Hands-On

OPPO R15 Pro hands-on review: The screen is notch the same

Still a beautiful handset

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The R15 is OPPO’s newest smartphone contender. Just announced last week in China, the upper-midrange device is a sequel to the R11 and the R11s. But, in the sea of near-borderless devices, is the R15 just another notched phone?

GadgetMatch flew to China (yes, we do a lot of things to bring you tech content) to see what this phone has to offer.


But first, let’s get the confusion out of the way. There are two new OPPO releases: The R15, which is the Chinese version of the phone, and the R15 Pro, which will ship internationally later on. The latter has also been dubbed the Dream Mirror edition — a name that stems from a direct translation of its Chinese name.

The review unit we have is the R15 Pro. Let’s move on to the hands on! 😁

It looks good, it feels good

Unlike its predecessor, this newer release now has a glass back which makes for a very sexy look. Admittedly, I still shudder to think about what can happen if and when I end up dropping any of these glass phones. But, the R15 Pro’s sexy, shiny new looks just make the risk worth it. OPPO also claims that this new material is stronger than the traditional metal or glass used in smartphones — and it certainly doesn’t feel like a fragile phone.

If there’s one thing I’m happy about with recent phone releases, it’s the new color gradient trend. This subtle touch makes for very pretty detail. OPPO has experimented with this before: The “Starry Sky” screen on the R11s is basically a color gradient on the phone’s screen that fades into the colored body. Applied differently, and you have the R15’s cool gradient back.

Ruby Red R15 Pro (left) and the Nebula Purple R15 (right)

Now on to the basics: Volume buttons are on the right, unlock button is on the right. The micro-USB is at the bottom together with the speakers and an audio jack.

That display, though!

Before anything else: Yes, there is a notch.

The OPPO R15 has a 6.29-inch OLED display with a 19:9 screen ratio, i.e. a taller screen. This means more content in each swipe.

But, when watching videos, as with any notch, it can get distracting.

Said notch only houses the camera, the earpiece, and the proximity sensor which makes it a smaller distraction on the screen, compared to other devices. OPPO claims that this handset now has a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio — though that doesn’t change the fact that the notch is still there. And unlike the newest Huawei release, there’s no option to hide it.

Same old, but different

Equipped with 12- and 16-megapixel shooters on its rear, the R15 packs the same cameras as its predecessor, the R11s (and the OnePlus 5T).

This time, however, the camera setup is equipped with artificial intelligence. It can recognize up to 120 different scenes and adjusts to them accordingly to ensure that the best possible photos are taken. With my time with the phone, however, this feature was slow and laggy. At times that the rear cameras did detect a scene, I couldn’t really tell what difference it made.

Person detected! See tiny icon on the upper right

Although it rocks the same shooters as the R11s’, better camera sensors on this smartphone mean better HDR capabilities. I put it to the test with some difficult photos and here’s what I got.

Details are obviously better on the R15 Pro photograph. The leaves are visibly more detailed and bright compared to the R11s sample.

In some cases though, the R15 Pro’s HDR mode can wash out the contrast in against-the-light shots. Sure, this makes the subjects seem brighter, but there are times when HDR photos look a little washed out.

The rear shooters are now equipped with a Portrait mode that’s reminiscent of the iPhone’s similarly named mode. There are five options and each one supposedly creates different lighting effects. The results are as follows:

Bokeh cutouts are still good and that creamy blur is still on point — not that I doubted OPPO’s portrait mode, I loved it on their previous releases.

Photos with the rear cameras look like this:

Still the selfie expert?

OPPO, of course, still makes sure the selfie shooters are on point. Its 20-megapixel front-facing camera still has a beauty mode from levels one to six, and AI beauty mode for that more natural fresh-faced finish.

The AI on this thing is improved to recognize more feature points and allow for more beauty combos. Admittedly, there were instances where it did a little bit too much — in some selfies, my eyes looked like they were definitely enlarged. Still, OPPO’s AI beauty mode remains to be one my favorites as it smoothens your skin without making you look like you’re made of plastic.

