Reviews

Meizu M6s Review: A refreshing sight among budget options

It’s a budget phone that doesn’t feel like one

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Meizu may not be a household name in the  smartphone market, but they’re one of the popular Chinese manufacturers that have the potential to go global. We reviewed the Meizu M6 last year, and we were okay with it as a budget phone. Just last January though, the company announced the M6s which is an update to the M6 but it brought in more than minor upgrades.

Here’s my review of the M6s, which will begin with its physical features.

It has a 5.7-inch HD+ 18:9 display

A taller display for a budget phone!

There’s no physical home button but there’s the pressure sensitive Halo

An on-screen button for navigating through the UI

On the right are the fingerprint reader and power button

A clever spot to place the fingerprint scanner

While on the left are the volume buttons and hybrid card slot

You can’t have two SIM cards without sacrificing extra storage.

It’s pretty crowded at the bottom with the micro-USB port, 3.5mm audio jack, loudspeaker, and main microphone

There’s also a couple of screws

Our unit comes with a bright blue aluminum unibody

Certainly striking and unique among budget phones

Lastly, it has a single 16-megapixel rear shooter

Accompanied by a dual-tone LED flash

Beautifully crafted aluminum unibody

The Meizu M6s has a well-crafted unibody even if it’s priced under US$ 200. Its exterior is made of cold aluminum and a smooth front glass. Since the phone already sports a tall 18:9 display, there’s no space for the usual physical home button. Like with other Android phones, Meizu opted to use on-screen navigation buttons but they also put in a pressure sensor to enable what they call Super mBack. It uses a single virtual button called Halo to perform multiple commands. The Halo can recognize changes in pressure when pressed, so it knows when to go back or go home.

Speaking of the display, it measures 5.7 inches with a resolution of 1440 x 720 pixels. That translates to a 282ppi pixel density which is pretty low by today’s standards. It’s not that obvious to the naked eye though. Overall quality is good with pleasing color reproduction and acceptable black levels.

Another adjustment done by Meizu is that they moved the fingerprint reader to the right side — not on the back like with other phones. This is a similar approach to what we previously saw on Xperia phones, but the M6s’ fingerprint reader doesn’t double as a power button. There’s a dedicated button for power/lock on the right while the volume rocker is on the left. The button placement is a bit confusing at times and I accidentally take screenshots whenever I pick up the phone.

A non-Samsung phone powered by a Samsung processor

Unlike other Chinese phone manufacturers’ budget offerings, the M6s is powered by an Exynos processor — not MediaTek. Mind you, it’s the first phone to have the latest Exynos 7872 six-core processor from Samsung. It also has an ample 3GB of memory and 32GB of storage. So, how does this translate to real-life usage?

The performance is comparable or even better than higher-priced phones powered by the popular Snapdragon 625 (e.g., ASUS ZenFone 3, Moto G5S Plus). Only cheaper phones from Xiaomi like the Redmi 5 Plus can compete specs- and price-wise. Helping the phone perform well is Meizu’s own Flyme OS 6 which is based on Android Nougat. Flyme OS has the same characteristics of other Chinese-made skins on top of Android with no app drawer and customized system apps.

When it comes to gaming, the Mali-G71 GPU bundled with the Exynos processor can take a beating but doesn’t feel like the best in its class. My all-time favorite Asphalt Xtreme is set to “XDPI” by default which is the game’s highest graphics setting while Rules of Survival runs smoothly most of the time. I also tried the new Tekken Mobile game but it’s not yet optimized, or maybe it’s too much for the phone.

The camera gets the job done

Another piece of Samsung DNA that’s on the M6s is found in the cameras. Meizu claims to use Samsung CMOS sensors for both the 16-megapixel rear shooter and 8-megapixel selfie camera. Both also have a pretty wide aperture of f/2.0 which should help take better photos in the dark. Realistically, the rear camera takes good photos under the sun as seen with the daylight samples. It’s a different story though when there’s minimal light available.

Selfies are okay with built-in beautification features which include some makeup filters. It’s a fun tool to have and perhaps the ladies can take advantage of the feature more. There’s not much to say about the cameras’ performance but they get the job done and will do justice to your social media feed.

Surprisingly long-lasting battery

With a 3000mAh capacity, I expected the phone to get me through my usual workday, but what I didn’t expect is that it can even go longer. Based on my real-world usage, a fully charged M6s was able to last for almost 20 straight hours. That includes more than four hours of screen time, constant internet connection via mobile data or Wi-Fi, and heavy use of social media apps.

If that’s not enough for you, the M6s has a persuasive battery saving feature that alerts when it’s already below 30 percent. A fast-charging brick is bundled in the box, so charging up the phone is quicker than usual — something other budget phones don’t offer.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a budget phone that doesn’t feel like one, you have to check out the Meizu M6s. It’s a great phone all around with some limitations to keep the price low. With the M6s, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of an 18:9 display and premium build. The solid construction of the phone is already a good selling point for a budget offering, but the M6s offers more than just that.

The Meizu M6s comes in four different colors: silver, gold, black, and blue — which is the one I have for review. The version I have here retails for CNY 999 (US$ 160) in China which comes with 32GB of storage. There’s a 64GB version for CNY 1,199 (US$ 190) if you want more internal space. Local pricing outside China will depend per region.

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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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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