Reviews

Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro review

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Even though there’s a number nine in its model name, the Galaxy C9 Pro has this interesting obsession with the number six.

Let’s see: 6-inch AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 653 processor, 16-megapixel cameras on the front and back, 64GB of expandable storage, 6.9mm thickness, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and most noteworthy, 6GB of memory.

All these numbers equate to a midrange smartphone that could be mistaken for a premium handset, if not for the average Snapdragon processor — and that’s where the confusion arises.

It’s quite pricey for what it offers

We have to get this out of the way before we go in deep: The Galaxy C9 Pro isn’t affordable. With an SRP of INR 36,900 in India and PhP 27,990 in the Philippines, it’s in borderline flagship pricing territory.

Just look at the alternatives at this price range: Huawei’s brand-defining P9, the high-powered OnePlus 3T, and even the well-rounded ZenFone 3 Zoom from ASUS. That’s some tough company, and all the Galaxy C9 Pro can truly boast is its generous amount of memory.

Performance is what you’d expect

When I first saw the specs sheet, I could already tell what the Galaxy C9 Pro is all about, and I was right. The chipset is more than enough to navigate through the interface, and the 6GB of memory allows you to go back to apps without needing to refresh.

It’s when you fire up graphics-intensive games and max out visual settings that you begin to notice a dip in performance, which is mostly the weakness of the middling processor. The good news is you can switch from heavy games like NBA 2K17 to other apps without any hiccups thanks to the abundance of RAM.

Has a battery that can last

With large proportions comes a big battery — case in point with the Galaxy C9 Pro. I often broke the one-day barrier with about five hours of screen-on time and enough energy left to reach the second day’s afternoon. It’s something you can credit to the combination of the power-efficient processor and Full HD AMOLED display. Fast charging is supported too, allowing you to go from zero to a hundred percent in more or less two hours.

Saturation at its finest

As with any Samsung handset, the Galaxy C9 Pro has one seriously saturated AMOLED panel. It’s six inches of contrast bliss, with colors that can really blow your photos out of realism. The screen does, however, make less dire tasks like gaming and Netflix watching a lot more spectacular. And like other Galaxies, the C9 Pro allows you to tone down the visual levels in the settings menu if you think it’s too much.

A couple of surprises

To our delight, there are three card slots in the Galaxy C9 Pro: two for nano-SIM cards and one for a microSD card. This is a no-compromise setup, and should be the standard for every phone if you think about it. Another pleasant surprise is the strength of the stereo speakers. I could hear every screech and roar of the engine while playing Asphalt Xtreme: Rally Racing, even from a distance.

Split praises for the cameras

Similar to the Galaxy A5 (2017) we reviewed recently, the C9 Pro has similar cameras for the front and back. The 16-megapixel rear camera does a fantastic job boosting colors and taking advantage of its dynamic range. On the other hand, the 16-megapixel front-facing camera produces blurry shots most of the time. And even when it does create a fine-looking selfie, the quality is nowhere near that of the main camera’s.

Design is simply… uninspiring

Finally, it comes down to the aesthetics. Frankly, there’s nothing special to the Galaxy C9 Pro in the looks department. Even if you don’t factor in the astonishing Galaxy S8, the C9 Pro barely gets by with its stale Galaxy design. The usual fingerprint scanner on the home button is there, along with an annoying rear camera bump and plain aluminum body — nothing special to see here.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I mentioned the price near the beginning of this review because I feel it ultimately defines the Galaxy C9 Pro. Whether or not it excels at certain aspects — and it does with app retention and multimedia presentation — it’s difficult to stomach the premium cost it demands.

Aside from the competition we mentioned earlier, adding a little more can net you Huawei’s splendid Mate 9 and digging a little deeper would reward you with last year’s Galaxy S7 Edge at a discounted price.

The choices near this price point are plenty, which, unfortunately, don’t favor the Galaxy C9 Pro. But this isn’t to say the premium midranger isn’t any good. If you’re a heavy multitasker in need of a larger-than-usual display, the C9 Pro makes a strong case — its only one.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review

Camera Shootouts

GoPro HERO 6 Black vs HERO 5 Black Comparison

Which is the action camera for you?

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GoPro is one of the biggest names in sports videography and is a name that first comes to mind when the need for a portable, easy-to-set-up camera arises. Although, the past couple of years were a bit hard for the company as sales plummeted, and after introducing their first-ever drone, some literally fell from the sky.

Still working hard on making another hit, GoPro has returned with their latest action camera, the HERO 6 Black, and it boasts some pretty impressive features. Will it be the saving grace the company needs right now? How does it fare compared to its predecessor, the HERO 5? We answer those questions plus more in this comparison.

Design

On the outside, nothing has changed with the new action camera at all. It’s made of the same robust, rubbery material that’s designed to go underwater for as deep as 10 meters without needing an extra waterproof case. Button placements are carried over — one up top to start recording and another one on its side to switch between shooting modes.

