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.

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Reviews

Realme 5 Pro Review: An easy recommendation

Well-rounded at its price point

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Every year there are a few smartphones that’s easy to recommend to anyone. The Realme 5 Pro is one of those phones.

Three things set this phone apart: One, the quad-camera setup. Two, the processor and storage option. And three, it’s a steal considering you get so much for just PhP 11,990 or around US$232.

Already great if only for the cameras alone

We at GadgetMatch have always been pretty impressed by the image quality produced by Realme phones. Just take a look at this previous camera shootout. The Realme 5 Pro is no different.

The four cameras are as follows: A 48MP main shooter, an 8MP wide-angle lens, a 2MP macro lens, and a 2MP depth sensor. Each one lends itself nicely to different shooting situations.

The 48MP main camera lens is just fantastic. Color reproduction is vivid without being over saturated.

Food photos are appetizing. 

 

This scene looks almost like it’s from a fantasy flick.

 

Here’s me trying to go Super Saiyan. I failed.

 

And it handles the foreground, subject, and background here REALLY well. 

The 8MP wide-angle lens offers a broader look allowing you to showcase more of the scenery.

This swing looks a little more melancholic with a wider perspective.

Zooming out, we can see that the scene is almost as breathtaking as MJ.

Get up close and personal with the macro-lens.

 

The depth sensor is a hit or miss. And we advise you use it only under good lighting conditions.

Here are a few more samples for you to scrutinize.

I recommended the phone to a reporter friend and she’s gone as far as saying it’s the best smartphone camera she’s had since she started covering the Supreme Court. As evidence, she shared this clear image of the justices from afar. Something, she says, she’s never been able to do prior to getting the phone.

Before I forget, it also has a 16MP front-facing cameras that take more than decent selfies. Again, take them under good natural light and they come out fantastic.

It does come equipped with a beauty mode with several features like skin smoothing as well as adjusting the thickness and roundedness of your face. It’s fun to play around with and each feature has a slider so the effect doesn’t come out too aggressive.

Fantastic chip, plenty of storage

The Realme 5 Pro is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 AIE and the only storage option is 128GB — which is a lot. There’s plenty of space for your photos, videos, apps, games, and even music and movies you download from Spotify and Netflix for later listening and viewing.

There are two RAM options. 4GB which is the base variant, and 8GB which costs PhP 13,990 (US$ 272). Still a pretty darn good price.

The variant we reviewed is the 8GB one. And as you can expect, it handled the usual tasks with absolutely zero problems. Your usual social media browsing and occasional answering emails, chats, and phone calls are all handled perfectly.

I assume the same is true even if you get the 4GB RAM variant. It should be more than enough for such tasks, and even some light gaming.

Yes, it can definitely game

Speaking of gaming, you should have no hiccups playing the more popular mobile games on this phone. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang doesn’t really require a lot from your phone so if that’s your kind of game, you should be alright.

Next, I tried playing Call of Duty: Mobile. At first I noticed some delay with the input, and then I realized I didn’t turn Game Space on.

Game Space is Realme’s gaming assistant. It not only boosts processing power, but it also helps allocate more of your network bandwidth to improve your gaming experience. Like other game assistants, it can also hold off notifications so you can focus on what you’re playing.

After turning Game Space on, I was surprised at how much the performance improved. There were no more input delays and you just really get lost in the gaming.

I didn’t really get the chance to play extensively enough to say if there are any heating concerns. However, in my 20 to 30 minute gaming sessions, I had no such issues.

Not top notch, but more than good enough

The 6.3-inch IPS LCD display is decent. It’s worth noting that I’m coming off using OLED and AMOLED displays which is why this felt a little underwhelming to me.

The viewing experience just isn’t as good as displays from flagship phones. But to that point, those are flagship phones. That’s not to say that the screen is bad. In fact, if you’re coming off other budget phones, you probably might not even be able to tell the difference.

Two other things I’m not a huge fan of are the design and Color OS. Granted, I have used a few phones with Color OS lately so its aesthetic is growing on me. However, it still feels slower than I would like. Oxygen OS, to me, remains the gold standard on Android phones with MIUI a close second.

