Reviews

POCO F2 Pro review: Underrated sequel

Deserves your attention

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The POCO F1 launched to plenty of fanfare and for good reason. It had the allure of a phone with flagship-grade specs without the flagship price. But POCO went on hiatus and didn’t come back with an immediate successor to the F1. While the fanfare may not be the same, the promise of flagship-for-less remains with the POCO F2 Pro.

Its glass and metal build evokes the feeling of a premium flagship 

Up top is the 3.5mm jack

Down below are the speaker grilles, USB-C port, and SIM card tray 

The volume button and accented power button are on the right side 

And of course, hard to miss is the circular camera module 

It’s home to the POCO F2 Pro’s quad camera setup: 64MP main camera, 13MP ultra wide lens, 5MP telephoto camera, and 2MP depth sensor.

It also has a 20MP selfie camera which yours truly idiotically forgot to take a photo of and with.

While we’re on the subject of cameras, might as well throw the samples your way. The main sensor is likely what you’ll end up using the most especially if you’re just the point-and-shoot type. Happy to report that it performs rather well.

It captures pretty darn good detail as expected. The post-processing leans on the saturated side which, depending on your taste, is most of the time “social media ready” already.

But notice how it already applies some subtle background blur without using portrait mode. That’s thanks to the 1/1.7” sensor size.

It’s even more evident when you try to take photos from a different perspective.

Zoom in twice and five times and you’ll still get more than your fair share of detail retention especially in a well-lit environment.

I’m personally not a fan of macro lenses especially on other phones but Xiaomi and POCO have done a good job of adding actually useful macro lenses on their phones.

Color reproduction suffers a little bit when using HDR with a subject positioned against the light. This shot isn’t stellar but it’s a good start and nothing a few adjustments on a photo editing app can’t fix.

It handles bokeh well too even though we’re just shooting a Deku toy figure with acrylic stands of Momo and Chaeyoung of TWICE in the background.

The night mode is fantastic. You actually see the subject captured here but this was shot in a really dark room with a faint green light as the only light source. Shoot with a tripod for best results.

All-screen display is sexy AF

As mentioned earlier, the POCO F2 Pro employs a pop-up camera system for the selfie camera. That means we get a true all-screen display — one without notches or punch holes — which has become a rare breed after the abundance of such devices just a year ago.

It’s absolutely perfect for consuming media. Here we were watching an NBA game. Sadly, the NBA app doesn’t let you pinch out so the screen is fully occupied, but watching on the 6.67” AMOLED display is such a pleasurable experience.

Switching over to YouTube to watch a vlog by LOONA’s Heejin and here we were able to maximize the screen. As you can see, they’re absolutely stunning — both the phone’s display and Heejin.

Performs like a flagship as advertised

The sexy display extends to games as well. Call of Duty Mobile  looks fantastic on that display. With the POCO F2 Pro equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, it plays fantastic too.

The phone doesn’t have the 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rates that are present in some flagships today, and while that enhances the buttery smooth experience on phones, it’s still just a nice-to-have feature more than an essential.

MIUI 12 also contributes to the smooth experience. While other UIs are starting to optimize better too, MIUI still has a few touches that we especially like.

For instance, the recent apps screen feels more natural. Instead of holding and swiping up, and then swiping from right to left, MIUI lets you continue that upward and downward motion which feels more natural.

You also see four of your most recent apps right away, making it even faster and easier to switch versus the vertical layout that every other skin currently has.

We imagine users interested in the phone are primary concerned about how much they can push it to the limit. We spent an entire day jumping from sessions of Call of Duty to watching an NBA game, and then screen recording and editing quick clips together on top of the usual social media browsing, and we’re happy to report that the POCO F2 Pro handled it like a champ.

Given the pandemic, that’s actually already doing a lot on your phone. We experienced no heating whatsoever.

