Reviews

realme 8 5G review: Your all-around budget 5G companion

The brand hopes to change the game with speed.

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Anytime a phone is called a game-changer, we look for one quality that makes it stand out among the rest. It can be an emphasis on gaming, battery life, or for most phones nowadays, camera hardware.

With the realme 8 5G, the brand hopes to change the game with speed. It’s a rather vague promise, but one that should excite plenty of consumers. Does it live up to the hype?

Don’t Sleep on Mediatek

The name Mediatek comes with quite the baggage, especially for Filipino consumers. But don’t fear. Long gone are the days where Mediatek processors sacrifice quality to reduce costs. The Mediatek Dimensity 700 5G is a more than capable performer for your day-to-day tasks.

Going through emails and using social media was a breeze, even with multiple apps open. Browsing through Facebook and Twitter while running YouTube in the background (thanks YouTube Premium!) was a delight.

Just don’t expect too much out of its capability to play graphic-intensive games. I tried running NBA 2K Mobile on Medium graphics and there were some stutters. Thankfully, they weren’t anything drastic that the entire experience was ruined.

If there’s one thing to be concerned about with the phone’s performance, it’s battery life. On light usage, you can stretch its 5000mAh cell to one and a half days. But with heavy usage of mobile data, social media, and navigation apps such as Waze, the midranger’s battery life went from 100 to 20 by 10PM. For hardcore gamers and workers who always have their mobile data on, it would be best to keep a power bank, just to be on the safe side.

realme UI 2.0 is a great balance

Phones from Chinese brands tend to get flak for straying too far away from Stock Android. Icons are colorful to a fault and too many unnecessary things are baked into these devices. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with realme’s flavor of Android 11.

There’s still bloatware. It wouldn’t be a phone from a Chinese brand without it. There are also annoying notifications from these apps. It’s a good thing you can disable these through System Settings.

Otherwise, realme UI 2.0 is an offering that feels more stock than most devices in the midrange market. It just works, and it isn’t cumbersome to use for any kind of consumer. Sometimes, that’s all you need out of a device’s software. Extra and unnecessary toppings aside, realme UI 2.0 was a delight to use.

5G and its 90Hz display are the cherry on top of this delicious sundae

While 5G and 90Hz displays are leading most phone’s marketing campaigns, they shouldn’t be a consumer’s primary reason for a buying a device as of the moment. 5G still has limited coverage and its differences with 4G LTE are minimal. 90Hz displays can only go so far. It eventually reaches a point where using it doesn’t feel all that special anymore.

At the core of a good smart phone are still its processor of choice and how its software operates. 5G and 90Hz are role players. A phone’s processor and software are its franchise cornerstones. On that note, the realme 8 5G has a team that blends together extremely well. You should consider them a championship contender in this segment of smartphones.

A camera that captures many possibilities, just not infinite

Capture Infinite Possibilities with 5G. It’s a very bold statement coming from realme to promote this device.

On that end, the realme 8 5G isn’t able to live up to that lofty promise just because of how limited its camera array is. Its triple camera setup consists of a 48-megapixel wide main camera, a two-megapixel macro camera, and a two-megapixel depth camera. In this day and age, a macro sensor and a depth sensor don’t provide much use to the overall camera experience. They’re nice-to-haves, but they don’t enrich the experience by much. A wide-angle lens and a telephoto would have helped users capture more possibilities with realme’s newest midranger.

At the very least, the phone is able to capture many finite possibilities thanks to its 48MP main camera. It’s a solid lens that performs well on all kinds of lighting conditions.

Its post-processing is a double-edged sword because of how it saturates and adds contrast to its images. Sometimes, pictures come out very good and natural. However, there are instances when images can look quite unnatural because of how it’s processed.

I showed one image to my girlfriend, and she likened the background to a painting. If you’re trying to capture art, maybe that works. But you’re trying to capture realistic images. Thankfully it’s nothing extreme to the point where you wouldn’t want to use the device’s camera. It’s just something to take note of as a user.

