Reviews

Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime review

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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”]

Laptops

Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen review: 4 months after

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Huawei MateBook D 15

The work from home and online class setup had us all adjusting to this new normal. You’ll see a lot of inquiries on Facebook groups about LED ring lights, microphones and midrange laptop recommendations. Huawei’s MateBook D series is among the ones you’ll see that has gotten a lot of popularity for this purpose.

It makes perfect sense, since back when I first reviewed the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen, I had a lot of good things to say about it. After four months under regular use, there are quite a few more that I came to realize about this device that I think you guys might find interesting.

It can get things done

A quick refresher on its specs, the D 15 2021 we have with us has an 11th gen Core i5 with the Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. 

It’s no question, if you’re just going to use this for online classes or regular zoom meetings, the D 15 probably won’t even break a sweat. However, I consider my power requirements to be somewhat on the heavy side for my photo and video editing needs.

What surprised me was I didn’t find myself having to go back to my main editing workstation and have actually done more work on the D 15 than I expected. It may not be as fast, but it also wasn’t drastically slower.

Plus the fact that this has a more accurate display with its 100 percent sRGB color gamut, the 15.6-inch LED display is perfect for my daily Photoshop use.

Portability also applies at home

Huawei MateBook D 15

Working from home for a long time and looking at the same thing over and over, not having to be able to go to places, had many of us bored and unmotivated. I personally always had that urge to look for another spot just for the change of scenery.

Thankfully, weighing only 1.56kg, it gave me the flexibility for me to place it in different places. I didn’t worry that the surface wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Battery life

The capability to place the D 15 on different places wouldn’t really matter if you’re still stuck near an outlet because you’re constantly required to plug it in. Fortunately, the 42Wh battery of the D 15 keeps us away from the charger for around nine to ten hours before needing to plug it back in.

Huawei addresses issues and gives regular updates

Huawei MateBook D 15

During its time with me, the D 15 had quite a few driver and software updates. Along with one of the updates came a fix for an issue I had with its fingerprint scanner where it frequently had trouble recognizing my fingerprint. While it shouldn’t have had that issue to begin with, the regular updates are an indication that users aren’t abandoned and issues are in fact being addressed on Huawei’s end.

I also learned from Huawei’s website that the MateBook series has a Windows 11 upgrade rollout plan. That’s something nice to look forward to.

Undesirable camera angle

Huawei MateBook D 15

Sadly, not everything is praise worthy on the D 15. The hidden web camera, while innovative, came at the cost of an awful camera angle. Since it is placed on the keyboard, it is also pointed upwards.

Using it, you’ll mostly see an unflattering image of yourself often emphasizing the size of your nostrils.But if you decide that you’d want to use a laptop raiser for a more comfortable viewing angle, the camera won’t be pointed downwards. That’d make it barely usable.

A generous availability of ports

Huawei MateBook D 15

Being the boxing fan that I am, the recent Pacquiao fight had me subscribing for a pay-per-view service. The full sized HDMI port on the D 15 was heaven sent. During the fight as I was able to output the fight on our dated TV set. It let us to enjoy the stream on a bigger screen.

The availability of USB ports on both sides also let us to choose where certain devices can be plugged. We didn’t worry about hitting our external drives with our mouse or fitting multiple USB devices side by side.

Multi-Screen Collaboration

I did not find myself using this feature as much. However, having this capability eliminated the need for me to grab a USB cable to transfer files from my phone. A quick tap of my phone and I was ready to transfer photos I recently. It’s great for some quick editing before posting on Instagram. 

Is this still your GadgetMatch?

Huawei MateBook D 15

When I think of the D 15, freedom is the word that comes to mind. It gives so much freedom to work anywhere with its portability and battery life. You get freedom to do what you wish with it with its capable hardware. There’s also freedom from wires with the Multi-Screen Collaboration. And even freedom to plug various devices with its great selection of ports.

It’s a no fuss kind of laptop that just gets things done. Its sheer simplicity is what makes it a great device.

If you’re interested in getting the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, you can now get it for PhP 48,999.00.

 

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Review: Best Android smartwatch yet?

But is it any better than the Apple Watch?

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Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch4 just recently — which is the successor to 2019’s Galaxy Watch Active2.

Now with the power of a BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) via its Bio Active Sensor, the Galaxy Watch4 can simply measure your body composition with just your two fingers and wrist.

But is it any better than the Apple Watch?

Watch our Samsung Galaxy Watch4 review now to know more.

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Accessories

Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1: Intuitive and portable podcasting rig

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AU-AM200-S1

I am a fan of quality and affordable gear. Modern manufacturing techniques and advancements in technology gave us a vast selection of gadgets in all shapes and sizes.

With the gaining popularity of live streaming, the demand for good audio interface and microphones is growing. The brand Maono, relatively speaking, is a newcomer that offers affordable audio products.

What we’ve got here is the Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1, which is a portable podcasting gear. This is the very first product I’ve got the chance to try from this brand and I’m liking it so far. This bundle is ideal for someone who is just getting into podcasting or a musician looking for a cheaper alternative.

What’s in the box?

