Features

The Galaxy Fold is real: Weekend Rewind

And it’s pretty darn expensive

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Here are the top stories on GadgetMatch this week.

1. Samsung unpacked… err… unfolded the future with Galaxy Fold

Yes, we expected Samsung to release a foldable smartphone. What we didn’t see coming is that they would open the Galaxy S10 event with the Galaxy Fold.

No, this isn’t just a concept anymore. Samsung demoed a working device on stage and said the device will be on sale starting April 26 at a staggering but also unsurprising price of US$ 1,980.

It’ll be interesting to see how other brands respond to the Galaxy Fold. Watch out for our MWC 2019 coverage so we can all find out together.

2. Samsung Galaxy S10 cameras tie Huawei’s flagships

Looks like Samsung is determined to hold on to its top smartphone maker reputation with its latest flagship Galaxy S10 tying Huawei flagship numbers on DxOMark. In fact, it even leads in the selfie camera department. That’s made possible with an overall score of 109 for the rear cameras and 96 for the front shooters.

However, the S10 isn’t just about its cameras. Watch our hands-on to get a good idea on how well-rounded a phone it is.

3. Xiaomi pre-empted Samsung with the Mi 9

Xiaomi almost came out of nowhere when they announced their first 2019 flagship — the Xiaomi Mi 9 — right before Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Unpacked event.

The Mi 9 had more than enough to grab hold of your attention with flagship specs: Snapdragon 855 and a 48MP camera among other things. And since it’s Xiaomi, it’s bound to be cheaper than the other flagships that will come out between now and MWC 2019.

Xiaomi’s a disruptor and they did a good job disrupting with the Mi 9.

4. Huawei building up anticipation for the P30

Not to be outshone by Samsung and Xiaomi, Huawei has been constantly releasing bread crumbs about its upcoming flagship for all of us to chew on.

The P30 series is set to launch on March 26. As early as this week, the Chinese company even confirmed a quad-camera setup after showcasing a really close-up photo of the super snow moon.

All the teasers point to an improved zoom or telephoto lens for the P30. That’s something we’re definitely excited to test.

Image credit: Fujifilm

5. Fujifilm’s X-T30 could be people’s mirrorless camera choice

Fujifilm’s cameras have always been pretty darn good, but this latest one from them could be a big hit. The X-T30 is a lightweight 4K mirrorless camera, making it a perfect travel companion wherever you go.

The Fujifilm X-T30 will be available in March starting at US$ 899 for the body only. It’ll go up to US$ 999 when bundled with an XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS lens, or US$ 1,299 when bundled with an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

Gaming

I’ve lost hope in getting a next-gen console for the foreseeable future

On shortages, scalpers, and struggles from all over the place

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next-gen

If you already have any of the next-generation consoles, you may read this if you wish. But for most of us, myself included, we all shared a collective struggle to snag one of the two highly-anticipated consoles late last year. Unfortunately, such struggle continued even into the new year, even when Sony and Microsoft were pretty optimistic about it to start.

Don’t get me wrong: the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are part of the future of console gaming. We’re talking technologies and hardware that supposedly rivals that of any gaming PC build for more than half the price. Even with a limited game library, game developers are adopting the next-gen consoles moving forward.

However, at launch, almost all units sold out in an instant — and the reasons are quite obvious. Months prior to launch, these companies stated numerous reasons for shortages on launch day. People like me were hopeful that restocking inventory would come soon enough, and would be enough for everyone all over the world.

But why are we still struggling to find a next-gen console?

Believe it or not, this struggle to simply purchase a next-generation console isn’t entirely on the industry itself. Sure, they’re running low on production staff, worldwide deliveries are a little messy right now — but that’s not 100 percent on them anyway. In case most people forgot, there’s still a COVID-19 pandemic happening in most parts of the world.

The pandemic put the video game industry on hold for a bit, as production for the next-gen consoles took a heavy hit. Because of remote working conditions and factories shutting down, Sony and Microsoft went out and said that launch day units will be scarce. I thought that they would just simply delay the launch, but nope — they still wanted to launch in November, on the exact day.

And yet, the next-gen consoles ended up being well-received by everyone — especially the ones that were either sent a unit, or successfully bought one. Both consoles sold out on launch day, mostly due to online pre-orders on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and other retailers. Even here in the Philippines, eight retailers held online pre-orders and immediately sold out within the 5-minute window.

It’s pretty clear to me that there is a high demand for the next-gen consoles wherever you decide to buy one. However, the companies simply cannot provide regular stock as soon as possible due to a lot of factors — hardware shortage, mostly. Yet, Sony and Microsoft do their best to try and release more stock whenever possible so everyone gets an opportunity to buy one.

next-gen

What do you mean, everyone gets an opportunity?

