Reviews

OnePlus 6T Review: Not a flagship killer

But still a heavy hitter

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OnePlus’ latest smartphone won’t be slaying flagships anytime soon. However, it doesn’t mean the OnePlus 6T is no longer a heavy hitter.

For the most part, the OnePlus 6T still brings to the table a lot of the good things we’ve come to expect from the company. You still get top-of-the-line specs with our particular model rocking the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC along with 8GB of memory and 128GB of internal storage.

The red silicone case is a great counterpoint to (and protection for) the bland glass back

Smooth and snappy

The phone’s tagline is unlock the speed and while it alludes more to the screen unlock feature which isn’t exactly new, you truly are unlocking something incredibly fast and smooth. This is my first time back with a phone using the OxygenOS user interface (UI) and the snappiness is almost unreal. It’s also the cleanest Android skin out there.

OnePlus’ signature alert slider is still here

Outside of the clean design, there are gestures that have been present on OnePlus phones for a while now. My favorites are the double-tap to wake and three-finger screenshot.

There are other gestures too like drawing certain letters on the screen which you can customize to do anything from launching the camera app and turning on/off the flashlight, to opening the app.

OxygenOS is clean AF

Some nice touches that I really like are the dark theme and the option to choose the accent color of the UI. These are little things but they work so well in accentuating the clean and overall pleasant experience with OxygenOS.

Some additions, some omissions

Perhaps the most notable addition is the screen unlock feature which puts the fingerprint sensor under the display. It’s tech that’s present in most flagships today. The screen unlock on the OnePlus 6T isn’t perfect but it’s still far and away a much better experience than the one Xiaomi put on the Mi 8 Pro — a phone with similar specs and pricing (under US$ 600) and could be classified as the 6T’s direct competitor.

Double-tap to wake + Screen Unlock is a nice combo

There’s no LED notification light and while it’s something some people might find trivial, it’s a little feature I find quite useful and wish OnePlus would bring back on the next phone.

The 6T is the first OnePlus phone to take away the headphone jack. The company had an unsatisfying explanation as to why they went in this direction but they do address it by including a USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter in the box.

Twice’s Chaeyoung looking mighty fine

This might’ve been a big deal had I not used a few phones without a headphone jack prior to this review, but this isn’t the case now. I have mostly gotten used to it and can say that I’m fine with Jack going away for good, especially if your only concern is consuming media.

Pretty good media device

Speaking of consuming media, the 6.41-inch AMOLED display is fantastic. Colors look great, and watching videos feels immersive. I did notice a few differences depending on the app you’re using.

When you go full screen on YouTube, it makes use of all the available display. That means the notch, no matter how small, becomes quite noticeable.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an amazing film. Go see it!

The same isn’t the case when watching on Netflix. The app automatically hides the notch which I think is a better implementation of the full-screen view. Of course, this can all be easily fixed by just hiding the notch altogether.

Deku realizing he can use his legs. Season 3 of My Hero Academia is now on Netflix!

One drawback is the audio. While it’s better than the OnePlus 6’s and it can get quite loud now, the quality still has plenty of room for improvement. I found it lacking in bass and just doesn’t sound as rich as I would like it to.

Two speaker grilles but audio could still be better

Most of my viewing and listening sessions have been aided by a Bluetooth headset or speaker. I wish the speaker wasn’t necessary, especially when I’m just alone in my room, but that is not the case.

Performance beast

This is the one constant with OnePlus smartphones — they’re all pretty reliable performance-wise. Whether it be multitasking or gaming, the OnePlus 6T has absolutely no trouble handling whatever you throw at it.

The game mode helps manage notifications while you play

I only really played sparingly on the phone as I’m not really big on mobile gaming. However, I do consider myself a heavy user juggling between multiple apps at one time especially during a coverage.

AC Rebellion isn’t the Assassin’s Creed you’re familiar with

I recently used it on a side gig that lasted for roughly around six to seven hours. During that time, I did everything from taking photos, recording videos, posting on different social media apps, to coordinating on messaging apps. The phone handled the tasks seamlessly.

