Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime review



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”]


Huawei Mate 20 Review: The simpler sibling

No need for the Pro?



The Huawei Mate 20 is the simpler sibling in the Mate 20 lineup, and honestly… it simply works.

I’m an everyday normal guy, with normal demands from my smartphone. And when you’re like me, and you don’t have a specific thing in mind when choosing a phone, it helps to have a device that is just good in every aspect.

In real-world use, there’s nothing to complain about in terms of performance. It’s got a Kirin 980 processor, and it runs the way any flagship phone with the latest and greatest processor should.

A phone that’ll go perfect with your OOTD

When it comes to our phones, I’ll agree with Isa, our Lifestyle Editor, that they’ve become more than a gadget and are now also an accessory to show off.

This phone looks great! So much so that I’ve caught myself intentionally not putting it in my pocket, just so I can show it off.

And while there might also be many other good-looking options out there, the Mate 20 wins in my book because I can use it without a case and not have to worry about getting fingerprints all over it.

On our Midnight Blue review unit, I’ve loved the special glass texture that barely shows any fingerprints and how it makes the phone easier to grip.

Good display, but speakers need work

Flip the phone over and there’s the huge 6.53-inch screen that’s great for consuming media, but I will say that it was an adjustment having to get used to such a wide phone again.

Now while I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all gotten relatively used to notches by now. It still must be said that the notch on the Mate 20 is tiny (much smaller than the notch on its Pro sibling) and easy to forget about when watching videos in full screen.

One thing I did notice in watching videos is that while the Mate 20 might have stereo speakers (from the earpiece and the bottom firing speaker), the sound comes out uneven and mostly from the speaker at the bottom. It would have been better if the sound were more balanced.

Battery for days… literally

Usually, I start my day at 8am and end at about 9pm. How has the 4000mAh battery capacity been for me? In using the phone for about two weeks, I’ve never ended my day with less than 35 percent left. It’s been such a joy not having to carry around a bulky powerbank with me!

In a day that usually includes social media, using maps for directions, watching YouTube, and Netflix, no longer do I have to tell myself to get off Instagram because I need to preserve battery.

It’s a phone that will last you a full day and then some. When you do end up needing to charge, it juices up quick — boost of about 50 percent in 30 minutes.

Typical Huawei cameras

Now, let’s talk about the cameras. There are three cameras on the back: Its main camera has 12 megapixels, the ultra-wide shooter has 16 megapixels, and the 8-megapixel telephoto camera goes up to 2x optical zoom.

To put it plainly, they’re good. And I can tell you they’re good all day, but I think it’s better if I just show you:

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And of course something that Huawei has been amazing with is nighttime photography:

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Plus, the addition of a wide-angle lens is great for getting more into the frame:


All these photos we’re taken with the Master AI setting on and shot completely in automatic mode.

Now, I don’t take a lot of selfies — we leave that to Isa at GadgetMatch — but if that’s your thing, the Mate 20 has a 24-megapixel selfie camera. Also, here’s a selfie of me with Jason Mraz:

Here are more selfie samples (I turned off the beauty mode for these):

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Glad to see you headphone jack!

The regular Huawei Mate 20 doesn’t have the curved screen like the Pro does. It doesn’t have the in-display fingerprint scanner, either. What it does have that the Pro model doesn’t, is a headphone jack. 

True story: When I was traveling around Singapore and my Bluetooth earphones died, it was a lifesaver to be able to plug in regular wired earphones so I could continue listening to music.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

This phone ticks all the boxes I needed it to. Good cameras? Check! Great battery life? Yes, sir! Is it good for watching Netflix? You betcha!

It isn’t as flashy as the Pro model, but the Mate 20 to me is meant for someone who doesn’t need any of the bells or whistles, and just wants a phone that’s going to work when you need it to.

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iPhone XS

Apple iPhone XR review: The iPhone you should upgrade to

A more practical choice



If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably been holding off from buying a new iPhone — even if Apple announced the pretty amazing iPhone XS and XS Max more than a month ago.

And if so, you’ve probably been waiting for the more affordable iPhone XR. Chances are, you’re not alone. In fact, we have a hunch that even more folks will be inclined to buy this phone even if it comes with some compromises.