Underneath, the same 1220mAh battery is stored while connectivity ports are on the other side. Even the protective lens is still removable and replaceable. There’s virtually no way of telling the two apart except for the small print on the side of the camera.

Features

The biggest upgrade of the HERO 6 has more to do with output. It can now shoot up to 4K resolution at 60fps, whereas the previous HERO 5 topped out at 4K 30fps. It might seem like a small detail but having the option to shoot smoother video is always a good thing.

Another difference is frame rate. The HERO 5 Black can capture videos at a speedy 240fps but resolution is limited to 720p. The newer HERO 6 Black, on the other hand, can shoot the same 240fps rate at a clearer 1080p resolution.

For more flexibility, the HERO 6 can also shoot at 2.7K at 120fps so you get nice slow-mo video with the ability to resize or re-scale your footage if the need arises. Other features that differentiate the new action camera from its predecessor include better low-light performance and dynamic range.

Video Sample

Of course, all this means nothing if we can’t see for ourselves. I brought both cameras during my travels and you may refer to the embedded video below (starting at 2:46) for some sample video comparisons.

You can easily see that the sky from the HERO 6’s shots is more vibrant than the pale blue color from the HERO 5. There’s also a noticeable difference in exposure. The HERO 5 has darker blacks which, in this case, worked well since it was able to bring out more details on the snowy mountain.

Although both are set to auto white balance, footage from the HERO 5 still turns out to be warmer as seen in the indoor shoot.

In terms of stabilization, the new HERO 6 really stepped up its game to remove unwanted jerks and jitters. The difference is day and night, and it’s impressive how the HERO 6 almost looks like it was mounted on a gimbal thanks to its electronic image stabilization.

Don’t get us wrong, the HERO 5 also has its own EIS, but just not as good as the new flagship’s.

One more thing to notice when the camera’s EIS is turned on is that the HERO 5 needs to crop the image by 10 percent to achieve a smoother shot, while the HERO 6 has improved this and only crops about 5 percent of the original image.

Additionally, stabilization on the HERO 5 can only be used until 2.7K resolution at 60fps, while the HERO 6 supports stabilization until 4K. The only limitation here is that EIS maxes out at 30fps with no support for the higher 60fps.

Onto low-light shooting: Footage taken with the older HERO 5 couldn’t achieve the same level of clarity shot on the HERO 6. Colors are also livelier and digital noise has been reduced significantly on the latter.

Although there were instances, like when we went ice skating, that we preferred the color and details shot by the HERO 5. It looked more natural and the ice on the floor is still visible, unlike the one shot by the HERO 6.

Photo Samples

We now look at some photo samples from both action cameras.

This photo was taken at Italy’s oldest shopping mall and shows a good balance between light and dark areas. We like how the HERO 5 has a higher contrast which added detail to the metal structure of the mall. 

While waiting for a train, we see the sun lighting the Swiss Alps from behind with a dark and shaded station in the foreground. Again, we see a more vibrant blue sky from the HERO 6 with good details.

But look closer on the warning sign in front of you and the HERO 5 was actually able to deliver a better, more legible image. Even when you crop them to 100 percent, the smallest details seem to appear better on the HERO 5.

At night, both proved to be capable shooters, but the HERO 6 showed more details by effectively capturing the cracks on the floor. One thing that I had been complaining about with my HERO 5 is that it easily overshoots light flares, creating an unwanted glow and losing details.

It’s very much distracting here since it washed out the person’s face. Meanwhile, we’re happy that it was addressed on the HERO 6 as it’s clearly the better photo.

Zooming in to 100 percent shows that the green motorcycle has a livelier color and less noise on the HERO 6 compared to its predecessor. Here are more sample photos:

Battery Life

As mentioned earlier in this video, the HERO 6 Black carries the same 1220mAh battery capacity as the HERO 5 Black. So it should technically last for the same amount of time right? Well, no.

We conducted a battery test on the two at full capacities, same video settings, and started recording until they both drained their batteries. After more than an hour and a half, the HERO 6 actually gave up first at 1 hour and 42 minutes while the HERO 5 continued on and reached 2 hours and 5 minutes. That’s 23 minutes of difference and could go a long way in real-world shooting.

Responsible for this result might be the HERO 6’s newer custom processor. Yes, it could produce better dynamic range, low light shots, and stabilize the camera really well — but at the cost of a more power-hungry chip. That’s definitely a trade-off to consider.

Conclusion

So the question here is this: Should you upgrade to a HERO 6 Black from a HERO 5 Black?

Well, you first have to ask yourself the question: Will you be using it to shoot serious action scenes with really fast movement? Are you after the best quality there is? Or are you more of a casual user who just uses a sports camera to document your out-of-town trips?  

 

Because if it’s not for professional work, the HERO 5 Black is more than capable to document all your trips. It’s also worth every penny since it just dropped its price to US$ 299, making it a really attractive offering — not to mention longer battery life.

