Reviews

Samsung Galaxy A71 review: Worth giving a try

A well-rounded phone who can do the job

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When you’re accustomed to familiarity, it’s difficult to try something new. Such is the case when the Samsung Galaxy A71 landed on my hands.

There was hesitation, as I’ve been using Huawei as my daily driver since 2016, and it became my comfort zone since then.

But this year, I promised myself to do things that make me uncomfortable. Being proactive, I took a risk and tried a Samsung smartphone, not because it’s my job to review a device, but because I want to see if it’s actually worth a try.

Totally crushing on it

Samsung offers the Galaxy A71 in three different colors: Prism Crush Blue, Prism Crush Black, and Prism Crush Silver. This particular model we’re reviewing comes in Prism Crush Blue, and I’m totally crushing on it.

This may not pair well with most of my clothes, but it certainly matches my pastel-colored face masks from Leaders Cosmetics — a South Korean brand just like Samsung — which you can buy from Watsons and CNA.

This makes me happy, seeing how I want my stuff to follow a certain palette. I may be a neutral guy when it comes to fashion, but I’m all in for pastel products. If you’re obsessed with K-Culture, a pair of Korean brands can make your heart happy.

Inducing a love-at-first-sight feeling

The Samsung Galaxy A71 comes in a refreshing design, following Samsung’s new design language this 2020. It has a rectangular camera module, with its camera lenses forming an L-shape position.

Its back comes with subtle diagonal cutouts and varying opacity, embellished with subtle stripe patterns. It’s adorned by prism shining in certain angles, which has been a staple in the Galaxy A series.

This phone looks polished and premium, thanks to its “glasstic” design. Anyone can be fooled by how stunning the Galaxy A71 is, seeing how it looks marvelous — both from a distance and up close. It might spark a “love at first sight” feeling to consumers currently looking for a smartphone.

Subtlety is attractive

What makes the Galaxy A71 look upscale isn’t its refined back design. It’s the combination of tiny details — something we can’t figure out when we like someone. When you thoroughly look into the little things, you realize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that attractive piece keeps you hung up.

In Galaxy A71’s case, it’s the combination of glass and glasstic design, and thoughtful curves and frames. The phone shines and reflects like a premium smartphone. Even the buttons are subtle, blending well with the frame.

On the left side, you can find the sim tray which can fit up to two SIMs and a memory card. Found on its right side are the volume and power keys, which you can also use for taking screenshots.

Meanwhile, the bottom has the mouthpiece, speaker grilles, USB-C port, and audio jack — an important feature that’s becoming a luxury now.

Something you might want to hold

The Galaxy A71 is massive, especially for my standards. Having tiny hands made me hate how most phones have been getting bigger throughout the years, and the Galaxy A71 is still on that trend. Fortunately, Samsung kept a slim and lightweight profile for this smartphone.

It’s easy to grip and hold, unlike other massive smartphones. Removing the discomfort in my experience made this phone look and feel top-end, and that’s what we need from most smartphones now.

It won’t be massive if it wasn’t for its 6.7-inch Super AMOLED display. Thankfully, it’s adorned with round corners and almost symmetrical bezels making it seem soft and pleasant to look at. Additionally, the earpiece grille is subtly situated between the frame and screen.

Thoughtfully crafted

Coupled with a flattened Gorilla Glass 3, there are no sharp edges. Samsung thoughtfully crafted the front design and its display, allowing users to focus on the experience.

For instance, the ambient light sensor is placed behind the screen, and there are no LED indicators for your notifications. However, the Galaxy A71 supports an Always-On Display.

The only downside is its punch-hole housing the 32-megapixel selfie shooter. I mostly use bright wallpapers, and I can’t help but look at the punch-hole. It’s highly disturbing since it’s actually bigger than the pimples I get in my face whenever I pull an all-nighter at work. But that might just be me nit-picking.

Keeps you entertained

Combining the Galaxy A71’s awesome screen and lightweight profile, you can expect a breezy experience when it comes to entertainment.

I spent my weekends catching up with Crash Landing On You on Netflix, and my arms never felt strained and numbed. It’s definitely a treat to watch using this phone and enjoy an immersive, vivid experience.

Its audio is loud but gets cranky. If you can’t live without music, it’s best to use the wired earphones that come in the box, or even better, a Galaxy Buds which pair easily. I barely used its speakers, and I only do when I’m dancing to BLACKPINK in the bathroom.

Speaking of which, the Galaxy A71 doesn’t have any ingress protection (or IP rating) so keep it out of the water — unless you have a safe space for your phone. Until then, don’t risk it.

Keeps you safe and secure

One of the biggest concerns right now is privacy and security. In this age, the one who prioritizes its users’ safety is the winner in the long run. Thankfully, Samsung is doing its best to keep everyone secure.

For starters, you can unlock the Galaxy A71 through different screen locks such as pattern, pin, and password. You can also access it through biometrics like an optical under-screen fingerprint sensor — which is slow and far from perfect.

