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Two years after making its big comeback, Nokia is slowly filling in the pieces of its Android smartphone lineup. The star of course has to be the new Nokia 8 Sirocco, the most premium from the announcements at Mobile World Congress.

But our favorite is the Nokia 7 Plus, a near-borderless Android One phone with Zeiss optics and a beautiful build.

Hands-On

Vivo X21 hands-on: All screen, all the time

The screen is the fingerprint scanner!

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Notice anything different with this Vivo release?

Look closely at the notched front. It has a 6.28-inch FHD screen.

That smooth sleek glass back looks good but I know what you’re asking: Where’s the fingerprint scanner?

It’s there, only you don’t see it.

Let’s see that again from another angle:

Yes folks, this is the Vivo X21 and is one of the first phones in the market to have the famed in-display scanner — that means the fingerprint scanner is under the screen itself!

This leaves more space for you to do more, like take photos with the phone’s 12- and 5-megapixel dual shooters on the rear. These cameras also have AI-scene recognition built in, so the camera automatically adjusts to give you the best-possible shots.

Or, take those fun selfies with the X21’s 12-megapixel front-facing camera. There are cute stickers, too! 🐰

Oh, did I mention that it also has facial unlock? Yep.

This device runs on Funtouch OS 4.0 based on Android 8.1 Oreo which more or less still feels like iOS. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage and an option to expand via microSD.

All that means is that this is a premium midrange phone which will have no problem with everyday social media use and normal mobile gaming, and it will have space for all your photos and selfies.

As future-forward as the X21 is, it’s still rocking a micro-USB port. That also means there’s still an audio jack on this thing — and speaking of audio, the phone is also equipped with an audio chipset for better sound quality. It has 3200mAh of battery capacity for all day err-day use.


Of course, we’ll have to give it a good whirl before we can talk about actual performance, but until then, the X21 is proving to be a pretty promising phone.

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Hands-On

Vivo NEX hands-on review: The future looks great

Vivo’s best smartphone to date

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In case you haven’t heard, the future is here. In 2018, smartphone manufacturers are finding themselves in a race to designing a truly bezel-less phone.

Engineers will tell you a compromise has to be made in order to achieve that because of all the tech they have to fit into the front of the phone. Some brands opt for a notch to house all of that; some offer minimal bezels and curved edges; others have awkwardly placed front cameras.

Design: More than meets the eye

Vivo, it seems, is at the forefront of this all-display race. On the NEX, the Chinese company offers an exact 91.24 percent screen-to-body ratio, one of the highest we’ve seen on a smartphone. To do that, Vivo had to move things around and put more features under the display itself.

Sure, there’s a tiny chin at the bottom of the phone, but it’s not really something you’ll notice during everyday use, unless, maybe, you’re obsessive compulsive.

On the midrange NEX A, you’ll find a fingerprint sensor at the back of the phone. On the higher end NEX S, the fingerprint sensor is under the display — a feature Vivo first put on the X20 UD and X21. It’s something that might take a lot of getting used to, and in the past week of using the under-display method, I found myself entering my passcode more than using the scanner because it fails too often.

It would have been nice to have face unlock as a backup, but up top, there are no cameras to do that. It’s hidden inside the phone, and shows up only when activated on the camera app, but I’ll talk about that more later.

The NEX also does away with the traditional earpiece and replaces it with what Vivo calls Screen SoundCasting technology, which transforms the display into a speaker. Like most new tech, it works, but nothing beats the tried and tested front-firing stereo speakers found on other smartphones if you’re looking for great audio.

The display is Super AMOLED, which means more saturated colors and darker blacks. The viewing experience is great, although I can’t say for certain I will miss the bezel-less experience when I switch to a different phone in the future. Also, it’s bright enough for my day-to-day use outdoors, unless I’m wearing sunglasses.

On the back of the phone is a glass panel. The phone doesn’t have wireless charging or any water-resistance rating. Instead, if you look closely, you’ll find thousands of dynamic color diffraction units.

Compared to bright colors and gradients, the black NEX looks rather boring for a phone from the future. The design feature on the back is so subtle, it only shows when it’s hit by harsh lights.

Yes, the phone emits rainbows like a unicorn.

You can also see it indoors.

Apart from that, the phone looks and feels premium overall. The rounded corners offer a comfortable grip, and it feels like one solid piece of glass with no sharp edges.

And in case you’re wondering: There is a headphone jack.

