Reviews

Infinix Note 11S: A game changer at its price point

Performance that won’t hold you back!

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‘Bang-for-the-buck’ has always been my association for devices that come out from Infinix. They relentlessly create devices that squeeze out the very best you can get for the money. It is for this very reason why they’ve acquired quite a following on social media and that most of their releases gather such wide anticipation. 

Right after publishing our unboxing and first impressions of the Infinix Note 11S and sharing posts on my social media pages, I’ve received a lot of questions about different aspects of this device. So, to find out everything I needed to know, I went on and took the Note 11S as my daily driver for two weeks.

Here are a couple of things I’ve figured out in my experience with the Infinix Note 11S.

A quick refresher of the specs

Just so we’re on the same page, here’s a quick refresher of the specs of the Infinix Note 11S.

It has a 6.95-inch, 120Hz, FHD+, IPS display and is running on the new Helio G96 chipset paired with 8GB RAM and 128GB internal storage. Along with these are a 50-megapixel triple camera setup with a 16-megapixel selfie camera, a 5,000 mAh battery, and a 33W fast charging capability.

Design and build quality

Note-branded devices from other manufacturers are typically targeted towards professionals, and as I’ve mentioned in our unboxing and first impressions, the Note 11S seems to tread the same path.

It sports a professional and uncomplicated look resembling other models under the Infinix Note line of devices despite being targeted towards gamers.

The phone is housed in this sleek-looking and premium-feeling body. It’s still predominantly made of plastic, but the device doesn’t feel cheaply made. I guess we can assume that a portion of the price premium you’re paying is allocated on this aspect.

You can tell just by how it feels that the build quality is an upgrade from their Hot series. The design is also much more polished.

If you’re the type who really enjoys large smartphones for gaming or watching videos, you’ll likely have a good time with the Note 11S.

Two-handed operation on landscape gaming won’t make your hand cover the whole display as it’s just massive at its 6.95-inch size.

On the other hand, people who’re used to smaller or average-sized smartphones may find this Note 11S to be comically big. And to prove that, here’s a photo of it sticking out of my front pocket.

I used to really dislike side-mounted fingerprint scanners. I prefer rear-mounted ones because of their lack of sensitivity. But on the Note 11S, I’m happy to say that that isn’t the case.

The side-mounted fingerprint scanner is so responsive that even the slightest touch of my thumb gets recognized.

Display and sound quality

One notable aspect which sets the Note 11S apart from their lower-tier smartphones is its display. The Note 11S is packing a 6.95-inch, FHD+, 120Hz, IPS display with a punch-hole selfie camera. 

A worthwhile upgrade from the usual displays we see on other Infinix devices. It’s decently sharp and has pretty adequate color reproduction.

I was a bit let down by the brightness though. I really struggled to view the display outdoors even when not under direct sunlight. Indoors I still found myself adjusting between three-fourths or max brightness. Anything below the half setting is just too dim for my taste.

I did compare it with the brightness performance of its older sibling, the Infinix Hot 10S, and I could say, the Note 11S is just slightly brighter.

It doesn’t have any kind of special screen strengthening technology but it does have a pre-installed plastic screen protector to compensate.

The sound quality also sounded fuller and louder this time. There’s nothing notably special about it but it does sound decent. It also didn’t seem to have the common issue I’ve been reading in some Facebook posts of their devices being too quiet at near max volume level but too loud at max. 

Hardware and performance

With gaming as its top priority, we would expect that the gaming performance on the Note 11S to be good. And that’s exactly the case. It ran most games I threw at it at playable speeds or even higher. I managed to run Genshin Impact at medium resolution with little to no lag.

With a few tweaks, this can even run at a combination of high and medium settings. To me, this is already very commendable as we don’t have that many choices that could do this at this price point.

However, despite being what I would consider being a relatively powerful chipset, some games like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Call of Duty: Mobile did not have the highest graphic settings as an available option.

This could probably be because the Helio G96 chip is still relatively new but I do feel positive that an update could be released to solve this issue for Mobile Legends.

