Reviews

Realme 3 Review: The complete budget package?

Cheap doesn’t always have to be bad

Published

on

Realme is a young smartphone brand; some might not even be familiar with it. But, with OPPO acting as their parent, they’re not tapping into unfamiliar territory. The company introduced itself last year with a goal of capturing the budget segment.

Initially, they repacked OPPO phones and sold them at a cheaper price. Realme phones started to take shape with the release of the Realme 2 and 2 Pro. Now, we have the Realme 3.

With stiff competition from Xiaomi and even OPPO, can the Realme 3 triumph? Also, is it a good budget device on its own? Let’s find out in this review.

It’s got a 6.2-inch display with a teardrop notch

Resolution is just HD+

The power button sits on the right side…

At least it’s easy to find

… while the volume keys and SIM tray are on the right

It accepts a microSD and two nano-SIM cards

The micro-USB and 3.5mm port are at the bottom

Along with the microphone and loudspeaker

The back is glossy and has the fingerprint reader in the middle

Plasticky, but it’s fine

The camera module has a small yellow ring for added flair

It highlights the main 13-megapixel shooter

The phone comes in either blue or black

They are called Radiant Blue and Dynamic Black to be specific

Gradient and unibody

The plasticky body of the Realme 3 is no different from the rest of the budget phones in the market. To make theirs different, the Realme 3 uses a unibody design. The glossy back panel of the phone wraps all the way up to the display. It doesn’t have a side frame that joins the front and back panels, or at least it’s not visible on the outside. It kinda reminds me of the OPPO F5’s body but with a different finish.

While the Realme 3 can be considered to have a unibody design, it’s not as seamless as more expensive devices. Still, this approach is more pleasing, not only to the eyes but also to touch.

When it comes to the display, the Realme has to make a compromise. The phone’s screen is practically borderless with a claimed 88.3 percent screen-to-body ratio and a tiny notch, although the HD+ resolution is nothing to write home about.

Nevertheless, the lack of sharpness doesn’t equate to overall bad display quality. The panel is bright enough to be used outdoors and it shows images and videos vividly. I’ve seen worse in this price segment, so the Realme 3’s screen gets a passing grade.

New and improved interface

Realme is OPPO’s sub-brand, so it’s not surprising to see them sharing resources. In order for Realme to give a great user experience, it borrows OPPO’s ColorOS. Those who prefer a clean install of Android will have to look somewhere else like Nokia’s Android One lineup or the pure Android-touting ZenFone Max M2 from ASUS.

ColorOS generally looks pleasing, but it’s missing some of the essential Android features. Thankfully, the Realme 3 comes with ColorOS 6, the newest version available, and it’s already based on Android 9 Pie.

If you think about it, the Realme 3 is one of the budget phones currently available that’s running on Android’s latest version. It even has newer software than OPPO’s more expensive models. We don’t know if the Realme 3 will make the jump to Android Q, though. ColorOS don’t have a strong reputation when it comes to major updates.

So, what does ColorOS 6 bring to the table? First of all, you can finally dismiss notifications by swiping it; a feature that took years to come to ColorOS. Also, you can interact with the notifications, and there’s now an option to have an app drawer. ColorOS 6 looks clean and minimal as well.

When it comes to performance, I have no complaints. The phone runs smoothly and can handle multiple running apps. MediaTek’s Helio P60 processor is the brain of the phone paired with 4GB of memory. It also has 64GB of expandable storage to store all your files. For a phone in this price range, the Realme 3 offers a lot in performance.

Gaming-wise, the Realme 3 can pass as a decent gaming phone. Despite being a bit older, the Helio P60 with its Mali G72 GPU can play some games even on high graphics settings. Demanding titles (or unoptimized ones) must be played on medium to low settings to keep the frame rates high.

Keep in mind that our unit is the global version and it’s different from the one that was launched in India. That is why it sports a Helio P60 processor rather than the newest Helio P70. As of writing, the Helio P70 version is exclusive to India.

Surprisingly impressive cameras

The Realme 3 is probably one of the best cheap phones that can take photos really well. I don’t normally expect good stills from budget phones, but the Realme 3 really impressed me. It’s equipped with a main 13-megapixel f/1.8 camera and it’s accompanied by a 2-megapixel depth sensor. There’s no ultra wide-angle or zoom lens here.

