Reviews

LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen review: 2020’s most underrated phone

Zero gimmicks, plenty of practical features

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Two months ago LG unveiled its third phone to come with the Dual Screen case. With foldable smartphones sold at a premium and Android flagship smartphones retailing for over US$1000, the V60 ThinQ has become a compelling choice, now more than ever.

The phone’s full name is LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen, but for the sake of brevity I will refer to it as the V60 from here on out.

Outdated but solid looks

The V60 comes in a rather large package. It’s one of the biggest phones we’ve had the opportunity of reviewing this year. Its size is not for everyone and I personally prefer smaller form factors.

Since it’s not pretending to be a pocketable phone made for one-handed use, I found that my behavior and habits when it comes to using a smartphone changed with the V60. I no longer hold my phone in one hand when I go out for a supermarket run and instead keep it in my tote. I found myself being less glued to the screen — no longer mindlessly scrolling Instagram and Twitter — and only picking the phone up when I do need to use it.

Size and heft aside, the phone looks and feels premium with its glass and metal build, chamfered edges, and light gold accents around the camera and around the phone. They are subtle but make a world of difference.

The phone also comes in Classy White, with silver accents.

Volume buttons and Google Assistant button are found on the left, while the power button is on the right. I had the Google Assistant button turned off from day one since I don’t use voice assistants but I really wish that this was remappable to something else.

I did turn on the option to open the camera by double pressing either the power or volume down button. I also turned on the option to launch Screen off memo by double pressing the volume up button. This way when I’m making coffee in the morning and find out I’m out of milk, I can quickly take note of it without getting distracted by the notifications on my phone yet.

There are four microphones, double the number than on its predecessors. Having four microphones allows you to record natural ambient sound from various directions. There is also a new feature called Voice Bokeh, that minimizes background noise and boosts the user’s voice. There’s also ASMR mode in case anyone finds that useful.

At the bottom there are speaker grilles, USB-C port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack! Just when you think brands don’t care, LG actually listens or at least they insist that it’s a feature that’s always going to be there.

While we’re on the subject, just like its predecessors the V60 still has Quad DAC support. This means you can enjoy high-quality sound closer to the original. It’s a shame our unit does not come bundled with headphones. I remember getting a pair of Bang and Olufsen headphones from LG flagships before.

“This has the most impressive battery life of a phone that I’ve ever used.”

When you turn the phone around, you’ll see that the phone looks nothing like a 2020 flagship smartphone. When you think of the best phones other brands have on offer this year, what they all have in common is a great emphasis on immersive displays that curve on the edges. Some even fold or unfold to become bigger devices.

For LG’s top of the line smartphone, that’s not the case. It doesn’t have a smooth refresh rate that every Android flagship we’ve reviewed so far has.

Even though it looks a bit dated and not eyecatching, I don’t mind the flat display, bezels, and the notch. None of those take away from the experience. It’s still a solid phone with a good display, just not the best one out there.

“More importantly, LG opted to let go of those rather gimmicky features so that it can keep the one feature that every other manufacturer seems to have compromised on this year: price.”

If Apple bringing back the iPhone 8 chassis in 2020 is any indication, not everyone needs a phone with new looks and the latest and greatest display technology can offer.

The Dual Screen I never knew I needed

Despite the display and design being ordinary by today’s standards, what sets it apart from competition is the Dual Screen case. If you’ve seen our videos on the V50 and G8X last year, you’d know that we are fans of the idea.

The huge 6.8-inch Full HD+ OLED display doubles when you use the Dual Screen case. You also get a third 2.1-inch Cover Display that shows the time and notifications. When you’re getting a call, it would show up here as well.

The back is more rugged than previous iterations. Its ridges reminds me of a Rimowa luggage.

Just like on a foldable phone where you get a phone that expands to a tablet for things like multitasking, there are many practical use cases for the Dual Screen. I enjoyed using it for every possible scenario and see myself using this form factor in the long term.

I typed more than half of this review on Google Docs while the phone is in what I’d like to call laptop mode. LG’s Smart Keyboard converts the phone into a mini laptop — when you move a document to the second screen by swiping three fingers, the keyboard shows up on the main display automatically as soon as you tap edit.

It’s obviously not an ideal or long term work setup. I made so many typos and probably took longer to write than I would have on a laptop.

