Reviews

realme 6 Pro review: A step up from the competition

Has realme perfected the midrange formula?

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Putting “pro” on a smartphone implies that more high-end features should be expected. That’s what the realme 6 Pro is gunning for: more high-end features but also with a price tag that doesn’t breach premium territory.

The realme 6 Pro is the company’s answer to the demand for midrange phones with near-flaghip experience. This time around, the company upped its game by including more features that anyone can appreciate. As such, this device is also a step-up from last year’s realme XT in a lot of aspects. So, let’s find out what realme 6 Pro has to offer.

Design that strikes the eye

This year, realme is doing something different across its realme 6 series. All the phones are getting their own unique back designs. For the realme 6 Pro, you get a “lightning strike” effect that hits the eye when light hits the back cover. The company says this design was deliberately chosen to represent the youth’s vim and vigor. That makes sense, considering that realme is trying its best to be the smartphone brand of the youth.

Another thing that really strikes me is the finish of this device. realme has been churning out solid smartphones that don’t feel like they are made out of plastic. Holding the realme 6 Pro for the first time, you’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s made out of sturdy metal. Only when you “knock” on the back that you determine that this device is really made out of plastic. So, kudos to realme for that.

On the side, you’ll notice the flat power button that also acts as a side fingerprint scanner. Like the realme XT, the realme 6 Pro has a USB-C port on the bottom which supports quick charging.

A smooth and fluid display

In all honesty, the realme 6 Pro is the first device where I had the chance to play with a 90Hz display extensively. Right off the bat, I can tell you that the difference between 60Hz and 90Hz display is night and day. The best word to describe it is smooth. Yes, everything feels smooth with that refresh rate. Opening animations and scrolling are smooth, and once you switch back to 60Hz rate again, you may think that something is janky.

You actually have to see how life-changing 90Hz refresh rate is. Pity though, that most games still don’t support 90Hz refresh rate. That 90Hz is most useful when you’re playing games because everything’s much smoother with it.

Aside from high refresh rate support, I also like that the display is on FHD+ resolution. For a midrange in this day and age, having an FHD+ screen is necessary. You can expect to stream your favorite Netflix episodes or YouTube videos in glorious 1080P.

One minor gripe I have with the display is that it is not an OLED screen. I may be nitpicking here, but I think OLED screens are much better than a regular IPS LCD screen. Plus, more and more midrange devices are switching to OLED screens. You won’t really be bothered with the lack of an OLED screen here though since the colors are vibrant and there’s a lot of details to go around.

Performance that impresses

One word to describe realme 6 Pro’s performance: impressive. Under the hood, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G. This midrange processor is on par with the performance of high-end Snapdragon chipsets of yesteryears. It can handle almost any task you throw at it with ease.

I have yet to notice any lag in opening apps with this device. That’s an excellent thing, and not surprising since there’s 8GB of RAM to back the performance of the midrange processor.

Gaming is one aspect where you’ll feel like the realme 6 Pro is a step-up from the midrange competition. The processor here is capable of handling graphically-intensive games that you throw at it. Rules of Survival — a well-known battle royale mobile game — runs smoothly even in high graphic setting. Casual games run well on this device considering its powerful midrange processor.

realme UI is okay, but bloatware takes up space

As for realme UI, you may either love it or loathe it. Personally, I like realme’s twist on Android 10. Most of the interface elements are copied from iOS, and it shows. However, there are also a lot of tweaks and additions that make the interface stand-out. For example, you can use screen-off gestures, toggle the smart sidebar, or clone social media apps so you can use another account. You also get new features from Android 10 like Digital Well-being and a revamped gesture navigation.

If there’s really one annoying thing with the realme 6 Pro, that would be the bloatware. On first set-up, you’ll be surprised to see myIM3, Lazada, Trip.com, UCBrowser, WA Business, Webnovel, and much more pre-installed. This feels like a huge step-down for a 2020 release. Most manufacturers are already trimming the number of pre-installed third-party apps but it looks like realme hasn’t gotten the memo yet.

Luckily though, some of the apps on this device are actually useful. Game Space automatically frees up some RAM and activates the Do Not Disturb mode whenever you’re playing a supported game. This device also has some useful utilities like Compass, FM Radio, and the Weather app that’s not available on stock Android by default.

Cameras that impress

For the realme 6 Pro, you get a rear cameara setup of 64MP wide-angle + 12MP telephoto + 8MP ultra-wide-angle + 2MP macro lens.

