iPhone 12 review: Who needs the Pro?

Significant improvements for less



The story of the iPhone 12 can be summed up in three parts. First, the way Apple improved on it to the point where it’s closer to the Pro model than ever; second, how its new A14 Bionic chip and the addition of 5G offer more than what the average consumer needs; and third, the introduction of MagSafe and what this might mean about the iPhone’s future.

What’s in a name? Everything

In one brilliant marketing move not too long ago, Apple changed the way we look at phones. Back then, the iPhone XS and XS Max were all the rage — top of the line, the iPhones to get. Then there was the more affordable iPhone XR, which reviewers might call a premium midranger.

Apple flipped the switch by just changing their naming scheme. The iPhone XR became the iPhone 11 — the phone for everyone. The iPhone XS and XS Max became the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max — the iPhones for prosumers, users with more “pro” needs.

This year, the iPhone 12 continues that legacy. It’s still the iPhone for most people. It’s even more more compelling this time around.

Fresh new design

Every few years Apple redesigns the iPhone to keep it looking fresh and trigger that gadget lust in all of us. 2020 is one of those years.

This year’s design isn’t completely new. It’s partly inspired by the flat edges that we first saw on the iPhone 5 and then later, the original iPhone SE. It’s one of the most beloved iPhone designs.

If you ask me, there was nothing wrong about last year’s design. In fact, I liked its rounded frame. It felt comfy when gripped. Still, the redesign is lit. As a fan of all things blue, the new blue color is to die for. It also comes in Product Red, mint green, black, and white.

Apple’s choice of materials and finish are the same. The iPhone 12 is wrapped in a matte aluminum frame and a glossy back, and the camera module contrasts nicely against its glossy glass back. It’s bright and eye catching, which means it’s most likely going to be covered up with a case. The only bit of color that peeks through is the camera module.

The high gloss finish picks up smudges. If you’re averse to that and plan to use your iPhone unprotected, white is the way to go.

Tougher than ever

Since we’re on the topic of protection, it’s worth pointing out that Apple uses something called Ceramic Shield as the top layer of the display. They’re not calling it glass but it is. It’s made with a composite of glass and ceramic. Apple claims this material gives the screen 4x more drop resistance.

Apart from that, the choice to keep the display flushed against the frame improves durability. Tests by insurance company AllState confirm these claims, and so does a YouTube video by EverythingApplePro.

Just remember Ceramic Shield is only on the front and not on the back of the phone.

I’ve seen a lot of incorrect assumptions on social media, so I think it needs to be stressed that Apple is not promising improved scratch resistance. Keys are still going leave your iPhone 12 with scuffs. If that bothers you, get a screen protector. If you can afford it, I recommend Apple Care. It’s US$ 9.99/month and that covers up two screen damage repairs per year at a minimal US$ 29 service fee.

Pro display

It’s important that the iPhone has a great display. since it’s the part of the phone that you look at the most. Unpopular opinion: Apple has been really good at delivering a solid experience regardless of what it says on its spec sheet.

Display was also one of the biggest differentiators between the non-Pro and Pro models. The iPhone 11 had an LCD Display with only a 720p resolution. The 11 Pro had an OLED panel, Full HD resolution, and support for High Dynamic Range.

This time around that gap just doesn’t exist. The iPhone12 and iPhone 12 Pro both have the same top of the line Super Retina XDR Display. It’s an excellent panel with rich colors, lots of punch and contrast and enough brightness even outdoors under the sun.

In keeping with its more flat design aesthetic, the display rests flush against the frame and doesn’t have those gentle curves as before.

If you look closely, the edges of the display have been pushed out further, too. This means that even if the display is 6.1 inches like the iPhone 11 and the iPhone XR, the iPhone 12 takes up a smaller footprint. Going by Apple’s numbers: It’s 15% smaller, 11% thinner, and 16% lighter.

If you’re coming from either of those two phones and like their size, there’s not much of a size difference to worry about. If you’re switching from an iPhone 8, X, or XS then you’re gonna get a slightly bigger phone.

The iPhone 12 mini, with all the same specs and features as the iPhone 12, is coming soon. That phone will be smaller than the 2020 iPhone SE, making it the smallest phone in Apple’s current lineup.