Other than that, all of these games ran flawlessly on the Note 11S. Call of Duty: Mobile ran at an exceptionally smooth pace with the 120Hz display and felt very fluid to the touch. And to answer the question if gyroscope controls are working fine, the answer is yes. 

Also, like other Infinix devices, we’re still getting the shortcut on the home screen which lets us clear RAM usage with just a tap. Executing this shortcut before running a game comes in handy to ensure a more stutter-free gaming experience.

Running on XOS 10 skin on top of Android 11, there’s quite a number of preinstalled apps most of which I would prefer to be uninstalled but I do appreciate that the most common social media apps are present so we won’t have to bother downloading them anymore.

For day-to-day use, there isn’t really anything to complain about its performance and I actually consider it snappy. 

Camera quality

Having a 50-megapixel shooter, we might expect stellar camera performance on the Note 11S. Subjectively, I think it’s pretty good. It focuses and exposes quickly and mostly nails the color temperature which is greatly appreciated if you don’t want to bother editing your photos.

But I noticed a few things with its camera software though which made the Note 11S not the ideal smartphone photography partner for me.

For one, the Note 11S only lets you lock the exposure and focus for about one or two seconds before it lets it go. I didn’t quite understand why but this is the same issue I faced with the Infinix Hot 10S. A lot of people might not be bothered by this since most of us would just point and shoot with our phones. But others who’d want to get more accurate results might get frustrated.

Another thing I noticed was the Pro mode also doesn’t feature RAW shooting which is another bummer for me.

The 16-megapixel selfie camera does take pretty decent shots too, especially in good lighting conditions. However, it lacked the palm gesture shooting capability which I tend to use very often in most other smartphones I’ve used.

I honestly think there’s a lot of potential on these cameras and most of the inconveniences I’ve mentioned are just on the software side of things which I believe are fixable through updates.

Battery life and charging

For a device that has a capacity of 5,000mAh for its battery, I would rate the battery performance of the Note 11S to be on the satisfactory side.

A whole day of usage on mostly mobile data gets me at around forty percent remaining towards the end of the day. Pretty typical for a device that’s running on this capacity of the battery.

The 33W charging, on the other hand, is superb. It only takes a little over an hour to fully charge this device from its low battery state. And while these aren’t insanely fast speeds, this is another feature we rarely see in devices in this price range.

Is the Infinix Note 11S your GadgetMatch?

This device is just packed with a lot of features that are really appealing to the market it is targeted to. Serious gamers who’d want that big high refresh rate display, performance that won’t hold you back on gaming, a design you could show off, and charging speed that would get you back to your game in no time are just some of its most captivating aspects.

But with everything we’ve mentioned about the Infinix Note 11S, the real game-changer that I believe would really make one choose to go for this is the really attractive price of PhP 9,990.

It’s still not for everyone as it does fall into the phablet category for its size and of course, there are more powerful devices at higher price points, but if it fits your preference and you’re within this budget, I think the Infinix Note 11S is a very compelling choice. 

Gaming

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection review

Is it worth the upgrade?

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Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection

The Uncharted franchise has been a PlayStation darling ever since it came out on the PlayStation 3. The series wrapped up Nathan Drake’s story in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and spun off a new adventure with some supporting casts on Uncharted: Lost Legacy on the PlayStation 4. Both titles get a new lease of life with a PlayStation 5 remaster called Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection just in time for the showing of the Uncharted film. 

It’s a no-brainer that this remaster’s release was timed to coincide with the film. In fact, in some locations, tickets to the film are part of the promotion. But what exactly does this remaster have to offer and will it make you watch the film? These are what I’ll try to answer here. 

My first Uncharted 

There’s no shortage of breathtaking sceneries like this throughout the game.

Unlike many who played the two games part of this remastered collection, this is my first encounter with the franchise. It’s a shame, but I was dealing with life during the entire PlayStation 3 generation. Can’t really blame me. I digress. 

