Reviews

Huawei Y5 2017 Review: It sticks to your budget

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Budget phones don’t necessarily have to be that bad. While there are devices out there that simply aren’t worth your money, there are Android phones from international brands that are competitively priced like the Huawei Y5 2017.

While working on this review, I read about Huawei’s plan on ditching the low-end smartphone market and it made me wonder why. The Huawei executive pointed out their low-profit margins compared to their flagship phones, so I double-checked this phone’s pricing and realized that it’s indeed cheaper than its main competitors. So, what makes this handset stand out?


Let’s first take a look at the phone’s physique:

It’s a brick phone with a 5-inch HD display

EMUI 4.0 doesn’t have an app drawer

The back panel is dimpled to provide texture

The pinhole above the camera is the secondary microphone

We have the usual volume and lock keys on this side

They’re easy to reach and tactile

There’s an extra button called “Easy Key” for assigning shortcuts

It allows quick access to apps and certain features

The 3.5mm headphone jack is here to stay

Never ever take this away from cheap phones

What’s special about it?

What makes the Y5 2017 stand out from its rivals is the extra traits you get without spending more. Other phones that cost as much get a subpar display, but the Y5 2017 has an HD IPS panel. The few extra pixels make the screen sharper — perfect for viewing pictures and videos. While the loudspeaker doesn’t keep up with the display, you can plug in your own headphones through the 3.5mm or wirelessly connect via Bluetooth.

Apart from the display, the phone also has a sizeable battery — 3000mAh. For a 5-inch phone, that’s the best you can get without making the phone chubby. This battery capacity will be able to give you a full day’s worth of use (given that you use the phone moderately). There’s no quick charging feature, though.

Can it handle more than just the basics?

Huawei gave the Y5 2017 a MediaTek processor with 2GB of memory. If you’ve used other phones in this range, you’d already know what to expect from the Y5 2017’s performance. MediaTek’s processors for budget phones don’t really fly, but this one gets the job done. We’re talking about basic tasks like calling and texting, web browsing, and using social networking apps. The interface runs smoothly; however, using memory-hogging apps causes hiccups.

How about gaming? It’s not really the strongest suit of budget phones. Thankfully, available titles on the Play Store have graphics settings that you can tweak. Intensive games like Asphalt Extreme and NBA 2K17 work fine when set to low, while casual games don’t have any performance issues.

The phone has Android 6.0 Marshmallow with the early EMUI 4.0 skin on top. A miracle must happen for this to get Nougat with EMUI 5.0 since these kinds of phones rarely get updates. The 16GB of storage won’t be enough; that’s why there’s a dedicated microSD card slot. There are also two SIM card slots — a nano and a micro — with support for 4G LTE.

How’s the camera?

Equipped with an 8-megapixel rear sensor, we didn’t really expect much at first coming from our review of the LG K7 (2017) which has the same price point, but with a lackluster rear camera. As for selfies, it has a 5-megapixel front shooter with its own LED flash.

The Y5 2017’s shooters perform surprisingly well during our test. The photos look okay for a budget phone and usable for social media posting. We do wish for faster autofocus times, but it’s not that slow either. The front LED flash opens the chance for a selfie in the dark.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Huawei sells the phone for just PhP 5,890 (US$ 115) in the Philippines and for that price, you get an Android smartphone that performs well and doesn’t look cheap. Its HD display is a good selling point for those who watch videos on their phones on the go, and the front LED flash will help in low-light selfie shots.

The phone is not without its flaws, such its plastic body and underwhelming gaming performance, since it must stick to its low price point. You can easily fix the build issue while at the same time protect your phone by slipping it into a case. As for gaming, you can try turning down the graphics settings if possible. There’s always a workaround for budget limitations; you just need to be creative.

If you can add a couple thousand pesos, we highly recommend the other affordable Huawei phone — the GR3 2017. You may read our review why it’s one of the top budget smartphones.

SEE MORE: Huawei is ‘giving up’ on cheap phones

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Cameras

Fujifilm X-T30 Review: Remembering my love for photography

An ode to how I first fell in love

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I fell in love with photography when I was around 10. There was a different kind of glee whenever my hands carried a compact camera. My younger self would capture photos that I find beautiful, even things with little to no significance like walls, sidewalks, and ugly buildings. It’s probably the reason why I pursued photography and made a career out of it. I just love photography so much.