Although there was an instance when an app restarted instead of picking up where we left off. But this was already late in the day after putting the phone through the paces with the 4,700mAh battery almost drained.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The phone has two variants: one with 6GB of RAM and an LPDDR4 128GB (PhP 26,990 or around US$ 556) storage, the other has 8GB of RAM with an LPDDR5 256GB storage (PhP 29,990 or around US$ 620).

Both are plenty capable so your purchase decision can come down to if you want to save a few thousand to set aside or to buy other accessories that you can pair with POCO F2 Pro.

It also comes in four colors: Neon Blue, Electric Purple, Cyber Gray, and Phantom White.

Lastly, the phone supports 5G, which is helpful if you frequent areas that have 5G coverage (there isn’t a lot yet at the moment).

It doesn’t feel like it got the same hype as its predecessor, but unlike the first iteration of this phone, it cut less corners. This one is actually made of glass and metal and holding it really makes you feel like you’re holding a phone that’s nearly twice as expensive.

While we wish it still came with a kevlar-like variant, it’s clear what POCO was going for with this phone. The POCO F2 Pro is riding the trend of where flagship phones are going by bringing a premium experience over to a lower price point.

It’s staying true to the theme of the POCO F1 while offering improvements to match the times. It’s an underrated sequel indeed. The POCO F2 Pro may not have the same hype as the first one, but it’s still certainly worth the price of admission.

Reviews

Apple Watch Series 7: In-Depth Fitness Review

For fitness buffs and starters alike

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In our previous video, Michael Josh did an unboxing of the new Apple Watch Series 7 in Starlight. He even became NY’s next top model as the Apple Watch can also be your next best fashion piece.

This time around, we go all-out to show you the fitness benefits of using the latest Apple Watch.

While an incremental update and lack of new sensors mean little, the longer battery life, faster charging, and larger display of the Apple Watch Series 7 mean it’s even better than before.

Here’s our in-depth fitness review of the new Apple Watch Series 7.

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Laptops

realme Book review: Done right the first time around

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realme Book

The pandemic has brought about major changes on how we depend on our gadgets. We stay glued to our smartphones for hours to stay connected. Most of us also continue with our work from home setup, causing the demand for laptops to continue to rise and opening the market to new players. 

realme tries to steal the scene as they make their laptop debut with the realme Book, aimed at competing at the midrange level where many brands have already made their mark. 

Let’s check out if the realme Book can be a great contender in the laptop arena. 

Familiar yet better  

realme Book

Having a first look at the realme Book, the similarity of its design is undeniable with the MacBook though I don’t really think it’s a bad thing. Its sleek and stylish minimalist design actually makes me feel like I’m using a premium laptop. 

Compared to its smartphones that have those flashy labels, realme veered away from that with their first laptop as they kept the label subtle and you can barely see the “Dare to Leap” mark on one of its rubber feet. 

Its 14-inch sleek aluminum alloy body with matte finish really feels solid and has little or no flex on its slim chassis.

If you’re someone who likes to work in different corners of your home or at al fresco shops, the realme book can easily fit in your bag with its 14.9mm width and 1.38kg weight. When working on a flat surface, the rubber feet on the back actually help the laptop stay stable. 

In terms of port options, you get one USB-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and two Type-C ports, one being a Thunderbolt 4 for the core i5 variant.

realme Book

The USB port was a bit too tight that it required me to exert effort to pull out my USB device. Also, this laptop lacks an SD card slot and HDMI port. It doesn’t bother me that much but it may be a deal-breaker for other users. 

realme Book

Top-Notch Display 

One thing that the realme Book can really boast about is its display. As full HD display is common in laptops from its competition, the realme Book takes it up a notch with its 2K Ultra-HD screen with 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution delivering stellar image quality with sharp detail. 

The realme Book also packs in 100 percent sRGB wide color gamut that enables true-to-life visuals and a peak brightness of 400 nits which maintains high quality image even under direct sunlight. 

What also sets it apart from other laptops is its 3:2 aspect ratio, giving you more vertical room compared to most laptops that are either 16:10 or 16:9. This feature is an advantage when it comes to your productivity especially if you usually work on documents, spreadsheets or social media content for work. 

