Reviews

Moto Z3 Review: It’s all about the Moto Mods, again

Is Motorola dropping Moto Mods soon?

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Motorola‘s flagship series finally has a 2018 successor, but is it the Moto phone we’ve been expecting? This is the Moto Z3 and it could be the last Z-series phone that’ll support existing Moto Mods, because it’s the end of Motorola’s promise.

I took the Moto Z3 for a spin and here’s my review.


It now has a bigger 6.01-inch Super AMOLED display…

Protected by Gorilla Glass 3

… with minimal bezels and no notch!

The earpiece also doubles as a loudspeaker

There’s a bit of chin, but I don’t mind

A subtle Motorola branding lies here

The fingerprint reader has been moved to the side

It’s embedded in the aluminum frame

The textured power button is pretty small

It’s kind of hard to reach

The card tray is accessible from the top side

Our Verizon model accepts a single nano-SIM and a microSD card

Of course, the USB-C port is at the bottom

The phone is a bit thicker, but there’s still no headphone jack

The back is also a slab of Gorilla Glass 3

I’m digging the Z3’s sophisticated look

The Moto Mod connector kinda ruins the simplicity of the rear

Hopefully, the next design will be a lot cleaner

The round camera ring continues to be iconic

It sees right through any Moto Mod

Similar design for three years straight

Motorola needs to create a different design soon, because the Moto Z series’ looks have become boring already. There’s a reason why Motorola had to stick with the original Moto Z though, and that’s because of Moto Mods.

The Moto Z3 is the third-generation flagship for the Moto Mods platform and Motorola is able to fulfill the three-generation compatibility promise. This means that all Moto Z phones, even the first one, will keep working with any of the existing Mods. Our old Moto Mods in the office work well with the latest Moto Z3.

To keep up with the borderless trend, Motorola maximized the screen area without drastically changing the size of the phone’s body. As a result, we get a taller 18:9 display that measures 6.01 inches. Unfortunately, the Moto Z3 has fewer pixels than previous Moto Z phones: 402ppi vs 535ppi.

The Moto Z3 is also slightly thicker to accommodate a bigger battery, but Motorola still omitted the 3.5mm audio port. Nevertheless, the sharp edges and flat back make the phone feel thinner on hand.

The usual flagship specs

The best thing about owning a Moto phone is about the software. Even before Android One, Motorola already offers clean Android software with very little customization. Bare Android can sometimes feel lacking, so the extra features are very welcome.

The Moto Z3 comes with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box and is loaded with Moto Experiences like Moto Actions, Moto Voice, and Moto Display. Motorola even has their own One Button Nav that is quite similar to Android Pie’s method. There’s nothing to complain about the added features, as they are nicely integrated into the phone.

The same can be said about the performance of the Moto Z3. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor paired with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage. It’s quite surprising to see the older 2017 flagship chipset in a 2018 phone. With this configuration, the Moto Z3 is practically in the same league as the Moto Z2 Force.

Performance-wise, the Moto Z3 never felt sluggish. The clean interface helps maintain the smooth performance like it’s brand new. It’s also great for playing intensive games and there’s no issue whatsoever with graphics performance. The Snapdragon 835’s prowess can still go a long way even in the years to come.

Impressive dual shooters

The camera hardware of the Moto Z3 remains unchanged from last year’s Z2 Force. There are dual 12-megapixel rear cameras: a color sensor with an aperture of f/2 and a monochrome unit. They are equipped with both phase-detection and laser-assisted autofocus.

Overall, the Moto Z3 can shoot pleasant images but it’s not as great as the Pixel 2 or the iPhone X’s. Captured details are generally good, especially when there’s plenty of light. Colors seem to be okay as well, but the dynamic range is just average. Like other dual-camera phones, the Moto Z3 can also shoot portrait shots with soft bokeh.

Check out the samples:

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An 8-megapixel front-facing is present to take selfies; though, the front dual-LED flash from previous Moto Z phones is no longer available.

Check out the samples:

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The selfie camera is pretty good in taking well-exposed images. Beautification and portrait selfie modes are available if you feel like using them.

Longevity is a key to become a great phone

I’ve always been a fan of Motorola’s battery performance, so I had high expectations of the Moto Z3. Good thing it doesn’t disappoint.