Meanwhile, the shattered glass design just isn’t for me. But then again, I’m not exactly Gen Z so I’m definitely am not the design’s target market. This obviously boils down to preference. If you like it, that’s great. We all have our own tastes and that’s perfectly fine.

Is the Realme 5 Pro your GadgetMatch? 

The Realme 5 Pro almost feels unfair. You get a quad-camera setup that delivers fantastic quality images and it’s powered by a processor that’s even better than some phones that have a higher price tag.

Perhaps the only smartphone that can possibly rival it is the recently launched Redmi Note 8 Pro. But that’s a story for another day.

If you’re itching to get your hands on a phone that takes great photos and handles multitasking and gaming with ease, but you’re only working with a budget that’s less than PhP 15,000 (less than US$ 300), then the Realme 5 Pro is the easy choice.

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Philippines

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro Review: Twice the power, still affordable

But is it worth the hype?

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The year is far from over and neither are phone manufacturers from releasing smartphones. Although Mi 9T Pro isn’t the newest smartphone release from Xiaomi, it’s one of the most talked about smartphones around and is still the flagship killer to, well, kill.

If you previously read our Xiaomi Mi 9T review, you’d know by now that I’m exactly an Android user. I loved the Mi 9T Pro’s smaller sibling however because of its camera prowess and seamless experience despite its cheap price tag.

Now that I have the more powerful Mi 9T Pro on hand, I took it out on adventures the past few weeks to see whether it can actually live up to its flagship killer title.

Same design, different vibe

If you compare the Mi 9T and Mi 9T Pro side-by-side, it’ll be difficult to tell them apart. The symmetry is there. I like the Carbon Black option for its stealth while the Glacier Blue option is striking, in a good way. Although I’m not a fan of flashy design and colors, I love how there are subtle gradations flowing from both sides.

The red power button is still there, giving it a touch of contrast against its blue metallic body.

Speaker grilles, microphone, USB-C port, and SIM card slot below.

The Mi 9T Pro has a Gorilla Glass 5 back. It’s not the newest generation of Corning’s technology but it’s good enough to protect the phone from accidental scratches. The Mi 9T had none, which was a drawback for a smartphone with a glass back. I loved flaunting its back that I decided not to use the included black case. It’s still good as new and has not acquired any scratches. It feels right in my hand and doesn’t slip easily.

Same screen size, different display

Even Suzy looks confused with the differences in AMOLED and Super AMOLED

Xiaomi’s Mi 9T wowed me before because of its 6.4-inch AMOLED display. It’s an excellent panel, for such a cheap phone, with great viewing angles and contrast.

The Mi 9T Pro still packs a similar 6.4-inch display, but with a Super AMOLED display technology. Watching videos even outdoors is a great experience because it’s brighter and overall a better panel.

The Super AMOLED display is drop-dead gorgeous, so is Yoohyeon

I love its fullscreen display. Not having a notch or punch-hole camera makes a difference for me especially when watching videos. Color calibration is accurate and vibrant, making visuals pop.

Watching TWICE’s Feel Special in 4K made me miss Mina more #GetWellSoonMina

There are only a handful of smartphones with 4K resolution — and it’s not the basis of having a great display. It may not be the best display on a smartphone, but the Mi 9T Pro still delivers excellent entertainment experience even with its Full HD+ display. It’s also more power efficient than the AMOLED display found on the Mi 9T.

Flagship performance at half the price

The Mi 9T was already a great smartphone with the Snapdragon 730, but Xiaomi made the Mi 9T Pro even better. This phone is  equipped with a flagship Snapdragon 855 chipset — something you can only find on more expensive smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and OnePlus 7 Pro.

The Mi 9T Pro feels snappier than the Mi 9T — something I noticed immediately. Opening apps, the animation — they all feel faster. The experience is oh-so fluid and smooth. I can now play my favorite Asphalt 9 game at the highest settings that I couldn’t do (or even install) on the Mi 9T before.

Just like the Mi 9T, it also has 6GB of memory, so switching between apps is seamless.

