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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.


India

Mi Smart Speaker review: Sounds excellent, speaks smartly

Xiaomi taking on Amazon and Google

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Voice assistants have been around for a long time and we’ve all used them at some point. Every Android phone has Google Assistant and it’s just a tap away. If you’re into the Amazon ecosystem, Alexa is for you. And Apple has Siri.

But when was the last time you actually used these personal assistants actively? Most people always end up asking a generic question about the weather or search for GPS navigation. Even though these assistants barely take up any computing resources, their real-world applications are limited and often found to be a hassle.

In the last few years, all major companies released affordable smart speakers that incorporate these smart assistants. And, it has been a hit. Echo speakers fly off the shelf during the festive season, Nest speakers are consistently improving and bundled along with various offers, and Apple has taken a slightly more premium route, but still has low-cost offerings.

But, is it worth spending US$ 30 to US$ 60 on a tiny palm-sized speaker that’s basically just a hardware package designed to run the assistant? I’ve used the affordable offerings from Google as well as Amazon and my answer would be no.

The volume is too low for my liking, sound quality goes for a toss, and you’re just left with a speaker that runs Google Assistant or Alexa. The initial euphoria around a voice assistant soon fades. And if you’re looking for a decent speaker that can be used primarily for music, the cost escalates to more than US$ 100.

In a developing country like India, the price difference is considerable and you’re entering the premium segment. Xiaomi found this sweet spot and launched the Mi Smart Speaker in the country. It’s priced at INR 5,999 (US$ 81) officially, but available for INR 2,999 (US$ 40) under various discounts and schemes.

A significantly large speaker for the price

The Mi Smart Speaker is huge when compared to Google Nest Mini or the Echo Dot. Just like its price, it looks like a perfect combination of an entry-level speaker and a high-end one. Xiaomi’s complete portfolio is based on offering value-for-money goods and the brand has dominated key segments with its products like the Mi Band, Mi Box, and Mi TWS.

Following the same strategy, the company has entered a space where it has no competition. And, the pricing is very aggressive in nature. The brand tried to make a mark with Bluetooth speakers, but the market is very saturated and price sensitive. The Mi Smart Speaker is its first smart speaker and has a lot of weightlifting to do.

A premium design without the heavy price tag

At first glance, the speaker instantly reminded me of the Sonos One. While Xiaomi’s offering is more oval, it is built of top-notch materials and barely feels cheap or flimsy. A perforated grille runs around the speaker and sits firmly on the table thanks to the tiny rubber legs on the bottom. No matter where you keep it, it’ll look subtle and aesthetic.

There’s just a small Mi logo on the front while the top has four touch buttons for volume, pause/play, and microphone. As a standalone product, it has a distinctive look that doesn’t look like it’s ripped off. The top edge has a small LED ring that’ll turn blueish-white when Google Assistant is summoned. If you turn off the mic, the lighting shall remain orange.

The rear has a barrel connector and the adapter is provided along. But this is the only thing I didn’t like about the speaker. Xiaomi could’ve provided a USB port, just like all its other products. This might become a challenge because the speaker will take up an additional socket in your house, instead of sharing a USB wire out of a multi-port adapter. Obviously, there’s the option of a splitter but it’ll need more space and look much messier.

Sounds excellent and satisfied everyone’s needs

The Mi Smart Speaker has a 2.5-inch driver that’ll push out 12W of audio output. This isn’t a very big driver and smaller speakers like the Amazon Echo have a 3-inch driver. But I’d recommend skipping the technicalities in favor of the listening experience.

The speaker is sufficiently loud and the vocals are very clear. It isn’t enough for a full-fledged party, but more than enough for regular usage in the living room or bedroom. The high frequencies are very well balanced and the bass is decent. I don’t think the speaker needs any more tuning or improvement.

Lastly, you can connect two Mi Smart Speakers together for a stereo experience and indirectly improve the loudness. Interestingly, buying two Mi Smart Speakers will still be cheaper than getting the Nest Audio or borderline with the Amazon Echo.

And the star of the show, Google Assistant!

The Mi Smart Speaker has two microphones and they do an excellent job in detecting voice commands from a distance. The far-field microphones always detected my voice even when music was playing at maximum volume. And if everyone’s asleep, a low murmur is also detected with ease.

The speaker connects to your phone via the Google Home app and brings in all the software firepower straight from Google. Additionally, Google Home is a combined package that can host your smart appliances, bulbs, and more. So, if you want to see the full power of Google Assistant, just connect a smart bulb and you’ll slowly enter the future like a Black Mirror episode.

I have a Mi Smart LED Bulb and connecting the two was a very straightforward task. Google Home supports a plethora of products and you can buy Google Assistant-enabled bulbs from Xiaomi, Syska, Wipro, and more. Even your Android TV is directly available for Cast.

I’ve used the speaker for almost three weeks now and it’s now responsible for controlling multiple bulbs in the house, stream content on the Sony Bravia TV, and keep a watch out via a security camera. All major third-party services like YouTube and Spotify are supported.

