Reviews

OPPO F9 Review: New design with minor upgrades

Offers more for the same price as its predecessor

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OPPO moves quickly to release new smartphones bi-annually. Just five months after the announcement of the OPPO F7, we now have the OPPO F9.

Like most phones that get released within the same year as its predecessor, the upgrades are minor. It has a few new convincing features and it’s got the same price as the F7 at launch.

Here’s my review of the OPPO F9.

It now has a bigger and taller display at 6.3 inches

Still with a notch and Full HD+ resolution

The so-called waterdrop notch adds beauty

The only notch design that I like

On the upper-left side is the triple-card slot

Hooray! You can put two SIM cards and a microSD card together

Just below it are two buttons for adjusting volume

While on the right is the power/lock button

Sadly, it still uses a micro-USB port

Along with the headphone jack and loudspeaker

The back of the phone looks pretty

The petal-shaped pattern shows up when hit by light

There are now two rear cameras at the back

The fingerprint reader is still present

OPPO gets more stylish with every release

While Xiaomi and Huawei focus on specs, OPPO sticks with design to appeal to buyers. Through Pocophone and Honor, Xiaomi and Huawei are able to offer flagship specs for the price of a midrange device. OPPO has Realme in India but it pivots more towards budget-oriented devices.

The first feature one would notice about the F9 is its display with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The 6.3-inch Full HD+ display is the crowning glory of the device. It still has a cutout, but the F9’s waterdrop-like notch is not as obtrusive as other’s.

OPPO claims the phone has a 90.8 percent screen-to-body ratio. I don’t have the means to confirm the numbers, but the display is immersive and enjoyable to watch on. Although there’s one problem: There’s no option to hide the notch and it covers a portion of the interface with some apps. Fortunately, we were informed that the screen is already topped with the latest Gorilla Glass 6.

When you flip the F9, there’s another beauty that’ll greet you. The new pattern at the back adds flair to the previously plain F7’s rear — unless you have the Diamond Black variant. The rear has the so-called “petal-shaped pattern” and like other flashy devices lately, it plays with light in different angles. Both the Twilight Blue (the unit I’m using) and Sunrise Red models have similar patterns.

Additionally, there’s nothing unusual about the placement of the dual rear cameras and the fingerprint reader. They easily blend with the rest of the design. OPPO made a beautiful phone, but it lacks the premium feel of aluminum on the sides. Perhaps, the F11, or whatever the successor will be called, will have a metal frame.

Same performance as before

The F9 looks different from the F7, but it performs about the same. It’s still powered by a Helio P60 processor from MediaTek, but it already comes with 6GB of memory in most markets. In India, the regular F9 comes with 4GB of memory while the 6GB variant is called the F9 Pro.

Having the same processor from a five-month-old device is not a big of a deal. The Helio P60 still performs well and outshines some of its competitors in terms of value. Having a MediaTek processor is a way to keep the cost down, but that doesn’t mean it’s inferior.

There’s nothing to complain about the phone’s everyday performance. The F9 boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box with the latest ColorOS 5.2 on top. Android 9 Pie is already available on some phones, but don’t expect it to come to the F9 anytime soon.

ColorOS is pleasing to the eyes, but some may or may not like its iOS-like interface. There are some limitations to the UI especially with the notifications (e.g. no swipe to dismiss them instantly) that pure Android Oreo already has perfected.

Gaming-wise, the Helio P60 packs a punch. It can play intensive games smoothly without any major hiccups. I threw in popular titles like Mobile Legends and PUBG: Mobile, and both had no issues. The latest Asphalt 9: Legends needs to have some optimizations, though, because it lags even in “Performance” settings. I haven’t encountered any overheating issues, either.

The secondary rear camera brings bokeh

Adding to the list of new features is the dual rear camera setup. The F9 is still rocking a 16-megapixel shooter with an f/1.8 aperture, but it’s now paired with an extra 2-megapixel depth sensor for portrait mode. The depth sensor allows the phone to shoot photos with proper bokeh.

Here are some samples:

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As for selfies, you can’t go wrong with the 25-megapixel front-facing camera. It captures detailed selfies with an AI-enabled beauty feature. The beauty mode isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s great to have around when you feel like taking a nice selfie.