Soon after joining GadgetMatch, I found myself using my camera less and less. I started leaning towards smartphone cameras, taking snaps to be uploaded on social media and sample photos for our smartphone reviews and camera shootouts. Everything became for work and I forgot why I love photography.


When I got my hands on Fujifilm’s latest camera, the X-T30, there was a yearning inside me — to go around, to see places, to take on an adventure. And I did.

An ode to my love for photography

The Fujifilm X-T30 made me remember why I fell in love with photography. It was like the days when I was 10 years old, carrying a compact camera innocently. The X-T30 felt like an invitation to try photography, once again.

Its vintage look is like a trip down memory lane. It brims with nostalgia and takes you to the wonders of your humble beginnings. No wonder I felt like a kid again, curious about the world and ready to explore.

But despite the classic approach, the Fujifilm X-T30 still has a modern and sleek feel to it. It’s something that youngsters would love to use during their travels; something that will let them flaunt their love of  photography without appearing like a professional photographer.

Going back to where it first started

The X-T30 made me want to use cameras again instead of smartphones during my travels. When I went on an adventure, I kept my smartphone in my bag and focused on taking photographs. The X-T30 is lightweight at 383g and was made with portability in mind. Even though I have thin, fragile arms, I can carry the camera with just one hand.

Despite using a Fujifilm camera in my earlier trips, I found it confusing to navigate Fujifilm’s dials and other functions. It’s because I’ve been using Sony’s mirrorless cameras for more than two years already that I’ve grown accustomed to its design.

Nonetheless, you don’t have to be a quick learner to figure out Fujifilm’s cameras, especially the X-T30. Once you start getting the hang of it, you’ll be unstoppable in taking lots of photographs. It packs a lot of camera modes, complemented by easily accessible controls to suit different situations.

It’s also easier to grip and hold, with ample space for your hand beside the controls. It has a tiltable touchscreen LCD monitor too, so you can take amazing low and high angle shots.

With this camera, you will truly love to fall in love with photography again. I repeat: Photography, not mobile photography. There’s a difference.

Reminding you of your potential

Just like every mirrorless camera out there, the Fujifilm X-T30 can provide my photography needs. But what sets this camera apart from its competitors is its ability to be a beast in photography, despite being small. Some dubbed it a “Little Giant,” and I couldn’t agree more.

The X-T30 sports an even better sensor and processor, the latest X-Trans CMOS 4 and X-Processor 4, respectively. With the combination of these two, it’s easier to take photos quickly with outstanding quality. Your photos will look rich in colors and tones and you can now track a moving subject faster with its improved face- and eye-detection AF. It’s even more accurate as it can let you select faces and focus on them.

Additionally, you can take photos swiftly, too! The mechanical shutter will let you shoot continuously at up to 8.0fps in full resolution, while the electronic shutter allows a high-speed continuous shooting of up to 30fps. Oh, you can take 4K/30P videos too!

This camera just reminded me of my potential when I was just starting, and the potential that I can still achieve. How one can dream big and believe in itself that it can do a lot of things. Despite being small and compact, the Fujifilm X-T30 is one powerful camera.

To put my heart on my sleeve once again

In this age, photographs are meant to be shared. However, taking photographs with the X-T30 didn’t feel like I want to brag about my shots. Yes, I’m happy (and proud) that I didn’t lose my skill and passion, but the photographs I took felt too personal. It’s as if an array of emotions linger in every photo, and personal stuff makes me shy away from the spotlight since it makes me vulnerable.

It’s just like falling in love with someone. We’re afraid of showing off our emotions (or works, in this scenario) that we tend to avoid confronting these mixed feelings — ranging from joy, fear, bliss, and frustration.

Using the Fujifilm X-T30 made me take photos for my own consumption and keep it to myself — just like what I do when I love someone.

On another note, taking photographs with the X-T30 made it less about me and more about the world around me. When I was using a smartphone, I’ve always taken selfies and asked people to take my photo so I can post it on Instagram. This time around, it’s just me, the camera, and the moments waiting to be captured during my adventures.