It has Bluetooth compatability, but you’ll have to pair it via the Google Home app. And, a fresh pairing isn’t possible if the speaker is offline. This can be a hassle sometimes in case you don’t have a solid WiFi connection.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Yes. The Mi Smart Speaker is an excellent product that brings something new, without costing a bomb. A simple device that is primarily a speaker, but can do a lot more than just play music. If you haven’t experienced the comfort of Google Home, the Mi Smart Speaker is an ideal entry-level device that won’t disappoint. Plug along with a few other devices and you’ve created a small network of your own, controllable via voice commands.

After a long time, I’ve reviewed a tech product that’s perfect. And, it’s unique. Even if you’re just looking for a generic speaker, this should be your choice. And considering the lighter price, it can be a lovely gift for the Diwali season!

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Apple iPad Air (2020) Unboxing and Review

An iPad Killer!?

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It’s been a month ever since Apple announced the 4th-generation iPad Air 2020.

Its biggest change can be seen from its full-screen Liquid Retina display and flat edges. But there’s more than meets the eye. In fact, it’s power-packed with the latest A14 Bionic Chip and supports Apple Pencil 2 out of the box.

It may not be a direct competitor of the iPad 8th-Generation, but do you still think the newest iPad Air is a better option over its pricier sibling, the 2020 iPad Pro?

Head over to this link to watch our quick unboxing and in-depth review of the Apple iPad Air 2020.

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realme 7i: It’s okay to just be okay

As steady as it gets

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There are too many smartphones in the market right now. It feels like nearly every month, we’re greeted by at least two new releases. In this sea of devices, it’s certainly hard to stand out. To be completely honest, the realme 7i doesn’t stick out at all. But that’s fine, especially if it ticks all the boxes you need.

The gradient design on its back is nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s simple and easy on the eyes.

Our feline friend seems to be quite fond of it.

Anyway. Port Placements. The bottom features the 3.5mm audio jack, USB-C port, and speaker grilles.

The left side is home to the SIM tray.

While on the right you’ll find the power button and the volume rockers 🤘🏽

Over at the back is the fingerprint sensor. 

And of course, the quad-camera setup. 

You know what, let’s jump straight to some camera samples because that’s probably the most fun thing about this phone.

Better main sensor 

Here’s the setup your getting with the realme 7i: 64MP wide + 8MP ultra-wide + 2MP monochrome + 2MP depth sensor

Pretty standard, right? The 64MP is actually a nice touch and a jump from the 48MP found on the realme 6i.

It retains a fair amount of detail even when you zoom in 5x. 

Here’s a sample of the main cam without zooming. 

Our feline friend looks great lounging around on the wooden floor. Meanwhile, right behind him (it? her? I’m not really sure.) you’ll see a glass door that retains both the reflection as well as gives you peak at what’s inside.

You can also take nice sky shots. 

But the thing people will likely play around the most are the fun filters.

REALLY, REALLY fun filters

You might have already seen some CyberPunk filter samples but we’re gonna throw more your way.

Took these during day-time. Evidently, this would have been better at night.

But CyberPunk isn’t the only filter. I went downstairs and was immediately transported to the world of Ghost of Tsushima. 

Neat, right? That’s the Flamingo filter. Again, realme says these were meant to be filters but I love how these turned out even in day time.

Here’s what that photo looks like without a filter.

In addition to CyberPunk and Flamingo, there’s also Modern Gold that also gives a completely different feel.

Here are a few more samples with the filters side-by-side.



These were just really fun to shoot. I’m not sure how long that novelty will feel but these are really nice to have.

Sure, there are photo editing apps that help you manually apply these filters. But the instantaneous feeling of snapping a photo and having them applied right away is an underrated level of convenience and fun.

Elsewhere, the realme 7i is just okay

The 6.5” FHD+ display is nice for Netflix sessions. The display size in relation to its weight and overall footprint is pretty standard for most phones. It strikes a balance between a good grip and enough screen real estate for consuming media.

You’ll feel the 90Hz screen refresh rate kick-in when you’re steadily browsing social media.

The realme UI being really close to stock Android also helps in that overall smooth experience.

If you casually play mobile games, the screen refresh rate helps with that too. Played League of Legends: Wild Rift briefly on this thing. The Snapdragon 662 SoC plus 8GB RAM is more than enough to run most mobile games.

These games are actually made to play well no matter your phone so you should have no trouble playing on these. It’s not mind blowing or anything, but that’s okay.

The 5000mAh battery plus 18W fast charging is also decent enough for lasting you a day and quickly topping up should you find the need to.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

There’s really not much to say about the realme 7i. It looks good, has a smooth display, performs just about as expected for its set of specs, and has a capable camera with fun built-in features. As far as ticking boxes for needs go, this phone has it.

This phone retails for PhP 11,990 (US$ 247). Is the pricing fair? For what you’re getting, for sure it is. Is it the best at this price point? That’s a conversation for another article.

The realme 7i is steady and consistent. In a world that feels like it’s constantly and rapidly changing, perhaps steady is exactly what we need.

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