However, this becomes a disadvantage when you’re watching videos since you’ll have wider black bars at the top and bottom of the screen due to movies and series being usually formatted with 16:9 ratio.  

Another impressive feature of this laptop is that realme was able to fit its web camera on its narrow bezels, unlike Huawei that had to sacrifice a good camera angle with their Matebook’s hidden camera placed on its keyboard. 

realme Book

Comfortable for work 

Speaking of the keyboard, typing on the realme Book is satisfying thanks to its 1.3mm key travel and the sound of its clicks is just right for my preference.

The keyboard also comes with a 3-mode backlit option which you can activate and adjust by pressing the F7 key. This is convenient especially when you have to work or use the laptop for a while during the night. It is also interesting since this is a feature that you barely get to experience on laptops at this price. 

realme Book

Compared to other laptops, the trackpad on the realme Book is pretty huge but doesn’t get in the way of typing. It is also very responsive to the touch and works precisely with all gestures and clicks. 

realme Book

And similar to the Huawei Matebook devices, it also has a fingerprint-sensor embedded power button to boot it up which is actually a handy feature to have in a laptop. 

Power Performance 

As for breezing through tasks, the realme Book is highly capable to give you the best experience being powered by the 11th Gen Intel Core processor. Paired with this is the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 8GB DDR4 memory and 512GB PCIe SSD storage. 

Aside from writing and creating social media content, I sometimes do photo and basic video editing for my side hustles. With the power combo under this laptop’s hood, it didn’t come as a surprise that the realme Book actually handled my tasks smoothly. 

Even with games such as Valorant, I was able to play it at 2K resolution at high settings and it didn’t feel laggy at all. Of course, if you’d want a faster frame rate, you can always lower down your settings to improve your gaming experience. 

realme Book

I also noticed that while playing games, the laptop didn’t feel heated up at all. I checked via HWMOnitor and its temperature was just hovering a little over 60 degrees. This is actually cool for its slim body. I guess we can attribute this to its efficient cooling system with dual 8mm heat pipes and high speed, high airflow fans.

Quick juice up 

When working, I usually take short breaks in between major tasks to refresh my mind. So it’s actually enough for me that the realme Book’s 54 Wh battery can support up to 9 hours of work and leisure, keeping me powered and connected.

And once the battery already ran out, the 65W fast charger got me to a 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes so I was able to conveniently continue with whatever I’m doing.

It’s also a plus that the charger of the realme Book is small and just slightly heavier than a smartphone charger so it’s an easy carry in the bag. It also has the same USB-C cable used to charge our smartphones so you won’t have to carry another charger for your smartphone when traveling. 

Immersive speakers  

For a laptop this slim, I was quite surprised that the sound coming from its down-firing Harman speakers is considerably loud and well defined. 

When I tried listening to my playlists, I did notice that while it did not have as much bass as I would have preferred, it does sound fuller compared to others. When it comes to binging series and playing games, the speakers did a great job of simulating space that sounds pleasant and immersive. I guess I can say, it does sound better than many of the laptops I’ve tried.

Is the realme Book your GadgetMatch? 

As a new player in the laptop market, the realme Book makes a pretty great attempt at laptops and definitely challenges competing and more established brands. 

Sure this laptop may not be perfect but realme has brought their expertise in creating attractive smartphones to this laptop that definitely looks premium for its price. Also with its 2K Ultra-HD display, sleek and sturdy aluminum build, premium design, powerful performance and immersive audio, this laptop is definitely a solid deal for its price. 

The realme Book is available in Real Grey and Real Blue colors and retails at PhP 37,990 for the i3 variant and PhP 47,990 for the i5 variant.

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Reviews

vivo X70 review: Sexy, camera beast

It has the makings of a high-end smartphone!

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Over the years, vivo set out to take its brand to greater heights. Like OPPO, the Chinese company aims to be in the same league as Huawei — rivaling Samsung and worthy enough to take on Apple.

We thought it would be the NEX series that will elevate vivo’s standing, but the line didn’t fly. Instead, we get the X series which seems to refresh every six months or so.

