Reviews

LG V20 review

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LG V20

Whenever I review an LG flagship smartphone, I ask myself: Where do I begin?

It has always been the Korean brand’s conviction to jam as many features as technologically possible into its best handsets, in hopes of hitting it big with at least one target audience.

This way of thinking actually worked; the LG G3 introduced an overabundance of power to a fault, the G Flex was absolutely massive during its time and had self-healing abilities, and the V10 doubled the number of screens and cameras on its face.

LG V20 front

Can the V20 match the hype of the V10?

Every attempt created cult followings for each device, but the constant envelope pushing failed to create a consistent design philosophy for LG’s best phones.

LG’s latest flagship, the V20, is no different, and once again overwhelms with features you didn’t think you’d need until you actually tried them. The best way to review it is by breaking things down to test notes.

The V20 is too big, even for a phablet

Yes, it’s supposed to be a handful, but even for a 5.7-inch smartphone, the body is far too tall and takes lots of finger stretching to properly use. Last year’s V10 did it right by at least covering the back with grippy rubber; the V20 has none of that. On the bright side, the Quad HD LCD screen is gorgeous, and doesn’t make me miss my beloved AMOLED displays.

LG V20 in hand

Trust us; this phone is BIG

I can live without the secondary screen

What distinguishes LG’s V series from the rest is the 2.1-inch secondary display on top for quick settings and glances at notifications. Unfortunately, like last year’s attempt, I rarely see any use for it, and I’d rather just swipe the notifications shade down and have everything at once. The annoying light bleed from the left of the screen is also still present.

Shock-proofing is a killer feature

Having a shock-proof shell is such an underrated feature for any smartphone; anyone who hates having to buy an extra case will agree. The only thing missing is waterproofing, which is probably a side effect of the removable back. This brings us to…

The rear cover’s eject button looks like a camera shutter key

I can’t count the number of times I accidentally reached for the eject button, thinking I could take a photo by clicking it. To everyone’s relief, however, swapping out the battery is so much more intuitive than the G5’s application, which was a multi-step chore.

LG V20 eject key

You can easily mistake the back cover’s eject button for a camera shutter key

This phone is fast

As in really fast. The V20 blazes through the interface and switching between apps. We can credit the high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of memory, but the real star is Android 7.0 Nougat, which is still a rarity in the market — only 0.3 percent have it! The double-tapping action to quickly jump between two apps, in particular, is to die for.

I only wish LG’s custom interface were lighter

The user interface LG plasters over Android is once again a hot mess. Even though there are several smart design cues, such as removing the app drawer by default and allowing you to modify the on-screen navigation buttons, overloading the notifications shade and settings menu is a no-no.

LG V20 interface

Be ready for some heavy LG skinning

Audio is both good and bad

The good: There’s a noise-cancelling mic for clear concert recordings and 32-bit Quad DAC for producing high-quality music playback through headphones. The bad: The single loudspeaker at the bottom chin is terrible at times. It’s best to have at least a portable speaker on hand when going on trips.

This is the most fun I’ve ever had with a smartphone camera

Unlike last year’s V10, the V20’s dual-camera setup is found on the back. It’s implementation is just like the G5’s, in which one 8-megapixel camera handles ultra-wide-angle shots, while the 16-megapixel shooter creates slightly zoomier, yet just as beautiful photos. The front-facing 5-megapixel camera has a single lens, and utilizes software magic to carry on the choice between wide selfies and extra-wide groufies. (Did I spell that correctly?)

LG V20 cameras

Laser autofocusing and optical image stabilization help out a lot during the shooting process

Here are samples photos from all three cameras. Notice how punchy the colors are and how sharp subjects can get even when it’s dark outside, although the rear cameras had trouble figuring out the correct exposure under artificial indoor lighting. Believe me when I say the focusing speed and shot-to-shot times were speedy for both photo and video modes.

Don’t count on the battery life

Battery life was the primary weakness of the V10, and the same issue is back on the V20. With only a 3200mAh capacity to power two screens, it’s not much of a surprise. However, even with the secondary display turned off, there wasn’t a significant improvement in screen-on time. My average usage time on a single charge hovered below four hours, which is way below the five to six hours I’d get on similarly sized phones.

LG V20 battery

Removable batteries are becoming increasingly uncommon nowadays

The upside is fast charging can bring the V20 to full in about two hours, and if you’re willing to spend for an extra battery, you can swap within a few quick steps.

