Reviews

Samsung Galaxy A6+ Review: Filling the gap

Something in between

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Samsung continues to populate the Android smartphone market just like any other phone manufacturer. Two months ago, the South Korean company announced the Galaxy A6+ along with the Galaxy A6. The Galaxy A6+, as expected, is the better phone of the two with a bigger screen, better processor, and dual rear cameras. If you’re familiar with the designs of Samsung phones, you might mistake this phone as the direct successor to the Galaxy J7 Pro because of some physical similarities.

How much better is the Galaxy A6+ for it to be above the Galaxy J series? Let’s find out.

It has a 6-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display

Comes with a Full HD+ resolution

It has an 18.5:9 aspect ratio with minimal bezels, just like with the Galaxy A8 (2018)

The top bezel is wide enough to have a front LED flash

The top portion of the phone is clean

You can only see a couple of antenna bands here

On the left side are the volume buttons…

The opposite side has the loudspeaker

And also two separate card trays

One for the main SIM card and another for the second one and a microSD card

The bottom is pretty busy with the mic, micro-USB, and 3.5mm port

Why is Samsung still not widely adopting USB-C?

The back has the U-shaped antenna bands from the Galaxy J series

This is what makes the Galaxy A6+ look like a member of the Galaxy J series

Let’s not forget about the two rear cameras and fingerprint reader

While the body’s design is borrowed from the Galaxy J7 Pro, the camera is from the Galaxy A8 (2018) or Galaxy S9’s look

A familiar but surprisingly fresh design

The phone’s design blends both the recent Galaxy J and Galaxy A phones, specifically the Galaxy J7 Pro and Galaxy A8 (2018). Or if you wanna get picky, the Galaxy S9 too, but without the curved sides of the display. Moving forward, the Galaxy A6+ looks and feels like a premium phone. The seamless unibody has the cold touch I always look for when using a phone with a metal body. The finish of my review unit is matte, but it’s still a bit slippery on my hand.

The body has a nice rounded shape, making it comfortable to hold. When I wrap my hand around the phone, I don’t feel any sharp edges, which is a good thing. I can easily use the phone with one hand, but I find the phone more suitable for two-handed operation due to its large display.

Aside from black, the phone also comes in blue, gold, and lavender depending on your market region. It doesn’t have the most exciting colors (Huawei and Honor are currently leading in that aspect), but they look sleek and formal.

Great-performing midrange phone

Powered by the efficient Snapdragon 450 processor, the Galaxy A6+ can easily get things done. The processor is paired with 4GB of memory and Android 8.0 Oreo skinned with Samsung Experience version 9.0. During my usage, I didn’t encounter any lag, so the power that this phone has is already sufficient to provide a smooth user experience. I’m just not sure if this will get Android P in the future. Perhaps it will since it’s under the Galaxy A-series, but the timeline is yet to be confirmed.

It’s great to have a midrange Samsung phone running a Snapdragon processor since it’s compatible with most games in the Google Play Store. Not that Exynos processors don’t have the power, but developers optimize their apps (especially games) with Snapdragon chipsets more.

Since the Galaxy A6+ has been a secondary phone for me, I filled its 32GB internal storage with games and played a lot on it. I was able to enjoy Asphalt Xtreme on high settings and even some graphics-intensive titles including Tekken Mobile and Power Rangers: Legacy Wars. PUBG Mobile was automatically set to low, but you can always adjust the settings to get more details.

As for the rear fingerprint reader, it works well and can be used along with face unlock. The fingerprint reader is more secure and reliable though, since this phone doesn’t have infrared cameras like the Galaxy S9 and Note 8.

Takes more than decent pictures, plus bokeh!

Samsung is gradually putting two sensors on the back of their phones, and the Galaxy A6+ is the latest in the bunch. A main 16-megapixel f/1.7 sensor is paired with a secondary 5-megapixel f/1.9 sensor for depth sensing. Just like other simple dual-camera setups, the additional sensor helps add bokeh — there’s no optical zoom or super wide-angle lens.

I took the phone around Taipei for some sample photos. Taiwan’s capital is a colorful city which the phone continues to brighten up through its cameras. Under direct light, the photos I took are sharp or maybe too sharp at times. Even when the sun sets, the rear shooter can take good-looking photos thanks to its large aperture. Moving subjects can be a problem at night though, but that’s understandable since the phone prioritizes the exposure over speed.

