Reviews

iPhone 12 review: Who needs the Pro?

Significant improvements for less

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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 GadgetMatch.com 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 Apple.com 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.

Reviews

ASUS Zenfone 8 Review: Tiny but Mighty

The compact flagship

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Zenfone 8

In a sea full of big smartphones, ASUS made a detour with the Zenfone 8 by making it smaller than its previous Zenfone 7 predecessor.

Packed with flagship specs such as Snapdragon 888, 16GB of RAM and a 120Hz display, it’s simply their best and most compact phone to date.

But how did ASUS managed to fit in all these powerful internals in such a compact body? Watch our full review video of the ASUS Zenfone 8 to know more.

SEE ALSO: Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

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Gaming

The realme 8 dares to be more

You’re in for a treat

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realme 8

realme has been bringing in the big guns with their smartphone releases. But, it doesn’t come unwarranted when they’ve been stacking good specs instead of just gaming features. They get it: you want to do more than just play games with their phone line-up. Which is why, they released the realme 8 series.

The realme 8 is pretty much the little bro of the realme 8 Pro. It’s got most of the bells and whistles without the big bro powers. So, how does the realme still stack up to be the best all-around smartphone out there for you?

realme 8

Stunning looks that might fool you

The realme 8 has a 6.5-inch AMOLED display with 180Hz Touch Sampling rate. If touch sampling rate isn’t a metric you’re familiar with, it’s your display’s responsiveness to touch. Refresh rate is a whole different metric; it measures how well your display renders frames per second. Both are tangent features of the display. So, they’re different but, equally as important for gaming on your phone.

If you like strutting in style with your phone, the realme 8 teeters into keeping it flashy yet low-key. The phone features a reflective panel with “DARE TO LEAP” across its logo corner. Plus, realme sticks to classy colors with either Cyber Silver or Cyber Black available for the realme 8.

realme 8

The feelsgoodman specs

Let’s cut to the chase. The realme 8 is a great phone. The phone is decked out with an MTK Helio G95 octa-core processor, which pretty much grants the phone its unapologetic great performance. Whether I was browsing social media, binge-watching videos, or playing games, this phone didn’t stutter once.

realme 8

The phone delivers on buttery-smooth graphics. And, games like League of Legends: Wild Rift, Mobile Legend: Bang Bang, PUBG Mobile, and Sky run smoothly on the realme 8. But, are we really meant to be surprised by that? With the phone’s 8G RAM and 128G internal storage, lags just don’t exist in the same sentence. On top of all that, it manages to stay lightweight. The realme 8 weighs only 177g which is pretty impressive with all the features it packs.

realme 8

Battery can take a beating

Yes, it’s almost criminal. The realme 8 comes with a 30W Dart Charge brick. Which ideally charges the phone up to 50 percent within a matter of 26 minutes. I know what you’re thinking. This sounds too good to be true. Well, unlike the stacked disappointments of the past year, the realme 8 pulls through. It went from zero to 20 percent within 10 minutes which is pretty quick.

realme 8

With a 5,000mAh battery inside, the realme 8 can survive well over a day. It came in handy when I’d accidentally left it out uncharged overnight and still used it the next day. But, I’m guessing it would have been a whole different story had I thrown it into ungodly playing and binge-watching hours.

After a full day of gameplay, binge-watching, podcasts, music, and social media shenanigans, the phone gets close to 15 percent at the end of the day. This is impressive with most phones tossed my way with charging alerts by the tail end of my day.

So, if you’re like me, this phone is pretty reliable. It can take a beating and then some. And, when it does need charging, it won’t take long before you get enough juice in to use it again. It’s good to note that it also supports 15W PD charge, lending versatility on its side.

realme 8

Not just a gaming phone

The realme 8 is decked out with all the features you want from a gaming phone but rounds it all out with amazing smartphone features. So, calling this a gaming phone doesn’t feel fair considering it does well even outside the gaming-perfect specs.