This is odd

In a strange design decision, the power button is still located on the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. Sounds convenient, right? Problem is, you could accidentally unlock the phone if all you want to do is turn off the handset while on the lockscreen. You can double-tap the screen to make it sleep, but it’s nowhere near as accurate as a dedicated physical key.

It doesn’t help that the button feels cheap; it wobbles when you click it at certain angles. I wish LG just stuck to leaving the power switch on the side, like every other smartphone in the market.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I’ll be honest: I absolutely adored the V10, and it was my favorite smartphone of 2015 in a sea of boring choices. My expectations for the V20, in turn, were sky high, and sadly, all weren’t met.

I miss the rugged, rubberized look of the V10, its sharp corners, and well-placed rear volume controls. That’s the situation you must live with when loving a certain LG; its successor will most certainly look totally different.

LG V20 secondary screen

Next year’s V30 will likely look totally different

Going back to the question: This is not a match for those who loved the V10, but it’s an excellent choice for those who love high-quality audio recording, removable batteries, and a collection of the most updated features.

With the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 out of order and the Apple iPhone 7 Plus having the same design as its predecessors, the V20 with its plus-sized proportions stands out. It’s quite pricey, though; the unit I reviewed retails for PhP 35,990 (almost $740), but you get what you pay for in terms of premium components.

[irp posts=”4401″ name=”V20 both improves and harms LG’s image”]

Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: An all around wonder

Ideal for most users

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From the moment I picked up the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G, it’s been hard to let go. But I had a very different impression of the phone when it was just first announced. I thought it was boring and is just another cash-grab attempt by Samsung. Boy was I wrong. 

Spending roughly a little over two weeks with it, my opinion definitely shifted. From just another boring phone, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G started to look to me like the ideal smartphone for most users. 

Designed for optimal use 

The first thing that really caught my attention was when I first held the Galaxy S21 FE 5G. It felt… perfect. But really, the word I was looking for is ergonomic. It’s not too light and thin that you don’t feel like you’re carrying nothing. But it’s also not too hefty and  thick that it’ll put a strain on your hand if you hold it for too long. It feels like the sweet spot for most hand sizes.

The look also feels streamlined. Initially, I thought it was too simple. However, after prolonged use, it looked more sleek and subtle than plain and bland. If your taste skews towards minimalism, you’ll likely gravitate towards this phone’s design. It comes in Graphite, Olive, Lavender, and White so there’s a healthy selection of colorways.

It also felt durable. The ‘glasstic’ material used didn’t make me feel compelled to get a case while using it. You just get the feeling that it won’t break easily. It’s perfect for clumsy types who often drop their phones unintentionally. 

Our Associate Creative Producer did point out that the back can be a sweat magnet. Not encouraging for people with sweaty palms. Although, this might easily be addressed by getting a case anyway.  

Reliable performance 

Powered by Samsung’s Exynos 2100 chip, the phone didn’t leave me wanting in terms of performance. Over the course of my usage, it learned the apps I use the most and kept them active in the background. This means they load right from where I left them during instances that I switch from app to app. 

ONE UI 4 also felt smooth and snappy. Navigating the phone felt fast, but this has been the case with most flagship-level Samsung smartphones over the past 3-4 years. 

There’s a feature where you can open certain apps as if it was floating. Kind of like a chat head but for different apps. It worked on Telegram and Twitter during my time with the phone. It’s cool for quick glances, but I found it mostly annoying, but that’s just me. 

The sensors felt snappy, too. Whether it’s Face Unlock or the fingerprint scanner, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G unlocked pretty quickly. This is underrated as some smartphones still struggle with speed and consistency on this matter. 

Great for watching and gaming 

In line with its overall design, the weight also makes it easy to hold even for extended periods of time. That means interacting with and watching on the 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display (120Hz, HDR10+) was extremely satisfying. 

I watched The Journalist and Single’s Inferno (Best girl 안예원 An Yea-Won deserved more screentime!) before bed on the Galaxy S21 FE 5G. Despite both shows having nearly hour-long episodes, I didn’t feel any strain at all holding the phone while watching. 

The display was also okay and usable under direct sunlight. The team didn’t completely agree on this matter so ultimately, it’ll likely come down to how sharp your eyes are. Our general advice is still to find a shade when you can. 

Like most other Samsung phones, the heating is still there especially when your playtime goes from minutes to hours. I recently decided to finally really play some Genshin Impact over the holidays. I ran the game and had a pretty desirable experience. No unnecessary lags or stutters for one of the most graphic heavy mobile games today. So, it’s safe to say your other games will likely perform well here too. 

