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

Hands-On

Nokia 6.1 Plus hands-on: A compelling midranger

The benefits of Android One

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HMD Global continues trying to lift the Nokia phone brand to where it was before. While they’re still far from being on top again, the current Nokia phones are quite compelling. The latest we have is the Nokia 6.1 Plus, which is practically the Nokia X6 we first heard of in China.

This is Nokia’s first notched phone. While that doesn’t necessarily make it any better, this is a stepping stone for Nokia as they embrace the popular design choice for modern bezel-less devices.

Is the Nokia 6.1 Plus any good? Here’s what I have to say.

It’s got a 5.8-inch Full HD+ display

With a tall 19:9 aspect ratio

The notch houses the front camera, earpiece, and sensors

Thankfully, the notch is pretty small

The chin gives the phones a bit of a balance

It also shows the Nokia logo

There’s a hybrid card tray on the left…

You have to choose between a second SIM or microSD card

… while on the right are the physical buttons

One for power and another for the volume

On top are the audio port and noise-canceling microphone

There are also some antenna lines all around

It’s rocking a USB-C port! 👌

Beside it is the loudspeaker and main microphone

The back is a slab of smooth glass

Like the Nokia 7 Plus but with a different material

The fingerprint reader sits below the camera module

Easily for the index finger

Android One assures you with the latest updates

Quite a lot of other printed words, as well

It owns a common design

Design-wise, there’s not much to talk about. The look and feel of the Nokia 6.1 Plus are not that different from its competitors. It’s got the same aesthetic of the ASUS ZenFone 5 with an aluminum frame sandwiched by curved glass. Nokia claims to use Gorilla Glass 3 to make theirs stronger and scratch-resistant.

The display of the phone measures 5.8 inches, so it’s more pocketable than most smartphones today. It also has a tall aspect ratio of 19:9 which makes it easier to hold in one hand. The Full HD+ resolution is sharp at this size and there’s nothing to complain about the overall quality of the phone’s display.

The notch might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to be fair to Nokia, this is their first attempt. There are other Nokia phones without a notch that consumers can buy if they dislike it. The cutout is not as obtrusive as the iPhone’s, but there are no complicated sensors for facial recognition. Good thing the rear fingerprint reader is accurate and fast.

Overall, the Nokia 6.1 Plus stays true to the notion of Nokia’s build quality. The design is nowhere near iconic, but you’re not paying much for the phone either.

Performance is smooth as butter

The smooth operation of Android that we come to expect from Nokia phones is also present on the Nokia 6.1 Plus. The handset is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor paired with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage. It’s a pretty standard midrange setup that’s able to perform smoothly even with a number of apps running in the background.

I didn’t encounter any hiccups or notice any lag during my time with the phone, but I can say that it loads apps slightly slower than on flagship phones. Of course, there’s no bloatware that hogs resources since the phone is under the Android One program, and it’ll have consistent updates for up to three years.

I wouldn’t say that the Nokia 6.1 Plus is ideal for gaming, but it can handle popular titles. The Adreno 509 GPU that comes with the chipset is more than capable of rendering medium to high-quality graphics depending on the game’s demand. My staple Asphalt 9: Legends racing game runs fine, but it’s definitely not the smoothest I’ve seen.

The camera is more than okay

The Nokia 6.1 Plus is equipped with dual rear shooters and a single wide-angle selfie camera. The main sensor at the back is 16 megapixels accompanied by a 5-megapixel depth sensor. There’s also a dual-tone LED flash to help in taking photos in the dark. For selfies, it’s got a 16-megapixel sensor.

Check out the samples:

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Even without Zeiss branding on its cameras, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is able to take decent photos using both the front and rear cameras. They’re not the most appealing stills, but they’ll do good for social media. You can apply bokeh effects with the rear cameras, but it’s a bit cumbersome to use.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you want to stick to Nokia, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is a convincing choice among its midrange lineup. It’s not as impressive as the Nokia 7 Plus we loved before, but it’s cheaper and smaller. For PhP 15,990 (US$ 300) in the Philippines and MYR 1,149 in Malaysia (US$ 280), it’s a pretty good deal. It’s an even better deal in India for just INR 15,999 or roughly US$ 215.

