Apple’s March 2016 keynote saw the American tech giant showing off two new products directly inspired by previous designs and going small(er) without making big compromises where the user experience suffers.
For fans of compact smartphones, there’s the iPhone SE, a much improved iPhone 5S, that like the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, also comes in rose gold.
We’ve already covered the iPhone SE in a separate post, so today we’re shining the spotlight on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which is essentially the legitimate offspring of the first iPad Pro and iPad Air 2. It is perhaps the best iPad ever built by Apple, having the most power the company has ever crammed into a consumer-friendly device, alongside basic productivity features like split-screen multitasking.
And while the new iPad Pro lacks the ability to run legacy desktop apps — it’s limited to what’s on offer from the App Store — thereby diminishing its appeal as a proper PC replacement, it is nevertheless a fantastic tablet that does tablet stuff as good as anything on the market.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the Apple accessories you can pair with the smaller iPad Pro for smaller sums: the $US99 Apple Pencil stylus is a must for those who love to sketch; the $US149 Smart Keyboard cover may come in handy for pecking out emails and lengthy status updates and editing documents. Even if you don’t give a rat’s posterior about either of those items, it’s nice to think that first-party options are available should they be needed.
Before we get to the hardware, let’s briefly go over the contents of the retail box, which includes the standard Lightning-to-USB cable, a power adapter, some documentation, and Apple stickers. No surprises here, really.
Another non-shocking revelation? The new Pro sports much of the same handsome all-aluminum aesthetics as the original, except in a smaller and markedly lighter package, prompting the inevitable comparison to another 9.7-inch slate Apple still makes. The Pro also meets the company’s superlative standard of refinement and build quality, which are unparalleled in the industry.
The power button, headphone jack, and two of the four built-in stereo speakers are located on the top edge of the device. The right-hand side features the volume up and down buttons, as well as dual microphones, while the left edge houses the Smart Connector for use with a compatible accessory. Along the bottom is where the Lightning port and second pair of speakers can be found.
The rectangular unibody shell is smooth and has rounded edges, making holding the tablet for extended periods of time more pleasant than we anticipated. It also has a slightly protruding camera assembly around the back, but thankfully the lump isn’t big enough to make the Pro wobble when it’s resting on a flat surface.
Speaking of which, the 12- and 5-megapixel rear and selfie cameras are the same modules the iPhone 6S has, meaning, yes, they’re great and the rear-facer can shoot 4K video, and, no, this still isn’t a solid enough excuse to hold a tablet up vertically during a concert.
The 9.7-inch, LED-backlit display supports a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 and works out to 264 pixels per inch, so it isn’t any sharper than the Air 2’s. It is, however, well-saturated and impressively bright — possibly brighter than those of earlier iPads — which is to say the panel is more than good enough to take outdoors and view in direct sunlight.
The size of the screen also lends well to running two different apps side-by-side; we’d like it to be bigger, sure, but that would mean stretching the hardware to accommodate a larger display, not to mention stealing the thunder from the original Pro.
As for the new Pro’s True Tone display that uses ambient-light sensors to measure the light in a room and autocorrect the screen’s color temperature, we found it to be a great addition to the iPad’s feature set. In fact, we liked it so much we decided to leave it turned on.
Now, about the A9X chipset with 2GB of RAM tucked away in that metal chassis: It’s deserving of the praise it’s earned so far; the smaller iPad Pro is in the same league as Apple’s top-of-the-line slate, despite a slower CPU clock speed and half the RAM. We half-expected it to struggle with intensive apps and heavy multitasking, but it didn’t happen. This machine just keeps chugging along regardless of what’s in front of it.
So, Pro distinction aside, is this the standard-sized iOS tablet to get? If you can afford spending $US200 more than what you’d pay if you purchased the iPad Air 2, then yes. Even without the accessories, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is an excellent product that offers plenty of power and portability for more demanding users. Just don’t expect it to replace your laptop.
The new iPad Pro comes in silver, space gray, gold, and rose gold and starts at $US599 for the base configuration with 32GB of storage and WiFi-only connectivity. Adding 4G LTE support generally adds $US130 to the retail price.
Watch our unboxing below.
[irp posts=”1920″ name=”9.7-inch iPad Pro Unboxing”]
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What’s inside the box?
Cherry Mobile Flare S7 Plus hands-on: A step-up
The company’s greatest contender
Cherry Mobile recently launched their new Flare S7 series, which is essentially their main smartphone lineup for the year. The greatest offering among the bunch is the Flare S7 Plus, a device with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a 2018 phone.
Since it’s from Cherry Mobile, you’d expect the phone to be cheap, right? Price-wise, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another affordable phone.
Here’s what I got to say about the Flare S7 Plus.
Cherry Mobile has officially joined the notch wagon with a borderless 6.18-inch display. It’s a Full HD+ panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it’s Cherry Mobile’s best display yet.
It’s vibrant and produces vivid colors, but the user interface kind of ruins the beauty of the display. It’s best to download your preferred third-party launcher and customize to your heart’s content.
Unlike with other midrange phones, the Flare S7 Plus’ notch is pretty wide and there’s a reason for it. The phone is equipped with more advanced facial recognition hardware including an IR camera. This ensures higher accuracy, faster unlocking, and even better face detection in low-light.