The shots taken by realme 6 Pro is excellent in daylight conditions. You get a nice color rendition all-around, though it may appear a bit saturated for some. Noise is kept to a minimum, and the cameras nail the white balance for most shots. There are enough details to go around too. However, zooming in on a particular shot, you also notice an oil painting effect that somewhat ruins the shot.

Turning on the HDR helps to recover some of the overexposed areas in the image, particularly the skies. In the images below, you’ll notice how the image with the HDR appears more realistic. The garage on the left image is just smeared out, while on the right, you can work out some details. The green fence has a much natural color too on the right. Overall, it’s better to leave the HDR settings turned on.

At night, realme 6 Pro took photos with a lot of smeared details and muted colors. They also have a lot of noise in them. This is why you ought to turn on Nightscape mode in this setting. With Nightscape, the camera’s aperture remains open for a longer period of time, letting in more light in the process. As such, you get a more true-to-life image with more resolved details, vibrant colors, and lesser noise.

There’s a lot of camera modes to pick from too. Aside from the Nightscape mode, you also get Ultra Macro and Panorama mode on this device. It’s worth mentioning that the camera can switch from ultra-wide-angle lens to wide-angle, 3x zoom mode, and 5x zoom mode in an instant, making the realme 6 Pro a versatile shooting device.

Steady selfies

The selfie camera on the realme 6 Pro is more than fine for everyday usage. There are two selfie cameras on this device, unlike most midrange devices on the market. The main selfie camera is a 16MP wide-angle while the other is an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera. The main camera reproduces color nicely with plenty of details for most situations. Realme applies beauty filters by default, resulting in smoothened skin and artificial skin tones. Some may not like this though, and fortunately, there’s an option to turn it off.

How does the ultra-wide camera fare? The photos taken with the camera still gets the color right, but you will also notice some smeared details. In most cases, I still recommend using the main selfie camera.  The only time I would recommend using the ultra-wide camera is when you have a lot of people that need to fit in for that one selfie.

Solid battery life

Battery life on the realme 6 Pro is one of the best I’ve seen from a midrange smartphone. It really is a huge step-up from the competition, considering that realme put a large 4,300 mAh battery on this device. Of course, your mileage may vary. Playing games or browsing continually for hours will drain the battery more. The same is true when you fire up the 90Hz screen refresh rate. Expect a day’s battery life if you do all these three.

However, that large battery also means you can stretch realme 6 Pro’s battery life for two days. All you have to do is be mindful of your device usage or close any battery-draining apps. Selecting the refresh rate to “Auto” will also help in extending battery life.

There’s an included 30W VOOC fast charger on the box. It charges the device quickly, and I was able to go from 7% to 95% in an hour. It’s super-fast, which is useful if you always charge on the go.

Is the realme 6 Pro your GadgetMatch?

realme really stepped up their game this time with the realme 6 Pro. It carries features that you’d normally only find on flagships, and it is easily one of the best midrange phones out there. However, all the step-up in features also comes a hefty price tag. This device comes with a price tag of PhP 16,990 (USD 339) for the highest configuration, which is 8GB of RAM + 128GB of storage.

However, that price tag is worth it considering the features you’re getting here. You are actually getting a much better value with this device compared to realme XT, which has also the same price at launch. It finally feels like that realme has perfected the midrange phone formula with this device. As such, the realme 6 Pro can become your next midrange GadgetMatch, considering that it is a step-up from the competition.

Reviews

realme X3 SuperZoom review: An absolute steal

Flagship. Killer.

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realme did it again. They managed to offer flagship level performance for a phone that’s half the price of most flagships today with the realme X3 SuperZoom.

Just take a quick look at this chart to see what we’re working with.

Price Range (PhP) Snapdragon 855+ 120Hz Screen Refresh Rate Snapdragon 855+ (or higher) and 120Hz Screen Refresh Rate
20K-30K realme X3 SuperZoom
30K-40K OnePlus 7T Pro OnePlus 8
40K-50K Vivo NEX 3, OPPO Reno 10X Zoom One Plus 8 Pro
50K+ Galaxy Note 10 Series Galaxy Note 20 Series (Exynos processors in PH) ROG Phone 2, OPPO Find X2 Pro

The realme X3 SuperZoom is in flagship company specs-wise, but at PhP 24,990 (US$ 505), it sits right in the middle of the upper midrange segment. I didn’t even include the configuration which is 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. This smartphone is, without a doubt, a steal.

