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

Huawei Watch 3 review: Apple of my eye, err, wrist

The Apple Watch of Huawei’s smartwatch lineup?!

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Huawei continues to mold its product lineups — particularly its wearables — shaping it to fit into the lives of its beloved consumers — Huawei fans and alike.

In a previous story, I listed a few reasons why the Huawei Watch 3 deserves to be on your wrist. Nearly a month later, I still stand by what I said about the Chinese company’s flagship wearable.

Of course, there are still factors to consider before deciding on a smartwatch. So let us help you figure out by tackling matters that you might be dying to find out.

In this review, we’ll detail my experience wearing this watch — the hiccups and the wonders encountered after wearing it for a few weeks. Together, let’s find out if the Huawei Watch 3 is really your GadgetMatch.

Comfort is key

The Huawei Watch 3 is beautifully designed, no doubt. While it exudes a classic appeal, the watch can suit different occasions. And it has a plethora of straps to choose from so you can mix and match. Although the availability depends on the region.

In my case, I didn’t have a choice aside from the black and plain fluoroelastomer strap. What I did was find a way to ship straps from China to get more designs that are apt for my style.

Anyhoo, let’s talk comfort. Regardless of the straps, comfort is key when it comes to smartwatches. It’ll be wrapped around your wrists for a long time, and it’s important to never have any issues with its heft and your skin.

Thankfully, the Huawei Watch 3 doesn’t feel heavy despite having a bigger watch case. What I find worrisome is how bulky it is for both my wrists and daily activities. It gets in the way sometimes — accidentally brushing metals, walls, and other furniture.

I appreciate not feeling any weight while wearing it, but it looks too big for me. Nonetheless, if you have thicker wrists, the watch case size won’t matter. And there are workarounds on how you can prevent your smartwatch from bumping stuff and from getting scratched.

Leave your phone behind

Like most smartwatches, you can connect the Huawei Watch 3 to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Just pair your devices and you can receive notifications, text messages, and calls.

But you can also connect the Huawei Watch 3 on a WiFi connection or a data hotspot. The smartwatch runs on HarmonyOS and comes with several apps; some are built-in and some are downloaded via AppGallery. Personally, I enjoy navigating Petal Maps — Huawei’s very own Maps — because frankly, it’s pretty much the same as Google Maps.

Wearing the Watch 3 made me use my phone less, seeing how I glance at my wrist to check who messaged me. And from those moments, I decide if the person is important enough to stop whatever I’m doing and pick my phone up to respond.

Receiving calls is also fun if you want to act like you’re a spy sent on a mission in whatever Sci-Fi film. Except, I don’t like it when people near me can hear the person on the other line.

If you’re looking for a different way to leave your phone and rely only on your smartwatch, the Huawei Watch 3 supports eSim technology.

Unfortunately, eSims are only available to postpaid plans on select carriers in my country, which I don’t have because I use a prepaid sim with large data allocation.  If you’re a postpaid subscriber, just ask your carrier for an eSim and they’ll help you set it up. That way, you can use your mobile number simultaneously — on your watch and on your smartphone.

If you still need more understanding of how eSim technology works, you better read our explainer.

Matches with everyone else

No, I’m not talking about how the smartwatch can match anyone in terms of style, appearance, and personality. Although, that could be the case because it could. But that’s not the point here.

The Huawei Watch 3 is perfectly compatible with all kinds of smartphone users — whether you’re a Huawei loyalist, a Samsung fanboy, a die-hard Xiaomi bunny, or an Apple-ogist.

Thing is, even though the Huawei Watch 3 runs on HarmonyOS, all you need is the Huawei Health app. And it’s downloadable on AppGallery, Play Store, and the App Store.

I paired the watch with several devices in my arsenal. From the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro, and even the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2. It easily syncs important data from your watch, and then you can preview it through the Health app.