Check out our selfies:

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Long-lasting, fast-charging battery

It’s good to know that OPPO’s F series continues to have bigger batteries with every new model: 3200mAh for F5, 3400mAh for F7, and now we have a 3500mAh battery inside the F9. Most importantly, OPPO’s acclaimed VOOC Flash Charge is now finally available on the F series.

OPPO claims that a five-minute charge gives enough power for a two-hour voice call. Based on our unit’s charging test, a five-minute charge fills it up to eight percent, while a full charge will take about an hour and 20 minutes.

All that juice is enough to last up to two days of light to moderate usage. During workdays, it’ll give power from the morning commute until evening dinner.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The OPPO F9 improves a lot in the design department rather than specifications. That’s neither good nor bad. Why? OPPO isn’t asking for extra cash for the improvements. Owners of the F7 may feel behind just after a few months of purchase, but they don’t have much to envy about the F9 anyway.

I see the F9 as a phone for new OPPO fans or those who like to upgrade from the F5 (even though it’s just a one-year-old device) and below. To be even more practical, why not get the F7? It’s cheaper, has the same performance, and it’s still an amazing selfie phone.

The OPPO F9 with 6GB of memory is priced at PhP 17,990 in the Philippines and INR 23,990 in India. The cheaper variant with 4GB of memory is priced at INR 19,990 in India and VND 7,690,000 in Vietnam.

SEE ALSO: OPPO F7 Review: More than just for beauty selfies

Reviews

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 review

Part two of the Max experiment

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The ZenFone Max Pro M1 was one of those unicorns in the smartphone realm. Not only did it have dual cameras and a massive battery, it also came with stock Android — a rarity in ASUS’ lineup.

It was priced just right, hovering around the US$ 200 sweet spot in most regions. That being said, a successor was definitely in order, and the M2 I have here might bring that magic back.

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 is certainly bigger, badder, and more of a gaming phone than the M1 was. But with a higher price tag, is it still an easy-to-recommend product, especially with all the great options in the market?

On the outside, it’s a typical ZenFone, from the solid build to the super-bright 6.3-inch 1080p LCD. New this time around is the notch that houses the front-facing camera. It’s a sore spot in an otherwise clean design, but at this point, I can no longer argue against the established trend.

Next is the move from a metal coating to a shinier material for the rear. I can’t confirm yet if it’s mostly glass or plastic, but it’s more of a fingerprint magnet than what the previous ZenFone Max models had. ASUS does include a clear case to prevent unsightly fingerprints.

On the back you’ll find the fingerprint scanner, which isn’t that fast for logging in but more reliable than its face scanning. After alternating between the two, I ended up using the fingerprint sensor more, though that’s not to say it has a major advantage.

However, what matters more is the processor this smartphone comes with. It’s a Snapdragon 660, a chipset you’d normally find on more expensive handsets. Coupled with up to 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage, its performance certainly fits the bill.

If the storage isn’t enough, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a triple-card slot inside to house two nano-SIM cards and a microSD at the same time. If you’re planning to use this as a pure gaming device, that extra space holds a lot of weight.

During day-to-day activities like taking photos, multitasking around productivity apps, and binging on Netflix, I had no qualms whatsoever. It’s comparable to what the Nokia 7 Plus and Vivo V11 can do with the same chipset, and it helps that pure Android is on board to prevent bloatware from getting in the way.

But what we really want to test is mobile games, since ASUS is promoting the ZenFone Max Pro M2 as a budget-friendly gaming device. Early impression: Performance depends on which games you play.

I tried Ragnarok M and although the phone kept cool no matter how long I played, it would throttle at certain times, leading to choppy frame rates when there was too much action happening at once. I didn’t experience this with similarly priced phones like the Pocophone F1 and Honor Play.

Things are a little different with Asphalt 9, which relies more on bursts of intense processing with short breaks in between. This allowed the ZenFone Max Pro M2 to shine more, providing really smooth gameplay without heating up.

But what’s truly impressive is the battery life. I could play either of those games for five hours straight and they would reduce the percentage to only half. That’s amazing, and at the same time expected out of a 5000mAh capacity.

Unfortunately, topping up this battery to full using the bundled charger is a royal pain. With an average of 15 percent gains every 30 minutes, it would take around 3.5 hours to reach a hundred. I tried using faster chargers but the results were practically the same.