Despite the modest 3000mAh battery, the phone is able to last me a day and a half of moderate use. During heavy usage, I get around six hours of screen-on time out of 15 hours of continuous use.

Fast charging is also something you’ll enjoy with the Moto Z3. The phone already comes with a TurboPower-enabled charger in the box. Using the bundled power brick, the phone’s battery will get to 52 percent in just half an hour. A full charge will take about an hour and a half.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Moto Z3 is quite hard to get. In the US, it’s only available through Verizon. In Asia, you’ll have to fly to China to get the dual-SIM variant.

The only special feature of the Moto Z3 is the Moto Mods. If you want a future-proofed phone from Verizon, the upcoming 5G Moto Mod which will make the Moto Z3 a 5G-capable phone. Other than that, there’s not much to like about it, aside from the usual Motorola traits.

Verizon is charging just US$ 20 a month for this device or US$ 480 in full, and honestly, it’s not a terrible deal. The phone is best suited for re-contracting Verizon clients. With the telco’s 5G network coming next year, it’ll be an attractive phone — at least for Verizon customers.

SEE ALSO: Motorola confirms eight Moto phones are getting Android 9 Pie

Gaming

Days Gone Review: Finding the truth through survival

To know the truth, you must survive against all odds!

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Bend Studio wanted to bring something new to the table for its latest release. They needed a familiar concept, a dramatic story line, a pinch of survival instincts, and a complete rethinking of the term “zombie.” The result, simply, became Days Gone.

I came into the early preview event for the game two months ago with the expectation of something different. Initially, what I got was something that just felt different in concept — but I wanted to believe that it could be different. Now that I finally got to play the game in full, here’s my complete analysis of Days Gone.


Redefining the plot for zombie games

My initial reaction to Days Gone went something like, “It’s just another game with zombies and guns in it.” Most zombie games often end up focusing on survival and combat, without really putting too much attention on the narratives behind the characters. Days Gone, in my opinion, went for the bold approach.

The entire game takes place two years into a global pandemic that shook Oregon to the core. Deacon St. John, an outlaw turned Drifter, must deal with his ever-changing world filled with zombies called Freakers while attending to the people he holds near and dear — all while he’s trying to find out the root cause of the pandemic, and ultimately what happened to his wife, Sarah.

If anything, I feel this is what differentiates Days Gone from most titles leaning towards survival in a zombie-laden world. It gives off a whole new dimension to the approach on developing quality games with an equally good story to supplement the experience. The plot drives a lot of the activities that take place within the game, and provides ample time for you to accomplish them.

Survival through scarcity and stealth

At the heart of Days Gone is survival, which is heavily understated by the number of things you have to deal with. It’s you against the massive horde of Freakers that are out to devour you. If that’s not enough, you also have to deal with all sorts of Freakers — yes, even animals can become zombies!

If you’re still unfazed, you have to deal with the rest of humanity that’s fighting for survival, as well. From enemy Marauders to cultist Rippers, the enemies just didn’t stop coming for me from all sides. And, to make matters extremely difficult, you have to face all of them with relatively limited supplies and a maximum of four weapons.

Obviously if you can’t fight them, you could just run or get on your motorcycle and flee. The motorcycle does stay with you all throughout, especially for traveling across the vast environment of northwestern Oregon! You can recover your motorcycle if you get into trouble, which I found helpful when it got stuck in the river.

But, if you want to be smart, the stealth mechanic works wonders! If you’re someone who just loves to go on the offensive all the time, you’re at an obvious disadvantage in this game. I felt that this game heavily maximized this feature all the way. This was more evident with the NERO missions to discover what really happened to Sarah.

Never running out of things to do

This game, for the life of me, just keeps you busy every time. Along the way, you’ll discover survival camps, each with their own set of main and side missions to accomplish. Accomplishing them gives you credits that unlock upgrades for your motorcycle or weapons. Evidently, a lot of the missions contribute to the main story line, as well.

I loved that there were so many missions to complete, and you’re not kept idle. Missions keep coming in left and right, allowing you to get things going right off the bat. When one mission ends, one to three more open up for you to do, and you can take your sweet time navigating which one you would want to do first.

Some side missions do get in the way of your progression of a main story mission, though. They’re optional in that they hardly contribute to the main plot, but they show up on the map as if they’re that important for you to check out. Also, there are certain missions that you can only do at certain times of the day, and the game just immediately forwards the time into that. I feel that time moves relatively fast in this game, but I could give it a pass.