As good as advertised 

But those are just the specs, right? How does it actually perform? In a word — admirably.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been merrily juggling the iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, and the realme X3 SuperZoom as my primary devices. Being used alongside two performance heavyweights, the realme X3 SuperZoom doesn’t miss a beat.

One of the desktop tools we use to schedule posts on Facebook has been extremely erratic of late. As a stopgap measure, we found a mobile alternative.

Scheduling several posts on your phone isn’t ideal. It involves a lot of switching from app-to-app and can get very frustrating if the phone you’re using isn’t equipped to handle that load.

Thankfully, that’s not the case with the X3 SuperZoom. I could be holding any of the three phones at any given time and if I needed to do work, there were no hiccups whatsoever.

Naturally, I also did a little bit of everything that you would do on your phone. There’s the inevitable blackhole of scrolling through social media, playing a match or two of Call of Duty Mobile, watching K-Pop music videos and fancams, and everything else in between.

Problems encountered on the X3 SuperZoom while doing these? Zero. None. Zilch.

The cameras are fantastic

Going anywhere from wide to up to 10X Zoom should give you a photo worthy of your Facebook timeline or Twitter feed.

Let me share again this post just to illustrate what I mean.

Color reproduction is mostly accurate but tends to pop more if you turn on AI-assist.

I’m also a fan of how it handles night mode. In the past, some night modes tended to just overlight a shot. This isn’t the case with realme. From my experience, it truly analyzes the scene and applies an appropriate level of post-processing.

The SuperZoom is okay. My feelings over highlighting zoom capabilities remain the same — which is mostly this.

One Punch Man GIF by memecandy - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

The engineering to achieve the feat is truly remarkable, but the use-case for most people is just non-existent.

There’s another phone I’m waiting for that sits right around the same price range. Will do a more comprehensive photo comparison when that comes around.

A capable video camera

One camera feature we rarely get to test is the videos. Thankfully, this phone launched alongside the realme Watch, so I tried my hand at making a video shot mostly with the X3 SuperZoom.

All the spiels were shot using the 32MP front-facing camera with bokeh effect on. These are 720P at 30FPS clips, in case you’re wondering.

The rest of BRoll was shot using the rear-camera, with the exception of some clips showing the phone itself.

Naturally, I post-processed the videos using a desktop software (Final Cut Pro). However, if you’re only working with your phone, you can try apps like InShot, Filmora, or CapCut for video editing.

I shot the spiels and the rest of the clips during one hot afternoon. The spiels were especially challenging for the phone since it was exposed to direct sunlight during about an hour and a half of shooting.

That said, I still wrapped the shooting with about 15-19 percent of battery left. And the phone wasn’t even fully charged. It did get pretty hot, but it surprisingly never conked out whereas other phones would have already done so.

Not exactly a premium build 

If there’s anything to nitpick about the phone, it’s probably its build and button placements. These aren’t at all dealbreakers, but I feel they’re worth mentioning.

When it comes to build and feel on hand, the phone isn’t fragile at all. But, for me at least, it doesn’t have that extra oomph you feel when you’re holding flagships that cost north of PhP 45,000 (US$ 910).

The front and back are certainly glass, but the sides are plastic. That contributes to a lesser heft which is partially responsible for that premier feeling.

Still on the sides, instead of being flushed together on the right hand side, the volume buttons sit on the left-hand side.

Meanwhile, the power button/side-mounted fingerprint sensor (fantastic sensor placement and choice!) is on the right-hand side.

For a smartphone with a 6.6-inch display with a considerable overall footprint, it’s quite a challenge operating it on one hand, especially when you want to adjust the volume.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra, for instance, is a much larger phone, but I never had this volume adjustment inconvenience since all the buttons are flushed on the right side. That said, this is a nitpick and one I can most certainly live with.

But kudos to realme on the matte back finish. It’s not a fingerprint magnet and that’s a quality every phone should strive for.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

The realme X3 SuperZoom has a lot going for it. You have a flagship-level processor, a display feature that’s mostly reserved for only the most expensive flagships, and cameras that can more than hold their own.

In fact, the SuperZoom on its name might even be underselling the product. Because it’s certainly more than its Zoom capabilities which, I feel, isn’t even the best part of this phone.

However, the real kicker here is the price. Retailing for only PhP 24,990 (US$ 505), this smartphone is an absolute steal. And it’s right in line with what realme has been doing all this time — offering fantastic value for less.

