Reviews

Redmi Note 11S review: Solid, accessible daily driver

It’s like an everyday camera phone!

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Finding a smartphone is always a unique experience. It’s a case-to-case basis; fitting different preferences of every demographic. The highest variant in a new series always packs the most features, while the lowest ones offer something really basic. What if you find yourself in the middle?

That is the gap that the Redmi Note 11S is trying to fill. A middle ground who gets the basics with a lot more to offer, without being too overbearing.

Design

From the get-go, the Redmi Note 11S resembles the signature design of its lineup. While the Redmi Note 11 Pro can be easily recognized with its taller build, the Note 11 and Note 11S might be too familiar in both front and rear.

The untrained eye might get mistaken in distinguishing this one apart from its vanilla sibling. However, the key is checking the camera modules. The Redmi Note 11S sports a whopping 108-megapixel sensor behind an f/1.9 lens, as compared to the Redmi Note 11 which only has a 50-megapixel sensor behind its f/1.8 lens.

The unit I have comes in Graphite Gray, which seemed dull especially when you don’t slap a funky case. Don’t consider that jelly case, it’s ugly.

There are other color options for the Note 11S: Twilight Blue and Pearl. I personally would love to have used the Pearl Note 11S for its luxurious feel and smooth texture. The rear uses a matte-finish design that tries its best to resist fingerprint smudges.

With Graphite Gray (or any dark-colored smartphone in my experience), certain angles can show subtle smudges. White paint would’ve elevated the Note 11S as a premium-looking midrange smartphone.

It has the makings of a premium looker, at least the first time you touch it. Stylish design? Check. Subtle curves to make your grip comfortable? Check. Matte-finish? Check. And its texture? Oh, it’s so smooth you can’t keep your hands off it.

Display

Upfront, you can find the Redmi Note 11S looking like an actual midrange smartphone. The bezels help bridge the curved rear for a flat-edge design on its display. It’s giving a’ best of both worlds’ vibe, allowing you to enjoy the phone comfortably while keeping yourself entertained.

But of course, let’s talk specifics. The Redmi Note 11S sports a 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED DotDisplay with a 180Hz touch sampling rate. There’s an option to use a 90Hz refresh rate, but that’s barely consequential in the grand scheme of things. At least, for casual users like my best friend Nicole who had a great time using the smartphone for a day.

What we like the most is how we were able to enjoy catching up with Netflix’s Business Proposal one sunny afternoon in an al fresco cafe.

The colors are vibrant and you can watch the show clearly in broad daylight. The only issue would’ve been the glares if you were checking the screen from an angle. But normally, you’d watch it straight and in front of you.

I’d call it an entertainment powerhouse in the midrange department if only its audio experience was way louder. Despite sporting two linear speakers on its top and bottom sides, the Note 11S would still make you want to connect it to a Bluetooth speaker or a pair of wireless earbuds for better sound.

Camera

What I’m excited the most about the Redmi Note 11S is how it offers a 108-megapixel camera using Samsung’s HM2 sensor. For its price, can its sensor and MediaTek Helio G96 octa-core processor work hand-in-hand to produce stunning photos?

Aside from the 108-megapixel main camera, the Redmi Note 11S is equipped with an f/2.2 8-megapixel with 118° field-of-view (FOV) ultra-wide camera, an f/2.4 2-megapixel macro camera, and an f/2.4 2-megapixel depth sensor for its quad rear camera setup.

On the front, it uses an f/2.4 16-megapixel front camera situated in a punch-hole cutout. Let’s see how the cameras fare!

108-megapixel goodness

Using the 108-megapixel camera mode, I was able to capture highly detailed yet somewhat underexposed photos. Of course, it bins the photo like any other 108-megapixel camera. The process is always the same.

Frankly, an everyday user wouldn’t feel compelled to use the 108-megapixel on a daily basis. But it’s a nice feature to have especially when you consider printing your photos in some way in the future.

Shot from Shakey’s Pizza in Tiendesitas, Pasig City along C-5 road

The captured photos doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing, especially with the food part, but I like how it’s realistic to the sceneries I captured. The bluish tint is reminiscent of photos taken with Samsung’s flagship smartphones. But of course, we knew that already — it uses a Samsung HM2 sensor after all.

Regardless, the natural photos taken allows someone to edit and post-process their photos according to their preference. It offers the flexibility you might need if you ever use the device for creative purposes.

Taking photos using the default mode

Mirror selfie at my favorite restaurant: Weuna The Open Kitchen in C. Raymundo Ave., Pasig City

I’m a fan of taking quick photos — no fancy modes, no gimmicky features, just plain ol’ snap of a memory I’m trying to preserve. And most people do, too. It’s not everyday we get to use these different modes our smartphones offer. At the end of the day, we need a camera that helps capture whatever we want to take.

