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

The Huawei Nova 7 and Freebuds 3i is the perfect match

Some things are better in pairs

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Huawei is adding two new devices to their ever increasing portfolio. These are a phone and another TWS option — the Huawei Nova 7 and Freebuds 3i. 

The two devices share a common trait in that they offer flagship-level performance for less. More details on pricing and availability later on. For now, let’s talk about the devices.

Huawei Nova 7

The first noticeable thing about the Nova 7 is the design on its back, especially for the purple variant. It follows the Nova pattern introduced in the Nova 5T.

Since it’s laying face down, next thing you’ll notice is the quad-camera setup. It’s rocking a 64MP main camera, an 8MP ultra-wide angle lens, an 8MP telephoto lens, and 2MP macro lens (which you probably wouldn’t and shouldn’t use).

Naturally, it has all the AI camera features and post processing found on Huawei phones. We haven’t tested the cameras but we’ll throw in a quick comparison with a similarly priced phone for the review.

Now that that’s out of the way, we can flip it over to reveal the 6.53” OLED display. For screen refresh rate junkies, you’re only getting 60Hz here — which is still fine. That OLED looks mighty fine on the eyes.

Inside, it’s powered by the new Kirin 985 SoC. It’s flagship-grade and has support for 5G. In the Philippines, Huawei is currently leading the market in terms of sheer number of phones with 5G.

They started in 2019 with the Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G and followed it up with the P40 Series. As of writing, Huawei also has the distinction of offering the most affordable flagship phone in the Philippines — the Huawei Nova 7 SE. 

As to the actual availability of 5G, that’s a topic for another article. But if you want some extra reading, here’s our 5G explainer.

Back to the phone, it has an 8GB + 256GB memory and internal storage combo. It also has a 4,000mAh battery with support for wired 40W Huawei SuperCharge. No wireless charging here.

First impressions 

We’ve been using the device for roughly a couple of days now and it’s been delightful to use for the most part.

If you’re salty about the lack of a higher refresh rate, I would say the vivid OLED display kind of makes up for it. Scrolling side-by-side a device with an IPS LCD screen but with a 120Hz screen refresh rate, it certainly feels less smooth. But what it “lacks” in fluidity is more than made up for by the crisp and vibrant display. Certainly crispier than any IPS LCD display.

In terms of general day-to-day use, it’s pretty stellar. We’ve noted on our OnePlus Nord review how good these midrange/upper-midrange SoCs have gotten and the Kirin 985 along with the RAM and the stability of EMUI 10.1 contributes to a hiccup-free experience.

App access is improved by the introduction of Petal Search. Type whatever app you need and you’ll be shown the source of the app. But you can download it directly from the Petal Search’s interface.

The phone is still without Google Mobile Services, so certain apps that require it like Google’s entire suite of apps, VSCO, Sound Hound, and others won’t work at all. Regardless, there are alternatives for all of these as we’ve noted in this App Gallery feature, and this video. 

Huawei Freebuds 3i

The Huawei Freebuds 3i is the Freebuds 3’s younger sibling. Like the Nova 7, we’ve had it for a couple of days and are blown away but how it performs.

It has ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) and this is something you notice right away as you put it on. The Freebuds 3i does this through the in-ear design and its three microphone system.

The stem design also isn’t just for show or to look like a certain competing TWS earphone. The stem acts as the microphone pick-up. We tested it on a few quick calls and the people on the other line noted that we sounded crystal clear.

It also has touch controls that are configurable through the Huawei AI Life app.

The perfect pair?

Huawei isn’t exactly packaging the two together. But since they’re launching at the same time, we used the two together and it’s quite a treat.

Like any first-party accessory, the Freebuds 3i is immediately detected by the Huawei Nova 7 making for a hassle free pairing.

The Nova 7 doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack so if you want to jump straight into the wireless life, pairing it with the Freebuds 3i is a good place to start.

Quick note: The Nova 7 does come with wired earphones along with a USB-C to 3.5mm converter in case you’re not yet ready to let go.

The listening experience, though, is elevated if you do decide to get the Freebuds 3i.

Pricing and availability

The Huawei Nova 7 will retail for PhP 23,990 (US$ 488). It comes in two colors: Midsummer Purple.

