Reviews

LG G6 review: Back to basics

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You know when something is just right? Nothing out of the ordinary but exactly what you need at a particular moment?

Be it an iced cold soda on a hot summer’s day or a comforting bowl of ramen on a cold winter’s night, there are certain things which plainly and simply, just hit the spot.

That’s exactly how I feel about the new LG G6, a smartphone that won’t necessarily blow your socks off, but is just right in an appealing kind of way.

It almost doesn’t make sense. Smartphones after all are expected to wow and excite with never before seen features. But in the case of the G6, going back to basics was all that it needed to be considered among the best phones of the year.

I first held the G6 in Barcelona last February, the first major phone launch of 2017. At the G6’s coming out party, LG hyped the phone’s near-borderless display, its unconventional 18:9 aspect ratio that gives it a screen that’s taller than usual, and how all of this put together makes it a big-display phone that fit in the hand.

But for me, what stands out is its new design, one of the pain points on last year’s G5.

In 2016, LG bet big on a new modular smartphone concept that let you snap off the bottom of G5 and then attach accessories that gave the phone extra features. It was a brave and ambitious move meant to give LG a leg up over its rivals, and in principle it was a good idea. Unfortunately, implementation was poor, and even more troubling, the G5 suffered from subpar build quality.

But all that is forgiven in the G6.

The phone feels solid and sturdy, looks great, and is in every way premium. I wouldn’t call it sexy or curvy and it is a bit on the thick side, but there’s a certain security that comes with a heftier phone. Its rounded corners and slightly tapered edges give it some softness and better ergonomics.

The phone is now made of glass on both its front and back with a metal frame holding it all together. The platinum model has a more metallic finish to it, while the black and white models are more glossy.

With this redesign, LG has finally thrown in the towel for removable batteries, a feature that almost everyone but LG had abandoned up until last year. In its place, the G6 gets water and dust resistance — a must-have on any top-of-the-line phone sold in 2017.

Big phone that fits in your hand

While the G6 is by no means a small phone, LG has managed to fit in a 5.7-inch display into a phone that’s both shorter and narrower than the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus.

Because the display is taller, you can fit more things in vertically, be it more text on a website, more video thumbnails on YouTube, or a row of recent images on the camera app.

Of course, not all apps are optimized to take advantage of this just yet. Games for example have a black bar on both sides, as do videos. LG gives you the option to, with the tap of a button, adjust a game or movie’s resolution to fill the entire screen, but in most cases some cropping may occur. This is the case of technology taking the charge; content will have to follow suit.

Whichever type of content you’re consuming, however, the G6 has a beautiful display. The slim bezels are great. And at least for me, the rounded corners, while imperfectly curved and rather unusual, are a nice touch.

Battery and charging

During my week of heavy use, the G6’s 3300mAh battery lasted a good 10 hours on a single charge with about four and a half hours of screen-on time. That’s good enough to last you through an entire work day and then some.

The phone also supports fast charging. It starts slow but gets to 100 percent in about one hour and 50 minutes using the bundled charger. However, if you’re the type who needs a quick, last-minute top up before you run out the door, the G6 only manages to get to 30 percent in half an hour.

If you’re in the US, your G6 also supports wireless charging, which is great if you’re at a Starbucks so you can charge while you get caffeinated.

Great audio for Asia

If you’re not in the US, you don’t get wireless charging. But if you’re an audiophile, you might love the G6’s Asian flavor. The Asian LG G6 has Quad DAC — a digital-to-analogue converter that makes it so you can listen to high-res audio files without the need for separate hardware.

The bottom-firing speakers are pretty decent and loud. I won’t say they’re the loudest or best sounding speakers, but I have no complaints.

Dual-camera goodness

When it comes to smartphone cameras, there are currently two camps: single-camera shooters and the trendy new dual-camera bunch. The LG G6 belongs to the latter, although its implementation is slightly different.

On the G6, the second camera is a wide-angle lens. Having traveled with both the G6 and its predecessor the G5, I’ve found this option very useful. But I prefer to have the ability to zoom in on a subject.

