Reviews

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.

Reviews

Huawei Watch 3 review: Apple of my eye, err, wrist

The Apple Watch of Huawei’s smartwatch lineup?!

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Huawei continues to mold its product lineups — particularly its wearables — shaping it to fit into the lives of its beloved consumers — Huawei fans and alike.

In a previous story, I listed a few reasons why the Huawei Watch 3 deserves to be on your wrist. Nearly a month later, I still stand by what I said about the Chinese company’s flagship wearable.

Of course, there are still factors to consider before deciding on a smartwatch. So let us help you figure out by tackling matters that you might be dying to find out.

In this review, we’ll detail my experience wearing this watch — the hiccups and the wonders encountered after wearing it for a few weeks. Together, let’s find out if the Huawei Watch 3 is really your GadgetMatch.

Comfort is key

The Huawei Watch 3 is beautifully designed, no doubt. While it exudes a classic appeal, the watch can suit different occasions. And it has a plethora of straps to choose from so you can mix and match. Although the availability depends on the region.

In my case, I didn’t have a choice aside from the black and plain fluoroelastomer strap. What I did was find a way to ship straps from China to get more designs that are apt for my style.

Anyhoo, let’s talk comfort. Regardless of the straps, comfort is key when it comes to smartwatches. It’ll be wrapped around your wrists for a long time, and it’s important to never have any issues with its heft and your skin.

Thankfully, the Huawei Watch 3 doesn’t feel heavy despite having a bigger watch case. What I find worrisome is how bulky it is for both my wrists and daily activities. It gets in the way sometimes — accidentally brushing metals, walls, and other furniture.

I appreciate not feeling any weight while wearing it, but it looks too big for me. Nonetheless, if you have thicker wrists, the watch case size won’t matter. And there are workarounds on how you can prevent your smartwatch from bumping stuff and from getting scratched.

Leave your phone behind

Like most smartwatches, you can connect the Huawei Watch 3 to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Just pair your devices and you can receive notifications, text messages, and calls.

But you can also connect the Huawei Watch 3 on a WiFi connection or a data hotspot. The smartwatch runs on HarmonyOS and comes with several apps; some are built-in and some are downloaded via AppGallery. Personally, I enjoy navigating Petal Maps — Huawei’s very own Maps — because frankly, it’s pretty much the same as Google Maps.

Wearing the Watch 3 made me use my phone less, seeing how I glance at my wrist to check who messaged me. And from those moments, I decide if the person is important enough to stop whatever I’m doing and pick my phone up to respond.

Receiving calls is also fun if you want to act like you’re a spy sent on a mission in whatever Sci-Fi film. Except, I don’t like it when people near me can hear the person on the other line.

If you’re looking for a different way to leave your phone and rely only on your smartwatch, the Huawei Watch 3 supports eSim technology.

Unfortunately, eSims are only available to postpaid plans on select carriers in my country, which I don’t have because I use a prepaid sim with large data allocation.  If you’re a postpaid subscriber, just ask your carrier for an eSim and they’ll help you set it up. That way, you can use your mobile number simultaneously — on your watch and on your smartphone.

If you still need more understanding of how eSim technology works, you better read our explainer.

Matches with everyone else

No, I’m not talking about how the smartwatch can match anyone in terms of style, appearance, and personality. Although, that could be the case because it could. But that’s not the point here.

The Huawei Watch 3 is perfectly compatible with all kinds of smartphone users — whether you’re a Huawei loyalist, a Samsung fanboy, a die-hard Xiaomi bunny, or an Apple-ogist.

Thing is, even though the Huawei Watch 3 runs on HarmonyOS, all you need is the Huawei Health app. And it’s downloadable on AppGallery, Play Store, and the App Store.

I paired the watch with several devices in my arsenal. From the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro, and even the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2. It easily syncs important data from your watch, and then you can preview it through the Health app.