Do these adjustments make the iPhone XR any less of an iPhone? Or is it still worth buying?

Paint with all the colors

While the iPhone XR is reminiscent of the plasticky iPhone 5C from many years ago because of its cheaper price tag and colorful options, this phone is in no way a budget phone. It’s still very much premium.

It just doesn’t have all the cutting edge features of the iPhone XS and XS Max. It’s all glass with an aluminum frame, very much like the iPhone 8 from last year. In the hands, it feels solid with the right amount of heft to it.

It’s available in a variety of colors; apart from black and white, there’s Product (RED), blue, yellow, and coral. Our review unit is white but we like yellow and Product (RED) best.

Inferior display?

While roughly the same size, the XR has a slightly smaller display than the iPhone XS Max’s. It’s got an LCD panel versus OLED on the latter. Apple has a fancy name for it: Liquid Retina.

If we were to nitpick, it’s got a lower resolution and bigger bezels. It’s actually those bezels that bug us a bit. The iPhone XR also doesn’t have 3D Touch, a feature that debuted on the iPhone 6S.

The lower-resolution display is what throws off most folks and has got many tech journalists talking. While we would have loved more pixel density on this device, most users won’t be able to tell the difference. It’s not the deal breaker that some are making it out to be.

Not to sound like an Apple apologist, but iPhones have always been known for really good displays and this still holds true. There’s a lot going on under the hood to make sure you get a good experience even if on paper it doesn’t seem to be. It’s not about the pixel resolution, but the quality of those pixels. Even the tech needed to pull off these rounded corners deserves props.

The display is sufficiently bright with good colors, both indoors and outside under the sun. It’s got the same True Tone technology as on the XS, meaning it will shift its color to adjust to the lighting conditions in your room. So in darker rooms, the display will turn warmer so it isn’t too harsh on the eyes.

In case you’re wondering, there’s an option to watch 1080p videos on YouTube. Netflix looks fine, as well.

Great cameras

Instead of two rear cameras, the iPhone XR only has one, so you’re not getting the telephoto lens that’s on the XS and XS Max. What you’re getting instead is the same 12MP wide-angle camera. This means the same great photos we raved about when we reviewed the iPhone XS last month.

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You’re also getting the same Smart HDR feature that lets you shoot against the light and still come up with photos like they were taken with multiple light sources, as well as the same low-light performance.

Even with a single rear camera, you’re getting portrait mode. Instead of relying on a secondary lens to measure depth, the iPhone XR relies solely on software to separate the subject from the background.

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Cutouts are pretty much the same; it’s just the quality of the bokeh that’s different because the iPhone XR is not able to get the same depth information provided by an extra lens.

Now that there isn’t a zoom lens, portraits are not zoomed in by default, which was one of our peeves with portrait mode on the iPhone. Our subjects also end up sharper and less soft on the XR, which we actually like better.

Speaking of portraits, you only get three of the five portrait lighting features on the rear camera; you’re missing Stage Light and Stage Light Mono. You still get depth control, which lets you adjust the amount of blur after taking a shot — one of our favorite new features that debuted on the iPhone XS. You can pick from f/1.4, the creamiest blur, to f/16, no background blur.

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Here are more sample photos taken with the iPhone XR. Swipe to view the rest.

The front camera is exactly the same as the iPhone XS and XS Max’s so selfies are going to be top notch, no pun intended. In case you’re not familiar, housed in the infamous notch is Apple’s TrueDepth Camera, a selfie camera, depth sensor, and fancy tech like a dot projector and IR illuminator that measure the contours of your face. Take a look at some samples taken with the selfie camera of the iPhone XR:

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With the TrueDepth Camera you can also do Animoji, Memoji, and more importantly, Face ID — your primary way of unlocking the device. Once set up, you just lift your phone and swipe up to unlock. There is no fingerprint sensor anymore, so if you’re upgrading from an older iPhone, you will have to get used to this kind of unlock. You might look for the fingerprint sensor at first, but less than a year into it, we don’t miss it as much as we thought we would.