Pretending to be productive with these apps

The best part is the 3700mAh battery coupled with the phone’s quiet power-saving features left me with more juice than I thought I would have after such heavy use. I started that event with a 92 percent charge and booked my ride home with 44 percent left. That isn’t bad at all.

Par for the course cameras

The OnePlus 6T is rocking the same camera hardware as its predecessor — 16MP and 20MP combo at the back and 16MP on the front. The improvements, OnePlus says, are all in the software.

I noticed some of the photos tend to have a warmer tone which I’m not exactly a fan of. However, that may have just been a result of the area’s lighting condition. All that aside, I enjoyed taking photos with the OnePlus 6T.

Portrait mode using the main cameras look pretty good.

Selfies can also do software-assisted bokeh but sometimes it’s better to not add that effect.

I only really tried the night mode twice. I don’t think I’ll ever really need it but here they are so you can judge for yourself if this is something you’ll need.

Here are more sample shots.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

There was a time when a OnePlus phone could legitimately be called a flagship killer. Top-of-the-line specs with a price that won’t set you back so much was a deadly combo. While that is still true for the most part, the OnePlus 6T feels like there are a few things holding it back from truly standing beside the top-tier phones of 2018.

Looking at bae’s photo

If the OnePlus 6T were an NBA team, it would definitely make the postseason but its run will inevitably end in the second round of the playoffs. It can compete, sure, but it’ll probably bow out against the likes of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the iPhone XS or XS Max.

It’s still one hell of a smartphone, though. I personally enjoyed my time with it. As someone who tends to multitask a lot on his phone and enjoys taking photos and portraits, this is a phone I truly had fun using. In fact, I would go as far as saying that if I had to purchase a phone for myself, it would be the OnePlus 6T.

Calling bae, lol

I’m a huge fan of OxygenOS and how snappy the phone is overall. It exceeds my expectations performance-wise and takes the kind of photos I expect it to. The OnePlus 6T is my GadgetMatch. If your usage pattern (and budget) is anything like mine, this could be yours too.

Gaming

Final Fantasy VII Remake Yuffie Episode: Short but satisfying

Will make you want to replay FF7R again

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Yuffie

It’s been over a year since Final Fantasy VII Remake (FF7R) launched and just recently, a PS5 upgrade to the game — Final Fantasy VII Remake INTERGrade was made available. Along with it is the INTERMission Episode DLC featuring materia hunter Yuffie Kisaragi.

The Yuffie Episode INTERMission DLC has two chapters featuring Yuffie, a bunch of new characters that are also part of Avalanche, as well as your companion for this game — Sonon Kusakabe.

Yuffie appears in FF7R much earlier than she did in the original game. But as everyone who’s played the game has already known, this is not like your other remakes.

INTERMission DLC sees Yuffie arriving in Midgar long before she meets Cloud and the rest of the gang that blew up Mako Reactors 1 and 5. Notably from the Wutai clan, Yuffie teamed up with other members of Avalanche (Nayo best girl) to retrieve what they think is an ultimate materia that Shinra is hiding in their labs.

Nayo best girl. Can’t change my mind.

Accompanying Yuffie in this mission journey is Sonon Kusakabe — another Wutai clan member.

Same controls but unique for characters

Yuffie

If you played FF7R then you should have no problems picking up on the controls. It’s exactly the same button commands but Square Enix has once again managed to make it feel unique.

In terms of movement, the INTERMission DLC took advantage of Yuffie and Sonon’s backgrounds as actual ninjas of the FF7R world. Here, they’re able to move around the environment in a way that was not possible with Cloud, Barrett, Tifa, and Aerith.

It’s by no means a platforming challenge, but it’s both a clever and thoughtful addition that makes sense for the characters you’re playing as.

Another thing unique to Yuffie is she can throw her shuriken to Shinra boxes and objects from a distance. This makes you more aware of your surroundings and encourages you to look around if there’s something you can throw the shuriken at to gain items or move forward.

Shuriken and Ninjutsu

Yuffie

Same is true for combat. Somewhat. In the same way that it’s similar button presses but manages to feel unique depending on the character you’re using. Cloud and Tifa are close quarter combat specialists. Barrett and Aerith prioritize maintaining a distance. Meanwhile, Yuffie is somewhat a combination of both.