If you’re not a fan of face unlock, you can always resort to the fingerprint sensor placed on the back of the phone. Based on my usage, the fingerprint reader is faster most of the time than the face unlock. Good thing you have the best of both worlds.
Now that we’re on the back of the phone, let’s talk about another special feature of the Flare S7 Plus. Finally, Cherry Mobile embraces a more elegant design using a glass back and metal frame. I was told that they used Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so it won’t scratch easily in your pocket or on the table.
Since we we have a glass back, it’s possible to put in wireless charging and the company did just that. Simply place the phone on any Qi standard wireless charger, and let the magic happen.
It’s not exactly magic per se, but it’s amazing to have your phone charge by placing it on a table. This phone costs less than half of most flagships that don’t even support wireless charging.
Of course, you can always charge this phone’s 3050mAh battery through the reversible USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port because, sadly, the Flare S7 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Cherry Mobile bundles a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter inside the box, so you can still use your legacy headphones as you please.
Powering the Flare S7 Plus is a MediaTek Helio P60 processor. We have already tried the capabilities of this chipset with the OPPO F9, and it definitely delivers great performance. If you’re into benchmarking, you’ll be glad to know the Helio P60 scores higher than its competitors.
The phone also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage which is pretty standard nowadays. It boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but there’s no word when Android 9 Pie is coming.
The gaming performance of the Flare S7 Plus is above average, which is what you can expect from the Helio P60. The Mali-G72 MP3 GPU works well with intensive games, but you must reduce the graphics quality a bit to get consistently high frame rates.
As for the cameras, the Flare S7 Plus has capable shooters that are probably the fruit of Cherry Mobile’s investment in improving their R&D when it comes to picture quality. The phone has dual rear shooters using a main 16-megapixel RGB sensor and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. In the front, there’s another 16-megapixel selfie camera that’s paired with the IR sensor when needed. Check out the samples below:
An additional feature of the front sensors is FlareMoji. Using the IR sensor and facial recognition, you can animate cutesy characters. Check this out:
It’s essentially like Apple’s Animoji, but the tracking is nowhere near as smooth as with the iPhone. Anyhow, it’s still enjoyable to use.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
For just PhP 11,999 (US$ 225), the Flare S7 Plus offers a lot. You get a great premium phone with midrange power, beautiful display, and a plethora of extra features like wireless charging and an IR face scanner. The software UI is quite a letdown, but you can always download a launcher from the Play Store.
If you’re wondering what the Flare S7 Plus is in other markets, it’s also called the BLU VIVO XI+ and they share similar specifications and design.
What does the GPU Turbo do to your phone?
Is it more than just a marketing gimmick?
It’s been two months since Huawei rolled out the GPU Turbo update to its smartphones. Promised with a 60 percent increase in performance and reducing 30 percent on power consumption, a lot of fans and users were excited after the announcement.
Back then, everyone (including me) was hyped about lag-free games and longer battery life while playing. However, upon receiving the update, I began to wonder: Has GPU Turbo delivered what it promised?
What’s inside the update?
The Game Suite app, which comes with the update, offers an uninterrupted gaming feature, hiding all notifications when enabled (except for calls, alarms, and low-battery alerts).
Mistouch prevention is another feature to avert users from clicking the back and home button while playing — perfect for when you want to focus on your game.
To some older smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10, the Game Suite App offers three performance modes: Gaming mode, which improves game performance but increases power consumption; Smart mode, which balances performance and power consumption; and Power saving mode, which saves power but reduces game performance.
For the newer Huawei P20 Pro (which I’ve been using) and Honor Play, it only has a gaming acceleration mode to toggle on or off.
Thoughts on the reduced power consumption
Because I used the Mate 10 before and recently transitioned to the P20 Pro, I’ve experienced the GPU Turbo update in both phones and I can guarantee that they’ve delivered on lowered power consumption.
With Game Suite, I can put my phone on power saving mode to further save battery. For instance, I was only able to drain the Mate 10 down to 15 percent during a 12-hour road trip despite switching between the games I play and other apps, such as Messenger, Netflix, Spotify, and taking photos and videos every once in a while. The same goes for the P20 Pro.
As a power user, I already get a lot of things done with these highly efficient smartphones and GPU Turbo; these allowed me to do more on a single charge. However, it’s a different case for gaming.
Improved gaming experience, but there’s a catch…
When I started playing games on gaming mode (or game acceleration mode on the P20 Pro), I could run Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on a high frame rate with the highest graphics setting available. Compared to how the game stuttered and lagged during 5v5 clashes, with GPU Turbo, it now runs smoothly, as if I have a smartphone made for gaming.
As shown above, most mobile games will notify their users about the possible repercussions of higher frame rates and using the best settings available. To prove that a smartphone with GPU Turbo can handle this, I sought out to confirm my suspicions.
After asking fellow Huawei users, I found out that after installing GPU Turbo, energy consumption is a lot faster than before. Their smartphones also heat up more easily, especially when playing games with the game acceleration mode on. This isn’t part of what was promised, and it’s pretty disappointing.
It’s not yet perfect
In my experience, GPU Turbo tries to boost performance above a smartphone’s limit hoping that users can experience better gameplay.
GPU Turbo can’t choose when to perform its best. It’s an update that is constantly running in our smartphones without any way to switch it off. We can only hope that Huawei will address these issues for the next batch of updates.
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