I’m not sure if this was a cost-cutting move or an oversight; either way, it sucks to wait for the phone to charge so long between gaming sessions. It doesn’t help that I’m forced to plug in through its micro-USB port. Every other device I own made the switch to the superior USB-C.

My bigger concern is ASUS’ update plans for this phone’s aging Android 8.1 Oreo, which came out in 2017. Despite being stock in nature, it isn’t part of the Android One program, so Google won’t be able aid in pushing new software.

For reference, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is still on Oreo, with no sign of Pie this year. While having a pure Android experience is great, not having timely updates defeats some of the purpose. In some cases, I actually miss ZenUI and the attention ASUS gives to it.

On that note, my review unit had some issues with the camera app. I found it strange that the app’s name is Camera App Lite, which seems to admit that it’s either not final software or ASUS is holding the software back on purpose to push its preferred ZenUI skin on other models.

Again, this may not be the final build, but there were several bugs when I took photos and videos. It would often hang or not allow me to capture a shot even when all conditions were met. Other times, highlights would be blown out or auto mode incorrectly reads the scene.

We’ll save judgment for another time, once the firmware gets updated. For now, here are the best photos I took with the 12-megapixel rear camera, its 5-megapixel depth-sensing unit, and the 13-megapixel selfie shooter, which I’d say are on par with phones in this price range — decent, in other words.

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Is this your GadgetMatch?

With a price increase of about US$ 100, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 isn’t as affordable as it once was, although I do appreciate the improvements in multiple aspects.

The new chipset is a definite winner, and the sleeker design makes it easier to show off in public. In addition, everything that made the M1 so special is still there, from the massive battery to the bright screen.

I recommend this particular ZenFone to those who value performance and want something more out of a gaming smartphone. It may not be as fast as the Honor Play or Pocophone F1, but it’s the most well-rounded device in the entire ZenFone lineup.

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Laptops

Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

It’s just missing one thing…

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It was during IFA 2018 when Lenovo introduced their latest premium convertible for consumers — the Yoga C930. It doesn’t have a good name, but it does offer everything a Yoga should, especially in media consumption.

Notebooks with flipping displays, like the Yoga lineup, are not just designed for typing. Most manufacturers market their convertibles to be perfect for entertainment, yet they largely fail in one aspect where they should shine — audio.

When Lenovo introduced the Yoga C930 with the rotating soundbar and Dolby Atmos, I hoped that it was not just a marketing ploy. But, is it? Let me share my thoughts about Lenovo’s newest convertible.

No fuss design

The Yoga C930 has a metal shell with a familiar aesthetic from Lenovo. My unit has a dark finish that’s aptly named Iron Gray. If you want a lighter shade, Lenovo is also offering the notebook in Mica, which is close to white. Everything about the body of the Yoga C930 screams premium; nothing here looks cheap or ugly.

To make it more special, the sides and the hinge of the Yoga C930 have a brushed finish. It’s a minor touch, but it’s highly noticeable whenever you’re checking where you should plug your peripherals. I also think that it helps hide unsightly scratches and gives the notebook a bit of shine.

While we’re at it, the available ports on the Yoga C930 are generally okay. It’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports that fully support PowerDelivery, DisplayPort, and USB 3.1 functions. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports employ 4x lanes for PCIe, so you can connect the Yoga C930 to an external GPU, which is good because this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics unit.

Apart from a couple of versatile USB-C interfaces, there’s also a classic full-size USB that we all know and love. Thankfully, Lenovo knows that this is still a widely used port and bringing a dongle just to read a thumb drive is a hassle. The 3.5mm audio port is also available when you need to plug in a pair of wired headphones.

All of the ports on the Yoga C930 are on its left side, leaving the right with just the power button. There are no volume buttons, either.

While I appreciate that Lenovo provided both USB-A and USB-C ports, I was still hoping for more; another USB-C with PowerDelivery on the right and a full-size SD card reader would do. The Yoga C930 is slim, but it’s not ultra-slim like the fan-less MacBook which got away with having one port (or maybe two if you count the headphone jack).

The Yoga C930 has a fairly large 14-inch display (13.9 inches according to Lenovo), but with minimum side bezels. Since this is made for watching videos, the aspect ratio is still stuck at 16:9.