There are also stickers on both the front and rear cameras — yes, folks, no need for Instagram or Snapchat filters!

Me and my best techie friend Ayano Tominaga from Japan playing around with the stickers 🐰

Now, the true test of these stickers is how cute they are. Trust me, the ones on the R15 are adorable.

Under the hood

The R15 is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage — which means it’s a pretty capable device. Of course, I tested this theory by playing a little bit of Sims Mobile, and I’m happy to report that everything worked smoothly.

A 3400mAh battery powers the device which lasts a day’s use, approximately. It also comes bundled with OPPO’s VOOC charger which means it has fast charging! This device still uses a micro-USB port, though, which makes me wonder when OPPO will ever make the switch to USB-C.

It runs on Android 8.1 Oreo and ColorOS 5.0 which will make navigating this phone easy if you were ever an iOS user. Unfortunately, this means no widgets — the one Android smartphone feature I’ve grown to love. Nevertheless, the phone is snappy, responsive, and easy to use.

R15 vs the R15 Pro

The two R15 versions look similar, but the R15 Pro’s curved back gives this variant a more graceful look. Otherwise, most things are found in the same places.

R15 Pro (left) vs R15 (right)

The main difference is what’s on the inside. The R15 Pro has a better processor compared to the R15’s Helio P60 processor. Rear camera combination is also different with the R15 Pro rocking a 20- and 16-megapixel duo with f/1.7 aperture on both shooters. The R15 has a 20- and 5-megapixel combo and only the main camera has that f/1.7 aperture. What difference does this make? Well, not a lot. In difficult shooting scenarios, though, the R15 Pro does shine brighter with better bokeh cutouts.

Weird cutouts on the R15 sample

In terms of battery, however, the R15 trumps the Pro with a 3450mAh capacity — 50mAh more than the Pro’s.

Initial thoughts

In 2018, bezels are out and the newest OPPO release is a fresh borderless update. This upper-midrange device is a definite looker and it feels as good as it looks. I love holding this phone and that’s saying a lot — of course, looks matter when we’re talking about something you’d be touting around every day.

I was a little disappointed with how AI on the rear cameras performed, though. I’m still hoping that an eventual update will fix that. Of course, despite these AI hiccups, the R15 Pro is still up there on the list as one of the best midrange devices for selfies and rear-camera portrait modes.

Even considering these tiny incremental upgrades, I don’t see much of a difference between this and the R11s — a phone that’s made it to our Best Upper-Midrange Smartphone list and has remained there to this day. If you’re not running after the latest borderless device, I’d still strongly recommend the R11s.

If you are, however, looking for the most up to date, premium-looking device with great selfie capabilities at a midrange price point, the R15 Pro may just be for you.

The R15 retails for CNY 2,999 (US$ 475) and the R15 Pro retails at CNY 3,299 (US$ 525). Both are now available in mainland China; the R15 Pro will roll out in international markets soon.

SEE ALSO: OPPO R11s review: Midrange selfie powerhouse

Automotive

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: A Stylish Speedster

It’s your everyday sports car

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One of the biggest factors when buying a new car, apart from function, is how it looks. The impact of that first glance. Something that would make you look twice. Some of us have that desire to break the norm and it seems like Hyundai took note of this demand — and made it fast.

The grille is flanked with LED headlamps partnered with Daytime Running Lights

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster is the second of its generation and now has a more assertive exterior than its predecessor. The most noticeable part? Its redesigned front grille. It now comes in this meshed pattern with sharper edges and, if you ask me, this alone gives the car a more aggressive presence.


Then we go to the rest of the exterior and we see those subtle lines that add to the sporty vibe of this vehicle. From the hood to the wheel arches — these accents make the Veloster look like it’s always moving.

At the back we also have this eye-catching pair of LED tail lamps plus a rear spoiler with the third brake light. Rounding up the whole sporty look is a rear bumper diffuser to improve the car’s aerodynamics.

Other notable details include side mirrors with signal repeaters and sexy 18-inch alloy wheels. If you’re already familiar with the first Veloster, then you’d know that it’s unconventional in a way that it only has one door for the driver’s side while the other has the usual two. Some call it weird. I’d like to call it style.

