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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Computers

Apple M2 Mac mini Review

More Affordable, More Powerful

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Apple silently revealed the 2023 M2 Mac mini to the world.

Back in 2005, the Mac mini G4 was the cheapest Mac you can buy for US$ 499.

Almost 18 years after, the Mac mini still is the cheapest Mac at just US$ 599.

That’s still a lot of savings versus buying a US$ 1299 iMac.

The biggest difference? The newest Mac mini runs two of the most powerful chips right now — the M2 and M2 Pro.

But is it actually the right Mac for you?

Watch our Apple M2 Mac mini review now!

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Gaming

Forspoken review: Outspoken with little to speak of

Wait for a sale

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Forspoken

It doesn’t take a lot to create a decent roleplaying game. All you need is a fish-out-of-water character, a vast open map, and a seemingly endless list of objectives. Though it has all three, Forspoken struggles to keep up with its pretenses as a Western roleplaying game.

First, the good

Credit to where it’s due, Forspoken is a fun game for the first few sections. Exploring the incredibly huge map with magical parkour is enjoyable. Eclipsed only by Elden Ring’s Torrent, magic parkour is one of the most innovative ways to quickly traverse large distances, especially after learning more advanced techniques.

Likewise, fighting balanced enemies with limited powers provides enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes in Athia. Neither the player nor the first enemies feel overpowered.

Unfortunately, the game’s novelty quickly evaporates after you figure out that you have to repeat the same motions dozens upon dozens of times. Forspoken’s map is much larger than it ever should have been. Though abundant in number, every point of interest is separated by large distances, some platforming challenges, and a battle sequence. The greater map is empty. Do this over and over, and the game gets stale quick. With adequate rewards, this shouldn’t be a problem, but Forspoken also suffers from a communication issue.

A communication issue

For most roleplaying games, completing an objective on the map usually nets palpable rewards for the player: a significant experience boost, new skills, new gear, or a bag of loot. An open-world game necessitates a lot of exploring. Even if a game is repetitive, earning substantial rewards is satisfying, at least. Forspoken does not have this — not in an easily discernible way, at least.

Treasure chests, which account for most of the points of interest on the map, reward players with a litany of crafting materials. Most of which will go unused because the game doesn’t easily tell players how to use them. After a dozen hours of collecting materials, I had a wealthy cache of each ingredient to make practically anything. Even then, I had little idea where each one went.

The map’s major rewards — new cloaks, new nail arts, and experience — also do little to explain how Frey improves with each completed objective. Clearing out an enemy camp, for example, rewards players with +1 magic. The game does not tell you how much damage that conveys. Certainly, after completing a few of these, Frey feels stronger, but it’s not easy to see how much stronger, especially when most enemies are bullet sponges with absurd health pools anyway.

Plus, these don’t even scratch the surface of objectives wherein the main reward is literally just a lore dump you have to read from a menu.

Forspoken

Difficulty shouldn’t always mean more enemies

Another issue with clearing out Athia’s large map is how Forspoken handles difficulty. Though there are options to adjust difficulty, the game relies on a limited bag of tricks to make it more difficult for players: increasing enemy health and quantity. In moderation, relying on this strategy works. However, Forspoken does this to an obnoxious level.

Prepare to fight five mini-bosses in one encounter for a lore entry. What compounds this issue more is an insane enemy health pool which causes encounters to last a lot longer than they should. One mini-boss encounter took me 15 minutes, even with appropriately leveled gear and the right spells.

Because of the sheer number of enemies, an encounter can stun-lock Frey for an absurd amount of time. The player can hardly prevent this since it relies on chance. Despite offering a wide array of moves, the risk of knockbacks shoehorn players into a slow run-and-gun tactic (which might not even play into an enemy’s weaknesses), instead of using each ability to the max.

On paper, Forspoken’s combat offers a fluid way to take down enemies by seamlessly switching between spells and moving through the battlefield with magic parkour. Unfortunately, an imbalance in enemy strategies bogs the game down in prolonged sequences that often reward players with only middling boosts.

Forspoken

A lack of optimization

For a game released on modern hardware, Forspoken took a while to launch. The game was delayed a few times. Given how delays often work, you’d think that it would release in a fairly optimized state. It’s not.

Though I haven’t hit major game-breaking bugs, there were a number of performance dips throughout the game. Even on performance-focused settings, framerates dropped to a standstill when there were high particle effects on screen. Frey constantly clipped through the terrain and found herself stuck on finnicky edges (which sometimes required reloading from previous saves).

