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.

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Nokia 7.2 review: Quality above all

A no-brainer

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The Nokia 7.2 is the latest in the 7 series by HMD. In true Nokia fashion, it boasts of solid build quality, and as part of the Android One program, Nokia will be providing Android updates consistently as well. But the 7.2 is more than just another Nokia phone — its camera tells a different story.

Beautiful Nordic design with all the essentials

When you talk about Nokia, you think build quality and the Nokia 7.2 really does feel like a solid phone. There’s Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and back held together by a polymer composite frame, which Nokia says is twice as strong as polycarbonate and half the weight of aluminum. The phone is massive but still very comfortable to hold because of its rounded edges.

The Nokia 7.2 comes with a matte, frosted glass back in either Cyan Green or Charcoal. Both variants look elegant and the Cyan Green model that we have gives off that signature Nordic look expected of a Nokia.

At the back you’ll see a circular arrangement for the camera module with the ZEISS branding proudly shown off. Some people say this reminds them of recent Moto phones but this design language actually first popped up in Nokia’s Lumia line back in the day — first with the iconic Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView, and then a few more phones after that.

Button and port placements are located where they usually are. The power button on the right side also doubles as the notification LED light.

There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top.

A tray for dual nano SIM cards and microSD card on the left. Below that you’ll find the Google Assistant button. There’s no way to officially remap it to something potentially more useful but if you’re a big Google Assistant fan then there’s a dedicated button just for that.

At the bottom, you also get a USB-C port. No compromises here.

Dated internals, no problem

The Nokia 7.2 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, which is a little bit dated, it’s almost 2 years old and is the same one found in its predecessor, the Nokia 7 plus.

Nokia is not the only brand to use older, more reliable processors for many of their smartphones. Xiaomi was (in)famous for using the Snapdragon 625 for nearly three years.

A lot of people have criticized Nokia online for choosing the older Snapdragon 660 instead of something newer like the Snapdragon 675. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of reasons companies do this, one of them is to ensure better tuned software that makes the best use out of that processor. Another is to get consistent software updates faster because they just have to adapt for a fewer number of processors.

Other brands like to market their phones as “super powerful” because they need the extra power in those processors to pull off their clunky Android AOSP skins on top of everything else. There also isn’t really that much of a dramatic difference between Snapdragon 660 and Snapdragon 675.

On top of this, the Nokia 7.2 runs Android One. There’s no clunky skin on top, so that processor has more space to work with, theoretically speaking.

In everyday operations I faced no slowdowns or lag at all on the Nokia 7.2, except for the camera. Everything else was quick and as smooth as you’d expect on a phone in this price range. You can still play PUBG Mobile just fine, but I’d stick to medium settings.

The phone comes with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, with either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage respectively. There’s the microSD card slot incase you want additional storage.

The Nokia 7.2 runs Android 9 Pie out of the box, but since this is an Android One Phone, it should be getting Android 10 anytime soon.

Everything from the clock to the notification dropdown are all stock Android and the interface is bloat-free. It’s your usual standard Android homescreen with a swipe-up multi-tasking menu and app drawer. There’s multi-window support, and Google’s default apps for gallery and music, a file manager, and Google calendar, and even the FM radio app.

Nokia promises two major OS updates (so that’s Android 10 which should be coming soon, and Android 11 whenever that pops up next year), and an extra third year of monthly patches for the phone for a total 3 years of software support. This is huge compared to how most Android smartphone companies abandon their non-flagship smartphones after a year or so.

Clunky but really good cameras

The triple camera setup at the back is the most important feature of the Nokia 7.2. It has the 48MP Quad Bayer sensor, which Nokia calls Quad Pixel, behind an f/1.8 aperture lens. Along with that there’s an 8MP 118-degree ultra wide-angle, and 5MP depth sensor, while at the front there’s a 20 megapixel selfie camera.