When it comes to selfies, the Galaxy A6+ continues to carry the flag of the Galaxy A series as Samsung’s selfie-centric line. The 24-megapixel f/1.9 front-facing can shoot detailed and pleasant selfies. The built-in beauty mode is not as impressive as OPPO’s or Vivo’s, but it’s there. Of course, AR stickers are also available but not the AR Emoji feature from the Galaxy S9.

For a point-and-shoot camera phone, the Galaxy A6+ will do great for everyday shooting. Both the front and rear shooters have large apertures for bright photos and quick snaps. Selfies are also in check and there’s even a dedicated LED flash so you can still take portraits in the dark.

One for the road but…

For you to be able to enjoy what the phone has to offer all day, it’s gotta have a long battery life. Thankfully, the large 3500mAh battery sealed inside the metal body of the Galaxy A6+ delivers well enough. I used the phone as my secondary device while roaming around Taipei, mostly for taking photos and as a mobile hotspot using a local SIM card. I easily got three days of usage since I didn’t use the phone as much, but it can definitely last more than a day if used moderately on its own.

While the battery life of the handset is impressive, the charging time is not. The phone charges through the micro-USB port found at the bottom of the phone. Using a fast charger, I get only 13 percent after a quick 15 minute top-up, while a 30-minute charge gives me 24 percent. My personal charger is already Quick Charge 3.0-compatible, but that’s definitely not supported by the phone.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking to upgrade your old Galaxy J series phone to a more premium Samsung phone, you can test the waters with the Galaxy A6+. We’re aware of the increase in smartphone prices (especially with Samsung), so we understand if some users might find this phone to be on the expensive side. Maybe if Samsung didn’t resort to recycling the U-shaped antenna design, people (including myself) would not associate this phone as part of the cheaper Galaxy J lineup.

The Galaxy A6+ is priced at EUR 369 (US$ 430) in Europe, but is slightly cheaper in some parts of Asia: INR 25,990 in India, PhP 22,990 in the Philippines, and MYR 1,399 in Malaysia. It costs more than the competition, but the added premium is a requirement to get a more admirable phone from Samsung.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy A6 Hands-on: Repackaging the older series

Accessories

Huawei Freebuds 3i review: A pleasant surprise

Huawei knows how to cancel noise

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Taking these TWS earphones from smartphone manufacturers for a spin sometimes feels like a chore. Especially so when most of them look like the AirPods. Such is the case for me with the Huawei Freebuds 3i. However, using it for about a week, and I can say it’s such a pleasant surprise.

That stem design

Now, don’t get me wrong. While I have warmed up to it and it’s more common to see people with these earphones sticking out their ears, I still, personally, am not a fan of this look.

But if it’s there for a reason, then I can’t complain much. Such is the case for the last TWS pair I reviewed. That used the stem as the primary touch area for the controls. In the Freebuds 3i, it’s different.

The stem on the Freebuds 3i lets the mic be closer to the user’s mouth. This is perfect for picking up your voice when you’re in calls — be it voice or video.

Naturally, I tried it on a few calls and asked the people on the other line how I sounded. They said I came off loud and clear. The only problem was my speaking voice, but that had nothing to do with the Freebuds 3i and more with just me being me.

A truly active noise cancellation

This is the feature that truly surprised me the most. The moment I put the earphones on, I immediately felt the effects of the active noise cancellation.

I didn’t even know it had the feature when I first took it out of the box. I just knew it did right when I had both earphones on. That’s how good it is.

Huawei says they used a triple-microphone system to achieve noise cancellation of up to 32db. That along with the in-ear design helps drowning out the noise.

This is in contrast to its elder sibling the Freebuds 3 which handles noise cancellation using the Kirin A1 chip. The Freebuds 3 also uses an open-fit or open-ear design which is why its noise cancellation relies more on the chip.

Huawei also shared a review guide showing how the Freebuds 3i can cancel more noise than the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the AirPods Pro in certain situations. Based on what I can recall from my time with the Sony WH-1000XM3, that thing is on a league of its own when it comes to noise cancellation. But the Freebuds 3i, I’m surprised to say, isn’t too far behind.

Neither the Freebuds 3 nor the Freebuds 3i is necessarily better than the other, although we might see the dual-mic plus in-ear approach in future TWS earphones from Huawei given that their partner TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) will no longer be allowed to source tech and equipment from the US.

