Reviews

Infinix ZERO 8: An eclectic, affordable flagship

Eccentric yet sturdy!

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There’s a new brand in town, and it’s ready to shake up the lower midrange category in the Philippines. Meet the Infinix ZERO 8. It’s a competitive midrange smartphone with promising specs, packed in an affordable package.

From Hong Kong to the World

A bit of history, Infinix is a Hong Kong-based smartphone company with R&D in France and South Korea. It started conquering the Middle East and North Africa, and it seemingly wants to heighten its presence in Asia.

In the Philippines, the brand is making strides in the affordable segment. It launched an affordable Note 7, and the ZERO 8 tries to take the spotlight.

Personally, I’ve heard of Infinix but I never got the chance to try it. Gladly, the opportunity came when the Infinix ZERO 8 found its way to my home.

The box came in a beautiful gray and silver box

Of course, it contains every essential accessory you’ll need for your smartphone

It comes with a SIM ejector tool, a clear case, a charging cable, and an adapter.

Infinix takes it up a notch on its white cables, pairing it with silver accents

Yes, the phone has a headphone jack in case you’re asking

The unit I have comes in a Black Diamond colorway

But before we dive in, let’s take a quick look at its ‘promising’ specifications

Processor

MediaTek Helio G90T

Configuration

8GB + 128GB

Battery

4500mAh + 33W SuperCharge

OS

Android 10

Front camera

48MP + 8MP

Dual-Flash Light

Rear camera

64MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP

Quad-Flash Light

Display

6.85” FHD+

90Hz refresh rate

2460×1080 resolution

Dimension

168.74 x 76.08 x 9.07mm

So, what? I’m eclectic

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: the phone’s eccentric rear design. Seeing how Infinix has its smartphones designed in France, there’s no wonder the products come out a little extra. French design, as I’ve always perceived it, seemed grand and flashy.

Infinix ZERO 8

vivo S1 Pro

That’s what the Infinix ZERO 8 is: Commanding attention with a design rooting from previously launched smartphones. For instance, the diamond-shaped camera placement is reminiscent of the vivo S1 Pro. On another note, Infinix stated the design was inspired by the Louvre’s Diamond-glass design.

Infinix ZERO 8

Samsung Galaxy A51

Meanwhile, the prism that refracts across its glass body is similar to Samsung’s Galaxy A50 and A51. Infinix also used the same approach as Samsung’s changing patterns, albeit with a more minimal matte V-shape design from top to middle.

Combining both familiar designs from more expensive brands, Infinix presented a unique proposition delivered to the lower midrange segment.

Smartly designed?

Accompanying the ZERO 8’s eccentric rear design are its sides that are minimally and smartly designed. The top part is clean AF, while the bottom part sports a headphone jack, a USB-C port, and its speaker grilles.

On the left, you can find its SIM tray while on the right are its single volume rocker and a fingerprint scanner that also works as a power button. Personally, I love the fingerprint scanner. It reads swiftly, allowing quick access to your phone.

A treat for those who like it big

The Infinix ZERO 8 sports a 6.85-inch FHD+ display with a 2460×1080 resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. It’s a humongous and powerful handset for tiny hands, but for the price it commands, this affordable flagship is a steal.

Navigating the phone can be as smooth as other premium smartphones. In the entertainment department, it makes for a perfect little portable cinema.

Watching Start-Up on Netflix was quite an experience. The visuals are strikingly vibrant although the blacks are a little bit faded. Audio, on the other hand, can be as loud as most wireless speakers.

One time, I had the phone play Netflix’s Emily in Paris while I work and the sound filled the whole room. For context, my room is double the size of most studio apartments in Manila. Yes, it was LOUD.

Easy to hold, hard to navigate

The Infinix ZERO 8 comes with a hefty build. Even though it weighs heavier compared to smartphones in the same bracket, the curved edges provide easy grip. I didn’t feel like I’m gonna drop the phone accidentally or it will slip off my hands. Coming from someone with tiny hands, somewhat, I felt secure.

But the easy-grip isn’t just what I need. Having a tall and robust phone like this makes it difficult for me to navigate the phone with one hand.