I didn’t like the lack of free roam in this game. With so many things happening all at once, it feels like you’re not really given the option to freely roam the entire map. Of course, blocked paths are a given — especially if it’s a part that you will only touch on at a later time. Still, you have to deal with Freakers left and right, Marauders/Rippers with snipers and traps in hand, scarce resources, and the rigorous day-night cycle when trying to explore northwest Oregon.

An overall verdict

Days Gone presents a similar concept with a bold twist. At best, it showcases the very same zombie-game mechanic and survival mentality players must possess. At its core, it hinges on survival instincts and resourcefulness, especially in an environment ravaged by overwhelming threats.

However, what really drives Days Gone home is its bold approach to the plot and character development of Deacon. I felt that if anything was going to differentiate this game from all the others, it boiled down to its plot. Most of your actions and missions all throughout make sense in the grander scheme of the game’s storyline. Couple that with almost realistic gameplay, and I honestly believe that the game has delivered on its promise.

Days Gone will be available exclusively on the PlayStation 4 on April 26.

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Samsung Galaxy A50 Review: The ideal midranger, almost

This is the company’s new direction

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Samsung has been trying to realign their strategy with other phone manufacturers. By killing off the Galaxy J series, Samsung has left the new batch Galaxy A models to take on the midrange and budget segments.

Facing stiff competition against Chinese phone brands, the South Korean giant has to take bold steps in order to keep their reign, hence the birth of the Galaxy A50.


Can the Galaxy A50 take on the challenge to become Samsung’s headliner? Here’s my review.

It’s got a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display

With Full HD+ resolution

It’s a Samsung phone with a tiny notch…

Branded as Infinity-U

… and an in-display fingerprint reader

One of the slowest I’ve tried

To its right are the physical buttons

They’re too slim but tactile

On the left is the triple-card tray

Hooray for this

The bottom houses the USB-C port and headphone jack

The loudspeaker and main mic are here, too

The back has a glossy glass-like cover

Samsung calls it 3D Glasstic

The rear panel shimmers at every angle

Sometimes it’s black, sometimes it’s not

The triple rear cameras are aligned vertically

It also has a single LED flash

Samsung’s new language

Most phones, especially in the midrange segment, have similar designs. For better or for worse, Samsung joins the pack with a generic-looking device. People would mistake the Galaxy A50 as a new model from OPPO or Xiaomi at first, and I can’t blame them.

The Galaxy A50, like any other phone in the market today, has an edge-to-edge display with minimal bezels all around. Of course, it has to have a notch to house a front-facing camera. An advantage of the Galaxy A50 is its use of a Super AMOLED panel. With deep blacks and punchy hues, the phone’s display is indeed a treat.

What is not a treat is the fingerprint reader. It takes about two seconds to unlock the phone using the in-display scanner. Using it together with facial recognition makes things more cumbersome and I always end up just entering my PIN.

I’m also not a fan of the phone’s ordinary aesthetic, but that’s debatable. Previous Galaxy A phones had certain physical qualities that are of high quality, like an aluminum body or a thick slab of glass. Sadly, the Galaxy A50 lacks the premium touch.

Nevertheless, the Galaxy A50 is still able to present itself to the crowd of flashy phones. Samsung tries to mimic the popular gradient color options of Huawei. My unit’s main color is black, but when hit by light, it produces a prism-like effect. Basically, black is not the only color of the unit.

Flagship-grade performance

The Galaxy A50 is equipped with a flagship-grade processor, which is a surprising move from Samsung. Midrange Samsung phones normally sport a so-so processor that disappoints fans. The company has finally realized that it’s time to step up their game.

Powering the Galaxy A50 is a 10nm processor — Exynos 9610 to be exact. Samsung’s home-baked processor has more than enough oomph to deliver smooth performance plus it has 6GB of memory. Paired with Mali-G72 MP3 graphics, it’s also a good phone for gaming, something that consumers have been clamoring for.

Out of the box, Android 9 Pie is already available with Samsung’s very own One UI customization. Samsung’s latest take on Android is the most refreshing we’ve seen from the company, and it works well on their devices. It’s also packed with extra features which should come in handy.