A lot of times, I have to tap my on the screen thrice before I can unlock it, which is why I opted for face recognition. It’s a hundred times faster, and you have the option to require open eyes during facial recognition for added security.

Moreover, any Samsung phone has the ability to protect you from apps, viruses, and malware. It regularly updates its security and policies, thanks to its exclusive Samsung Knox.

A phone you can rely on

The Galaxy A71 runs on Android 10 and One UI 2.0. Navigating between apps is seamless and buttery smooth. Every time I glide my fingers, it feels like I’m caressing a harp or a piano.

Additionally, it runs on Snapdragon 730, offering near-flagship power. I barely encountered any hiccups throughout my usage, but some apps are quite heavy which creates a bit of delay. However, I temper my expectations when it comes to midrange smartphones.

The Galaxy A71 allowed me to multitask. Seamlessly switching from Slack to Google’s suite of apps to a multitude of social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — all while playing Spotify on the background. What else can I ask for?

I was able to play Black Desert Online, too. This South Korean MMORPG requires intensive graphics and power to run, and I was able to play it even in the highest settings possible — with no lags and delays experienced. Honestly, the Galaxy A71 has the right amount of power needed for most consumers like me.

It’s here for the long run

These days, we need something that won’t give up on us. The Galaxy A71 packs a 4,500mAh battery — which can last for a whole day (or night), with enough juice to keep you going. On one occasion, I went out of the office at 6PM with 100 percent battery.

Throughout the night, I sipped my favorite Starbucks cold brew, went to a Korean grill restaurant, took selfies, went on an upload spree on social media, drank beer, and caught up with my friends all while keeping my mobile data on.

Afterward, I arrived home at 2 AM with a whopping 60 percent battery. How great is that? It also comes with a 25W Fast Charging adapter and a USB-C to USB-C cable, and it only took an hour and a few to fully charge my phone when I reached 10 percent the next day.

Captures every moment

The Galaxy A71 has a promising quad-camera setup: a 64-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 5-megapixel depth, and 5-megapixel macro. It comes with every smartphone’s camera staples like portrait mode (or live focus), night mode, panorama, macro, pro, super slow-mo, slow motion, hyperlapse, and food.

Taking every bit of its camera mode entails a different story. Such is the case for 64-megapixel photos, which we’ll be publishing on a shootout. For now, let’s take a look at how the Galaxy A71 fares with regular shots in different lighting conditions.

If you swipe through the photos above, you can see how Samsung’s color balance is mainly cool. It inaccurately depicts the scenery. Food shots — even when using Food mode — still capture a cooler vibe. This makes it difficult to post on your social media since food photos have to be warmer to look tasty and appetizing. Thankfully, there are photo-editing apps like VSCO and Lightroom to help you balance and polish the look in accordance with your aesthetics.

Moreover, its macro lens doesn’t capture enough details. It’s difficult to take close-ups, and you have to put your lens too close to your food. The best thing to do is to take flat lays and angled shots by the window, for an appetizing shot.

To more travels with you

The Galaxy A71 might be a downer when it comes to color balance and taking close-ups, but it’s a contender when it comes to wide-angle photos.

For more samples, just swipe the photos below.

If you analyzed it, wide-angle photos take better details and produce richer colors. The distortion is also useful in cramped and open spaces.

Selfies that will make you smile

The Galaxy A71 houses a 32-megapixel front shooter, allowing you to capture regular and wide-angle selfies. You can also use Live Focus for DSLR-like portrait modes, which actually suck because portrait modes are half-baked up to this date. If you’re meaning to capture better-looking portraits, forget portrait mode and read this trick.

During daylight, the Galaxy A71 performs marvelously. It captures great details, and you can temper it down by turning on Beauty Mode, with a Level 1 intensity. Just don’t go high, though, since you’ll look like a painting.

In low and bad lighting conditions, the Galaxy A71 struggles in taking awesome photos, particularly when you use Beauty Mode, as seen on my selfie with two pretty ladies during Ben&Ben’s concert.

But when exposed to proper lighting, the Galaxy A71 can provide a decent selfie whether it’s an indoor or outdoor shot. The only problem you’ll encounter is the higher contrast and strong blacks.

Nonetheless, no one will care about the nitty-gritty of your selfies. People will only look at how beautiful and amazing you are, and most people just want to be able to take selfies that make them feel awesome.

Every moment can be perfect

The Galaxy A71 can record videos — from 1080p to 2160p, and even 4K. Below is a sample video of our Producer, Vincenz Lee, during his travels in Jakarta with the Galaxy A71.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a solid smartphone, the Galaxy A71 is a good choice albeit with a higher price tag. For PhP 22,990, Samsung is sitting on a sweet spot, making itself ten times better than phones in almost similar price tags like the Vivo V17 Pro and OPPO Reno 2F. On the other hand, those who are looking for flagship power at an affordable price might consider the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro.