Yuffie can attack in a variety of ways. Pressing square lands a light attack. Pressing and holding square lands a combo of light attacks that has Yuffie creating distance from the enemy towards the end.

From a distance, Yuffie can then throw the Shuriken by pressing the triangle button. This lands a couple of hits on the enemy. You can retrieve the Shuriken by pressing triangle again.

When the Shuriken is away, you can compound the attacks by pressing square repeatedly to land ninjutsu attacks. Ninjutsu attacks can have elemental effects. Yuffie can use Fire, Ice, Thunder, and Wind ninjutsu.

Yuffie also has a pretty strong parry/block mechanic. However, you need to time it precisely just about before the enemy lands a blow to be fully effective. This writer’s timing in games (and life in general) isn’t impeccable so this wasn’t utilized in this playthrough as much.

Synergy with Sonon

Unlike in the main FF7R game, you can’t switch to Sonon. You can still issue him commands when his ATB meter fills up, but that’s about it.

To best utilize this suave ninja, you’ll want to use Synergy. You need to press L2 to activate synergy. With it, Yuffie’s attacks deal more damage as they are executed in tandem with Sonon.

The catch is that Sonon’s ATB gauge fills up much slower when in this mode even if you have ATB materia boost equipped. The game encourages you to go in and out of synergy for a dynamic combat experience.

Later on in the game, you’ll get a chance to equip a materia that lets you do a synergized attack that doesn’t cost ATB. This will prove useful in the final battle — which can be a headache compared to everything else in the game.

Nero was one tough battle

A quick but endearing adventure

Final Fantasy VII Remake INTERGrade — INTERMission Episode Yuffie tells an efficient story. It only has two chapters but it manages to endear you to both Yuffie and Sonon.

The brother-sister dynamic between the two is quite charming. Sonon’s generally more laid back personality provides a balance to Yuffie’s youthful energy.

Sonon’s reactions to Yuffie’s impulsive decisions are hilarious

The DLC feels like an anime OVA in that it doesn’t exactly affect the main story, but it’s a nice addition to the overall narrative of FF7R.

Spending time in the Sector 7 Slums with some familiar faces was also pretty fun and definitely makes you want to replay the entire game all over again.

Some familiar faces

At this point, you’ve probably already seen the spoilers, but we won’t say anything here. However, the ending — both on Yuffie’s end as well as the additional one featuring scenes with Cloud and the rest of the FF7R gang, provides plenty of things fans of the game will talk about until the sequel releases.

Fort Condor, hunting flyers, extras

There isn’t much side content to this game. The first one has you running around Sector 7 collecting flyers from a fellow Wutai native.

The other is Fort Condor which is a mini game also derived from the original Final Fantasy VII. It plays a little differently here and is one that Square Enix should probably release as a separate mobile game.

The Whack-a-box challenge is also present here which yields some cool rewards. There’s already a video on YouTube showing how you can beat this and score 50,000.

 

After your first playthrough, Weiss — a villain from the Dierge of Cerberus game — can be challenged in the battle simulator at Shinra.

Should you play FF7R INTERGrade — INTERMission Episode Yuffie? 

If you can, since it’s only available on PS5 which is still hard to get right now, you definitely should. FF7R INTERGrade — INTERMission Episode Yuffie takes you back to Midgar and introduces you to a bubbly character.

It certainly turned out to be a much more satisfying play than we earlier imagined. There’s enough new-ish things shown here to instill confidence that characters that have yet to be introduced will also be handled with a great level of care.

It’s short, satisfying, but most importantly, gets you excited for what else is to come for Final Fantasy VII Remake.

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vivo X60 review: Killer cameras for less

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vivo X60

If you’re a person who’s been into photography for quite a while, you probably know that Zeiss is a lens brand most photographers aspire to have. With their decades of supremacy in the film and photography industry, any lens you slap a Zeiss branding on, you’ll know it’s good. Even the movie Joker, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, has been filmed mostly with some Zeiss cine lenses. That’s how good they are.

