Reviews

realme Watch review: It gets fitness tracking right

But it leaves so much more to be desired

Published

on

realme has been aggressively pushing its own ecosystem into the fore this year. It started last year with the release of the affordable realme Buds Air. It was soon followed up with the realme Band, a fitness tracker that aims to compete with the Mi Band. Now, realme is pushing another product: the realme Watch.

The realme Watch serves to affirm the company’s grand vision for the future. Right now, it’s busy building a singular platform that will cater to the youth’s lifestyle. And the company’s first smartwatch is a small but crucial piece to that.

However, launching a smartwatch is not going to be easy. For realme, this is their first-ever product in a new category segment. The future of a grand ecosystem depends on how successful this smartwatch is going to. Plus, the company’s reputation as a lifestyle device for the youth is at stake here.

Beyond that, any product that bills itself as a smartwatch has to be particularly good at the basics — battery life, fitness tracking, connectivity, and app integration. So, does the realme Watch have what it takes to be a proper smartwatch? Let’s find out.

realme Watch is compact and intuitive

I’m pretty sure the name and design of the realme Watch will invoke the image of a familiar smartwatch to many. realme may have done this on purpose since any positive association with the Apple Watch creates a halo effect for their own smartwatch.

I can make out some differences between the Apple Watch and realme Watch though. First, the realme Watch is smaller and touts a more symmetrical body. Second, there’s a realme logo underneath the display but it’s super hard to notice. Second, the watch has a lone button on the right in place of Apple Watch’s digital crown and side button. And finally, the whole watch is made of plastic which is unlike the premium materials used by Apple on its smartwatch.

The smartwatch is compact and light. I didn’t notice much heft while wearing it. However, the fashion strap band feels cheap, and it is hard to attach and secure it to the wrist. Fortunately, there’s a quick-release lock that enables easy switching of strap bands.

Upon wearing the watch for the first time, I noticed that the screen’s brightness is not that sufficient to tackle direct sunlight. As such, I glanced a lot longer and squinted hard at the realme Watch outdoors. It doesn’t help that the smartwatch’s LCD display is a bit washed out.

It’s good for daily fitness tracking

Most people expect smartwatches to be good at fitness tracking. After all, these tiny devices pack a plethora of sensors that track your steps, heart rate, sleep patterns, and so on. However, not all smartwatches are built equally. That applies especially to the realme Watch, where you can expect some hits and misses.

For the most part, the smartwatch does a good job of tracking my heart rate. I compared it to an Honor Band 5 that I have and got the nearly identical results. I don’t have any professional heart rate monitor lying around, but I’m still confident in the readings.

There’s one big caveat to the smartwatch’s premise of continuous heart rate tracking though. I can only set the watch to read my heartbeat every five minutes or so. It would have been better if there’s an option to read heartbeats every three minutes or less. But alas, this is what realme settled for.

Step tracking is also fine for the most part. I can actually set custom step goals, which is a pretty nice feature to have. Personally, I set mine to 6,000 steps.

Aside from heart rate monitoring and step tracking, the realme Watch can also track sleep. I’m still dumbfounded by the different terminologies for quantifying sleep, but the data presented by the watch is spot-on. On average, the watch tells me that I only sleep for 5 to 6 hours every day. Comparing that data to my Honor Band 5, and I can say that they’re both pretty close.

One thing that I really like about the realme Watch is the presence of a meditation timer. It’s pretty barebones though, and the timer is configurable up to 10 minutes only. At least it’s there, and it’s pretty useful whenever I get anxious or stressed out.

It comes with a buggy exercise interface and integration

How did the realme Watch fare on a workout session? It’s actually a mixed bag. Granted, I don’t exercise a lot, and my only fitness regimen nowadays is walking around the block. Still, there’s a lot of health benefits derived from walking, and I would like my smartwatch to track how my body responds to a 10-minute walk.

Starting an exercise session from the watch is pretty straightforward. You just scroll down from the watch face, and select “workout”. From there, you have 14 sessions to choose from. There’s only one major sport that realme left out here: swimming. Yes, you can’t track your swims with this smartwatch.

Once started, realme will track your heart rate, duration, and calories burned. There are five visual indicators to tell you what zone you are in. realme Watch will display more or fewer data depending on what exercise you select. Since I like to walk, I get extra information such as distance, cadence, and steps.

Like I said before, exercise tracking is a mixed bag on the realme Watch. The biggest gripe that I have with is its tendency to restart in the middle of an exercise session. I can’t count the times that I had to start tracking once again since the watch would decide to end tracking abruptly. Hopefully, realme can fix this issue with a software update.