In terms of features, the 2019 Veloster has the bells-and-whistles for the tech-savvy. There’s keyless entry, a mechanical seat for the driver, telescopic steering wheel, voice commands, and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Those are just some of the things the vehicle assists you with before you start your day. And of course, there’s more for the drive ahead!

Your main hub for music, navigation, calls, and more is an 8-inch floating display. For controls, the steering wheel has buttons for Bluetooth as well as audio and cruise control.

Important driver information and settings can be accessed through the digital dash

In the age of smartphones, charging on-the-go is of utmost importance and with the Veloster, you get more than one option. There are two USB ports up front plus a special wireless charger just below it. Of course, your phone has to support this feature for it to work, but if it does, it feels good knowing you don’t have to fumble over plugging the cable to your phone — while you’re in the car, at least.

And for when you want more light during the day or when it’s simply colder at night, you can open the moonroof and let the breeze roll in. Added comfort creatures like this make the Veloster a package for those who like having fun on the road.

One of the things I love about its interior is how the black and red color of the exterior continues here. Its bucket seats wrapped in leather offer a premium feel for the driver and passengers alike.

The company is obviously keen to details as one can see in the cabin of the vehicle. From the buttons and knobs that reflect its sporty DNA to the ergonomics and materials used to make each ride as comfortable as possible.

Being a Turbo variant, it’s powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. Power is then transferred to the front wheels through a seven-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission. Although unlike Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way, it’s not always “Turbo Time!” for the Veloster. It offers different driving modes depending on what the situation calls for.

There’s Normal, Sport, Eco, and Smart. Eco obviously goes for the most efficient fuel consumption, Smart mode adjusts to your driving habits, Normal is — well, normal. Sport is for Track Day or simply when you want to show off.

Of course, all that speed has to be kept in check with a couple of safety features. The vehicle comes with dual airbags for the front, plus side and curtain airbags. Adding to those are ABS (anti-lock braking system) and an immobilizer for anti-theft.

Having the Veloster as a daily driver made me realize a couple of things. One is that it’s actually fuel-efficient for a car with this oomph when it’s set to Eco or even Normal mode — averaging about 9km to 10km to a liter in the city and up to 16km/l outside the Metro. It may have slight delays when not in Sport mode but it had no shortage of power. And together with its stance and vibrant red color, the Veloster is a certified head-turner.

See more of it in this video:

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Accessories

MPow Headphones Hands-On: Are these worth your while?

Little-known brand promises value-for-money products

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When people talk about headphones and earphones, the brand MPow isn’t the first one that comes to mind. The company boasts quality audio gadgets at really competitive pricing.

Of course, we have to tell for ourselves if these headsets are really any good. We gave a pair to each of our four guys. After a through hands-on, we asked for their verdict.


MPow H7 [Dan]

I’m unfamiliar with MPow. Admittedly, I Googled about the brand and my particular model. Apparently, the MPow H7 is one of the best-reviewed wireless headphones on Amazon US (and other shopping portals). I slightly expected great things. Indeed, the H7 is good for its price. However, it has a couple of shortcomings.

The good: The H7 sounds better than any headphones I’ve used for US$ 20. It’s a balanced pair of headphones for general listening. Bass is really good for electronic music. Vocals are pretty clear in acoustic hits. It’s comfortable and lightweight. I could wear them for hours without any discomfort. Also, I have no issues with pairing on my laptop or my phone.

The bad: The H7’s light weight makes it feel a bit cheap. It’s not exactly a bad thing; you’ll wear this more than you’ll hold it, after all. Additionally, the H7 looks so generic. That’s perfectly subjective, though.

For its price, the H7 is an easy recommendation for those looking for a pair of comfy, good-quality over-ear wireless headphones. It’s certainly not a looker — at least for me — but it deserves the praises it has received so far.

MPow S10 [Rodneil]

The MPow S10 is positioned as a workout companion. However, my usage proves that it can be more than that.

