Features

Microsoft scratches surface of the future

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For the hardcore geek, there are at least two milestones, that predate actual usage of a device.

First is the day when a product becomes real. When an enthusiastic CEO or product lead takes the stage and unveils their most exciting piece of tech. Fans schedule online viewing parties, tune into live streams, and collectively drool over the subject of their next gadget fantasy.

Then comes the day when a product becomes theirs. It’s all about the unboxing, an almost ceremonial unwrapping of each accompanying accessory and then the product itself. The most hard core of fans will document this ritual, but in its most basic form, there is focus and reverence, and appreciation of what’s being birthed.

As a tech journalist I do both for a living, except that unboxing videos are shot in our labs, and sometimes I’m get to be there to see things live.

But while being there in person sounds fun, leaks have killed the moment, they’ve caused the extinction of big surprises that have marked great events.

Windows 10 Event

#WINDOWS10DEVICES. Journalists and guests are in for a huge surprise at Microsoft’s Windows 10 devices briefing in New York. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva

Just this week, from my second row seat at Microsoft’s Windows 10 Devices launch in New York, I listened as an infectious Panos Panay, Windows devices chief, paced all corners of the stage, rallying up excitement for two smartphones the crowd had already seen before.

Panos Panay

THE PITCH. New devices Chief Panos Panay sold the audience on Microsoft’s new vision for the future. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva

Like most products launched this year, leaks about today’s device lineup were pretty comprehensive, covering notable features, the spec sheet, and even product photos. And there was no beating behind the bush about the elephant in the room, “I know you know about this, you’ve written about it already,” joked Panay. #Guilty.

But like a trooper he convincingly sold us on each expected product.

DSC09968

WINDOWS 10 ON A PHONE. The Lumia 950XL is Microsoft’s new flagship smartphone. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva.

There were two new Lumia smartphones, the first to run Windows 10. The Lumia 950 and the 950 XL are powerful phones with amazing cameras, but more than that, testaments to the promise of Windows 10 – universality. When connected to a keyboard, mouse, and external monitor, universal apps on these new phones scale into desktop apps. Imagine, Powerpoint on mobile becomes PowerPoint for desktop, you’re building your deck like you would on a PC except that your phone is your CPU.

Surface Pro 4

TABLET HYBRID. The Surface Pro 4 is the tablet computer that other tech companies are trying to emulate. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva

Then there was the Surface Pro 4, the latest in a device class that Microsoft pioneered, a tablet hybrid that comes with a keyboard cover and pen. In just the last two months we’ve seen both Apple and Google jump on the bandwagon with the iPad Pro and the Pixel C respectively. Last year, Panay had declared the Surface Pro 3, good enough to replace a laptop, this year it was about refining the experience further. A larger, more pixel dense display, better touch sensitivity, more power, and a full sized laptop keyboard cover with a glass trackpad unlike any other we’ve seen on a Windows device.

Do you want me to talk about another device? Panay said in between product announcements until there were no more to expect. Then he said it again, “Do you want me to talk about another device?”

The lights dimmed and a video played, and just like that, surprise, Microsoft was unveiling the first laptop it has ever built. The Surface Book is a 13-inch laptop designed to rival Apple’s MacBook Pro, its magnesium unibody design feels familiar, but at the same time it is one we’ve never seen before. From its “dynamic fulcrum hinge” to innovative liquid cooling system, Microsoft was calling this the ultimate laptop, “ounce per ounce, pound per pound, the most powerful 13-inch laptop in existence.”

By the end of Panay’s presentation, this geek had already been tickled fancy, Microsoft was reinventing the laptop, and somehow its managed to surprise us in the process.

One more surprise was yet to come.

As his presentation came to close, Panay asked his now captivated audience, to watch the same video back, but this time to look closer. My mind went berserk as the video replayed. To borrow the words from GadgetMatch producer Rodneil Quiteles, who was thousands of miles away, following the event via livestream. He writes in our Viber Public Chat, “Holy Xxxx! Surface Book screen just flew off the keyboard. It’s over. It’s friggin over.”

Microsoft isn’t just building another Windows laptop here, with the Surface Book it seems to have taken apart the best of tablet and notebook computing, forging a new device that is both and neither at the same time. Undocked you have a 13-inch tablet with all the bells and whistles of the Surface Pro, but connected you have even more battery life, a dedicated graphics card for intense gaming, visual rendering, and video editing. But maybe even more important, you have the stability of a laptop, allowing the freedom to, as the name implies, use the device on your lap.

But it’s not just the element of surprise here, not just the theatrics, its about a new kind of Microsoft, and a clear cut vision of a future that this tech giant is trying to build.

It was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who closed the event, borrowing a line from his own phrase book, he talked about the Microsoft he was trying to build, ““We wanna move from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows.”