When we first tried this on the V50 last year I thought it was just a cute novelty. Now, I think of it as a practical backup for when my laptop is about to die and I don’t have access to an outlet to charge. It’s also a good alternative when I’m flying economy and the tray table is too small for my 13-inch Mac — for when travel becomes possible again.

Of course you can always do all of this typing without the dual screen but I especially love that I can easily access the formatting tools that I use heavily when writing scripts.

Since the V60 screen is larger, typing also feels a bit more comfortable compared to the V50 and G8X. It would be a lot more comfortable if the keyboard was extended a bit more horizontally since there’s actually plenty of space on the edges.

If Microsoft Office is what you use, the Dual Screen supports that too. Creating Excel sheets is manageable and it allows you to open documents simultaneously, which is especially helpful when you want to make cross references.

Oh and because all of us are in quarantine, there is something for those who are having virtual meetings that will appreciate. You can use the V60 for your zoom meetings or happy hours like you would a laptop, while still being able to take some notes on the second screen if necessary.

One of my favorite features is one that’s also built-in on the LG Smart Keyboard. When browsing Instagram and Twitter, or reading an article on one screen, I can easily send a screenshot using another chat app on the other screen, without it every being stored on the phone.

I can always do this without the case, by taking a regular screenshot, switching between two apps, then attaching the screenshot but with it built-in, screenshots will cease from taking up space in my gallery and instead will go directly to their intended recipient. This feature is especially helpful since I am guilty of taking a lot of screenshots that always end up as clutter in my gallery.

There is also pen support for the V60 and the dual screen. Any Wacom AES pens will work for a more traditional note taking or document signing experience. This makes the V60 the only “foldable” to have pen support.

But enough about work and productivity, that’s not all I use my phone for.

For people like me, nothing beats holding and turning pages on an actual book. Since we’re in isolation and bookstores are closed, the Dual Screen is the closest thing I can get to that experience. Document reader app Librera can mimic that by splitting two pages on each screen.

When you open an e-book, use book mode and switch to two pages. You also need Wide Mode for LG, a third party app that you can get on the Google Playstore. This way you can have the view of two pages on both screens just like you would on a real book. More than anything, this is what I see myself using the V60 for the most.

The case also makes watching Netflix a lot more convenient. I can just prop it up like I would a laptop or put it in tent mode so I don’t have to hold it when I’m in bed. I do this as well when I’m catching Governor Cuomo’s daily briefings while having coffee in the morning.

When I’m cooking in the kitchen and following a certain recipe, I can have both the video and the website open at the same time.

I am the most casual of gamers, if I could even be considered one. For the purposes of reviewing the V60, however, I downloaded a lot of games so I can try Game Mode. This gives me a virtual joystick that I can customize whichever way I want to depending on the game I’m playing.

I used it on one of my childhood favorites, Street Fighter, and reached the fourth and final free stage — something I could never do without the virtual joystick.

With a little bit of tinkering, I was also able to replicate the Nintendo DS experience on the V60. With third party apps Drastic DS and Wide Mode, I was able to play games like the Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Pokemon Diamond, and New Super Mario Bros.

Selfie monitor is perfect for Instagram boyfriends and girlfriends. Being single and in isolation, this is not something I was able to take full advantage of at the moment but I see myself using this when taking photos of my friends when we can travel again one day.

There’s also reflective mode, which changes the color tone of the second screen from white to warm. It acts as an additional light source when your selfies are a little too dark, which I’m sure SuperSaf will appreciate. 😝

Three lenses, zero gimmicks

Speaking of selfies and photos, the V60 has three rear cameras: A 64MP wide angle lens, a 13MP ultra wide angle lens, and a time of flight sensor. Up front is a 10MP selfie camera.

Now you’re probably thinking, where’s the zoom lens?  Newsflash: unlike other Android flagships that have insane zoom capabilities, LG didn’t include a dedicated lens for it. Instead, when you zoom in, the V60 crops the 64MP image into a 16MP one.

Here’s what it looks like at 1x, 2x, 5x, and 10x.

Some of you would argue that ultra wide angle is more useful than an optical zoom lens so if you’re on the other side of that argument, you should look elsewhere; the V60 is not for you.

Otherwise the V60 takes great photos during the day outdoors and indoors.

I am a fan of the V60’s color reproduction. Oranges and reds on other smartphones tend to be oversaturated, but the V60 photos look as natural as possible and closer to real life.

The ultra wide angle camera, which LG first put on the G5 a few years ago, takes excellent photos as well.