Now that you don’t have a home button anymore, you’ll also need to get used to new gestures — swipe up to go home, swipe up and hold for multitasking, swipe down from the right side for the Control Center, and swipe down from the left for notifications.

Speaking of swiping, the iPhone XR also has a haptic engine which gives you subtle buzzes when you do things like swipe up or long press to delete an app. It’s a tiny feature that makes a difference that’s hard to describe; it feels less like you’re interacting with just a sheet of glass.

Battery and performance

While Apple doesn’t include this in their official spec sheet, the iPhone XR has a slightly smaller battery than the iPhone XS Max’s, but it has the longest claimed battery life on an iPhone to date. The iPhone XR lasts about a day of normal use, around six hours of screen-on time.

It also supports wireless charging, and you have the option to plop down some cash for a fast charger that can get your from 0 to 50 percent in 30 minutes.

Everything else about the iPhone XR is as good as its more expensive brothers. It runs on the same A12 Bionic chip. It’s speedy and powerful and can handle whatever tasks you throw at it. Games like Fortnite run smooth. Augmented Reality games like AR Robot do, too.

It’s also water and dust resistant. Albeit as always, water damage is not covered by warranty so don’t go swimming with your iPhone. Just know that you’re protected in case of rain or spills.

Is the iPhone XR your GadgetMatch?

If you’re in the market for a new iPhone and have been holding off, the iPhone XR is a strong candidate. Starting at just under US$ 750, it’s actually an easy one to recommend to anyone looking to upgrade. Its main differences are its LCD display and a single rear camera — none of which are deal breakers.

In fact, unless you’ve had an iPhone with a zoom lens, you won’t know what you’re missing. While we love our zoom lens, we have many friends that couldn’t care less about not having one. Everything else is part of the same great premium iPhone experience.

Are there better Android smartphones for the same price? Maybe, but better and best are subjective. If you are an iOS user, we’re thrilled that there are now options as good as this at a more affordable price point. And for that, we give it the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval.

If you have the money to spend or can get a good deal via your carrier, by all means get the iPhone XS or XS Max instead.

If you’re really penny pinching, it’s worth mentioning that the iPhone 8 Plus starts at US$ 699. You get a higher-resolution display — just not edge-to-edge. You won’t get Face ID, but you get a zoom lens with last year’s camera tech. You’d also have last year’s A11 Bionic chip, which is still plenty capable.

For everyone else, the iPhone XR is a phone we wholeheartedly recommend. We won’t be surprised if it ends up the most popular iPhone of the year even.

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Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, 330S, 330: Which is right for you?

There’s a GadgetMatch for all



Lenovo has a fairly rich selection of IdeaPad laptops, from large powerhouses to more compact travel companions. The naming scheme can get confusing, however, and each model has its own strengths and weaknesses.

For this review, we’re looking at three of Lenovo’s newest models: the IdeaPad 530S, 330S, and 330. To get more diverse opinions, we employed three different users: content creator Dan, visual producer MJ, and editor Marvin, respectively.

Which IdeaPad is your GadgetMatch? Let’s see what our three subjects have to say.

Lenovo IdeaPad 530S — Dan

The IdeaPad 530S is well-specced and has the best build among the bunch. The laptop’s body has a polished aluminum finish, and I’m loving Lenovo’s new approach to design. The lid of the laptop is understated with just the Lenovo logo on the side.

That’s not the only premium aspect of the laptop’s design. It also has an IPS display that measures 14 inches diagonally with a Full HD resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Nothing sounds fancy about the screen’s specs, but it’s got thin bezels. It’s not as edge-to-edge as Dell’s XPS, but at least Lenovo placed the webcam where it should be. Although, this laptop’s webcam quality isn’t that great either.

I used the IdeaPad 530S primarily for writing and working on the go. So, I appreciated the laptop’s smaller dimensions compared to other 14-inch laptops in the market. It’s portable enough to fit inside most backpacks, plus it doesn’t take up so much space on a coffee table. The typing experience is generally okay, but I find the key travel a bit shorter than my old IdeaPad notebook. The trackpad, on the other hand, works great.

