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iPhone SE Unboxing and Hands-On

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The rose gold iPhone SE comes in a white box

Size matters, but it’s not everything.

Love it or hate it, the iPhone SE is arguably a class of its own. It may look old but it doesn’t perform like one. It’s something not even the Android world can offer – where small nowadays, most often than not, means sluggish, second-rate, and a 2-4 year-old OS built into a cheap plastic body.

The iPhone SE has a 4-inch Retina display, Touch ID, and a 1.2MP front-facing camera

Sure, Apple made some compromise here and there to cut down on price – and in 2016 it still starts at 16GB – but the iPhone SE is a worthy upgrade for those who stuck with the iPhone 4, 4s, 5, and 5s all these years.

Heck, there are even some iPhone 6s users who want to ‘downgrade’ and go back to a smaller display. Some people like 4 inches – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Apart from going small, the new iPhone raised a lot of eyebrows especially because it looks exactly like the iPhone 5s. It’s a new phone in an old body.

The iPhone SE has the SE branding at the lower back of the phone and it comes in rose goldEverything is found right where Apple left it three years ago: volume and silent buttons on the left side; SIM card tray on the right; power button on top; headphone jack, microphone, Lightning port, and speaker grille at the bottom.

Save for the SE branding at the back, the matte edges, and color-matched stainless steel Apple logo, nothing else has changed on the outside. The only “new design” is the rose gold variant.

Even packaging didn’t change. It’s the familiar minimalist box with the same contents as those of iPhones 5 and up: a pair of white EarPods, a Lightning to USB cable, wall charger, a SIM card removal tool, manuals, and Apple logo stickers.

But why judge the book by its cover?

Apple packed the best iPhone 6s features into the iPhone SE’s little body and made it work.

It ships with Apple’s powerful A9 chip and the latest version of iOS (9.3) out of the box. And it’s fast. It loads pages, opens and switches between apps smoothly and efficiently.

It comes with iOS 9.3’s new features like Night Shift, which changes the color of your iPhone’s display from cool to warm depending on the time of the day. Apple says this should help you sleep better at night.

Speaking of display, the iPhone SE sports a 4-inch Retina display at 326 ppi. This means images are rendered clear and sharp enough for the 4-inch screen. If we’re being specific though, it’s not a high resolution one – not even HD – only 640×1136 to be exact.

On the bright side, this means images and videos whose resolutions are a little lower than 720p will still look sharp on the iPhone SE. The bad: the phone is not ideal for watching a Full HD or HD movie. The contrast ratio is also lower than the iPhone 6s so the screen doesn’t look as bright.

While the lack of a Full HD or Quad HD display may be a deal-breaker for some people, a smaller, lower resolution display can mean better battery life as what drains the battery the most for a lot of smartphones is screen-on time.

The iPhone SE although smaller is thicker than the iPhone 6s so its camera doesn't protrude.

The integration of the top of the line processor and new iOS should improve battery performance as well, even if the iPhone SE ships with a smaller battery (reportedly 1642 mAh, compared to the 6s’ 1715 mAh). Apple promises 13 hours on LTE but this is something we will have to test on a later date.

This, we can say now: the iPhone SE has the best camera technology in a 4-inch phone in the market today. It gets the same 12-megapixel main shooter as that of the iPhone 6s but because it’s thicker, it doesn’t protrude like the one on its older, bigger brother.

It’s also worth noting that at its size, the iPhone SE can shoot 4K video. Although, if you’re getting the 16GB version you’ll want to back up those files so they don’t eat up into your precious space. A 3 minute 4K video clip takes up about 750MB of space.

If taking selfies is your thing, you might want to sit this one out as Apple put the 4-year-old 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera onto the SE that dates back to the iPhone 5. Well, at least it got the Retina Flash.

Here are some samples:

The main iPhone 6s feature missing on the SE is 3D Touch, but it probably won’t be sorely missed – new iPhone users won’t even notice. Apple did, however, keep Live Photos so you can still take those short moving images and view them with a long press.