Equipped with AI, the rear cameras take amazing photos considering the price of the phone. Other budget phones tend to oversharpen their stills, but not the Realme 3. My only gripe about the phone is the aggressiveness of its HDR feature which makes the image look a bit unnatural. Also, slight movements can result in blur. Check out these samples:

When the night comes, the Realme 3 can still take sharp and well-exposed images thanks to its Nightscape feature. As far as I know, the Realme is the first to introduce a multi-frame, anti-shake algorithm to its price range. Basically, the phone takes a few photos within three seconds and stitches them all together. Here are some samples:

As for selfies, the tiny notch in front houses another 13-megapixel sensor. Coupled with AI, the Realme 3 takes good-looking selfies. It features AI beauty mode and simulates bokeh for a more pleasing self-portrait..

A battery that can last for hours

One of the most important feature I look for (I think everyone should) in a smartphone is battery life. Longevity is crucial, especially if a phone has a lot of features to brag about. Budget phones nowadays don’t sacrifice battery life, and that includes the Realme 3 with its 4230mAh capacity. On top of that, the bundled charger is also a pretty fast 10W brick.

Even with heavy use, I didn’t have any trouble using the Realme 3 as my daily driver. It can last a whole workday with enough juice to keep playing music while I commute back home. My usage includes all-day social networking, chats, emails, and a few minutes of gaming. The phone can easily last for two days if you don’t use it as much as I do.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

As a budget phone, Realme 3 ticks all the boxes: nice design, good cameras, decent performance, and long battery life. For only PhP 9,990, it can easily be your GadgetMatch. Not just because it’s cheap, but because it’s a good phone overall. It has its potential downsides, especially when it comes to software updates, although that shouldn’t be a big issue for most. You can even get it for as low as PhP 6,990, but with lower memory and storage space.

Of course, the flashy design and maybe the UI of the Realme 3 may not be everyone’s cup to tea. But, for those who don’t care about these and just need an affordable phone that won’t disappoint, the Realme 3 is a great deal.

SEE ALSO: Realme C1 Hands-on: Redefining entry-level devices

Accessories

Fossil Hybrid HR review: Exceeding expectations

Who needs a man when you have the Hybrid HR?

Published

on

These days, the qualities I look for in a man are the same things I look for in a watch: smart, good-looking, long-lasting, and more important, a great travel companion.

The search isn’t easy. Smartwatches have come and gone in my life mainly for two reasons: they have poor battery life and/or are hideous.

Walking around Brooklyn the day I took the Fossil Hybrid HR out of the box

For those same reasons, only the Fossil Q Hybrid smartwatches remained constant on my wrist for the last three years. When I learned that Fossil released the Hybrid HR, I got excited — until I saw that it promises only two weeks of battery life, that is.

A two-week battery life is already huge leap forward if you’re coming from a WearOS device or an Apple Watch. If you’re used to the original Hybrid line like me however, two weeks is not a lot.

Still, I wanted to give it a chance. It can do far more than the original hybrid after all, and it has a heart rate sensor, so the trade off might be worth it.

Polished looks

The one I have is the Hybrid HR Charter, with a rose gold stainless steel mesh strap and a white watch face. On the app it shows that it’s also called Diana.

Just like the late princess, it’s stylish, refined, and elegant as far as smartwatches go. There’s a version with a black watch face and rose gold combination as well, which I think is a perfect look for winter.

It comes with traditional watch hands and dials, but in the middle is a cutout for what Fossil calls a read-out display. This is similar to the e-ink display you’d find on a Kindle and other e-book readers. Unlike Kindle displays and regular smartwatch displays, the read-out display is not touch screen; all navigation is done through the three physical buttons on the right.

The physical buttons do three things primarily: up, select, and down. They can also be set to do other functions when not selecting from a menu. From the home screen, I set the top button to show my wellness stats, the middle button shows the weather including chance of rain and highs and lows throughout the day, while the bottom button is a shortcut for tracking my workouts.