Given that, you can imagine how blown my mind was after going through Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection. It’s the definitive action-movie-that-you-can-play experience, reaffirming my love for the action genre. Naughty Dog did away with staple game elements like skill trees and levelling up in favor of a balls-to-the-walls action adventure, beautiful set pieces, great dialogue, and characters you’ll grow attached with. 

I watched a few recaps of the first three Uncharted games to get myself acquainted. And while it wasn’t enough to fill me in entirely on the franchise’s lore, it played its role in making me somewhat familiar with the game. 

A quick overview 

I’ll keep this whole thing relatively spoiler-free to preserve the experience for those like me who haven’t played the game before. But what exactly is going in these two games? 

Uncharted: A Thief’s End is the fourth installment of the franchise and neatly wraps up the story of main character Nathan Drake. In this game, he has left his treasure hunting days behind and is living a relatively normal life with his wife Elena Fisher. 

However, a certain figure from his past re-enters his life and forces his hand. He joins this person in the hunt for Pirate Henry Avery’s lost treasure. What follows is a dose of high-octane action featuring wall climbing, gun fights, and more. 

Meanwhile, Uncharted: Lost Legacy focuses on supporting characters from the previous games. You play as Chloe Frazer – treasure hunter and former flame of one Nathan Drake. Here, she’s accompanied by one of A Thief’s End’s antagonists, Nadine Ross. 

It’s an unlikely pairing and one that was tense at the start but finds its footing as you go around rainforests in India in search of the Tusk of Ganesh. It plays similarly to A Thief’s End but with new weapons such as a silenced pistol. There’s also a new mechanic that lets you go back into stealth mode if you hide long and well enough after an encounter with the bad guys. 

So, what’s new? 

Like many PS4 games remastered for the PS5, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection adds familiar upgrades we’ve seen implemented in the past year. These are faster (practically non-existent load times), graphical improvements, 3D audio implementation, and taking advantage of the Dual Sense controller. 

Visual improvements

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection

The way the light behaves is an absolute marvel

In terms of graphical improvements, there are three modes you can play in. These are Fidelity, Performance, and Performance+. These breakdown as follows: 

  • Fidelity – Plays at native 4K with a 30fps frame rate
  • Performance – Prioritizes a 60fps frame rate
  • Performance+ – Pushes frame rate to 120fps but at only a 1080p resolution

Personally, the TV I use doesn’t support 120fps so I primarily played in Performance mode. Initially, I tried Fidelity mode which is what I thought would be best given my experience with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. But the Uncharted games are more action-focused, players will benefit from a smoother frame rate. 

Nearly every scene looks and feels like a cinematic

Fidelity mode certainly gives you that blockbuster motion picture feel especially during cinematics. However, the shift from cinematics to gameplay appears more pronounced which can be a little bit jarring. Additionally, the gameplay action doesn’t feel as dynamic in this mode. 

Performance mode, meanwhile, has a more seamless cinematic to gameplay transition. In fact, during the first few hours of the game, I caught myself standing around thinking I was still in a cinematic. The picture looks smoother without losing much in terms of the movie-like experience.The frame rate was consistent throughout with zero lag or jaggedness. 

If your TV supports it, it might be worth your while to shift over to Performance+ mode. The high frame rate will certainly aid in the inevitable gun combat sequences. 

3D Audio and Dual Sense

The 3D audio and Dual Sense additions were really pronounced during parts of the game when it was raining. At the time, I was playing at night with the windows closed. I really thought it was raining outside, but it really was just in game. And I wasn’t even playing with headphones on! 

While raining, you can feel the Dual Sense control rumble a little bit as if it was being hit with raindrops. The controls also affect the trigger buttons where there’s a heavier, more pronounced feeling when you’re pressing R2 to fire guns. There are plenty of more subtle but definitely noticeable implementations that add to the overall experience. 