Top notch, literally

While the industry has tried its best to combat the notch and conceal the selfie camera, the iPhone has had the same big notch for four generations now. It’s there for a reason: to house the True Depth sensor that enables Face ID. Face ID is still the most secure face unlock system out there.

While a completely edge-to-edge display is nice to have, the notch does not bother me and Face ID remains my favorite way to unlock. That is, until the industry can figure out under display selfie cameras.

When the pandemic struck it got inconvenient. When the new iPad Air was announced to have Touch ID built into the home button, I hoped Apple would put the same feature onto the new iPhones. Pulling down my mask or typing in my passcode when I’m out to pay for something is not only inconvenient, it isn’t safe either.

Dual camera system

The iPhone 12 has two cameras. There’s a new 12 megapixel wide camera with a faster f/1.6 lens for better low light performance. The iPhone 11’s main camera had a slightly slower f/1.8 aperture. It retains the same 12 megapixel ultra-wide angle camera. Missing is a telephoto camera, which you will get from the Pro model.

Aside from hardware improvements, Apple improved what it cheekily refers to as computational photography mad science. This tech is responsible for features like Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 3 and Night Mode, which are not available on all cameras.

Here are some sample photos we took with the iPhone 12.

The weather in New York has been mostly rainy so these first few shots are from a cloudy day in Brooklyn.

The faster main lens means the iPhone 12 can take photos with a shallower depth of field. Photos also turn out brighter in low light. As you can see in this shot of Chay’s affogato sundae, the second scoop of ice cream is already out of focus. Chay loves ice cream so much so you get a night time shot of her Pistachio gelato, too. This was taken without night mode. See all those balls of bokeh.

The iPhone 12 doesn’t have night mode for portrait mode. That feature can be found on the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. The shallower lens lets in more light, so portrait mode does a really good job in low light nonetheless. The iPhone 12 is supposedly better at depth segmentation. It should be better at cutting out things like glasses or strands of Chay’s hair. In our tests, the results came out not perfect, but they were not bad either. In photography school, they tell you never to take photos against the light. With Smart HDR 3 on the iPhone 12, go right ahead! Notice all the details on Chay’s face despite the challenging shooting scenario.

I also tested Night Mode across all cameras. Here are examples using the main wide angle lens, the ultra-wide angle camera, and the selfie camera.

Hardware-wise the the ultra-wide angle camera is unchanged. It’s still sufficiently wide for dramatic shots like this.

Thanks to Night Mode, it’s now usable in low light. Resulting photos are softer versus those taken with the main camera.

The iPhone has a long history of being one of the best smartphones for videography and the iPhone 12 is no exception. Watch this montage of a cloudy, gloomy New York City shot on the iPhone 12:

A14 Bionic

The iPhone 12 is powered by Apple’s new A14 Bionic Chip. This is the world’s first 5 nanometer processor. According to benchmarks it blows its competition out of the water.

I’m not that big of a benchmark guy, but in the week that I used the iPhone 12 it took everything I threw at it. Graphics intensive games like Asphalt 9 and console style Apple Arcade titles like Way of the Turtle ran well. Shooting and editing videos using the new Dolby Vision format were not a problem either.

The phone can do everything else that we do on the daily easily — catching up on social media, messaging, and browsing because it’s my daily habit.

To put it simply, A14 Bionic is probably overkill for what you do on your phone everyday. This also means that the iPhone 12 will be able to meet your performance needs 3-5 years down the line, if you plan on holding on to it that long.

Battery life and charging

If there’s one touchy subject concerning the iPhone 12, it’s got to be battery and charging. Some folks are not too pleased that Apple no longer includes a power adapter in the box.

I respect Apple’s decision to prioritize the environment. It’s a tough, inconvenient one to make, and I respect that Apple is leading the charge.

While people like me might have plenty of USB-C power adapters lying around, not everyone does. It would have been nice if Apple offered store credit so those new to the world of USB-C can get one for free. It’s worth pointing out that Apple slashed the price of its USB-C power adapters from US$ 29 to US$ 19 following the iPhone 12’s launch. Price of Lightning EarPods, which are not included in the box, was also reduced from US$ 29 to US$ 19.