More importantly, it’s uncomplicated to navigate even if you use a different ecosystem. As an Apple-ologist pointed out, the Huawei Watch 3 looks the same as the Apple Watch with only minor iterations from its design.

Although, we’re not surprised. Huawei openly expressed how they look up to Apple for inspiration… and probably imitation. But, whatever. Apple’s products are always user-friendly and won’t fry your last three brain cells — perfect for himbos like me.

As long as Huawei makes their products user-friendly too, I’m down with all of it. Based on experience, they make fantastic hardware and it’s a sweet treat if their software and user interface follows one of the best.

From swag to sweat

The Huawei Watch 3 can be a smartwatch for any occasion, assuming you have the perfect strap to suit different settings. During my stint, I used my China-bought Milanese strap when I met with friends and hop on a date. A silver accent works for me since I wear silver rings and earrings.

I have a fashion savant in my life who’s always advised me to match my metals. And I wore that principle to my heart. You don’t need to wear expensive jewelry and accessories to look expensive. Your watch should just go well with every other metal on your body.

On Huawei’s official website, the Steel and Leather straps work perfectly for your casual settings. You might want to consider those when you try to mix and match your outfits.

Coming home, I switch to my black, fluoroelastomer strap. It’s a durable yet comfortable rubber apt for physical activities and humid weather.

As I’ve said earlier, comfort is key and that’s the case for the Huawei Watch 3. Despite the bulky size, surprisingly, it doesn’t get in the way of my workouts. Not once did I feel anxious about my watch brushing off with my weights and other metals.

Speaking of weights, the Huawei Watch 3 accompanied me in my strength and conditioning training. All the essential tracking and features helped me complete my program, prompting me to change my habits to make fitness a sustainable activity and eventually, a lifestyle.

From sweat resistance that pushed me to continue with my routines, timers and stopwatches that aided me in measuring my tempo, the sports tracking mode that helped me understand my patterns, to all-day monitoring with blood oxygen, heart rate, temperature, and even sleep — the Huawei Watch 3 has it all.

Health features

Packed with salient health features apt for the current era, the Huawei Watch 3 might make you wonder: Do they really work? And do we even need them?

At first, I was cynical with all the mumbo jumbo presented in smartwatch campaigns. But after my experience, I had a change of heart. Wholeheartedly, I would say yes — they work and we need it.

Starting with the basics, it has the usual features found on any smartwatch. You can track your step count, calories burned, and your heart rate. It also reminds you to get up and move after a period of inactivity.

There’s also a feature where you can track your stress levels, and probably help you cope and manage your stress. As for me, it didn’t particularly help but maybe someone out there can benefit from it. The important thing is there’s a tool that could possibly help.

What I loved the most is the sleep report I receive every morning. Tracking my sleep helped me understand my patterns — which is a key factor I consider before going on my day or performing an exercise routine.

Checking my reports helps me decide if I’m going for two cups of coffee throughout the day, if I’m well-rested enough to execute intense forms during training, or if I need to take more naps.

While all of these reports are summarized and can be previewed using your smartwatch, the intensive details are listed on the Huawei Health app.

Since it consistently tracks and monitors various data, the Huawei Watch 3 constantly consumes the battery life, just like any device that’s connected to Bluetooth, WiFi, and performing background activities.

True to its promise, it has a 3-day battery life that accompanies you in your daily activities. Switching it to ultra-long battery life mode extends it up to 14 days, except I don’t really see myself using this mode in the future.

Charging it is fairly quick. I left it charging after an hour of napping, and when I woke up, I saw it fully charged — ready to be slapped on my wrist again.

Is this watch a match?

But then again, I wish it had a longer battery life like the Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro. If the Huawei Watch 3 can last up to two weeks, it could’ve been my GadgetMatch.

It’s a versatile smartwatch that you can add to your collection of watches. So well-rounded and user-friendly, it works without any tinkering involved. All you have to do is wear it and watch how it performs feats that might elevate your lifestyle.