I remember when Datablitz PH held its first online pre-order for the PlayStation 5 back in November, two weeks before the official release. On the day of the pre-order, I received the email with the link to the pre-order form and instructions on how the process goes. However, I was busy around that time, so I asked my sister to check the link for me.

Then, she texted me saying that every pre-order slot was full, even for the Digital Version. Slots went out so fast, it’s like the 5-minute window was way too long. At the moment, I had no complaints because I expected this to happen. This wasn’t the case for the rest of the internet as they took  their complaints to social media on the online pre-order system.

Another pre-order wave started, so more opportunities, right?

A second wave of pre-orders came in just last January, and I didn’t even bother with it anymore. Instead, I decided to lurk around Datablitz’s Facebook page and see the comments on their restocks and, well nothing changed. The claims were the same as the first time: bots from other buyers, while others are able to log in at an earlier time. There were even some conspiring that retailers had internal agreements with other people about it, which I don’t think is the case.

In essence, not everyone gets a “fair” opportunity at grabbing a next-gen console. It sucks that this has been a regular occurrence with premium items like this, and yet no concrete actions have been taken. But, I was thinking that maybe we’re looking at the wrong culprits here.

It isn’t the pre-order system’s fault entirely, and it’s mostly because this was an initiative by Sony and Microsoft given the pandemic situation. We’re trying to contain the virus here, and staying indoors for the most part is the best way moving forward. Still, I think they could have improved the process with every new run.

Wait, how come they have an abundance of stock of the next-gen console?

Instead, allow me to direct your attention to the scalpers themselves; you know, people selling you things for an insanely higher price. You’ve seen these people on a Facebook Marketplace or on Shopee, promoting that they have a next-gen console ready for you. Some of them even go out of their way to offer you a complete bundle to save you the hassle!

It’s not just these people that are participating in the grand sweepstakes for a next-gen console. In addition, there are also these (let’s just call them) unauthorized resellers who also somehow have stock of these consoles. While some of them do sell the console at either a fair or much lower price, there are those that don’t tell you that you have to pay extra fees for them.

PlayStation 5

In essence, these people manage to give you what you want: a next-gen console. The catch, however, is that you have to satisfy these two conditions to get it: be a sure buyer, and be ready to spend tons of money getting it. 

But, I thought that next-gen consoles were in shortage?

That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I kept seeing some of these “sellers” on social media. The fact that they have nearly tens to hundreds of units every other week just makes it hard to believe. Even when both Sony and Microsoft declared a shortage for the next couple of months, the grind continues for these “businesses.”

I say that they’re a business because these sellers claim to be such entities. They’re somehow able to capture a need present in their market, and provide the product or service to address it. As with most businesses, they determine the price such products or services are offered through extensive research and planning. For scalpers and unauthorized sellers, however, price setting is the easy part.

These entities will seek to supply everyone with as many units as possible, and they’ll find ways to procure them in bulk. You know how people were complaining that bots are taking their stock for online pre-orders? Well, some online retailers and news agencies are aware of such technologies being abused that way.

In my own experience asking one of these unauthorized sellers, they told me that they’re supposedly closely linked to the manufacturers. Also in some cases, they are not giving me a full rundown of any additional fees nor any proof of such. Yet, they expect me to simply abide by the payments since I got it for cheaper. In essence, they achieve the same thing as scalpers do by paying more than official retailers.

So, what now? Should we just wait for regular stock?

Admittedly, I’m already thinking that regular stocks of the next-gen console won’t be here for another 7-8 months or so. It’s not just because of the already announced shortages in hardware. Rather, it’s the fact that there is a higher chance that scalpers will get a hold of them first.

I feel like these companies were pretty clear on how they want the next-gen consoles to be received. In my opinion, they truly want to give everyone access to the future of gaming; that maybe you don’t need to spend insane amounts of money for crisp, clean gameplay. You know, something that you can do on a gaming PC but on a much cheaper yet strategic price tag.

PlayStation 5

Yet, these scalpers and unauthorized resellers simply want to make a profit off a need like this. Cry about it all we want, but these people exist and some people partake in their businesses. They’ve practically turned the next-gen console into a true luxury, something that the industry and some governments are trying to go against. 

I’ve lost hope in trying to get the next-gen console for this year, or possibly while the shortages are still in effect. At this point, I’d rather spend that money somewhere else, or invest it in the stock market. We could wait for regular stock all we want, but if scalpers keep getting these from us, there’s just no hope.