No third-party apps, but has some good system apps built-in

Software problems doesn’t only exist when tracking exercises. The realme Watch is riddled with a buggy system that likes to restart or even wipe out your data for the day. realme has a lot to improve here and I’m really hoping that subsequent updates can fix these annoying bugs.

In moments where the realme Watch doesn’t show its unwelcome quirks, you can actually appreciate how fluid and intuitive the navigation is. By default, the smartwatch shows your selected watch face. Long-pressing on the watch face enables you to choose from others.

Swiping up, you get a list of notifications. Swipe to the left and right, and you get different widgets that show you useful information at a glance. To access the apps, swipe down from the main watch face. Getting back to other areas is just a press away from the lone side button.

Some first-party apps that I do appreciate on this watch are the music control app and weather app. I found myself using the music control app more to skip to the next track and control the volume. And, it is nice to see weather information at a glance without scouring the web for forecasts.

The phone app leaves a lot to be desired

Of course, the whole experience of using the realme Watch is incomplete without the dedicated smartphone app. Unfortunately, realme Link—– the app that controls the watch — is only available for Android. So, there’s no way to use the watch if you use an iPhone.

As for the app, realme Link is easy to navigate and the pairing process is quick and easy. Unlike in my Honor Band, I don’t need to deal with the rigorous install of other apps just to get going. Tweaking the watch’s settings is easily done on the app itself. Plus, it’s super easy to setup app notifications.

What I didn’t like is that I needed to register for an account just to set up my realme Watch. But this complaint of mine could be minor for you. After all, most apps today require sign-ups. Still, I would’ve preferred if the app allowed me to control the watch without signing in.

While navigating and tweaking settings is a breeze on realme Link, there’s a lot to be desired with the app. First, the app can quickly get confusing for first-time smartwatch users. Statistics are displayed nicely on the app, but there’s no thorough explanation of what those statistics really mean for your health.

I also dislike the fact that there’s a limited selection of watch faces available on the app. Granted, this is a first-generation product for realme. Watch faces available at the moment are limited to a selection of 12 quirky faces. I say quirky since some of the watch face designs are divisive — you may like it or hate it. For me, however, I didn’t find any interesting watch faces so I stuck with the default one. realme did say more watch faces are coming soon. I say, it can’t come soon enough.

Finally, realme Link shows some weird software bugs from time to time. For example, when I toggled the exercise tracking within the app, the realme Watch doesn’t go into exercise tracking. Fortunately, these bugs are easily resolvable with software updates.

Solid battery life for a smartwatch

One of realme Watch’s saving grace is its long battery life. That is, long battery life for a smartwatch of this class. In normal usage, I get three to four days of battery life. It’s pretty solid, considering that most smartwatches last only a day. However, it’s worth noting that those smartwatches have more sensors that hog battery life.

You can actually extend the watch’s battery life for longer. Toggle the power-saving mode and you get up to two days more battery life on the realme Watch.

Charging is also pretty quick. From my experience, the realme Watch took an hour to charge from 10% to 70%.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

There’s a good article on Android Authority that summarizes realme’s vision for an all-encompassing ecosystem. Like the title says, the company needs to walk first before it can run. The same holds true for the realme Watch.

There are so many quirks and bugs on the smartwatch that you’ll wonder if you made the right purchase decision. Plus, app integrations and smarts are sorely missing — is this really a smartwatch at all? realme really needs to polish the watch software, since this is the very core that powers the smartwatch experience.

This sums up what the realme Watch is: a half-baked smartwatch that at least gets the fitness tracking right. realme took a gamble and it lost. But as a first generation product, there’s a lot of lessons that can be learned. Hopefully, the company can amend some of the glaring issues on this watch in the future.

Still, those who are looking for a fitness tracker that does look like an elegant smartwatch at first glance should look no further than the realme Watch. It’s light, compact, and easy to navigate. Plus, there’s the asking price of PhP 3,990 (US$ 81), which is super cheap for a smartwatch.

It’s now available on realme’s Lazada store. Those buying the smartwatch should wait for Lazada’s 7.15 sale, where it is available with a PhP 1,000 (US$ 20)  discount.

See also: 5 things we like about the realme Watch

Gaming

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time review: Worth the 22-year wait

This should have been the proper sequel to the trilogy

Published

on

When Crash Bandicoot resurfaced in 2017, I felt utter joy and nostalgia at the same time. Even though Crash Bandicoot: Warped was the first Crash game I ever played, the franchise became a great part of my childhood. With the release of the N. Sane Trilogy, it now gave new players an opportunity to experience some hardcore platforming that most late 90s kids remember.