Like any recent Huawei releases, it comes with an array of freebies. The first 100 buyers will get a Huawei Watch GT2e, VIP Service, and Tresemmé Shampoo and Conditioner so you’ll look fly in your selfies.

There’s also a spezial offer. The first 5 customers who order the Nova 7 during the airtime of noontime show Eat Bulaga, you’ll get the Huawei Freebuds 3 for free.

If you don’t watch the show, there are other ways to snag a free Huawei Freebuds 3. Just make sure you order between July 31 to August 2, 2020 at these times: 12MN, 10AM, 2PM, 6PM, and 10PM.

Meanwhile, the Huawei Freebuds 3i will retail for PhP 5,990 (US$ 122) with a free case that has a mini lanyard. The Freebuds 3i comes in two colors: Ceramic White and Carbon Black.

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Hands-On

OnePlus Nord Unboxing & Hands On: Prepare to be surprised!

Could this be the new flagship killer?

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OnePlus goes back to its roots with an impressive sub-US$450 smartphone. Could this be the new flagship killer? This is our OnePlus Nord Unboxing & Hands-On.

The OnePlus Nord will retail for 399 EUR / 27999 INR (8/128GB model) when it launches in Europe and India on August 4th.

Other variants include a 12GB/256GB model (499 EUR / 29999 INR) and a special 6/64GB variant for India ONLY which will retail for 24999 INR.

In case the video isn’t working, click here.

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5 things we like about the realme Watch

A fitness band you won’t mind wearing in non-workout scenarios

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realme has been on a roll in expanding their product portfolio. They started with smartphones, added some earphones and powerbanks, and this year they have two wearables so far – the realme smartband and the realme Watch.

Today we’re listing some of the things we really liked about the realme Watch. Oh and quick note – most of this video was shot using the realme X3 SuperZoom.

Battery Life

Okay so, number one is battery life.

At the time that this was written, the Watch was at 52 percent and it has been seven days since the last time it was fully charged. If I use it more or less the same way I have in the past seven days, then it’ll be another week before it completely runs out of juice.

It’s definitely a plus when you don’t have to think about charging your watch too often.

Variety of workouts

At launch it can track 14 different workouts with good variety.

You have stuff like Running, Walking, Strength Training, Yoga and even sports like Football, Table Tennis, and Badminton.

The only “workout” I really got to try is walking, since I absolutely dread running — or any other form of exercise for that matter. But the fitness tracking was fairly accurate for the most part.

I was dying to try basketball since that’s the only workout I truly enjoy. Unfortunately the courts are still closed because in case you forgot, the Coronavirus is still very much out there taking lives and we are totally not winning that battle.

Casual fit

If it’s just your regular trip to the grocery store, then this watch will suit you just fine.

Perhaps, you can also wear this on regular work days if you’re required to report onsite. Point is, since it doesn’t look like a fitness band. You can probably get away with wearing it in most casual situations.

Remote camera

This one was particularly useful for when I was making this video.

The remote camera camera works for both photo and video. And for photos, it can be set to either take the snap right away or with a timer.

Very convenient if, like me, you’re forever alone, and need or want photos of yourself.

Water reminder

For you thirsty folks out there, it also has a water reminder option that you can turn on using the realme link app.

You can set a time period when you should be reminded, as well as the frequency of the reminder. I didn’t exactly follow this all the time since I sorely lack discipline, but it’s nice to have that constant reminder.

Is the realme Watch worth buying?

To properly set your expectations, you’ll need to think of the realme Watch as more of an enlarged fitness band versus an actual Smart Watch, since most of its features are geared towards health and fitness.

And if you look at it, it’s… okay. Not really something you’d want to show off.

Underneath the display there’s this subtle realme branding that could’ve been smaller or they could’ve totally done away with. That might have helped with the overall look a little bit.

The watch faces are also limited at launch, but realme emphasized that a wide variety of choices is coming soon.

For PhP 3990 (US$ 81), you get a fitness band that you wouldn’t mind wearing in non-workout scenarios. I think that’s the primary benefit that you get, for paying around twice the price of a regular fitness band.

In case the video isn’t working, watch it here.

SEE ALSO: realme X3 SuperZoom, realme Watch price in the Philippines

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