The game is also dragged down by numerous cutscenes. Though not a bug per se, it’s not a great sign of optimization that the game has to pause for a cutscene just to show enemies arriving. For a game featuring fluid movement and combat, Forspoken often takes players out of the action by pausing for unnecessary cutscenes.

Forspoken

Better on sale

Overall, Forspoken is persistently flawed. However, amid the game’s shortcomings, the title still has an exciting combat and movement system. Plus, if you disregard the tedious open world, Forspoken’s linear story, featuring the wide range of abilities, are enjoyable. My interest always bounces back after beating one of the game’s main bosses.

Still, it’s hard to call Forspoken a game worthy of its AAA price tag. It might be better to wait for a discount.

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Computers

MSI Summit E16 Flip review: Creator on the go

A plethora of ways to be as productive and creative as possible

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We all love a good 2-in-1 device that gives us everything we need all in one go. From portability to productivity, devices like these truly bring out the best in everyone no matter what kind of use case you throw at it. Such is the case for MSI, a brand notably known for gaming hardware but has their fair share of productivity-focused laptops, as well.

One such 2-in-1 device under MSI’s portfolio is the MSI Summit E16 Flip, complete with hardware and features for the more well-rounded user out there. With a rather slim form factor, the device would ideally mix both portability and productivity in one. Also, it comes with some external hardware that elevates the productivity just a bit further, as well.

With all these in mind, is the MSI Summit E16 Flip a worthy option for all your productivity needs?

Performing above expectations

The MSI Summit E16 Flip performs rather fantastically for any given situation; whether you’re working or watching, it has the hardware to keep up. Inside this machine is a 12th generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM — a standard for most productivity-laden devices. Most applications run smoothly on this device, which is expected as a daily driver for most tasks.

It also comes with a 16:10, QHD+ anti-glare display, which does provide a bigger canvas for multitasking with multiple windows open. This IPS touch display is quite bright and color-accurate, especially at peak brightness and in broad daylight. Whether you’re working during the day or watching movies at night, this device is perfect for these activities.

Gaming and creating on the go

Much like all other MSI laptops, the MSI Summit E16 Flip comes with a dedicated NVIDIA RTX 3050Ti GPU inside. Although not as powerful as oher mobile GPUs, this one packs a punch for a good balance of gaming performance with high quality graphics. When throwing in Esports titles, the device poured in high frame rates suited for competitive play.

Of course, a powerful GPU also enables greater performance when editing photos and videos in high quality, as well. This is also helped out by the display having a 165Hz refresh rate with a 1ms response rate, so you don’t miss out on any out of place pixels. From our tests, render times for HD videos were decent enough — about 2 minutes for a 15-second video with many visual elements.

A pen and large display for your notes

Part of the package for the MSI Summit E16 Flip is the addition of the MSI Pen for those who prefer a pen over a mouse/trackpad. This additional accessory links up quite quickly, and lasts for more than a day on a full charge. Also, it comes with a few magnetized areas so it sticks to the side of the laptop or the top of the display for ease of access.

Ideally, you’d need something like the MSI Pen if you’re more into drawing illustrations or taking down handwritten notes — and it shows. From legible handwriting to brush strokes, the device was able to pick up on these inputs well. It even supports other Windows gestures like zoom, drag, and multi-select — essentially replicating the wide trackpad.

Although, from our usage of the device, the display has this slight problem with rejecting palms on top of it. While writing with the MSI Pen, it is natural to rest your palm somewhere on the display yet even inputs from that get picked up. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be wary of.

Lasts decently long for consistent productivity

Longevity is another thing the MSI Summit E16 Flip provides, specifically on the battery side of things. Throughout our usage of the device, on normal usage, it lasts around 10-11 hours which is pretty decent for the hardware. Accounting for higher quality videos playing, the device lasted for 9-10 hours on average.

When gaming full time or even rendering higher quality videos, the battery does take a hit, as expected. For full time video rendering, it drained its battery after three and a half hours on average, while gaming cut it down to around two to three hours.

Although, if you need to get back into your productivity workflow, the MSI Summit E16 Flip restores its battery quickly with the charger it comes with. On average, charging the device took around two hours from nothing to full, which should put you back in action.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Starting PhP 130,999, the MSI Summit E16 Flip has everything you need in a 2-in-1 device when you’re on the move. From the hardware to the accessories, it’s a well-rounded machine designed for the multihyphenated or those who work and play hard. Also, its overall design makes it a bit easier to bring around.

If money isn’t entirely an issue, this laptop is one great upgrade option out there both as a work machine and a creator hub. Accessory-wise, the MSI Pen should be on your list of must-haves when purchasing this device, in case a mouse doesn’t suit your liking.

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