Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy A7 hands-on: What can its three rear cameras do?

Among the best midrange camera phones out there

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Last month, Samsung launched the Galaxy A7 in India, and the phone will soon be coming to more Asian markets. While the company is known to have a wide product portfolio, the A7 has managed to stand apart and create ample hype, something we usually see happening only with the S and Note series.

This year, Huawei’s P20 Pro has been a raging hit thanks to its triple rear camera setup. Not only are sales booming, but it has managed to set a new benchmark for mobile photography. Samsung joined the trend and introduced a triple rear camera setup on the Galaxy A7, but at a significantly lower price.

At first, we’d all assume it to be a gimmick. It isn’t new to see companies take a dig at each other, but this where we’d be wrong. I’ve been using the phone for a week now and the A7 has managed to surprise me. Let’s have a closer look at how the camera works and whether this one forte of the phone is sufficient to sell it.

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To start off, the three lenses on the rear are located vertically and are very well integrated with the frame. They do protrude slightly, but not enough to actually wobble the phone on a flat surface. The primary camera is a 24-megapixel sensor that does all the heavy lifting, the second lens has an 8-megapixel wide-angle unit, and the third is a 5-megapixel depth sensor.

The depth sensor along with the primary lens create the bokeh effect that Samsung calls Live Focus. Samsung’s camera software lets you manually adjust the amount of blur you want in the picture, even after you’ve clicked the picture. The bokeh effect is above average, but not the best. In good lighting conditions when the subject is clearly visible, it does an excellent job in distinguishing the borders. But often gets confused when any headgear like a cap is worn.

But, Samsung has hardly marketed the bokeh effect as far as the A7 is concerned, and that’s because the wide-angle lens is the real deal here. In the given price range, there are no phones that offer this feature. And, Samsung calls this lens “ultra wide,” coming in at 120 degrees field of view.

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With just one toggle, you can shift to the wide-angle lens from the default camera app. Keep in mind you can only use this mode via the Samsung Camera app and third-party apps like Instagram and Snapchat are not supported. The first time you toggle and see the wider frame, you’ll fall in love with it. Compared to conventional setups, wide-angle pictures are able to capture a larger scene, and the fisheye effect has its own sporty feel.

The wide-angle lens is built for scenic landscapes and large group pictures, it can also capture clear and crisp images of objects that are just a few feet away. Though it has to be noted that this camera is not built for macro shots and lacks selective focus. It’s very similar to using a GoPro — just point the camera and hit the shutter.

Samsung has optimized the software very well and hence the output is well saturated and dynamic range is balanced. In low-light, the pictures are low on noise and manage to capture an overall good picture, though it heavily compromises on detail. Even in slightly dim areas, details are lost very quickly.

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While most people may use the wide-angle lens most of the time, this isn’t recommended, as the primary sensor is able to capture highly detailed pictures, something the wide-angle camera isn’t built to do.

In a nutshell, yes, the trio does an amazing job in taking beautiful pictures. I’ve shot all of them on auto mode, and completely let the phone decide what’s best for me.

I’m glad to see Samsung trying to bring high-end innovation to the midrange segment. The company’s non-premium offerings have been somewhat underwhelming this year, and with increasing competition from players like Xiaomi and OnePlus, they definitely need to up their game.

Hands-On

Realme C1 Hands-on: Redefining entry-level devices

The new king of budget smartphones?

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No, this is not another OPPO hands-on, but we can’t blame you for thinking that it is. Realme, the offspring of OPPO, has just opened up to more Asian markets and they’re pushing their own entry-level device to penetrate the smartphone market.

This is the Realme C1, the identical twin of OPPO A3s. Side by side, it’s hard to tell them apart aside from the brand logos. Is the Realme C1 any different? Let’s find out.

It has a 6.2-inch HD+ display

It’s got a notch, too

The power/lock button is on the right side

It’s unresponsive at times

The volume buttons are on the left…

They get the job done

… along with the triple-card slot

Put in your microSD and SIM cards at the same time

The bottom is packed with the micro-USB and audio ports

As well as the loudspeaker and microphone

The phone’s back is pretty boring

Even the blue variant doesn’t stand out

There’s nothing special about it

To be honest, the Realme C1 felt plain when I first saw it in its box. It’s probably because I got spoiled by all the special patterns and gradients on other phones. The unit I mainly used is the blue one, but I’d suggest the black model more because of its understated look. The black bezels kind of ruin the blue hue for me.

Since the display just has an HD+ resolution, it’s not as sharp as other pricier phones. Good thing the panel is bright enough to be used outdoors; it also produces lively colors and has Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. The notch on top is unnecessarily wider than usual, but no one should expect a sexy phone in this segment.

What I find to be so-so is the phone’s loudspeaker. It sounds tinny and doesn’t get loud even when I’m alone in a small room.

Overall, the phone looks and feels pretty basic, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With all the attractive phones coming out, it’s nice to have a no-frills budget option. That being said, there’s nothing much to write home about the Realme C1’s design aside from that it has a shiny plastic exterior.