Early this year, we got a hold on the vivo X60 series, which we’ve praised tremendously as the camera smartphone to beat. With the X70 series, vivo really took it up a notch.

In our vivo X70 Pro+ review, the Android flagship rivals Samsung’s best. So, can the base vivo X70 deliver on what its series promises — a premium flagship with cameras to beat?

Unboxing

The vivo X70 comes in a sleek, black box with its letters carved in a shiny silver colorway.

Details are on point with the way the box is crafted. It really excites you to see what’s in store for you.

Of course, the phone is wrapped in plastic — which will be the main point later.

Underneath is a set of accessories essential for your smartphone experience: warranty card, SIM ejector tool, USB-C cable, a 44W FlashCharge power brick, a clear case, a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle, and wired earphones.

Bringing sexy black

Seeing the vivo X70 for the first time charmed me. The Cosmic Black variant gave a sexy appeal, dressed in a black finish that’s soft but not slippery.

When hit by the sun, or any light, it explodes with shimmery glitter. I like how Vivo has taken what could otherwise be a black phone and not make it boring.

It has fine details, too. On its top, you can find a text written as “professional photography” that shines depending on the light.

Found on its right side are the power button and volume rockers.

The bottom side houses the sim tray, a USB-C port, and speaker grilles. There’s no headphone jack, which is why vivo included a dongle in the box.

It’s a bit sad, but you can only use two NanoSIM cards on its SIM card tray.

A sexier camera module

The vivo X70 series deviates from the familiar form of its predecessor, both for the X70 and X70 Pro. The X70 Pro+ has a larger camera bump added with curves around the module to soften the offensiveness of the large bump.

And it has a mirror-like piece called Ceramic Window, which doesn’t serve any practical purpose but it’s a nice design touch that helps balance the big bump.

Meanwhile, the X70 and X70 Pro doesn’t have the Ceramic Window. Instead, both phones have a slimmer, rectangular camera module that blends more with the design. Camera lenses are arranged vertically, and the LED flash is situated in the middle part.

Story-ready cameras

Onto most people’s favorite part: camera performance!

The vivo X70 has a triple rear camera setup: a 40-megapixel main sensor, a 12-megapixel telephoto, and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens. It doesn’t have the beastly lenses its siblings sport, but it doesn’t mean the vivo X70 can’t pack a punch in the camera department.

Regular, wide-angle, and 2x zoom

On a cloudy day, the power of Zeiss T* coating began to shine through. There were no exploding highlights whether you take a regular snap, a zoomed-in shot, or even if you use its wide-angle lens.

What I like about the vivo X70 is that the Zeiss T* coating isn’t its only strong suit. In whatever mode and lighting conditions, the vivo X70 showed its prowess.

Here’s a regular photo of a Salted Caramel Latte from Elephant Grounds Manila. Notice how the background took on a creamy blur, or bokeh since that’s a term most people are familiar with. I didn’t even use Portrait Mode to create the background blur.

The output reminded me of high-end phones that I’ve played around with over the past two years. This is some next-level sh*t from vivo!

Indoors, the X70 captures enough details and depicts an incandescent tone due to the lighting condition. However, the camera struggles in balancing the temperature as seen on the cool-hued highlights and warm shadows.

It’s definitely a rocker when it comes to photos taken with a lot of natural light. Some shots I’ve taken with the vivo X70 had a moment in my Instagram Stories.

With balanced colors and vibrant processing, I didn’t think of editing and plastering some filters like I would with my usual content.

The power of Zeiss T* coating can also be seen during dusk and lowlight. The neon and night lights looked crisper and sharper, removing unnecessary flares from blown highlights.

Great companion for food trips

In case you didn’t know the trick, I use 2x zoom to capture my food shots — be it a flat lay or a zoomed-in crop of the food I’m delighting on.

The X70 comes with AI processing that identifies food easily, resulting in a shot with popping colors. Although, even without the AI processing, the X70 captures vibrant photos of food whatever the lighting condition is.