Another touchy subject: The iPhone 12 has a smaller battery than the iPhone 11 according to teardowns. This shouldn’t be that big of an issue considering how much more power efficient A14 Bionic is. However, the iPhone 12 also supports 5G networks. This alone drains the battery faster.

In my tests my iPhone 12 lasted longer when I switched to LTE. I got 6-8 hours of screen-on time on LTE, while 5G Auto gave me only 4-5 hours. The latter is a smart mode that switches between LTE and 5G based on what tasks you’re doing.

The iPhone 12 supports fast charging with Apple’s optional 20W USB-C charger. You can also use faster ones like those that come bundled with Macs, or other third party chargers. By fast charging I don’t mean the crazy speeds you get from OnePlus’ Warp Charge. That tech can get you from 0 to 100% in less than an hour.

Using Apple’s 20W charger, the iPhone 12 got to 20% in 10 minutes, 47% in 30 minutes, and 80% in an hour. A full charge took close to two hours.

MagSafe today, zero ports tomorrow

Perhaps, the big news this year is the optional accessory called MagSafe, which appears to be Apple setting the stage for a port-less future. For now, it’s being marketed as a smarter way to wirelessly charge.

By placing a sheet of magnet paper on top of the iPhone 12, you’ll see where the magnets are. These allow the phone to attach to this MagSafe charging puck. This is an optional US$ 40 purchase from Apple. The charger only attaches one way — where the outline of the circle is. It also lights up and makes a sound.

If you own a wireless charging mat, you’ve probably woken up to find that your phone didn’t charge overnight because you improperly laid it down. MagSafe solves this problem.

As it is today, it’s not fast charger by any means. It only supports up to 15W wireless charging. In my tests I got to 10% in 10 minutes and 57% in an hour. A full charge took about 2 hours and 45 minutes. It’s definitely more of an overnight charger and not one you should rely on for quick top ups.

Apple also sells a range of accessories that support MagSafe. There are new silicone cases and a magnetic wallet that all snap together and make different colored animations.

Do you need 5G?

With every smartphone manufacturer launching a 5G phone this year, it comes as no surprise that it’s also the iPhone’s headline feature. From its product page on to the amount of time spent talking about it during the launch event — it’s everywhere.

Let me preface by saying this: Don’t buy the iPhone 12 just for 5G. Depending on where you live in the world 5G might not even have rolled out at all. In the US, carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile are aggressively advertising and rolling out nationwide. You see it everywhere in a big city like New York, but I know this isn’t the case for everyone.

This chicklet shape on the side of the iPhone 12 is unique to US models. It’s actually a window for the mmWave antenna – a different kind of 5G that’s only currently supported by Verizon. It should give you faster speeds but it’s not as reliable right now.

I tracked down a few Verizon Ultra Wideband spots around Manhattan and Brooklyn but I could not get anything more than 200 Mbps. I even went to a tried and tested corner of Bryant Park where I used to get speeds of 1700 Mbps. T-Mobile’s sub-6 network was giving me faster speeds.

Not that 200 or 300 Mbps down isn’t fast enough. I tried to download an entire Troy Sivan album and it completed in mere seconds. With 5G you can now make HD FaceTime calls over cellular. That’s better quality video calls than was previously possible.

All of this said, 5G is here. There are growing pains, but it’s good to know that when you get the iPhone 12, you’re getting a device that supports it.

WATCH: Will 5G change our lives?

Is the iPhone 12 your GadgetMatch?

This time last year, I used the iPhone 11 for a good two months. I wanted to know if a pro user like me could survive on the non-pro model? TL;DR I didn’t mind at all. This year Apple brought the gap between the 12 and 12 Pro even closer.

Upgrades from the iPhone 11 are also significant enough: a Super Retina XDR display, improved photo and video performance, 5G support, and an eye-catching redesign.

You might not need all of this today. All these improvements, however, guarantees that your iPhone can keep up five years down the road. That’s the same amount of time that Apple guarantees iOS updates.

It’s worth noting that these improvements come with a US$ 100 price increase from last year. The iPhone 12 starts at US$ 799 for the 64GB model. If recommend spending US$ 50 more to get the 128GB model.

Unless you need more storage, more RAM, and a telephoto camera, I recommend saving your money and getting the iPhone 12 over the iPhone 12 Pro.