Limited memory is a bottleneck

The big question about budget phones is how well they perform. With a Snapdragon 450 processor at the helm, the Realme C1 is able to run the latest apps. The loading times are a bit slower than I’m used to, but there are no general performance issues.

It can’t keep apps always running in the background, though. The phone only has 2GB of memory which is already a minimal amount for Android. The 16GB internal storage gets filled up easily too, so be sure to put in a microSD card.

Of course, ColorOS 5.2 still mimics the look and feel of iOS even though it’s just based on Android Oreo. Personally, I have some issues with ColorOS’ tweaks mainly in the notification system. It takes away the good elements of Android instead of improving it, which is what others are doing.

Gaming-wise, the Realme C1 is capable of running any game I play, but not in their best graphics settings. Asphalt 9: Legends, for example, runs okay but its visual quality is toned down. PUBG Mobile and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang are definitely playable, albeit in low to medium settings.

Decent photos for a budget phone

When buying a cheap phone, one shouldn’t expect its cameras to excel. Well, the Realme C1’s shooters are not great, but they are surprisingly okay. Equipped with a 13-megapixel f/2.2 rear camera and a 2-megapixel depth sensor, this phone can take decent pictures in daylight. It also has a 5-megapixel selfie camera with an AI beautification feature.

Check out these samples:

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I can’t say that it has the best camera in its class, but the quality of the photos taken by the Realme C1 are worthy enough to be used for your social accounts. You can always enhance them using popular photo editing apps from the Play Store.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Realme C1 is not a perfect smartphone. It’s not meant to compete with the best of the bunch, but it’s made to entice people looking for a cheap phone. Also, this is basically an OPPO A3s offered at an even cheaper price.

For someone who is looking to upgrade from a feature phone or in need of a secondary device for work-related use, the Realme C1 is a great choice. It practically sits next to the Xiaomi Redmi 5A as the best budget phone around.

The Realme C1 is currently available in select markets in Asia for around US$ 110 when converted. You can get it in India for INR 8,990, PhP 5,990 in the Philippines, IDR 1,499,000 in Indonesia, THB 3,990 in Thailand, VND 2,490,000 in Vietnam, and MYR 449 in Malaysia.

Realme is new to the market and they’re pretty aggressive in offering discounts through their official online channels, so you might even get it cheaper during sale events.

SEE ALSO: Here’s why OPPO created a new brand called Realme

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Accessories

Razer Thresher and Raiju Ultimate Hands-on: Splendid gaming combo

Badass gaming accessories

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If there’s one thing Razer is really good at, it’s making gaming accessories that are both stylish and edgy. The Razer Thresher headset as well as the Raiju Ultimate controller for the PlayStation 4 (PS4) are primary examples of this.

Headset you can wear for hours

At first glance, the Razer Thresher looks like it would weigh heavily on your head. This is not the case. Despite its bulky exterior, this headset is lightweight and extremely comfortable.

The four-inch earcups cover a good portion of your ears and it feels like a headset you can wear for hours. It neither feels too tight nor to loose.

Setup is pretty straight forward, too. Simply plug the accompanying USB stick to the PS4’s USB port, turn on the headset, and it should work with no hiccups.

Immersive audio

Audio quality is right about what you’d expect from a US$ 150 headset. The earcups lend nicely to making the sound feel immersive as you game. When I played Marvel’s Spider-Man with these on, it almost felt like it was me swinging around New York with how much of the environment I could hear.

This headset also has a mouthpiece that’s perfect for co-op games, but since I don’t really play those kinds of games, I wasn’t able to try the headset in that setting. It does record good audio though, so you can opt to use it for that.

Although it’s labeled as an accessory for the PS4, it will work with any device that has a USB port. I used the headset on my MacBook Pro and it worked just fine.

Feels drastically different from the DualShock 4

At first glance, you would even think that the Raiju Ultimate controller was made for the Xbox One. It bears so much resemblance to that console’s controller which is why I felt a little iffy using it.

Most of my console gaming has been spent wielding DualShock controllers. I did try the Xbox but my personal preference is still the controllers bundled with the PlayStation consoles through the years.

That said, I didn’t completely hate the Raiju Ultimate experience. I did have trouble playing NBA 2K19 because the buttons weren’t responding the way they usually would on a regular DualShock 4 controller. This had a significant effect on my game as I wasn’t knocking down the shots I normally would.

The Raiju Ultimate controller comes with a sleek carrying case

Using the Raiju Ultimate led to a close game and a loss against Marvin. We played twice more but I shifted back to the DualShock 4 and proceeded to dominate him on NBA 2K19 like I normally do. (Editor’s note: “Dominate” is such a strong word.)

It comes with an app

The Raiju Ultimate also comes with an app to customize the extra four shoulder buttons. It has four presets to choose from: Sports, Shooter, Fighting, and Racing.

Instead of using the Sports the preset, I tried the other ones but still got the same result. This wasn’t the case when I played Marvel’s Spider-Man. In fact, it was pretty fluid and the shoulder buttons which you end up using a lot in this game responded seamlessly.