More importantly, it’s uncomplicated to navigate even if you use a different ecosystem. As an Apple-ologist pointed out, the Huawei Watch 3 looks the same as the Apple Watch with only minor iterations from its design.

Although, we’re not surprised. Huawei openly expressed how they look up to Apple for inspiration… and probably imitation. But, whatever. Apple’s products are always user-friendly and won’t fry your last three brain cells — perfect for himbos like me.

As long as Huawei makes their products user-friendly too, I’m down with all of it. Based on experience, they make fantastic hardware and it’s a sweet treat if their software and user interface follows one of the best.

From swag to sweat

The Huawei Watch 3 can be a smartwatch for any occasion, assuming you have the perfect strap to suit different settings. During my stint, I used my China-bought Milanese strap when I met with friends and hop on a date. A silver accent works for me since I wear silver rings and earrings.

I have a fashion savant in my life who’s always advised me to match my metals. And I wore that principle to my heart. You don’t need to wear expensive jewelry and accessories to look expensive. Your watch should just go well with every other metal on your body.

On Huawei’s official website, the Steel and Leather straps work perfectly for your casual settings. You might want to consider those when you try to mix and match your outfits.

Coming home, I switch to my black, fluoroelastomer strap. It’s a durable yet comfortable rubber apt for physical activities and humid weather.

As I’ve said earlier, comfort is key and that’s the case for the Huawei Watch 3. Despite the bulky size, surprisingly, it doesn’t get in the way of my workouts. Not once did I feel anxious about my watch brushing off with my weights and other metals.

Speaking of weights, the Huawei Watch 3 accompanied me in my strength and conditioning training. All the essential tracking and features helped me complete my program, prompting me to change my habits to make fitness a sustainable activity and eventually, a lifestyle.

From sweat resistance that pushed me to continue with my routines, timers and stopwatches that aided me in measuring my tempo, the sports tracking mode that helped me understand my patterns, to all-day monitoring with blood oxygen, heart rate, temperature, and even sleep — the Huawei Watch 3 has it all.

Health features

Packed with salient health features apt for the current era, the Huawei Watch 3 might make you wonder: Do they really work? And do we even need them?

At first, I was cynical with all the mumbo jumbo presented in smartwatch campaigns. But after my experience, I had a change of heart. Wholeheartedly, I would say yes — they work and we need it.

Starting with the basics, it has the usual features found on any smartwatch. You can track your step count, calories burned, and your heart rate. It also reminds you to get up and move after a period of inactivity.

There’s also a feature where you can track your stress levels, and probably help you cope and manage your stress. As for me, it didn’t particularly help but maybe someone out there can benefit from it. The important thing is there’s a tool that could possibly help.

What I loved the most is the sleep report I receive every morning. Tracking my sleep helped me understand my patterns — which is a key factor I consider before going on my day or performing an exercise routine.

Checking my reports helps me decide if I’m going for two cups of coffee throughout the day, if I’m well-rested enough to execute intense forms during training, or if I need to take more naps.

While all of these reports are summarized and can be previewed using your smartwatch, the intensive details are listed on the Huawei Health app.

Since it consistently tracks and monitors various data, the Huawei Watch 3 constantly consumes the battery life, just like any device that’s connected to Bluetooth, WiFi, and performing background activities.

True to its promise, it has a 3-day battery life that accompanies you in your daily activities. Switching it to ultra-long battery life mode extends it up to 14 days, except I don’t really see myself using this mode in the future.

Charging it is fairly quick. I left it charging after an hour of napping, and when I woke up, I saw it fully charged — ready to be slapped on my wrist again.

Is this watch a match?

But then again, I wish it had a longer battery life like the Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro. If the Huawei Watch 3 can last up to two weeks, it could’ve been my GadgetMatch.

It’s a versatile smartwatch that you can add to your collection of watches. So well-rounded and user-friendly, it works without any tinkering involved. All you have to do is wear it and watch how it performs feats that might elevate your lifestyle.