That said, 13-megapixel photos on the G6 are great. I have no complaints shooting both during the day and at night. On top of that, as we’ve come to expect from its predecessors, you get manual mode. So if you don’t like the way Auto mode looks, you can dive in and change things like white balance or exposure.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about its 5-megapixel selfie camera. Either I’ve been spoiled by selfie phones in the midrange price point, or the G6 falls short. Selfies taken during the day are heavily processed, and those taken at night are barely usable.

Specs and software

The one thing that reviewers will point out is LG’s choice of the Snapdragon 821 processor from last year. While the techie in me always wants the latest and greatest hardware… in the real world, and for most users, last year’s top-of-the-line processor is more than enough. It helps that there’s 4GB of memory and expandable storage to make operation as buttery smooth as possible.

The G6 runs Android Nougat out of the box and the experience is as handsomely reserved as its redesign. The interface feels cleaner, most likely because of its use of consistent-looking square icons.

There are some nice LG touches too, like being able to knock on my display to turn it on, and a new square camera app targeted at Instagram users.

Google Assistant is also built in and the G6 is the first non-Google smartphone to come with it.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Last year, LG took a huge gamble on the modular smartphone, commendable but one that unfortunately didn’t pay off.

But now that they’ve gone back to the basics, they’ve built their best phone ever.

Measured solely on its own merits, the LG G6 is without a doubt a worthy smartphone. One that deserves the GadgetMatch seal of approval. It is a phone you should definitely consider, up there with the best of 2017.

But is this $650 phone your GadgetMatch?

Because the G6 doesn’t exist in a bubble, it’s impossible not to compare it with the list of great phones to which it belongs.

Let’s take a look at that list…

Starting with the $650 Pixel whose cons are its meh looks. Assuming that performance was pretty even stevens, I’d get the G6 for its premium design and water resistance. And the Pixel for its superior camera and stock Android experience.

For a little bit more, you can get the $720 Galaxy S8, perhaps the most feature-rich Android phone in the market today. It’s got an iris scanner and one of the best smartphone cameras to boot. The S8 makes the G6 look boring. But not everyone likes those curves. And for those looking for a more traditional flat, and not to mention cheaper alternative, go LG.

And there’s the $650 iPhone 7. If you’re an iOS user, the G6 offers no significant reason to switch. Unless you’re tempted by Android and want a big screen, but not the size of the iPhone 7 Plus.

Remember when Samsung ditched plastic and found its groove with the S6 Edge? It took them two years to refine that concept and come up with the S8, which many consider the best Android phone ever built.

We hope the same thing happens to LG. Now that they’ve gone back to basics and built an all around great phone, they can build on that, and push innovation further.

I’m excited to see what happens next, because if just good enough is enough to compete with the best, just imagine when they’re pushing boundaries again.

SEE ALSO: LG G6 Unboxing

Reviews

Huawei Y6 2018 Hands-on Review: 18:9 phones are getting cheaper

Tall displays are now for everyone!

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Budget phones get blessed with the features of flagship devices once the premium exclusivity wears off, like the near-borderless trend with the 18:9 display ratio which eventually trickled down to midrangers.

We didn’t expect it to be available to entry-level phones this quick though, because we now have a phone with an 18:9 display from Huawei that’s priced slightly above US$ 100.

Here’s a quick hands-on review of the Huawei Y6 2018.

It’s a modern 18:9 phone with a 5.7-inch HD screen

Tall, dark, and handsome?

More display area doesn’t mean less bezels

You could still put in a fingerprint reader there

The physical buttons are on the right ride…

The buttons are made of plastic, as well as the sides of the phone

While a triple-card tray is on the left

Probably the best feature of the phone

A 3.5mm audio port silently sits on top

Legacy ports are here to stay — for now

Leaving the micro-USB and loudspeaker at the bottom

No USB-C and we understand why

The back is plain and there’s no fingerprint reader either!

