Reviews

Redmi Note 8 Pro review: Covering all the bases

The Note legacy continues

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Redmi’s Note lineup needs no introduction because it has been leading charts since inception. The series has single-handedly propelled the brand in developing markets like India and I still come across folks who still use the Redmi Note 3 or Redmi Note 4.

For Xiaomi, this lineup is their comfort zone. Even though Realme has been bombarding the segment for quite some time, the Note-series has stood strong. Obviously, Xiaomi has consolidated the entry-level as well as midrange segment and does not solely rely on the Note-series, it still plays a crucial role in maintaining its brand image as well as market presence.

Note 7 Pro was launched early this year and its highlight was a 48-megapixel camera. The Redmi Note 8 Pro, on the other hand, has a new 64-megapixel camera along with a fresh processor. If you’re looking for an affordable phone that can get everything done swiftly and not cost a bomb, can the Redmi Note 8 Pro be your GadgetMatch?

Guess where we’ve seen a similar design?

The color we’ve received is officially called Shadow Black and it shares the DNA with Mi A3. Both have the same reflecting glass back slightly curved corners. Though, I wish Xiaomi would’ve brought over the build quality as well. The Redmi Note 8 Pro has an excellent design, but it feels normal or mainstream at this point.

In fact, this is how Xiaomi leverages properties of scale to lower down the price and be as competitive as possible. The speaker grill, USB-C port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack are located on the bottom while the top gets the classic IR blaster. On the right is microSD and SIM card tray slots while the left equips the power button and the volume rockers.

On the back is a vertical camera array that houses four cameras and a fingerprint scanner. Weirdly, the fingerprint scanner is actually located on the array and sits very close to the lens. I’d always end up smudging the lens cover while trying to get a hold of the scanner. This is indeed a strange location to put a fingerprint scanner, but on the brighter side, I got used to it within a few days and it became an ignorable annoyance.

The camera bump is huge and being in the center makes the phone wobble when kept down on a table. This same bump also helps in navigating your finger easily to the scanner, so I’m not complaining.

Unlike other offerings, this is the first phone in the series to get IP52 water and dust resistance rating. I haven’t tried dipping it in a glass of water, but the rating is definitely appreciated for maximum peace of mind in a humid city like Mumbai.

It sports an LCD display and we’ve got no complains

The Redmi Note 8 Pro has a 6.5-inch Full HD+ display, but it’s an LCD. This is kind of a bummer for many because the Mi A3, that costs slightly lesser, sports an AMOLED panel. However, don’t judge the phone based on specifications. The display is sufficiently bright and can be easily used under direct sunlight. Even the colors are well saturated and it never feels washed out, even when I suddenly shift from an AMOLED panel.

So, even if it’s a corner cut for Xiaomi, the end experience is definitely not hampered. Since it’s an LCD panel, an in-display fingerprint scanner cannot be supported and a physical one has been added on the rear. The Mi A3 had a very sluggish scanner and I’m glad a physical one is being added — it’s a win-win for everyone.

The display has a small waterdrop style notch on the top and the chin has been further reduced. Additionally, the panel is HDR-compliant, so if you watch a lot of movies or shows, this phone is built for you.

What’s on the inside?

Xiaomi went with MediaTek instead of Qualcomm for this phone and it’s first to be powered by the 12nm Helio G90T chipset. The Mediatek G90T is an octa-core chip with two 2.05 GHz Cortex-A76 performance cores and six Cortex A55 efficiency cores running at 2 GHz. The phone is paired with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 128GB of internal storage.

The Helio G90T is aimed at the mid-range segment, so it’s going up against the likes of the Snapdragon 730G. It doesn’t pack the same horsepower some other gaming devices with flagship specifications have, but it’s still perfectly usable.

On the battery side, it gets a 4500mAh battery with support for 18W fast charging. Although, the bigger battery translates into a heavier phone and the Redmi Note 8 Pro comes in at almost 200 grams. The weight is often difficult to manage when you’re just relaxing because the slippery glass design is not your friend.

The battery was always sufficient enough to get me through a full day of heavy usage. The fast charger now comes bundled along and you don’t need to buy one separately.