Bass-biased 

Not sure if this is a coincidence or not, but the Freebuds 3i is now the second TWS earphone I’ve tested who’s tuning appears to be leaning more towards bass. Another common denominator is that they’re priced below PhP 7,000 (around US$ 143).

It’s great if you prefer bass but compared to the Freebuds 3, it just doesn’t feel like you’re getting the same sound quality. Which is understandable considering the price difference.

The Freebuds 3 sound clearer, brighter, and warmer and you can clearly hear all the sounds. This is in contrast to the Freebuds 3i which seem to favor low-tones more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Freebuds 3i sounds bad. They just don’t sound as good as higher tier TWS earphones, which is fine. The Freebuds 3i is perfectly enjoyable and is certainly better than its more affordable counterparts.

I listened to everything from the pop track “Fanfare” by TWICE to the heavy rock sound of “Mighty Long Fall” by One OK Rock and was very pleased with how these tracks sounded.

Easy to pair, easy to use

Like with many other first-party TWS earphones, the Freebuds 3i will be automatically detected by the phone nearest to it as soon as you flip the lid open. This means pairing is instant and easy.

Naturally, you’ll have to go the usual pairing route if you’re using this with a phone from another brand. This means long-pressing on the button next to the USB-C port to enter pairing mode, and then going into the connectivity settings of your phone to complete the pairing. Not as straightforward, but works just as well.

There are two ways to control the earbuds. First is to double tap on either earbud. Second, is to touch and hold. Touching and holding turn noise cancellation on and off for either earbud.

Double tapping the left bud is set to “Play/Pause” by default while the right bud is set to “Next Song.” You can change this on the Huawei AI Life app with the action options being as follows:

  • Play/Pause
  • Next Song
  • Previous Song
  • Wake Voice Assistant

Curiously, there’s no action set for a single tap. Adding that would have given users the option to set all actions above a set motion for control. Instead, you can only choose to at a time. It’s a puzzling choice.

Like any TWS earphone worth its salt, it also has wear detection. This means the music is automatically paused when you take them off and resumes when you put them back on.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At PhP 5,990 /SG$ 168 (US$ 123), the Huawei Freebuds 3i is a pleasant surprise. Price-wise, it’s in direct competition with the Galaxy Buds+, and those buds have absolutely nothing on the Freebuds 3i’s noise cancellation.

If you’re looking for TWS earphones with near top-tier noise cancellation but don’t want to spend north of PhP 7,000, then this is easily one of the better options. There’s room for improvement but you’re getting quality earbuds for what you’re shelling out.

It has a solid build, a bass-leaning tuning, and pretty darn good noise cancellation. It’s not bad. Not bad at all.

SEE ALSO:
Huawei Freebuds 3 review: Best value wireless earbuds
AirPods 2 vs Galaxy Buds+ vs Freebuds 3: A TWS earphones battle!
6 reasons why you should switch to wireless earbuds

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Reviews

Huawei Nova 7 review: 5G is the icing, the phone is the cake

And it’s a damn good cake

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The Huawei Nova 7 or Huawei Nova 7 5G as it’s being heavily marketed is undeniably a Nova phone. The purple variant screams the Nova design and the specs and features scream flagship-grade.

5G is the next frontier in terms of mobile connectivity, and companies are understandably ramping up adoption of the tech. But you shouldn’t buy the Nova 7 just because it’s 5G-ready. Will explain more as we go along.

The Nova brand

I have had quite an interesting exchange with my cousin over the last few months about Huawei phones. She’s a fan of the Nova series. Huawei has done a good job of packaging it as a phone for the youth and the barrage of marketing only amplifies that message.

The Nova 7 pretty much sticks to the same formula. It’s an overall capable phone with a flagship-grade chip that lets “the youth” express themselves and pretty much do everything you normally would on a phone.

Build is far for the course at this price range

In the Philippines it retails for PhP 23,990 (US$ 488) and makes the same compromises that other brands do at this price point.

The build, while it feels nice, doesn’t have the heft and that x-factor that you expect from the most expensive phones today. But the weight is a boon for those who don’t exactly like heavier phones but want a relatively large display.

It’s 6.53” OLED display is crispy. You get the standard 60Hz refresh rate but it makes up for it with its bright, deep, and vivid visuals. It doesn’t feel as smooth, but it’s a joy to look at.

