Reviews

OPPO A5s Review: Is it really any different?

Bang for the buck, at a cost of key features

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Smartphone companies are trying to bring a premium experience to its consumers at an affordable price. Gone are the days when budget smartphones keep getting the lowest version of everything, all to meet the price point. Now, smartphones get better cameras, near full-screen displays, a faster charging port, and much more.

OPPO’s latest smartphone, the OPPO A5s, mixes the days of old with some new tricks. At its price point, this budget smartphone caters to anyone looking to own a smartphone for the first time. But with better options for the same price, you gotta wonder how different this phone is from the rest, and if it’s worth it.

Here’s a rundown of the phone’s key features:

It has a 6.2-inch display with a waterdrop notch

At the back, there is a dual-camera setup and fingerprint sensor

The bottom contains the micro-USB port and headphone jack

The overall performance gets a pass

The highest possible combination you could get is the 3GB+32GB option, with a 2GB+32GB config, as well. Performance-wise, you can’t really expect any quick response on ColorOS but it is responsive, nonetheless. Apps open quite seamlessly in my experience, but I also noticed the little spikes in load time when multitasking. This mostly happens when I try to switch to another active app.

Still, I don’t recommend opening too many apps. There’s little RAM available, and the phone’s OS takes up almost 40 percent of that. I do recommend getting the Lite versions of apps if you want to maximize the RAM.

One great feature I’m genuinely surprised this phone has is OPPO Game Space, which activates once you start up a game. Not a lot of budget smartphones have this kind of feature integrated into the system.

With the feature on, games such as Mobile Legends and Clash Royale load quickly, with no observable loss in graphic performance. Of course, with it on, battery life depletes relatively faster than just using the phone as is. While we’re on the subject…

The phone almost lasts a day thanks to its battery

The OPPO A5s has a 4230mAh battery, which lasts almost the entire day on a single charge. I mostly used the phone for social media purposes, watching YouTube videos, and a little bit of gaming. Of course, I had to turn Game Space off for the times I played games in between because it automatically turns on. The device tends to feel warm after just an hour and a half of use, even if I was in an air-conditioned room.

One full charge took close to two and a half hours, which is pretty decent considering it still uses a micro-USB port instead of a USB-C. Although, I really wished they switched to USB-C, since other companies are starting to roll that out for their budget lineups. Charging time would be a bit faster, especially for a phone with that big of a battery.

The cameras are confusing to me

OPPO is more commonly known to people as a selfie phone brand. So obviously, even if this was a budget smartphone, I was expecting the cameras on this device to be satisfactory, at best. Until I got to use both cameras, and got a mixed bag of results.

The dual-rear camera setup was great, but not overwhelmingly fantastic. Don’t let the iPhone-looking interface distract you; the 13-megapixel sensor takes fairly decent photos for a budget smartphone. Shots at night, under ample lighting, are decent in terms of color and detail.

If you really value details on your photos, keep the HDR setting on the whole time and prepare a microSD card. I would have wanted more modes, like Pro Mode since other companies are doing it with the same camera setup.

As for the front camera, I’m a little disappointed. I get it: it’s just an 8-megapixel sensor so I really shouldn’t expect much. But if you’re someone on a budget and likes taking selfies, you would be a little disappointed in the image quality this front camera has.

No amount of AI beautification settings could compensate for how washed the images look at times, especially with group shots. I guess if you had to sacrifice one thing, it was this camera.

Other design features worth noting

I personally found the touch of golden copper at the back a great addition. It adds a hint of premium to an otherwise very basic phone design. I’m also pleasantly surprised that the headphone jack is still there, and it’s handy too. The single-grille speaker at the bottom just isn’t as loud as I would have wanted it.

Setting up your fingerprint is easy and quick, it’s actually trying to unlock the phone that makes it troublesome. I can’t remember any device I’ve used with a super sensitive fingerprint sensor like this one. You really need to be gentle with it, not hard press your finger on the sensor. But even then, the phone still wouldn’t unlock to the point that I just opted to use a pass code instead.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At PhP 7,990 for the 3GB+32GB variant and PhP 5,990 for the 2GB+32GB variant, the OPPO A5s can be a good budget option depending on who wants to use it. First-timers in smartphones will enjoy a fast, responsive, and easy-to-navigate OS. If you’re a gamer on a tight budget, this device is very capable of providing enough juice for any game. And if you like taking pictures, its dual-camera rear setup gets the job done.