The configuration I have has an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor paired with 4GB of memory and 256GB of SSD storage. It even has NVIDIA GeForce MX150 dedicated graphics. This specs combination is more than enough for everyday tasks and light gaming. The notebook’s memory should be upgraded to at least 8GB, though, to avoid hiccups.

Another good aspect of midrange notebooks is the selection of ports. The I/O on the IdeaPad 530S includes an HDMI port, two USB-A, USB-C, audio jack, and an SD card reader.

I usually get around six to seven hours of battery life with this one, depending on what I’m working on. A full charge using the included 65W charging brick takes about two hours and a half. Not the best battery life and charging time around, but they’re not that bad either.

The IdeaPad 530S is an easy choice for those looking for a well-balanced notebook that doesn’t cost much. Just be sure to upgrade the memory immediately to avoid any lag.

Lenovo IdeaPad 330S — MJ

As an artist, the most important thing for me when looking for a laptop is its style and how it handles multimedia work. So when the Lenovo IdeaPad 330S arrived, I was a bit excited.

The IdeaPad 330S comes in platinum gray and a smooth, polished aluminum cover that made me feel like I’m using a premium laptop. It has a responsive touchpad and soft keyboard so I didn’t have to rely on a mouse to get work done. It also has thinner bezels, and therefore, a bigger screen to enjoy.

The IdeaPad 330S has a 15.6-inch FHD IPS panel, which means it has better color accuracy and wider viewing angles, perfect for all my multimedia work. It also has built-in Dolby Audio, which provides clear sound while watching videos online.

Speaking of portability, this laptop weighs 2.6kg — a bit heavy for a tiny build like mine. Its bigger size means it needs a backpack that can carry a 15-inch laptop. Since I used to own a 15-inch laptop back in college, a laptop this big is no problem. What I’m more concerned about is getting my work done.

Because I handle lots of creative tasks, my laptop consumed battery faster than with more average users. Surprisingly, the IdeaPad 330S didn’t disappoint, lasting at least four to five hours with constant use of Adobe Photoshop and other creative software.

The only thing I didn’t like about this laptop was its ridiculously slow load times. It’s packed with Intel’s 8th-generation Core i7-8550U, but runs on 4GB of memory and 2TB of HDD storage. Boot up was slow, and I could count up to eight seconds before my browser loaded. Most of the time, it couldn’t handle multiple tabs at once and the browser ended up not responding.

The IdeaPad 330S could’ve become a complete powerhouse if not for the sluggish user experience. It has the premium look that everyone wants, and its screen and audio are made specifically for entertainment. This laptop is ideal for those who need it for leisure and entertainment, because that is where it’s great at.

Lenovo IdeaPad 330 — Marvin

This model is clearly the least attractive of the three with its all-plastic body and unsightly bezels. And even though the port selection is mostly complete — two USB-A, USB-C, HDMI, SD card reader, Ethernet — the body’s thickness (22.9mm) and heft (2.2kg) mean I need a larger backpack to carry it in.

On paper, the specs are alright: Intel’s 8th-generation Core i5-8300H, 4GB of RAM, 1TB HDD storage, and dedicated GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip. While the CPU and GPU combo can handle demanding tasks, the low amount of memory and slow hard disk mean startup can be slow for both the machine and apps.

I’d say the best part of this laptop is its keyboard, which is vital for any full-time editor. Like most Lenovo notebooks, the keys are well-spaced and have a bottom curve to make them easier to hit. It also has evenly distributed backlighting and a decent trackpad to complement it. I just wish the power button wasn’t placed so close to the keyboard itself, resulting in accidental presses.

The worst aspect has to be the display quality. Even though the screen is 15.6 inches in size and 1080p in resolution, its TN panel offers poor color reproduction and even worse viewing angles. This isn’t the type of laptop I’d use for watching online shows or presenting to a group of people surrounding the display.

On the brighter side, the speakers can get loud, albeit with a little distortion while at max power. I also found the battery life above-average with over six hours of balanced usage on a single charge, and the unit reaches a hundred percent quickly using the bundled charger.

The IdeaPad 330 is definitely the weakest of the three notebooks reviewed here, and is best suited for those who want less flare and more traditional features, such as the older ports, top-mounted webcam, and reliable battery life.

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