Reviews

Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime review

Published

on

Playing around with the Galaxy J7 Prime confused me in several ways. Is this supposed to be part of Samsung’s entry-level series, or is it trying to bite off more than it can chew as a midranger? In the end, it didn’t really matter; I had loads of fun.

And that’s the thing: The J7 Prime will constantly mesmerize you with features you’d find in more expensive smartphones, only to pull you back to reality with its shortcomings. Let’s break it down to a few points.

It plagiarizes more expensive Galaxy phones to a fault

A lot of my time with this handset was spent marveling at how nice the smooth metal body feels. I honestly thought it was made of plastic when I first held the phone, but that’s just a testament to how well balanced and comfortable it is to hold. Never did I feel underwhelmed by the build quality — until it slipped out of my hand a couple of times.

Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime (5)

I strongly suggest buying a grippy case for the J7 Prime. As great as the metal back feels, thanks in part to its curved edges, it’s terribly slippery and can’t withstand dents too well. You’ll lose out on the excellent texture, but it’s for the best if you care about aesthetics.

The 5.5-inch 1080p display applies the same slightly curved edges, which are enough for my fingers to slide along when accessing pesky side menus. Only drawback is the use of a TFT LCD panel, which doesn’t provide the wide viewing angles you’d find on the more common IPS panels. Fortunately, the screen doesn’t overly saturate colors like on most Samsung handsets equipped with AMOLED displays.

One oddity is the placement of the lone loud speaker. Samsung decided to place it above the power button on the side, instead of on the bottom edge or rear. It’s only when I watched YouTube videos in both portrait and landscape orientations when I realized how strategically placed it is: No hands can cover up the speaker. It can get pretty loud, too.

Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime (2)

Can’t get rid of its entry-level feel

As well thought-out the design cues are, you’re constantly reminded where the J7 Prime really stands.

For one, while I’m overjoyed to have a fingerprint sensor conveniently placed on the physical home button, it’s awfully picky. And even if you do place you finger properly, there’s a noticeable delay in unlocking the phone. It doesn’t help that it only accepts three fingerprints in total, limiting your alternatives.

The lag carries over to the overall performance. Samsung has done a decent job reducing the bloat of its user interface, but the combination of the in-house Exynos 7870 octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM wasn’t consistent. Games like Pokémon Go and Asphalt 8: Airborne were riddled with jittery animations, while the camera and heavy social media apps (looking at you, Facebook) ran perfectly fine.

Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime (4)

While on the topic of performance, both the front-facing and rear cameras (8 and 13 megapixels, respectively) are better than expected. It’s clear that their photos suffer from noise under poor lighting conditions and focusing is hit or miss without any laser-guided system; however, the speed they run at is impeccable.

By double-tapping the home button, you can enter the camera app in an instant, whether the phone is active or locked. Reviewing photos after being shot is snappy, as well. We don’t have any video proof of our process, so check out these sample images instead:

One feature makes up for some losses

This being a budget-conscious Android, a few cuts had to be made. There’s no NFC for easy pair-ups; no gyroscope to get some games and virtual reality apps to work; no ambient light sensor to automatically adjust screen brightness; and absolutely no form of quick charging.

I was able to get by without the first three, but the last one irked me a bit. You see, the J7 Prime takes a long time to charge its 3300mAh battery — nearly three hours from zero to full. The good news is a single charge can last more than a day with around five hours of screen-on time if you remember to manually lower the display brightness while indoors.

Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime (3)

In exchange for the missing features, Samsung included something most manufacturers fail to add: slots for two nano-SIM cards and a microSD card, all at the same time. This is such an underrated necessity, and trumps the hybrid setups that force you to choose between a second SIM card or expanded storage to fit alongside the first LTE-compatible SIM.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Although it isn’t exactly budget-friendly, the borderline midranger is perfect for anyone wanting to step up from a entry-level plastic phone. I can easily forgive the performance hiccups for its premium-ish design, but with similarly priced options from ASUS, OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi offering features that the J7 Prime lacks, you have to first figure out how detrimental the aforementioned setbacks are.

Also consider that paying a little more brings you closer to Samsung’s higher-end Galaxy C and A series smartphones, which cover up most of the J7 Prime’s weaknesses. Looking down the price ladder, the cheaper Galaxy J7 is also worthy of a mention. Its primary downgrades are lower resolutions for the display and selfie shooter, and a non-metal build.

Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime

I must also stress that the Galaxy Note 7 disaster shouldn’t prevent you from looking at another Samsung. Yes, the image is tarnished, but let’s set the hate and conspiracy theories aside in favor of a well-designed handset like the J7 Prime.

The Galaxy J7 Prime is available in India, Vietnam, and the Philippines for INR 18,790, VND 6,290,000, and PHP 13,990, respectively. The amount of storage and Android version you get depend on where you buy it; the Philippine unit we reviewed came with 32GB and 6.0.1 Marshmallow.

[irp posts=”3940" name=”Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro review”]

Gaming

Kingdom Hearts III review: More for long-time fans

It didn’t spark joy

Published

on

I played the first Kingdom Hearts game for a grand total of around 40 minutes, so I don’t think I can qualify that as actually playing. I didn’t have my own PlayStation 2 at the time so I was mostly watching my friend play, waiting for him to wrap up so I could beat him on NBA Live.

However, it’s such a popular game that it was impossible for me to not at least be familiar with the premise. I did play my fair share of Final Fantasy games and like most people, Disney titles and characters aren’t complete strangers to me.

Ready to take on some Heartless!

I didn’t have any major expectations jumping into Kingdom Hearts III, but I thought the way the Disney levels are woven in would at least be clever. It was not.

The backstory is massive

The first thing you need to consider when coming into this game is that you’re stepping into a massive pile of backstory. It can be hard to catch up to. If, like me, this is your first game in the franchise, it will be like watching Avengers: Infinity War without seeing even at least a quarter of the movies that led to it.

That said, the game is aware that it has tons of lore to get into. Right in the title screen you’ll see a Memory Archive which is a chapter by chapter summary of the Kingdom Hearts story. It’s best watched in its entirety which means sitting through over 20 minutes of backstory. For the most part, it does its job of catching you up. If that’s not enough, there are several story-so-far videos on YouTube. This one I liked in particular.

Despite all of these recaps available, no amount of summarizing can truly prepare you for the tangled mess that is the Kingdom Hearts lore. During certain parts, it even feels like the game is self-aware of how much of a mess it is and pokes fun at itself. That’s one of the more entertaining aspects of the game, intentional or not.

The story just isn’t gripping enough

This is my main gripe with the game. After playing titles like God of War, Detroit: Become Human, and Marvel’s Spider-Man — all of which had stories and characters that you will inevitably invest in as you play — Kingdom Hearts III’s story pales in comparison.

I understand the comparison may not be fair. The games I mentioned are either standalone stories (Detroit and Spider-Man) or a fresh start to a long-running franchise (God of War). Given all of that, I can’t help but feel the storytelling could have been so much better.

The way I feel about Kingdom Hearts III is similar to how I felt about Final Fantasy XV which, coincidentally, was initially helmed by the same guy behind Kingdom Hearts — Tetsuya Nomura. The story’s pacing felt off and it went into places that maybe it shouldn’t have.

There’s also something off about the dialogue during cutscenes. I felt the characters were talking so much slower than usual and it invites zoning out if you’re not that into the story.

That’s a thing? Okay.

If you’re a long-time fan of the franchise and have played most, if not all, of the games and feel differently than I do, then that’s all good. In fact, I’m really interested to hear what the likes of you thought about the game.

The Disney stuff can be fun

It’s not all bad. After I realized the story isn’t gonna spark joy in me whatsoever, I started treating each Disney level as a non-canon mini-game. That made me enjoy it for what it had to offer.

Some levels felt like rushed versions of the original films with Kingdom Hearts lore thrown into the mix. Others offered some value-add to the stories we already know and love, and that truly made it more fun to play.

There’s also enough variation in each level that can make you forget you can get through most of the game by just smashing X and pressing △. The animations during battle look super flashy and the combat has a few other options you can tinker with if you get tired of smashing X.

Might be made more for long-time fans

I suspect this game was really made as more of a pay-off for long-time fans than an opportunity to acquire new ones. That’s perfectly fine. In fact, playing Kingdom Hearts III made me crave another good Final Fantasy game, but perhaps one that features tight turn-based combat versus an action RPG (role playing game) type.

Is there a game where Kairi actually does something?