The Huawei Watch 3 retails for PhP 18,999 — a price tag befitting a premium smartwatch. If anything, Huawei found itself its very own Apple Watch.

Brazenly, I would say the Huawei Watch 3 felt like the Apple Watch of all Huawei smartwatches. It simply works, and it’s beautiful, powerful, and functional in its own right. Complete with an ecosystem that you can enjoy for a seamless AI life.

It’s also user-friendly, stylish, and leaning towards yuppies with a balanced lifestyle than geeks and techies basking in gadgets and other forms of technology.

The Huawei Watch 3 is available on Huawei Store and authorized platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, as well as Huawei Experience stores and other retail partners.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro review: Swanky and smart | Apple Watch Series 6 Review

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Samsung The Frame Review: Stunning!

✨ Aesthetic TVs for your living room ✨

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It was a little too long ago when Samsung announced its first sets of TVs along with a lot of framed artworks in a museum in Paris.

Four years after that special launch, Samsung is proud with the current lineup of The Frame. But with other cheaper options such as Samsung’s new 4K QLED TV line and other models from various TV brands, is Samsung’s The Frame worth the extra money?

Watch our Samsung The Frame Review now if you’re curious to find out.

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SCARLET NEXUS review: A tale of two dreams

Heartwarming, heart-pumping, and somehow heart-shattering

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SCARLET NEXUS

I rarely play anime-style RPGs, even though some of my friends recommend a few of them to me. In the times I played one, I’ve always loved the combat mechanics but I never really got hooked long-term. In essence, I didn’t have an incentive to see the game all the way through, even if other people claim it’s worthwhile.

Initially, I had the same opinion of SCARLET NEXUS when it was first announced. Even as I played the demo, I still had the same thoughts. I don’t know, I just felt that this was going to be another anime-style, action RPG with solid combat, and that’s all it had. There’s nothing particularly new that would hook me into it.

As the title of the review would have it, it was different when the actual game came out.

An “open world” hack-and-slash bonanza

I’ll start with one of the most basic questions you will have with any new video game: how does it play? Long story short, SCARLET NEXUS was a joy to play from a gameplay aspect.

Once again, I found an anime-style RPG that pretty much nails the combat mechanics, especially when thrown into a pseudo-open world like New Himuka.

SCARLET NEXUS

As I’ve previously mentioned in my first impressions of the game, these mechanics are roughly easy to learn and master all the way through. Of course, you unlock more abilities through the Brain Map, which you can only do by engaging in more combat during missions.

Honestly, I felt that this gave players an incentive to fight all the enemies, instead of just accomplishing the objective.

SCARLET NEXUS

The Brain Map that allows you to upgrade attack and defense power, and unlock additional skills

Furthermore, it also helps that you have access to special abilities through the Struggle Arms System, known in-game as the SAS. Personally, this was a great addition to the combat formula instead of just simply picking up items for temporary buffs. With the press of two buttons, you’re able to change the battle landscape against all kinds of enemies.

Accessing 100 percent of your Brain power

Another part of the combat mechanic is the character’s ability to execute a Brain Crush and activate Brain Drive. For the Brain Crush, I liken it to executing a finishing move after downing the Other (the monsters in the game), and it happens in a variety of ways. It feels utterly satisfying to execute a Brain Crush, especially for larger and stronger enemies.

SCARLET NEXUS

Yuito’s character model within the Brain Field

As for the Brain Drive, it essentially gives you an attack and EXP boost during combat. Also, there’s this mechanic called the Brain Field that you can only access when Brain Drive is active.

What I love about it is that despite giving you an ability that makes combat faster, it’s a mechanic you shouldn’t abuse. In essence, you should listen to your brain and think things through before it’s too late.

Setting the mood wherever you explore

As for the overall visuals and audio score of the game, I’m happy to report that BANDAI NAMCO gave us a spectacle from start to finish. However, I have to preface this by saying that you will truly appreciate it if you play this on a capable PC or on next-gen consoles. On my Xbox Series X with a 4K TV, it looks fantastic and well done.