Knowing that a brand like vivo, who’s been widely known to make exceptional smartphones, would join forces with Zeiss to create the ideal camera smartphone technology is just a recipe for success. Lo and behold, the master work of vivo and Zeiss, the vivo X60.

Performance beyond expectations

Considering that the X60 is a photography-centric smartphone, this device isn’t one to be underestimated. Fueled by a Snapdragon 870 processor, 12GB of RAM and a generous 256GB of internal storage, the vivo X60 is packed with some serious firepower.

Right after I found out what’s powering this device, I immediately installed the toughest games to test it with. As expected, Asphalt 9: Legends on its highest graphic settings ran without a hitch. Even the very demanding Genshin Impact which brings other devices to their knees ran at a buttery-smooth rate on the X60 without even breaking a sweat.

vivo X60

Heavy multitasking is also a treat on the vivo X60 as the 12GB of RAM provides it lots of headroom for switching back and forth different apps without having to close them in the process.

Buttery smooth visuals

A surprising contributor to the fluid experience on the X60 is its high refresh rate AMOLED display. Measuring at 6.56 inches with a FHD+ resolution and a refresh rate of 120Hz, this display is vibrant and smooth all throughout the interface thanks to the Smart Switch mode where its refresh rate automatically changes to suit different user scenarios including increasing the response rate to up to 240Hz on some games.

vivo X60

Also, with HDR10+ certification, expect to see more details on shadows and highlights of images on this display.

Alluring good looks

As much as I wanted to get right into talking about the camera, I am just startled by how stunning this smartphone is. The color variant we have with us is the Shimmer Blue color. Ocean blue, teal, orange and yellow are just some of the colors I could identify as its color changes depending on how light reflects on it.

vivo X60

Placed on the right of the device we have both the volume rocker and the power button and at the bottom panel we’ll find the USB-C port, speaker grille and SIM card tray.

vivo X60

Even with its beefy internals, vivo still managed to turn the X60 into a sexy beast. At 176g and only 7.36mm thin, the X60 is arguably one of the thinnest phones I’ve used.

vivo X60

We rarely find earphones packaged with smartphones nowadays but the vivo X60 surprisingly does come with one along with a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter, SIM ejector tool, bumper case and a 33W fast charger.

vivo X60

Powerful optics

By now, you’ve also probably been used to seeing the increasing number of camera sensors in smartphones. Vivo and Zeiss went with a more modest approach of incorporating three feature packed camera sensors rather than adding more.

vivo X60

A 48MP wide angle main shooter with an equivalent field of view of 26mm, a 13MP – 16mm equivalent for the ultrawide and a 13MP – 50mm equivalent for its telephoto. All three cameras are grouped neatly and are remarkably slim, especially for a smartphone having cameras as its center of attention.

Main Camera (wide)

Capturing an immense amount of detail, the 48MP main shooter takes photos that are indeed sophisticated in its internal processing and are unquestionably high quality. Hard to believe but I may even go as far as to say that the images coming from this camera are comparable to images I take with my mirrorless camera.

Ultrawide

You won’t need to back up too much taking shots of landscapes as the 13MP ultrawide sensor combined with its vast dynamic range is just perfect for capturing massive subjects.

Telephoto

Any photographer you ask probably has a 50mm lens or equivalent in their arsenal. That’s because 50mm has been known to be an excellent lens to be used for portraits or for product photos as this has the closest field of view to what the human eye sees. The X60’s 50mm telephoto gives us exactly that and is incredibly crisp and vibrant even in a wide range of lighting situations.

Camera modes

Macro mode

At first glance you’ll notice the absence of a depth and a macro lens on the X60. That’s because the technology that Zeiss and vivo had put together did not require these additional lenses for such uses. For macro, all three lenses have reasonably close focus distances already, quite similar from what you’d get with macro lenses. But what sets the X60 apart is an even closer focus with its supermacro feature.

No need for a separate menu, the supermacro automatically kicks in by just placing the main 48MP camera really close towards the subject.