Having a 3.5mm audio jack feels special (pun intended)

A lot of “Pro” products don’t seem like they meet expectations of actual pro users. If you’re the type of person who prefers the traditional way of listening to music, this phone has a 3.5mm jack — something you don’t see in many smartphones these days.

While I can always connect a wireless pair of headphones, the good ol’ audio jack is still very handy in a lot of scenarios. I find it useful when playing music in parties that don’t have wireless speakers. Some people still use wired microphones for audio recording as it’s more reliable. Some monopods require wired cables for you to control shutter releases.

Battery life is outstanding

I’m not proud of it but I’m *that* power user. I fiddle around with my phone and browse my social media feed every five to ten minutes. When I’m bored, I watch videos on YouTube or at least two episodes of a series I’m following on Netflix at around 75% brightness. I also play graphics-intensive games every now and then. Despite all of this, the Mi 9T Pro’s battery lasts me my entire day.

Fast charging just got faster

The Mi 9T already has a USB-C port and an 18W fast charger right out of the box — but the Mi 9T Pro ships with a faster 27W charger with Quick Charge 4+ technology.

It takes around 35 minutes to charge the phone from 0% to 50%. It reached 100% after around an hour and 30 minutes. That’s fast for a smartphone with a 4000 mAh battery.

Modern problems require modern solutions, except for these two

The Mi 9T Pro still features an in-display fingerprint scanner and it works most of the time. Not that I’m complaining, but it will never be as fast as a traditional scanner. A side-mounted scanner is always my alternative pick over this type of reader.

I thought there will be at least a difference when it comes to Face Unlock but it still performs sluggish. I would rather use the fingerprint scanner instead of the inconvenience of swiping and waiting for the camera to pop-up. Face unlock isn’t even as secure as it just relies on camera recognition.

The pop-up camera itself performs well

Don’t get me wrong, the pop-up camera is not bad, well at least in taking selfies. It captures decent selfies even when beauty mode is completely turned off.

I like how the selfies don’t look as saturated as other selfie shooters, which gives it a nice touch in persuading your crush to give you a chance to date you.

People who have shorter arms wouldn’t have a problem as the selfie camera is wide enough to accommodate four (or more) people in the frame — just like how a lot of you accommodate people that will never be a part of your life.

Same triple camera setup, but now snappier

You get the same triple camera setup as the Mi 9T that I loved: 48MP f/1.8 wide, 8MP f/2.4 telephoto, and 13MP f/2.4 ultrawide.

There’s a small difference though: the Mi 9T Pro has laser autofocus. This might not sound like much but taking photos with the Mi 9T Pro felt snappier and photos turn out sharper. It’s an understated but very important improvement.

Unlike with the Mi 9T, I didn’t experience errors while using the Mi 9T Pro’s camera

The camera does well with food subjects

But it’s honestly even better with the telephoto lens

Night Mode works really well

But sometimes, it doesn’t do photos justice

The highlights in the neon signs were dimmed after turning on the Night Mode, which made the shots worse.

Using Night Mode on the telephoto lens is great, too

I really love how it captured the filament in these two light bulbs and produced the right amount of shadows and blur in the background.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The maxed-out 128GB/6GB configuration of the Mi 9T Pro is priced at PhP 20,490, while the 64GB/6GB configuration currently retails at PhP 18,990 — which is just a PhP 1,500 difference from Mi 9T’s 128GB/6GB.

A lot of people have been calling the Mi 9T Pro as 2019’s true flagship killer, not just because of its top of the line specs but also because of its affordable price tag.

If you want to have a powerful smartphone with a bright display, snappy cameras, and unparalleled software experience without spending that much, the Mi 9T Pro is for you. If you don’t need the faster chipset and just want an overall great device, then go for the Mi 9T.

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Reviews

Vivo NEX 3 Unboxing and Review

Vivo continues to innovate

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This is our Vivo NEX 3 Unboxing and Review.

Last year, just in time for the World Cup, the Vivo NEX was born. A play on the word NEXT, it was a showcase of their innovative chops and a taste of what was yet to come in a phone that you could already buy.

In the span of just over a year we’ve seen its iterations and this month, Vivo launched a new NEX. What new innovations does it have up its sleeves?

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