Reviews

Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro review

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The Galaxy Note 7, which we’re sure many of you have heard about by now, isn’t the only new Samsung smartphone with a huge display out there. The Galaxy A9 Pro has more screen space, plus a much more agreeable battery capacity that could get it to last through another day without a recharge. In other words, it is big for good reasons.

But are those reasons good enough to warrant a purchase over similar devices from Apple, ASUS, Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi, and others? That would ultimately depend on how much value you attach to what the A9 Pro brings to the conversation. And how much you’re willing to spend on a smartphone that could easily negate the need for a tablet.

There’s no getting around how unwieldy this device can get for people with small- to regular-sized hands, and that’s largely by design to accommodate a generous 6-inch screen and an even more generous 5,000mAh battery.

The metal frame feels solid and substantial and resilient enough to cope with the rigors of an active lifestyle, and the chemically strengthened glass back suggests a reassuring sturdiness. At 210 grams, it’s heavier than the Apple iPhone 6s Plus, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and the Xiaomi Mi Max, which are big phones, too.

As intimidating as the A9 Pro may sound, however, its makers likely did the best they could to keep the dimensions as small as possible; the smartphone is pleasingly thin (7.9mm) given the battery size, and the bezels on the left and right edges have been kept to a minimum, adding to the charm of the full-resolution Super AMOLED display.

Once again, Samsung has done a fantastic job with the A9 Pro’s panel, providing punchy, saturated colors, inky blacks, and super-white whites. Brightness levels are high enough that the display remains visible outdoors on a sunny day, and viewing angles are consistently good. The additional screen real estate is better suited for video consumption and playing games. To keep the panel in immaculate shape, it is protected by scratch-resistant 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4.

But however big and ideal, the size of the display introduces a couple of caveats: First, trying to swipe across or get to the top of the screen can lead to some finger gymnastics that are dangerous to pull off while holding the glass-backed A9 Pro with one hand; second, text and images don’t appear as crisp on the phone as they would on a higher-resolution panel.

Also on the front is a home button that, as is usually the case with Samsung’s modern midrange and high-end handsets, houses a fingerprint scanner. It works well, and we can imagine that it’ll be difficult to go back to using a PIN or a password once the user gets the hang of unlocking the device with a thumbprint.

The 16-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and an f/1.9 aperture produces above-average results, though dynamic range and exposure can be hit or miss. Switching to Pro or HDR mode helps, but at night or in the dark, there’s little you can do to mitigate color and noise issues.

The selfie cam has an 8-megapixel sensor and the same aperture as the main camera, allowing for sharper, clearer, and more detailed snaps. The wide lens means you can fit more people or more of the scene in the frame.

Under the covers is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 system-on-a-chip, alongside 4GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage. Those specifications aren’t meant to draw a crowd, but the processing package provides enough oomph to make you rethink the A9 Pro’s place in the Samsung hierarchy. The Pro naming convention isn’t just for show; this phone is a serious performer that rivals the best of the best from last year.

It powers through general tasks like web browsing and email with little to no lag; it can render demanding games at consistently high frame rates and for long periods of time without overheating; multitasking feels fluid and seamless, and navigating the Android Marshmallow-based interface is a pleasant interlude between apps.

Most notable of all is how long this phone lasts. If we wanted to drain the battery quickly, it would require a deliberate and focused effort, which is to say you probably won’t have to plug it to a power supply on a nightly basis. We found the A9 Pro — unlike so many in the segment — can get to a second day without enabling Ultra data saving mode, which will squeeze a few extra hours of use.

Its 5,000mAh fixed cell is the real deal, making the A9 Pro one of the most enduring phones we’ve ever tested. And when it does need charging, the battery replenishes at an impressive rate, thanks to Qualcomm’s quick charge tech.

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The Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro sells for 3,499 yuan in China, P25,990 in the Philippines where it is already available. It’s rumored to launch in India next month; other markets are likely to follow suit. For a product that’s priced dangerously close to flagship territory — in this case, between $530 and $560 — the challenge is always justifying an existence among more affordable yet capable phones.

Fortunately for the A9 Pro, its winning mix of screen size and battery life, coupled with a fast processor, makes for an attractive option for power users who don’t want to overspend.

[irp posts=”7487″ name=”Supersized smartphone showdown”]

Laptops

Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

It’s just missing one thing…

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It was during IFA 2018 when Lenovo introduced their latest premium convertible for consumers — the Yoga C930. It doesn’t have a good name, but it does offer everything a Yoga should, especially in media consumption.

Notebooks with flipping displays, like the Yoga lineup, are not just designed for typing. Most manufacturers market their convertibles to be perfect for entertainment, yet they largely fail in one aspect where they should shine — audio.

When Lenovo introduced the Yoga C930 with the rotating soundbar and Dolby Atmos, I hoped that it was not just a marketing ploy. But, is it? Let me share my thoughts about Lenovo’s newest convertible.

No fuss design

The Yoga C930 has a metal shell with a familiar aesthetic from Lenovo. My unit has a dark finish that’s aptly named Iron Gray. If you want a lighter shade, Lenovo is also offering the notebook in Mica, which is close to white. Everything about the body of the Yoga C930 screams premium; nothing here looks cheap or ugly.

To make it more special, the sides and the hinge of the Yoga C930 have a brushed finish. It’s a minor touch, but it’s highly noticeable whenever you’re checking where you should plug your peripherals. I also think that it helps hide unsightly scratches and gives the notebook a bit of shine.

While we’re at it, the available ports on the Yoga C930 are generally okay. It’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports that fully support PowerDelivery, DisplayPort, and USB 3.1 functions. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports employ 4x lanes for PCIe, so you can connect the Yoga C930 to an external GPU, which is good because this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics unit.