AM200 Podcast Console

At first glance I actually thought it was a miniatured DJ turntable because of the two mini platters, but those are just volume knobs for the mics and music. It is a 3-channel mixer-type audio interface with five outputs. The two inputs are designated for mics and/or instruments and the other input is for music. Three outputs (3.5mm TRRS) for smartphones are available so you can stream simultaneously on different platforms.

A separate main and monitor output is available so you can listen to what your audience hears. Note that all the inputs and outputs are for 3.5mm jacks so if you are planning to plug in an instrument directly using a PL (1/4 inch) cable, you will need a 3.5mm adapter.

Plug and play

You can connect it to a computer with the USB A to C cable that is included. It doesn’t require any drivers, so, just plug it in and it’s good to go. It should be compatible to most DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) for music recording. There is a 3-band EQ along with a “REC” volume knob which is like a “Send” knob to feed the audio to the devices it’s connected to.

Two crossfaders control the monitor volume and echo level. The “monitor” crossfader controls both the volume level for the (main) output and the monitor (output). I wish they installed separated levers for each one to control them independently.

This is also the case for the mic volume knob, it controls both the levels of mic 1 and mic 2. It would’ve have been handy if there are separate knobs for each but I think they did this design to fit in a compact box.

For outdoor streaming and recording

At the middle portion, you’ll notice along the LED indicator level signal is a battery indicator. Yes, this is also battery powered which makes it suitable for out of home live streaming, if you prefer creating something for your viewers elsewhere. You can easily recharge the batteries with the USB C cable.

There are also audio sample pads, buttons for sound effects and pitch shifters.

AU-PM360TR Microphone

AU-AM200-S1

This condenser microphone does not require phantom power. It runs below 5V, through the XLR to 3.5mm cable, unlike the industry standard condenser microphones. With its cardioid polar pattern, it will be more sensitive to sounds being captured in front of it.

Earphones

It comes with a pair of in-ear earbuds with a very long cable, enough to cover the distance for a typical on-desk live streaming. I think that the sound quality would be more appreciated by most modern pop listeners who like a lot of bass. Because it does deliver that low-mid thump.

Tripod

Out of the box, the microphone comes attached to the mini tabletop tripod. The microphone is detachable to the tripod, but if it is used handheld, it will pick-up a lot of hand noise. So, it is better to leave it on the tripod.

Other accessories included are: XLR to 3.5mm cable, two 3.5mm TRRS cables, USB A to USB C cable, and a windscreen cap.

Performance

For podcasting, it is very easy to use. It’s what the AU-AM200-S1 is made for and they did a good job. The microphone delivers a clearer and louder output compared to built-in mics in smartphones/laptops or headsets. You can control the volume of music accompaniment easily with the wheel knob, whenever you want to highlight the music or the voice.

Plus, the sound samples like the applause, laughter, cheering etc., are nice additions for some impromptu segments in your streams. You can also record your own samples by pressing the “loop back” button and assigning to any of the blank buttons available.

Since the microphone does not require a phantom power, the output is weaker compared to classic condenser microphones. The sound quality is good nevertheless.

AU-AM200-S1

For music recording, you can record your instruments with it on your preferred DAW. I connected my guitar to my digital effects processor with a 3.5mm headphones jack going to the mic input of Maono console. I noticed that the 2 mic inputs have high gain levels because my guitar was already clipping with the volume knob on the AM200 console at around 10 o’clock.

Usually, I set the volume on my guitar effects unit on almost full when I am recording with a different audio interface and mixers. But with the Maono AU-AM200-S1, I only had to set the volume of my guitar effects at 50 percent. This is good because it doesn’t have a designated gain knob. Just watch out for clipping- if it happens, you may want to lower the volume from the source.

I recorded a few short audio samples to demonstrate how the Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 handles recording. Please excuse my singing voice.

Mic only without echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only with 50% echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only with 100% echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only without echo – vocal and guitar

Mic only with post-editing – vocal and guitar

Guitar through a digital effects processor

In a full band mix – Recorded vocals and guitars (both acoustic and electric)

Fully recorded demo

 

There are two functions that I have a few comments on:

AU-AM200-S1

Denoise — This is their “smart noise cancelling” feature that reduces background noise. It does its job as a noise gate, but unfortunately, you cannot adjust the settings (threshold, attack, range, etc.). Depending on how loud the ambient noise is, the mic sometimes gets a stuttering sound when this feature is engaged. If the room is quiet enough, there shouldn’t be any problem.

Music Only — This feature attempts to minimize the vocals in the music that you are playing, but similarly to the denoise, it sometimes affects the mic audio quality. I suggest looking for backing tracks of the songs you want to sing during your live stream beforehand.

Is the AU-AM200-S1 your GadgetMatch?

AU-AM200-S1

The Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 bundle is a usable and functional piece of gear. I see it as a bring-it-anywhere, all-in-one podcasting kit. It would have been more convenient (for me) if they included ¼ inch inputs for mics and instruments. Although, I guess it would kind of defeat its portable nature because most PL cables are thicker and heavier compared to the 3.5mm cables included in this bundle.

Pricing and Availability

The Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 retails for $109.00 and is available for purchase in Amazon, Shopee, and Lazada. You can check out their other products at the official Maono website.

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