When it comes to gaming, I had no issues with compatibility and performance. You can set the game to its highest graphics settings and still be able to play with virtually no hiccups. I am able to enjoy my favorite titles like Asphalt 9: Legends, PUBG: Mobile, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang smoothly. The phone doesn’t heat up during long gaming, but it does get warm.

Versatile cameras

The Galaxy A50 has four cameras in total: three at the back and one in the front. The phone’s rear cameras include a 25-megapixel f/1.7 main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide shooter, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. I always prefer to have a wide-angle shooter over a secondary telephoto lens, but that’s just my personal preference.

The photos taken using the main sensor look great, but not the best we’ve seen. Saturation is cranked up in order to deliver a pleasing image, but it leaves little room for editing. Overprocessing is also evident, especially when HDR mode automatically kicks in.

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Using the ultra-wide camera is more fun outdoors, so here are some samples I took while I was on a boat. The quality is obviously inferior to the main shooter, but the wider FOV gives it a different feel.

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As for selfies, it’s great. It has a high-resolution sensor with beauty mode available. Plus you can play with AR Emoji, a feature from Samsung’s flagship phones.

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Long-lasting enough

With an efficient processor and pretty large 4000mAh battery, the Galaxy A50 can last a full workday. I do consider my daily usage to be moderate and that includes steady Wi-Fi or mobile data connection, a few SMS, short calls, and, of course, consistent social media app use.

According to the phone’s battery stats, I am able to use the phone for 20 hours straight with a screen-on-time of almost five hours on average. With lighter usage, the phone should easily last for up to two days.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

What makes the Galaxy A50 ideal? For me, there are three factors: the brand, the chipset, and the cameras.

The Samsung brand is a big consideration and buyers are still keen on picking up a Samsung phone over other well-known Chinese brands. When it comes to value, the Galaxy A50 is one of the first Samsung phones to have a justifiable specs-to-price ratio. Lastly, the Galaxy A50 has a versatile set of cameras, which is something that every phone should own.

While the Galaxy A50 is a well-rounded phone, it’s hard to give praise for its design and build quality. It’s one of the compromises Samsung has to make to keep the phone’s cost down. That doesn’t mean the Galaxy A50 is cheap and underwhelming on hand, but it feels different compared to previous midrange offerings, particularly the chunky Galaxy A8 from last year.

The Galaxy A50 is proof that Chinese manufacturers are taking control of the midrange smartphone markets. Most phones, if not all, in this segment are just copycats of each other. For the average consumer, it’s already confusing to differentiate touchscreen phones, and now Samsung joins the pack of similarly designed devices.

Having a device that looks just like the rest of the pack can either be good or bad for the company. The response of the consumers who are in the hunt for their next smartphone will determine this.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review

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Acer Predator Triton 900 review: 4K-capable convertible

Nothing like it right now

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When I first laid my eyes on the Predator Triton 900 during its first unveiling, I couldn’t understand how its form factor would benefit the average gamer. Why would we need a high-end convertible laptop that’s thicker than most? A couple of weeks with it changed my view completely.

If the Triton branding sounds familiar, you probably recall the Triton 700, which wasn’t only the first in the lineup, but possibly the best gaming laptop of 2017. Since then, Acer added the more affordable Triton 500, as well as this behemoth I’m writing about today.


With a 17-inch 4K Ultra HD display strapped on a hinge that allows it to face any direction you wish, this is about as versatile as it gets for a high-powered gaming machine. It’s difficult to describe in words; fortunately, we have a video for that:

All this equates to a desktop-like gaming experience that you can transform however you want. You could keep it in regular laptop mode for a chill session with a clear view of the exposed cooler; extend the display forward so it’s easier to spot enemies in FPS and MOBA games; or turn the whole thing around and plug in a controller to see nothing but screen.

For the record, I never bothered turning the Triton 900 into a tablet like how other thin-and-light convertibles work. Despite having a touchscreen, there’s no practical purpose for it, especially since there’s no included stylus pen.

As you can imagine, the whole thing is heavy because of the all-metal construction. Not so fun fact: So is the power adapter. I’m not kidding when I say that the brick alone weighs more than my primary work laptop.

This is what I like to call regular laptop mode

Extending the screen allows the keyboard to stay visible

Nothing beats this when the keyboard isn’t necessary

My biggest trouble using this as a laptop is fitting it inside a bag. I fortunately have the newest Predator backpack that can handle extra-large 17-inch notebooks like this. It even has space for the massive power brick in a separate pocket underneath. I suggest going for something similar before even considering the Triton 900.