Our Associate Creative Director did point out that the heating was prevalent even when you’re not gaming. Personally, I only experienced the heating while playing and charging. But there’ve been several instances of heating with Exynos-powered smartphones so it’s worth mentioning here. 

Battery life and charging

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has a 4,500mAh battery and supports 25W fast charging, 15W fast wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging. 

I was most pleasantly surprised with the addition of wireless charging. It’s a feature I constantly look for in smartphones now. You also don’t have to use a Samsung power brick to take advantage of the fast charging speeds. Which is great if you’ve invested in a multiport GaN charger. 

So, how long does the phone last? Naturally, this depends on each person’s usage. But the three of us in the team who used the phone all felt like it drained pretty fast. You can mitigate this by turning off a few features, but a software update to address power consumption seems in order. 

Flagship-grade cameras

The phone has a main camera array featuring the following: 12MP main, 8MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide. It doesn’t have the extreme zoom capabilities of its S21 siblings, but it trumps them in the selfie shooter department with 32MP compared to the 10MP on the S21 and S21+. 

The selfies, by default, don’t apply too much filter. It’s just a healthy amount to make you look fresh while still looking like yourself. 

There’s also a wide-angle option so you can fit in more than one person in the selfie. 

The main cameras are fantastic. The images taken are flagship-grade. 

The ultra wide angle lens is a dream to use.

And even though the telephoto lens doesn’t have a high megapixel count, it still came out with some decent shots. 

Night shots are more varied. It’ll struggle when there’s very little light source, but with enough of them to go around, you still get detailed images.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is just a few notches off base flagship smartphones when it comes to pricing (US$ 699/ PhP 41,990/ SG$ 1,048). But the performance, design, and camera capabilities are all nearly at that level. 

The pricing might give you some pause. However, we’re 100 percent certain you won’t feel cheated once you start using the phone. It’s great all around and I’m comfortable calling it the best smartphone for most users as early as now. Granted, you might have to make sure you bring around a powerbank with you, but I’m willing to bet most people already do that anyway.

Personally, this is the first time since I reviewed the OPPO Find X3 Pro that I’ve been extremely satisfied with using a smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is an absolute joy to use and is a worthy buy even with new, more advanced phones on the horizon.

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Reviews

vivo V23 5G Unboxing and Review: Color Changer!

With a revolutionary color-changing back!

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While the X-series is vivo’s line of flagship smartphones with the best in class rear cameras, the V-series is for those who want a great midranger option with star-studded selfie cameras.

Apart from the color-changing back due to Fluorite AG glass, the vivo V23 5G offers more than meets the eye. It’s packed with well-rounded hardware if you may ask.

But should you get the vivo V23 5G? Head over to our vivo V23 5G unboxing and review now to help yourself out.

 

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Health

How the Galaxy Watch4 Classic helped me build better habits

And break old, bad patterns

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Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic

Smartwatches rarely stay on my wrist for a long period of time. Not because I don’t like them, but because I have to test wearables every month or so.

Having a job that requires you to test different smartwatches from several brands might be a dream come true for some people, but I find it highly cumbersome especially when I’m still trying to build the lifestyle that I want.

After I reviewed the Huawei Watch 3, I decided to slap the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic on my wrist. Permanently. After all, I’m neck-deep in the Samsung ecosystem. It makes so much sense to use a smartwatch that will work with all my other devices.

Breaking and building habits

For a quarter, I made a pact to myself that I will build the lifestyle that I want. And boy, after months of using Samsung’s latest smartwatch, I realized I turned my life around using a small, functional accessory.

I never realized I’ve been changing my habits — which I consider the building blocks of a lifestyle, based on what I learned from a transformative book called Atomic Habits — through this nifty device.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably curious why I keep blabbering about turning my life around with just a wearable. And you’re probably skeptical, thinking I’m just selling an idea. But, trust me, this is a personal account of my transformation.

While changing my beliefs, mindset, habits, and learning more about myself are the main factors to consider, having a smartwatch helped me attain my goals in little, simple ways.

And based on Atomic Habits, change starts in the little things you do within yourself and your surroundings. (I won’t spoil you, so go ahead and read the book. It will change your life.)

Using my smartphone less

Like many young adults, I struggle with using my smartphone too much. With a job revolving around the latest gadgets, particularly these high-tech slates, it’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole of building an automated life.

But everything’s within your reach, right? Yes. Except I also deal with cranky mornings dashed with a little rush from all the emails and messages. I’m certain I’m not the only one bombarded with notifications as soon as connecting to the Wi-Fi. On top of that, I’m exposed to too much blue light — smartphones, tablets, laptops, televisions, and portable gaming consoles.

