Reviews

Moto G4 Plus review

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There are a daunting number of choices when it comes to “good but cheap” smartphones.

Lenovo, now the owner of the Motorola brand, makes a compelling argument if you need the basics covered well and on the cheap. Its near-stock software with the promise of upgrades doesn’t hurt the Moto G4 Plus, either.

Plastic unfantastic

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There’s a soft disappointment to the Moto G4 Plus that can be seen, not felt. We don’t mind the plasticky feel too much; hell, other manufacturers come out with unapologetically plastic phones all the time. Its design, if you haven’t noticed yet, is a sticking point, especially at a time when fairly attractive budget phones (with metal all over the place, mind you) represent an emerging trend in many markets.

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It just looks sort of… out of place to us — as if somehow a Samsung Galaxy clone from 2012/2013 has made its way to the present, and is taking over retail shelves. A couple of clever design features we take for granted today are nowhere to be found in the G4 Plus, like curved 2.5D glass and sides and bezels that reduce the overall footprint, resulting in a device that isn’t as comfortable to hold and operate as others.

The G4 Plus has plastic on it like it was made in 2012… by another OEM. Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, and even Samsung have shown time and again, this year and before, they could offer more — and ask less. But to be fair, the plastic all around the G4 Plus seems to be of the durable kind, and there isn’t any creak or hollowness in the bodywork.

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There’s no obnoxious branding or design flourishes other than the Motorola dimple in the near-center of the textured back cover.

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Which peels off easily enough to reveal the microSD and SIM card slots.

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The thick plastic frame looks cheap, with its matte-silver finish.

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The front houses a speaker that doubles as an earpiece. The audio is better than we anticipated and loud and clear enough to watch movies without resorting to headphones.

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There’s also a front-facing fingerprint reader that wakes the phone with a tap. It doesn’t double as a clickable home button, though, even if it looks like one, and the square design doesn’t quite match the rounded shape of the body.

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All hardware buttons (power/lock key and volume rocker) can be found on the right portion of the G4 Plus. Regrettably, they feel mushy and provide little tactile feedback to the user.

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A USB charging port is on the bottom for when the G4 Plus inevitably dies after a full day’s use. The good news: Topping up the 3,000mAh battery won’t take too much of your time — around 90 minutes from zero to full using the bundled quick charger, at least from what we’ve seen so far. Like other fast chargers, it charges hard out of the gate, but slows down as the battery approaches a full charge.

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Screen’s a plus

The LCD panel has a resolution of 1080p, which represents an improvement over the 720p display of previous Moto G iterations. But unlike the standard G4, the G4 Plus squeezes a larger, 5.5-inch screen into the front. It’s par for the course in the segment, although the G4 Plus produces bright colors, rich contrast, and deep blacks.

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It also has viewing angles that are categorically superior to those of most budget handsets and affordable midrangers we’ve used. You can see what’s on the screen no matter where you look at the display from, is the point we’re trying to make here.

Ditto for the cameras

The rear camera has a 16-megapixel sensor that captures good photos in mixed lighting, even in auto mode. It gets fancy with laser-assisted autofocus to judge the distance between the handset and the subject and to help the camera perform better overall. Tap the screen to lock onto someone or something, press the shutter key, and you’re generally good to go.

The 5-megapixel selfie snapper is quick to focus and shoot, and results tend to have lots of detail and vitality. Even more so when HDR mode is activated. It comes with a screen flash option, which briefly brightens the display to allow the camera to capture more light; it works like the one on Apple’s iPhones.

Moto’s camera UI is both simple and intuitive. Swiping from the left-hand portion of the screen brings up the settings menu; swiping up or down on the screen applies digital zoom. You can tap and hold on the screen to freeze focus and tweak exposure values.

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There’s also a manual mode for the adept and knowledgeable photographer.

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What about gaming and performance?

Most games should run without hiccups; however, hardcore users wanting to play the latest graphics-intensive games at high visual settings may find the phone’s mid-level processor inadequate. Everyday performance is relatively hitch-free, with nary a slowdown as you glide through screens and switch between apps.