Shake your inner Marie Kondo

Privileged complaints aside, the Infinix ZERO 8 runs a customized XOS Dolphin 7 UI based on Android 10. There are a lot of pre-installed applications, which also blew up my notifications. The Marie Kondo in me is shaking, I had a hard time looking at and cleaning the interface.

Gladly, most of them are removable. The XOS interface also comes with a Smart Panel which you can customize, making it easy to access important apps and tools. Aside from that, the XOS carries a plethora of helpful features for a more mindful smartphone usage

If it comes with a cleaner UI, maybe I would recommend this phone for people dabbling in mindfulness while staying connected.

A rear camera story

The Infinix ZERO 8 has a total of six cameras. On its rear, you can find a quad-camera setup: a 64-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel ultrawide lens, and two 2-megapixel depth sensors.

To be perfectly honest, I had a fun time using the ZERO 8’s rear cameras. It’s an affordable phone, yet it produces vibrant photos especially in the daytime. Low light and indoor shots aren’t looking good, though. For reference, you may scroll the photos I took in my neighborhood, in a Panda-themed café, and in Starbucks.

Daytime

Ultra-wide angle

1x Auto

2x Auto

Indoor Lowlight – Daytime

Ultra-wide angle | Cafe de Esa, Philippines

1x Auto | Cafe de Esa, Philippines

2x Auto | Cafe de Esa, Philippines

Indoor Lowlight

Ultra-wide angle | Starbucks Sierra Valley

1x Auto | Starbucks Sierra Valley

2x Auto | Starbucks Sierra Valley

Photographing food

Auto mode

Auto mode

Portrait mode

I love taking photos of my food and beverages. So, yes. I used the ZERO 8 to capture my favorite breakfast meals from a cafe and a restaurant in Tanay, Rizal. Surprisingly, the ZERO 8 can produce appetizing photos, thanks to its aggressive post-processing in different lighting conditions.

Portrait mode doesn’t look good, though. I know some people who use portrait mode to capture their food to replicate some stellar shots from mirrorless cameras, but it looks like the trick won’t work with the ZERO 8’s cameras.

Greenery

Greenery, whether it’s sunny, cloudy, or raining, still looked vibrant. This kind of processing makes it perfect for social media posting. However, the quality might suffer even more since social media platforms lower the image quality.

Clearly, the ZERO 8 is already suffering from a loss of details especially when you zoom in. Photos might look blurry when zoomed in on Instagram.

Selfie cameras underneath

For its front cameras, it carries a dual-camera setup: a 48-megapixel main sensor and an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens. Uniquely, the selfie cameras are placed underneath the display. It’s not protruding nor sunken when you let your fingers grace the screen. It’s weirdly smooth and neat. And I like it.

Selfie with proper daylight

Auto mode

Beauty mode

Portrait mode

As you can see, the front camera system is quite aggressive when it comes to post-processing in beauty and portrait mode. Thankfully, the daylight allowed the photos to reproduce vibrant colors and have a proper white balance, even in different modes.

Selfie in poor lighting condition

Auto in wide-angle mode

Beauty mode

Portrait mode

In low light, the ZERO 8’s front cameras struggle. It produces a bluish tint leaning to a cooler hue for different modes, except when you use the wide-angle mode. Surprisingly, the change in temperature only happens when taking wide-angles in low-light.

You can also notice the loss in details. But then again, this is an affordable flagship. Temper your expectations, or upgrade to a more expensive option but with better camera systems.

Reaaaally long-lasting battery

In the midst of reviewing this phone, I lost power and water supply in my neighborhood after the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses. I was off from work for a week, and the fully-charged Infinix ZERO 8 drained to 25 percent on the fifth day. I didn’t expect this device to last that long, even on standby.

Unlike the Galaxy M31 (6000mAh) which went from 100 to 33 percent on standby in a week, the Infinix ZERO 8 drained slower, having only 4500mAh battery capacity. I haven’t even used its power-saving features, which makes the phone a promising companion.