Despite it being a bang for the buck deal, there were features that this phone missed out on. Selfie lovers honestly should look for another option. In addition, the device doesn’t seem all too different in terms of design, plus there is no available option for higher storage and RAM, so performance will eventually dip.

The OPPO A5s caters to everyone looking for a great deal, but ultimately comes at the cost of key features not living up to expectations.

Gaming

Lenovo Legion S7 review: Is it too slim for your liking?

A continuation of power, performance, and portability

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Legion S7
Is the Lenovo Legion S7 too slim?

Every gaming laptop out there just seems typical, complete with the RGB and the hefty design. Yes, there have been other laptops that are starting to break the mold. However, they did so while sacrificing some huge features in the process. Although, that hasn’t stopped most manufacturers like Lenovo from trying their hardest.

What we have here is the Lenovo Legion S7, with the “S” literally standing for “slim.” On paper and by design, it’s possibly one of the slimmest gaming laptops currently available. Just from the unboxing experience alone, it raises a few eyebrows design-wise and the hardware inside it. Beneath its slim chassis, there lies the beast, as they say.

But is this a gaming laptop worth considering given its potential sacrifices? Let’s find out.

Ticks all the boxes for general performance

 

Every gaming laptop brings impeccable performance for most day-to-day tasks, and the Lenovo Legion S7 is no exception. Of course, the biggest contributor to great performance lies within the hardware, and this machine certainly brings the firepower with an AMD Ryzen 9 CPU inside.

As advertised, the Legion S7 provides performance suitable for any task thrown at it. Whether you’re working on work documents or creating your next gameplay video, the laptop handles these things with relative ease. Also, you can effectively multitask on this device no problem with 32GB of RAM to support.

Now, the Legion S7 comes with Windows 10 pre-installed, which was alright. However, seeing how most people were hopping onto Windows 11 at the time, it made sense to upgrade the software first since it’s possible. In the three weeks that the laptop was tested, software issues didn’t occur so that’s a good start!

Decent competitive gaming performance

Legion S7

When talking about gaming performance, there’s two things to factor in: the GPU, and the display. For the Lenovo Legion S7, an NVIDIA RTX 3060 with a 165Hz anti-glare FHD display seems like the ideal combo for a gaming device suitable for casual and competitive gamers out there. In reality, this lived up to expectations quite well.

For casual and competitive titles, the Legion S7 provides great performance and frame rates with a smoother feel to them. Sure, a FHD display limits the full dynamic color range compared to the 4K option for this device. But when playing competitively, that hardly ever matters. Games like VALORANT and Halo Infinite felt pretty smooth and looked vibrant when playing.

Legion S7

With RTX on, some games look pretty good but with the obvious frame rate sacrifice, especially with cranked up settings. Although, unlike other RTX mobile GPUs, the frame rate sacrifice isn’t as much, which was pretty good. For example, games like Fortnite and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy had about an 8 to 10 percent drop in FPS with RTX on vs. RTX off.

Battery life is just good enough for mini breaks

Legion S7

Much like every other gaming laptop out there, this device doesn’t last particularly long when used for casual or competitive play. On average, the Legion S7 lasts about 6-7 hours just on productivity and casual gaming on the side. When cranked up to perform at competitive levels, it cuts the lifespan to just 2-3 hours, which was expected.

To its credit, the Legion S7 comes with a 230W battery pack that will nest it back to full health in at most 3 hours. With Rapid Charge Pro turned on through Lenovo Vantage, it cuts the charge time by just an hour. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s quite fast and would actually give you a short break after playing your heart out.

Some questionable design features

 

As much as the Lenovo Legion S7 boasts impressive gaming performance, there are a couple of things that hold it back from its true potential. For one, it’s quite slim and has the potential to get quite hot when playing too much. Sure, Coldfront 3.0 will do what it can to keep things cool, but it still gets warmer quite fast so it’s something worth noting.

Second is in port selection, particularly with what they gave up for this machine. Fortunately, they kept the charging port and two USB Type-A 3.0 ports at the back so nothing got in the way. However, for a gaming laptop to exclude an Ethernet port and an HDMI slot is quite alarming. 

