Reviews

LG G6 review: Back to basics

Published

on

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

[irp posts=”12038″ name=”LG G6 Unboxing”]

Gaming

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! review: Catching ’em all once again

Isn’t Eevee absolutely adorable?

Published

on

Countless times, my friends have jokingly asked, “Where’s Mario?” My name — Luigi — has unwittingly cursed me into a lifetime of jokes associated with Mario’s green-suited brother. Ironically, my favorite Nintendo franchise isn’t even remotely related to the Super Mario Brothers series. Since childhood, the prestige has always gone to the Pokémon franchise.

During my Game Boy days, I played through the classics of the Pokémon franchise. Sadly, that streak ended with Pokémon Emerald, immediately before the arrival of the first Nintendo DS. Since then, the franchise’s Generation 4 ushered in a period of silence.

Thankfully, Pokémon’s decline was halted by the arrival of the mobile game, Pokémon GO. The pioneering AR game brought back a wave of nostalgia. Despite the initial popularity, the game’s novelty was short-lived, failing to measure up with the classic games. Of course, the game wasn’t from Nintendo.

Now, Nintendo has finally taken over the franchise’s modern renaissance. Weeks ago, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! launched for the Nintendo Switch, promising a new world for the new generation. Besides ushering a generation, the nostalgic series revitalizes the old and creates a new ecosystem.

Generation 1.2 

Right on the tin, both games advertise a return to Kanto, home of the first Pokémon. Pikachu and Eevee are remasters of the original Pokémon Yellow. In the original, Pikachu replaced the traditional trio of Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. Likewise, Pikachu and Eevee replaces the starter Pokémon based on the version you purchase.

Likewise, both games share the same story elements with Pokémon Yellow: Team Rocket’s antics, Lavender Town’s eerie story, Mewtwo’s appearance. Of course, because of the times, Nintendo updated some minor elements for a modern audience. For example, in-game television sets come with Nintendo Switch units. Characters talk about Alolan Pokémon, smartphone technology, and most importantly, Pokémon GO.

Cuter, cuddlier, livelier

After Pokémon GO’s initial wave of novelty, the franchise’s fans chided the game for depersonalizing their favorite creatures. In GO, Pokémon became collectibles, valuing quantity over quality. Completely contrasted to this, Pikachu and Eevee added a thick layer of personality to all 151 original Pokémon.

Mostly, this dynamic personality applies to your chosen partner, Pikachu or Eevee. Like Yellow, your partner Pokémon follows you around. However, instead of just a few pixelated frames, both have their own new sets of animations and moves. For example, Pikachu hangs out on your shoulder as you walk. Eevee perches atop your head. In combat, both have exclusive move sets. Eevee, for example, uses Veevee Volley, an extremely strong Normal move that activates only occasionally. Cutely, you can interact with both partners outside of combat, petting them or playing patty-cake using the Switch’s touchscreen.

Additionally, you can take a Pokémon out of its Poké Ball, acting as a secondary companion. Also, their animation depends on their build. Mew floats ahead of you. Kangaskhan carries you in its pouch. Charizard flies and carries you on its back. It creates a much more dynamic world compared to the original games.

Speaking of, wild Pokémon encounters are no longer completely random. Instead, you can see the wild Pokémon wandering around, letting you choose which to catch. Catching them is also different. Instead of going into combat, the games adapt the same system as Pokémon GO, using catch rings and berries.

Creating a Pokémon ecosystem

Along with the games, Nintendo also launched a new controller, the Poké Ball Plus, specifically made for the new Pokémon games. Unfortunately, the optional controller, shaped like a Poké Ball, is pricey, costing US$ 49.99 on its own. The bundle — the game plus the ball — costs US$ 99.99, reducing the price by 10 bucks. That said, why should you buy a Poké Ball Plus?

Firstly, the ball comes with a free Mew. Traditionally, this mythical Pokémon was obtainable only through Nintendo-exclusive events or hacks. The Ball finally provides an easily accessible way to obtain one of the franchise’s most elusive Pokémon.