There are plenty of ways to have fun with Kingdom Hearts III, but the story — which I believe should be paramount in RPGs — just isn’t one of the them. If you’re just coming into the franchise through this game, I suggest you play it for the fun Disney levels and just push the overarching story to the side.  The visual spectacle in this game is off the charts, so go ahead and enjoy that too.

By now, long-time fans would have already bought the game. If you’re one of those who are still deciding whether to get it or not, I suggest waiting a little longer for the price to drop. If you simply can’t wait, I recommend getting a second-hand copy which would also be cheaper. But whatever you decide to do, may your heart be your guiding key.

Continue Reading

Laptops

ASUS ZenBook 15 review: Everything you need in a laptop?

With great power, comes all the caveats in between

Published

on

Very few laptops have everything a person would ever need out of it. Whether it’s just for typing Word documents or playing all the latest games, only a handful of laptops fit the bill. ASUS has one laptop to offer, which was announced back in IFA 2018.

The ASUS ZenBook 15 has almost every piece of hardware for everyone. But is a device powered by a powerful Intel processor and a gaming-ready graphics card really worth it? Let’s find out.

Same premium design through the years

ASUS dubs their ZenBook lineup as its top-of-the-line Ultrabook. Through the years, ZenBooks have retained their premium design and feel. So when I got the chance to try the new ZenBook 15 (UX533) out, I expected nothing less — and I was impressed. The build quality of the device is great, with a sturdy metal-plastic chassis that shows little to no flex. It even feels light to bring around, at only 1.59kg.

My unit has the Icicle Silver finish that shows off the elegance of the laptop. There is an option to get it in the bolder Royal Blue color, but it will definitely feel like you own a premium device the moment you set your eyes on it.

The only real change the company implemented was the addition of the ErgoLift. Essentially, it frees up space for the laptop to release hot air instead of blasting them on the table or your lap. It’s also supposed to make the bottom-facing speakers sound better, although this really wasn’t the case when I used it.

It almost has everything for everyone

The ZenBook 15 is one powerful machine, from the inside out. My unit comes with an eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor and 16GB of RAM. This configuration alone guarantees superb performance, and the ZenBook 15 did not disappoint. Typing Word documents, surfing the web, even photo and video editing felt like a breeze with this machine. You can play games here too, but let’s save that discussion for later.

On the outside, you have a 15-inch Full HD anti-glare NanoEdge display — perfect for outdoor use at full brightness. It comes in a resolution of 1920 by 1080, a full 16:9 display with tiny bezels on the side.

It’s also equipped with a full-size backlit keyboard, with the number pad separated from the trackpad — unlike its 13-inch and 14-inch variants.

The ZenBook 15 does come with three USB Type-A ports and one USB Type-C port that supports external displays; however, it would have been better to make it as Thunderbolt port to fully maximize the potential. The laptop also comes with a dual-band Wi-Fi card, although an additional Ethernet port would have been nice, as well.

It’s got game, but it really destroys your battery life

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the ZenBook 15 is the fact that it comes with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Max-Q. With this graphics chip, gaming on this laptop actually feels pretty damn good. It managed to get competitive frame rates for fast-paced games like Fortnite, PUBG, and Rocket League, all with high settings. But, don’t expect the same from AAA titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Also, there is a significant increase in the laptop’s overall temperature with longer than 30 minutes of play time. The left side of the laptop felt so hot, it’s almost like you could fry an egg on it. Of course, playing for long hours on this device drains the 73Wh battery significantly faster. I got about nine to ten hours on regular use, and only two to three hours on full game mode.

The camera is honestly only good for Windows Hello

The ZenBook 15 comes with an 3D infrared HD camera that supports Windows Hello. The infrared sensors were great at facial recognition, and Windows Hello felt really easy to set up and use. But, the camera was lackluster when taking photos and videos. It only seems passable to use for video calls, but the overall image quality just doesn’t equate to HD.

The bottom-facing speakers could be better

The two Harman/Kardon speakers on the ZenBook 15 are placed on the bottom side, facing the table or your lap. Sound quality is impressive until you turn it to maximum. Apart from that, I was expecting that they would sound better because of what ErgoLift supposedly does for them.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For PhP 89,995 (US$ 1,720), the ASUS ZenBook 15 jams almost everything you need in a premium device. And for that price you get the highest, most powerful configuration possible. Anyone can do pretty much anything with the hardware that comes with it. Apart from that, its elegant design and lightweight body make it a perfect on-the-go device. 