Quiet afternoons at Nono’s, The Podium, 12 ADB Ave, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong, 1550 Metro Manila

The Redmi Note 11S might not be a great option for most people who have been exposed to highly-saturated and AI-processed photos that other smartphone brands offer. Though a bit underexposed, I like how the Redmi Note 11S doesn’t color-correct or adjusts the white balance automatically.

It captures the same vibe and scenario as what I’ve seen with my eyes. Since I tend to plaster Instagram filters on my photos before uploading them on social media, I’m happy to report that any filter would work nicely when applied to the photos taken using the Redmi Note 11S. No overexposed or underexposed captures, just balanced shots that you can modify to your liking.

Trouble in focus and details

Taking photos indoodrs is quite troublesome for the cameras, as the Redmi Note 11S struggles in producing a shallow depth-of-field (or background blur as some people describe it). Not to mention, details are slightly blurred and softened when it’s struggling to retain it.

The beauty of zoom

Ever since Vincenz, our photography expert, taught us the beauty of using 2x or 3x zoom, I found myself using it on a more regular basis. And that’s where you can see the camera prowess of the Redmi Note 11S.

Of course, it’s far from perfect. But using the 3x zoom removes the unnecessary distortion that the wide camera causes. Not to mention, it has a better grasp on the shallow depth-of-field produced.

While some users will scrutinize these and say their phones have better photos, please be reminded that this is a midrange smartphone. Like the words my BFF said to me after we took some shots, “This is so much better than my Huawei nova 3i.”

Going wide

Now, this is where I’m going to be torn. Using the ultra-wide angle camera, the Redmi Note 11S produces severely underexposed photos. Its details were compressed, and were easily noticed when I padded a brightening filter from my collection.

I personally like ultra-wide angle modes, but the one on the Redmi Note 11S is something that you tolerate rather than celebrate.

Portrait

The Redmi Note 11s’ Portrait Mode is far from perfect. But the same goes for every midrange smartphone trying to promote this feature that were never fully perfected in the past few years.

The background blur was still too strong, and the processed photo finds it hard to delineate the subject. If you can peruse, the lower left part of the portrait is close to being sharp. Where did that background blur go?

But better selfies, yay!

If there’s something I really love about the Redmi Note 11S, it’s the selfie cameras. It continues Xiaomi’s legacy when it comes to selfie cameras — which I discovered first when I used the Mi Mix 3.

Unlike selfies from other Chinese smartphones like Huawei, vivo, OPPO, and realme, Xiaomi’s selfies manage to retain details while keeping you fresh. It pads a thin layer of beautification to make sure you don’t look like you just came out of a battlefield. There’s an additional post-processing, but not as intense as other brands where you already look like a Barbie or Ken Doll.

There’s also a wider option when taking selfies so you can fit in nicely during couple or group photos.

The experience

If you haven’t noticed, the Redmi Note 11S is pegged as the camera phone to consider in the Redmi Note 11 lineup. The Redmi Note 11 is too vanilla, and the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G is geared towards power users.

This is why the focus of this review leans more on the camera performance. But of course, we still tested it out. The Redmi Note 11S is powered by a 12nm MediaTek Helio G96 octa-core processor along with a Mali-G57 MC2 GPU.

On paper, you know it can let you play smoothly. I tried playing Honkai Impact and Sprite Fantasia, and while the smartphone didn’t make me want to play games the whole day, it packs enough power to run the titles properly. I didn’t experience overheating — something that usually concerns me when it comes to midrange smartphones.

The unit I had sports an 8GB LPDDR4X RAM and a 128GB UFS 2.2 internal storage. Running on MIUI 13 based on Android 11, the Redmi Note 11S gave a seamless experience switching between apps and multitasking. It was lag-free and animations run smoothly.

More importantly, we were able to use the Redmi Note 11S throughout a day of taking photos, using messaging apps, being connected to the Internet to communicate and upload on social media. By the time I arrived home, the phone still had plenty of juice — 30 percent coming from 95 percent of a 5,000mAh battery.

I waited for it to drop to 20 percent before fully charging it to 100, and it only took 45 minutes to juice up with its 33W wired charger.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Redmi Note 11S is far from perfect, and it’s unfair to put it in a pedestal since it’s a smartphone under the lower midrange lineup. But for the price it commands, it’s a package that you might want to consider if you’re in the market for a new midrange smartphone.