This year I’ve sat through way too many product launches. While it’s only fair to say that the usual suspects came out to play, it was at this event where I was really, truly, blown away. The event left me with a sense of desire I have never felt about a Microsoft device ever.

Perhaps I too can learn to love Windows.

[irp posts=”992" name=”Microsoft Surface Book Hands-On”]

Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy Fold hands-on: An expensive sneak peek into the future

It’s not for everyone

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2019 is the year of the foldable phone. First in the ring was Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. Announced in February, it was supposed to launch as early as April. As we all have probably read or heard, its early release to reviewers was met with a lot of issues. Samsung had to delay its official launch.

Over the last few months they’ve been busy reworking the Fold; now it’s tougher than ever and ready for the real world.

A reintroduction

In some ways you can think of the Galaxy Fold as a 7.3-inch tablet that you can fold into a candybar phone with a 4.6-inch display.

When folded, all buttons are on the right hand side of the device: volume rocker, power button, fingerprint sensor, and its SIM tray.

On the bottom a USB-C port and speaker grilles.

What’s changed?

Samsung focused on addressing the main issues that plagued its first release. Some users previously peeled off what they thought was a screen protector that turned out to be a very important protective layer. That layer is now tucked under the bezels so you don’t even know it’s there.

There’s also a cap that is meant to prevent dust and dirt from getting underneath the protective layer.

The hinge, too, has been reinforced. The gap between the hinge and the display has also been reduced.

Having used the original Fold, I can say that opening and closing i feels more secure. Even if you feverishly snap it open and close. All these changes have been made to ensure the phone survives the rigors of the real world.

One UI has also been optimized for the Fold. Home, back and multitasking buttons for example can be flushed to either side of the display for one handed use.

To open more windows alongside the app that’s already open just swipe from the right side and use apps edge to launch new apps. Closing windows is one tap or swipe away.

When you’re on an app and a notification comes in, you can press and drag the notification to open it as a separate window, so you can respond to a WhatsApp message easily, for example.

Even if you have two displays you can seamlessly switch between both by enabling a setting called App Continuity. That way whether you’re adding a contact on the big screen, or using your map on your small screen, you can close or open the display and continue what you were doing seamlessly.

Imperfect innovation

While the changes are much improved, the Galaxy Fold is not perfect. The front display is very small and is very hard to type on. I’d use it for things like Instagram, maybe. Even then, I’d benefit from the larger display. Not all apps support the squarish form factor, either. YouTube videos of course will only fill to fit a portion of the display. Although there are games like Asphalt 9, that are optimized to fill the display.

The Galaxy Fold doesn’t use a glass display, so there will always be creases in the middle. That’s just a limitation of the technology.

Otherwise, make no mistake — its a top of the line device. It’s got high end specs, and the same cameras as Samsung’s current flagship smartphones: three rear cameras and two selfie shooters up front.

Wireless charging and reverse wireless charging are also available, along with a few other bells and whistles.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I am excited about the Galaxy Fold, and am thrilled that it’s full steam ahead. It’s an early device and it can get only better with time. What needs to happen now is app developers and Android need to optimize for this new, niche form factor.

With a price tag of US$ 1,980 in the US, SG$ 3,088 in Singapore, and PhP 109,990 in the Philippines, the Galaxy Fold is not for everyone — not even for people who can buy it outright. It’s for early adapters who want to get their hands on new technology ahead of everyone.

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Entertainment

Hotel Del Luna, Frozen 2: Now Playing

Get ready to have a magical adventure this November!

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November started pretty magical. Right after Halloween, a lot has happened in the tech scene including the birth of the 108-megapixel monster, the Mi Note 10, and the resurrection of Motorola razr. In the midst of all these momentous launches, our team still found the time to catch up on the latest in pop culture. Here’s what’s Now Playing in GadgetMatch!

Movies to see

 

Frozen 2
MJ: After six years, the most-awaited sequel is here to give us one last magical adventure. Set during the fall season, the film is about the adventures of Queen Elsa and her cohorts, seeking the truth about the past in order to protect the kingdom of Arendelle from a new threat. In between their adventures, we were rewarded with bursts of laughter, heartwarming lines, scenes that made us hold onto our seats, and lessons about change.

Frozen 2 — despite being a film made for kids and kids at heart — is a bit heavy for a Disney movie, with Elsa, Anna, and the rest of the crew enduring an emotional journey. However, the film is a call for us to go out of our comfort zones, head into the unknown, let our guard down, take chances, and risk in the name of love.

 

Ford v Ferrari
Kevin: The movie revolves around two special individuals — visionary car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and the fearless racer Ken Miles (Christian Bale). It was based on the historic Le Mans race in 1966 and tells the story of how car manufacturer Ford, wanted to beat the dominating cars of Ferrari and succeeded. Of course, with the help of Shelby and Miles.