All that’s fine, but can it game?

Gaming has been at the core of all recent phone launches and the Redmi Note 8 Pro is no exception. In fact, it performs much better than I expected. MediaTek’s previous chipsets haven’t been that great and that’s exactly why a lot of eyebrows were raised when Xiaomi decided to make the shift.

I tried a few rounds of Call of Duty Mobile and the game starts off with the default graphical settings set at High. But even maxing them out wasn’t enough to make the phone sweat. The same happened with PUBG Mobile. During a classic match, there were near to zero frame drops or random stutters. Even with HDR switched on, the phone kept asking for more work and never seemed to run out of steam.

When MediaTek launched the chipset, it heavily marketed it as a gaming-oriented chipset. Though, the phone does tend to get quite hot over extended durations. It isn’t extreme heating but definitely makes you uneasy for a point of time. Also, we have the 6GB+128GB unit and it still manages to kick-ass. So, if you’re looking for a gaming phone within a strict budget, this phone is your GadgetMatch.

What about those cameras?

Another main highlight of the phone has been its 64-megapixel camera on the rear. The primary sensor is joined by three other modules: an 8-megapixel wide-angle, a 2-megapixel portrait lens, and a 2-megapixel macro shooter. A similar arrangement is also found on the Realme XT.

This makes up for a splendid camera experience for the price, but the whole experience feels very gimmicky at times. That’s because, the camera UI has a lot of features, but they lack polishing. I wouldn’t say the camera is reliable because the software often disappoints. If you need to snap a picture within seconds, don’t rely on this phone.

But, if you are looking for some serious photography, Note 8 Pro won’t disappoint. The 64-megapixel sensor takes astounding photos in daylight and the color reproduction is near-perfect. It can focus quickly and is always accurate when just pointing and shooting. The pictures are sharper than usual when you zoom-in, but that’s just limited to the 64MP mode.

I was impressed by the macro mode because it does let you zoom in and get some crystal clear shots, even at night with accurate colors and minimal noise. Just make sure your hands are steady. The wide-angle lens performed exactly as expected.

There are minor problems with high-contrast scenes, where the Redmi Note 8 Pro then emphasizes the bright areas a bit too much so that details can no longer be recognized. The AI tries to brighten up the dark areas, which works relatively well but leads to slight noise.

In increasing darkness, the image quality then steadily collapses. Even the dedicated night mode only brings noisy mud to the photos and it looks quite similar to a non-night mode picture. Selfies were bang on though thanks to the 20-megapixel front-facing camera.

Ultimately, the user gets an option to choose between four different lenses. Can you depend on this phone for killer pictures? Have a look yourself.

Software still has massive room for improvement

Running on top of Android 9 Pie is Xiaomi’s in-house skin called MIUI. And, it has ads. Too many of them actually. While it’s debatable whether system apps should have OEM-backed ads or not, they definitely should be moderated. Quite a few times these ads were explicit in nature and shouldn’t have directly made their way into a phone that could be used by anyone — a kid or an adult.

Bloatware is spread everywhere and you basically have to manually remove a long list of apps hidden within home screen folders. Spam apps like Likee further lack moderation and again bring me back to the same point — Xiaomi needs to be careful of what’s it’s pushing forward.

You get the usual set of Xiaomi services installed out of the box — Mi Credit, Mi Pay, Mi Video, Notes, Music, Mi Store, and more. The overall experience is much better than my previous stints on the Note 7, but it’s still loaded with random bugs. MIUI 11 was launched alongside the phone, but you’ll have to wait sometime to actually get it.

Beginners and long-time users of MIUI will quickly get used to the system, but if you switch from another smartphone manufacturer to Xiaomi, you need some patience and learning ability, because the UI of Xiaomi is very different from those of other manufacturers.

Is the Redmi Note 8 Pro your GadgetMatch?

Xiaomi has put together a complete package with the Redmi Note 8 Pro, which truly is one of the new kings in the middle class. Obviously, you can’t pitch it against a flagship offering, but considering the starting price of INR 14,999 (US$ 210) and PhP 11,990 in the Philippines, I can blindly recommend the phone. The processor is beefy, design is premium, cameras are above average, and it can be a perfect media consumption device.