At night the V60 also takes pretty good shots, especially when you switch to Night View, LG’s version of night mode.

Just note that when you take photos at night with the case on, it will create these line streaks from lights.

The front-facing camera also takes decent selfies as long as you have ample lighting.

Impressive battery life

The LG V60 comes with a huge 5000 mAh battery. That’s necessary because the secondary display actually draws power from it when it’s in use. When the phone’s battery is below 15% you won’t be able to use the dual screen anymore.

Battery life of course varies depending on usage; some apps just consume more juice than others. With the dual screen attached the V60 lasts an entire day of heavy use or about 9 hours of screen on time. That’s an hour of Netflix, Instagram, and Words with Friends 2, half an hour of YouTube, browsing, and reading Becoming using Librera, 2 hours of writing this review on Google Docs, and more.

Without the dual screen case, the 5000 mAh battery lasts more than 2 days — one time I got a whopping 12 hours of screen on time.

When it finally conked out, the bundled charger takes less than two hours to fully charge the 5000 mAh battery. The phone also supports Qi wireless charging and it works even with the case on. It’s just not as fast as those we’ve seen on the Mi 10 Pro and the OnePlus 8 Pro.

Needless to say, this has the most impressive battery life of a phone that I’ve ever used.

Disappointing biometrics

On a quick and more negative note, my biggest gripe about the V60 is its slow and unreliable in-display fingerprint scanner. This is also the only biometric security option available on the phone.

Is the LG V60 ThinQ your GadgetMatch?

First, let me get this out of the way: to my knowledge no other flagship smartphone has a 3.5mm headphone jack and Quad DAC support. So audiophiles, if those are important to you, the LG V60 is your GadgetMatch.

For everyone else, consider what’s important to you and your needs. LG did not included features that a lot of 2020 flagships are prioritizing like the edge to edge curved display, high refresh rate, and out of this world zoom camera capabilities.

The Korean company did, however, keep the things that other folks find to be essential: a big battery, the headphone jack, an ultrawide angle lens, water and dust resistance, and wireless charging.

More importantly, LG opted to let go of those rather gimmicky features so that it can keep the one feature that every other manufacturer seems to have compromised on this year: price.

You can get the LG V60 at US$ 799.99 from T-Mobile and US$ 899.99 if you want the Dual Screen case included. The T-Mobile version of the phone is optimized for Sub-6 5G networks, while Verizon offers the version optimized for mmWave networks which have faster speeds starting at US$ 949.99.

Do you need two screens? Nope. All of us can do virtually any mobile computing task on one slab of glass. You can do almost anything on the V60 too even without the case.

The add-on experience — the option to add a secondary screen, use your wired headphones, as well as a third party stylus — plus its top of the line specs, are things that you will not get from any other phone.

What you’re buying when you get the LG V60, is the choice to take your multitasking, productivity, and entertainment to another level whenever you want to.

Computers

LG UltraGear 25” Gaming Monitor review: Enough to get you started

Comes with key features for your first gaming PC build

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I’ve seen a ton of people purchase full gaming PC setups since the pandemic took center stage in our lives. I’m pretty sure a lot of these people spent the past few months saving every peso they could for it. Of course, I also did it with all the money I saved up and planned every purchase very carefully.

In getting your gaming PC build, one of the more important peripherals to consider is your monitor. Most people will tell you that any monitor is okay, but experts will say that you shouldn’t just get any monitor. Apart from color accurate and bright displays, your monitor should have a high enough refresh rate to keep up.

It’s exactly what the LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor brings to the table, at least on paper. But is this worth checking out, especially for first time PC setup builders? Here’s a rundown of the specs:

It has a 23.6-inch TN FHD panel, with a 144Hz refresh rate

It comes with two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort

The design, on its own, is nothing spectacular

The LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor comes in a package you normally expect from most lightweight gaming monitors. A hardened-plastic enclosure covers the display, and the monitor even comes with a metal stand in gray and red accents. Upon unboxing, I found it relatively easy to set up and position alongside my PC setup.

Immediately, the first and only thing I noticed was the thick bezel surrounding the display. To be honest, it’s a relatively minor issue for me ever since other brands started reducing theirs. Although I would have appreciated a little more screen space, especially while playing games.

A display that meets expectations for the most part

Most gaming monitors come with high refresh rates to keep up during pressure situations. Fortunately, the LG UltraGear Gaming Monitor comes with a 144Hz panel which is more than enough. Also, it even sports a 1ms response rate so you’re able to stay at the top of your game. 