See those strawberry doughnuts that were taken inside my bedroom in the middle of the night. The photo is kinda noisy, but they’re still vibrant and crispy.

Stronger, cleaner bokeh

Time and time again, we’ve preached on shying away from Portrait Mode since smartphone makers haven’t perfected the feature. And we looked like cutouts from a magazine whenever we use Portrait Mode.

But vivo has made significant progress in that area. Look at my dog’s photo and notice how it created that soft blur on its edges as if it was taken by a mirrorless camera.

Left: Selfie taken using default mode | Right: Selfie using Portrait Mode f/1.0

I’ve tried the Portrait Mode while taking a selfie and set the aperture to f/1.0 to create that strong background blur. And hopefully, add depth to an otherwise flat photo. If you’re unfamiliar with photography terminologies, the aperture is listed as bokeh on the camera interface.

The cutout looks awesome for the upper half, especially in my hair. It’s clean and precise — vivo certainly has come so far. However, it didn’t blur the railings of my chair and everything else on the bottom half.

This is precisely why I personally don’t like Portrait Mode. It looks unrealistic from a photographer’s perspective. And it still needs to be perfected. Moreover, strong blurs are often used on product shots and zoomed-in crops, not when you’re a little bit far from the camera.

Beautified, anytime of the day

Regardless of the lighting condition, the vivo X70 takes selfies that make you feel good about yourself. I have complained about unnecessary beautification even in regular shots taken using the vivo X50, but the selfie I took for the X70 is surprisingly better.

It retained the details — scars, pimple marks, wrinkles, and the texture of my face — but still made it soft and appealing. There’s still a pad of beautification, but it’s barely noticeable. The selfies are reminiscent of photos I took using Xiaomi’s high-end smartphones. Which, for me, is still the selfie king of smartphone brands.

The beauty mode, on the other hand, still gives an unreal output. But the effect gives you more flexibility and freedom to alter what’s only necessary, and hopefully tone it down. Do note that beauty mode is only accessible when you use Portrait Mode.

In my case, I put the aperture back to f/16 to remove the unnecessary background blur. And so we can focus on how the beauty mode lit my face as if it was glowing. Eyes are also sparkly, and my skin looked more alive. Except, it’s still far from reality.

I got good use of the beauty mode when I worked out at night. I wanted to take a selfie but I look so worn out. Using the beauty mode and a bit of background blur put more attention to my face — which has been looking lively and fresh even with all the sweat.

The only caveat is that I look like a Ken Doll (yes, Barbie Doll’s boyfriend) due to excessive smoothening. Even if I toned down the smoothening, the effect has been more visible due to direct light hitting my skin.

Nonetheless, vivo’s cameras for both front and rear are amazingly good. I actually took some photos that I uploaded to my Instagram feed — and I only upload photos from smartphones that I really like.

This photo is an example of a post-processed photo taken using the vivo X70. And yes, it’s up on my Instagram for anyone to enjoy.

Eye-candy display

Moving to its front, the vivo X70 sports a 6.56-inch AMOLED display. It didn’t have a curved screen like the vivo X70 Pro+ but the vanilla X70 still looked like a beaut.

Colors pop like any other AMOLED display, but are more evident in the wallpaper I illustrated back in 2020. Anyhoo, the vivo X70 offered a multimedia experience that lets you want to skip work. It didn’t have a stereo speaker, but the loudspeaker made up for it especially when you’re watching your favorite shows on Netflix.

It’s also perfect for gaming, allowing you to play titles that you enjoy even when they’re graphics-intensive. But for the record, MOBAs do well when playing on this phone such as Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Pokémon Unite. The X70 is lightweight so you don’t have to worry about straining your fingers from long gameplays.

Moreover, it doesn’t heat up easily nor lags on whatever you’re doing with the phone. Performance is buttery-smooth and seamless, especially when you use its 120Hz refresh rate. Oh, scrolling and multitasking are so good. Thanks to its MediaTek Dimensity 1200 processor, 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 128GB of UFS 3.1 internal storage.