Sure, it’s to highlight the WiFi 6 capabilities along with using the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports at the right side of the device. However, having a Gigabit Ethernet port significantly improves network performance especially for competitive play. Also, most external gaming displays still come with HDMI ports so it was a missed opportunity.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For what it’s worth, the Lenovo Legion S7 is an ideal gaming device for both casual and competitive gamers. It’s slim form factor combined with powerful hardware provides the power and portability that the Legion brand consistently delivers. With a high refresh rate display and RTX-capable GPU, it even provides a solid boost to gaming performance.

Of course, even the Legion S7 has some hits and misses in there. From questionable exclusions to just decent battery life, it fails to maximize its potential to be truly something better than before. Still, with what it has going for it as presently constructed, it’s still a great gaming device on-the-go.

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Health

Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier review: 6 months later

An affordable option for better indoor air quality

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One Sunday at a Japanese makers market, I came across the material shirasu, a natural ceramic material created using the byproducts of volcanic magma. It’s been widely used by the Japanese in construction for many years now, but because it’s a material that came from the depths of the earth, it’s also got air purifying properties.

One pamphlet about shirasu pointed out that part from food and water, a huge percentage of what humans consume is air — and that indoor pollution is worse than outdoor. We clean our produce thoroughly before cooking it, and the water we drink is filtered, so why don’t we think about cleaning the air we breathe as much?

While I came out of that market empty-handed, I remembered that I’ve been using the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier for 6 months now and its filter is due for a replacement.

I already know how dirty my apartment gets just by the sheer amount of dust bunnies my vacuum collects on a weekly basis. What I do not know is how much dirt and pollutants get trapped in the air, so I am both curious and scared to find out.

Buy the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier

What’s in the box?

Packaging is as simple as it gets. The Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier comes in a white box, with Meross’ logo and the air purifier’s picture in front.

Inside are the air purifier, a Meross 3-Stage H13 HEPA filter, as well as the installation guide, and a USB-C power adapter.

Meross says the included 3-Stage H13 HEPA filter has a pre-filter which isolates large particles such as hair and dust, and the filter itself, which catches 99.97% of particles at 0.3 microns including smoke, pollen, pet dander, and contaminated particles. The innermost layer is activated carbon, which removes odors, cooking smells, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other toxic substances.

Although not a big deal, I appreciate that it plugs in via USB-C. In case the plug needs replacing in the future, I’m confident I can find a spare cable and plug from other devices I have instead of buying a proprietary one.

Minimalist design

The air purifier from Meross has a minimalist cylindrical body. Its metal chassis makes it feel more premium — something I wouldn’t mind showing off if I didn’t have an empty corner to tuck it in. It’s also slim and doesn’t take up too much space, which makes it perfect for a small apartment like mine.

Currently it only comes in white. All my furniture are in a lighter shade of oak and bamboo giving my apartment a light and airy vibe. The purifier, albeit not a decor, doesn’t clash against the aesthetics of the apartment. It would be nice to have a dark color option though for those whose interiors have a more industrial or rustic feel.

Easy setup

Setting up the air purifier is easy peasy; so easy that I think even my boomer parents can figure it out.

You open the air purifier at the bottom to insert the filter. There are engraved guides for unlocking and locking the bottom lid.

Once the filter is in and secure, download the Meross app and set up an account. Plug the air purifier and follow the instructions on the app to connect it to your home network. That’s it, you’re all set. It works with Apple’s HomeKit, Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, too.

Buy the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier

On the Meross app and HomeKit, you can adjust the speed and power it on or off.  There is also a physical button on top of the air purifier for these same functions.

Loud and lacking

If there’s something I would have wanted on the Meross air purifier, it’s sensors. It’s as basic as it gets.

Because of the lack of sensors, it doesn’t monitor the quality of air, so adjusting the speed has to be done manually. When I open my balcony door for example, inviting more dust and pollutants into my apartment, I would turn it up to the highest setting myself.

It’s the same story when I’m cooking, and I cook a lot. Instead of automatically adjusting to get rid of the odors coming from the kitchen, I have to go into the app to turn it up.

Over the last 6 months of using the air purifier, I found myself forgetting to do this more and more, so I don’t really know how much toxic substances I could have avoided inhaling at this point.

Another pain point I’ve noticed is that the Meross Air Purifier is loud. At night I would make it a point to adjust it to the maximum speed so I wouldn’t wake up sneezing from my allergies as much. Doing so generates a whiny humming sound, which I think would bother some people.