Another thing not found on the SE is Apple’s newest Touch ID so the fingerprint scanner is not blazingly fast compared to the 6s but it’s a compromise that had to be made for a better price tag.

Just like its announcement in Cupertino, the iPhone SE doesn’t have the bells and whistles new phones usually get. True enough it’s nothing innovative, and to some it’s just plain disappointing especially coming from a company like Apple.

Although already the cheapest iPhone Apple has ever released, the iPhone SE is still not for people who are on a very tight budget. It’s also not a phone for people who have gotten used to a bigger display and love it for reasons like watching videos, gaming, and multi-tasking with split screens.

The rose gold iPhone 5s and rose gold iPhone 6s side by side

With its old but well-loved metal chassis, the SE feels premium for a mid-range price of $399 (16GB), which, in most cases can get you a good performing phone albeit with a plasticky build.

But what’s more important is on the inside. The iPhone SE, however small, is a phone that is just as powerful as the iPhone 6s, and performs even better than a lot of those that come in bigger packages.

The iPhone SE is not the best smartphone there is and may not be the size you’re used to anymore, but it just works. And there is nothing else like it.

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Dyson V8 Carbon Fibre cordless vacuum hands-on

The future of housekeeping

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Made a mess? Dyson’s got you.

The V8 Carbon Fibre, the newest addition to Dyson’s renowned cordless vacuum line, has just been launched in Southeast Asia.

The new cleaning device utilizes the same technology from previous Dyson innovations, which ensures optimum performance of this lean, mean, cleaning machine. Certain features — like a better battery and a more powerful engine — are improved on this new vacuum release.

Dyson engineer Sam Twist explains what the V8 Carbon Fibre can do

Dyson engineer Sam Twist explains what the V8 Carbon Fibre can do

At the launch in Bangkok, Thailand, I got to go hands-on with the device. Quite literally, I made a mess and cleaned it up with the V8 Carbon Fibre. Here are some initial observations:

Easy to handle

What amazed me most is how intuitive this device is. There was no learning curve. I picked it up for the first time, pulled a trigger that’s perfectly positioned in the area where my hand goes, and voila, I was vacuuming!

Now, call me uninformed on the workings of a vacuum (and general housekeeping) but I always thought vacuums were heavy. At least I didn’t expect something with this power to be as light as it was.

Like their Supersonic hairdryer, the V8 Carbon Fibre is ergonomically balanced. Simply put, it’s designed in a way that ensures easier handling.

Power!

This engine, tiny and light as it is, isn’t just a load of hot air (pun intended).

This device has 30 percent more suction power than its predecessors. That capability was shown off in a curious exhibition, one that entailed a vacuum-sealed container and some water. Yep, this vacuum sucks, in the best possible way.

This device tests the vaccum’s suction power! You can see the water rising as the device is turned on.

From corn chips to oregano, sprinkles to baking soda; we tried the vacuum and another Isa-made mess was averted.

Leave no dirt in sight

And, if the newly cleaned surface isn’t enough proof for you, you can just take a gander at the dirt you’ve picked up in the vacuum’s compartment.

This machine runs on an improved battery that’s capable of 40 minutes of non-stop, cord-free cleaning on low mode.

Very versatile

Aside from the fact that it’s a pretty capable machine, this thing also works well on different surfaces and different scenarios.

Different Dyson-engineered heads allow for cleaning a variety of textured spaces. There’s a tool specifically designed for carpets, hardwood floors, mattresses, and even one for “mess-free dog grooming!” Various accessories also mean that you can modify your vacuum specifically for the spot you want to clean — imagine a multi-angle brush attachment that allows you to clean hard to reach areas.

An added feature is that these vacuums have a wall-mounted charging dock, which is the most convenient thing. I’m definitely reserving a spot for this device in my future hypothetical high-tech house!

Now, these are just my initial thoughts on the V8 Carbon Fibre, but it’s enough to get me excited over vacuuming — who would’ve thought?

Quite honestly, I’ve never really enjoyed cleaning up my messes, but this thing might just change that.

The Dyson V8 Carbon Fibre will retail for PhP 47,500 in the Philippines starting February 21. It will be available in Thailand come March.