But my normal usage made the phone last for more than a day. I’m not heavy in gaming seeing how I spent most of my days balancing work, personal hobbies like fitness, art, and entertainment. For heavy, power users, the phone might still be good enough for a day.

If you run out of juice, fret not. It’s capable of up to 33W of fast charging, which gives you an hour and a few minutes to fully charge its large battery. That is, if you’re using a fast charging adapter. If your charger takes forever, don’t worry. The phone has a Safe Charging feature which automatically disconnects the phone when it’s fully charged. You can let your phone charge while you sleep at night.

Power, speed, and performance

As I’ve said before, this handset has a 90hz refresh rate. We had a crash course on smartphone display’s refresh rate and I will say it again here: We don’t really need it to be that high unless you’re playing graphics-intensive games. Which this smartphone can handle well.

I logged in to my League of Legends: Wild Rift account to play and I had a sweet time. With cooling technology, you won’t worry about overheating issues. It also has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal. Gone are the days where you scramble to delete photos and other files just to make space and to prevent your phone from slowing down.

The only reason I didn’t play enough is because of two reasons: I’m juggling a lot of things, and the phone is too heavy for me. It would strain my hands if I play for more than 30 minutes.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Infinix ZERO 8 is a promising flagship for those looking for the best they can afford, without breaking the bank. It has an eccentric design, a long-lasting battery, speed, power, and performance — all at an affordable price.

Unlike most midrange phones carrying the same specs, the Infinix ZERO 8 retails for PhP 12,990. It comes in two colors: Black diamond and Silver diamond. It’s currently available in Lazada.

SEE ALSO: Infinix Note 7: Best underrated budget phone?

Gaming

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Review

Playable Anime

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NieR Replicant

An earnest protagonist, a “tsundere” who’s also kind of there for fan service, an almost fourth-wall breaking character, and a world dealing with an underlying crisis; NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139 (which we’ll refer to as NieR Replicant henceforth) has all the elements of a wonderful anime. Except, it’s a game — one that goes out of its way to offer multiple types of play.

After getting through a single playthrough of NieR Replicant, I found that most of the things I said I liked in my first impressions (music, gameplay, combat, dialogue) were the ones that will endear me to the game even further.

Everything for your sister

As the protagonist, you play the role of a brother who will do just about anything and everything for your sister. The game starts off with you looking for a way to cure the mysterious illness that’s befallen your sister.

This is the main driving force of the main character. All his actions in the main storyline are all in the service of doing what’s best for his sister.

A memorable cast

Along the way you meet the rest of the main cast. This includes a magical, talking, floating book named Grimoir Weiss who serves as both a helpful ally and a backseat protagonist who never fails to point out the obvious in every situation in a way that almost feels like it’s being directed at the player.

You’ll also build a certain level of kinship with people in your town as well as key characters in every main area of the game. This includes the two other members of your party: Kaine and Emil — both of which also have interesting backstories which I will not spoil here. Just know that all these relationships and it resonates with you, the player, will determine much of what you’ll feel about the game’s story.

NieR Replicant

“Fan Service” Kaine

Dealing with loss

One thing that you will constantly encounter in the game is the feeling of dealing with loss. It already feels heavy on its own, but if I may step back a bit. Having to deal with loss in real life recently and feeling the collective grief of people in my circle also having to deal with the same just amplifies the general feeling of hopelessness and emptiness of experiencing loss.

This feeling, however prevalent in the game, is perfectly balanced by the injection of humor from Grimoir Weiss and the happy memories you have with the ones you’ve lost. Memories also play a part in key points of the story.

Multi-faceted gameplay 

Shifting the tone a little bit, the overall gameplay of NieR Replicant will keep you on your toes.

It’s not just a mindless hack and slash game. There are sections where it’ll turn into a 2D platformer with some sprinkles of puzzle solving.

The level designs are fantastic. One thing that stood out to me is how the Square Enix and Toylogic very intentionally frames certain levels. Since this is, after all, a sort of remake of game that was first released in 2010, it is free from the burden of giving the player full camera control. This results in beautifully framed scenes as you play.