One feature that often gets left out with your typical gaming-centric phone, would be the camera. As for this phone, it’s got an AI Quad camera setup. It’s got a 64MP wide-angle lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens, and a second 2MP depth sensor. On the front, the realme 8 has a 16MP shooter with panorama capabilities.

Panorama on the realme 8

Low lighting is just the bane of every mobile phone photography’s existence. If lighting isn’t on your side, most phones will struggle. The realme 8 is sadly not an exception. But, when the sun’s on your side, the photos are pretty good.

The macro looks decent. Just make sure you flood the room with good lighting!

 

The night mode is good too! Stable hands for this mode is key.

The bokeh mode and wide shots on the phone are detailed. Recording videos doesn’t skimp on the 4k experience which is good too. Overall, the phone delivers on all fronts including its camera features. But if you’re looking for big bro camera stats, you should check out the realme 8 Pro.

realme 8

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The realme 8 ticks all the boxes of a quality smartphone. Its got great performance across the board takes really great pictures, has a smooth and responsive display, and lasts for quite some time. And, even if you run out of battery life, its Dart Charge won’t have you away for long.

Overall, this smartphone offers a daring deal. It gives you everything you need and want–and then some more. And, with its PhP 13,990 price tag, it’s the smartphone to beat. Better yet, you can avail of the PhP 1,000 worth of discount on the realme 8 during the flash sale on Lazada starting May 12!

Buy from Lazada

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Laptops

Huawei MateBook D 15 2021: An all around solid choice

It’s no ‘beast’ because iit’s not trying to be

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Being a dominant player in the smartphone scene, I’ve always been curious about how Huawei’s laptops perform.

Having forged their name onto the spectrum of smartphone enthusiasts with their premium Mate series, we know that Huawei has the ability to craft the same caliber for their laptops.

Carrying the Mate branding with its name, let’s take a look if the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen also has the right to be called premium and carry on this reputation.

Performance you didn’t see coming 

The MateBook D 15 2021 is running on the 11th generation of Intel’s Core i5 processor, the 1135G7. Paired with this is the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB DDR4 RAM, and 512GB of SSD internal storage.

On paper, the specs of the 2021 D 15 isn’t really something many of us would consider sensational, but surely this would be more than enough for online classes or even light to heavy work.

I tend to do a lot of photo editing on Adobe Lightroom so I could say that my power requirements do demand a bit of muscle power. The 11th gen Core i5 on the D 15 is able to handle this quite smoothly even with some headroom for web browsing and other multitasking tasks thanks to the considerable amount of RAM.

As you power on the device, you’d immediately notice the swift performance of the D 15.

A surprising contributor to this is its Smart Fingerprint power button which has been carried over from the previous generations of MateBooks.

Automatically tagging your biometrics upon pressing the power button, this move eliminates the need to input your login details which drastically decreases the boot time. I understand this may vary from other users but having recorded the BIOS time at only 2.5 seconds, this has been the fastest boot up time I’ve ever encountered on a laptop.

Classic never goes out of style 

“It looks like a MacBook” was the first comment I’ve heard from the people I was with as soon as I took out the D 15 from the box. Yes, you’ll definitely see the resemblance with Apple’s MacBook line but that’s not to say that it’s a bad thing especially if there are things that Huawei has improved on. Thankfully, this is exactly the case with the MateBook D 15’s body.

The MateBook D 15 2021 has smoother and rounded edges compared to that of a MacBook Pro which makes it more comfortable for your wrists to rest on while still bringing with it that sleek and professional look that we’ve grown to love.

For a 15-inch body, you’d notice that this MateBook is incredibly thin and light weighing in only at 1.56kg and just 16.9mm thin. An easy carry to coffee shops or even just transferring from room to room at home.

Kind of a nitpick on my part though but one comment I do have with this build was it had a very slight body flex on the right hand portion of the palm rest. I don’t know if this was an issue on the particular unit I’m using but whenever my hand lands on that part, it does feel like it sinks down a tiny bit.

