Accessories

OPPO Enco W31: Works as advertised

Nothing fancy. Just right

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Everyone’s getting in on the TWS earphones game and OPPO is no different. One of their latest releases is the OPPO Enco W31 and it seems to be geared towards the more budget conscious.

I’ve been very privileged in that most of the TWS earphones I have tried thus far have been more on the premium end. We even had a three-way battle between TWS earphones from top smartphone manufacturers.

That was actually a pretty close tussle. But the thing is, all of those were priced north of PhP 5,000 (around US$ 100). If you’re not willing to shell out as much, what are your options?

So far from what we’ve reviewed, the Redmi Earbuds S appears to be a solid choice. That one doesn’t follow the stem design popularized by Apple’s Airpods. If that’s what you’re looking for but for much less, that’s where the OPPO Enco W31 comes in.

‘Airpods’ look 

I have mixed feelings about this stem design. On one hand, it’s clear what all the other manufacturers are trying to be. They’re just reinforcing the idea that Apple is the gold standard instead of blazing their own trail.

On the other, as long as it works and the stems are there for a reason, we can’t really complain too much, can we?

Which is the case for the OPPO Enco W31. Double tapping on the stem of the left earbud will shift the mode from Balanced to Bass and vice versa. Meanwhile, a double tap on the stem of the right earbud will skip to the next.

Triple tapping either stem will trigger the Google Assistant so you can ask stuff like “How is the Philippines handling the Coronavirus pandemic?” You will then get factual information and not the propaganda that the powers-that-be want you to believe. I digress.

The controls, while limited, work as advertised. They’re responsive and rarely did I have any trouble switching modes, skipping to the next truck, or summoning the trusty Google Assistant.

Clamshell case, box inclusions

The similarities with the Airpods pretty much ends with the stem look. First off, it opts for an in-ear design. It helps in making the earphones feel snug in your ears as well as add to some form of noise-cancelling.

Upon opening the box, it already does a great job of reminding you that it’s an OPPO product. Right smack in the middle is the clamshell case with the OPPO logo dead center.

Elsewhere in the box you’ll find the user guide, warranty card, the USB-C cable, and some spare eartips. The usual stuff.

The clamshell case, I thought, was a curious design case. Up until this one, most of the cases for stemmed TWS earphones are vertically oriented. One where the stem is buried deep in the case and you pull it out to take it from the case.

The clamshell case opens like, well, a clamshell. It also reminds of the compact that girls carry around. The way the earphones sit on the case makes it more difficult than usual to pry it off.

It’s magnetic, sure, but the spaces around it weren’t big enough for my stubby fingers to easily lift the earphones from the case. It also didn’t help that I’m such a klutz that I kept dropping the earphones as I tried to take them from the case.

It’s a minor gripe, but one that can certainly be improved upon.

Sound quality is okay 

This is where I think the most compromise was made. It’s by no means terrible, but it certainly is not in the level of the three more premium TWS headphones we tested (Airpods, Galaxy Buds+, Freebuds 3).

With the only other mode other than Balanced being Bass, the earphones definitely favor the bass. In fact, there’s little difference between the two modes. It’s noticeable, for sure. But the Balance mode lacks the crisp and clarity one would expect from a setting that’s supposed to be balanced.

It’s a little unfair that I’m comparing it to more expensive devices, but at the moment that’s my only gauge. But I would like to emphasize that it isn’t bad at all. It’s certainly better than even the wired ones that are bundled with phones.

There’s another TWS on my to-review list that I expect to be similarly priced to this. With that, I can have a better bar in terms of gauging the sound quality.

Despite not sounding as crisp as it’s more expensive counterparts, it does sound better than even some wired headphones I’ve tried in the past. I used my trusty playlist for audio testing again and it’s able to do that left-to-right thing that some tracks implement.

Jamming to other tunes will get you vibing too. The in-ear design boxes you in and it does get more than loud enough so you’re really immersed in what you’re listening to.

Call quality a mixed bag

So I called two friends and they had different feedback regarding how I sounded during the calls.

The first one said I sounded like I’m calling from a metallic room. It was echoey and the reverb just didn’t sound good.

The second person I called had a more positive feedback. She said I sounded pretty clear. Initially, she thought I had put her on speaker phone. But when I said I was using TWS earphones, she said the sound was clean and clear. Not what she was expecting.

Battery life is impressive

Just like the controls, the battery life on this thing is as good as advertised. It says up to 10 hours of playback with the earphones alone and up to 30 hours with the charging case.

USB-C port to charge the OPPO Enco W31

I typically used it for about three to four hours each day for a little under 10 days. I haven’t charged it since the initial juice up right before I began the testing phase.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

If you’re looking at the OPPO Enco W31 as your first pair of TWS earphones, I’d say you’re in for a treat.