Partly to thank for that is Motorola’s decision to stick with mostly stock Android (Marshmallow, for the time being) for the G4 Plus. We must say, after using it extensively, this phone does indeed feel unencumbered by features you don’t need and pre-installed applications you don’t want.

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Many of Moto’s own software tweaks aim to make your life a little easier. Twisting your wrist twice, for example, will launch the camera app.

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Raising the G4 Plus to your face will show you notifications without having to wake up the phone.

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You can likewise perform a chopping motion twice to toggle the flashlight.

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Is this your GadgetMatch?

Motorola’s G4 Plus picks up where previous generations left off. It’s just a terrific value for the price, with the 16GB version starting at $249. For $50 more, you’re looking at enough storage space (64GB) and RAM (4GB from 2GB) to last you until the next upgrade. The bottom line is that should consider the Plus, largely because of its display, camera, and unencumbered performance.

And if you’re a big fan of stock Android, you may want to ready your wallet and mouse-clicking finger already; look no further if you want an affordable Nexus/Pixel alternative in 2016.

[irp posts=”7615″ name=”Best of 2016: Budget phones under $300″]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Laptops

ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED review: Serious-looking champ

This serious looker made me want to skip work

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Zenbook 14X OLED

When it comes to displays, OLED panels are usually considered the best of the best. Whether it’s a TV, monitor, smartphone, or even a laptop.

Hopping on the opportunity of bringing a visual spectacle, ASUS unveiled a full range of notebook computers — all sporting OLED displays. What came to my lap is the sleek-looking Zenbook 14X OLED, gearing up to be a machine for professionals on the go.

Looks that really mean business

The Zenbook 14X OLED looks like your familiar clamshell notebook, carrying a distinct style that screams ASUS. It evokes a serious vibe, parading a glossy shade adorned with an off-center version of the iconic ZenBook spun-metal finish.

It’s more evident in the Jade Black colorway. It’s not my cup of tea, but it projects a serious mood. Showing off this laptop can mean business for anyone who’ll see it.

Especially when you lay it flat with its 180-degree ErgoLift hinge — perfect for when you’re sharing information and presenting to your clients.

You can also conveniently type when you tilt the rear of the laptop a little bit. The arrangement of the keys, together with the slightly elevated platform, helped me in writing my stories and preparing documents.

Build that can take a beating

I haven’t been stuck to a desktop ever since I started working. It’s why I’ve always been fascinated with the desire to learn about laptops and other portable machines. I don’t want to be tied down in one place, ruminating over papers and a messy desk.

Before the pandemic, I used to work in airport lounges, restaurants, cafes, and even inside a car while I travel between provinces. For professionals on the go, having a thin and lightweight laptop means a lot.

While I barely work outside these days, the Zenbook 14X OLED — despite carrying a design that I find bland — still amuses me with its thin and light form factor. It weighs only 1.4kg and measures only 16.9mm. You can easily carry it in between your meetings, or fit it inside your everyday bag without straining your shoulder and arms.

The chassis and lid are made of military-grade diamond-cut aluminum alloy. That’s why it felt sturdy even if it is lightweight. The Zenbook 14X OLED is built extra durable, it can probably take a beating when it gets thrown into bins at airports during security checks.

Display that makes you want to stare at it all day

One of the most underrated parts of a laptop is the screen. Most people go after power and performance, and I can’t argue with that. But a good display can elevate your experience.

We spend a lot of time staring at our screens. The work we do, the shows we watch, the games we play — all of these activities can be made more fascinating if you have a display that brings out the best in whatever you do.

And that’s why I enjoyed using the Zenbook 14X OLED. Its 14-inch 4K OLED touchscreen display is perfect for accompanying me in my pursuit of a work-life balance.

The slim, 3mm bezels and 92 percent screen-to-body ratio made my favorite Netflix shows immersive. Games look expansive, as well

It’s like watching on an OLED TV but on a smaller machine. The colors reproduced are so rich and vivid, and I like how it exhibits the same amount of color detail even at a lower brightness setting.

If it’s easy switching gears, I could probably move back to a Windows laptop. Except, the display alone isn’t enough to make me switch, no matter how spectacular it looks.