SEE ALSO: Dyson Supersonic review: Bladeless hair dryer

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ASUS ZenFone Max Plus Unboxing and Hands-On

Near-borderless with a large battery!

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It took a while, but we finally have ASUS’ first-ever near-borderless smartphone. And it’s not just a pretty face; it’s got a hefty battery and a pair of cameras at the back, too. Is there any more to the ZenFone Max Plus? Find out in our unboxing and hands-on video.

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ASUS ZenFone Max Plus Hands-on

ASUS’ first 18:9 near-borderless phone

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Phones with 18:9 displays became the norm last year, and it wasn’t a premium feature that’s exclusive to flagship devices. We’ve seen a few midrange near-borderless phones, and here’s another one from ASUS.

If you find the ASUS ZenFone Max Plus familiar, it’s because it’s virtually the same phone as the Pegasus 4S which was launched exclusively in China last November and landed in Russia shortly after.

Another factor that will make you think that you already saw the phone before is its identical design to its smaller sibling — the ZenFone 4 Max. Basically, the ZenFone Max Plus is a taller and more modern-looking variant of the ZenFone Max family.

What makes this phone modern is its 5.7-inch Full HD+ panel. This is ASUS’ first phone with an 18:9 display or Full View as ASUS calls it. While it’s not as edge-to-edge or borderless as premium phones, the taller display gives the phone a fresh trait among budget smartphones.

On the right are the physical keys of the phone: a long button for volume up/down and a shorter one for power/screen lock. Both have the concentric circle pattern for texture, but we wish the power button were more distinct.

At the bottom are the good old micro-USB port and symmetrical holes for the microphone and loudspeaker. Like its non-Plus sibling, ASUS opted not to bless the phone with the reversible and future-proofed USB-C port.

Up top are the 3.5mm headphone port and the noise-canceling microphone. It’s worth noting that the top and bottom portions of phone’s body are plastic to allow radios to pass through, while the main back panel is aluminum.

Thanks to its fantastic paint job, both materials blend well together as can be seen on the back. The phone has a dual-camera setup with an ultra wide-angle secondary camera. The phone’s fingerprint reader is also found on the back which is easily reachable by the index fingers.

Wide-angle dual-camera setup

The phone’s dual rear cameras are a combination of 16- and 8-megapixel shooters. The main shooter has an aperture of f/2.0 and shoots the usual photos like this one:

The secondary 8-megapixel camera is for taking action camera-like shots with its ultra wide-angle lens:

As with any wide-angle cameras, there’s a noticeable distortion or fish-eye effect from the camera, but that’s already expected.

To show the big difference between the main camera and wide-angle secondary camera, check out these photos:

As for selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel shooter accompanied by ASUS’ feature-rich camera app. It has multiple modes including, of course, “beauty” which boasts a number of beautification features.

There’s also portrait mode which applies an artificial bokeh effect. With a single front camera, the effect is somehow unimpressive.

We’ll be taking the phone for a full spin in the coming weeks. Check back soon for more sample shots from the dual wide-angle rear shooters and selfie camera.

Initial impressions

The phone is powered by a MediaTek MT6750T processor. Our model has 4GB of memory and 32GB of storage, but the configuration is region-dependent. Some countries have either 2GB or 3GB of memory and 16GB of storage. There’s a dedicated microSD card slot for additional storage along with two nano-SIM cards.

Android 7.0 Nougat runs on the phone with ZenUI 4.0 on top. We’re not yet sure if the phone will receive Android 8.0 since it’s not named as a member of the ZenFone 4 family, which ASUS promised would get Oreo.

As for the battery, it’s disappointing that it has a smaller 4130mAh cell versus the 5000mAh of the ZenFone 4 Max. But still, ASUS boasts long battery life and fast charging features. The phone can also act as a power bank for other devices through reverse charging with the use of a USB OTG cable. Full battery tests will appear in our review soon.

Official Philippine pricing is PhP 11,995 while in Malaysia is MYR 899.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ZenFone 4 gets Android 8.0 Oreo update

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