The phone offers pure Android software with timely updates, a sturdy build, and good performance. It’s an all-around device, but don’t expect it to be an ideal phone for everyone.

SEE ALSO: Nokia 3.1 review: Back to Android One’s beginnings

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Cherry Mobile Flare S7 Plus hands-on: A step-up

The company’s greatest contender

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Cherry Mobile recently launched their new Flare S7 series, which is essentially their main smartphone lineup for the year. The greatest offering among the bunch is the Flare S7 Plus, a device with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a 2018 phone.

Since it’s from Cherry Mobile, you’d expect the phone to be cheap, right? Price-wise, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another affordable phone.

Here’s what I got to say about the Flare S7 Plus.

Cherry Mobile has officially joined the notch wagon with a borderless 6.18-inch display. It’s a Full HD+ panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it’s Cherry Mobile’s best display yet.

It’s vibrant and produces vivid colors, but the user interface kind of ruins the beauty of the display. It’s best to download your preferred third-party launcher and customize to your heart’s content.

Unlike with other midrange phones, the Flare S7 Plus’ notch is pretty wide and there’s a reason for it. The phone is equipped with more advanced facial recognition hardware including an IR camera. This ensures higher accuracy, faster unlocking, and even better face detection in low-light.

If you’re not a fan of face unlock, you can always resort to the fingerprint sensor placed on the back of the phone. Based on my usage, the fingerprint reader is faster most of the time than the face unlock. Good thing you have the best of both worlds.

Now that we’re on the back of the phone, let’s talk about another special feature of the Flare S7 Plus. Finally, Cherry Mobile embraces a more elegant design using a glass back and metal frame. I was told that they used Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so it won’t scratch easily in your pocket or on the table.

Since we we have a glass back, it’s possible to put in wireless charging and the company did just that. Simply place the phone on any Qi standard wireless charger, and let the magic happen.

It’s not exactly magic per se, but it’s amazing to have your phone charge by placing it on a table. This phone costs less than half of most flagships that don’t even support wireless charging.

Of course, you can always charge this phone’s 3050mAh battery through the reversible USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port because, sadly, the Flare S7 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Cherry Mobile bundles a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter inside the box, so you can still use your legacy headphones as you please.

Powering the Flare S7 Plus is a MediaTek Helio P60 processor. We have already tried the capabilities of this chipset with the OPPO F9, and it definitely delivers great performance. If you’re into benchmarking, you’ll be glad to know the Helio P60 scores higher than its competitors.

The phone also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage which is pretty standard nowadays. It boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but there’s no word when Android 9 Pie is coming.

The gaming performance of the Flare S7 Plus is above average, which is what you can expect from the Helio P60. The Mali-G72 MP3 GPU works well with intensive games, but you must reduce the graphics quality a bit to get consistently high frame rates.

As for the cameras, the Flare S7 Plus has capable shooters that are probably the fruit of Cherry Mobile’s investment in improving their R&D when it comes to picture quality. The phone has dual rear shooters using a main 16-megapixel RGB sensor and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. In the front, there’s another 16-megapixel selfie camera that’s paired with the IR sensor when needed. Check out the samples below:

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An additional feature of the front sensors is FlareMoji. Using the IR sensor and facial recognition, you can animate cutesy characters. Check this out:

It’s essentially like Apple’s Animoji, but the tracking is nowhere near as smooth as with the iPhone. Anyhow, it’s still enjoyable to use.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For just PhP 11,999 (US$ 225), the Flare S7 Plus offers a lot. You get a great premium phone with midrange power, beautiful display, and a plethora of extra features like wireless charging and an IR face scanner. The software UI is quite a letdown, but you can always download a launcher from the Play Store.

If you’re wondering what the Flare S7 Plus is in other markets, it’s also called the BLU VIVO XI+ and they share similar specifications and design.

SEE ALSO: Cherry Mobile announces Flare S7 series with three new smartphones

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro Hands-on: Best phone of 2018?

Huawei outdoes itself again

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In an industry where incremental updates are the new norm, Huawei manages to wow us again — barely a year after the release of the P20 Pro. The Chinese company is back with the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro which might just be the best among the best this year.

In this video, we go over the phones’ new designs, updated cameras, and new memory card format. We also go through the differences between the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.

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