Earlier this year, they announced the arrival of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Activision, Vicarious Visions, Toys For Bob, and Beenox all came together to work on the trilogy’s “proper” platforming sequel. When I heard about this, I dropped everything and waited for as long as possible to get my hands on the game.

After finally playing, it’s honestly the Crash platforming sequel I had always wanted. There’s a big reason for that.

The original “Crash Bandicoot 4” just didn’t hold up well

See, before It’s About Time, there was actually another Crash Bandicoot dubbed as the fourth title: The Wrath of Cortex. It was released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube back in 2001-2002, almost 3-4 years after the original trilogy. For this game, the story centered around the presence of Crunch Bandicoot, another bandicoot creation of the game’s main antagonist, Dr. Neo Cortex.

Crash in The Wrath of Cortex for the PlayStation 2

The game itself received relatively average reviews, with most people simply feeling like it was a downgrade from the original. I tried playing the game again recently, and by 2020 standards, it feels unpolished. Gameplay as a whole was fairly janky, the story just doesn’t seem to add up, and it’s just a carbon copy of Warped but more slippery.

Level design for Tornado Alley in The Wrath of Cortex

So when Activision and Vicarious Visions announced that another Crash Bandicoot 4 was coming out, I had hoped that it wouldn’t end up like Wrath of Cortex. And boy, was I ever relieved that it didn’t.

Taking the premise of Wrath of Cortex, but making it better

It’s About Time takes place directly after the events of Warped — specifically the secret ending of the game after getting all the collectibles. Essentially, Cortex and his crime partner, Dr. Nefarious Tropy decide to simply open time rifts across the continuum. Aku Aku, the all-powerful mask that protects Crash, senses the impending danger and alerts Crash about it.

The whole game takes you through different time periods, even going as far as more recent events in the Crash universe. You are tasked to awaken different Quantum Masks that will help you in your quest to stop Cortex and N. Tropy. I honestly thought that they did the masks thing better than Wrath of Cortex in this regard.

As you progress through each level, you face a ton of challenging platform segments and waves of enemies and death-inducing obstacles. Within every other time period, you have boss levels with major recurring characters from all other past Crash games. In essence, it tries to incorporate the classic Crash formula, but enhances the experience. 

Plus, you get to go on adventures as either Crash or Coco. In some cases, you even get to play as Tawna Bandicoot, Dingodile, and Cortex himself! 

Gameplay that’s as smooth and difficult as the N. Sane Trilogy

One of the main things I was looking for in It’s About Time was consistency. I wanted this new Crash game to remain consistent with the remastered trilogy in terms of gameplay, character movement, and relative learning curve. See, the original trilogy was not an easy set of games to get around, especially if it’s your first time playing.

For long time Crash fans like myself, I felt that this game was more pain-staking yet just as smooth to control as the trilogy. Crash keeps some of his skills that he earns from Warped like the Super Body Slam and Double Jump, which I thought were the two logical ones to keep. However, you’re going to need more than just those abilities since the game throws so many obstacles later on.

It’s a painful grind to finishing the game at 100% completion this time around. Instead of collection crystals, you collect gems from accomplishing certain tasks within each level. From breaking every box to not having more than three deaths, these would require several perfect playthroughs. Honestly, that’s just insanely difficult to accomplish, and I’m all for it!

The most vibrant and creative game design in any Crash game

The moment you start your adventure to N. Sanity Peak, you’re already greeted to the gorgeous and colorful level design. I felt that Toys For Bob took a page out of their work on the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy with all the colors for each level. As you progress through the game, you’ll have brief moments to just take all of that in.

In terms of overall level design, it is a big step up from the N. Sane Trilogy in my opinion. For the most part, it gives you a different variety of level styles you haven’t seen in the original trilogy. From vine-swinging to rail-riding, the developers went all out to give you a different Crash game all together.

Furthermore, they even managed to sneak in similar obstacle patterns from the previous games. Something silly like timing challenges or platforming segments are just a few examples of these. I felt that these were put in here to cater to the long-time or hardcore Crash platformer fans.

Great deal of fan service and easter eggs

Apart from the sneaky insertion of familiar segments from older games, they also added a ton of small details referencing other games, as well. I mean, I wouldn’t call the giant Spyro float or the Spyro inflatable by the beach small details. However, the developers really threw in a ton of easter eggs.

Because I took my sweet time trying to get through every level, I noticed most of these the moment they came up. Most levels are sprawling with references to the purple dragon, or characters from older Crash games like Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure. They even went all out to promote Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled in one time area.