All four cameras have Zeiss optics. There’s prominent branding sitting in the middle of the camera lenses to remind you of it. There’s even bokeh modes inside the camera app that have the German optics brand’s name used — ZEISS Modern, ZEISS Swirl and ZEISS Smooth. These are for the bokeh modes that offer a DSLR-like portrait experience, which blurs not only the background but also the foreground. It also works at night and even if you have HDR enabled.

The ZEISS Bokeh styles look really unique and stylish and the Nokia 7.2 does a good job of separation between the subject and surroundings. You can change bokeh modes after taking the photo, so you can decide later what looks better.

The rear camera’s quality overall is really good, but the ultra-wide camera tends to lose details in low light situations.

You can opt to use the night mode in low light conditions. The phone can automatically detect if its handheld or on a tripod. It combines about 8-10 exposures in handheld, and up to 20 if on a tripod, to deliver better detail and HDR. This helps with noise reduction and dynamic range and it works with the ultra-wide angle camera too.

The selfie camera on the Nokia 7.2 also does a great job. I really loved the selfies I took with this phone.

Here are more sample photos.

Average battery life

Nokia proudly proclaims that you’ll get two days out of the 3500 mAh battery of the Nokia 7.2 and that’s mostly true. It’s not the largest that you’ll see in a phone this size but it’s much larger than the 3060mAh used in the Nokia 7.1.

With light to medium usage you’ll definitely get home every day with some solid amount of battery life percentage to spare. Even if you’re at the office and about to head out to meet friends on a sudden evening plan, you’ll feel confident knowing that the Nokia 7.2 will still last you throughout the evening.

But on moderate to heavy usage, you’ll definitely have to charge it up every night or risk it running out of battery early the next day.

Of course, if you’re going to be doing a lot of gaming or video-watching, you will see battery life go down faster than usual.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

With its new range of Nokia smartphones, HMD is really banking on build quality, and consistent software updates to compete against the razzle dazzle of its Chinese competitors. Nokia is also hoping to stand out in this very aggressive price range with the 7.2’s Zeiss-branded triple cameras. But are build quality and camera enough?

The honest answer is — it depends on the market you’re buying this phone in. If you’re considering the Nokia 7.2 on the American continent or Europe at EUR 249, go out and get it right now. It’s a great phone, and that camera is worth it. The only thing that comes close is the more expensive Pixel 3A.

In India and the rest of Asia, however, the Nokia 7.2 has a some very aggressive competition to deal with at almost exactly the same price range.

There’s the Realme XT which is a better phone in almost every way, except for camera quality. There’s also the Realme X — an all-screen phone with a pop-up selfie camera.

At the end of the day though, the Nokia 7.2 stands out in a sea of value for money midrange Chinese smartphones because of software support. They have a proven track record of keeping their phones updated and secure. If this is important to you, it’s a no-brainer.

Starting at INR 18,599 in India, and PhP 15,990 in the Philippines, the camera on the Nokia 7.2 is one of the best in its price range and the build quality is solid. If these all check the right boxes on your list, the Nokia 7.2 might just keep you happy for a very long time, and help you create some great memories along the way.

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Honor Band 5 Review: Reliable fitness companion

Counting steps was fun!

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We went hiking with the Honor Band 5 and I learned a few things about hiking, the fitness wearable, and myself — which is mostly just about how generally unfit I am.

The hike took place at Masungi Georeserve. It’s a conservation area in the Philippines that’s about 47 kilometers away from Metro Manila. One of the staff told us that during the prehistoric era, the entire reserve was submerged in water. Millions of years later, it’s now a mountain range inhabited by different species of plants, insects, and animals. Fun!

A view of a section of Masungi Georeserve

Unlike other trek sites, the Masungi Georeserve is  more… tamed. The rangers have built a path for curious hikers but if, like me, you have zero experience trekking or hiking, then don’t think for a second that this is going to be easy.

You need to have the right gear

The thing about having fitness goals (or just goals in general, really) are they need to be measurable for you to know your progress. With the Honor Band 5 slapped on my wrist, I was excited to find out several things but I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did when the hike wrapped up. More on this later.