The selfie shooter came out with similar results, with a few hiccups here and there in dealing with the bokeh effect of Portrait Mode. However, if there was one weakness that was quite glaring, it was how it blended together the colors of its subject and background.

In one particular image, the colors came out as quite unnatural and it didn’t process the incoming tricycle in the background well. Again, like the main camera, its main weaknesses aren’t extreme to the point where you’d avoid using it at all costs.

You’ll be capturing many possibilities with this shooter. Just not infinite.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Priced at PhP 11,990, the realme 8 5G can be confidently called a steal. You can even go as far as to say that it deserves its lofty tag as a game-changer. It’s able to achieve this in a manner we aren’t used to seeing in this price segment.

Far too often do we see midrangers that champion raw power or large battery cells, while sacrificing overall user experience. This isn’t the case with the realme 8 5G.

The highlight feature of this device is its 5G connectivity, but instead of solely focusing on this brand-new feature, it uses it to enrich the experience brought by the phone’s processor and software.

This is a phone that can be used by any kind of user, but especially for the young professional who’s looking for a versatile device for all kinds of tasks at a low price. It’s not a clear-cut champion, but it can be called one of the favorites in an incredibly competitive midrange segment.

Reviews

POCO X5 Pro 5G review: Must-have mid-ranger?

Business as usual for POCO

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POCO X5 Pro 5G

Standing out in a crowded mid-range segment has become increasingly difficult in 2023. It isn’t enough to hit home runs; to stand out, you need to hit grand slams. To be a game-changer, a smartphone needs to be a generational talent. 

It’s difficult to be painted as generational, especially because mid-rangers, by nature, face compromises that force manufacturers to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible. A mid-ranger truly needs to be special, so it can be undeniable rather than undesirable.

The POCO X5 Pro 5G is the Chinese brand’s latest attempt at bringing a game-changing smartphone to the ultra competitive segment. They’re branding the X5 Pro 5G as ‘The secret to win’, a device that will help students and young professionals succeed with whatever challenges they’re facing. 

It’s one thing to make a hefty promise, but it’s another thing to walk the talk. Does the POCO X5 Pro 5G stand and deliver, or is it just another self-proclaimed game-changer exposed as a wannabe flagship killer? 

Design: Puts the MID in midrange

 

Remember when I said that manufacturers tend to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible? Right out of the box, even without holding the phone, you already know where POCO decided to make its necessary sacrifices. 

Allow me to describe this design with a Gen Z word made popular by Long Island’s very best in professional wrestling: mid. The X5 Pro 5G’s design, is quite frankly, mid. It doesn’t stand out in the mid-range segment, nor, does it even impress for any unique personality quirks. You’d prefer to purchase a unique case for this so you wouldn’t hesitate to bring this out during parties.

Durability: A phone that will last through an Iron Man Match

POCO X5 Pro 5G

First impressions matter, but they aren’t everything. While the X5 Pro 5G isn’t for those looking for love at first sight, its choice of materials will leave you impressed in the long run.

This phone simply works. It clearly isn’t the prettiest phone, but pretty doesn’t always mean substantial. Plastic is still the most practical material for a smartphone, and POCO’s choice of plastics for the X5 Pro 5G hit the mark. It’s so durable, in fact, you could confidently use the phone without a case even when walking around the streets of Metro Manila. 

The X5 Pro 5G’s battery performance enriches its durability. During the review period, I had the opportunity of using the phone not only as my main daily driver, but also as my primary hotspot source during remote work situations. Even for extremely heavy users, this is a phone that can last you through the day. In rare cases when you’ll need to charge in the middle of the day, the X5 Pro 5G comes with a 67W charger out of the box (yes, they still have chargers out of the box! Big W here by POCO). 

Performance: Will have you feeling like a generational talent 

POCO X5 Pro 5G

Most manufacturers hope to position their mid-rangers as bang-for-you-buck devices that can bring flagship-level technology. It’s a hefty promise. Most brands tend to miss the mark, one way or another. 