Secondly, it creates a new experience for the franchise. While it has only two buttons, you can use the ball in a throwing motion to catch Pokémon. Instead of just pressing A, the new mechanic simulates the feeling of actually throwing a Poké Ball. It’s unique and strangely gratifying. Additionally, you can take a Pokémon (housed inside the Poké Ball) with you on your daily commute. As you walk, it gets experience, similar to GO’s buddy system.

Thirdly, the ball acts as a Pokémon GO Plus, connecting the Switch games with GO’s world. To those who still play GO, the Poké Ball is a welcome arsenal, especially in crowded cityscapes. Similarly, you can transfer Pokémon from GO to Switch, making it easier to fill a Pokédex.

Finally, the Poké Ball Plus is a clear indication of the Pokémon franchise’s future. Next year, Nintendo will launch a fresher addition to the franchise, marking the console’s first full-fledged Pokémon game. By then, the future game will fully integrate the Ball into its mechanics, making the controller a worthy investment.

With Pikachu and Eevee, the Pokémon franchise heralds a new generation for both old and beginning players. For old players, they create a refreshed wave of nostalgia. For beginning players, both games are a good start to the new generation.

SEE ALSO: Pokémon: Let’s Go gets its own Nintendo Switch bundles

Continue Reading

Reviews

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 review

Part two of the Max experiment

Published

on

The ZenFone Max Pro M1 was one of those unicorns in the smartphone realm. Not only did it have dual cameras and a massive battery, it also came with stock Android — a rarity in ASUS’ lineup.

It was priced just right, hovering around the US$ 200 sweet spot in most regions. That being said, a successor was definitely in order, and the M2 I have here might bring that magic back.

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 is certainly bigger, badder, and more of a gaming phone than the M1 was. But with a higher price tag, is it still an easy-to-recommend product, especially with all the great options in the market?

On the outside, it’s a typical ZenFone, from the solid build to the super-bright 6.3-inch 1080p LCD. New this time around is the notch that houses the front-facing camera. It’s a sore spot in an otherwise clean design, but at this point, I can no longer argue against the established trend.

Next is the move from a metal coating to a shinier material for the rear. I can’t confirm yet if it’s mostly glass or plastic, but it’s more of a fingerprint magnet than what the previous ZenFone Max models had. ASUS does include a clear case to prevent unsightly fingerprints.

On the back you’ll find the fingerprint scanner, which isn’t that fast for logging in but more reliable than its face scanning. After alternating between the two, I ended up using the fingerprint sensor more, though that’s not to say it has a major advantage.

However, what matters more is the processor this smartphone comes with. It’s a Snapdragon 660, a chipset you’d normally find on more expensive handsets. Coupled with up to 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage, its performance certainly fits the bill.

If the storage isn’t enough, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a triple-card slot inside to house two nano-SIM cards and a microSD at the same time. If you’re planning to use this as a pure gaming device, that extra space holds a lot of weight.

During day-to-day activities like taking photos, multitasking around productivity apps, and binging on Netflix, I had no qualms whatsoever. It’s comparable to what the Nokia 7 Plus and Vivo V11 can do with the same chipset, and it helps that pure Android is on board to prevent bloatware from getting in the way.

But what we really want to test is mobile games, since ASUS is promoting the ZenFone Max Pro M2 as a budget-friendly gaming device. Early impression: Performance depends on which games you play.

I tried Ragnarok M and although the phone kept cool no matter how long I played, it would throttle at certain times, leading to choppy frame rates when there was too much action happening at once. I didn’t experience this with similarly priced phones like the Pocophone F1 and Honor Play.

Things are a little different with Asphalt 9, which relies more on bursts of intense processing with short breaks in between. This allowed the ZenFone Max Pro M2 to shine more, providing really smooth gameplay without heating up.

But what’s truly impressive is the battery life. I could play either of those games for five hours straight and they would reduce the percentage to only half. That’s amazing, and at the same time expected out of a 5000mAh capacity.

Unfortunately, topping up this battery to full using the bundled charger is a royal pain. With an average of 15 percent gains every 30 minutes, it would take around 3.5 hours to reach a hundred. I tried using faster chargers but the results were practically the same.

I’m not sure if this was a cost-cutting move or an oversight; either way, it sucks to wait for the phone to charge so long between gaming sessions. It doesn’t help that I’m forced to plug in through its micro-USB port. Every other device I own made the switch to the superior USB-C.