Damon performed really well portraying his character but Bale completely transformed himself into another person yet again so you really feel the life of his character. Apart from that, another thing that stood out was the film’s sound design and how the cars’ engines roared and zoomed past you as if you were actually there. It’s simply an entertaining piece for all ages and a very refreshing movie about cars and racing without the overload in testosterone.

 

Knives Out
Luigi: Nothing beats a traditional whodunnit story. This oddjob of a story comes from The Last Jedi’s director, Rian Johnson. Like most mystery stories, everyone is a suspect and everyone is trapped. However, the story’s uniqueness comes from its wit and its stellar cast including a Chris Evans doing very non-Captain America things.

Shows to binge-watch

Hotel Del Luna
MJ: If you’re struggling with moving on, Hotel Del Luna is worth the watch. With themes about letting go, resentment, forgiveness, and love, it’s difficult not to fall in love with the show and its characters. It also has stunning cinematography and captivating soundtrack that would give you a different high even after you watched it. While people are iffy since it’s the talk of the town, this K-drama is definitely worth the hype. It’s one of the best shows I’ve watched this year, hands down.

La Casa De Papel (Money Heist)
Chay: Whether or not you’re a fan of foreign language material or stories about heists, there’s more to love about La Casa de Papel also known as Money Heist on Netflix. It tells many stories — stories of love, hope, inequality, injustice, and friendship. You will fall in love with one or two or three characters from the series. While a robbery sounds so wrong (it is, in fact, very wrong), you will find yourself rooting for the Money Heist squad to succeed.

The End of the F***ing World Season 2
Vincenz: The last season was a cliffhanger, and just like it, there were a lot of unexpected events that happened in the second installment of  The End of the F***ing World — including several new characters. The portrayals of Alyssa and James may look apathetic but it’s for us to realize that actions speak louder than words, and there is always a bigger picture behind. I’m not trying to spoil but one thing I learned (that serves as a reminder for everyone): Say what you feel before it’s too late.

Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!
Chay: I grew up watching shows about makeovers — from Clean House to How Do I Look? to Shabby Chic. Queer Eye is basically all those makeover TV series from the 90s combined, and more. Set in Tokyo, the latest season feels like Terrace House meets the Fab 5. Despite the language barrier, the stories of the heroes this season are just as heartwarming and inspiring as their American counterparts.

Fleabag
Chay: Fleabag is a comedy that often breaks the fourth wall to involve the audience in her mishaps. Her character is often perceived by everyone in her life to be up to no good — who fucks up everything — making her very relatable. The entire series is only two seasons long with six episodes each, making it an easy binge when you’re stuck in traffic.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 4
MJ: One of my favorites, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow took a magical turn as the heroes — well, they call themselves Legends — save the world from demons and magical creatures. The troop travels through time to fix and destroy these fugitives in order to protect history. It’s time to refresh your memories and binge-watch it before Season 5 begins in January 2020!

Watchmen
Luigi: HBO’s Watchmen was a huge surprise for me. As a fan of the original comic, I initially thought that this sequel series was either a weak adaptation of the original or an unnecessary sequel. Fortunately, Watchmen is a hugely entertaining balance between its own story and fan service. Old fans will delight in the numerous references to comic events. New fans, however, will appreciate the timely story deeply embedded in racial politics and technological progress.

Albums/Songs/Podcasts to listen to

Frozen 2 Original Soundtrack
Chay: Only time will tell if any of the new songs in the Frozen sequel will be a hit like ‘Let it Go’. My favorite in the soundtrack is ‘Lost in the Woods’, mostly because of the cheesy, albeit poignant, sequence in the movie featuring straight white male Kristoff. After belting it all out, Sven, his reindeer best friend, tells him, “Your feelings are real. Feel what you feel. Let your guard down and let your feelings out.” Toxic masculinity, whomstve?

Modern Love
Chay: New York Times’ popular column was recently adapted into an Amazon series and while everyone has been raving about it on my feed, I haven’t had the time to watch a single episode yet. Its podcast counterpart, however, is much easier to access and digest as the episodes are all available on Spotify. Each essay is performed by actors, and the authors also get a few minutes at the end to talk about their stories. Reading Modern Love articles has been my go-to commute companion for a while now, and having a podcast to listen won’t change that anytime soon.

Bomb by AleXa
Vincenz: AleXa is a Korean-American who recently made her debut as a K-Pop soloist. Unlike any other K-Pop song, it heavily relies on electronic sounds and heavy bass. Her powerful dancing performance and vocals add up to the invigorating song. The music video gives me a Cyberpunk 2077 vibe (and even the same feels as 2NE1’s ‘Come Back Home’).

Dumb by BVNDIT
Vincenz: BVNDIT (pronounced as bandit) continues to prove their female dominance with their latest upbeat, Latin pop song. Digging into the lyrics, it talks about a guy being “dumb” for not having the courage to pursue her — and it actually made her numb. Dark red visuals are dominant, which may signify that their love desire is dying. It gets better as their vocals and synchronized choreography continue to scream “power.”