Although if you plan to use your action videos for broadcast and want to have a lot of flexibility in shooting and editing, then you can’t go wrong with the HERO 6 Black at US$ 399.

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Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8+ (2018) Unboxing and Review

Impressive but expensive

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We’re only a few weeks away from Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona where Samsung will be launching its next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S9.

But not too long ago, Samsung also announced the Galaxy A8 and A8+ (2018), their latest upper-midrange Galaxy A smartphones.

In this review we discuss the phones’ design, camera performance, impressive battery life, and their price tags. So are they your GadgetMatch? Watch and find out!

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Cameras

Polaroid OneStep 2 review: The ultimate throwback camera

Bringing back what’s classic

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When the Polaroid OneStep 2 debuted, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that it was one pretty camera so logically I was instantly drawn to it. (I like beautiful things and quirky cameras.) I previously reviewed the Fujifilm Instax SQ10 and the Polaroid SnapTouch so I was quite curious as to what this classic brand had to offer.

Background

The OneStep 2 is the brainchild of Polaroid Originals. It’s technically that same iconic camera brand but also, it’s technically different. Let me explain.

Throughout the years, Polaroid has made itself known for its cameras — hence the reference in that OutKast song and the reason why Instagram’s very first logo was influenced by a Polaroid camera.

The rise of digital photography, however, wasn’t the best development (pun intended) for a classic camera manufacturer and pretty soon, Polaroid was going out of business — until a startup called Impossible Project swooped in.

Impossible Project was no stranger to the Polaroid brand. It was the same company that kept the film manufacturing process alive when Polaroid announced that they would cease doing so. In 2017, Impossible Project’s main shareholder purchased the Polaroid brand and intellectual property giving birth to Polaroid Originals.

Now, enough of this history lesson and on to the actual camera.

Picture perfect

If you think the OneStep 2 looks familiar, you’re right… and you’re also probably old.

The OneStep 2 is the successor to Polaroid’s original OneStep camera manufactured in the 1970s — one of America’s bestselling ones at the time.

The resemblance is uncanny: The Polaroid OneStep and the Polaroid OneStep 2

Just like the OneStep, the OneStep 2 is an analog camera. Only, there’s a 21st-century twist — namely a lithium-ion battery with a micro-USB port for charging. There are no frills or special functions on this camera, just pure old-school goodness.

Setting up

The camera is pretty straightforward. The big red button up front is the shutter button, there’s a timer switch on the left of the lens and finally, there’s a yellow lighten/darken switch which allows you to adjust photo exposure. On the back of the camera, there’s an on and off switch, a flash override button, and the micro-USB port for charging.

The Polaroid OneStep 2 side by side with a film cartridge

Before anything else, you’re going to need a pack of film. The OneStep 2 uses i-Type film which come in cartridges that house eight shots each.

To load the film, slide the cartridge into the camera. That tiny latch up front opens the film door. It may sound complicated but it isn’t as hard after the first try.

Ready, set, shoot!

The OneStep 2, true to its analog roots, only has a no-frills viewfinder. This can make picture taking pretty tricky; you need just the right angle to take a perfectly framed photo. It also doesn’t help that said angle entails half of your made-up face to be on the back of the camera. (Que horror!)

Press and hold the red button to take a photo and the image will immediately print. There’s no option to edit or save. All you really do after you press the shutter is hope you framed your photo right.

The film comes out of the camera’s front, and now you sit and wait. It takes a few minutes for the photo to develop.

But all that considered, photo taking on this thing is still very fun — that is, if you don’t run out of film. Eight shots is not a lot when you’re still fumbling with a camera that prints each picture automatically. These lights will tell you how much film you have left.

Verdict

Without knowing what the OneStep 2 can do, I am immediately drawn to it. I mean, look at it! It’s so Instagrammable, we probably took more photos of it than from it.

However, if you’re looking for a shooter that will give you the clearest instant print, it won’t be this camera. There’s a certain learning curve on this thing and it takes a while to perfect taking photos — in our case, more than a pack’s worth of film.

Not the most perfect prints but memories nonetheless

I have to be completely honest, though: I enjoyed playing with this camera a lot. There’s just something about instant cameras that make them all so appealing to me.

Now, some might argue that an instant camera launched in this decade should, at least, have more functions. This is what other brands have done in an effort to evolve. But, to apply that standard to the OneStep 2 is completely missing the point. This camera release relives the simple times and takes us back to the nostalgic glory of the Polaroid OneStep. It reminds us of the sentimentality that old-school photography used to have and allows us to experience the same.

The Polaroid OneStep 2 retails for PhP 8,990 in the Philippines and US$ 100 in the US. The film costs PhP 1,490 per pack of eight in the Philippines, and US$ 16 for the same in the US.

SEE ALSO: Fujifilm Instax SQ10 review

SEE ALSO: HP Sprocket Review: The smallest instant printer

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