Of course, what you’re paying for on top of the unique form factor are the specs. With the exception of gaming laptops that can be upgraded after purchase and those that have external water cooling, the Triton 900 is as powerful as its gets for a mobile gaming rig.

Here’s a quick rundown of what my particular model owns: Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 32GB RAM, 1TB NVMe PCIe in Raid 0, and a full-fledged GeForce RTX 2080 graphics chip. Put together, you’re assured to make the most out of the 3840 x 2160 display with G-Sync.

The sides include USB-A, Xbox wireless receiver, and audio ports…

… plus the power button, USB-C, more USB-A, and Ethernet

If you’re particular about gaming PC specs, you’d probably be irked by the screen’s refresh rate: 60Hz. Yes, the Triton 900 doesn’t have the more popular 120Hz or 144Hz standard its 4K display. I honestly would’ve gone for 144Hz on a 1080p panel, considering that my eyes can’t appreciate so many pixels on a 17-inch scale.

Because the Triton 900 has actually been around for a while — hitting the public space only recently — its 8th-generation Core i7 chip isn’t as fresh as it once was. But I do appreciate the RAM and SSD configuration provided, which makes every game load like a dream.

And while the RTX 2080 is the best GPU available today, its ray tracing benefits are still far-fetched. As Dan pointed out in his recent gaming laptop review, there are only a handful of games that support it, and all aren’t must-haves. You can learn more about ray tracing in our simple explainer.

Devil May Cry 5 is a perfect example of how well this setup works

Shadow of the Tomb Raider has been out for a while now, but still challenges today’s best systems

In actual gameplay, it’s a given that the newest AAA games will run at the full 60fps with all settings on high as long as you’re on 1080p. But when cranked up to 4K, frame rates often dip in the 40fps range in certain games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield V; however, I had no issues with Devil May Cry 5 and Sekiro no matter the resolution. For synthetic benchmarks, I have a couple:

  • Superposition: 7878, 58.93fps average (4K Optimized, GPU: 70 degrees Celsius)
  • Cinebench R15: 1040 (CPU), 108.94 (OpenGL)

As you’d expect, a machine this powerful gets quite hot — often hitting the 70-plus degrees Celsius range for both the CPU and GPU. And although I’ve gotten used this, the way the hot air blows toward me while the laptop is turned around is troublesome. I need keep my distance with my controller in hand.

This goes without saying, but I can’t even bother to rely on battery power with this setup. I get a maximum of 1.5 hours on a full charge; much less if I multitask or play a bit. Bringing along the power adapter at all times is a must, which again, is a pain in itself.

The mechanical keyboard is welcome, but the vertical trackpad can be tough to use

The RGB keys can light up individually

A bunch of these issues are a given considering the Triton 900’s versatility and how much power it packs, but I do have a few design concerns, starting with the placement of the power button. It’s possibly in the worse spot imaginable, right where you’re expected to hold the laptop while adjusting its placement. I can’t count how many times I accidentally turned this thing off.

Second, I’m not a fan of the vertical trackpad. Although it ergonomically makes sense to have it on the right, using it on a wide 16:9 screen doesn’t. Fortunately, I often rely on a wireless mouse instead and turn the trackpad into a virtual numpad with a double tap. I honestly miss the unique glass trackpad of the Triton 700.

Lastly, and this matters when gaming, the speakers crack on the highest volume. Again, I usually use headphones especially when gaming, but having clear-cut audio is pleasant when watching a quick show on Netflix or YouTube.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you can’t tell by now, the Triton 900 is an absolute joy to use despite the minor misses. It’s a true all-in-one convertible designed with both gamers and creators in mind. At the same time, the price is tough to swallow. Starting at US$ 4,000 — even more for the configuration I tested — this is exclusive to those with deep pockets (and deep bags to keep this in).

Like I say in every high-end laptop review, if you have the patience to build a desktop PC and spend the savings on a more practical gaming notebook, you’re in for a better overall deal. Acer has an excellent Helios lineup of midrange options that would work flawlessly for light gaming on the move.

Otherwise, this is the beast choice for those who want a flexible monster. Sure, there are more outlandish gaming machines out there, but the Triton 900 actually makes sense out of all the firepower and features it puts together.

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