There’s one particular area that reminds me of the camera work on the original Resident Evil games on the PlayStation One.

Later on in the game, you’ll enter a deeper portion of that area and it will give you an entire section of the game that looks and plays like Diablo II. 

These areas are all perfectly placed in different sections of the game that certainly adds to the overall pacing. It can feel draggy, especially when you’re doing side quests, but having levels and areas like this make it all better. Oh and yeah, take some time to do side quests, it’ll help with getting gold (the game’s currency), some useful items, and immerse you further in the game’s world.

Here’s a quick look at the combat in the early part of the game.

The music is just… *chef’s kiss

I’ve already talked about this at length in my first impressions. But even then, it would be a disservice to not mention it here again. The music in this game is just my cup of tea.

It’s the kind of music that really transports you into the game world. If you’ve ever had fantasies of being whisked away to a different reality, the music in this game is what you would imagine to be playing.

It perfectly evokes the proper mood in every area of the game. The main village gives off this “going on an epic adventure” vibe, the area filled with robots sound robotic, and the aforementioned Resident Evil-like area fills you with horror. You can even say it almost foreshadows the fate of some levels and locations. That’s how good the music in this game is.

You can listen to the 2010 versions of the music here. Bear in mind that most of these were re-done/re-recorded for NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139.

Should you play NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… ?

Anyone who’s into narrative-driven games should give NieR Replicant a whirl. That’s also especially true if you’re an anime fan. It will feel familiar because of certain tropes, some fan service, and a time skip.

It’s a fantastic entry point into the whole NieR franchise. It will get you curious about the NieR world at large and will certainly make you want to explore or replay the 2017 hit game NieR:Automata. But of course, not before you give NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… all the playthroughs it deserves.

NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… is available April 23 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Steam.

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Reviews

realme C25: Your budget content creation companion

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realme C25

During this pandemic lockdown, many of us maximized the advantages of being online and ventured into selling our products or creating vlogs and podcasts to keep us sane and productive.

In these unprecedented times, it is highly essential to have a smartphone that is reliable not just for your day-to-day activities but also for your digital content creation. 

And truly, realme commits to providing us with amazing options for that, such as their new follow-up to the C series, the realme C25.

For starters, let’s check out what this smartphone has in store for us.

Pleasing to your senses

Similar to realme’s budget gaming phone narzo 30A that they recently launched, the C25 flaunts a large 6.5-inch screen but with a 1600×720 display.

Despite it not being in full HD+, the phone’s resolution actually shows pretty accurate colors and good viewing angles. The screen has peak brightness of up to 480 nits which is already bright but could’ve used some improvement especially if you’ll be using it outdoors. 

Up front, you will notice the selfie camera at the center which is a bit intrusive for my taste. Luckily, the bezels surrounding the screen are not thicker than today’s standards.

realme C25

The C25 comes in Water Blue and Water Grey and I was actually glad to unbox the Water Blue variant since I can see the details clearer on the back cover.

When it comes to its construction, realme put this phone a notch above the rest. They processed it using the industry-leading German fixed-axis precise radium engraving machine, making the device more appealing, comfortable to the touch and less susceptible to fingerprints and smudges.

 You can also see its square camera setup cut-out and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor at the upper middle part.

realme C25

While on the right side of the phone are its volume rockers and power button.

realme C25

Gives you enough space

As someone who is largely dependent on my phone for casual photos and preview for my shoots, one thing I really liked about the C25 is its large storage. You have 4GB of RAM on this phone and have two storage options, 64GB and 128GB.

And when you check the left side of the phone, you’d see that there are two nano SIM card slots and a dedicated microSD card slot to bring you more network and storage freedom as you can expand it by up to 256GB.

Snap and create

One big advantage of the realme C25 is that this is their first phone belonging to their C-series that features a 48MP AI-triple camera. Its camera setup consists of a 48MP primary camera, 2MP monochrome lens and  2MP macro lens.

realme C25

I tested all cameras and noticed that its main camera produced vibrant colors but isn’t very detailed. You can also notice the graininess on this photo.

As for its night mode, the camera produced decent exposures but its processing is not at par with flagship phones.