MJ showing he has all the right gear for the hike

Another proper gear you need to take note of is your shoes. Just as there’s a pair meant for running, playing basketball, and training, there are also shoes made specifically for hiking.

I went out of my way to get a pair prior to the hike and it made a huge difference. I had a relatively easier time going through the terrain than some of the people I went with who wore regular running or training sneakers. This meant I had one less thing to worry about.

Getting started

Before we started, we first set up the Honor Band 5. To do so, you’ll need to download the Huawei Health app. Through the app you can see all your metrics as well as update the firmware and download more watch faces.

There were a variety of watch faces. They ranged from simple ones that just show you the time and the number of steps you’ve taken to those that showed the time, steps, and even heart rate.

For this particular trek, I wanted to check on my heart rate. I was happy to know it was still beating despite multiple failed romantic pursuits. In fact, it spiked more than I thought it would during the hike.

Design-wise, none of the watch faces really stood out. But there are enough options that I’m confident you’ll find something you’ll like and would want to stick with.

Tracking is insightful and fun

Onto to the hike! We were told it would take about four to five hours to complete the route. Naturally, we took longer than that. To completely track everything you need to go to workouts and choose outdoor walk.

The Honor Band 5 supports other workouts too like outdoor and indoor running, outdoor and indoor cycling, free training, and much more.

The trek had several stops — some were for resting, others were for the accompanying ranger to tell us more about the reserve. At each stop, I would check on the watch to see how many steps I’ve taken so far. Especially since the trail varies from straight and narrow paths to ones that require climbing.

The trek involved climbing down nets like this

Having the heart rate monitor up, I also made a conscious effort to check on my breathing. I’ve never really had strong lungs. Even when I still used to play basketball regularly when I was a lot younger, I was quick to run out of breath.

When I saw my heart rate going up so much higher than usual, I made it a point to stop for a while and take a few deep breaths to gather myself. The SpO2 Monitor2 also came in handy here. It detects your level of oxygen at different altitudes and thankfully mine stayed in the normal range for much of the trek.

There were too many of these nets. Not apparent in photo is the fear and dread I felt climbing down

Additionally, the colored amoled display on the Honor Band 5 made it easy to check on my numbers. This is also through even when it started to rain. I could still see the numbers clearly despite the watch being drenched.

The Honor Band 5 is water resistant for up to 50m. So not only can it survive the rain, it’s also made to accompany you during your swimming sessions.

Taking a closer look at the numbers

After the hike, you’ll need to stop the tracking so you get your entire workout summary. It took us nearly eight hours to complete the trek and the rest of my numbers are pretty interesting.

The Masungi Georeserve took our collective breaths in more ways than one

I took a total of 11,611 steps on an average cadence of 24 steps per minute with an average speed of 1.78km/h and an average heart rate of 129 bpm. If you thought that was confusing, it only means I’m about as out of shape as I expected myself to be.

You can check your data against what is supposed to be the average for a healthy human being. With this you can start working towards that goal. The idea is to gradually reach a state of being healthy and tracking your numbers will help you do that.

Other features and final thoughts

The Honor Band 5 also has a few other nifty features like Find Your Phone. Say you forgot where you last put your phone, the fitness band can ring it for you.

There’s also TruSleep tech that I didn’t get to try as much on this device but I did on the Honor Watch Magic so watch out for that article as well.

Just me trying to look triumphant midway through the hike

The Honor Band 5 promises up to 14 days of battery life. I had it on for a few more days post the trek and didn’t really charge it up until the 10th or 11th day. Which is still pretty darn good.

At PhP 1,699 (US$ 33), the Honor Band 5 lives up to its billing as your personal fitness tracker. The colored AMOLED display is great and the tracking is where you’d expect it to be. It’s also comfortable enough that you won’t mind having it on while you workout.

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Vivo V17 Pro Unboxing and Review

Overpriced and gimmicky?

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Vivo’s newest smartphone has cool camera features, including the world’s first dual pop-up selfie camera.

But is that enough for you to want to upgrade, or is the Vivo V17 Pro overpriced with a lot of gimmicks?

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