Most games I tried with this monitor performed with relative ease and no visible sign of image tearing. FPS games like CS:GO and Valorant, in my opinion, work best with this setup given that you can run these games on low-end setups.

Also, it’s quite bright and color accurate which is great for content creators. Although, in some cases, I felt that it didn’t handle dark color areas well. I tried to compensate by simply adjusting the brightness, but it didn’t do anything significantly different. At least it’s an anti-glare TN panel, so you don’t have to worry about the sun.

Comes with features that works depending on the other hardware

This monitor supports AMD’s FreeSync technology which further improves gameplay experience. Honestly, I felt this should be a standard for most gaming monitors — including those that support NVIDIA GSync. Also, there are other optimizations like Dynamic Action Sync (DAS) and motion blur reduction.

However, this monitor actually benefits you only if you’re currently rocking an AMD Radeon graphics card. Ideally, it would still work pretty well when you plug it to an NVIDIA card but expect some image tearing. It wasn’t a big issue for me since I could still apply the reduced motion blur and DAS.

Port selection for this monitor is more than enough for a normal PC setup. Two HDMI ports are available at your disposal, which is great if you want to use it for your consoles. The added DisplayPort provides more connectivity, especially since most graphics cards support it. Keep in mind though: if you plan to plug your console, don’t expect the 144Hz refresh rate.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For PhP 12,599 (US$ 257), the LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor ticks all the necessary boxes. What you have is a high refresh rate monitor with good color accuracy, and fully optimized for gaming. Combined with a great selection of ports, this monitor is a great option for your first PC build.

However, if you have strict preferences for your monitor, this might not be what you’re looking for. If you’re not a fan of thick bezels or you’re more conservative with your money, I wouldn’t practically recommend this. Also, you wouldn’t be able to fully maximize its potential if you don’t own an AMD graphics card.

All things considered, it’s enough to get you started on your gaming PC setup. Even with cheaper alternatives out there, I still recommend you give this a shot.

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India

POCO M2 Pro review: A Redmi Note 9 Pro without ads

What’s the difference?

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With a new strategy in place, POCO announced the POCO X2 in the first quarter, and now, it’s back with another offering — the POCO M2 Pro. It’s an affordable offering that’s found a comfortable spot in India’s INR sub-15,000 price bracket. But, there’s a twist.

POCO made its debut with the POCO F1. It was a legendary phone because it did the unexpected — flagship-grade performance at an affordable price. Since then, POCO as a brand has been synonymous to aggressive pricing and top-notch specifications. However, the POCO F1 was launched in 2018 and a lot has changed since then.

For starters, POCO was a dormant brand throughout 2019 and made a comeback at the beginning of 2020. We expected a successor of its infamous first phone, but everything was going to change. POCO is now an independent brand that takes autonomous business and marketing decisions. To make it clear, Mi, Redmi, and POCO are three different teams right now.

If you look closer, the POCO M2 Pro is nothing but a rebranded Redmi Note 9 Pro. Furthermore, the 4GB+64GB entry-level option of both phones has the same price of INR 13,999 (US$ 186). So, what’s different about POCO’s offering? Why should this phone be your GadgetMatch?

A proven design that fits everyone

The Redmi Note 9 Pro series has a very ergonomic design that looks premium as well as sturdy. The quad-camera setup has a significantly larger bump but it gets covered perfectly with the in-box case. The rear sports Gorilla Glass 5 and underneath it is a diagonally-lined pattern. While the phone looks stunning, using it without a case isn’t recommended since it’s prone to smudges and micro scratches.

The rear is the only thing that physically differentiates the phone from Redmi Note 9 Pro. The USB port, volume rockers, fingerprint scanner, and speaker grille are from the same Redmi mold.

I don’t mind rebranded phones as long as they’re not yet available in the same market. If POCO wants to be taken seriously as an independent brand, it needs to stand on its own and bring out original offerings. Realme has done a much better job of publicly distancing itself from OPPO, even though it leverages the same supply chain.

A perfect display

It sports a 6.67-inch Full HD+ display with a tiny punch-hole cut-out that houses the front camera. Unlike the competing Realme 6, it doesn’t have a 90Hz panel and runs at 60Hz. However, considering the price, I wouldn’t consider this to be a con. There are barely any games that can leverage higher refresh rates and the phone is meant to be an all-rounder.