If you want a little bit more of customization, you can add a profile and assign specific functions for each shoulder button depending on the game you’re playing. I imagine it being helpful in games wherein you’re asked to press two buttons at the same time. You can just assign those to buttons to a single shoulder button — pretty handy.

Perfect tandem?

While I did have some trouble with the Raiju Ultimate, that was only in one game. Granted it’s probably the game I play the most, I didn’t have the same troubles in other games.

I had a blast playing Marvel’s Spider-Man using this combo. The game felt a lot closer than when I first played it thanks to the Razer Thresher, and the mechanical feel of the Raiju Ultimate really grows on you as you play.

This pair probably isn’t for everyone but if you want a little boost for your gaming experience, I wouldn’t think twice about copping these.

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Hands-On

Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro: A pricey gimmick

It looks good though

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Don’t get me wrong: I am absolutely in love with the Xiaomi Mi 8. The GadgetMatch peeps can even tell you how much I didn’t want to let that phone go. It’s literally the phone I would buy for myself.

With the Mi 8 Pro, you’re pretty much getting the same top-shelf specs albeit in a different package.

That different package is this — the Transparent Titanium “color design” as Xiaomi noted on the phone’s global page. It will make you think you’re looking at the phone’s actual internals. I have to say, it is appealing but as is the case with the Mi 8 Explorer Edition, it’s all for show.

If you can get over (and maybe even appreciate) that the transparent look is all aesthetics, then you can move on to the good stuff. And the good stuff are plenty.

You’re looking at a phone equipped with the Snapdragon 845 SoC along with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. It only has a 3000mAh battery but it does support quick charge.

This means you’ll have no trouble running games like PUBG, Asphalt 9, Ragnarok Mobile, and basically whatever game you feel like playing. This also means the Mi 8 Pro is a lean, mean multitasking machine.

You can shuffle through all your social media apps, email, notes, as well as three dating apps so you can keep swiping away even though the person you really want to talk to is already reachable through other messaging apps. I digress. (Editor’s note: Sad.)

Unlocking can be a pain

The other main addition is the in-screen fingerprint sensor. On paper, it looks promising and I really appreciate that I don’t have to lift the phone to unlock when it’s lying flat on the table. However, “pressing lightly” as Xiaomi suggests just doesn’t do the trick.

I can’t count how many times I pressed the fingerprint sensor with it asking me to “press a bit harder.” I’d like to think I was already pressing hard. For comparison’s sake, I did use the Vivo V11 quite a bit too and didn’t encounter the same problems using its in-display fingerprint scanner.

It’s pretty fast when I apply the right amount of pressure, but the thing is I don’t always do so. To save myself from being asked to press harder all the damn time, I resorted to mostly using face unlock. It’s an option I wouldn’t have considered had I not used the iPhone XR a while back, but that’s a story for another time.

The phone warns you that it’s not as secure as the fingerprint sensor and that it can be unlocked using faces and objects that look like you. I tried putting a steamed bun in front of the phone and thankfully it stayed locked. I’m gonna mark that down as a win.

Kidding aside, my personal experience with the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro’s in-screen fingerprint sensor leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, this phone is pretty darn solid.

The other good stuff

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro sports the same cameras as the Xiaomi Mi 8 — that’s two 12MP rear cameras that capture images more than good enough for sharing on your social media feed.

Here are some samples taken in Singapore:

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One of my personal favorites to try on any phone is the portrait mode. Again, I think the Mi 8 Pro does it pretty well. The image does get grainy if you try it in low-light conditions so I suggest sticking to normal shots and not use portrait mode when lighting in your area is less than ideal.

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The front camera is a 20MP shooter that also has portrait mode and captures a fair amount of detail when you have a bright background.

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I’m also a huge fan of MIUI. It’s just a thoughtful and clean user interface. I especially love the fullscreen gestures which I admittedly took time getting used to when I first tried them on the Mi 8. But they’re great once you get the hang of it.

Swiping on either side of the screen functions as the back button. Hold it long enough and you’ll be taken to the last app you used. That’s such a great feature especially when I’m darting between social media apps during event coverage.

Should you buy it over the Xiaomi Mi 8?

The easy answer is no. Most of the good stuff that you’ll find on the Mi 8 Pro are already on the Mi 8. One of the Mi 8’s main attractions, other than everything I’ve already mentioned thus far, is its pricing.

The Mi 8 is a solid flagship phone that’s an easy recommendation for anyone who wants those specs but doesn’t have the budget for the big hitters like the iPhone XS, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

With the Mi 8 Pro, you’ll shell out roughly around US$ 200 more and for what? An ice-breaking design that doesn’t really do much other than catch someone’s attention and an in-screen fingerprint sensor that’s still in its early stages. It’s simply not worth it.

If you’re hell bent on spending close to or around US$ 700 on a smartphone, there are better choices out there. But if you love what Xiaomi has to offer, you can drop the Pro and just grab the Mi 8.

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