If you’re looking for flagship-level performance but do not have the resources to grab the premium ones, then the realme X3 SuperZoom should be one of your top choices.

SEE ALSO: realme has been a true disruptor

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Reviews

Redmi Note 9S review: The healthy, underappreciated middle ground

The right mix of everything in one device that won’t break your wallet

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The Redmi Note 9S, in my opinion, finds itself in a bit of a “struggle.” It follows the seemingly perfect older sibling in the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, although shares most of the same hardware. There’s even its younger sibling, the Redmi Note 9 with the major difference being in the storage options and price point.

You will breeze past this smartphone if you’re an extremist with your decision-making. You’ll either go for the phone that’s the priciest but most powerful, or the budget-friendly one. The Redmi Note 9S will find itself lodged in that gray area.

But, maybe it’s an area worth looking at — for once. Here’s what the Redmi Note 9S is offering:

It has a 6.67” FHD+ DotDisplay with Corning Gorilla Glass 5

It comes with a 48MP AI-powered quad camera

The fingerprint sensor is found on the right side, integrated with the power button

And at the bottom are the speaker grilles, USB-C port, and 3.5mm headphone jack

Overall performance that just hits right

The Redmi Note 9S comes with a Snapdragon 720G processor inside, with the model I tested having 6GB of RAM. Upon initial use, I found the phone to be quite fast and responsive. It was a breeze navigating through MIUI, and how quick apps opened up. Multitasking using different apps went just as expected with the hardware.

Even gaming full time on this device feels just right. MIUI 11 comes with Game Turbo for this device, and I honestly found this very useful for shooter games. Call of Duty Mobile plays seamlessly while hitting around 60 FPS, while Fortnite is fairly decent — mostly because of the 30 FPS cap. The device doesn’t throttle to boost performance, and it even maximizes battery usage.

Plus, the 6.67-inch DotDisplay is pretty bright even under direct sunlight. I even tried playing some games and watch Netflix out under the sun, and I could see the details. Honestly, I felt like I was getting exactly what I needed out of the hardware the phone came with. I just wish that the notch was placed somewhere else since it obstructs your view while watching.

A surprisingly great quad camera

I say “surprisingly” because of how I’m used to smartphones under Php 15,000 having relatively okay cameras. The 48MP AI-powered quad camera setup produced great images with clear cut details in them. Colors don’t seem to be sacrificed with each shot, although I can’t say the same when in the dark.

In my experience, I still spotted a bit of grain but that was mostly when I zoomed in on the images. Plus, you can record 4K videos with the camera, albeit only at 30 FPS.

The selfie camera wasn’t too shabby, either — especially during Portrait Mode. I even felt like my face was glowing with every selfie I took. What did it for me was the way the AI blurred everything else in the background when using this mode. Even when you’re not using Portrait Mode, it’s still a great front camera to put in.

These aren’t Leica-levels of great, nor do they compare to most iPhones out there in terms of cameras. But if you needed an alternative, the cameras on this device come close by a little bit.

The battery just keeps you going for more than a day

The Mi website notes that the Redmi Note 9S can last up to 33 hours on calls, 16 hours watching videos, and 13 hours gaming full time. This mostly all comes from the 5,250 mAh battery inside, which you can also find in the Note 9 and Note 9 Pro. Upon my own usage of it, I got about 30 hours doing pretty much all of that.

At one point, I even did all of these things, went to sleep, and woke up to around 20 percent battery life. I even put up the brightness to 90% while doing all those things, and it’s clear: the phone lasts real long on a single charge.

Charging the device had me a little confused, mostly because of the fast charging capabilities. The device comes with a 18W fast-charging adapter that ran a full charge for about two hours. However, I only felt the fast charging kick in after it reached 60 percent as it took about an hour from 0-60. I mean, at least you still get to use your phone right away when you drain the battery.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Starting at PhP 10,490 (US$212), the Redmi Note 9S finds itself as the great balance of power and affordability. It serves as a middle ground between the budget Note 9, and the premium and powerful Note 9 Pro. It has everything you need in a modern smartphone, in a price range that’s reachable too.

It’s an easy recommendation for anyone looking to buy a great smartphone for any use case. It lasts long enough that you won’t need to charge it overnight, and puts you right back in once it fully charges. I honestly believe you can live with the little grain in the camera and the obstructive notch placement.

All in all, the Redmi Note 9S does not compromise much in terms of performance. Every nifty feature you need in a modern smartphone, it gives you that. It’s the middle child that deserves some loving, too.

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Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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