Its macro lens on the other hand, showed great details which would definitely be helpful if you have an online business and you’d be using your C25 to take shots of your products.

Power under the hood

One amazing feature about the realme C25 is that you can find the MediaTek Helio G70 processor at the core of this device, ensuring a powerful and swift performance for content creators and gamers alike, giving people another reason to compare it to its brother, the narzo 30A.

realme C25

Another big advantage of this phone is that it runs on realme UI 2.0 on Android 11, making its interface pleasant and easy to navigate.

Battery that you need

The winning feature for the realme C25 is that it is equipped with a whopping 6,000 mAh battery that can let you do your daily tasks, watch videos, play your games and even do your shoots for your content all day long without worrying.

On the first day that I had it, I fully charged the battery and left it open for 24 hours without much activity and its level just went down to 98%. For the next couple of days, I used it for my usual activities, and it just went lowbatt after 3 days.

This phone even has some helpful battery settings such as App Quick Freeze which can minimize your battery use by background apps, and Screen Battery Optimization that can tone down some of the phone’s display effects to save power.

realme C25

Complementing this huge battery is a 18W fast charger which can fully charge it in two hours. Another bonus is that despite it being a budget phone, the realme C25 has reverse wired charging in case you have an emergency and you forgot to bring a powerbank for your other gadgets.  

Unrivaled durability and reliability

Though in denial, I must admit I can be really clumsy that I tend to drop my phone or splash it with water from time to time. With the realme C25, I don’t have to worry too much about these situations as it is the first smartphone that passed TÜV Rheinland Smartphone High Reliability Certification. 

This means that this phone encompassed daily use test scenarios such as drop, wear and tear, extreme environment test scenarios and component reliability test scenarios based on the three- year life cycle of smartphones.

For realme to take this further step and invest on such an upgrade for the C25 definitely sets higher standards for other budget phones.

Is realme C25 your GadgetMatch?

This phone is really targeted for people on a budget but are looking for a smartphone with a high battery capacity, good cameras, performance, latest software and durable and reliable for your day-to-day tasks and content creation.

If all these features tick all the boxes on your checklist, then the realme C25 is definitely your GadgetMatch.

But if you’re looking for a smartphone with a better screen, faster charging and other camera features such as an ultrawide lens, you may opt for a higher end smartphone.

The realme C25 is available in Water Blue and Water Grey variants and is priced at PhP 7,490 for the 4GB RAM + 64GB internal storage and PhP 8,490 for the 4GB RAM + 128GB internal storage.  

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Gaming

Balan Wonderworld review: A theater for young ages

Facing the reality behind the curtains

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Balan Wonderworld

Have you ever had those moments in your younger years that hurt you a ton? Have they also happened as you got older and a bit wiser? Such is life on our own planet Earth: full of ups and downs. With each moment, we learn new things about ourselves and from our own shortcomings to become better people. However, there are times when things get too overwhelming.

We all need an escape, no matter how young or old we might be. For the older ones, it’s having some time alone, watching movies or TV shows. With the younger generation, it’s playing video games or window shopping online. For our good friends Leo or Emma, their daring escape from their problems led them to the mysterious world of Balan Wonderworld.

I decided to give this game a shot, seeing as it’s one of those less-hyped titles from Square Enix. I want to know what it could offer to a semi-casual player like myself when I need stress relief. Also, Square Enix loves to draw you in with some lore in between to keep you hooked from start to end.

So, what exactly is happening here?

Balan Wonderworld starts off with a story that provides little context to the main characters. Essentially, you play as either Leo or Emma, two children experiencing some personal troubles. I decided to play as Leo mostly because his opening cutscene was him dancing on the street, which is quite relatable. Apparently, in Leo’s case, a group of equally skilled dancers took notice, but he just shunned them away for unexplainable reasons.

Eventually, he and Emma find themselves in this mysterious theater guarded by Balan, a magician-like figure. According to the game’s lore, the theater only shows up to those who are experiencing troubles in their lives. I guess you could consider Leo/Emma extremely lucky, but they’re also confused as to why they’re in the theater. A few moments later, they find themselves in a magical world behind the theater — essentially pulling a Narnia on you.