The read-out display shows up to four bits of information at a time that you can customize on the Fossil Hybrid app. It can show a second timezone, day and date date, resting heart rate, the weather, chance of rain, calories burned, active minutes, steps, and battery life.

On the Fossil Hybrid app, you can set presets and easily switch between them, depending on your activity. I set mine to show the day and date, my resting heart rate, a second timezone set to Barcelona, and the weather. These are the information I’ll always want to know without checking my phone, whether I’m traveling, working out, or just reading a book on a lazy Sunday.

It can also be set to show nothing and look like an analog watch if you want it to. You can still see all the data it records through its sensors on the app.

The background is cuztomizable, too. Fossil has a few classy black and white patterns you can choose from.

Alternatively, you can use any photo from your gallery and it will be converted into a black and white, e-ink version. I found that it works better with photos with a lot of negative space. Here’s what it looks like with a photo of the sunrise over rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Basic fitness tracking

The main reason I gave the Hybrid HR a chance, is that unlike the original Fossil Q Hybrid models, it comes with a heart rate sensor. This is what I liked about the other smartwatches I’ve tried before, including the Fossil Q Gen 4. Knowing how unfit I was by seeing my resting heart rate made me want to live a more active lifestyle.

The Hybrid HR can track exercises although it’s not exactly made for that — there are more capable wearables if that’s what you’re looking for. The mesh band is replacable with any standard 18mm watch strap, so I bought a gray silicone strap from Fossil for when I do my workouts.

I don’t remember the last time I tracked my workout using a smartwatch, but I do remember arriving at the gym a handful of times with a dead battery.

Two months in and I have yet to get into the habit of putting it on whenever I work out, as well as remembering to start and stop the tracking function, so I have yet to see any real pattern from the readings.

My resting heart rate during a core workout (left) and a leg day (right)

When I did remember, the app recorded that I burned 79 calories and a maximum heart rate of 139 bpm during a 34-minute core workout. It recorded a total of 243 calories burnt one excruciating leg day, and an understandably maximum heart rate of 193 bpm.

The Fossil Hybrid HR is able to track sleep — on a flight (left) and on my bed

It also has a sleep tracker, and I’ve kept it on a few times while I dozed off. This isn’t a feature that I see myself using and checking a lot but I’m amazed at how it knew exactly when I fell asleep during flights, the specific moments when I woke up to drink water, or adjust my position.

You can also set it to send you alerts when you’re inactive. I set it to notify me every time I haven’t moved for one hour starting from 11:00 AM and end at 9:00 PM, which is generally the time I spend in front of my computer on weekdays. This has especially become helpful during quarantine since I live in a tiny New York apartment and have very little room for movement.

Better battery life than expected

Apart from being so well-designed, not having to charge the original hybrid smartwatches from Fossil was the reason I loved them. I already have way too many devices that need charging, and I don’t need to bring yet another cable with me when I’m traveling. Packing as little as possible is difficult as it is.

In the last two months of using the Hybrid HR, I found that its battery doesn’t last me two weeks as Fossil claims — it lasts an entire month!

Matching my monotone outfit at a briefing in San Francisco

During my trips to San Francisco, back to New York, then to Barcelona, Budapest, and Madrid through the month of February, not once did I take the charging cable out to juice it up. I could have forgotten to pack the cable through all these trips and I would have been perfectly fine.

I can point to two reasons why the Hybrid HR’s battery life has been impressive: its read-out display doesn’t consume as much power as other smartwatch displays, and I’ve had most notifications turned off from the very beginning.

Munching on pintxos in Barcelona

While most people wear smartwatches to get notifications without picking up their phones, I’m the complete opposite. I wear a watch so I can see the time at a glance, not to get distracted and for my productivity to get disrupted.

Any work-related apps like Gmail and Slack have never had access to my wrist — only apps that me and my closest friends and family use to communicate did: Messages, Whatsapp, and Instagram Direct.

The Fossil Hybrid HR finally showed a low battery notification after four weeks of use

After a month I turned off both Whatsapp and Instagram Direct as well, and only left notifications on for Messages for three important contacts on my phone who also use SMS and iMessage sparingly. This meant that my watch now only vibrates and gets to interrupt me for something very important and whenever it tells me to move.