I wholeheartedly believe that the iPhone 12 is the one most iPhone users should consider. If you have an iPhone that’s two years or older and are considering an upgrade, now is a good time to do so.

The iPhone 12 is an excellent phone, reasonably priced, and backed up by a rich ecosystem of apps, services, and other devices that are designed to work together seamlessly.

There is nothing quite like it.


OPPO Find X6 Pro Review: You’ll want this phone with 3 insane cameras

Great but there’s a catch



OPPO Find X6 Pro

It’s here — the OPPO Find X6 Pro. We haven’t been this excited to do a video on a phone in a long time. This phone not only packs all the high end specs. It looks beautiful, charges insanely fast, and has the best camera on a smartphone today.

Watch our Review.

Triple 50 cameras

Like its contemporaries (the Xiaomi 13 Pro and vivo X90 Pro), it sports a 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor. It’s accompanied by a 65mm periscope lens and a 15mm ultrawide angle lens. All three have 50MP.

OPPO and Hasselblad continue their partnership on this flagship as the Find X6 Pro also has the Hasselblad Color Calibration.

For selfie enthusiasts, this one sports a 32MP f/2.4 front-facing camera.

Flagship through and through

Like most Android flagships, this one sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 with RAM that goes up to 16GB and UFS 4.0 storage that goes up to 512GB.

Supporting these major features is a 5,000mAh battery with support for 100W fast wired charging and 50W wireless charging. Yes, it’s OPPO’s SuperVOOC tech we’ve come to know and love.

Price and availability

As mentioned earlier, the OPPO Find X6 Pro is only available in China with no immediate plans of being available elsewhere.

It retails at CNY 5,999 for the 12/256GB variant, CNY 6,499 for the 16/256GB unit, and CNY 6,999 for the larger 16/512GB model.

Meanwhile, the OPPO Find X6 (12/256GB) retails for CNY 4,499.

Continue Reading


Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 review: Return of the classic

For intermediates and experts



Sony Walkman NW-ZX707

44 years ago, cars were still boxy, the Apple II was just two years into introducing personal computers inside homes, and the word ‘phone’ meant the landline phone inside your house. It was 1979, personal technology wasn’t a thing yet. Until Sony introduced the very first model of the Walkman, the TPS-L2.

More widely recognized in the mainstream now as “Star-Lord’s ancient iPod”, it revolutionized the music industry back then by putting a cassette player in everyone’s pocket, allowing anyone (well, anyone who had the equivalent of US$ 600 at the time) to listen to music anywhere, anytime they wanted.

Fast forward to 2023, we see Sony has updated the Walkman line to fit in with modern standards. The Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 no longer uses an analog Cassette. It’s now a high-fidelity digital music player.

Gone are its plastic and metal body held together by screws, it’s now a glass and metal sandwich like modern smartphones. It has physically changed to the point of being unrecognizable, but the important thing has stayed the same– It’s probably still the most fun music player you can get with your money.

It’s not a phone, it just looks like one

Sony Walkman NW-ZX707

Like its great granddaddy the Walkman TPS-L2, the Walkman NW-ZX707 is built to last. It continues the time-honored traditions of the Walkman line– namely its metal build, external music control buttons on one side, and the audio jack at the top.

But everything else about the build feels like a mix of old smartphone design cues, just updated to 2023. Upon first look, the NW-ZX707 looks like a weirdly small, thick, and heavy smartphone with sharp edges and two headphone jacks in an age where even midrange phones are ditching it.

It’s got a 5-inch 9:16 LCD display with huge bezels straight out of 2017. It’s even got a soft-touch vegan leather back that we haven’t seen in smartphones for years. With that said, ergonomic considerations kind of start and stop with the external music control buttons.

The overall design is boxy, the edges are sharp, the corners are angular, and the screen is flat as they come. Coming in at 157g, it lets you know that it’s in your pocket.

Could’ve used 5G?

In more ways than one, it only looks like a smartphone, but under its metal exterior, the differences are much more obvious. So while it is running near-stock Android 12, you can’t actually use it as a phone, because it doesn’t have a SIM tray (Which I find kind of weird? Like, I think that with high-fidelity music streaming apps available, that would work well with a 5G SIM for on-the-go hi-fi).

