Hands-On

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.

[irp posts=”11425" name=”Tiny iPhone SE gets twice the storage”]

Accessories

MPow Headphones Hands-On: Are these worth your while?

Little-known brand promises value-for-money products

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When people talk about headphones and earphones, the brand MPow isn’t the first one that comes to mind. The company boasts quality audio gadgets at really competitive pricing.

Of course, we have to tell for ourselves if these headsets are really any good. We gave a pair to each of our four guys. After a through hands-on, we asked for their verdict.


MPow H7 [Dan]

I’m unfamiliar with MPow. Admittedly, I Googled about the brand and my particular model. Apparently, the MPow H7 is one of the best-reviewed wireless headphones on Amazon US (and other shopping portals). I slightly expected great things. Indeed, the H7 is good for its price. However, it has a couple of shortcomings.

The good: The H7 sounds better than any headphones I’ve used for US$ 20. It’s a balanced pair of headphones for general listening. Bass is really good for electronic music. Vocals are pretty clear in acoustic hits. It’s comfortable and lightweight. I could wear them for hours without any discomfort. Also, I have no issues with pairing on my laptop or my phone.

The bad: The H7’s light weight makes it feel a bit cheap. It’s not exactly a bad thing; you’ll wear this more than you’ll hold it, after all. Additionally, the H7 looks so generic. That’s perfectly subjective, though.

For its price, the H7 is an easy recommendation for those looking for a pair of comfy, good-quality over-ear wireless headphones. It’s certainly not a looker — at least for me — but it deserves the praises it has received so far.

MPow S10 [Rodneil]

The MPow S10 is positioned as a workout companion. However, my usage proves that it can be more than that.

Still, I used it for a few workout sessions. The IPX7 helps take out the worry of getting sweat all over. The fit around your neck and on your ear was also perfect for me. I love that the buds are magnetic. You can even wear it like a pseudo-necklace when not in use.

Coming off the Galaxy Buds, I can say the audio quality lacks a little bit of texture. It just doesn’t have the crispness that I got from Samsung’s wireless earbuds. Of course, the quality isn’t that bad. For video editing and video calls, the quality is more than adequate.

There were also zero problems pairing. Switching from my phone to my laptop was seamless. It’s pretty versatile for a pair of earphones marketed as a sporting buddy, and at US$ 24.99, I would say it’s a pretty darn good deal.

MPow H5 [MJ]

The MPow H5 was a total treat. It’s comfortable to wear and carry around. For US$ 40 headphones, it comes complete with features you can see in similar yet more expensive products.

Its noise-canceling capabilities actually work against the blabbers and chatters while giving a pleasant, sound experience. It can’t completely block the human voice. Still, I think it’s a good thing as it removes the need to pause your music when people approach you. For clearer communication, you can turn off the noise-cancellation with an easily accessible button.

What I liked the most is its ability to switch Bluetooth connection between devices seamlessly. There are times that I had to switch devices (especially when I run out of battery). It’s helpful to stay connected so I can maintain focus on the task at hand.

MPow EG3 [Kevin]

The EG3 is all about gaming, and then some. It specializes in first-person shooter (FPS) games especially with the 7.1 surround sound. It puts you in the middle of the battlefield. You can tell where each sound is coming from. Together with its decent audio performance, gaming becomes a more immersive experience compared to when you only have ordinary headphones on.

Personally, I look for a specific sound when I play games and a different one when I listen to music. MPow’s Audio Center makes it easy with an equalizer and customizable audio profiles. It also has an array of effects such as environment effects, pitch shifting, and a built-in gooseneck microphone. Speaking of the mic, it has an impressive quality good enough for recording voice overs.

Notably, MPow aims for quality products with competitive pricing. For a pair of lightweight headphones delivering good audio and packing premium features, the EG3 is priced at just US$ 29 — more affordable than most models in its tier. Considered altogether, it’s hard to pass on the EG3.

Overall verdict

Four different people, four different devices, one brand. The verdict is pretty unanimous. These MPow headsets aren’t the absolute best in terms of quality. However, in terms of value for your money, these headphones are easy recommendations.

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Features

We tried Lenovo’s foldable ThinkPad PC and it screams future

A foldable computer like no other

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Lenovo’s been working on a new kind of computer: a folding laptop that will supposedly replace your own laptop.  

While foldable smartphones captured the talk of the tech world, Lenovo worked behind the scenes on a foldable computer over the past three years. Going on sale sometime next year, Lenovo aims for the bragging rights to call it the world’s first.


The device does not have a name yet. However, last week, Lenovo gave me the unique opportunity to play around with an early prototype.

It’s a computer that screams of the future. In fact, it will run an unannounced Intel processor and an upcoming skew of Windows.

Of course, Lenovo is still fine-tuning certain details. Still, the foldable 2K LG OLED display and torque hinge already do what they’re supposed to. The mechanism ensures each fold and unfold cycle goes smoothly and without a hitch.

Considering how much my iPad Pro has become my go-to, on-the-go device, Lenovo’s all-in-one device is an idea that I’m willing to embrace.

The device starts out as a 10-inch leather-bound Moleskine notebook, with the display folded shut.

Unfold it a little: it’s an ebook like nothing you’ve used before.

Keep it at a 90-degree angle: you’ve got yourself a laptop with an on-screen keyboard on the bottom half.