My bigger concern is ASUS’ update plans for this phone’s aging Android 8.1 Oreo, which came out in 2017. Despite being stock in nature, it isn’t part of the Android One program, so Google won’t be able aid in pushing new software.

For reference, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is still on Oreo, with no sign of Pie this year. While having a pure Android experience is great, not having timely updates defeats some of the purpose. In some cases, I actually miss ZenUI and the attention ASUS gives to it.

On that note, my review unit had some issues with the camera app at first, but ASUS has since fixed all the bugs. The app originally called Camera App Lite would often hang or not allow me to capture a shot even when all conditions were met. It’s simply called Camera now and works quite well with its clean interface.

During my short time with the cameras, I was impressed by the dynamic range and ability to maintain sharpness under poor lighting conditions. Both the rear 12-megapixel sensor and 13-megapixel selfie shooter performed as expected out of a midrange handset — meaning they were satisfying to use — though I question the usability of the 5-megapixel depth sensor on the back.

Blurring the background and cutting out the edges of a subject weren’t strong points for the rear shooters. What I did like was the saturation and strong colors they produced. Here are some samples:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Editor’s note: This section initially stated that the camera app was buggy and felt like beta software. ASUS has since reached out and updated our unit. The camera performance is much improved now and doesn’t exhibit any of the aforementioned faults.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

With a price increase of about US$ 100, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 isn’t as affordable as it once was, although I do appreciate the improvements in multiple aspects.

The new chipset is a definite winner, and the sleeker design makes it easier to show off in public. In addition, everything that made the M1 so special is still there, from the massive battery to the bright screen.

I recommend this particular ZenFone to those who value performance and want something more out of a gaming smartphone. It may not be as fast as the Honor Play or Pocophone F1, but it’s the most well-rounded device in the entire ZenFone lineup.

Continue Reading

Laptops

Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

It’s just missing one thing…

Published

on

It was during IFA 2018 when Lenovo introduced their latest premium convertible for consumers — the Yoga C930. It doesn’t have a good name, but it does offer everything a Yoga should, especially in media consumption.

Notebooks with flipping displays, like the Yoga lineup, are not just designed for typing. Most manufacturers market their convertibles to be perfect for entertainment, yet they largely fail in one aspect where they should shine — audio.

When Lenovo introduced the Yoga C930 with the rotating soundbar and Dolby Atmos, I hoped that it was not just a marketing ploy. But, is it? Let me share my thoughts about Lenovo’s newest convertible.

No fuss design

The Yoga C930 has a metal shell with a familiar aesthetic from Lenovo. My unit has a dark finish that’s aptly named Iron Gray. If you want a lighter shade, Lenovo is also offering the notebook in Mica, which is close to white. Everything about the body of the Yoga C930 screams premium; nothing here looks cheap or ugly.

To make it more special, the sides and the hinge of the Yoga C930 have a brushed finish. It’s a minor touch, but it’s highly noticeable whenever you’re checking where you should plug your peripherals. I also think that it helps hide unsightly scratches and gives the notebook a bit of shine.

While we’re at it, the available ports on the Yoga C930 are generally okay. It’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports that fully support PowerDelivery, DisplayPort, and USB 3.1 functions. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports employ 4x lanes for PCIe, so you can connect the Yoga C930 to an external GPU, which is good because this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics unit.

Apart from a couple of versatile USB-C interfaces, there’s also a classic full-size USB that we all know and love. Thankfully, Lenovo knows that this is still a widely used port and bringing a dongle just to read a thumb drive is a hassle. The 3.5mm audio port is also available when you need to plug in a pair of wired headphones.

All of the ports on the Yoga C930 are on its left side, leaving the right with just the power button. There are no volume buttons, either.

While I appreciate that Lenovo provided both USB-A and USB-C ports, I was still hoping for more; another USB-C with PowerDelivery on the right and a full-size SD card reader would do. The Yoga C930 is slim, but it’s not ultra-slim like the fan-less MacBook which got away with having one port (or maybe two if you count the headphone jack).

The Yoga C930 has a fairly large 14-inch display (13.9 inches according to Lenovo), but with minimum side bezels. Since this is made for watching videos, the aspect ratio is still stuck at 16:9.