Everything about the Redmi Note 11S is made for the everyday consumer, with only a bit of a highlight on its camera system. You can watch your favorite K-dramas, play games when you’re bored, take selfies, and capture everyday memories. It’s a solid daily driver that won’t break the bank.

More importantly, it has features that you’d love to see in a midrange smartphone: Side-fingerprint sensor, 3.5mm headphone jack, Dual SIM and MicroSD slot, and an IP53 certification.

The Redmi Note 11S retails for PhP 12,999. It’s available in Xiaomi’s Authorized stores and online channels such as Shopee.

Laptops

Apple M2 MacBook Pro review: Affordable, powerful

Looks the same outside, more powerful inside!

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I love talking about new Apple hardware and I’m excited about the arrival of the new MacBook Air. It’s probably the most exciting news to come out of this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

But what some folks might not have known is that another M2-powered Mac was also announced.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro.

A new 13-inch MacBook Pro?!

Because there are many different MacBook Pro models, let’s first take a look at how this new 13-inch MacBook Pro stands in Apple’s current lineup.

Think of this model as the entry-level MacBook Pro. It sits alongside the 14-inch MacBook Pro and the 16-inch MacBook Pro — which Apple unveiled late last year.

The 13-inch and 14-inch models are of a roughly similar size, but the 14-inch has a larger screen thanks to thinner bezels.

In some ways, the 13-inch model is like the iPhone SE is to the Mac. It sports an older design but comes with new insides and a lower price.

There are plenty of differences between both models, which we’ll also discuss, but TL;DR, the reason Apple is keeping this model around is choice.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299. Meanwhile, the 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2499. So, if you want to go pro and don’t want to break the bank, this here is your much more affordable option.

Unboxing

Alright, we might have gotten ahead of ourselves there. Let’s do a quick unboxing before we move on to our review.

Our MacBook Pro shipped in this brown box. But obviously, if you pick one up from the store it might not have this outside layer.

You know the drill by now, just look for the arrow, and rip to break the seal.

Inside here is the actual 13-inch MacBook Pro box.

Up front, there’s a white box with a photo of the laptop.

Tug here to break the seal…

And from here we can now lift up this lid.

Inside is the new 13-inch MacBook Pro wrapped in environment-friendly paper instead of plastic.

Also in the box are a USB-C to USB-C cable.

There’s a packet with some paperwork.

And two space gray stickers.

And underneath, a 67W adapter.

Still the same on the outside

Last year when Apple unveiled the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, they came with a major redesign. Chamfered edges were traded in for softer, rounded ones. Four feet lifted the laptop up from surfaces and provided more airflow for cooling.

Inside, the keyboard was black on black with full-sized function keys and the display got slimmer bezels. More real estate. And a notch.

Now unlike those models though, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro sports the same design as its predecessor from 2020. What does this mean?

Well, to start, the chassis is pretty much similar to unibody MacBook Pros from the last five years or so.

The keyboard looks like this.

There’s still a Touch Bar up top instead of physical function keys.

There’s no notch but it’s got thicker bezels.

Having used the new 14-inch MacBook Pro for more than half a year, I don’t wanna go back. But that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this older design. It’s truly a work of art and one that has stood the test of time, and it’s still a stunner.

I actually like this keyboard better — particularly being able to see the aluminum frame in between the individual keys.

Also, if you’re a fan of the Touch Bar this is the last remaining Mac that has one. Like all MacBook Pros, it’s available only in either Space Grey or Silver.

A more powerful Mac inside

While its outsides look the same, on the inside, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is more powerful than ever. The transition from Intel to Apple Silicon was a huge jump for the Mac in terms of performance.

Apple’s M1 chip was and is groundbreaking. Without getting too technical, picture this: My first M1 machine was an entry-level MacBook Air. A thousand-dollar machine that ran circles around my US$6000 top spec Intel-based 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The new MacBook Pro runs the even newer M2 chip, which offers even more power and better efficiency. The M2 can handle even heavier workloads much better. It also now supports up to 24GB of Unified Memory, with 8GB being the starting configuration.

Apple is promising nearly 40% faster video editing performance as compared to the M1 MacBook Pro. But of course, you’re most likely not upgrading from an M1 MacBook Pro to an M2 MacBook Pro. And in that case, Apple says to expect a 6x performance boost.

To showcase that, we exported a 10-minute, 4K, GadgetMatch video on a 2019 Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pro and the new 2022 model.

A 10-minute and 12-second video with a 45.65GB file size gave different results. For instance, the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro exported the video for only 3 minutes and 23 seconds. Meanwhile, the 13-inch 8th-generation Intel Core i5 MacBook Pro took 13 minutes and 16 seconds.