While it boasts some of the best audio chips available on any music player today, it doesn’t have a speaker. And while you can expand its 64GB storage with a microSD card, it’s almost exclusively for your music files, because the screen is too small for media viewing and too slow for even light gaming. And there are no cameras on the device.

But it sometimes tries to function like one

The software on the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 is where things start to get dicey for me. While I appreciate that it’s built on top of Android 12, a very secure, stable, and customizable platform, I feel like Sony could’ve customized the software a bit more to streamline the experience.

Take for example the experience immediately after setup. Since the ZX707 is linked as an android device to your Gmail account, and there is no special designation in the Android system that it’s a dedicated music player, it’s inevitably going to receive email and other non-music related notifications.

It can be fine for power users, but I don’t think receiving the same notifications as your phone in the middle of music listening is conducive to the hi-fi Walkman experience. Take it from me, spend that extra 15 minutes of deep-diving into your settings to either log out of your Gmail account or turn off notifications for any non-music-related apps and services.

The tide hasn’t come in yet

Speaking of apps and services, a big miss for the ZX707 here in the Philippines is the lack of support for hi-fi streaming apps like Tidal and Qobuz. They’re just straight-up not available in the country. So, if you’re planning on getting the new Walkman, your best bet in filling it up is either manually ripping your CDs or Purchasing hi-fi master tracks in either FLAC, PCM, or DSD.

The digital does its best to be analog

Pre-installed software is limited mostly to the Sony Walkman music player app and its customization software, which is generally fine since it leaves so much space for all your high-resolution music on the internal 64GB storage. And for the entirety of the Walkman NW-ZX707 experience, this is where you’re going to get the most value out.

The music player is pretty standard fare, save for the fact that it has support for extremely high-resolution audio formats like FLAC, PCM, and DSD– it even has a separate section dedicated to all your high-res files. There is no visualization option, but you do get a little Cassette animation when the device is idling– a nice touch. And if you’re looking to have better synergy between your Sony headphones / IEMs, there’s the Sony Headphones Connect app where you can choose your headphone model from a list, and the app will automatically change its sound signature via profiles to give you the best listening experience.

But in the great chance that you’re not using Sony headphones to plug into the ZX707, you’ve got a great range of sound customization via the Sound Adjustment app. And let me tell you, this customization app is the bee’s knees. It’s got properly staged equalizer settings, giving you control from sub-bass 31Hz frequencies, all the way up to cymbal-rattling 16KHz highs in 0.5db increments. It’s a great EQ fine-tuning utility, and super responsive.

Music streaming

There is also a whole slew of sound improvement utilities built-in with the sound adjustment app. There’s the DSEE Ultimate toggle– It’s a new feature from Sony that apparently increases the dynamic range of sub-hi-fi tracks like MP3 and CD formats using AI technology.

I found it somewhat effective, but not to the MP3 files on the device– it worked better when it was post-up-sampling non-hi-fi streaming apps like Youtube Music and Deezer.

There is also a DSD Remastering feature, which converts all PCM signals to DSD. In theory this should increase the signal resolution of sub-hi-fi recordings like MP3, low-quality FLAC rips, and of course, low-bitrate PCM files, but it should be of little value for audiophiles looking to load up the ZX707 with higher-quality 24-bit 117.6KHz PCM files. Do note that PCM and DSD are both quantized signals, so while they’re some of the most high-resolution signal formats a music player can put out, they are still (losslessly) compressed to some degree.

Sound emulation

Lastly, the ZX707 also features sound emulation/simulation features if you ever want to introduce some analog qualities to your hyper-clean modern digital recordings. There is a DC Phase Linearizer which somewhat emulates the natural warmth of an analog amplifier, and a vinyl processor, which simulates the sound signature of hearing your songs through a vinyl record player.

I feel that this is something you might want to turn on based on the kind of files that you’re listening to. There are certain genres that benefit greatly from the warmth and texture of Vinyl simulation like classic rock and electronica. Also, remember to turn this off if your music conversions are from Vinyl like my library. It doubles the Vinyl noise and kind of overdoes the warmth of the track.

Good thing that with all of these settings, there is a toggle for direct output so you can A-B your sound settings really fast anytime.