Super panorama

If you’ve tried panorama modes of other smartphones, you’ll know how frustrating it is to get seamless shots. The X60’s panorama mode however, is quite the opposite. You won’t mess this one up as from my experience. Even if I carelessly take panorama shots, they still stitch neatly like magic.

You also have the option to take panorama even further with its super panorama mode which takes 360 degree views of panorama goodness. 

Night mode

As light becomes scarce, a fairly steady hand will get you by without needing to use a tripod as hand holding still produces amazing results with the X60’s Night mode. This is thanks to the built-in image stabilization of its camera sensor. 

Its internal noise reduction also does an amazing job of keeping details intact without turning the image soft and mushy.

Portrait mode

Looking at vivo’s website, the word Biotar has been mentioned quite a few times in its portrait mode. So it got me doing some research about it and found out that back in the 1950’s, Zeiss had produced a popular lens named Biotar. This Biotar lens has since been sought after by collectors as it produced unique, creamy and dreamy images particularly on its bokeh. 

And yes, that Biotar effect is among the many choices of effects that Zeiss had implemented here in the X60’s portrait mode and it looks magical. Paired with the 50mm telephoto for portrait, the Zeiss Biotar effect truly isolates your subject from your background creating a professional and classic look.

vivo X60

The portrait mode also has other effects that you may choose from as well as the ability to shoot wide or in telephoto.

Video mode

With the X60’s video mode, jitters and jumps caused by shaky hands won’t be an issue as both Optical Image Stabilization and Electronic Image Stabilization combined in its Ultra OIS Stabilization fixes the shakes for you.

Among others, the three camera sensors can also be used for taking video and these retain their previously mentioned strengths with it.

Is the vivo X60 your GadgetMatch?

If it isn’t obvious already, I just fell in love with the vivo X60. The superb performance, marvelous display, admirable craftsmanship and the outstanding cameras that makes you feel like a photographer just gets you on a high. 

vivo X60

With its price tag of PhP 34,999, the x60 is a serious bargain especially compared with its competitors and considering all its capabilities.

vivo X60

If you’re a photography enthusiast looking for the perfect side arm to have with you at all times, then the vivo X60 should most definitely be your weapon of choice.

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OPPO A74 5G review: Did OPPO balance its midranger properly?

We list hits, misses, and everything in between

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Creating a mid-range device in 2021 has become incredibly challenging for a variety of reasons. The limitation in price forces companies to cut corners when it comes to their offerings in this segment. It’s a task that’s easier said than done considering how stiff competition is. You need to find a way to stand out while working with a budget that’s far from optimal. It’s like a balancing act in the circus. One wrong move and you’ll be remembered for the wrong reasons.

OPPO’s latest attempt at overcoming this challenge is the OPPO A74 5G. Just from its name, you can already tell what it’s using to try and stand out from the rest. But there’s more to this device than its promise of the fastest connectivity possible in the Philippine market.

The question now is, did OPPO balance its features properly to create a device that will satisfy everyday users? Let’s answer that by checking which were its Heavy Hitters, what Middleground the phone took to balance things out, and the Debbie Downers it needed to accept so they could come up with this device at this price point.

The Heavy Hitters: The OPPO A74 5G highlight features

5G is here and it’s one of those features you can’t help but call a win. Admittedly, the difference between 5G and your regular LTE isn’t that significant. This is one of those cases where showing you the Speedtest result of 5G won’t do the experience justice. You have to use it to believe it.

There are ways to go to make the technology a 100 percent must-have. But there’s no way 5G is a Debbie Downer, and you can’t call an upgrade a Middleground. At the very least, it’s a good way to future-proof your phone. Its benefits aren’t felt today, but it could be very useful if you plan to use the OPPO A74 5G in the long run.

However, you can’t say the same for this phone’s 90Hz display. Coming from a 60Hz device, using this screen was a spiritual experience. The jump is that good. It admittedly becomes normal after a while and it even reaches a point where you become quite spoiled by it. However, you can’t go wrong with a smoother experience. This is a win.