Being a flat display, it also has a wide footprint, but manageable enough for one-hand use. I’m just guessing, but somewhere between 6.44” and 6.5” might be the sweet spot for one-hand use if you’re working with a flat display.

All the buttons — power and volume — are on the right hand side which should be the standard for any phone that’s at least 6”.

At the bottom you have the USB-C port, speaker grille, and SIM card tray. There’s no 3.5mm jack but in the box you do get wired headphones and a USB-C to 3.5mm port.

For security it also has Face Unlock, a fingerprint scanner, and your usual pin.

Alright, let’s talk 5G

Last week, against my better judgement, I stepped out equipped with a mask and a face shield with bottles of rubbing alcohol in my backpack to test some 5G areas.

This was done in partnership with a Philippine telecommunications company but I decided to do my own testing after the fact.

While it’s true that you can and will get those exorbitant 500+mbps speeds, the frequency by which you are able to access them in limited locations. Unless you live or are almost always in the areas designated with 5G, don’t buy the Nova 7 for that reason alone.

Other reasons to buy 

It’s a damn good phone.

I used Phone Clone to copy everything on my Huawei P40 Pro to the Huawei Nova 7 and I almost didn’t miss a beat. I run all the same apps and do almost all the same things without any major differences in performance.

This includes your regular social media browsing, playing music on Spotify, and for the sake of the review — a quick game of Naruto: Slugfest.

The obvious differences are of course, as I mentioned, the heft and the smoother feel of the 90Hz refresh rate. But you can certainly do without them and still feel like you got your money’s worth.

Battery life is also stellar. Since I happen to be juggling phones for review at the moment, I’ve gone an entire weekend without touching the phone.

On standby mode, for two days, the battery stayed at around 80% from a full charge. That’s impressive. That means the phone knows when it’s not in use and will regulate power accordingly.

When I did use it, I got through a regular day with about 30-40% left before bed time.

Huawei Share is also a godsend of a feature especially when you’re also using a Huawei laptop. Sharing files is fantastic but also having the access to your phone’s apps right on your laptop as you work is such an underrated feature — but it’s one that’s coming over to other Android phones via Microsoft.

Sad, No GMS 

It was the Huawei Mate 30 series that bore the brunt of the US government’s Huawei ban. This forced Google to withdraw their mobile service support from the company.

Nearly a year later, and Huawei has made significant strides. Their phones have gone from borderline unusable to pretty tolerable.

Do I miss the Google apps and the Google Mobile Services? Heck yeah. There’s no dancing around it.

Not being able to get the best mobile experience from YouTube and Google Photos suck. Not being able to use certain apps because they just won’t work also suck. But Huawei has come to the point where it’s no longer a deal breaker.

Everything else works perfectly fine. A combination of App Gallery and APKPure has mitigated the need for the Google Play Store. Plus, they have also introduced Petal Search. Essentially a search engine for apps.

Updates from apps downloaded from APKPure do not download and install automatically. While this may be inconvenient, it’s a stretch to say that it doesn’t work.

Pleasant performing cameras

The Huawei Nova 7 has a 32MP front-facing camera capable of taking beautiful selfies even at night.

On the rear, it has four cameras: A 64MP main camera, an 8MP Ultra Wide-angle lens, an 8MP telephoto lens, and a practically useless 2MP macro camera.

The 64MP main camera is *chef’s kiss. The detail on the photo below is fantastic. Turning AI on also produced this generally color accurate and very pleasing photo of the plants.

Here’s the usual photo of a flower to further illustrate that point.

It captures urban concrete pretty well too.

Here’s an indoor low light shot. Typically, these never come out well, but the Nova 7 still manages to capture good detail even while there is some grain on the image.

Also a fan of the wide angle lens — just not a fan of not being able to travel so we can actually use it on a nice scenery.

The zoom is… okay. It maxes out to 20x and produces this kind of shot.

Halfway at 10x is fairly decent. Again, color is accurate, but there’s some noticeable detail loss which is understandable. Also reminder to not be creepy with your zoom.

Huawei’s portrait mode is also pretty good. Here’s a shot of Acrylic Stand, “What is Love” Chaeyoung that’s against the light. The background separation is good and it still managed to capture enough light so Chaeyoung doesn’t end up looking like just a silhouette.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The very first few minutes that I used the Huawei Nova 7, I already had an inkling as to how much it will be and how it will perform. The build and the overall snapiness of the performance were almost dead giveaways.