The screen has sufficient brightness and can be seen easily under direct sunlight. The colors look slightly over-saturated but it can be adjusted according to your preference. Being an LCD panel, it does a pretty good job of creating deeper blacks.

POCO Performance

The brand is known for its performance-centric phones and the legacy continues here with a Snapdragon 720G chipset. Any task you throw at it will be done without a glitch. My unit has 6GB RAM and it never slowed down or struggled to handle multiple apps at once. Being a power user, I often use Outlook, Twitter, Gmail, Microsoft Word, and WhatsApp in close proximity. Safe to say, it didn’t feel like I needed a better or more powerful chipset.

I don’t play a lot of games except for reviewing and PUBG is my first preference. The overall experience is smooth and hassle-free. Even at higher settings, the phone gets a little warm but there no visible frame drops. Although, the weight of the phone does get annoying after a while. Similarly, a heavy game like World of Tanks also gets through without any turbulence.

The phone ships with MIUI out-of-the-box and since the Redmi Note 9 Pro series also ships with the same chipset, software updates should drop-in seamlessly.

Powering the phone is a 5000mAh battery and I clocked a little more than seven hours of screen time on a full charge. It has support for 33W fast charging and takes around one hour and twenty-five minutes to fully charge.

Quad-cameras that’ll get anything done

The rear houses a quad-camera setup consisting of a 48-megapixel sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 5-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel sensor. We’ve seen this camera setup on a plethora of Xiaomi phones and it’s safe to assume the output is top-notch. Thanks to Xiaomi’s reach, the AI-assisted changes are accurate as well as satisfactory.

I mean to say, the algorithm knows where to work and how to produce pleasing pictures. Sometimes you may notice over-saturation in landscape pictures, but AI-mode can be switched off with a quick tap. The dynamic range is near-perfect while the overall tone is on the warmer side.

While daytime pictures are excellent, the primary sensor struggles in the dark. Shots can often be grainy or blurry if you’re not careful about being steady.

For the pros out there, a manual mode is available to tinker with the finer details. Portrait mode works flawlessly and works on better than expected on dogs too!

The display cut-out houses a 16-megapixel selfie camera and it’s flawless. Details are retained accurately and the focus is ultra-fast. This sensor also is tuned on the warmer side and comes with an optional beauty mode.

On the video side, it supports recording at up to 4K 30fps. Obviously, there’s no optical image stabilization. But, the electronic rendering is good enough and gets the job done.

No ads in MIUI

Yes, the phone runs on MIUI 11. No, it doesn’t have any ads.

This is the only visible change I can see between the POCO M2 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro. MIUI has a lot of customization and functionality, minus the learning curve. The phone is perfect for everyone can be used without any deep technical knowledge. Software support is stable and while there were a few bugs, the overall experience remained unhindered.

The most frequent complaint about MIUI is the ads. This phone won’t spam your notification area and this can be a relief for many. There are a few pre-installed apps, but they can be easily disabled. In a nutshell, the POCO M2 Pro offers a better user experience while retaining top-notch hardware. Lastly, instead of MIUI launcher, this phone has POCO launcher.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I’d recommend this phone without any buts. The display is immersive, performance is best-in-class, the cameras do a decent job, and the battery can easily last you a day. With MIUI, the uniform Xiaomi experience is brought back without its biggest con. Design is a personal preference and I’ve found both, the POCO M2 Pro, as well as the Redmi Note 9 Pro, be impressive.

For the consumers, this is a win-win situation. But, for the brand, it’s a mixed bag. POCO intended to move out of Xiaomi’s camp but hasn’t been able to do that efficiently this year. To become a truly independent brand, it’ll have to stop depending on the parent so much and create its own identity. Right now, the original POCO F1 fans are disappointed along with the current followers who expected a fresh offering.

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Reviews

Google Pixel 4a Unboxing & Review: Unbelievably Good?

A direct contender of the iPhone SE and OnePlus Nord

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Google’s ‘a'(ffordable) line-up may be long overdue because of the pandemic — but after several months of waiting, we finally have one on our hands.

Cheaper than last year’s US$ 399 Pixel 3a, the US$ 349 Pixel 4a might just be the most affordable flagship killer contender you can get over the 2020 iPhone SE and the OnePlus Nord.

But can the mid-tier specifications and less-fancy phone features justify its affordable price tag? Head over to our in-depth Pixel 4a review here.

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