Clearly, from these results, you can see how much of a performance improvement the M2 chip delivers. But perhaps even more impressive is how much more power-efficient Apple Silicon is.

Apple is promising about 20 hours of battery life and in our tests, we were getting close to that.

While usage may vary depending on what you’re doing, what’s more important to note is that even if you’re working on something more resource-intensive — the laptop requires less power to complete those tasks.

So, your laptop lasts longer even if you’re pushing the system a bit harder. Compare that to a 12-core PC laptop and you’re getting about 75% less power consumption.

A simple way to illustrate this is by taking a look at the bundled power adapter of the 13-inch MacBook Air.

This 67W power brick is all that’s needed for the Mac to run at full performance.

Meanwhile here’s the massive 180W power brick that comes with the new Asus ZenBook Pro 14 Duo that runs off the latest Intel i9 chip.

The size of the bricks illustrates how much more power is needed by a Windows machine and how much more power is consumed when you’re on battery.

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Pro 13 2022

Since both the 2022 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro have M2 chips, which one should you get?

Let’s take a look at what differentiates the two: The M2 MacBook Air starts at US$ 1199, and the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at US$ 1299.

Specs-wise they are nearly identical — apart from a larger battery on the Pro which Apple says delivers two hours more battery life. What sets the MacBook pro apart and gives it a performance edge are its built-in fans.

The MacBook Air doesn’t have fans. Frankly, fans come in handy for sustained workloads. What does this mean? Well, if you’re exporting a video and it’s taking a long time, say 30 minutes, the presence of fans will mean that once your laptop starts to get warm because the workload is pushing your computer to its limits, fans can kick in to keep things cool.

It allows the laptop to perform at max capacity for longer. That in its essence is the case for the MacBook Pro.

Apple MacBook Air M2

That said, the MacBook Air also has its pros. The most obvious is portability. Its updated design makes it feel more current. It has a bigger, better screen with more colors, higher max brightness, curved corners, slimmer bezels, and a 1080p FaceTime camera.

Apple MacBook Air M2

The new MacBook Air also now has MagSafe which offers fast charging as well as safety. For instance, if someone trips on your chord it won’t take the Mac down with it.

It also frees up that second USB-C port. Sans MagSafe, when the 13-inch MacBook Pro is plugged in, it effectively only has one free USB-C port. All for US$ 100 less.

Is the 13-inch MacBook Pro your GadgetMatch?

If you’re the kind of user who needs a Pro Model but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money then this is the device for you. Also, if you’ve been holding off from upgrading to Apple Silicon and wanted to wait for Gen 2, now is the time.

With an educational discount, you can get a new M2-powered Pro for US$ 1199. That said, I am of the belief that the upcoming M2-powered MacBook Air is a better value.

Apple MacBook Air M2

It is the Mac that most people should buy, even if, caveat, I have not reviewed one yet. So, maybe, you should wait for its release later next month.

Pro users needing more power need not worry. The M1 Pro and M1 Max-powered 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros from last year are still more powerful computers. Get them if you need even more performance power, more USB-C ports, and more connectivity options overall.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro will be available in stores starting June 24th.

Here is its official pricing:

  • USD 1299
  • EUR 1599/1629*
  • GBP 1349
  • SGD 1879
  • PHP 74,990
  • RUP 129,900

*countries that belong to the European Union (EU) have varying prices from region to region.

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Reviews

Apple M2 MacBook Pro Unboxing and Review

More Important Than You Think!

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During WWDC 2022, Apple announced the newest 2022 M2 MacBook Air with a major redesign — making it the instant star of the show.

But for others, the M2 MacBook Pro is what they’re aiming for.

It might still be the same with its classic aluminum unibody design, 13.3″ Retina Display, and a Touch Bar from 2016 — but inside it’s even more powerful.

Also equipped with the new generation of Apple’s Silicon Chip dubbed ‘M2’, it surely knows how to make professionals drool.

But is it worth the money? Or should you just get the M2 MacBook Air instead?

Or what about getting the more expensive 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip?

Watch our unboxing and full review on the M2 MacBook Pro now to find out more!

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Reviews

OPPO A96 review: Just another power performer

Great in many aspects, and that’s all you could hope for

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OPPO isn’t short on delivering great smartphones at such a fair price for most people. In many ways, they’d like to push the boundaries even on rather budget-friendly devices to elevate the experience. Such is the case with a device like the OPPO A96: a midrange device with some powerful hardware right out of the box.

The whole idea behind the OPPO A96 was that it was “Designed to be Powerful.” In theory, all the parts mesh together to form an experience that screams power and performance that isn’t quite like the rest. From the camera to the internal hardware, everything about this device should give any user all the power needed for all their tasks.