They gave each location in the game its own design, color scheme, and apt background music to set the tone. To some degree, I felt immersed in the entire game while engaging in the insane combat in between.

You would assume that the world would have been in total chaos with all the Others around, but they went for something a little more realistic.

SCARLET NEXUS

An example of the Brain Crush finisher

Also, I’d like to extend my praise with how they did all the cutscenes, character dialogues, the Brain Field segments, and the Brain Crush finishers. I got a kick out of just watching all of these unfold, and I’m at awe with how well the art style and animations were done.

The Other may be strong, but not as strong as…

I purposely saved this part last because this was the aspect of anime-style RPGs I did not particularly vibe with. To me, a good story trumps badass gameplay mechanics and visuals because it adds more investment into playing the game. I mentioned before that the demo didn’t really touch on this aspect, but it could be something worthwhile to dive into. 

In the case of SCARLET NEXUS, it gave me a compelling and fulfilling, yet gut-wrenching storyline to work with. At the start of the game, your choice of either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall dictates which NPCs you’ll start with, and how you will see the main story unfold.

In my case, I played the game following Yuito’s story arc but I also managed to start a new game with Kasane’s.

Two dreams intertwined by one fate

In both storylines, you enter as a new recruit of the Other Suppression Force (OSF) with either your best friend (Yuito) or adopted sibling (Kasane).

As either member of the OSF, you will take on exploration missions to acquire more information on the biological anomalies known as the Other. As such, you will need to fight the Others as they threaten the citizenry of New Himuka.

The members of the National Defense Force, with Fubuki Spring and Karen Travers

Along the way, you will discover the origin of the Others and unravel more information on the people you work with and for. You will travel to different places within New Himuka teeming with more dangerous Others, and engage in battles with other OSF members and the government. Of course, you will do this while in search of the truth about stopping a world-ending event that shapes the future of the nation.

Twisting and turning, but not overwhelming

As I got through Yuito’s side of the story, I couldn’t help but feel engrossed by how everything was going. I was literally on the edge of my seat piecing all the events together as they happen, even with the amount of twists and turns that happen in between. Also, every new information presented to you just makes the story a bit more clearer and easier to digest.

It’s a storyline that requires your attention from start to finish, but it tries not to feed you with too much information. In between each phase, you get a proper rest that you would normally use to restock and do Bond Episodes with the NPCs. However, I would argue that these also serve as a way for you to just make sense of everything you know so far before proceeding.

Bonding with your own version of family

Also, I’d just like to highlight the Bond Episodes a little bit because I found these as my favorite part. These little nuggets of the gameplay allow you to get to know all the NPCs a little more, from their interests to their aspirations.

It gave the storyline a more human aspect, and going through them also unlocks buffs to your SAS. 

One of the snippets of the Bond Episodes with Gemma Garrison

With these Bond Episodes, you will form greater connections with the characters in-game; yes, even with the character you didn’t choose at the start of the game. In essence, you’re forming your own family of OSF members to duke it out with the Others, with you as the Dominic Toretto of the family.

A thrill to see all the way through

SCARLET NEXUS is an action-packed, anime-style RPG that just hits all the right buttons with everything you do. It comes with insane visuals, superb combat mechanics, and an enthralling story that won’t overwhelm you in the slightest. I could list all my praises for the game, but these might not even fit on here.

For a new IP offering, BANDAI NAMCO really outdid themselves with this game. Even if you played this on the current-gen consoles, I think the experience would still be as great as I described it. They really showed this game a lot of love, and it deserves some love back from those who play it.

Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall

If you want to explore this type of game, I highly recommend adding SCARLET NEXUS to your library. It’s a joy to play all the way to the end, even if you attempt to do it in one sitting.

SCARLET NEXUS is now available on the PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and the Xbox Series X|S.

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