The Huawei Watch 3 retails for PhP 18,999 — a price tag befitting a premium smartwatch. If anything, Huawei found itself its very own Apple Watch.

Brazenly, I would say the Huawei Watch 3 felt like the Apple Watch of all Huawei smartwatches. It simply works, and it’s beautiful, powerful, and functional in its own right. Complete with an ecosystem that you can enjoy for a seamless AI life.

It’s also user-friendly, stylish, and leaning towards yuppies with a balanced lifestyle than geeks and techies basking in gadgets and other forms of technology.

The Huawei Watch 3 is available on Huawei Store and authorized platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, as well as Huawei Experience stores and other retail partners.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro review: Swanky and smart | Apple Watch Series 6 Review

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Reviews

Samsung The Frame Review: Stunning!

✨ Aesthetic TVs for your living room ✨

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It was a little too long ago when Samsung announced its first sets of TVs along with a lot of framed artworks in a museum in Paris.

Four years after that special launch, Samsung is proud with the current lineup of The Frame. But with other cheaper options such as Samsung’s new 4K QLED TV line and other models from various TV brands, is Samsung’s The Frame worth the extra money?

Watch our Samsung The Frame Review now if you’re curious to find out.

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SCARLET NEXUS review: A tale of two dreams

Heartwarming, heart-pumping, and somehow heart-shattering

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SCARLET NEXUS

I rarely play anime-style RPGs, even though some of my friends recommend a few of them to me. In the times I played one, I’ve always loved the combat mechanics but I never really got hooked long-term. In essence, I didn’t have an incentive to see the game all the way through, even if other people claim it’s worthwhile.

Initially, I had the same opinion of SCARLET NEXUS when it was first announced. Even as I played the demo, I still had the same thoughts. I don’t know, I just felt that this was going to be another anime-style, action RPG with solid combat, and that’s all it had. There’s nothing particularly new that would hook me into it.

As the title of the review would have it, it was different when the actual game came out.

An “open world” hack-and-slash bonanza

I’ll start with one of the most basic questions you will have with any new video game: how does it play? Long story short, SCARLET NEXUS was a joy to play from a gameplay aspect.

Once again, I found an anime-style RPG that pretty much nails the combat mechanics, especially when thrown into a pseudo-open world like New Himuka.

SCARLET NEXUS

As I’ve previously mentioned in my first impressions of the game, these mechanics are roughly easy to learn and master all the way through. Of course, you unlock more abilities through the Brain Map, which you can only do by engaging in more combat during missions.

Honestly, I felt that this gave players an incentive to fight all the enemies, instead of just accomplishing the objective.

SCARLET NEXUS

The Brain Map that allows you to upgrade attack and defense power, and unlock additional skills

Furthermore, it also helps that you have access to special abilities through the Struggle Arms System, known in-game as the SAS. Personally, this was a great addition to the combat formula instead of just simply picking up items for temporary buffs. With the press of two buttons, you’re able to change the battle landscape against all kinds of enemies.

Accessing 100 percent of your Brain power

Another part of the combat mechanic is the character’s ability to execute a Brain Crush and activate Brain Drive. For the Brain Crush, I liken it to executing a finishing move after downing the Other (the monsters in the game), and it happens in a variety of ways. It feels utterly satisfying to execute a Brain Crush, especially for larger and stronger enemies.

SCARLET NEXUS

Yuito’s character model within the Brain Field

As for the Brain Drive, it essentially gives you an attack and EXP boost during combat. Also, there’s this mechanic called the Brain Field that you can only access when Brain Drive is active.

What I love about it is that despite giving you an ability that makes combat faster, it’s a mechanic you shouldn’t abuse. In essence, you should listen to your brain and think things through before it’s too late.

Setting the mood wherever you explore

As for the overall visuals and audio score of the game, I’m happy to report that BANDAI NAMCO gave us a spectacle from start to finish. However, I have to preface this by saying that you will truly appreciate it if you play this on a capable PC or on next-gen consoles. On my Xbox Series X with a 4K TV, it looks fantastic and well done.