Because I grew up in a relatively noisy city and live in New York now, I’ve learned to ignore it. The noise is a compromise I’m willing to live with because I do find myself sneezing less in the morning when it’s on high.

Replacement filter

On the Meross app, you can monitor the life of the included HEPA filter. Meross suggests replacing it every 3-6 months. I got the alert to get a new one close to 6 months after I set it up.

A replacement filter costs $25 on Amazon. On Meross’ website, they have an image of how gray dirty the filters get after a few months.

Left: Meross’ photo. Right: my HEPA filter after 6 months of use

Six months later, the included filter that I put in still has the original blue color it came in, with just a bit of dust sticking on it here and there.

This means either the air quality in my apartment isn’t as bad as others, or the air purifier doesn’t work as well as it should.

Seeing as how brand new looking my filter still is, I’ve held off on buying a replacement for now to save the $25.

Is the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier your GadgetMatch?

The Meross air purifier retails for US$ 139.99 on the Meross website and US$ 129.99 on Amazon. It’s one of the more affordable options in the market, and the cheapest one that supports HomeKit.

As long as you don’t mind the noise and the lack of sensors, the Meross air purifier will do the job. I can’t imagine living in a city like New York in the world without an air purifier. This, combined with a vacuum and some house plants that help clean and purify the air in my apartment are a must.

Buy the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier

If you control your smarthome with HomeKit and are on a strict budget, the Meross air purifier is the one to get. If you want an air purifier that monitors indoor air quality, look elsewhere or buy a separate sensor to connect to your smart home.

One day, I’ll have a home whose walls are built using shirasu so I’ll worry about air quality less. For now, the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier will have to do.

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Gaming

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection review

Is it worth the upgrade?

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Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection

The Uncharted franchise has been a PlayStation darling ever since it came out on the PlayStation 3. The series wrapped up Nathan Drake’s story in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and spun off a new adventure with some supporting casts on Uncharted: Lost Legacy on the PlayStation 4. Both titles get a new lease of life with a PlayStation 5 remaster called Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection just in time for the showing of the Uncharted film. 

It’s a no-brainer that this remaster’s release was timed to coincide with the film. In fact, in some locations, tickets to the film are part of the promotion. But what exactly does this remaster have to offer and will it make you watch the film? These are what I’ll try to answer here. 

My first Uncharted 

There’s no shortage of breathtaking sceneries like this throughout the game.

Unlike many who played the two games part of this remastered collection, this is my first encounter with the franchise. It’s a shame, but I was dealing with life during the entire PlayStation 3 generation. Can’t really blame me. I digress. 

Given that, you can imagine how blown my mind was after going through Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection. It’s the definitive action-movie-that-you-can-play experience, reaffirming my love for the action genre. Naughty Dog did away with staple game elements like skill trees and levelling up in favor of a balls-to-the-walls action adventure, beautiful set pieces, great dialogue, and characters you’ll grow attached with. 

I watched a few recaps of the first three Uncharted games to get myself acquainted. And while it wasn’t enough to fill me in entirely on the franchise’s lore, it played its role in making me somewhat familiar with the game. 

A quick overview 

I’ll keep this whole thing relatively spoiler-free to preserve the experience for those like me who haven’t played the game before. But what exactly is going in these two games? 

Uncharted: A Thief’s End is the fourth installment of the franchise and neatly wraps up the story of main character Nathan Drake. In this game, he has left his treasure hunting days behind and is living a relatively normal life with his wife Elena Fisher. 

However, a certain figure from his past re-enters his life and forces his hand. He joins this person in the hunt for Pirate Henry Avery’s lost treasure. What follows is a dose of high-octane action featuring wall climbing, gun fights, and more. 

Meanwhile, Uncharted: Lost Legacy focuses on supporting characters from the previous games. You play as Chloe Frazer – treasure hunter and former flame of one Nathan Drake. Here, she’s accompanied by one of A Thief’s End’s antagonists, Nadine Ross. 

It’s an unlikely pairing and one that was tense at the start but finds its footing as you go around rainforests in India in search of the Tusk of Ganesh. It plays similarly to A Thief’s End but with new weapons such as a silenced pistol. There’s also a new mechanic that lets you go back into stealth mode if you hide long and well enough after an encounter with the bad guys. 