The dream is to lessen the time spent holding my smartphone and create a balanced life of being connected through my devices while being in tune with my physical surroundings.

Streamlining reliance on gadgets

Having had the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic for more than a quarter now, I found appreciation for its basic features, especially when they all work seamlessly without delays. I answer calls, respond to chats, and check important messages at a glance.

I stopped using my smartphone for alarms, and instead of reverting to an old-school alarm clock, I just customized the smartwatch to ring and vibrate in a way that would really wake me up.

And there are a lot more features to enjoy; things we take for granted because we don’t know how to incorporate these features in our lifestyle simply because we don’t have to.

Years of covering smartwatches made me realize that these wearables are already advanced and have everything we need. People just really don’t know how to maximize these features to make their lives more efficient. And I, regretfully, fell in the same trap despite being able to test the latest smartwatches regularly.

Nevertheless, the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic still stood out among the smartwatches that came across my wrists, especially in 2021.

To reserving my brainpower for more fruitful activities in life

Change my mind: Google makes navigating your digital life easier, especially if you’ve been with the Android ecosystem for years. This is why I still prefer using Samsung over Huawei — especially with the loss of Google Mobile Services. Surely, the Galaxy Watch4 Classic is the perfect Android smartwatch right now.

I’ve had my fair share of Huawei’s smartwatches (Yes, I do love them), and while they all pack unique tools in a robust build with flagship-rated power and a long-lasting battery that lasts for several days — they still require brainpower to seamlessly integrate the smartwatch to your devices and your day-to-day life.

And that isn’t something I don’t want to welcome in my life, moving forward. I prefer to make things simple and efficient. I prefer to use the last of my brain cells by doing things that are meaningful to me e.g. reading a book, playing a strategy game, doing more architectural sketches and gouache paintings, and learning new hobbies that make life more exciting.

If a device calls itself smart, it should be able to figure things out on its own so I can live my life to the fullest without worrying about how things work.

Compatibility is so important — in relationships or smartwatches

The experience with Galaxy Watch4 Classic, as compared to Huawei’s flagship Watch3 and Watch GT3, is much easier for someone with only three brain cells left functioning. One instance is when connecting the device and using the Samsung Health app — even on a non-Samsung device.

I’ve had trouble navigating Huawei’s Health app and connecting the devices to various smartphones, even with the likes of Honor 50. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Watch4 Classic works well with any smartphone. Although to maximize the device to the fullest, it’s best to use a Samsung smartphone — even if they’re old like the Galaxy S8 or an affordable one like the Galaxy A52.

Using apps that are appropriate for my lifestyle and compatible with my devices

One reason why we believe the Apple Watch is still considered the gold standard when it comes to smartwatches is because of its ecosystem, plethora of compatible apps, and plenty of straps and designs that match different personalities and lifestyles.

While the Galaxy Watch4 series isn’t enough to rival the Apple Watch, Samsung holds the crown when it comes to Android smartwatches.

Samsung really did it right, collaborating with Google for WearOS. Now, I get to route my map before heading out for a drive using Google Maps. And everything I download on my smartphone, if compatible with the smartwatch, gets automatically downloaded.

I get to respond to annoying Viber messages, control my music playback on Spotify or YouTube Music, and even use apps that help me continue the fitness journey that I started a year ago.

The Galaxy Watch4 Classic lets me track my progress during my Indoor Climbing session at Climb Central Manila

And there’s a reason why most of my friends use the Galaxy Watch4 series as well. It’s compatible with fitness apps we deem important in our lives. There’s Google Fit, Strava for my cyclist friends, adidas Running app for those who have a lot of will to run, Calm for my meditative chicas, and myFitnessPal which I also use for tracking my nutrition intake.

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic

Overcoming the love-hate relationship with fitness

I used to have a love-hate relationship with smartwatches when they used to look like workout gears. It made it impossible to wear it in casual settings, which is counter-productive for those who aim to make fitness their lifestyle.

When I was still training with my coach, we came to a conclusion that it’s easier to make fitness a lifestyle when your space, clothes, and accessories are all workout-ready. I had to install dip bars, make the exercise ball and dumbbells visible right when I wake up and use a rubber mat to create a conducive space for my physical activities.

In the same way, the Galaxy Watch4 Classic was always ready to join me in my conquests. Aside from the health and fitness features it possesses, I like how it’s unassumingly a fitness-oriented device since I can sport it while wearing a dress shirt. And when used to accompany me in my workouts, it brims with features that will make the most out of your workout.