Even if you’ve never played any Crash game before, you’d dart your eyes at them. I think Toys For Bob and Beenox made it a point to spoil you with all of these references. 

How things should have been

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time served its true purpose as the official fourth chapter of the Crash universe. It takes the core Crash formula and throws it into a brand new world, with a plot that makes sense in the grand scheme of things. I’d like to think that this whole game is just much more enhanced than the original trilogy all in all.

From the fantastic visuals to the difficult gameplay style, It’s About Time goes for an authentic yet novel approach. It will make you feel a great deal of awe while you constantly try to die less than 20 times every stage. It sticks to the brutal platforming mechanic it’s known for, while improving the experience.

I can honestly say that the absurdly long 22-year wait for a sequel to the trilogy was worth it. If you want to experience rage and fulfillment all in one game,  I highly suggest you pick this up.

Continue Reading

Gaming

Lenovo Legion Phone Duel review: Raw gaming power

Everything you expect from a gaming smartphone

Published

on

Legion Phone Duel

One look at the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel and you know right away that it’s made for people who hardcore want to play. But smartphones are for more than just gaming and that balancing act is what Lenovo tried to achieve.

The company has an interesting messaging on why it’s named “Duel”. It’s mostly on how it was built, but it’s also about striking a balance between work and play. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first unbox the phone.

The box looks fantastic and is easier to figure out than its primary competition.

Legion Phone Duel

Opening it up reveals the Legion Phone Duel. A mechanical door opening sound effect plays every time you open the box. 

Cheated a little bit here. The phone will be wrapped with the usual plastic protection when you first open it up.

Digging deeper into the box you’ll find the massive power brick with two USB-C ports for dual charging. More on that later.

Elsewhere inside the box is USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack, a sim tray ejector tool, and the user guide.

It also comes with a plastic case for “some” protection. It snaps on the phone any which way as part of the dual, symmetrical design.

Taking a closer look at the phone, at the back you’ll find Legion’s slogan: Stylish outside. Savage inside.

How well does it play? 

Let’s jump right into the gameplay. To launch games you have installed, the phone has the Legion Realm. It’s the gaming hub where you can customize how much of its combination of specs — Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus and up to 16GB RAM — will be used for your gameplay session.

Funny thing is, it doesn’t seem to know exactly which apps are games or not. Upon firing it up the first time, it incorrectly identified Skype, Guitar Tuna and VSCO as gaming apps. You can, of course, manually take out and add apps, but this is a software kink that has to be fixed in an update.

Speaking of software kink, the Legion Phone Duel is built to go on landscape mode even on the home screen. But every time I try to enable auto-rotate, the screen kind of glitches for a second. It’s not that big of a deal but is worth mentioning.

Alright. Let’s jump in for real.

Call of Duty: Mobile

Legion Phone Duel

This is the game that I spend the most time with. On any given day, I would fire up a quick match when I need to step away from work for a while. I got pretty much the exact same sensations when I first played Call of Duty: Mobile on the ROG Phone 2.

The 144Hz screen refresh rate is smooth AF. It almost feels like you have an edge over the other players. Moving around and aiming the crosshair at my targets was easier.

This being a first-person shooter also really takes advantage of everything the phone has to offer. The shoulder buttons feel amazing and responsive. With this, you’ll be racking up kills in no time.

Genshin Impact

This is the game that I wish I could spend more time on. I typically don’t enjoy playing Action-RPG types on smartphones, but the combination of the phone’s raw power and stunning display along with the game’s design and gorgeous visuals made this such a fantastical experience.

Would like to note, though, that this is also the title where I experienced the most level of heating. It was nothing alarming, though and it mostly happened during days when it was also unbearably humid.

League of Legends: Wild Rift

Honesty hour again. For this game, I only really played the tutorial part — which I thought it handles better than Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. I personally get no kick playing these types of games, but if this is your jam, know that it looks great and plays really well on the Legion Phone Duel.

Asphalt 9 

This is the standard game for testing/playing racing games. The last time I played this though was on a budget tablet and I was pleasantly surprised at how good the game looks and plays on a high-end device.  Again, same satisfying experience all throughout.

Injustice 2

This is my go-to for trying fighting games, but like Action-RPG titles, I prefer to play fighting games on devices where I can button mash. That said, this game had the most noticeable graphical jump for me. I just don’t remember it looking this good on the other devices where I played it.

Delivers on gaming

As a gaming smartphone, the Legion Phone Duel impresses. All the design decisions that went into making this a truly satisfying gaming experience hits all the right spots.