If you’re low on cash, you can also get the 14-inch ZenBook 14 for PhP 77,995. It only has 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card that offers similar, but less powerful overall performance. But, you do get the illuminated number pad on the touchpad.

Of course, that is if you don’t mind the otherwise average camera and fryer-like temperatures with heavy gaming. However, if you’re looking for a laptop that can handle anything, the ZenBook 15 is for you!

Continue Reading

Apps

Trying out the Gixo Fitness App: A personal fitness trainer on your smartphone

Get fit on your phone!

Published

on

I know how demanding working out can be. Especially for those who are just about to start their fitness journey, it can get pretty hard learning even just the basics. And then, there’s also getting yourself to the gym — believe me, I know how it feels to drag my feet out the door on the way to an exercise class.

What if you could make it all easier for you? Saddle up, ladies. This is an app that will allow you to get exercising all through your smartphone.

Introducing: The Gixo Fitness App

Like most exercise apps, Gixo will allow you to pick out different workouts depending on your exercise preference.

Because I was in the middle of a crazy work week when I tried out the app, I figured yoga would be a great way to clear my mind and get my body relaxed.

I picked out a class I liked and it was as simple as that. Of course, there were different classes available ranging from kickboxing to strength training, to HIIT, and even weight training — perfect if you’re not into only one activity.

Since I was working out to an app, this meant I got to exercise anywhere! I set up a yoga mat in a corner of that week’s office space-slash-studio (like I said, busy work week!) and started the class.

It was a very relaxing 15-minute class, just what I needed to refresh my mind and get the blood flowing.

For a mid-week work breather, these short classes are perfect. But, if you want a more intense workout, Gixo still delivers. There are different fitness levels and class length also vary with some classes running up till 60 minutes.

As good as this all sounds, however, it’s not even Gixo’s best workout feature.

Trying out a live class

Gixo’s strength lies in the fact that you can sign on for live classes. You heard that right: You can look through a number of different scheduled classes and join whatever tickles your fancy.

These live classes are headed by actual coaches that will instruct you as you go. For this beginner class, Coach Aaron was facilitating.

The beauty of it all is that this isn’t just a person who will talk you through the exercise — watching a YouTube video can do that! The app actually allows you to communicate with the coaches during class via chatting. Communication is two-way which allows for more interactive classes.

So how it works is you have a live coach facilitating a class and based on what you signed up for, you can follow along and ask questions. On the screen, you’ll have your coach and exercise visuals to help you along.

You can also turn on your phone camera so your coach can check in on you and give you comments about your form and the actual workouts you’re on.

And because it’s highly involved, you also get to input the number of reps or even change workout locations — perfect for coached running classes!

Changing to an outdoor location switches up the workout screen

Though I’ve used fitness apps (and a lot of them) before, I’ve never really had a live coach walk me through things via an app. In fact, I don’t think any other exercise app offers the same thing. It’s a pretty cool fitness innovation, really, and I’m still geeking over how no one has thought about this setup before.

For those who want even more fitness motivation, there are also exercise challenges that span weeks that you can sign up for. Gixo allows you to pick out a set time for weekdays and weekends and you simply follow along

Final verdict

So will the Gixo app actually get you those rock hard abs you’ve always dreamed about? Well, yes and no.

The whole experience can seem pretty weird at first but it doesn’t take long for you to get used to the setup. Think of it as video calling your fitness coach; you basically get the same interaction without having to leave the comfort of wherever you are. Gixo basically takes away one big step from the working out equation and, as we all know, any help in the exercise department is a big help.

Some would contend that having and being on your phone during workouts is counterproductive. But, think about it: You’re still working out and it’s an app that will allow you these workouts anywhere at your own convenience. There’s literally no excuse now because you only need to fire up Gixo on your phone and you get live, personal fitness exercise training right then and there. Talk about not having excuses! In addition, Gixo will send you workout summaries so you’re always reminded of just how much exercising you’re actually doing.

Of course, the bottom line is that Gixo can only do so much. It’s up to you to do those exercises and get your body in tip-top shape with the inclusion of those abs you dream about so much. To be perfectly honest, though, Gixo already does a lot: It’s an app that has someone literally watching you (in a non-freaky, coaching way) while you do your exercises. If that’s not making it easy for you to meet your fitness goals, I’m not entirely sure what will.

Continue Reading

Trending