On the flip side, the Realme XT offers an ad-free interface along with slightly better cameras that work better in low-light. Each continues to have its own forte.

Reviews

ASUS Zenfone 8 Review: Tiny but Mighty

The compact flagship

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Zenfone 8

In a sea full of big smartphones, ASUS made a detour with the Zenfone 8 by making it smaller than its previous Zenfone 7 predecessor.

Packed with flagship specs such as Snapdragon 888, 16GB of RAM and a 120Hz display, it’s simply their best and most compact phone to date.

But how did ASUS managed to fit in all these powerful internals in such a compact body? Watch our full review video of the ASUS Zenfone 8 to know more.

SEE ALSO: Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

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Gaming

The realme 8 dares to be more

You’re in for a treat

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realme 8

realme has been bringing in the big guns with their smartphone releases. But, it doesn’t come unwarranted when they’ve been stacking good specs instead of just gaming features. They get it: you want to do more than just play games with their phone line-up. Which is why, they released the realme 8 series.

The realme 8 is pretty much the little bro of the realme 8 Pro. It’s got most of the bells and whistles without the big bro powers. So, how does the realme still stack up to be the best all-around smartphone out there for you?

realme 8

Stunning looks that might fool you

The realme 8 has a 6.5-inch AMOLED display with 180Hz Touch Sampling rate. If touch sampling rate isn’t a metric you’re familiar with, it’s your display’s responsiveness to touch. Refresh rate is a whole different metric; it measures how well your display renders frames per second. Both are tangent features of the display. So, they’re different but, equally as important for gaming on your phone.

If you like strutting in style with your phone, the realme 8 teeters into keeping it flashy yet low-key. The phone features a reflective panel with “DARE TO LEAP” across its logo corner. Plus, realme sticks to classy colors with either Cyber Silver or Cyber Black available for the realme 8.

realme 8

The feelsgoodman specs

Let’s cut to the chase. The realme 8 is a great phone. The phone is decked out with an MTK Helio G95 octa-core processor, which pretty much grants the phone its unapologetic great performance. Whether I was browsing social media, binge-watching videos, or playing games, this phone didn’t stutter once.

realme 8

The phone delivers on buttery-smooth graphics. And, games like League of Legends: Wild Rift, Mobile Legend: Bang Bang, PUBG Mobile, and Sky run smoothly on the realme 8. But, are we really meant to be surprised by that? With the phone’s 8G RAM and 128G internal storage, lags just don’t exist in the same sentence. On top of all that, it manages to stay lightweight. The realme 8 weighs only 177g which is pretty impressive with all the features it packs.

realme 8

Battery can take a beating

Yes, it’s almost criminal. The realme 8 comes with a 30W Dart Charge brick. Which ideally charges the phone up to 50 percent within a matter of 26 minutes. I know what you’re thinking. This sounds too good to be true. Well, unlike the stacked disappointments of the past year, the realme 8 pulls through. It went from zero to 20 percent within 10 minutes which is pretty quick.

realme 8

With a 5,000mAh battery inside, the realme 8 can survive well over a day. It came in handy when I’d accidentally left it out uncharged overnight and still used it the next day. But, I’m guessing it would have been a whole different story had I thrown it into ungodly playing and binge-watching hours.

After a full day of gameplay, binge-watching, podcasts, music, and social media shenanigans, the phone gets close to 15 percent at the end of the day. This is impressive with most phones tossed my way with charging alerts by the tail end of my day.

So, if you’re like me, this phone is pretty reliable. It can take a beating and then some. And, when it does need charging, it won’t take long before you get enough juice in to use it again. It’s good to note that it also supports 15W PD charge, lending versatility on its side.

realme 8

Not just a gaming phone

The realme 8 is decked out with all the features you want from a gaming phone but rounds it all out with amazing smartphone features. So, calling this a gaming phone doesn’t feel fair considering it does well even outside the gaming-perfect specs.