Even our producer Vincenz focused more on his surrounding during his travels. Here’s an example of the night shot he perfected by being in tune with the world around him:

Knows how to match you (and your aesthetic)

What I love about Fujifilm is its unique Film Simulation modes. It lets me use a certain film as a preset to be applied to the photo I’m taking. For instance, my favorite is ETERNA, which subdues the color as if it’s a still from a movie. Take a look at the example below:

While it’s better to apply our favorite presets and our own editing style during the post-processing, Fujifilm’s Film Simulation modes made me feel like it knows me, my taste, preference, and aesthetics. And even though I have a particular set of style that I like, there are still a lot of films to choose from. I think what I’m saying is we all deserve something (or someone) that offers more than what else you want — and the X-T30 has that.

Some of the film simulations are Fujifilm’s very own photographic films: PROVIA, which delivers radiant colors exactly as you remember them, and Velvia, which provides high saturation and vivid colors.

Film Simulation: PROVIA | Photo by MJ Jucutan

There are also ASTIA offering soft tones for outdoor portraits, CLASSIC CHROME for creating subtle colors and muted tones, ACROS for a monochromatic shot that is rich in texture and deep blacks. Furthermore, PRO Neg. Hi and PRO Neg. Std both offers natural skin tones with the former creating high-contrast portraits while the latter produces realistic and softer tones in portraits.

There are stories that we can keep in our hearts forever

While on the boat looking out on the horizon, it dawned on me that I haven’t checked my smartphone in a while. I started living in the moment. One second, I’ll be stunned by the gorgeous landscapes we encountered along the way. Another second, I’m out shooting these vivid sceneries.

I’m astounded with how Fujifilm made me focus on capturing these wonders. It’s also amazing how it lets me keep these stories and it hit me: We can store these memories in different ways — it can be uploaded on social media, saved on our smartphones’ clouds and galleries, or for old souls, printed on a scrapbook and kept in a photo album.

Photographs, for me, are forms of moments translated into something tangible. Fujifilm lets you decide how to keep these memories. It remains modern in a way that it lets you transfer your photographs to your smartphone through its Camera Remote app and Bluetooth connectivity. It also has a micro USB cable for you to connect it to your laptop or PCs, since I’m sure some of you would opt to print your photographs the old-fashion way.

Is the Fujifilm X-T30 your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a travel companion or getting back into photography as a hobby, the Fujifilm X-T30 is the right match for you. It’s basically a down-sized X-T3 complete with style and power.

The Fujifilm X-T30 starts at a retail price of PhP 52,990 (US$ 1,012) for its body only and PhP 75,990 (US$ 1,452) for the 18-55mm lens kit bundle. It’s now available in stores nationwide.

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Laptops

ASUS VivoBook X412F Review: A great midrange option for work and school

For those who need a fresh start

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Not everyone can afford a premium device. Even if the specifications entice you to buy that nice laptop, the ultimate decision point is in its price and value to you. Parents and young professionals starting a new job would know.

ASUS regularly comes up with great midrange selections for students and young professionals. That seems to be what the ASUS VivoBook X412F is: an all-around midrange device for productivity and day-to-day tasks. But if you’re currently a student or working full-time, should you consider this device?


Here’s a rundown of the device’s specifications:

It has a 14” HD anti-glare display

It’s powered by an Intel Core i3 processor and an NVIDIA MX230 graphics card

It comes with both a USB Type-A and Type-C port

Has a fingerprint reader on the touchpad

It gets the job done for its intended purpose

The model I used came with an Intel Core i3 processor, which won’t deliver great performance on paper. But after using it for a while, I can say that it really isn’t the case. It kept up with the numerous tasks I threw at it, whether it was writing documents or watching videos. Do take note that this device only comes with 4GB of RAM, so obviously you won’t be able to do a lot more.

It also helped that it comes with a 256GB solid state drive installed. Using SSDs provide a significant boost in loading times, which allowed me to get more tasks done. I would still prefer to have the more powerful Intel Core i5 option installed to maximize performance.