In March, when it finally buzzed to say that I had 7 percent battery life remaining, it took a little over an hour for a full top up. A 30-minute charge can get to 68 percent, which, based on my experience could very well last me more than two weeks of use.

My only complaint, having used the original hybrids from Fossil, is that the Hybrid HR no longer shows up under the Batteries widget on my iPhone. The only way for me to know how much battery I have left on the watch is by going on the app or by changing one of the widgets on the watch. It’s a minor issue, but I’m hoping this is something that can be addressed via an update in the future.

Is the Fossil Hybrid HR your GadgetMatch?

The Fossil Hybrid HR is the answer to the current crop of smartwatch’s biggest pain points: looks and battery life. For my lifestyle, and the way I use watches, it makes the most sense.

That I can travel and not worry about topping it up every night, while still getting the information I need is a godsend. Knowing what the weather is like at a glance, without asking my Smart Clock or checking Accuweather on my phone, is convenient when I’m planning what to wear given the fleeting weather. Seeing my resting heart rate at any given time, motivates me to exercise and stay fit especially at a time when taking care of one’s health should be everyone’s priority.

What keeps this smartwatch from being perfect, is the lack of a menstrual cycle tracker. I would love to get monthly reminders a few days before my period starts, so that I can anticipate and monitor my mood swings, spotting, and intense cravings. Maybe that’s something that can be included in future iterations.

Books and brunch in Budapest

Sure, its battery only lasts one month versus the 8-12 that I was used to getting from the original hybrid models, but the added features are far more useful than the tiny inconvenience of having to charge it every four weeks; not to mention the fact that I no longer have to deal with buying and throwing away batteries that most likely end up in landfills.

I have been in a committed relationship with Fossil Hybrids for over 3 years now, and with the way things are with the Hybrid HR, that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Continue Reading

Gaming

Final Fantasy VII Remake review: A fresh experience of a timeless tale

Nostalgic and new at the same time

Published

on

Easily one of the most hyped and anticipated video games over the last five years, Final Fantasy VII Remake has arrived and it is everything I hoped it would be.

It manages to preserve the spirit of the original game while modernizing it in every way imaginable. It feels so close to the Final Fantasy games I grew up playing — those being VII, VIII, IX, and X — while also definitely being a game for 2020. Nostalgic and new at the same time.

Before we proceed, some important declarations: GadgetMatch received an official copy of the game specifically for the purpose of this review. This article will have no spoilers — just a general overview and assessment of the Final Fantasy VII Remake experience.

The devil is in the details

One of the more obvious differences is how the game looks. In 1997, Final Fantasy VII, was a visual breakthrough. It was the first time for a Final Fantasy game of this scale to switch from 2D to 3D.

Being preceded by games like God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End just to name a few, the Remake won’t have the same kind of video game graphics impact. But make no mistake, it serves up a visual experience that is utterly breathtaking.

LADIES’ MAN. Cloud is pretty popular with the ladies. A true visual 😉

It starts with the little things. The way the game treats light when you go indoors or outdoors is reminiscent of how your eyes would behave when doing the same. It takes a second before your eyes fully adjust to your surroundings. And this treatment of light is consistent throughout the game.

The cinematography is also a masterclass in visual storytelling. There’s a sequence during the beginning of the game where Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart (two of the main characters) were interacting and the way they were positioned in relation to each other and to the environment tells you a lot about the current standing of their relationship.

SOCIAL DISTANCING? Cloud and Tifa meet again after 5 years

It’s a classic show-don’t-tell technique and it works wonders. It’s also pretty consistent throughout the game. The shots used for each scene were carefully and meticulously thought out. It adds not only to the cinematic flair, but also to the emotion of the game.

Midgar feels alive 

This level of attention to detail is present all over Midgar — the place where most of the game will take place. The way the camera zooms in and out of the city during certain scenes gives you a good grasp of the life and status of Midgar and its people.

The class divide between those living in the upper levels versus those relegated to the slums is very evident in one of the earlier missions. Not just with how the levels are designed, but also with the dialogue of the NPCs (non-playable characters).