One feature that often gets left out with your typical gaming-centric phone, would be the camera. As for this phone, it’s got an AI Quad camera setup. It’s got a 64MP wide-angle lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens, and a second 2MP depth sensor. On the front, the realme 8 has a 16MP shooter with panorama capabilities.

Panorama on the realme 8

Low lighting is just the bane of every mobile phone photography’s existence. If lighting isn’t on your side, most phones will struggle. The realme 8 is sadly not an exception. But, when the sun’s on your side, the photos are pretty good.

The macro looks decent. Just make sure you flood the room with good lighting!

 

The night mode is good too! Stable hands for this mode is key.

The bokeh mode and wide shots on the phone are detailed. Recording videos doesn’t skimp on the 4k experience which is good too. Overall, the phone delivers on all fronts including its camera features. But if you’re looking for big bro camera stats, you should check out the realme 8 Pro.

realme 8

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The realme 8 ticks all the boxes of a quality smartphone. Its got great performance across the board takes really great pictures, has a smooth and responsive display, and lasts for quite some time. And, even if you run out of battery life, its Dart Charge won’t have you away for long.

Overall, this smartphone offers a daring deal. It gives you everything you need and want–and then some more. And, with its PhP 13,990 price tag, it’s the smartphone to beat. Better yet, you can avail of the PhP 1,000 worth of discount on the realme 8 during the flash sale on Lazada starting May 12!

Buy from Lazada

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Laptops

Huawei MateBook D 15 2021: An all around solid choice

It’s no ‘beast’ because iit’s not trying to be

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Being a dominant player in the smartphone scene, I’ve always been curious about how Huawei’s laptops perform.

Having forged their name onto the spectrum of smartphone enthusiasts with their premium Mate series, we know that Huawei has the ability to craft the same caliber for their laptops.

Carrying the Mate branding with its name, let’s take a look if the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen also has the right to be called premium and carry on this reputation.

Performance you didn’t see coming 

The MateBook D 15 2021 is running on the 11th generation of Intel’s Core i5 processor, the 1135G7. Paired with this is the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB DDR4 RAM, and 512GB of SSD internal storage.

On paper, the specs of the 2021 D 15 isn’t really something many of us would consider sensational, but surely this would be more than enough for online classes or even light to heavy work.

I tend to do a lot of photo editing on Adobe Lightroom so I could say that my power requirements do demand a bit of muscle power. The 11th gen Core i5 on the D 15 is able to handle this quite smoothly even with some headroom for web browsing and other multitasking tasks thanks to the considerable amount of RAM.

As you power on the device, you’d immediately notice the swift performance of the D 15.

A surprising contributor to this is its Smart Fingerprint power button which has been carried over from the previous generations of MateBooks.

Automatically tagging your biometrics upon pressing the power button, this move eliminates the need to input your login details which drastically decreases the boot time. I understand this may vary from other users but having recorded the BIOS time at only 2.5 seconds, this has been the fastest boot up time I’ve ever encountered on a laptop.

Classic never goes out of style 

“It looks like a MacBook” was the first comment I’ve heard from the people I was with as soon as I took out the D 15 from the box. Yes, you’ll definitely see the resemblance with Apple’s MacBook line but that’s not to say that it’s a bad thing especially if there are things that Huawei has improved on. Thankfully, this is exactly the case with the MateBook D 15’s body.

The MateBook D 15 2021 has smoother and rounded edges compared to that of a MacBook Pro which makes it more comfortable for your wrists to rest on while still bringing with it that sleek and professional look that we’ve grown to love.

For a 15-inch body, you’d notice that this MateBook is incredibly thin and light weighing in only at 1.56kg and just 16.9mm thin. An easy carry to coffee shops or even just transferring from room to room at home.

Kind of a nitpick on my part though but one comment I do have with this build was it had a very slight body flex on the right hand portion of the palm rest. I don’t know if this was an issue on the particular unit I’m using but whenever my hand lands on that part, it does feel like it sinks down a tiny bit.