With a little help from my (Hi-Fi) friends

But enough about all of the intricacies that happen outside of the play button. I called the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 earlier in this article “probably still the most fun music player you can get with your money.”, so that begs the question– how does it sound?

Well, let me get this out of the way for all you audiophiles first: it’s not a ‘flat’ music player. It’s not a reference device, nor does it advertise itself to be one. It’s high-resolution, sure– but it’s not neutral. And that, to me, just sounds like a good time on paper.

In my two weeks with the NW-ZX707 I was able to try it out with three of my most used audio gear:

  • For the budget on-the-go side, the KZ x CRN ZEX Pros
  • For hi-fi home listening, a modded pair of Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros
  • On the weird-but-fun side, the Sony MDR-XB700 Extra Bass.

And with that lineup, one might assume that the ZX707 would be picky with showing its audio brilliance– not really. It sounded great on everything.


Sony Walkman NW-ZX707

Pairing the ZX707 with the somewhat-neutral KZ x CRN ZEX Pros brought out a good tandem. The ZX707’s sound signature at stock is somewhat warm with a moderate emphasis on midbass and lower mids. The ZEX Pros are somewhat known to have a fair bit of sibilance, but I’m glad to report that because of the Sony Walkman ZX707’s laid-back presentation, there wasn’t much harshness in the highs. Detail suffered a bit, especially on busier tracks, but that was more of the limitation of the ZEX Pro’s limited drivers than through any other factor. The stand-out track for this setup was Silversun Pickups’ “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”.

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros

The duo of the ZX707 and Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros was probably my most used setup during my review period. They just complement each other very nicely. And since I’ve modded the DT770 Pros to have a 4.4mm Balanced input, I was able to leverage the higher power output capabilities of the Walkman– I paid for the whole 250 Ohms, I’m going to use the whole 250 Ohms.

The DT770 Pros are known for their surgically neutral and flat response with a slight prominence in the low-bass. It’s that kind of sound signature that I found pairs the best with the ZX707, as it will ‘convert’ the headphones from ‘mixing ready’ to ‘party ready’. It’s like having a smoothening filter applied to all frequencies, but it doesn’t reduce any of the texture and detail. For that pairing, I turned on the DSEE, the DC Phase Linearizer, and the Vinyl Processor.

It was able to inject a lot of warmth and texture to my songs– coupled with the very forward vocal presentation of both the ZX707 and the DT770 Pros, vocal-centric music like ballads, soft rock, and even ‘00s rap sounded amazing. There are a few times when the bass would sometimes start getting bloated, but it wasn’t something a few adjustments to the EQ couldn’t handle. The stand-out track for this setup was Barenaked Ladies’ “New Disaster”.

Sony MDR-XB700 Extra Bass

Lastly, we’ve got the crazy pair of Sony MDR-XB700s. The midrange of Sony’s classic Extra Bass line, it’s a deceptive pair of headphones– regular music players can make it sound okay, but only the best music players and amplifiers that have exceptional bass and sub-bass processing can make it sound the way it should. And for the ZX707, it was no problem at all.

Having a big hump of sub-bass all the way up to midbass in the EQ was the only way I can listen to the XB700s. Even at almost maximum volume, there was almost no distortion and no significant dynamics compression. It just powers through the songs cleanly and never lets any of the frequencies stray too far from their comfortable thresholds.

Presentation is always smooth and warm, with a big emphasis on vocal presence, and highs are much more relaxed but with a lot of texture. The highs don’t go too far up so listeners of borderline-sibilant textured tracks might have to EQ their highs in, or you might want to look at other ways to improve the high-frequency response on the ZX707. The stand-out track for this setup was Dutch Uncles’ “Flexxin”.

Battery life

To round off my playback performance findings on the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707, it was able to sustain two (2) days of almost constant playback before needing a charge. I attribute this to fine volume and power control. The granularity in the volume adjustment is incredibly accurate and is always a requirement for any hi-fi music player.

Is the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 your GadgetMatch?

There’s an air of being carefree with the ZX707– it knows it’s not a reference device, nor does it try to be. It plays on its strengths of being a solid, high-power, high-resolution music player that you can take anywhere and plug anything into, and it’ll just slowly fade into the background. Present enough that you’re going to enjoy your music, but never stepping in to interrupt you from dancing to ‘Come Get Your Love’ on a distant alien planet.