So, what’s new? 

Like many PS4 games remastered for the PS5, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection adds familiar upgrades we’ve seen implemented in the past year. These are faster (practically non-existent load times), graphical improvements, 3D audio implementation, and taking advantage of the Dual Sense controller. 

Visual improvements

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection

The way the light behaves is an absolute marvel

In terms of graphical improvements, there are three modes you can play in. These are Fidelity, Performance, and Performance+. These breakdown as follows: 

  • Fidelity – Plays at native 4K with a 30fps frame rate
  • Performance – Prioritizes a 60fps frame rate
  • Performance+ – Pushes frame rate to 120fps but at only a 1080p resolution

Personally, the TV I use doesn’t support 120fps so I primarily played in Performance mode. Initially, I tried Fidelity mode which is what I thought would be best given my experience with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. But the Uncharted games are more action-focused, players will benefit from a smoother frame rate. 

Nearly every scene looks and feels like a cinematic

Fidelity mode certainly gives you that blockbuster motion picture feel especially during cinematics. However, the shift from cinematics to gameplay appears more pronounced which can be a little bit jarring. Additionally, the gameplay action doesn’t feel as dynamic in this mode. 

Performance mode, meanwhile, has a more seamless cinematic to gameplay transition. In fact, during the first few hours of the game, I caught myself standing around thinking I was still in a cinematic. The picture looks smoother without losing much in terms of the movie-like experience.The frame rate was consistent throughout with zero lag or jaggedness. 

If your TV supports it, it might be worth your while to shift over to Performance+ mode. The high frame rate will certainly aid in the inevitable gun combat sequences. 

3D Audio and Dual Sense

The 3D audio and Dual Sense additions were really pronounced during parts of the game when it was raining. At the time, I was playing at night with the windows closed. I really thought it was raining outside, but it really was just in game. And I wasn’t even playing with headphones on! 

While raining, you can feel the Dual Sense control rumble a little bit as if it was being hit with raindrops. The controls also affect the trigger buttons where there’s a heavier, more pronounced feeling when you’re pressing R2 to fire guns. There are plenty of more subtle but definitely noticeable implementations that add to the overall experience. 

The Dual Sense was also pretty useful in these lock pick sections

The Dual Sense improvements are also felt during the driving sections of the game. Not only do you feel the terrain as you move around. The trigger buttons also react to whatever surface you’re trying to traverse giving more resistance where appropriate. 

Is it worth the upgrade or new purchase? 

There’s incredible, edge-of-your-seat action throughout

I’ll speak first from my experience. As someone who played the games for the first time on a PS5, it was definitely one hell of a gaming experience. If these are titles you skipped from the previous generation or you just jumped into gaming consoles on the PS5, this is certainly worth every penny. 

Playing the included games alone is already a treat. But the PS5 improvements elevates everything by engaging more of your senses as you play. 

Local pricing isn’t available yet but it’s already listed for pre-order in the US. It’ll set you back US$ 49.99. The upgrades are a little trickier. 

Here’s the detailed information from the PlayStation blog.

  • Players who purchased Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, or Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End & Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Digital Bundle have the option to pay 10/€10 to upgrade to Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Digital Version. The upgrade will be available starting at launch on January 28, 2022.
  • Owners of PS4 disc copies must insert them into the PS5 every time they want to download or play the PS5 digital versions. PS4 game disc owners who buy the PS5 Digital Edition disc-free console will not be able to get the PS5 version for the discounted price.
  • PlayStation Plus members who claimed Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End via their PlayStation Plus subscription are not eligible for the $10/€10 digital PS5 upgrade.

In certain territories, purchasing or upgrading gives you a free ticket to watch the Uncharted film starring Tom Holland (Nathan Drake) and Mark Wahlberg (Sullivan). That’s certainly a nice incentive. Asked if the promo will be implemented in Southeast Asia, PlayStation said they are still ironing out details with Sony Films as of the time this was published.

It’s hard for me to make any definitive recommendation on this situation. The US$ 10 may be better spent as an addition to purchase any new games you may be eyeing. But if you have that extra mount, the upgrade doesn’t hurt at all. 

One thing is true, whether you’re jumping in fresh or are looking dive in for another playthrough the games in Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection are certainly worth the time and experience.  

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