More screen for work and play 

Mentioning the size earlier, the MateBook D 15 2021 has a 15.6-inch FHD IPS display panel. A bit bizarre though, is that at only 250 nits this display felt a lot brighter. I mostly stay just around two or three notches above the lowest brightness setting to keep it at comfortable reading levels.

I wasn’t very concerned with eye strain however, as this display has been certified under TÜV Rheinland’s reduced blue light and Flicker-free qualifications.

With super-narrow 5.3mm bezels and a rating of 100% on its sRGB color gamut, this display is just a tempting movie companion. The large size, almost bezel-less screen and accurate color reproduction truly makes video consumption an immersive experience.

No cramps for your fingers here 

Looking at the D 15, you’d notice immediately that the keyboard is decently sized and its spacing is quite substantial. Key travel on this however, wasn’t very long. While I personally would prefer keyboards with longer key travel over one with a bigger size, the key travel on the D 15 was where it somewhat fell short for me. That being said, I do think this is a matter of personal preference so this isn’t really something that would ruin the MateBook experience. 

You’ll also notice that for a 15.6-inch device, this doesn’t have a number pad on the side of the keyboard which I think contributes to how Huawei managed to extend the spacing of its keys and incorporate a decently sized trackpad below.

Speaking of the trackpad, I really appreciate its size as it’s able to accommodate my multi-finger gestures with precision and with only very minimal input errors.

Still placed between the F6 and F7 keys on the top is the iconic recessed 720p camera that the MateBook line pioneered.

 Power overwhelming

I personally see the battery and charging features of the D 15 to be its main strength. It took me a good 9 hours and 30 minutes running off of its 42Wh battery before it shifted to power saving mode. Meaning, this laptop can easily run you for more than 10 hours under controlled conditions and once you’re able to plug it in an outlet, its fast charger would only take you about an hour to charge it back up.

The 65w charger is quite comparable to a size of a smartphone charger that would barely add weight to your everyday carry. The charger also uses a detachable USB-C to USB-C cable. This makes it easy to replace if ever it gets worn out.

Also, this same cable can be used to charge our smartphones either from the charger or from the laptop as the 2021 D 15 also has support for reverse charging.

Next level of connectivity

A neat addition also on the MateBook D 15 is the inclusion of the new Wi-Fi 6 technology. This gives the D 15 the ability to connect to more frequency ranges for a cleaner and less interrupted connection. While this does require that we connect to a Wi-Fi 6 capable wireless network to fully take advantage of it, it does give us some sort of complacency with some future proofing. Giving us more reasons to hold on to our device for a few more years from our purchase.

In this category we also have quite a selection of ports with the inclusion of a USB 3.2, HDMI and USB-C port on the left side and two USB 2.0 and a 3.5mm audio port on the right.

Tap and drop files? Yes please!  

A handy feature for people who already belong in Huawei’s ecosystem is the Huawei Share with Multi-screen collaboration.

This feature enables Huawei smartphones to connect and share files, apps and even your phone screen with the D 15 by just tapping it on the dedicated Huawei Share portion of the laptop.

Gimmicky as it may sound at first, I have to say, it really does work. And if transferring files from other devices is something you do often, this might be a feature that you could maximize.

Is the HUAWEI MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen your GadgetMatch?

The MateBook D 15 2021 isn’t what we may call a “beast” of a device as it really isn’t trying to be one. This is mainly designed with professionals in mind or simply people who’re looking for convenience, comfort and just an overall pleasant user experience and it does that very well.

A decent performer, sleek looker, ultraportable 15.6-inch device with a lot of nifty features with the Huawei ecosystem, Wi-Fi 6 and its smart fingerprint power button, the MateBook D 15 2021 is what we could really call a versatile machine.

But here is where it gets a little bit tricky. The MateBook D 15 2021 with the older Intel 10th Gen processor is also currently an available option from Huawei. A less powerful alternative but one that could set you back a few pesos which also gets you most of what the 11th Gen version offers.

If you’re willing to spend a little more for better performance though, the D 15 11th Gen is no doubt a solid choice.

The Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen with 16GB RAM is available in Mystic Silver for PhP 59,999.

Buy from Lazada

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