SEE ALSO: A somber look at the PlayStation 5 crisis

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Explainers

What you need to know about Elon Musk’s Starlink

The much-awaited internet service is coming sooner than later

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Image by GadgetMatch

Over the last few weeks, reports started pouring in about the possible arrival of Starlink internet service to the Philippines under a partnership between Converge ICT and SpaceX. These reports came after a senator’s meeting with representatives of SpaceX discussing the benefits, possible timeline, and requirements needed from the internet service.

These reports quickly became the talk of the town especially with the frenzy surrounding Starlink. You may have heard it before given the media attention it had received in the past. SpaceX — the company behind Starlink — promised fast network speeds and coverage almost anywhere around the planet with its internet service. There’s so much more to that though, so here are the things you need to know.

What is Starlink?

For those out of the loop, Starlink is a satellite internet service provided by SpaceX. SpaceX is a company founded by Elon Musk that builds next-gen space exploration technologies. The company is also behind the high-profile launches of reusable rockets as well its plans to bring people to Mars.

Starlink works through a constellation of small satellites. These satellites are placed in low to medium Earth orbit, communicating signals through an array of antennas and lasers. They work in tandem with dedicated ground transceivers to receive from and transmit signals to the satellites. In effect, the internet service relies on satellites instead of physical cables to provide an internet connection to consumers.

Image by GadgetMatch

The technology behind Starlink is not a novel one, with the first satellite internet service dating back to the 1990s. However, most of these services ultimately failed due to logistical constraints and the prohibitive costs involved in setting things up. Granted, there had been few services that have seen some success but their adoption is few and far between. Reducing latency and lowering costs for consumers remain major challenges to many satellite internet providers.

Wanting to improve the whole situation, SpaceX began product development of Starlink in 2015. By 2018, it began testing its satellites which culminated in the launch of operational ones last 2019. Just last year, the company reached a milestone by launching up to 60 satellites at a time. This 2021, it is setting its sights for the global coverage of the populated world. Ultimately, SpaceX aims to put about 42,000 satellites in orbit in the future.

One goal of Starlink is to provide people in remote areas with a fast and reliable internet connection, which means a lot for developing countries like the Philippines.

How do I sign-up for the service?

Right now, the company is offering a limited beta service in the US and Canada. If you live in areas where the service is available, you can go ahead and sign-up for the service on Starlink’s website. Not all who signed up can avail of the service though since they are limiting their users at the moment on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you’re lucky, you may receive an email containing further instructions.

What does it feel like to use the service?

During its beta phase, Starlink claims speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps. Latency — which is also a crucial factor in internet-related tasks such as gaming and streaming — ranges from 20ms to 40ms. These figures are far from the advertised 1Gbps speed, as well as the advertised latency of 25ms to 35ms.

Still, those figures are fast enough for everyday use, especially when compared to other satellite internet services. Those figures are also close to the actual experiences by people participating in the limited beta service. For its part, Starlink promises continued improvement to network speed, latency, and software.

Image by GadgetMatch

At the moment, the cost of signing up for Starlink is much higher than availing of a cable internet connection. The satellite setup kit is reported to cost around US$ 499 (PhP 24,000) while monthly fees start at US$ 99 (PhP 5,000). In comparison, PLDT’s internet plans max out at PhP 6,099 for 300Mbps while Globe’s internet plans max out at PhP 9,499 for 1Gbps.

To get connected, Starlink users must configure their setup kits and download the respective app. Each setup kit consists of the satellite dish, Wi-Fi router, power supply, cables, and a mounting tripod.

A clear view of the sky is also a prerequisite for a stable connection. As a note, weather disturbances can affect the connection between the user and the satellite infrastructure.

Starlink also requires its setup equipment to be stationary at all times. This is unlike cellular networks, which are designed to be mobile. While it offers a “wireless” connection to the internet, it still is “fixed” in the sense that it requires constant communication between the transceiver (the satellite dish) and the orbiting satellites.

When is it really coming to the Philippines?

Recent reports suggest that Starlink is coming soon to the country, but no definitive timeline has been given. Rumors suggested that the service will arrive later in Q3 2021. The most recent development squash any hopes of imminent arrival though, with Converge ICT stating that the partnership is still “premature”.

During the later weeks of February, however, Filipinos who signed up for Starlink started receiving a reservation email. The reservation fee costs around US$ 99 (approximately PhP 5,000) though it is fully refundable too. The email also details a possible coverage of the whole country by 2022. The exact date, however, remains unclear at the moment.

Likewise, the internet service still has many obstacles towards its widespread adoption in the country. The initial cost for would-be subscribers comes to mind. As mentioned, the approximate cost of Starlink hovers at PhP 24,000 with a monthly fee amounting to PhP 5,000. For that cost, you are getting better speeds with local telco offerings.