The Dual Sense was also pretty useful in these lock pick sections

The Dual Sense improvements are also felt during the driving sections of the game. Not only do you feel the terrain as you move around. The trigger buttons also react to whatever surface you’re trying to traverse giving more resistance where appropriate. 

Is it worth the upgrade or new purchase? 

There’s incredible, edge-of-your-seat action throughout

I’ll speak first from my experience. As someone who played the games for the first time on a PS5, it was definitely one hell of a gaming experience. If these are titles you skipped from the previous generation or you just jumped into gaming consoles on the PS5, this is certainly worth every penny. 

Playing the included games alone is already a treat. But the PS5 improvements elevates everything by engaging more of your senses as you play. 

Local pricing isn’t available yet but it’s already listed for pre-order in the US. It’ll set you back US$ 49.99. The upgrades are a little trickier. 

Here’s the detailed information from the PlayStation blog.

  • Players who purchased Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, or Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End & Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Digital Bundle have the option to pay 10/€10 to upgrade to Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Digital Version. The upgrade will be available starting at launch on January 28, 2022.
  • Owners of PS4 disc copies must insert them into the PS5 every time they want to download or play the PS5 digital versions. PS4 game disc owners who buy the PS5 Digital Edition disc-free console will not be able to get the PS5 version for the discounted price.
  • PlayStation Plus members who claimed Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End via their PlayStation Plus subscription are not eligible for the $10/€10 digital PS5 upgrade.

In certain territories, purchasing or upgrading gives you a free ticket to watch the Uncharted film starring Tom Holland (Nathan Drake) and Mark Wahlberg (Sullivan). That’s certainly a nice incentive. Asked if the promo will be implemented in Southeast Asia, PlayStation said they are still ironing out details with Sony Films as of the time this was published.

It’s hard for me to make any definitive recommendation on this situation. The US$ 10 may be better spent as an addition to purchase any new games you may be eyeing. But if you have that extra mount, the upgrade doesn’t hurt at all. 

One thing is true, whether you’re jumping in fresh or are looking dive in for another playthrough the games in Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection are certainly worth the time and experience.  

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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: An all around wonder

Ideal for most users

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From the moment I picked up the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G, it’s been hard to let go. But I had a very different impression of the phone when it was just first announced. I thought it was boring and is just another cash-grab attempt by Samsung. Boy was I wrong. 

Spending roughly a little over two weeks with it, my opinion definitely shifted. From just another boring phone, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G started to look to me like the ideal smartphone for most users. 

Designed for optimal use 

The first thing that really caught my attention was when I first held the Galaxy S21 FE 5G. It felt… perfect. But really, the word I was looking for is ergonomic. It’s not too light and thin that you don’t feel like you’re carrying nothing. But it’s also not too hefty and  thick that it’ll put a strain on your hand if you hold it for too long. It feels like the sweet spot for most hand sizes.

The look also feels streamlined. Initially, I thought it was too simple. However, after prolonged use, it looked more sleek and subtle than plain and bland. If your taste skews towards minimalism, you’ll likely gravitate towards this phone’s design. It comes in Graphite, Olive, Lavender, and White so there’s a healthy selection of colorways.

It also felt durable. The ‘glasstic’ material used didn’t make me feel compelled to get a case while using it. You just get the feeling that it won’t break easily. It’s perfect for clumsy types who often drop their phones unintentionally. 

Our Associate Creative Producer did point out that the back can be a sweat magnet. Not encouraging for people with sweaty palms. Although, this might easily be addressed by getting a case anyway.  

Reliable performance 

Powered by Samsung’s Exynos 2100 chip, the phone didn’t leave me wanting in terms of performance. Over the course of my usage, it learned the apps I use the most and kept them active in the background. This means they load right from where I left them during instances that I switch from app to app. 

ONE UI 4 also felt smooth and snappy. Navigating the phone felt fast, but this has been the case with most flagship-level Samsung smartphones over the past 3-4 years. 

There’s a feature where you can open certain apps as if it was floating. Kind of like a chat head but for different apps. It worked on Telegram and Twitter during my time with the phone. It’s cool for quick glances, but I found it mostly annoying, but that’s just me. 