Coming from a flagship daily driver, I was already expecting a drop in performance when the X5 Pro 5G came in. Right out of the box, to my surprise, it didn’t feel like there was any drop in overall performance. Even a week after, the X5 Pro 5G’s maintained the smoothness it came with from Day 1. POCO did not miss the mark.

The 120 Hz refresh rate certainly helped accentuate that feeling of smoothness, especially when going through daily social media scrolling. But even when testing with a relatively high-intensive game such as DB Legends, the X5 Pro 5G and its Snapdragon 778G processor went through the gauntlet with relative ease. Relative to other mid-range phones, that’s generational. 

Camera: Consistently colorful 

POCO X5 Pro 5G

There’s a common misconception that when you have more cameras, the better shots you’ll get. Having multiple cameras isn’t enough; choosing the right lenses and having software that processes shots properly matters even more. 

I’m happy to say that at the very least, POCO was able to choose the right lenses for its multi-camera setup. Supporting its 108MP wide camera is an 8MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP macro camera. Other manufacturers have missed the mark by taking out the ultra-wide, but thankfully, POCO did not make that mistake. 

The ultra-wide lens performs relatively well too. The difference in quality between the main lens and the ultra-wide isn’t as drastic as you’d expect. It captures detail very well, and HDR is on point too. 

Users concerned about their social media image don’t have to worry. Its ultra-wide lens is good enough for your much-coveted Gen Z selfies. 

Performance outdoors is definitely better. There’s a noticeable drop in quality when taking indoor shots, but its nothing too criminal. 

Night mode on the X5 Pro 5G was decent too. On this shot of my very good friend’s jersey, it captured the details well, although there’s noticeable grain in the background. 

In terms of processing, the X5 Pro 5G comes out with consistently colorful shots, which is to be expected at this point. It ups the saturation to intense levels, and shadows can be overblown at times. It’s nothing too concerning, just something to consider before posting your photos on the ‘gram.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

POC X5 Pro 5G

With an SRP of PhP 16,999, the POCO X5 Pro 5G presents itself with an intriguing list of features. At first glance it won’t impress, but its value as a smartphone is all about what’s under the hood. It’s a powerful device that gets the job done. Whether you’re a busy workaholic, a student who’s trying to survive through modern hybrid setups, or a gamer who wants to pick up endless W’s, the POCO X5 Pro 5G is a great choice to have if you’re looking for a weapon that will bring you victory in whatever battles you’ll face. 

The POCO X5 Pro 5G may just be better than you, and you’ll know it. Its design is mid, but everything else, you wouldn’t hesitate to call generational.

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Computers

Apple M2 Mac mini Review

More Affordable, More Powerful

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Apple silently revealed the 2023 M2 Mac mini to the world.

Back in 2005, the Mac mini G4 was the cheapest Mac you can buy for US$ 499.

Almost 18 years after, the Mac mini still is the cheapest Mac at just US$ 599.

That’s still a lot of savings versus buying a US$ 1299 iMac.

The biggest difference? The newest Mac mini runs two of the most powerful chips right now — the M2 and M2 Pro.

But is it actually the right Mac for you?

Watch our Apple M2 Mac mini review now!

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Gaming

Forspoken review: Outspoken with little to speak of

Wait for a sale

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Forspoken

It doesn’t take a lot to create a decent roleplaying game. All you need is a fish-out-of-water character, a vast open map, and a seemingly endless list of objectives. Though it has all three, Forspoken struggles to keep up with its pretenses as a Western roleplaying game.

First, the good

Credit to where it’s due, Forspoken is a fun game for the first few sections. Exploring the incredibly huge map with magical parkour is enjoyable. Eclipsed only by Elden Ring’s Torrent, magic parkour is one of the most innovative ways to quickly traverse large distances, especially after learning more advanced techniques.