More screen for work and play 

Mentioning the size earlier, the MateBook D 15 2021 has a 15.6-inch FHD IPS display panel. A bit bizarre though, is that at only 250 nits this display felt a lot brighter. I mostly stay just around two or three notches above the lowest brightness setting to keep it at comfortable reading levels.

I wasn’t very concerned with eye strain however, as this display has been certified under TÜV Rheinland’s reduced blue light and Flicker-free qualifications.

With super-narrow 5.3mm bezels and a rating of 100% on its sRGB color gamut, this display is just a tempting movie companion. The large size, almost bezel-less screen and accurate color reproduction truly makes video consumption an immersive experience.

No cramps for your fingers here 

Looking at the D 15, you’d notice immediately that the keyboard is decently sized and its spacing is quite substantial. Key travel on this however, wasn’t very long. While I personally would prefer keyboards with longer key travel over one with a bigger size, the key travel on the D 15 was where it somewhat fell short for me. That being said, I do think this is a matter of personal preference so this isn’t really something that would ruin the MateBook experience. 

You’ll also notice that for a 15.6-inch device, this doesn’t have a number pad on the side of the keyboard which I think contributes to how Huawei managed to extend the spacing of its keys and incorporate a decently sized trackpad below.

Speaking of the trackpad, I really appreciate its size as it’s able to accommodate my multi-finger gestures with precision and with only very minimal input errors.

Still placed between the F6 and F7 keys on the top is the iconic recessed 720p camera that the MateBook line pioneered.

 Power overwhelming

I personally see the battery and charging features of the D 15 to be its main strength. It took me a good 9 hours and 30 minutes running off of its 42Wh battery before it shifted to power saving mode. Meaning, this laptop can easily run you for more than 10 hours under controlled conditions and once you’re able to plug it in an outlet, its fast charger would only take you about an hour to charge it back up.

The 65w charger is quite comparable to a size of a smartphone charger that would barely add weight to your everyday carry. The charger also uses a detachable USB-C to USB-C cable. This makes it easy to replace if ever it gets worn out.

Also, this same cable can be used to charge our smartphones either from the charger or from the laptop as the 2021 D 15 also has support for reverse charging.

Next level of connectivity

A neat addition also on the MateBook D 15 is the inclusion of the new Wi-Fi 6 technology. This gives the D 15 the ability to connect to more frequency ranges for a cleaner and less interrupted connection. While this does require that we connect to a Wi-Fi 6 capable wireless network to fully take advantage of it, it does give us some sort of complacency with some future proofing. Giving us more reasons to hold on to our device for a few more years from our purchase.

In this category we also have quite a selection of ports with the inclusion of a USB 3.2, HDMI and USB-C port on the left side and two USB 2.0 and a 3.5mm audio port on the right.

Tap and drop files? Yes please!  

A handy feature for people who already belong in Huawei’s ecosystem is the Huawei Share with Multi-screen collaboration.

This feature enables Huawei smartphones to connect and share files, apps and even your phone screen with the D 15 by just tapping it on the dedicated Huawei Share portion of the laptop.

Gimmicky as it may sound at first, I have to say, it really does work. And if transferring files from other devices is something you do often, this might be a feature that you could maximize.

Is the HUAWEI MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen your GadgetMatch?

The MateBook D 15 2021 isn’t what we may call a “beast” of a device as it really isn’t trying to be one. This is mainly designed with professionals in mind or simply people who’re looking for convenience, comfort and just an overall pleasant user experience and it does that very well.

A decent performer, sleek looker, ultraportable 15.6-inch device with a lot of nifty features with the Huawei ecosystem, Wi-Fi 6 and its smart fingerprint power button, the MateBook D 15 2021 is what we could really call a versatile machine.

But here is where it gets a little bit tricky. The MateBook D 15 2021 with the older Intel 10th Gen processor is also currently an available option from Huawei. A less powerful alternative but one that could set you back a few pesos which also gets you most of what the 11th Gen version offers.

If you’re willing to spend a little more for better performance though, the D 15 11th Gen is no doubt a solid choice.

The Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen with 16GB RAM is available in Mystic Silver for PhP 59,999.

Buy from Lazada

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