Still, I used it for a few workout sessions. The IPX7 helps take out the worry of getting sweat all over. The fit around your neck and on your ear was also perfect for me. I love that the buds are magnetic. You can even wear it like a pseudo-necklace when not in use.

Coming off the Galaxy Buds, I can say the audio quality lacks a little bit of texture. It just doesn’t have the crispness that I got from Samsung’s wireless earbuds. Of course, the quality isn’t that bad. For video editing and video calls, the quality is more than adequate.

There were also zero problems pairing. Switching from my phone to my laptop was seamless. It’s pretty versatile for a pair of earphones marketed as a sporting buddy, and at US$ 24.99, I would say it’s a pretty darn good deal.

MPow H5 [MJ]

The MPow H5 was a total treat. It’s comfortable to wear and carry around. For US$ 40 headphones, it comes complete with features you can see in similar yet more expensive products.

Its noise-canceling capabilities actually work against the blabbers and chatters while giving a pleasant, sound experience. It can’t completely block the human voice. Still, I think it’s a good thing as it removes the need to pause your music when people approach you. For clearer communication, you can turn off the noise-cancellation with an easily accessible button.

What I liked the most is its ability to switch Bluetooth connection between devices seamlessly. There are times that I had to switch devices (especially when I run out of battery). It’s helpful to stay connected so I can maintain focus on the task at hand.

MPow EG3 [Kevin]

The EG3 is all about gaming, and then some. It specializes in first-person shooter (FPS) games especially with the 7.1 surround sound. It puts you in the middle of the battlefield. You can tell where each sound is coming from. Together with its decent audio performance, gaming becomes a more immersive experience compared to when you only have ordinary headphones on.

Personally, I look for a specific sound when I play games and a different one when I listen to music. MPow’s Audio Center makes it easy with an equalizer and customizable audio profiles. It also has an array of effects such as environment effects, pitch shifting, and a built-in gooseneck microphone. Speaking of the mic, it has an impressive quality good enough for recording voice overs.

Notably, MPow aims for quality products with competitive pricing. For a pair of lightweight headphones delivering good audio and packing premium features, the EG3 is priced at just US$ 29 — more affordable than most models in its tier. Considered altogether, it’s hard to pass on the EG3.

Overall verdict

Four different people, four different devices, one brand. The verdict is pretty unanimous. These MPow headsets aren’t the absolute best in terms of quality. However, in terms of value for your money, these headphones are easy recommendations.

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Features

We tried Lenovo’s foldable ThinkPad PC and it screams future

A foldable computer like no other

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Lenovo’s been working on a new kind of computer: a folding laptop that will supposedly replace your own laptop.  

While foldable smartphones captured the talk of the tech world, Lenovo worked behind the scenes on a foldable computer over the past three years. Going on sale sometime next year, Lenovo aims for the bragging rights to call it the world’s first.


The device does not have a name yet. However, last week, Lenovo gave me the unique opportunity to play around with an early prototype.

It’s a computer that screams of the future. In fact, it will run an unannounced Intel processor and an upcoming skew of Windows.

Of course, Lenovo is still fine-tuning certain details. Still, the foldable 2K LG OLED display and torque hinge already do what they’re supposed to. The mechanism ensures each fold and unfold cycle goes smoothly and without a hitch.

Considering how much my iPad Pro has become my go-to, on-the-go device, Lenovo’s all-in-one device is an idea that I’m willing to embrace.

The device starts out as a 10-inch leather-bound Moleskine notebook, with the display folded shut.

Unfold it a little: it’s an ebook like nothing you’ve used before.

Keep it at a 90-degree angle: you’ve got yourself a laptop with an on-screen keyboard on the bottom half.

When used this way, both halves of the display can work independently. You could be on a Skype call on the top screen and viewing a presentation on the bottom half. You could also watch a video up top and jotting down notes on the bottom

Fully articulated, it’s a 13-inch tablet.

Prop it up and use the bundled Bluetooth keyboard: it’s a desktop PC.

According to Lenovo, user confidence in foldable devices is currently low. However, the brand is confident in its product so much that it’s attaching the ThinkPad X1 line — a name associated with reliability and durability — to the foldable laptop.

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