The back is clean, so clean

Decent design for a budget phone

One might think that the Huawei Y6 2018 is not an entry-level phone at first glance and we can’t blame them. The phone doesn’t look like it belongs in its price segment due to its display’s 18:9 aspect ratio — a feature we first saw on premium devices. Once you pick up the phone though, you’ll feel how less attention was put into the build of the phone. It doesn’t feel cheap, but the plastic material and light weight of the phone leave a not-so-good impression.

The phone doesn’t have a removable back cover; too bad, since replaceable batteries is a feature of budget phones I look forward to. Overall, there’s not much to say about the physical body of the Y6 2018. I do appreciate the matte finish of the black variant I have for review. It blends well with the surroundings even in a formal setting.

Don’t expect it to fly

With a Snapdragon 425, the Y6 2018 is limited to basic work. While the chipset is not as low-powered compared to the Snapdragon 210 in the Nokia 2, the performance doesn’t give justice to budget phones. When Marvin reviewed the Xiaomi Redmi 5A, he was impressed with it. That phone practically has the same specs as the Y6 2018, but he never complained about lag. During my short time with Y6 2018, half of it was dealing with hiccups and slow loading times.

(Marvin: I think it has to do with Xiaomi’s MIUI software which optimizes itself for entry-level devices and phones launched years ago.)

The phone is already running the latest Android 8.0 Oreo skinned with EMUI 8.0, so it’s puzzling to have an up-to-date phone (software-wise) to struggle with so-so specification. I’m pretty sure the 2GB of memory is enough to run common apps with ease; because if not, you’re better off with an Android Go phone to get the much needed optimization.

When you find your way inside an app — let’s say Instagram — the phone can deliver smooth performance most of the time. Perhaps this stuttering issue could be addresed via a software update, but until then, you must stay patient.

Before I forget about the missing fingerprint reader, I’ll address the concern that it might bring. Like with OPPO A83, the Y6 2018 takes advantage of facial recognition to secure your phone. Having face unlocking activated, I noticed that the phone struggled even more. So, I just turned it off and relied on the good-old pattern code.

Suprisingly okay for selfies

Using either of the 13-megapixel rear camera or the 5-megapixel selfie camera, you can take an okay photo. What suprised me is the built-in beauty mode that’s also found on more expensive Huawei phones. It’s hard to judge if the beauty processing of the Y6 2018 is similar to the Huawei P20 Lite’s, but there’s not much of a difference to the naked eye.

For a budget phone, the Y6 2018 has good cameras. The phone managed to redeem itself through this, but not by much. While checking the image on the phone looks fine, previewing it on a bigger display shows the weaknesses of an affordable camera phone. The images are a bit soft, but the color balance is within the sweet spot.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

That’s the question we always ask because not everyone will like a single phone. In the case of the Y6 2018, I must warn you about the lag and hiccups that are bound to test your patience. There’s always a cheaper and better Xiaomi option, but the nearest competitor doesn’t have an 18:9 display. If the aspect ratio is what you’re after, the Y6 2018 will be able to deliver that without asking for too much cash.

The Huawei Y6 2018 retails for just PhP 5,990 in the Philippines which is roughly US$ 115. It’ll be available in stores by the end of the April.

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Gaming

God of War: A must-play for 2018

Like Kratos, this game has grown like fine wine

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I’ll try my best not to overhype this, but God of War is an easy, early entry for 2018’s game of the year.

Okay, I may have failed that hyping part, but that’s exactly how you’ll feel too after getting your ass kicked by the first semi-boss battle thinking this is the same game you conquered years back. After trying, and failing, to hack-and-slash your way through that battle, you’ll quickly realize how much more depth this game has compared to the God of War games that came before it.

The first thing that jumps out at you is the series-lead Kratos. He’s now bearded, looks older, and definitely acts wiser. Going through the first hour or so of the game, you’ll see that this is not the same vengeance-seeking beast that unleashed a vicious assault for one Greek god after another.

Kratos is now more measured. Retribution is no longer his single driving force. It’s more a sense of duty — duty to fulfill a promise to his wife who had passed and a duty to raise their son Atreus, who’s a key part both in the story and the gameplay.

