50-55% indoors in an air conditioned room. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered

Marvel’s Spider-Man, along with NBA 2K, is my comfort game. Whenever I feel frustrated or just having a bad day, I fire up either game. On Spider-Man, I just swing aimlessly around the digital Manhattan that Insomniac built. 

It was such a delight to learn that I can do this on the go now too with Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered playing pretty darn well on the ROG Ally

I had the framerate limiter turned on, maxing out at 60. Despite that, I only reached a max of 31 fps with dips to as low as 15. It looks bad on paper, but is much more tolerable during actual gameplay. The dips usually happened during cutscenes. Majority of the gameplay hovered around 25-30 fps. 

ROG Ally, Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered

I knew it was never gonna reach the level of detail and smoothness that I get on the PS5 and LG C2 combo that I usually play on. There was plenty of noticeable stuttering especially during the busier sections of the game. But I didn’t think any of it was game breaking. 

Audio wasn’t as loud as I hoped it would be despite me playing in a pretty quiet room. I opted to pair it with Bluetooth earbuds (OnePlus Buds Pro 2) to get the most of the audio. There were no audio delays whatsoever which was a very welcome development. 

My average play time was about one hour and 20 minutes. That’s with the battery going from 100% to 20% each time. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Coming from the same Studio and pretty much being essentially the same game, Spider-Man: Miles Morales didn’t run too differently from Spider-Man Remastered.

I played in the exact same conditions: Indoor room, AC on, started at 100%, performance mode, and medium brightness settings. Curiously, the frame dips happened more during open-world swinging and not as much during cutscenes. This could be because of the busier version of New York due to the events of the game being set during the Christmas season. 

But the numbers weren’t too different. I still maxed at 31 fps, with most of the gameplay hovering around 25-30 fps, and the lowest dip coming in at 16fps. 

Again, nothing game breaking and it is much more tolerable during gameplay. Naturally, you have to have your expectations set properly. The ROG Ally is, after all, a handheld gaming PC. 

Average play time is around one hour and 25 minutes with about 75% to 80% of the battery life being consumed. 

Returnal

Returnal

Returnal is one of the titles I was most excited to try. I was curious about how the audio and controller rumble would translate to the ROG Ally. On the PS5, Audio and DualSense implementation are two of the game’s many strengths. 

Due to audio cues on enemies’ locations, this game is best played with earbuds/headphones on. The experience on the ROG Ally isn’t quite 3D Audio on PS5 levels, but it’s as close as it gets. 

The same can be said for the controller rumble. It’s not as precise nor finely implemented as the DualSense – that’s a unique feature after all. However, I was still thoroughly impressed with how the ROG Ally implemented rumble in certain sections of the game. The rumble effect is also a testament to how well-built the Ally is. Despite the internals shaking, the Ally never felt brittle nor that it would suddenly come apart. 

Knowing this is a shooter game, I turned the framerate limiter off and reached highs of 115 fps. The framerate did dip to as low as 15 fps which is about the widest variance I got from any game I played using the Ally. This did affect gameplay especially during sections where I had to deal with multiple enemies. 

I did experience plenty of crashes which isn’t ideal for a game like Returnal whose progress relies on you surviving as long as you can on a single run through. But this only happened during the first few minutes. After a while, it seemed like the ROG Ally had adjusted to the performance-demands of the game. 

It took about an hour and 10 minutes before I had to plug-in the Ally to not lose a playthrough. 

Remote Play?

ROG Ally, Dual Sense, Horizon Forbidden West

Since the ROG Ally is essentially a handheld gaming PC, you can certainly install the Remote Play app on it. However, you can’t just immediately use the gamepad. To play Horizon: Forbidden West, and generally just run the app, I had to pair the Ally with my DualSense controller.

You can map the gamepad so that it works but mapping isn’t an activity I enjoy nor did I have the time (I had to return the review unit) to do it. Other reviewers pointed to using a third-party app called Chiaki. But again, I didn’t have time to test it. I did see gameplay of it though so it seems to be working just fine. 

Knowing that you can do all these on the Ally actually makes you question the upcoming PlayStation Q handheld. Sure, the integration will likely be seamless. But its core function can already be replicated on other handhelds and handheld-like devices. I digress.

It’s worth noting that the relatively smooth experience I had with the ROG Ally was also aided by an internet connection that constantly hovers in the 250+ mbps range along with a Wi-Fi 6 router. 

The ROG Ally is PlayStation friendly 

If you want to know what it’s like playing PlayStation 5 games on a handheld device, the ROG Ally is easily one of the best devices to play with. The gameplay isn’t quite as smooth but you shouldn’t expect it to be. And yes, you’ll find yourself reaching for the power adapter after a little over an hour of playthrough. But being able to play AAA titles on a handheld device still feels crazy to me.

Having started gaming on a family computer and covering tech for a living, it’s still mind-blowing to me how far technology has come. The stuff I only dreamed of as a little fat gamer is coming true thanks to the ROG Ally and its contemporaries. 


The ROG Ally Z1 Extreme retails for US$ 699. The ROG Ally Z1 variant retails for US$ 599. Pre-orders begin on May 11. It will be available for sale worldwide on June 13, 2023.

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Reviews

OnePlus Pad Review: If iPad Ran on Android

Give this Android tablet a chance

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First announced during the Cloud 11 Launch Event in India way back in February 2023 together with the OnePlus 11, the newest OnePlus Pad seems to rival the very dominated tablet territory full of iPads.

And by that, even making direct accessory contenders such as the OnePlus Stylo, a Folio Case, and even a Magnetic Keyboard.

But is the experience even close?

Well, if you’re looking for an Android tablet less than what the latest entry-level iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab offers,

it’s a tablet you might want to try out — and our OnePlus Pad review might just entice you to buy one.

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