You can play games on it, just don’t push it

The VivoBook X412F comes with an entry level NVIDIA MX230 graphics card. Upon reading this, my initial thought was that gaming was possible — and it was. The catch is, well any game that doesn’t require so much graphical power will run smoothly. Games like CS:GO, Minecraft, and Rocket League do reach a hard 50 to 55 frame per second cap.

But like any other non-gaming laptop, using this strictly for gaming is highly discouraged. This device was not exactly designed to be a gaming machine, even if you get the units with more powerful processors on it. Plus, you will definitely feel the heat on your keyboard when you play for too long. So, I’m not saying that you can’t use it to play games; don’t use it just to play games.

It lasts relatively long, as long as you’re using it properly

Upon initial testing, I did get around five to six hours on one full charge. It’s long enough for you to just browse the internet, watch a few videos or movies, and type down reports. Doing some form of photo or video editing decreases that number by just a bit. It took two to three hours to fully charge the device from zero.

Battery life when playing games on it is just what you expect it to be. I got close to two hours and 30 minutes before having to plug the charger. Again, you can play games on this device but it’s not meant for strictly just gameplay. 

The webcam is surprisingly decent

One of the key critiques I’ve had over most laptops centers around their webcams. Most built-in HD webcams, when used for the first time, are not as “high-definition” as promoted. Images and videos either look blurry or grainy, which won’t help during conference calls.

With the VivoBook X412F, the webcam is decent at best — which is all you could really hope for. Under good lighting conditions, image quality on this 720p webcam feels more “high-definition” than most. I observed relatively less grain than most other laptops I’ve tried, which is great for video calls at least.

Other features worth considering before you buy

The VivoBook X412F comes with a fingerprint reader on the touchpad. Setting up Windows Hello was pretty fast, but I found the sensor to be pretty sensitive after. Even if I had already cleaned my fingers and wiped out the sweat, the sensor sometimes won’t read it.

It also comes with a chiclet keyboard without the number pad on the right side. Key travel, for me was decent and took just a short while to get used to. Sadly, it wasn’t backlit which I would have liked — especially for working late at night. 

Finally, you get what you can with its display. It’s only a 14-inch HD display, which doesn’t leave you much room for proper viewing angles and color accuracy. The one good quality it has, in my opinion, is that it’s an anti-glare screen. I used the device outdoors several times, and even at 70 percent brightness I could still see the contents of my screen.

Is the ASUS VivoBook X412F your GadgetMatch?

The ASUS VivoBook X412F is one device that truly caters to those who want an affordable yet premium experience. It comes in a package that promises great productivity and portability, and lasts a long time. It’s a total fit for students and young professionals looking for their first school or work laptop. Of course, that’s only the case as long as it is used for its intended purpose.

With a device like this, you can only do so much. While tasks such as photo, video editing, and gaming are possible, it proves to do more harm than good. If you really want to get the most value out of this laptop, I suggest you use it mostly for its intended purpose.At PhP 32,995 (US$ 629) for the 256GB + 4GB RAM unit, the ASUS VivoBook X412F is a great productivity device for work and school. That is, if you will use it for work or school-related activities.

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Philippines

Nokia 8.1 review: What took you so long?

Solid but feels dated

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There’s a Filipino song called “Bakit ngayon ka lang?”. Loosely translated, it means “what took you so long?”. The song talks about a missed romantic opportunity — of someone else coming along while you’re already committed to another. That’s almost exactly how I feel about the Nokia 8.1.

The phone — known in other markets as the Nokia 7X — was first announced in December 2018. A full seven months later, it arrived in the Philippines. And a lot has happened in those seven months.


Performance on par with midrangers today

Before I proceed, let’s get some of the specs talk out of the way. The device is powered by the Snapdragon 710 SoC along with 6GB of RAM with 128GB of internal storage which is expandable via a microSD card. That’s not bad. At all. It’s even near-flagship territory… in 2018.

One thing about the Nokia 8.1 though that will never feel dated is its OS. The phone is part of Google’s Android One program which means this is running Stock Android. If you like it vanilla — like a lot of purists do — then this is one of the phones that offer that clean experience. Right now it’s still on Android P, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can side load Android Q beta as it is a partner device for Android’s developer preview.