They gave each location in the game its own design, color scheme, and apt background music to set the tone. To some degree, I felt immersed in the entire game while engaging in the insane combat in between.

You would assume that the world would have been in total chaos with all the Others around, but they went for something a little more realistic.

SCARLET NEXUS

An example of the Brain Crush finisher

Also, I’d like to extend my praise with how they did all the cutscenes, character dialogues, the Brain Field segments, and the Brain Crush finishers. I got a kick out of just watching all of these unfold, and I’m at awe with how well the art style and animations were done.

The Other may be strong, but not as strong as…

I purposely saved this part last because this was the aspect of anime-style RPGs I did not particularly vibe with. To me, a good story trumps badass gameplay mechanics and visuals because it adds more investment into playing the game. I mentioned before that the demo didn’t really touch on this aspect, but it could be something worthwhile to dive into. 

In the case of SCARLET NEXUS, it gave me a compelling and fulfilling, yet gut-wrenching storyline to work with. At the start of the game, your choice of either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall dictates which NPCs you’ll start with, and how you will see the main story unfold.

In my case, I played the game following Yuito’s story arc but I also managed to start a new game with Kasane’s.

Two dreams intertwined by one fate

In both storylines, you enter as a new recruit of the Other Suppression Force (OSF) with either your best friend (Yuito) or adopted sibling (Kasane).

As either member of the OSF, you will take on exploration missions to acquire more information on the biological anomalies known as the Other. As such, you will need to fight the Others as they threaten the citizenry of New Himuka.

The members of the National Defense Force, with Fubuki Spring and Karen Travers

Along the way, you will discover the origin of the Others and unravel more information on the people you work with and for. You will travel to different places within New Himuka teeming with more dangerous Others, and engage in battles with other OSF members and the government. Of course, you will do this while in search of the truth about stopping a world-ending event that shapes the future of the nation.

Twisting and turning, but not overwhelming

As I got through Yuito’s side of the story, I couldn’t help but feel engrossed by how everything was going. I was literally on the edge of my seat piecing all the events together as they happen, even with the amount of twists and turns that happen in between. Also, every new information presented to you just makes the story a bit more clearer and easier to digest.

It’s a storyline that requires your attention from start to finish, but it tries not to feed you with too much information. In between each phase, you get a proper rest that you would normally use to restock and do Bond Episodes with the NPCs. However, I would argue that these also serve as a way for you to just make sense of everything you know so far before proceeding.

Bonding with your own version of family

Also, I’d just like to highlight the Bond Episodes a little bit because I found these as my favorite part. These little nuggets of the gameplay allow you to get to know all the NPCs a little more, from their interests to their aspirations.

It gave the storyline a more human aspect, and going through them also unlocks buffs to your SAS. 

One of the snippets of the Bond Episodes with Gemma Garrison

With these Bond Episodes, you will form greater connections with the characters in-game; yes, even with the character you didn’t choose at the start of the game. In essence, you’re forming your own family of OSF members to duke it out with the Others, with you as the Dominic Toretto of the family.

A thrill to see all the way through

SCARLET NEXUS is an action-packed, anime-style RPG that just hits all the right buttons with everything you do. It comes with insane visuals, superb combat mechanics, and an enthralling story that won’t overwhelm you in the slightest. I could list all my praises for the game, but these might not even fit on here.

For a new IP offering, BANDAI NAMCO really outdid themselves with this game. Even if you played this on the current-gen consoles, I think the experience would still be as great as I described it. They really showed this game a lot of love, and it deserves some love back from those who play it.

Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall

If you want to explore this type of game, I highly recommend adding SCARLET NEXUS to your library. It’s a joy to play all the way to the end, even if you attempt to do it in one sitting.

SCARLET NEXUS is now available on the PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and the Xbox Series X|S.

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