There’s a stark contrast between how people from the upper level reacted to the bombing of the first Mako reactor to how the people in the slums reacted. People in the upper levels mostly support the authoritarian Shinra — the city’s ruling organization. They also happen to be direct benefactors of Shinra’s exploits.

Meanwhile, the people in the slums are a mixed bag — some are indifferent, only caring about how they will get through the next day. Some are rightfully afraid of how they will be affected by the ensuing conflict.

By the way, for the uninitiated, the story basically kicks-off with a radical group called Avalanche carrying out the first of a series of bombing missions. The group believes Shinra is syphonying off the planet’s life through the Mako reactors. Mako is the planet’s lifestream. If it runs out, the planet will most likely wither away.

Action-RPG combat with turn-based feel is extremely satisfying

One of the biggest points of discussion is how the Remake will handle combat. The original game — in true JRPG fashion — was turn-based. That was 23 years ago, and outside of Persona 5, the turn-based style hasn’t really attracted plenty of gamers.

What Final Fantasy VII Remake did is fuse that turn-base feel to the more popular Action-RPG type. Something that a lot of gamers today prefer. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it’s pretty darn close.

Here’s how it works: When you go into battle, you have direct control over moving around as well as the character’s physical attacks. Dealing physical damage raises your ATB meter. Your ATB meter then gives you access to using Abilities, Spells, Items, and whenever they become available — Summons and Limit Breaks.

When you trigger the use of your ATB meter the game goes into this slo-mo mode. It sort of reminds me of “bullet time” from Max Payne or that brief slo-mo in Marvel’s Spider-Man that gives you enough time to plan your next move. Except in Final Fantasy VII Remake, that slo-mo is longer, giving you ample time to issue commands for every character in your party.

The whole combat system might also remind you of Kingdom Hearts III, but unlike that game, there’s no way you can just charge in and button mash to win fights. Each enemy has to be dealt with differently and you’ll have to be very careful and tactical in your approach to win battles.

A great way to jump into Final Fantasy

Another thing that Final Fantasy VII Remake masterfully does is not overwhelm you with all the Final Fantasy things you need to know. It slowly introduces you to the story and the franchise’s concepts throughout the game.

VR MISSIONS. New summon materia can be acquired through this method

The Final Fantasy franchise is full of lore. While each game is a stand alone story, some items, summons, skills, and magic are consistent across all the games.

If you have zero knowledge going in, you’ll feel right at home. The franchise’s lore is carefully integrated into the main story. If you’re a Final Fantasy veteran, the introduction of these concepts flow well enough that they’re not at all boring.

It perfectly walks the tightrope of keeping franchise fans happy without alienating any potential newcomers.

A fantastic remake

It was the Final Fantasy franchise that first had me dreaming what it would be like when in-game graphics would finally match cutscenes. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children — the computer-animated film that served as the follow-up to FF7’s story — sparked that dream further.

Final Fantasy VII Remake made that dream come true. The way it transitions from free-roaming to battle to cutscene is seamless. It literally feels like you’re playing a computer-animated film.

While we’ve seen this play out in other games, just the fact that it’s an iconic game with iconic characters given new life by modern technology makes it extra special. Playing it made me feel like a kid again. It’s exactly the jolt that my jaded adult version needed more than anything.

There’s a lot more to this game that can be discussed. So much more can be dissected. Everything from how each character is treated, how the story almost feels like a reflection of society today, the intricacies of its battle system, and many more. I’m excited to have these conversations with fellow gamers.

If you came here looking to find out if you should pick this game up, the answer is a resounding YES. If you pre-ordered (and have already preloaded) the game, let this be a primer for what you’re about to step into — a game that’s carefully crafted to give you a fresh experience of a timeless tale.

Continue Reading

Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro Unboxing and Review: Death of the Flagship Killer

Is this too pricey for a Xiaomi?

Published

on

Supposed to have launched globally last February, the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro is rolling out across the globe in spurts, first in China and then in Europe later this month. Is it still the flagship smartphone you can get for less?

In our Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro Unboxing and Review we talk about Xiaomi’s new strategy. And answer some of your questions including – can it compete with other Android faves like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Huawei P40 Pro.

Watch the video.

Continue Reading

Trending