Balan Wonderworld

Leo in the Island of Tims

You may be wondering how all of this just happened, and I’m here to tell you that I have no idea. In its early stages, the game doesn’t explain to you a lot of details in hopes of putting the pieces of the story together. As I progressed through the story later on, I’m still trying to understand how these things happened. Not the kind of start I was expecting.

The simplest gameplay mechanic for Square Enix

After the intro cutscene, you find yourself on the Island of Tims, which is pretty empty to start. It’s mostly just grassland with some flowers, lakes, and bridges. Eventually, you will slowly rebuild the Tims Tower, which doesn’t seem that important initially. Part of the rebuild involves the inhabitants of the island: the Tims which aids you for the main completion quest.

Now, this platforming game features twelve Chapters, each with two levels and a boss fight. In all the levels, you only ever need to press one button to get through the entire game: the X button. See, every other button and trigger on your controller allows you to jump and platform around — something the X button does anyway. However, the X button is this game’s primary action button because of another gameplay mechanic.

Collect-a-thon Platformer

In each level, Leo/Emma will collect a set of costumes that grant them special abilities. From jump attacks to increased air time, these costumes allow you to explore the game’s vast stages to look for collectibles for completion. As mentioned earlier, almost all of the abilities are bound to the X button — something you don’t really see with Square Enix’s other prominent titles.

Balan Wonderworld

Some of the costumes you will collect throughout the game

Apart from the costumes, you will also collect Drops, Tim Eggs and Balan Statues in each stage. Collecting Drops allows you to grow your Tims to grant you boosts when playing every stage. Meanwhile, collecting a certain number of Balan Statues opens the next set of Chapters and worlds to explore.

As somebody who is fond of stage-by-stage platforming, this was pretty standard stuff even in an open-world setting. Personally, I found myself getting side-tracked with all the collectibles if I wanted to progress further into the game. However, it also makes the game roughly easy to breeze by when you’re not out to complete it. In essence, I felt it doesn’t motivate you enough to complete it 100 percent.

Uncovering your troubles and rising above them

Let’s tackle what I think is the main reason why you found yourself platforming in Balan’s magical world. I mentioned earlier that the character you control is going through some personal issues, and that the magical world showed up for them because of it. With each Chapter, Leo/Emma encounters people who also have undergone some life problems, as well.

Balan Wonderworld

One of the main boss fights in the game

Before each boss fight, a cutscene introduces you to the main story of each person you encounter in the Chapter’s stages. Essentially, it highlights the following aspects: how they started, the rise, and the fall (and eventual shift to the dark side). You are basically tasked to free these people from the Negati, a demon-like presence that is the manifestation of their troubles.

The happy ending in one of the early chapters of the game

After beating each boss, another cutscene starts that shows an epilogue of sorts, detailing the events that happened after you free people of the Negati. You see people get back on their feet, or become more open to other people about their interests. Also, each ending cutscene starts off with a performance with the AI versions of the costumes you collect. I found it quite cheesy and a little extra in some instances.

A game that doesn’t explain much when it should

Everything about Balan Wonderworld made me ask myself, “why is this all happening?” To be honest, I felt that nothing about the game was explained properly the moment you start playing. From the simplistic gameplay mechanic to the storylines in each chapter, it all feels like it lacks purpose. Furthermore, even your role in lifting these people up from their troubles isn’t explained properly.

While playing through this game, I got the feeling that this was intended for kids even if some of the issues tackled here applied to adults. In its raw gameplay alone, it’s simple to understand and easy to navigate that even five year olds will get through the mechanics easily. The collect-a-thon element only somewhat adds a level of depth to the overall gameplay.

Gameplay mechanics aside, the entire story behind Balan Wonderworld just happens with little to no context or purpose. You aimlessly go into each Chapter, uncover the story behind each character, beat the demon inside them, and they’re freed of the negativity inside them. If you’re a child playing this game, it’s something that you’ll enjoy. As an adult, however, it doesn’t do much to draw you in for long.

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