Atreus is the man

The idea of a vengeful Spartan warrior fueled by rampage having a son seemed unimaginable at first, but bringing Atreus into the fold proved to be the perfect way to expand God of War. The passing of his wife leaves Atreus in his care; Atreus adds depth to Kratos.

At the beginning of the game, he teaches the child how to hunt. You can hear the frustration in his voice as the boy fails in his first attempt. Instead of going ballistic, he reigns himself in before providing stern and sound advice.

The interplay between father and son is present nearly the entire duration of the game. Their dialogue goes on not only in cinematic scenes but even as you go through the game whether you’re searching for clues, solving puzzles, or just trying to figure out where to go next.

Atreus aids you in battle. His arrow can stun opponents or take their attention off of you, and his proficiency and power grow as the game progresses. However, that’s not the only area where Atreus proves helpful. The boy is able to read ancient writings that provide clues on how you can solve puzzles or move on from a certain point.

One shot is all it takes

One of the biggest technical accomplishments of the game is how it’s a one-shot story, which means there’s absolutely zero loading screens. That’s a challenge both in game production and storytelling. From the get-go, it puts you right in the heart of the action being in the shoes of the central figures of the story. It makes for an ultra-immersive experience that will leave you invested in how their relationship develops.

It doesn’t feel like a straight-up tutorial, but the game uses the first 8 to 10 hours to show you the ropes. From attacking, using Atreus, upgrading your equipment, and many others. After that, it opens up to a slew of side quests that can be as satisfying as pushing the story forward. While it is by no means a true open-world game, it’s wide enough that it lets you explore, but not too wide that you feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities.

It’s still about Kratos

With all of that said, this is still a God of War game, meaning Kratos is still at the heart of it. In many ways, this new Kratos mirrors the game’s growth. In the previous era wherein he unapologetically laid waste to the Greek gods, Kratos seemed more one-dimensional. He had one goal and that was to exact revenge and the games’ hack-and-slash approach reflected that.

This older Kratos appears to have grown as he is forced into a situation where he has to care for his child. Fatherhood puts the Spartan warrior in an unfamiliar place. While there is still rage within him, he appears more subdued. At times he struggles with how to speak with Atreus and it’s that very struggle that shows a side of Kratos we likely have never seen before: a tenderness that’s somehow out of character.

Don’t let that fool you, though. There’s still plenty of raging Kratos here. What this game has masterfully done is retain the identity and history of the previous God of War games while infusing it with learnings from the games that have come during the franchise’s hiatus.

The easiest comparison you’ll see is how it’s a more casual-gamer-friendly version of Dark Souls. And while I did think that, the approach feels more derivative rather than a direct recreation.

Nothing communicates that experience better than Kratos’ new weapon: the Leviathan axe. Gone are the chain blades that devastated draugrs and gods alike. Kratos’ axe is infused with ice magic, able to stun opponents. One of the most badass parts of the game is how you can throw the axe and summon it right back. But don’t think for a second that Kratos will be helpless without the axe. You still have his shield and his bare hands, and that’s sometimes required to defeat certain foes.

The battle system still feels as satisfying as ever. It requires more thinking than straight-up slashing which should be a welcome challenge whether you’re a veteran of the franchise or you’re being introduced to it through this game.

God of War

Even though Kratos has aged, nothing about this game feels old. There’s still enough God of War oomph that endeared it to its long-time fans while adding elements that can easily be embraced by a newer generation of gamers looking to dig into the lore of the franchise.

This is by far the easiest single-player, story-driven game to recommend to anyone this year. If you have time to play only a handful of games on the PS4 this year, God of War should be on that list.

SEE ALSO: God of War: An older Kratos needs a wiser you

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Reviews

OPPO F7 Review

‘Selfie phone’ is an understatement

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When we hear the word OPPO, we think selfies.

And while its newest smartphone stays true to its rich tradition as one of the leaders in the selfie-smartphone space, this one might just have something more up its sleeve.

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