When used this way, both halves of the display can work independently. You could be on a Skype call on the top screen and viewing a presentation on the bottom half. You could also watch a video up top and jotting down notes on the bottom

Fully articulated, it’s a 13-inch tablet.

Prop it up and use the bundled Bluetooth keyboard: it’s a desktop PC.

According to Lenovo, user confidence in foldable devices is currently low. However, the brand is confident in its product so much that it’s attaching the ThinkPad X1 line — a name associated with reliability and durability — to the foldable laptop.

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy A20 Hands-on: One of the familiar faces

One of the many new similar-looking phones

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Samsung‘s new strategy involves compelling models that are competitively priced. One of those is the Galaxy A20 which is priced under US$ 200. It’s been quite some time since I’ve tried a budget Samsung phone. This makes the Galaxy A20 interesting — at least, for me.

How does a budget Samsung phone fare? Here’s my hands-on.


Let’s get right into the phone starting in the front:

It has a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display…

Fairly big for a budget phone

… with a V-shaped notch

Samsung calls this Infinity-V

On its left, a triple card slot

Fans would love this

The physical buttons are all on the right

One for power and another for volume

At the bottom: headphone port, USB-C, and speaker

USB-C on a budget phone!

Its back is really glossy

It’s called “3D Glasstic”

It has two rear cameras and a fingerprint scanner

Keeping the essentials in check

The new wave of Samsung phones

The Galaxy A20 is part of Samsung’s reimagined Galaxy A series for 2019. The Galaxy A series used to be Samsung’s midrange lineup. Now, it also covers the budget segment. The move battles the rising popularity of Chinese manufacturers in developing markets.

The Galaxy A50, which is currently one of the best midrange phones shares a lot in commone with the Galaxy A20, design-wise. Both phones have the same 3D Glasstic body — a fancy name for glossy plastic. To be honest, I still prefer the previous matte bodies of the discontinued Galaxy J series, specifically the Galaxy J6 or the Galaxy J8.

The Galaxy A20 sports a Super AMOLED edge-to-edge display with a small V-shaped notch. To meet the target price point, the phone’s display only has an HD+ resolution. The lower pixel count is pretty obvious to the naked eye. The lack of sharpness is redeemed by the panel’s vibrant colors and deep blacks.

Decently fast and stable

Performance-wise, the Galaxy A20 doesn’t disappoint. I have little expectations for a budget Samsung phone. Still, the phone has proven me wrong. It already has Samsung’s new One UI on top of Android 9 Pie out of the box, a big advantage over older Samsung phones. I particularly like One UI’s system-wide dark mode. Likewise, I don’t have to wait for Android Q to get that.

The processor of the phone is Exynos 7884. It’s paired with 3GB of memory and 32GB of expandable memory. This is not the fastest configuration you can under US$ 200, but it gets the job done. The storage might not be enough to store all your games and videos, though. Thankfully, the phone has a dedicated microSD card slot for expansion.

Generally, the Galaxy A20 performs okay with everyday tasks like messaging, browsing the web, and scrolling through social networking apps. There’s no hint of sluggishness with day-to-day use. Although, it takes a bit longer to load heavier apps. The phone just needs an extra second or two compared to faster (and more expensive) phones.

In the gaming department, I am surprised that the Galaxy A20 can deliver better than the competition. My staple games — like Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile — run smoothly with little to no lag. I’m not saying the Galaxy A20 can be your next gaming phone. At the very least, it can handle casual games and graphics-intensive titles in low to medium settings pretty well.

Also, the Galaxy A20’s battery capacity is impressive. The phone has a 4000mAh battery inside — bigger than most cheap phones today. Additionally, it also has a USB-C port that supports fast charging up to 15W.

Ultra wide-angle is a treat

Finally, you can get dual rear cameras on a budget Samsung phone. Like with the Galaxy S10e, the Galaxy A20’s setup is a combination of a normal camera and an ultra wide-angle shooter. The main one has a 13-megapixel sensor with an f/1.9 aperture. Meanwhile,the ultra wide-angle camera has a 5-megapixel sensor.

Like with most phones today, even in the budget segment, the Galaxy A20’s main camera can shoot decent stills in bright environments. At night or in low light, the quality becomes so-so. The phone also has an 8-megapixel front camera which takes not-so-pleasing selfies.

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As for the wide-angle shooter, it has a really wide FOV like an action camera. Having this secondary camera will let you take an image with a different perspective. It’s also fun to use; you’ll enjoy trying it out in open areas.

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Of course, there’s a catch. The quality of the wide-angle shots is nowhere near the main camera’s. At least, it’s definitely more useful than just a depth sensor. The Galaxy A20’s camera also has other features like Live Focus for bokeh and beauty mode for an instant touchup.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

In my opinion, the Galaxy A20 is proof of Samsung’s realization of its customer’s love for more value for their money. Despite brand unfamiliarity, Chinese manufacturers are luring phone buyers by offering bang-for-the-buck devices.

Although the Galaxy A20 is far from holding the bang-for-the-buck title, it’s a good option for those who want a budget Samsung phone. It has the basics covered with a few extra features to make it stand out.

The Galaxy A20 is priced at PhP 9,990 in the Philippines, MYR 699 in Malaysia, and INR 11,490 in India.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy A50 Review: The ideal midranger, almost

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