Still, the Galaxy A71 is a well-rounded phone. Just like how it was advertised, it really has an awesome screen, awesome camera, and long-lasting battery life. If you want an upscale-looking phone which takes awesome photos, coupled with stellar experience and a battery that’ll keep up with you, then you have your GadgetMatch.

If you’re still iffy about trying this phone out, remember that sometimes, we need to be open to new flavors and experiences. After all, we might be missing a lot if we shy away because something (or someone) isn’t entirely our type.

Reviews

Redmi Note 9S review: The healthy, underappreciated middle ground

The right mix of everything in one device that won’t break your wallet

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The Redmi Note 9S, in my opinion, finds itself in a bit of a “struggle.” It follows the seemingly perfect older sibling in the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, although shares most of the same hardware. There’s even its younger sibling, the Redmi Note 9 with the major difference being in the storage options and price point.

You will breeze past this smartphone if you’re an extremist with your decision-making. You’ll either go for the phone that’s the priciest but most powerful, or the budget-friendly one. The Redmi Note 9S will find itself lodged in that gray area.

But, maybe it’s an area worth looking at — for once. Here’s what the Redmi Note 9S is offering:

It has a 6.67” FHD+ DotDisplay with Corning Gorilla Glass 5

It comes with a 48MP AI-powered quad camera

The fingerprint sensor is found on the right side, integrated with the power button

And at the bottom are the speaker grilles, USB-C port, and 3.5mm headphone jack

Overall performance that just hits right

The Redmi Note 9S comes with a Snapdragon 720G processor inside, with the model I tested having 6GB of RAM. Upon initial use, I found the phone to be quite fast and responsive. It was a breeze navigating through MIUI, and how quick apps opened up. Multitasking using different apps went just as expected with the hardware.

Even gaming full time on this device feels just right. MIUI 11 comes with Game Turbo for this device, and I honestly found this very useful for shooter games. Call of Duty Mobile plays seamlessly while hitting around 60 FPS, while Fortnite is fairly decent — mostly because of the 30 FPS cap. The device doesn’t throttle to boost performance, and it even maximizes battery usage.

Plus, the 6.67-inch DotDisplay is pretty bright even under direct sunlight. I even tried playing some games and watch Netflix out under the sun, and I could see the details. Honestly, I felt like I was getting exactly what I needed out of the hardware the phone came with. I just wish that the notch was placed somewhere else since it obstructs your view while watching.

A surprisingly great quad camera

I say “surprisingly” because of how I’m used to smartphones under Php 15,000 having relatively okay cameras. The 48MP AI-powered quad camera setup produced great images with clear cut details in them. Colors don’t seem to be sacrificed with each shot, although I can’t say the same when in the dark.

In my experience, I still spotted a bit of grain but that was mostly when I zoomed in on the images. Plus, you can record 4K videos with the camera, albeit only at 30 FPS.

The selfie camera wasn’t too shabby, either — especially during Portrait Mode. I even felt like my face was glowing with every selfie I took. What did it for me was the way the AI blurred everything else in the background when using this mode. Even when you’re not using Portrait Mode, it’s still a great front camera to put in.

These aren’t Leica-levels of great, nor do they compare to most iPhones out there in terms of cameras. But if you needed an alternative, the cameras on this device come close by a little bit.

The battery just keeps you going for more than a day

The Mi website notes that the Redmi Note 9S can last up to 33 hours on calls, 16 hours watching videos, and 13 hours gaming full time. This mostly all comes from the 5,250 mAh battery inside, which you can also find in the Note 9 and Note 9 Pro. Upon my own usage of it, I got about 30 hours doing pretty much all of that.

At one point, I even did all of these things, went to sleep, and woke up to around 20 percent battery life. I even put up the brightness to 90% while doing all those things, and it’s clear: the phone lasts real long on a single charge.

Charging the device had me a little confused, mostly because of the fast charging capabilities. The device comes with a 18W fast-charging adapter that ran a full charge for about two hours. However, I only felt the fast charging kick in after it reached 60 percent as it took about an hour from 0-60. I mean, at least you still get to use your phone right away when you drain the battery.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Starting at PhP 10,490 (US$212), the Redmi Note 9S finds itself as the great balance of power and affordability. It serves as a middle ground between the budget Note 9, and the premium and powerful Note 9 Pro. It has everything you need in a modern smartphone, in a price range that’s reachable too.

It’s an easy recommendation for anyone looking to buy a great smartphone for any use case. It lasts long enough that you won’t need to charge it overnight, and puts you right back in once it fully charges. I honestly believe you can live with the little grain in the camera and the obstructive notch placement.

All in all, the Redmi Note 9S does not compromise much in terms of performance. Every nifty feature you need in a modern smartphone, it gives you that. It’s the middle child that deserves some loving, too.

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Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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Reviews

LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

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Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

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