Coming in at around PhP 45,000 or US$ 600, the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 not only invokes memories of the original but also the (frankly) prohibitive price as well. Let me make this clear– this is not an entry-level audiophile PMP, it’s somewhat reserved for intermediates and experts who can leverage its non-neutral presentation to improve their on-the-go listening setups.

But as far as audiophile PMPs go, this is certainly one of the most fun ones I’ve tried so far. Check your gear first– it synergizes well with forward-sounding headphones/earphones with great highs presentation. If you’ve got one, I suggest going for the ZX707. If not, you might have to look somewhere else for your on-the-go hi-fi fix.

Continue Reading


Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro: One week with a ‘classic’

Daily, Smart Casual, and Sports



Watch S1 Pro

Xiaomi followed up its Watch S1 series from 2022, not with an S2 series, but with the Watch S1 Pro. On paper, the Watch S1 Pro looks like Xiaomi took the best of both the S1 and the S1 active and melded it into a package that’s fit for all types of occasions. 

In case you missed it, we did an Unboxing and First Impressions of the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro. But to summarize quickly… 

You get the watch itself. 

Watch S1 Pro
The wireless charging dock.

And some documentation (user manual and warranty). 

The variant we got is the Black Stainless Steel with the Black Fluororubber strap made for workouts. 

Watch S1 Pro
There are some new key information we asked Xiaomi between the unboxing and this review: 

As you know, the watch is also available in a silver stainless steel case with brown leather strap. If you want that strap, you can purchase it separately.

But you have an even wider range of choices as the straps of the S1 and S1 Active will also work with the S1 Pro. 

If that’s still not enough, any 22mm strap size will work with the watch S1 Pro. So, you’re free to style it however you see fit. 

It has a 1.47” display which is larger than the 1.43” on the other S1 series watches. 

Watch S1 Pro

It also prominently features a crown for easier navigation. 

That’s it. So, what’s it like using the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro for a week? Let’s talk about it in the different scenarios that Xiaomi imagines you’ll use it for. 


Watch S1 Pro

While working on this review, I’ve had to think about what it meant for me to own a smartwatch.

Due to the nature of my work, I’ve had the privilege of using a handful of them for a few weeks to a month. Over the last two years, I’ve mainly used one which also has a “pro” label on it. 

To me, it’s now become a necessity. I get a ton of notifications daily. Work emails and messages dominate my day. Seeing the notifications come in through the watch helps me mentally prepare for the next task as I work on finishing the one that’s currently on my plate. 

It helps that the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro also displays exactly which app the notification came from. I’ve used some smartwatches in the past that could not make this distinction. Instead, they only show a brief part of the message with a default message icon. Glancing quickly when notifications come in helps me organize my thoughts better, and knowing which app the notification came from also helps me plan my next move better. 

The UI’s design

Watch S1 Pro

The app selection interface looks a lot like the Apple Watch. The difference being the general look and feel of the app’s themselves. I’m lukewarm on how they look. They’re not bad, but something about them feels a little off to me. 

When you swipe left or right from the watch face, you can see the widgets available. There’s one for health monitoring, one for fitness, and another for Alexa. You can arrange them however you like. I personally put fitness as the first swipe from the left and the health monitoring as the first swipe from the right.

Watch S1 Pro
Here’s another area where I thought the widgets just didn’t look quite right. While all the elements fit inside the circular display, something tells me this layout fits a more rectangular shape better. Yes, the exact shape of the Apple Watch. Not a deal breaker, but it’s worth pointing out.

Xiaomi uses their own MIUI Watch OS so I asked Xiaomi if there will be an update to apply themes to change this. Unfortunately, there isn’t. Again, this isn’t objectively bad, I just personally wish there was a way to customize it. 

Smart Casual

Watch S1 Pro

When the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro was launched in Barcelona, Spain during MWC 2023. We had a chance to sit down with TJ Walton who takes the lead in talking up Xiaomi’s accessories and overall ecosystem. Referencing the silver stainless steel case with brown leather strap, he was asked if there was a conscious effort to make the watch look more luxurious. To which, he answered affirmatively. 