There are two resolutions available for the Lenovo C930: Full HD or Ultra HD. The one I have here is just the Full HD variant, but it still has the key feature: Dolby Vision. The best way to fully appreciate the display is to play an HDR or Dolby Vision-enabled title. You can find some on Netflix if you’re using the highest-tier plan.

The display gets bright enough to be used outdoors and really dim when you need it to. It’s vibrant and has deep blacks even if it’s only an LCD panel.

When watching a video, I prefer to use the Yoga C930 in Tent mode. It can also be used in Stand mode with the keyboard facing down, but for some reason, Lenovo didn’t put little rubber feet to protect the keyboard when placed on a surface. You have to be cautious where you place the notebook or you risk scratching it.

The integrated soundbar of the Yoga C930 is designed to always face the user. That’s another advantage of watching videos in Tent mode; the speaker is facing upwards. I get to hear the sound directly without any muffle. I must say, the Yoga C930 has one of the clearest speakers I’ve tried on a notebook. It gets really loud, too.

It even has Dolby Atmos to enhance it further, but it’s not as immersive as advertised. To be fair though, I get to hear the stereo effect better than on other notebooks.

The device is least useful (for me) when it’s in Tablet mode. The Yoga C930 is too heavy to be a tablet, plus the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it feel like I’m reading from a really tall magazine. But, this is where the built-in pen comes in handy. The integrated stylus makes it easy for doodlers to annotate on screen.

Fast but not incredible

Let’s talk about power. The Yoga C930 I have is powered by the latest 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor paired with 12GB DDR4 memory and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Configurations may vary in some regions, so the Yoga C930 in your stores might be more powerful or inferior.

There’s one thing that’s missing though, and it’s not an option anyone can get either: discrete graphics.

As mentioned, the Yoga C930 is not an ultraportable. It has nowhere near the portability of Dell’s XPS 13 or even Lenovo’s own Yoga Book. It’s big enough to house at least a modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 — just like the latest ZenBook from ASUS.

My usage includes multiple tabs on Chrome, some slight editing on Photoshop, and hours of binge-watching on Netflix. I primarily used the notebook for typing and browsing, which are not heavy tasks.

So far, I had no major performance issues during my time with the Yoga C930. I didn’t bother to install games because it lacks discrete graphics.

Of course, the notebook runs Windows 10. I got the October 2018 update just last week, and it made the dark mode better. It matches the gray motif of the device.

It’s ideal for my own use

Putting all the technical specifications aside, the Yoga C930 has been a great companion.

Aside from the soundbar, I also fully appreciate the notebook’s keyboard. It’s not as great as the one on ThinkPads, but it’s good enough for me. It’s well-spaced and has a good amount of key travel.

The touchpad uses Microsoft Precision drivers and it fully supports all the gestures of Windows 10. It has a glass surface and picks up all the inputs. A responsive touchpad and a good keyboard is the combo I need for work.

There’s also something about the craftsmanship of the Yoga C930 that gives assurance that it’s a well-built device. Perhaps it’s the balance between weight and dimensions.

Lastly, the webcam has a physically cover — just like a ThinkPad’s. It’s nice to see nifty features of Lenovo’s business laptops on a consumer device. I don’t have to cover the webcam anymore with a piece of tape.

Great battery life

I am generally impressed with the longevity of the Yoga C930. Lenovo promises all-day battery life, but we all know that is somehow a stretch. Based on my usage, I get around eight to nine hours. I also experience about the same when watching Netflix non-stop.

It’ll not beat records, but I am always assured that even if I leave my charger at home, I know I can rely on the Yoga C930 to get me through a full day.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

You probably already think that this is my GadgetMatch, which I’ll not deny. I had a good time with the Yoga C930, despite its shortcomings. It’s a premium convertible that managed to meet my expectations. I’m hoping Lenovo will soon have an option with discrete graphics. For now, you can maximize the device by plugging in an external GPU.

The Yoga C930 has a starting price of US$ 1,399. It’s a bit pricier than I expected from its specs, but it’s a premium convertible that offers more versatility than regular laptops.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, 330S, 330: Which is right for you?

Continue Reading

Trending