Likewise, fighting balanced enemies with limited powers provides enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes in Athia. Neither the player nor the first enemies feel overpowered.

Unfortunately, the game’s novelty quickly evaporates after you figure out that you have to repeat the same motions dozens upon dozens of times. Forspoken’s map is much larger than it ever should have been. Though abundant in number, every point of interest is separated by large distances, some platforming challenges, and a battle sequence. The greater map is empty. Do this over and over, and the game gets stale quick. With adequate rewards, this shouldn’t be a problem, but Forspoken also suffers from a communication issue.

A communication issue

For most roleplaying games, completing an objective on the map usually nets palpable rewards for the player: a significant experience boost, new skills, new gear, or a bag of loot. An open-world game necessitates a lot of exploring. Even if a game is repetitive, earning substantial rewards is satisfying, at least. Forspoken does not have this — not in an easily discernible way, at least.

Treasure chests, which account for most of the points of interest on the map, reward players with a litany of crafting materials. Most of which will go unused because the game doesn’t easily tell players how to use them. After a dozen hours of collecting materials, I had a wealthy cache of each ingredient to make practically anything. Even then, I had little idea where each one went.

The map’s major rewards — new cloaks, new nail arts, and experience — also do little to explain how Frey improves with each completed objective. Clearing out an enemy camp, for example, rewards players with +1 magic. The game does not tell you how much damage that conveys. Certainly, after completing a few of these, Frey feels stronger, but it’s not easy to see how much stronger, especially when most enemies are bullet sponges with absurd health pools anyway.

Plus, these don’t even scratch the surface of objectives wherein the main reward is literally just a lore dump you have to read from a menu.

Forspoken

Difficulty shouldn’t always mean more enemies

Another issue with clearing out Athia’s large map is how Forspoken handles difficulty. Though there are options to adjust difficulty, the game relies on a limited bag of tricks to make it more difficult for players: increasing enemy health and quantity. In moderation, relying on this strategy works. However, Forspoken does this to an obnoxious level.

Prepare to fight five mini-bosses in one encounter for a lore entry. What compounds this issue more is an insane enemy health pool which causes encounters to last a lot longer than they should. One mini-boss encounter took me 15 minutes, even with appropriately leveled gear and the right spells.

Because of the sheer number of enemies, an encounter can stun-lock Frey for an absurd amount of time. The player can hardly prevent this since it relies on chance. Despite offering a wide array of moves, the risk of knockbacks shoehorn players into a slow run-and-gun tactic (which might not even play into an enemy’s weaknesses), instead of using each ability to the max.

On paper, Forspoken’s combat offers a fluid way to take down enemies by seamlessly switching between spells and moving through the battlefield with magic parkour. Unfortunately, an imbalance in enemy strategies bogs the game down in prolonged sequences that often reward players with only middling boosts.

Forspoken

A lack of optimization

For a game released on modern hardware, Forspoken took a while to launch. The game was delayed a few times. Given how delays often work, you’d think that it would release in a fairly optimized state. It’s not.

Though I haven’t hit major game-breaking bugs, there were a number of performance dips throughout the game. Even on performance-focused settings, framerates dropped to a standstill when there were high particle effects on screen. Frey constantly clipped through the terrain and found herself stuck on finnicky edges (which sometimes required reloading from previous saves).

The game is also dragged down by numerous cutscenes. Though not a bug per se, it’s not a great sign of optimization that the game has to pause for a cutscene just to show enemies arriving. For a game featuring fluid movement and combat, Forspoken often takes players out of the action by pausing for unnecessary cutscenes.

Forspoken

Better on sale

Overall, Forspoken is persistently flawed. However, amid the game’s shortcomings, the title still has an exciting combat and movement system. Plus, if you disregard the tedious open world, Forspoken’s linear story, featuring the wide range of abilities, are enjoyable. My interest always bounces back after beating one of the game’s main bosses.

Still, it’s hard to call Forspoken a game worthy of its AAA price tag. It might be better to wait for a discount.

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