Sadly, no secondary screen

Zenbook 14X OLED

Unlike the Intel version of the Zenbook 14X OLED, the Ryzen variant uses the proprietary NumberPad 2.0 instead of a second-screen built into the touchpad.

It would’ve been nice to get a secondary display, but it’s not necessary especially when the 4K OLED touchscreen takes so much battery life.

Lose yourself in that audio-visual experience

What I enjoyed the most is the audio-visual experience that the Zenbook 14X OLED brought me. When you parade a visually-stunning display together with a stereo sound system tuned by Harman Kardon, you could lose yourself in awe.

I had a pleasant time watching Single All The Way on Netflix, I forgot I was working. Sometimes, I end up zoning out when I play “La Vie En Rose” on YouTube Music. The experience is simply spectacular, it helps you enjoy a bit of life.

Professional laptop that lets you work and literally play

Like many guys out there, I care for power — especially when talking about a Windows laptop. Maybe it was me growing up tinkering with computers, but I have so many high expectations on Windows laptops.

When I got the Zenbook 14X OLED, I knew right away it’s a multi-tasking powerhouse. And it certainly did not disappoint despite having a unit that only has 8GB of RAM and 512GB of Internal Storage. My only gripe is how there’s a one- or two-second delay opening up important programs like the file explorer and anything related to the system settings.

Zenbook 14X OLED

It’s not the case when you’re browsing, switching apps, or even playing games. Yes, I did install Steam and re-downloaded my favorite games. My exact unit uses an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H clocking up to 3.3GHz, so it made me wonder if a professional-looking laptop can handle my desire to blow off some steam.

I played some of my favorite MMORPGs, Dota 2, and of course, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I’d say the machine handled everything well — keeping up with graphics-intensive gameplay, high resolution, vivid colors, and staying lag-free.

Zenbook 14X OLED

Excessive heat and shorter runtime

What bothered me was the excessive heat the Zenbook 14X OLED produced when I was playing for only a few minutes. I guess I pushed it harder than what’s expected, but happy to report that you can balance work and play.

Its new, thermal design and smart sensors — like the ones in the ProArt Studio — helped maintain high performance at optimal power efficiency. No. Throttling. Involved.

Zenbook 14X OLED

Its heat pipes and 90-blade fan tried their best, so props to that. What’s funny though, is how the Zenbook 14X OLED promises up to 8.3 hours of work and play unplugged, but it actually has a shorter runtime. Much shorter when you play a game. My 100 percent battery went down to 51 percent in just 30 minutes of playtime.

For everyday tasks, the laptop lasted me around five to six hours. That includes writing my stories on moderate brightness, watching videos, music playback, hopping on virtual meetings, and browsing on the web.

Charging it for one hour with its thick yet compact power brick gave me enough juice to power through the day. From 20 percent, I was able to fill the battery up to 82 percent.

Ready to keep you connected whenever, wherever

If you’re the type of professional who needs a lot of ports for different devices and peripherals, the Zenbook 14X OLED is packed with relevant input and output ports. There are two (2) reversible USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports, supporting up to 10Gbps of data transfers. There’s also your regular HDMI port and even a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port for your connectivity needs.

My favorite would be the 3.5mm combo audio jack and the microSD card reader — which I still deem essential for transferring confidential files obtained using my smartphones and cameras.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re a professional in need of a machine that lets you balance work and life, the Zenbook 14X OLED can surely keep up. And it’s probably the way to go, especially when you’re in the market for a new laptop.

The Zenbook 14X OLED simply means business from the way it looks. And it can carry its duties excellently whether it’s sharing presentations, a half-day worth of video meetings, or even doing creative work.

Zenbook 14X OLED

Its only shortcomings were its shorter runtime and excessive heat produced over highly intensive tasks. But it surely can deliver the power, audio-visual experience, and performance that can keep up with your fast-paced lifestyle and go-getter personality.

The ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED (UM5401) retails for PhP 64,995 for the 8GB/512GB variant. Meanwhile, it costs PhP 66,995 for the 16GB/512GB configuration.

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