Living an active lifestyle

While it’s hard to be consistent when you live in an erratic, hectic schedule, the Galaxy Watch4 Classic reminded me to stay active. It asks me to move around, or perform stretches while I’m working consistently, sitting for hours. Even without its alerts, subconsciously, I get reminded to choose situations that will require me to be active.

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic

Morning runs with my celebrity best friend

I used to take my electric scooter to move around the neighborhood, or use the car even when going to run my errands — which are sometimes within a kilometer or two away from home.

I struggled, of course, but the visibility of a lifestyle companion made me walk despite the unbearable, scorching heat. That, or I take the bicycle.

When I forget to choose the walking mode among the workout options, the Galaxy Watch4 Classic is smart enough to record your movements, and automatically switches to workout mode.

My forgetfulness is somehow saved by the highly perceptive sensors found on the smartwatch. And that high-tech functionality is what I welcome in my life.

Paying more attention to my health

I’m no stranger when it comes to a smartwatch’s health features. Every smartwatch I’ve tested has the same monitoring features to help you pay more attention to your health.

With my experience working with smartwatches, it’s the last habit I have to change. I’ve been paying more attention to my health ever since I slapped a smartwatch on my wrist.

But it’s still worth mentioning how you can solidify the habit you’ve started. It’s easy to forget stuff when you’re overwhelmed — tracking your health included.

The Galaxy Watch4 Classic’s rotating bezels made it easier for me to monitor my health. You can customize the tiles depending on your priority, but from the get-go, they have the necessary features presented accordingly.

At a glance, you can check the steps you’ve taken, the minutes you’ve been active, and the calories you’ve burned. I know, you’re already familiar with this one. These data are also accessible depending on your watch face.

Then, there are also tiles for heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen, stress levels, food and water intake, and even cycle tracking for women. Having easy access to these important data made me more aware of what changes I need to do.

To better night routines

There’s also Sleep Tracking which also coordinates with your phone, tracking your sleep through the snore or sound you make. Sometimes, I forget to wear my watch and leave it charging on the dock

There are days where you just really hit the snooze button and shut down from the world. Those times made my smartwatch and smartphone work together to record my sleep.

It won’t be able to check my pulse though. This is why I learned to take my smartwatch off when I’m taking a shower and doing my night routine. I get to pamper myself while my smartwatch recharges, so it’s ready to monitor my sleep and heart rate when I’m asleep.

That may be the only thing I didn’t like about the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic. The shorter runtime could’ve been longer so I don’t need to recharge time and time again.

Anyhow, it helped me to really make an effort to perform a self-care routine. Even when I’m dead tired from a long day at work.

Working on my ideal body

It’s also worth mentioning how the Galaxy Watch4 Classic takes the spotlight with its body composition tool.

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic

The new feature uses a technology called Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). They’re basically little charges shot through your body to tell how much is fat and how much is skeletal muscle.

When you’re working on your dream body, knowing your body composition is essential to understand what changes you should make to your fitness program and diet.

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic

Weekly, I check my body composition through the tool. It helps me decide how to adjust my lifestyle so I can reach my body goals. It can be tiresome to stay on this journey, but I’ve committed to taking better care of myself. And I’m elated that the smartwatch is well-rounded enough to accompany me in everything I wanted to do.

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic

Designing the lifestyle I’ve been dreaming of

Frankly, I know I’m not yet there — living the life I’ve always dreamt about. A routine that works perfectly with my activities and schedule. A body that I can confidently flaunt across the cameras.

I’m still susceptible to the big changes in life that can shake my foundations, or push me back to square one and revert to my old, bad habits.

But I know I’m also far from where I’ve been. When I look in the mirror, I see a new version of myself. I jokingly state how I’m now in my version 2.4.9 as if I was a smartphone update. Although, it’s also true that I do get better over time. Because that’s what I intend to do with my life.

When you recognize the habits you want to change and take necessary actions to improve, you’ll get the results. Anything can be a tool to accompany you, as long as it fits the lifestyle you want to work for.

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic

It just happens to be the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic. And I’m happy to have it on my wrist and stay with me as long as it works.

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic

The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic retails for PhP 17,990 for the 42mm variant, and PhP 19,990 for the 46mm variant. Both sizes are available in Black or Silver colorways. You can purchase it in Samsung’s Online Store, official stores, and authorized retailers nationwide.

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