Cameras: Cool and capable

Having a mechanical pop-up camera has its repercussions, but first let’s take a moment to appreciate how awesome this piece of tech really is.

A handful of curious people actually came up to me while shooting this around Moscow and when I showed them how it pops up, their jaws dropped.

If you’re wary about durability, Vivo says the camera has undergone drop- and dust-resistance tests, and can repeatedly elevate and retract up to 50,000 times. I did the math myself, and that’s around 137 years if you only take one selfie per day and 6.8 years if you shoot 20 each day. At this point, I can’t say if that claim is accurate, but the selfie camera feels well built and hasn’t shown any signs of wear and tear yet.

The whole process doesn’t feel as fast as a normal selfie camera would, only because a physical part of the phone moves; it’s honestly not something that would bother anyone over time. If you check the smartphone you’re using now, you’ll notice that switching to the front camera also doesn’t happen as fast as you’d think. After getting over the wow factor, I got so used to how natural the process is — so much so that I eventually forgot that the front camera needs to pop up before I take a selfie.

Inside is an 8-megapixel lens, with Face Beauty options for both photo and video modes. I appreciate that it makes my skin less oily and eyebags smaller, but I don’t really like how it flattens my cheeks, and makes my irises artificially bigger, rounder, and blacker.

One thing that makes the selfie camera stand out for me, aside from the fact that it literally stands out, is how well it handles dynamic range. For scenarios like this, you either get a blown-out window to keep my face well-exposed, or an underexposed subject with a properly lit background.

Here’s another one I took by my hotel window thanks to the palm gesture. The AI HDR feature on the Vivo NEX is able to balance it out, resulting in a photo that looks as if I have another light source (I didn’t).

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The same AI HDR feature also functions on the dual rear cameras. It works really well, although some photos turn out oversharpened.

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Both the front and rear cameras have portrait mode, which separates the foreground from the background and blurs the latter out. Like most phones we’ve reviewed, the bokeh still looks artificial, but the one taken with the rear shooters looks a lot more polished than that of the selfie cam.

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In indoor and low-light scenarios, the phone does a pretty good job at capturing details and minimizing noise. Some photos have mushier details up close, as it tries to compensate for the lack of light sources.

One thing I always ask myself when testing smartphone cameras is this: Can I rely on it to take Instagram-worthy photos when traveling? In this case, the Vivo NEX ticks that box and that’s saying a lot considering it’s my first time in Russia. My only complaint is the lack of a useful secondary camera. A telephoto or wide-angle lens would be great while watching the World Cup or avoiding crowds in framing touristy landmarks.

Check out more photos I took with the Vivo NEX below and on my Instagram.

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Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Vivo NEX is no longer the concept phone we saw at Mobile World Congress in February. Our first glimpse into the future is here; it’s exciting and looks great.

If you want to be one of the first to step into that, then by all means get the phone if you can and if it’s within your budget. For a smartphone from Vivo, the price is a little steep — CNY 3,898 (US$ 608) for the NEX A, and CNY 4,498 (US$ 702) for the NEX S. That’s more than its other value-for-money flagship counterparts like the OnePlus 6 and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. It’s also only available in China for now.

But what the NEX offers are features other smartphones don’t have. It’s a phone that you’d want to show off to your friends, and they’ll surely want to see it, too.

Its defining feature is a beautiful, unique design that changes the way we’ve been using the smartphone: under-display fingerprint sensor, the display as a speaker, and a pop-up camera. Even then, the learning curve is not that high if you do decide to switch. Once you get over all the new tech, using the phone will feel as natural and normal as any other phone you’ve gotten used to.

I can’t say for certain that it’s the best in the market today, but this is undoubtedly Vivo’s best smartphone to date. And in so many ways, what Vivo made here is already comparable to a lot of premium smartphones, one that’s more than deserving of your time and consideration.

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Automotive

The Ford EcoSport is the essential travel buddy for tech geeks

For both beginners and sporty drivers

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For years, automobiles have slowly left the realm of technology. Now, at least in the public’s eyes, cars exist more as a means of transportation, rather than feats of technology.

However, if you were part of the driving public over the last decade, you would have realized two things. Firstly, a great car is just as invaluable as an amazing flagship phone. Secondly, with the number of features packed into a car today, the line between technology and transportation is blurring once again.

Just as how they pioneered the moto industry in the United States, Ford is again leading the charge for technologically capable cars for the modern market. In 1908, it was the first Model T Ford. In 2018, it’s the Ford EcoSport.

What’s under the hood?