The sensors felt snappy, too. Whether it’s Face Unlock or the fingerprint scanner, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G unlocked pretty quickly. This is underrated as some smartphones still struggle with speed and consistency on this matter. 

Great for watching and gaming 

In line with its overall design, the weight also makes it easy to hold even for extended periods of time. That means interacting with and watching on the 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display (120Hz, HDR10+) was extremely satisfying. 

I watched The Journalist and Single’s Inferno (Best girl 안예원 An Yea-Won deserved more screentime!) before bed on the Galaxy S21 FE 5G. Despite both shows having nearly hour-long episodes, I didn’t feel any strain at all holding the phone while watching. 

The display was also okay and usable under direct sunlight. The team didn’t completely agree on this matter so ultimately, it’ll likely come down to how sharp your eyes are. Our general advice is still to find a shade when you can. 

Like most other Samsung phones, the heating is still there especially when your playtime goes from minutes to hours. I recently decided to finally really play some Genshin Impact over the holidays. I ran the game and had a pretty desirable experience. No unnecessary lags or stutters for one of the most graphic heavy mobile games today. So, it’s safe to say your other games will likely perform well here too. 

Our Associate Creative Director did point out that the heating was prevalent even when you’re not gaming. Personally, I only experienced the heating while playing and charging. But there’ve been several instances of heating with Exynos-powered smartphones so it’s worth mentioning here. 

Battery life and charging

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has a 4,500mAh battery and supports 25W fast charging, 15W fast wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging. 

I was most pleasantly surprised with the addition of wireless charging. It’s a feature I constantly look for in smartphones now. You also don’t have to use a Samsung power brick to take advantage of the fast charging speeds. Which is great if you’ve invested in a multiport GaN charger. 

So, how long does the phone last? Naturally, this depends on each person’s usage. But the three of us in the team who used the phone all felt like it drained pretty fast. You can mitigate this by turning off a few features, but a software update to address power consumption seems in order. 

Flagship-grade cameras

The phone has a main camera array featuring the following: 12MP main, 8MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide. It doesn’t have the extreme zoom capabilities of its S21 siblings, but it trumps them in the selfie shooter department with 32MP compared to the 10MP on the S21 and S21+. 

The selfies, by default, don’t apply too much filter. It’s just a healthy amount to make you look fresh while still looking like yourself. 

There’s also a wide-angle option so you can fit in more than one person in the selfie. 

The main cameras are fantastic. The images taken are flagship-grade. 

The ultra wide angle lens is a dream to use.

And even though the telephoto lens doesn’t have a high megapixel count, it still came out with some decent shots. 

Night shots are more varied. It’ll struggle when there’s very little light source, but with enough of them to go around, you still get detailed images.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is just a few notches off base flagship smartphones when it comes to pricing (US$ 699/ PhP 41,990/ SG$ 1,048). But the performance, design, and camera capabilities are all nearly at that level. 

The pricing might give you some pause. However, we’re 100 percent certain you won’t feel cheated once you start using the phone. It’s great all around and I’m comfortable calling it the best smartphone for most users as early as now. Granted, you might have to make sure you bring around a powerbank with you, but I’m willing to bet most people already do that anyway.

Personally, this is the first time since I reviewed the OPPO Find X3 Pro that I’ve been extremely satisfied with using a smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is an absolute joy to use and is a worthy buy even with new, more advanced phones on the horizon.

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vivo V23 5G Unboxing and Review: Color Changer!

With a revolutionary color-changing back!

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While the X-series is vivo’s line of flagship smartphones with the best in class rear cameras, the V-series is for those who want a great midranger option with star-studded selfie cameras.

Apart from the color-changing back due to Fluorite AG glass, the vivo V23 5G offers more than meets the eye. It’s packed with well-rounded hardware if you may ask.

But should you get the vivo V23 5G? Head over to our vivo V23 5G unboxing and review now to help yourself out.

 

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