Apart from a couple of versatile USB-C interfaces, there’s also a classic full-size USB that we all know and love. Thankfully, Lenovo knows that this is still a widely used port and bringing a dongle just to read a thumb drive is a hassle. The 3.5mm audio port is also available when you need to plug in a pair of wired headphones.

All of the ports on the Yoga C930 are on its left side, leaving the right with just the power button. There are no volume buttons, either.

While I appreciate that Lenovo provided both USB-A and USB-C ports, I was still hoping for more; another USB-C with PowerDelivery on the right and a full-size SD card reader would do. The Yoga C930 is slim, but it’s not ultra-slim like the fan-less MacBook which got away with having one port (or maybe two if you count the headphone jack).

The Yoga C930 has a fairly large 14-inch display (13.9 inches according to Lenovo), but with minimum side bezels. Since this is made for watching videos, the aspect ratio is still stuck at 16:9.

There are two resolutions available for the Lenovo C930: Full HD or Ultra HD. The one I have here is just the Full HD variant, but it still has the key feature: Dolby Vision. The best way to fully appreciate the display is to play an HDR or Dolby Vision-enabled title. You can find some on Netflix if you’re using the highest-tier plan.

The display gets bright enough to be used outdoors and really dim when you need it to. It’s vibrant and has deep blacks even if it’s only an LCD panel.

When watching a video, I prefer to use the Yoga C930 in Tent mode. It can also be used in Stand mode with the keyboard facing down, but for some reason, Lenovo didn’t put little rubber feet to protect the keyboard when placed on a surface. You have to be cautious where you place the notebook or you risk scratching it.

The integrated soundbar of the Yoga C930 is designed to always face the user. That’s another advantage of watching videos in Tent mode; the speaker is facing upwards. I get to hear the sound directly without any muffle. I must say, the Yoga C930 has one of the clearest speakers I’ve tried on a notebook. It gets really loud, too.

It even has Dolby Atmos to enhance it further, but it’s not as immersive as advertised. To be fair though, I get to hear the stereo effect better than on other notebooks.

The device is least useful (for me) when it’s in Tablet mode. The Yoga C930 is too heavy to be a tablet, plus the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it feel like I’m reading from a really tall magazine. But, this is where the built-in pen comes in handy. The integrated stylus makes it easy for doodlers to annotate on screen.

Fast but not incredible

Let’s talk about power. The Yoga C930 I have is powered by the latest 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor paired with 12GB DDR4 memory and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Configurations may vary in some regions, so the Yoga C930 in your stores might be more powerful or inferior.

There’s one thing that’s missing though, and it’s not an option anyone can get either: discrete graphics.

As mentioned, the Yoga C930 is not an ultraportable. It has nowhere near the portability of Dell’s XPS 13 or even Lenovo’s own Yoga Book. It’s big enough to house at least a modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 — just like the latest ZenBook from ASUS.

My usage includes multiple tabs on Chrome, some slight editing on Photoshop, and hours of binge-watching on Netflix. I primarily used the notebook for typing and browsing, which are not heavy tasks.

So far, I had no major performance issues during my time with the Yoga C930. I didn’t bother to install games because it lacks discrete graphics.

Of course, the notebook runs Windows 10. I got the October 2018 update just last week, and it made the dark mode better. It matches the gray motif of the device.

It’s ideal for my own use

Putting all the technical specifications aside, the Yoga C930 has been a great companion.

Aside from the soundbar, I also fully appreciate the notebook’s keyboard. It’s not as great as the one on ThinkPads, but it’s good enough for me. It’s well-spaced and has a good amount of key travel.

The touchpad uses Microsoft Precision drivers and it fully supports all the gestures of Windows 10. It has a glass surface and picks up all the inputs. A responsive touchpad and a good keyboard is the combo I need for work.

There’s also something about the craftsmanship of the Yoga C930 that gives assurance that it’s a well-built device. Perhaps it’s the balance between weight and dimensions.

Lastly, the webcam has a physically cover — just like a ThinkPad’s. It’s nice to see nifty features of Lenovo’s business laptops on a consumer device. I don’t have to cover the webcam anymore with a piece of tape.

Great battery life

I am generally impressed with the longevity of the Yoga C930. Lenovo promises all-day battery life, but we all know that is somehow a stretch. Based on my usage, I get around eight to nine hours. I also experience about the same when watching Netflix non-stop.

It’ll not beat records, but I am always assured that even if I leave my charger at home, I know I can rely on the Yoga C930 to get me through a full day.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

You probably already think that this is my GadgetMatch, which I’ll not deny. I had a good time with the Yoga C930, despite its shortcomings. It’s a premium convertible that managed to meet my expectations. I’m hoping Lenovo will soon have an option with discrete graphics. For now, you can maximize the device by plugging in an external GPU.

The Yoga C930 has a starting price of US$ 1,399. It’s a bit pricier than I expected from its specs, but it’s a premium convertible that offers more versatility than regular laptops.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, 330S, 330: Which is right for you?

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Drones

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Review: 1 month in

Not a perfect drone, but…

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We won’t bore you with a rundown of its specs, but instead, we’ll give you the lowdown on DJI’s new drone — what works, what doesn’t, and what’s there to love. This is our DJI Mavic 2 Pro review.

 

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Reviews

Apple iPad Pro (2018) Review: Not just a laptop replacement

It can be so much more

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Apple’s new iPad Pro is more beautiful, more powerful, and more useful. In this review, we answer the question in everyone’s head: Can it replace your laptop?

To see the iPad Pro as merely a possible laptop replacement is an injustice to the purpose it serves. It’s already a given that this is a great tablet, but this is a pro device and is more than just that. Its premium price tag can be justified by what it can enable creative professionals, business people, and even journalists to accomplish.

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