Does the OPPO A96 fare well in reality? Let’s find out:

Looking at the literal design

Upon unboxing, the OPPO A96 comes in with a rather simple phone design, complete with the camera setup at the front and back. Of course, the package only comes with the phone and charger inside, so you might have to buy earphones or headphones separately. In terms of color options, you have a choice between Starry Black or Pearl Pink.

Another highlight is that the rear cover is scratch-proof, which is ideally great for those who venture out a lot. Naturally, the rear cover should not collect any marks or fingerprints when you use it. This is quite alright if you’re not too keen on buying phone cases to save your phone from scratches, plus the package comes with a rubber case.

A power performer through thick and thin

Here’s a not-so-little secret about the OPPO A96: it’s a fast and powerful smartphone all things considered. Upon booting up the device, it took a little bit of time for things to start loading up on ColorOS. Once you get the ball rolling, the experience is pretty smooth especially when opening apps and scrolling through social media feeds left and right.

Of course, having a 90Hz refresh rate display certainly helps in the smoothness of the browsing experience on the device. Applications respond pretty well to any sort of interaction on the display, and much of ColorOS is optimized well for a 90Hz refresh rate. Just note, however, that setting the refresh rate to anything but 60Hz eats up the battery a little bit.

Apart from all of these, the phone doesn’t necessarily present anything groundbreaking. At the very least, it shows that most midrange smartphones have a new standard to follow in terms of performance and features. If you’re on the hunt for a phone that suits your particular needs, however, here’s what you can keep in mind:

Suited for anything and for anyone

Regardless of whatever you throw at it, the OPPO A96 will gladly take your tasks and perform great — whether you game a lot or watch a lot. For those who game a lot, this smartphone comes with game optimization features within ColorOS for you to focus in-game without any distractions. 

Although, from our tests, it doesn’t help if you have games with intense graphics settings. For most mobile games we threw at it, they loaded up in full with most of the details popping out for games that aren’t as intensive. If you’re after a much smoother experience, it’s recommended to turn down your graphics settings by a little bit.

Now, if you’re more of somebody who just watches videos all day with some gameplay in there, the bright 6.59-inch Punch Hole display works wonders. Plus, the OPPO A96 comes with dual speakers for a bit of an immersive viewing experience as an added bonus. From our observations, however, audio quality is pretty decent in most room settings.

Lasts long, charges a bit long too

In terms of battery life, the OPPO A96 is no slouch. With regular usage, the device lasts for about a day and a half thanks to the 5,000mAh battery inside. If you go too much on the gaming, you could still push the device to run for at least half a day. As mentioned earlier, this is also dependent on the refresh rate and frame rate you’re playing some games on.

Charging the device, however, took a bit too long than how we would have hoped. See, the OPPO A96 supports OPPO’s SUPERVOOC Fast Charging which essentially speeds up charging times, especially during the device’s most idle hours. From our tests, a full charge still took about two hours, which still isn’t a lot; compared to other phones with fast charging, it’s one of the longer ones

Camera systems could be a bit better

Unlike most of its contemporaries, the OPPO A96 stuck with a dual lens setup for its rear cameras and a single lens front camera. For its rear cameras, OPPO made sure to include a 50MP main lens with a 2MP Bokeh focus lens ideally for better portrait shots. Initially, this worked out pretty well under great lighting conditions, especially when zeroing in on specific images.

However, when taking night shots or even shots in rather dark conditions, the cameras struggle to keep up and produce rather grainy images. Even in camera previews, images look a bit out of sorts in the quality department so you’re better off using the flash to get better quality.

With regards to that single lens front camera, it’s a decent lens to work with under proper lighting conditions. In some cases, details are fleshed out quite nice, but shifting to darker rooms or unsuitable lighting conditions make it struggle, as well.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Starting at PhP 15,999, the OPPO A96 is one powerful device that caters to the needs of anyone for anything you throw at it. It ticks all the boxes of what a powerful smartphone should be for a rather modest price at that. With its long battery life, it prolongs the all-around smartphone experience especially when you need it the most.

Although, like most of the devices within this price range, it isn’t a perfect machine. Even with a beefy battery, charging it might leave much more to be desired for some people. Also, the cameras are a bit of a hit or miss depending on how you want your pictures to look like. With gaming on this device, there are ways to maximize your use while having to sacrifice a bit of detail here and there.

For what it’s worth, the OPPO A96 is a power performer in most aspects. Again, it’s not as groundbreaking and doesn’t introduce anything new, but it gets the job done when you need it to.

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