I have zero complaints over its performance and cameras. And for the most part, these two are what people primarily consider when buying a phone. Battery life is above average, the display is pleasant to the eyes, and app access is annoying but tolerable.

The future-proofing that is 5G that comes with this phone is icing. The cake that is the rest of the phone, that’s what you should really be looking at.

SEE ALSO: The Huawei Nova 7 and Freebuds 3i is the perfect match

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Computers

LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor review: Enough to get you started

Comes with key features for your first gaming PC build

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I’ve seen a ton of people purchase full gaming PC setups since the pandemic took center stage in our lives. I’m pretty sure a lot of these people spent the past few months saving every peso they could for it. Of course, I also did it with all the money I saved up and planned every purchase very carefully.

In getting your gaming PC build, one of the more important peripherals to consider is your monitor. Most people will tell you that any monitor is okay, but experts will say that you shouldn’t just get any monitor. Apart from color accurate and bright displays, your monitor should have a high enough refresh rate to keep up.

It’s exactly what the LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor brings to the table, at least on paper. But is this worth checking out, especially for first time PC setup builders? Here’s a rundown of the specs:

It has a 23.6-inch TN FHD panel, with a 144Hz refresh rate

It comes with two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort

The design, on its own, is nothing spectacular

The LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor comes in a package you normally expect from most lightweight gaming monitors. A hardened-plastic enclosure covers the display, and the monitor even comes with a metal stand in gray and red accents. Upon unboxing, I found it relatively easy to set up and position alongside my PC setup.

Immediately, the first and only thing I noticed was the thick bezel surrounding the display. To be honest, it’s a relatively minor issue for me ever since other brands started reducing theirs. Although I would have appreciated a little more screen space, especially while playing games.

A display that meets expectations for the most part

Most gaming monitors come with high refresh rates to keep up during pressure situations. Fortunately, the LG UltraGear Gaming Monitor comes with a 144Hz panel which is more than enough. Also, it even sports a 1ms response rate so you’re able to stay at the top of your game. 

Most games I tried with this monitor performed with relative ease and no visible sign of image tearing. FPS games like CS:GO and Valorant, in my opinion, work best with this setup given that you can run these games on low-end setups.

Also, it’s quite bright and color accurate which is great for content creators. Although, in some cases, I felt that it didn’t handle dark color areas well. I tried to compensate by simply adjusting the brightness, but it didn’t do anything significantly different. At least it’s an anti-glare TN panel, so you don’t have to worry about the sun.

Comes with features that works depending on the other hardware

This monitor supports AMD’s FreeSync technology which further improves gameplay experience. Honestly, I felt this should be a standard for most gaming monitors — including those that support NVIDIA GSync. Also, there are other optimizations like Dynamic Action Sync (DAS) and motion blur reduction.

However, this monitor actually benefits you only if you’re currently rocking an AMD Radeon graphics card. Ideally, it would still work pretty well when you plug it to an NVIDIA card but expect some image tearing. It wasn’t a big issue for me since I could still apply the reduced motion blur and DAS.

Port selection for this monitor is more than enough for a normal PC setup. Two HDMI ports are available at your disposal, which is great if you want to use it for your consoles. The added DisplayPort provides more connectivity, especially since most graphics cards support it. Keep in mind though: if you plan to plug your console, don’t expect the 144Hz refresh rate.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For PhP 12,599 (US$ 257), the LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor ticks all the necessary boxes. What you have is a high refresh rate monitor with good color accuracy, and fully optimized for gaming. Combined with a great selection of ports, this monitor is a great option for your first PC build.

However, if you have strict preferences for your monitor, this might not be what you’re looking for. If you’re not a fan of thick bezels or you’re more conservative with your money, I wouldn’t practically recommend this. Also, you wouldn’t be able to fully maximize its potential if you don’t own an AMD graphics card.

All things considered, it’s enough to get you started on your gaming PC setup. Even with cheaper alternatives out there, I still recommend you give this a shot.

LG has other monitors you can check out. The UltraGear gaming monitor line on the other hand starts at PhP 12,599 for the 24”, PhP 22,199 for the 27”, and PhP 23,999 for the 32”.

Meanwhile, the UltraWide line of monitors start at PhP 12,699 for the 25”, PhP 14,799 for the 29”, PhP 29,499 for the 34”, and PhP 45,999 for the curved 34” version.

SEE ALSO: This 34” LG UltraWide monitor disrupted my workflow

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