Surprising build quality, smart additions

One surprising Heavy Hitter is its hardware and build quality. Out of the box, I initially thought this phone was made out of glass. Turns out, OPPO used plastic for the back and it’s of premium quality. The device feels sturdy, and it has the right amount of weight, so it doesn’t feel cheap. The gradient effect was also a nice touch to the design.

You also can’t go wrong with having a fingerprint scanner on the power button. Having a headphone jack in your device in the year 2021 is an automatic win for the consumer. These features might feel dated for others, but they’re undoubtedly useful. You can’t even call OPPO out for cutting corners, because for others, these are exclusions that should have never been made in the first place. They’re useful and they work. There’s no doubting that.

Finally, the presence of Optimized Night Charging was a great touch from OPPO. Having the peace of mind of having a fully charged phone the next day without worrying about your battery getting fried is a feature more manufacturers should have on their phones. For this to be on a mid-ranger is a pretty sweet deal.

The Middleground: They cut corners, but in the right places

90Hz can only do so much and that’s evident with how the OPPO A74 5G performs with its Snapdragon 480 5G processor. It’s okay. It isn’t supremely good, but it isn’t terrible either. It works. You shouldn’t expect the A74 5G to run graphic-intensive games at high settings, but you can still play some games here and there. Social media use is a breeze. You can’t go wrong on this end.

The software of the device is also okay. It’s not stock Android, but it isn’t the mess some people paint Chinese software to be. ColorOS is a version of Android that works even for the most critical of Android users. There can be some hiccups, especially with heavy use, but they were tolerable.

Monitor your battery use

Battery life wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good enough to be considered a Heavy Hitter. The device houses a 5000mAh battery, but you have to be careful with your usage of 5G and 90Hz. They can drain the device quickly, but in most cases, it’s an all-day phone. The phone comes with an 18W Fast Charger, which in 2021 is average. You’d want to have more as a consumer, but it isn’t too much of a slog.

The LTPS IPS LCD screen of the A74 5G was also respectable. It has decent viewing angles even in direct sunlight and watching media content on the device was pleasing. There are some instances where it feels like we could experience more out of the 90Hz feature, but that’s the sacrifice required out of this price point. At the very least, it works, and you can only have minimal complaints.

The Debbie Downers: Even for a mid-ranger, these were disappointing

We live in the age of social media, so it wasn’t disappointing to see the A74 5G house a camera that came out as incredibly inconsistent.

This was a shame because its main camera performed quite well in good lighting conditions. Details were sharp enough, colors were a bit saturated, but not to the point you’d need to lower its saturation on post-processing.

The device came out with some pretty good photos that could contend with the best of the best. That’s what you’d want out of a smartphone in 2021.

Misses in certain situations

But it couldn’t perform as well in other lighting conditions. Indoor shots left much to be desired. It captured too much of the color coming from the background and ignored the natural colors of the subject. This was especially evident when I took photos of the delicious burgers from Sweet Ecstasy. It caught too much of the yellow coming from the light bulbs and the walls in the store.

The selfie camera was okay, at least that was passable enough with its results.

Night shots, even without night mode, had some respectable shots. But you couldn’t say the same for its other lenses.

Especially disappointing was its wide-angle lens. If the main camera came out with saturated images, the wide-angle reduced the color even in good lighting conditions. You’d understand a slight drop in quality, but the difference between the two lenses had too big of a gap. It definitely didn’t help the macro lens had some focusing issues, which made it difficult to take proper test shots for this review.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I mentioned at the start of this review that coming up with a midrange device is like a balancing act. One wrong move and you’re remembered for the wrong reasons. Safe to say, OPPO won’t be remembered fondly, but they won’t be laughed at either for this device. The device was okay. It wasn’t a Debbie Downer. It’s safe to say they were able to at least achieve some form Middleground.

But in today’s competitive mid-range landscape, achieving the Middleground might not be enough. Its inconsistent cameras might be an automatic turn-off for some consumers. Its performance isn’t good enough to sway the opinion of hardcore gamers.  However, if you’re someone who wants the promise of futureproofing from 5G and the smooth experience of a 90 Hz display packaged with well-built hardware, the OPPO A74 5G might just be for you.

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