There are two resolutions available for the Lenovo C930: Full HD or Ultra HD. The one I have here is just the Full HD variant, but it still has the key feature: Dolby Vision. The best way to fully appreciate the display is to play an HDR or Dolby Vision-enabled title. You can find some on Netflix if you’re using the highest-tier plan.

The display gets bright enough to be used outdoors and really dim when you need it to. It’s vibrant and has deep blacks even if it’s only an LCD panel.

When watching a video, I prefer to use the Yoga C930 in Tent mode. It can also be used in Stand mode with the keyboard facing down, but for some reason, Lenovo didn’t put little rubber feet to protect the keyboard when placed on a surface. You have to be cautious where you place the notebook or you risk scratching it.

The integrated soundbar of the Yoga C930 is designed to always face the user. That’s another advantage of watching videos in Tent mode; the speaker is facing upwards. I get to hear the sound directly without any muffle. I must say, the Yoga C930 has one of the clearest speakers I’ve tried on a notebook. It gets really loud, too.

It even has Dolby Atmos to enhance it further, but it’s not as immersive as advertised. To be fair though, I get to hear the stereo effect better than on other notebooks.

The device is least useful (for me) when it’s in Tablet mode. The Yoga C930 is too heavy to be a tablet, plus the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it feel like I’m reading from a really tall magazine. But, this is where the built-in pen comes in handy. The integrated stylus makes it easy for doodlers to annotate on screen.

Fast but not incredible

Let’s talk about power. The Yoga C930 I have is powered by the latest 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor paired with 12GB DDR4 memory and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Configurations may vary in some regions, so the Yoga C930 in your stores might be more powerful or inferior.

There’s one thing that’s missing though, and it’s not an option anyone can get either: discrete graphics.

As mentioned, the Yoga C930 is not an ultraportable. It has nowhere near the portability of Dell’s XPS 13 or even Lenovo’s own Yoga Book. It’s big enough to house at least a modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 — just like the latest ZenBook from ASUS.

My usage includes multiple tabs on Chrome, some slight editing on Photoshop, and hours of binge-watching on Netflix. I primarily used the notebook for typing and browsing, which are not heavy tasks.

So far, I had no major performance issues during my time with the Yoga C930. I didn’t bother to install games because it lacks discrete graphics.

Of course, the notebook runs Windows 10. I got the October 2018 update just last week, and it made the dark mode better. It matches the gray motif of the device.

It’s ideal for my own use

Putting all the technical specifications aside, the Yoga C930 has been a great companion.

Aside from the soundbar, I also fully appreciate the notebook’s keyboard. It’s not as great as the one on ThinkPads, but it’s good enough for me. It’s well-spaced and has a good amount of key travel.

The touchpad uses Microsoft Precision drivers and it fully supports all the gestures of Windows 10. It has a glass surface and picks up all the inputs. A responsive touchpad and a good keyboard is the combo I need for work.

There’s also something about the craftsmanship of the Yoga C930 that gives assurance that it’s a well-built device. Perhaps it’s the balance between weight and dimensions.

Lastly, the webcam has a physically cover — just like a ThinkPad’s. It’s nice to see nifty features of Lenovo’s business laptops on a consumer device. I don’t have to cover the webcam anymore with a piece of tape.

Great battery life

I am generally impressed with the longevity of the Yoga C930. Lenovo promises all-day battery life, but we all know that is somehow a stretch. Based on my usage, I get around eight to nine hours. I also experience about the same when watching Netflix non-stop.

It’ll not beat records, but I am always assured that even if I leave my charger at home, I know I can rely on the Yoga C930 to get me through a full day.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

You probably already think that this is my GadgetMatch, which I’ll not deny. I had a good time with the Yoga C930, despite its shortcomings. It’s a premium convertible that managed to meet my expectations. I’m hoping Lenovo will soon have an option with discrete graphics. For now, you can maximize the device by plugging in an external GPU.

The Yoga C930 has a starting price of US$ 1,399. It’s a bit pricier than I expected from its specs, but it’s a premium convertible that offers more versatility than regular laptops.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, 330S, 330: Which is right for you?

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Drones

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Review: 1 month in

Not a perfect drone, but…

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We won’t bore you with a rundown of its specs, but instead, we’ll give you the lowdown on DJI’s new drone — what works, what doesn’t, and what’s there to love. This is our DJI Mavic 2 Pro review.

 

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