The Dual Shoulder Controls with Dual Haptics feel great. The Legion assistant app is easy to access in-game and doesn’t feel intrusive. And it has just the right width and heft that won’t wear you out during extended gaming sessions.

The Dual front-firing speakers are okay. They’re great on a phone but since I regularly use HiFi audio accessories, it was easy to detect that it’s not able to register certain higher frequencies.

Fret not though, the Legion Phone Duel supports all kinds of HiFi audio format. If you have the gear for it, you’ll enjoy this even more.

Accessories? 

Lenovo says the Legion Phone Duel was built only as a phone in mind. With that, it doesn’t come with any special Legion-branded accessories at launch,

However, it is compatible with other more universal accessories. And if you have a keyboard and more, or another controller lying around, you should be able to connect the phone with the right kind of dock.

Weak point: Cameras 

The hardware is present: 64MP main camera and 16MP wide angle.

Even the design and camera position is thoughtful for what it’s trying to be. But the results are… well, they need improvement.

Some photos look like they have some sort of filter.

But every so often you will get a few good shots.

Be careful about shooting vertically, though as you might end up with something like this.

It’s decent indoors with a fair amount of lighting. 

But it really struggles at night. 

Occasionally, you’ll get something decent.

Up front is a 20MP Pop-up camera. 

Legion Phone Duel

It’s steady. Selfies are about as hit and miss as the rear cameras. You also get this nifty dual shot feature. 

But I used it more on a few video calls. It’s wide angle and captures a lot. Quality-wise, it’s decent. Better than any webcam on a laptop. 

Dual Charging 

Another dual aspect is charging. Instead of a single power cell, the Legion Phone Duel has two 2,500mAh situated on the sides of the phone as you hold it horizontally.

It also has two USB-C ports that you can use at the same time when juicing the phone up.

The results I got are as follows: 

  • Started “dual” charging at 10%
  • Got to 100% in 1:12:25
  • Started single charting at 43%
  • Got to 100% in 49:34

Battery life is around what you expect. On a regular day where you’re doing work and are just browsing and playing during breaks, you won’t need to top-up overnight.

But on days where you do nothing but play, expect to run it dry twice as fast than on a regular day.

Dual looks, other things of note

Like any other Android phone, you can customize the Lenovo Phone Duel depending on your preferences. For its part, Lenovo has a selection of default wallpapers that look hardcore gamer and casual user.

Legion Phone Duel

As a media device, this phone is also fantastic. The 6.65” FHD+ AMOLED Display is such a treat to the eyes. That’s true whether you’re watching K-Pop videos on Youtube.

Or perhaps catching up on your favorite Netflix series.

The display is also great even when you’re just casually browsing on social media.

Doubling down on its “dual” approach, the phone (In the Philippines at least), is available in only two variants.

  • Blazing Blue — 16GB+512GB
  • Vengeance Red — 12GB+256GB

Asked why this was the case, Lenovo channeled their inner Yes or Yes Mina saying it’s to make the choice more simple for the buyers. It will be available in all authorized resellers by November 1, 2020.

Is Legion Phone Duel your GadgetMatch?

Lenovo has a few things to fix on the software end. The hardware, though, is fantastic. As a gaming smartphone, the Legion Phone Duel won’t leave you wanting.

It has the raw power to play just about any mobile game. The display is gorgeous with a speedy response time. The front-firing speakers are good on their own but paired with HiFi audio accessories, and you’re in for quite an immersive treat.

Legion Phone Duel

It has the natural shortcomings of a first generation gaming phone — the photos just aren’t there yet. However, it has more to do with Lenovo’s software processing more than anything. With a few software updates, I don’t see how this can’t improve.

But to give a truly final verdict, we’re still missing one key component. Pricing. Price and bundles (if any) will be revealed on October 24, 2020 at the Legion launch in this year’s Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS).

We’ll hold off a final verdict until then and will update this space once the pricing is final.

Continue Reading

Reviews

OnePlus 8T Unboxing and Review

It’s more than just a design change

Published

on

A six-month lineup refresh isn’t nearly ideal to most Android brands but OnePlus is back at it again with a new smartphone!

The new OnePlus 8T offers more than just a design change. Performance will still be fast and snappy thanks to maxed-out internals, but the newer camera system is something most loyalists might like — or hate.

With the recent releases of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, Google Pixel 5, and even the newest Apple iPhone 12 mini, will OnePlus be able to justify its stand of offering the 8T at $50 more over the cheaper US$ 699 contenders?

Watch our OnePlus 8T unboxing and review by clicking this link.

Continue Reading

Trending