The controls and battery life work as advertised. The in-ear design helps keep you immersed in what you’re listening to. Sound quality may not be stellar but it’s par for the course for the price it commands.

If this is your first step to free yourself from the entanglement of wires, know that you’re getting a solid pair of TWS earphones.

Accessories

Huawei FreeBuds 4i review: “The” audio daily driver

An audio experience you simply can’t miss

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A great set of earphones becomes as integral to your everyday life as your preferred devices. Whether you like it wired or wireless, it’s simply something you can’t live without these days. From the early morning commutes to playing games with the squad, a daily driver like this comes in handy for all of those.

For the past few years, Huawei ventured into the wireless sound space much like their contemporaries. From the earphones and headsets to speakers, each iteration brings something new to the table. This is, what I felt, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i shapes itself up to be: something different, something more.

So, how much more does this new pair of TWS earphones bring to the table? For starters:

It comes in an oval-shaped charging case w/ an optional cover

Inside the box are a fast-charging USB-C cable and different earbud tip sizes

You have three colorways to choose from: Ceramic White, Carbon Black, or Red

Breaking down the full audio experience

As I was writing this, I went ahead and looked back at everything I said about the Huawei FreeBuds 4i the very instance I got my hands on it. I briefly touched on the audio experience, and even went out of my way to call it a great first impression — all things considered. After some more time using these wireless earphones, I have some more things to call out.

Enjoying the music every tone of the way

From my first impressions, I could already tell that these earphones were designed for you to listen to your music better. This isn’t just hearing the songs without any noise in the background, but rather for you to truly appreciate the songs you’re listening to. See, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i comes with two major audio enhancements: a dynamic 10mm audio driver and Active Noise Cancellation.

With the dynamic audio driver, I’m assuming that the music you’re listening to has some more explicit bass to it. Well, I wasn’t wrong but it was actually more than that the longer I listened to my playlist. When I was listening to most of the “pop” songs in my playlist, I could hear some level of depth to the tones and vocals. It’s those little intricacies that you only get to hear from a great set of headphones, to be honest.

However, the biggest selling point here is that sweet Active Noise Cancellation technology inside. Essentially, when it’s on, only your songs exist in your ears and not much else. It does a fantastic job blocking all background noise out, so you can immerse in your songs a bit longer. Honestly, it was a joy simply listening to all my songs with ANC on — especially early in the morning.

No delays with VODs, streams, and movies all the way through

In all honesty, this was the use case I was most concerned for because of my experience with my FreeBuds Lite. For some reason, I experienced some delay in my audio when I’m watching videos whether on YouTube or Netflix. For the longest time, it wasn’t a huge bother to me until I tried out the FreeBuds 4i and knew what I was missing.

Huawei included these low latency algorithms into the audio drivers that essentially remove lag between audio and video. While I was watching music videos and a KDrama on the side, it felt smooth to just see and hear the A/V sync like that. At least now, I wouldn’t laugh so hard when the audio is lagging behind.

Playing games and engaging in team comms

Where the ANC also shines in comes from, quite possibly, my 2nd most regular use case: gaming. In particular, I decided to play team-based games like League of Legends: Wild Rift and Call of Duty Mobile with full team comms. I’ve already touched on the ANC’s capabilities for rich, deep sounds, and it’s quite evident with games as well.

However, I’d like to touch on how the ANC helped out with team comms since I was sort of playing in a noisy environment. Essentially, apart from the ANC blocking out noise you hear, it also blocks out additional noise picked up by the microphone. In theory, it should project your voice in a clearer way.

I hopped on a Discord call on my phone, and my friends could tell the difference if I switched to wired earphones. They mentioned how they could hear the strong wind and my electric fan before switching to the FreeBuds 4i mid-game. Although, there were times they couldn’t hear me through my mic when I switched, but it didn’t happen regularly.

Define “daily driver?” for me please

Apart from the Active Noise Cancellation technologies, the FreeBuds 4i boasts 10 hours of continuous audio playback. Whether it’s a Spotify playlist or random YouTube videos, that’s quite a lot of nonstop audio banging in your ear. Actually, this is more of a battery life situation more than anything but it certainly stacks up.

What I love about the longevity of this accessory is that it still lasts long even if you charge for a few minutes. Within ten minutes of charging, I managed to use the earphones for a good 3-4 hours before running out of juice. That’s honestly quite long in itself, especially with the amount of songs and videos you can squeeze in at 50% volume.

With all the time I spent charging the buds, I managed to stretch my usage to 24 hours (yes, even in my sleep). This alone already made me believe that it fits the description of what a daily driver is all about. Plus, it charges quite fast while in its oval case, and its oval case also fully charges fast too (about an hour and a half).

Why the Huawei AI Life is a must-have

Like I mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of downloading additional software to make certain hardware work well. I mean, it just takes up more space on my phone that I would have needed for more photos and games. However, for the FreeBuds 4i, I installed the Huawei AI Life app to further maximize my use for it — and thank God I did.