While you can certainly say that for the silver case, leather strap variant, the black case, fluororubber one, in my opinion, does have its “luxury limits.” You wouldn’t wear this as is with formal attire. Thankfully, it does work in more smart casual or business casual fits. 

Watch S1 Pro

It also helps that, as mentioned earlier, you can purchase separate straps to fit the occasion better. I already looked up 22mm watch straps on popular shopping platforms and you should have a field day from the selection. Everything from stainless steel, to leather straps are available for purchase.

While you can get away with the black fluororubber strap in most scenarios, you should do yourself a favor and buy an alternative strap or two so you can mix things up and accessorize appropriately. 


Watch S1 Pro

I have said this a few times already in previous smartwatch reviews, but in case this is your first time reading mine, I hate workouts. Or at least the idea of working out. I’m just lazy like that. I do like walking and playing basketball.

I always just walk whenever I can. Especially when I’m traveling, there’s nothing like soaking in a place better than taking the time to stroll down its streets. The Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro’s step counter works just about as well as any step counter. There will be variance with other smartwatches which is natural, but it is fairly accurate. So, if you’re targeting a certain number of steps, you can rest easy knowing you walked enough to reach your goals. 

Watch S1 Pro

Speaking of goals, that’s what I love about the workouts available on the Watch S1 Pro. With it, you can select whether you want to track the duration or by calories burned. The smartwatch I’ve been sporting simply tracks both at the same time but without the granular control of targeting each one.

This is especially helpful for someone like myself whose “workouts” are limited to solo basketball drills and occasional pick-up games with neighbors. I’m currently trying to lose the massive weight I gained during the pandemic, and I’m doing so by watching my daily calorie intake. If I can track my hoop sessions based on calories burned, it’s easier for me to maintain a calorie deficit in tandem with my current meal plan. 

Watch S1 Pro


It also helps that the watch, overall, isn’t too bulky and doesn’t feel heavy on the wrist at all. It’s a stark contrast to what I currently use. Granted it’s one that’s close to being three years old.

100+ workouts

As advertised, there are 100 types of workouts that the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro can track. Personally, I feel like this can be intimidating to a lot of people as it creates this idea that you need to try all of them to maximize the smartwatch. This isn’t true at all.

Just pick the workouts that work for you, the ones that you’re happy to do and can incorporate to your lifestyle. If you can do that, you’re already making the best of the smartwatch’s fitness features. 

Battery life and other things of note 

Xiaomi advertises up to 14-days of battery life in standard mode. If I extrapolate the results from my one-week use, you could see yourself charging the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro every 4-5 days with moderate to heavy workout usage. 

Under very bright sunlight, it can be challenging to see the watch face. But that’s a really isolated case. Most of the time, you won’t have trouble seeing the watch face right away. 

As of writing, I thought the available watch faces are pretty limited. There’s also no option to add a custom image (at least now when you use it with an iPhone). I couldn’t try it with the Xiaomi 13 Pro, which has an instant pairing mode that’s convenient, because it’s currently with another team member for a camera shootout. Xiaomi said more watch faces should come soon. 

Xiaomi Pay isn’t available in the Philippines. It’s currently available in WEU, CEE & Nordic, and Russia. Availability in more regions and countries are in the pipeline. However, Xiaomi says this is dependent mainly on the business development of the issuer VISA and Mastercard’s plan. Contactless payment has gained more traction (yes, I see the irony in those words) of late and I wish the support for the feature expands soonest.

Is the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro your GadgetMatch?

Watch S1 Pro

The Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro has all the bells and whistles of a 2023 smartwatch. You have the usual health monitoring features (heart rate, sleep, blood oxygen, etc), as well as tracking for a huge number of activities.

And while the watch faces are limited at this point, the available ones offer enough versatility that you can switch it up depending on the occasion like you can with the straps.

The UI, I personally think, can be better, but it is objectively good. The battery life is also decent. It’s a happy middle ground between the charge-daily Apple Watch and the long-lasting offerings of Huawei. 

Against its contemporaries, the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro is most appealing for its price (PhP 16,999/ EUR 299). You get pro features you expect from a smartwatch, as well as the versatility of matching it with your style. It also helps that it works with both Android and iOS. 

If you’re looking to take your personal health and fitness monitoring to a “pro” level, the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro likely offers the best overall value right now.

Continue Reading