Google cards are quite useful

The chip together with vanilla Android makes for a smooth and snappy experience. Most of the time I’m either just browsing or working on my phone and doing so on the Nokia 8.1 one was a very pleasant experience.

I have said this countless times but in case you’re new here, I don’t really play mobile games. The only time I ever really do so is when I have to test phones. On the Nokia 8.1 I only played Honkai Impact 3, which is a pretty graphics heavy game. The phone had zero trouble running the game and it looked especially stunning on the phone’s 6.18-inch PureDisplay screen (which we’ll get to shortly).

This means the phone will likely have zero problems running some of the most played games today like PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. If you play these games with this phone and don’t get that Chicken Dinner or that MVP, then you only have yourself to blame.

A display sent from the heavens

The PureDisplay screen technology is really pulling its own weight. When Nokia said this phone offers a higher contrast ratio and sharper output, it felt like it was even underselling it. The screen is vibrant and the colors and images look sharp all without looking too saturated.

It doesn’t have any of that crazy 90hz or 120hz display that we’ll find on 2019 flagships, but dare I say, the Nokia 8.1 probably has the best display in its price point.

I hid that notch eventually

I’ve often found myself happily watching on this phone while slowly being sucked into the YouTube rabbit hole. Speaking of watching videos on this display, I opted to turn the notch off altogether. The notch still looks like the one present on the iPhone X which came out in 2017. It’s 2019 and personally, I’d rather have a full bezel than be bothered looking at that kind of a notch.

Watching vertical FanCams is great on this thing

That said audio on this thing is far from perfect but it’s passable. The sound it produces isn’t as full as I hope to hear from phones when in speaker mode, but you can remedy all that by plugging in headphones because our good friend jack is still present on this device. Listening on wireless earbuds also offer a nice experience.

The build screams premium

One of the first things I noticed about the Nokia 8.1 is its build. The body is built with 6000-series aluminum with an all-glass back. And it feels pretty darn expensive. So much so that I was wondering why it didn’t come with any case in the packaging.

At first I was really hesitant to bring this around due to the lack of a case, but over time, my hands have grown accustomed to the glass finish. And I feel blessed every single time I touch it. There’s something about the build in finish that just screams premium.

The fingerprint sensor is at the back. And it feels like a blessing every time I touch this thing

It’s not fragile at all though. Being the clumsy oaf that I am, I may have accidentally dropped this phone twice already. The phone sustained zero scratches and zero damages. This is one tough cookie.

Pretty darn good cameras

I have to come clean and say I never really had too many chances to take photos during the testing phase. I’ve mostly just been at my desk or in a conference room which aren’t really ideal for taking photos.

The second lens acts as a depth sensor

So for samples I just took some quick shots around my place using the ZEISS-powered 12- and 13-megapixel dual-cameras. Hopefully I find some time to get a life outside of work for the next review. If you know a girl looking for a date, feel free to hit me up. I don’t bite… unless? Anyway, check out the samples below.

Quick note, features like Pro mode and Bokeh are also present on the 20MP front-facing camera.

Is the Nokia 8.1 your GadgetMatch?

And so, here we are. I’ve had nothing but mostly nice things to say about the Nokia 8.1. For a phone that was launched in late 2018, it can still square up with several midrangers in 2019. But the price, therein lies the rub.

At PhP 19,999, it’s not crazy expensive. It’s just that for a few thousand pesos less, there are actually better options. It’s hard to justify this purchase when  phones like the Realme 3 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 9T exist — both of which came within the seven months that the Nokia 8.1 was nowhere to be found on the archipelago.

Calling the folks at Nokia to bring their phones to the Philippines faster next time

Sure, those don’t have the build that the Nokia 8.1 has but the Realme 3 Pro offers much of the same performance for a more affordable price. And the Xiaomi Mi 9T actually feels like a 2019 phone with its triple-camera setup and a pop-up camera that makes way for an actual full screen display.

If you’re a Nokia stan — and I know there’s a lot of you out there — I can’t fault you for wanting this device. I get it. It’s pretty nice. But it’s really just a little too late. Timing is everything. Both in love and in smartphone releases.

*plays “Bakit ngayon ka lang?

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