Sporting a 1.5-liter Ti VCT 110ps/142Nm engine, the Ford EcoSport is a capable daily driver for both urban stop-and-start traffic and countryside rough riding. For its size, the EcoSport straddles the fine line between sedan and SUV.

Further, this hardy engine is mated to a 6-speed PowerShift transmission (5-speed for manual). From a performance standpoint, the EcoSport transitions smoothly in and out of Sport mode.

Potholes? No problem!

With all this in mind, the EcoSport can blaze through most driving situations you can throw at it. Whether it was for urban trekking through tight roads or riding through tough rural tracks, the EcoSport powered through with barely a hiccup.

Potholes and unpaved roads were no match for the EcoSport’s suspension. Jolts and drops didn’t have as much impact as it usually does with other cars. The EcoSport inspires confidence even for inexperienced drivers.

Even with moderately deep mud pits, the EcoSport can power through with just brute force. Its capable engine can clear obstacles without flooring the pedal. Additionally, its high ground clearance can go through the debilitating floods that usually frequent the metro.

The EcoSport’s confidence carries itself despite challenging situations. A lot of cars today don’t inspire the same confidence as the Ford EcoSport.

Crank it up to 11

As with most Ford cars, the EcoSport carries a welcome Sport mode for accessing that extra boost you need for both smoother and hardier conditions. Sadly, most people don’t access this feature out of fear for what it’s capable of.

As the name implies, the Sport mode brings a sportier vibe to the EcoSport’s drive. Costing a small bit of fuel efficiency, the specialized mode injects improved speed, handling, and traction to everyday drives.

Personally, the Ford EcoSport brought one of the smoothest driving experiences I’ve handled across the industry. The Sport mode handled amazingly well against metro traffic.

All that junk inside that trunk

Besides exemplary performance, the EcoSport is a champ at four- to five-seater space allotment.

There’s nothing more comfortable than a ride that offers a mile’s worth of legroom. While the Ecosport isn’t the most spacious, it offers more than adequate room for even long legs. Riding or driving for hours is a breeze with the EcoSport’s space.

Sporting around twenty slots and compartments for gizmos, the EcoSport can carry an entire storeroom of goodies. Even as a dedicated tech geek, I was able to fit complete rosters of devices. On a road trip, I brought a sizable bag with my huge 15-inch laptop, an assorted yarn of chargers, mice, and mouse pads. It fits snuggly with a hard case for my DSLR and its variety of lenses.

Even then, the EcoSport can still pack in bags of food, gym bags, and more people. Ford even boasts that the back trunk has space for a 560-liter washing machine.

Despite the wide space available, the EcoSport’s thermal control system can cool or heat passengers adequately throughout the cabin.

Jamming to the sync

Sadly, commercially viable self-driving cars are still years into the future. Thankfully, smart technology isn’t limited to intuitive AI.

As always, Ford installs their trademark SYNC technology into the Ford EcoSport. The feature melds the car with the abilities of a smartphone.

Its most popular use is to connect your phone’s media to the car’s entertainment system. Besides through an AUX, USB, memory card, or CD, SYNC’s Bluetooth connectivity adds convenience to jamming through congested traffic.

The feature also adds to your device’s phone features. It takes a hands- and distraction-free approach to managing your phone life.

Additionally, the features boast added support for the most useful apps for driving. With a bit of technological know-how, the car’s infotainment system can access and display Waze for convenient navigating through alleyways and side streets.

Safety first

Ford remains at the forefront of road safety. With a slew of safety features, drivers can rest assured that the EcoSport won’t skid uncontrollably.

The EcoSport comes equipped with an Anti-lock Braking System, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, and Electronic Stability Program. The mechanisms prevent skidding, wheel spins, and understeering.

Further, the rear also has parking sensors to help with all forms of parking.

Pick your colors

Even with the all-in-one package, the Ford EcoSport offers options for how it looks. It comes in four variants (Ambiente 1.5L MT, Trend 1.5L MT, Trend 1.5L AT, Titanium 1.5L AT) and six different colors (Panther Black, Ingot Silver, Winning Blue, Candy Red, Mars Red, Frozen White). Personally, the Frozen White variant is quite the looker.

Further, sportier fans can grab the Black Edition, which offers more style than the six regular variants. Besides black finishing for the exterior grills and tires, the variant also touts roof cross bars, rear spoilers, illuminated scruff plates, and sports pedals.

SEE ALSO: Ford launches all-new Mustang and Expedition at MIAS 2018

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