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

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

Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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Reviews

LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

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Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

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Accessories

Redmi Earbuds S review: Affordable TWS without compromises

Making TWS earphones more accessible

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Truly wireless (TWS) earphones have been around for a while. Apple kick-started the hype with the launch of the AirPods and numerous brands have released alternatives since. However, they’ve always been very expensive.

With brands keen on ditching the headphone jack, users are often left with no option but to find wireless options. Redmi phones continue to have a headphone jack, but the brand also wants to remain focused on its target — deliver quality products at an affordable price.

The Redmi Earbuds S is the first TWS offering in India under the Redmi brand. While the brand stands strong in the smartphone segment, it has some cut-throat competition from realme. With a price tag of INR 1,799 (US$ 24), does it have enough firepower to take on the competition? If you’re looking for an entry-level TWS solution, can you trust the Earbuds S? Let’s find out!

Not AirPods knock-offs

If you’ve been following the TWS market, the Earbuds S will look familiar. These are sold as the AirDots S in China and many have ordered them previously via international marketplaces. In India, Redmi is calling them the Earbuds S and these could land in more south-east Asian markets soon.

While the trend is to follow Apple’s design language, the Earbuds S is going against the flow. It has its own distinctive design that looks nothing like a cheap knock-off.

The pill-shaped case is compact, feels solid in hand, and has a subtle curve on the bottom. The case size is perfect and it’ll always slide into your pocket smoothly.

Each earbud weighs just 4g and the in-ear design is immensely comfortable. I’ve worn them pretty much all day long and never felt any irritation, pain, or slightest of inconvenience. The snug fit also ensures adequate noise isolation and wearing them while driving for calls is seamless.

There’s not much to talk about with the design since it’s basic and gets the job done. They’re built out of plastic and its clearly evident at first sight.

I won’t count this as a drawback since it helps reduce overall weight and I wouldn’t expect metal or premium construction at this price.

Easy to use, fairly straightforward

The lid is very basic but has a satisfying feel to it when closing. Unlike the popular AirPods, these sit in your ears at a 45-degree angle. Paired along are two earbud tips to suit your ear canal. I didn’t have to use them and the standard size that comes along worked fine.

Using them is a very straightforward process. Open the lid, remove the earbuds, and wear them.

They’ll connect to your phone as soon as they’re disconnected from the case. I’ve never faced any connection issues so far. Each earbud has a button for quick controls such as music playback options and calling up Google Assistant.

On the flip side, you can’t rely on the earbuds to change the volume level or play a previous song. That can only be managed via your phone.

Pressing the button thrice will trigger the low-latency gaming mode. A feature that’ll be very handy while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile or Mobile Legends.

Each earbud has an indicator light that shows the status. Red means they’re charging while white means successful connection establishment. Lastly, they’re IPX4 certified, meaning sweat resistance. This obviously translates to a perfect workout session.

Punchy bass, relatively good audio

This is where I was surprised the most. Considering the nifty features it already has, I expected some kind of compromise in this department. And, I was wrong.

It has 7.2mm drivers and delivers punchy bass — a must-have for Bollywood music. Mainstream genres like pop sound amazing and if you’re not an audiophile, you won’t have any complaints.

The maximum volume is sufficiently loud and coupled with good isolation, even a busy market street is easily navigable.

However, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, these aren’t meant for you. The low frequency takes over while the mids are flat. You can use an equalizer to change the settings but the inherent tuning is in favor of bass-heavy music.

Furthermore, these connect via the SBC codec and there’s no support for aptX. I wouldn’t call this a drawback because the brand has to cut corners to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Adequate playback duration

Xiaomi claims the earbuds can deliver up to four hours of playback on a single charge and I’ve reached 3 hours 45 minutes in one go. So, their claims aren’t farfetched.

The case can charge the earbuds fully twice, delivering a total of 12 hours of playback in one go. If you’re going to use them for conference calls, music, and other work-related activities, they’ll easily get you through a working day.

The case takes almost two hours to charge fully. For frequent travelers, this can be a major drawback. Furthermore, the case charges via a microUSB port instead of the now-standard USB-C. Don’t forget to carry that extra charging cord along!

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

Yes. It definitely can. While there are a lot of minor additions I’d want to see, the price brings me back to reality.

In a nutshell, they’re designed aptly, deliver ordinarily better audio, and have 12 hours of playback. For US$ 25, there’s no better deal available. Keep in mind, the Redmi Earbuds S are making TWS earphones more accessible to everyone.

If you’re looking for top-notch audio quality, there are premium offerings like the OPPO Enco Free, Galaxy Buds, and 1More Truly Stylish. On the affordable side, realme Buds Air Neo and OPPO Enco W31 can be alternatives but are still priced considerably high.

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