Despite its high cost, the promise of a fast and reliable internet connection is tempting especially in far-flung areas. Reaching out to these far-flung areas is a major challenge for all local telcos since the necessary physical infrastructure is non-existent or hard to setup.  Starlink could reach these areas easily, providing internet connection to those willing to shell out money.

Are there any other things that I should know about the service?

Starlink has garnered some concerns as well, with most directed towards its potential to cause light pollution. The potential to contribute to light pollution is a particular concern for astronomers. Apparently, Starlink’s satellites are bright enough to leave a trail of light, “photobombing” shots of the night sky. To this end, SpaceX said that it is already working on a solution to amend the problem.

As Starlink continues to push forward, more and more people are hoping to get aboard with the service. After all, a fast and reliable internet connection is still far from reality for many people living in remote areas. Hopefully, the service would come sooner as this will greatly improve the current situation of the internet in the Philippines.

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Accessories

Machenike: Best budget peripherals?

Worth it?

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I’ve been wanting to get myself a mechanical keyboard to slowly work towards building a PC from scratch. Of course, this is sensible considering I have a laptop to plug them into. You know, getting the pretentious privileged feel of not struggling amidst a world still in shambles?

So, while the hunt was dreadful on hypothetical money I didn’t have, we stumbled upon an affordable alternative that we didn’t quite expect. But, in a good way–I think.

What is Machenike?

Machenike is a Chinese professional gaming hardware brand. It’s the first established esports hardware brand in China with investors like Haier and partners like Alibaba Groups. Now, Machenike has its fair share of rounds online. But, it’s getting a lot of traction especially when people are looking to upgrade their work-from-home set-ups. With affordability, performance, and aesthetic seemingly in check, are their peripherals really worth the buy? Here are the ones we tried out:

Machenike K7 mechanical keyboard

Let’s put facts out there: there’s no escaping plastic with peripherals. From god-awful unachievable to wallet-saving prices, most peripherals are mainly made of plastic. So, don’t act all surprised to find that Machenike’s mechanical keyboard line is mostly plastic. Considering its price-point, this is kind of a steal.

The Machenike K7 comes in four variants depending on the keyboard color (RGB or Ice-blue) and switch color (blue or black). The keycaps have a matte texture with opaque keycap letters, characters, and controls to show off your pick of color.

Design-wise, the keyboard shows-off its minimalism, unicorn-vomit rainbow aesthetics, and multi-functionality. You can connect it via cable or Bluetooth and play around with RGB settings.

Every click is audible and only requires a reasonable amount of actuation force. Which, you’ll need to make sure you double-check before ordering one (the blue switch is 60g and the black switch is 80g).

Is this the mechanical keyboard for you?

Overall, the keyboard looks and feels great despite low-quality keycaps and unbranded switches. So if you’re looking for a mechanical keyboard but are strapped for cash, this is a really good one.

It’s got great features, a simple and sleek design, and reliable performance under its belt. So, it’s definitely a keeper. The Machenike K7 is on sale on Lazada for just PhP 1,498.

Machenike M6

Machenike M6 and M7 gaming mouse

The Machenike M6 is a wired ultra-light gaming mouse with RGB capability. The mouse comes with four variants depending on color (white or black) and mouse sensitivity (6400 DPI or 16000 DPI).

Meanwhile, the Machenike M7 is a wireless gaming mouse with RGB capability and up to 10 days of battery life. The M7 has three variants depending on mouse sensitivity (2400 DPI or 16000 DPI), OMRON switches (10M or 20M), and battery (600mAh or 1000mAh).

Machenike M7

As for design, the Machenike M6 gaming mouse has a unique honey-comb design that lets the Machenike’s logo and mouse internals peek through. It strikes out more than the M7’s minimalistic black design with RGB accents at the bottom. Both mice are made of plastic but, that comes with the price-point. They’re both minimalistic in design and have customizable features at the bottom.

Overall, they’re both reliable performance-wise and can deliver on accurate use and play. But personally, the M6 is a bit too light for my liking which is more on preference than anything else.

Are these the gaming mouse for you?

Overall, the Machenike M6 and M7 both deliver on your gaming mouse needs despite cheap components. It’s a matter of preference on wired or wireless mouse (although the M7 has a wired option), aesthetics, and weight. So, if you need an affordable gaming mouse, this is definitely a good pick.

The Machenike M6 is on sale on Lazada for PhP999 and the M7 for PhP 1,199

More wins on top of the price

As affordable as the Machenike peripherals are, there are more wins for the brand on delivering your orders within 3 days. This typically isn’t a win elsewhere on the planet but, knowing painful order waiting times on some tech essentials, this is a big fat W for the brand.

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