Games to play

Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi: I can hear the groans already. “Of course, Luigi is suggesting Luigi’s Mansion 3.” Well, Luigi’s third outing as a ghostbuster is really one of the smoothest Nintendo Switch experiences I’ve had this year. This massive action-puzzle game is right up every Switch user’s alley. If (a) you have a Switch, (b) you need an appetizer before Pokemon Sword and Shield, or (c) you want a polished platformer, grab Luigi’s Mansion 3.

Now Playing is the GadgetMatch team’s favorite games, movies, TV shows, and more each month. If you’re curious to know what we’re into at the moment, this is what you should check out. So grab your popcorn, get some drinks, and enjoy what’s now playing!

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Hands-On

Motorola razr hands-on: Futuristic phone in the body of nostalgia

The price we have to pay to move forward

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The iconic Motorola razr flip phone is back — bringing what we love from the past, into the future.

Like many of you, I love a good old nostalgic release, which is why I’m incredibly excited that this phone made its comeback. Of all the phones that ruled the late 90s and early 2000s, there’s nothing more iconic than the Motorola razr V3. It was a sleek, edgy, and fashion forward flip phone. From its launch in 2004, about 130 million razr V3’s were sold — making it the best selling clamshell of all time.

Like the original, the new Motorola razr is a flip phone, so you can answer and end calls like a boss.

Just like the hottest phones of this year, the new razr, too, is a foldable phone; or to be more precise, a phone with a foldable display. The main difference is instead of unfolding horizontally into a square tablet, it folds out vertically.

Inside there is no physical keyboard where there once was. Instead it’s all display — 6.2 inches of Flex View pOLED of it. Surprisingly there’s no noticeable crease on the screen. Motorola says the hinge is designed to flex into the shape of a water drop to avoid this. We’ll have to see over time if this indeed solves the challenge of the folding display technology.

When opened up, the new Motorola Razr feels just like any other smartphone. It’s just as tall and as wide but much thinner; except for the lip at the bottom which houses most of the phone’s components as well as its fingerprint sensor, which is fast and accurate.

When you turn the phone on you’re greeted by Android OS. That means all your favorite apps are right here. There’s a small notch on top of the display to make room for the earpiece and a 5MP selfie camera.

When you fold the phone close, you’ll find that it’s wider than the original razr V3. Motorola says bringing back the clamshell form factor using foldable display tech is meant to solve a customer pain point — portablity.

On the outside, there’s a secondary 2.7″ gOLED Quick View display. It’s not as high resolution  as the main display, but i’ts good enough for showing the time and notifications.

You can also tap to view a notification. There’s also Google Assistant Voice Detection, whichyou can use to dictate a text messages reply.

The Quick View display can also be used for taking selfies using the 16MP rear camera. You can just flick the phone twice to activate the camera. Smiling or flashing your palm will trigger the shutter.

The rear camera features an opening of f/1.7, electronic image stabilization, dual pixel and laser autofocus, dual LED flash. It also serves as the main camera when the phone is flipped open.

Just like the original Moto Razr — the new 2019 model is sleek and stylish. With an aluminum chassis and sharp edges. The back side has a carbon fiber-like textured finish that feels like plastic — the only sore spot in its otherwise ultra premium feel. At launch it will only be available in black, but fingers crossed we get other color options too. Motorola says its employed a special zero gap mechanism that gives this foldable display a level of toughness that will survive the rigors of the real world.

In the hands, the phone feels super sturdy. Even if it’s got a foldable screen it doesn’t feel fragile at all. In fact I think I wouldn’t mind just snapping it open and close without a worry.

Button and port placements are like this: volume and power on the right hand side. A USB-C port on the bottom chin as well as speaker. The phone has no headphone jack but ships with a pair of USB-C headphones and a USB-C to headphone jack adapter. There’s also no SIM card slot instead as it only supports e-SIMs. It’s also water and dust and resistant.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

From the star studded guest list at tonight’s launch event, it’s pretty clear that Motorola is targeting the hip, fashion forward market, and not the pro techie crowd. If you look at its spec sheet, this is meant to be a midrange smartphone — with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 710 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a measly a 2510mAh battery, albeit with a bundled 15W Turbo Charger. But specs isn’t really what the new razr is about.

In the US the Motorola razr will be available exclusively on Verizon, and pre-orders start December 26th. It will hit stores beginning January 9, 2020. It will also be available in select markets across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Australia.

The pricetag? US$ 1,499 USD. Is that too much to pay for a futuristic phone in the body of nostalgia? Let us know in the comments below.

Watch our hands-on:

SEE ALSO: The Motorola razr is now a foldable smartphone

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