See, if you’re not that big of a fan of using the gestures on the earphones, the AI Life app is where you need to go. In essence, it allows you to switch the ANC on/off, and you can even customize the touch gestures. Also, it even shows you the battery percentage of the buds and charging case. Honestly, I felt this added a bit more personalization to the FreeBuds 4i, something I was dying to experience.

Initially, I thought that you couldn’t change the gestures outright. I preferred having a gesture to play/pause songs and skip some of them — something the AI Life app covers. I genuinely think this is an app you should consider downloading if you plan to pick these earphones up.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At PhP 3,599, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i provides an audio experience that you simply cannot turn a blind eye to. Apart from the simple yet fashionable aesthetic, it comes with a pair of TWS earphones that bring deeper sound quality for any use case. With its long battery life and quick charge capabilities, it’s something worth using every single chance you get.

While there were some hiccups along the way, it doesn’t ruin the audio experience entirely. With integrations in the AI Life app, you can easily find ways around these hiccups to help ease these off. Also, the level of control it gives you makes the whole experience more personal.

It’s not something different in every sense of the word, but the Huawei FreeBuds 4i brings something more to the table. It’s simply not just great, but it poses itself as one of the best options for wireless earphones out there.

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Apple is cutting down AirPods production as sales drag

AirPods are losing their edge

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airpods

Apple posted its quarterly earnings report this week, marking a whopping 54 percent rise in revenues. While most of this was thanks to iPhone 12 series’ success, there’s one segment that’s losing steam quickly, and there’s little Apple can do about it — the AirPods.

The Cupertino-based giant is cutting production of its ultra-popular AirPods by around 25 percent to 30 percent due to a decrease in sales. Competition from budget-friendly offerings has severely dented the lineup’s dominance.

According to a Nikkei Asia report, Apple was expecting to ship 110 million units in 2021 but has now cut back its forecast to roughly 75-85 million units. Although, the report doesn’t specifically mention which AirPods are experiencing a slowdown.

The AirPods Max is an exceedingly premium offering that was recently unveiled. The device has been designed for a niche audience and was never expected to go fully mainstream. It has a lot of competition from veteran headphone makers like Sony, Sennheiser, Bose, and more.

Though, Apple could potentially turn the table for the smaller AirPods by releasing an updated iteration this year. The duo is long overdue for an upgrade, and a new release could encourage demand in the beginning.

Since their debut, the original AirPods, which has dominated the wireless earphone market, was one of the only Apple products not to receive an upgrade towards the end of the year.

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Nokia E3100: Trying new buds for work to workouts

Yes, Nokia has earbuds now

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Nokia E3100

Nokia and I go way back. It was the mobile phone brand of my youth. Our history includes a series of phones that predate the existence of touchscreen ones we use now. Everyone had a Nokia device then. In recent years, it’s become a rarity. So imagine my surprise when I first heard that Nokia is now making earbuds. How did it fare against the audio giants of our time?

First impressions

I got a hold of the Nokia E3100 Essential True Wireless Earphones. Compared to my old set of earbuds (Anker Zolo Liberty+), this one’s battery case and earbuds are extremely light, almost the same weight as a tube of drugstore lipstick.

The buds can operate up to 2.5hrs with a single charge, and up to 10 hours with help of the rechargeable battery case. Super convenient to pack if we still had our old lifestyle of going out daily.

On the job

I used to be able to maximize my earbuds on my commute — listening to music or watching series whenever I’m in transit. Nowadays, I mainly connect my headset to my laptop for Zoom meetings and other virtual work calls.

The Nokia E3100 did not disappoint on the sound side. Audio from the people I’m in the call with was always clear and crisp. But, it can be a hit-or-miss as a mic. The earbuds have a built-in microphone on the right side, but my experience with it left me wanting. There was a point when I had to switch back to the laptop microphone in the middle of a call just so people can hear my voice clearly.

Nokia E3100

On the mat

I also tried the Nokia E3100 for a few home workout sessions. Since the earbuds fit my ears perfectly, there’s no fear of it falling out in the middle of jumping jacks.

Another nice surprise is how you can easily skip or repeat tracks via push button controls on the earbuds. Less distractions to your exercise momentum! The only time I have to reach for my phone is when I want to switch to a different playlist.

Nokia E3100

Is the Nokia E3100 your GadgetMatch?

It’s reliable as an earpiece for listening to music, working out, and watching series. But when it comes to the demands of working from home, the current built-in mic just won’t do.

Nokia has to work on the voice sensitivity and responsiveness of the earbuds’ mic in order to take on this new age of virtual calls and meetings.

The Nokia E3100 retails for PhP 1,999 (US$ 41)

Buy here

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