FunTouch is now really fun to use

The vivo X70 runs Android 11 out of the box, with a skin on top called FunTouch. Apart from the Quick Settings Panel which kind of looks clunky, for the most part, it looks just like the Pixel launcher.

Google News Feed when you swipe to the right, and an App Drawer when you swipe up. It comes with a few nifty customizations. Quick Action, for example, lets you assign a shortcut to the volume down button. When you press it for two seconds, you can launch the camera or the flashlight.

Further, I think they have the best implementation of split-screen on Android. With one app open, you just need to swipe up with three fingers. The other half shows you the app drawer from which you can launch a second app.

Lovin’ that fast charge

The vivo X70 has a 4400mAh battery capacity, capable of 44W fast charging. The phone lasted me a day of social media use, horoscope browsing, and taking photos and videos for my Instagram. When my phone’s battery dropped to 14 percent, I charged it using its cable and 44W FlashCharge power brick.

Starting at 14 percent, the battery juiced up to 51 percent in just 20 minutes. Then, it filled up to 70 percent after 21 minutes. It moved to 86 percent after nine minutes, and after seven minutes, the phone’s battery level is now at 94 percent. After six more minutes, the phone successfully reached 100 percent.

Surprisingly, the vivo X70 filled its tank for nearly an hour.

Built-in apps are holding it back from being premium

With everything that we’ve tackled, the vivo X70 seems like a premium phone already. In some way, it already is. But I still don’t feel it. The problem here lies in the bloatware, especially with the unit I had here in the Philippines.

Notifications from multiple pre-installed apps pop up even during the first time I booted the phone. Most of it comes from its pre-installed Browser and the V-Appstore that comes with silent notifications. This can be really annoying if you’re the finicky type and wants your notifications cleared as much as possible.

I don’t really have a problem with notifications. Even high-end smartphones from Samsung and Huawei have those annoying ones. And you can even turn it off accordingly on the settings.

The problem is the content — a lot of which isn’t something that interests me. Most updates sliding in my notification bar are news picked up by the pre-installed Browser.

For example, stories about the break-up of local celebrities Aljur Abrenica and Kylie Padilla, as well as the new affair of Abrenica with AJ Raval. There are also stories about the dramas of Julia Barretto — none of which are stories that entice the market that vivo is trying to appeal to.

I understand that these are from partnerships that vivo has. Infinix, Tecno, and other budget smartphones have this. My business degree understands that these are revenue-driving initiatives. But it doesn’t really help with vivo’s goals to be in the same league as Samsung and Huawei.

OPPO doesn’t even have annoying content in its pricier smartphones, which is why I fell in love quickly with the Find X3 Pro. That’s one reason why OPPO was able to step into the premium category, and here’s to hoping vivo can follow its footsteps.

In the end, holding the vivo X70 with those notifications on felt like I was holding and looking at a budget smartphone like the Infinix Note 10 Pro. I’m certain that’s not what vivo is going for.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The vivo X70 is surely an excellent phone. If you want to soak up the goodness of the Zeiss partnership and the pride brought by the X70 Pro+ as a competitive Android flagship that can rival even Samsung’s best, then by all means go ahead.

Consider the vivo X70 your GadgetMatch. It’s basically a stripped-down X70 Pro+ without all the bells and whistles. A vanilla variant that you can still call a sexy beast.

Its got killer cameras, buttery-smooth performance, and a convenient user experience that lets you live the most out of a tech-oriented lifestyle. It may have its shortcomings, particularly in stuff that holds its back from being a premium phone, but there’s always a workaround.

As an Android fan, I’m certain you can tinker around with the settings on the vivo X70 — and you can customize it the way you want it to look and feel.

The vivo X70 retails for PhP 34,999. It’s available in all vivo concept stores or kiosks nationwide.

SEE ALSO: Galaxy S21 Ultra vs vivo X70 Pro+: Camera shootout | vivo X70 Pro review: Galaxy S21 Ultra Slayer?

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