Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy J8 hands-on: Not your usual J

Higher end of the budget realm

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When scouting for a Samsung phone to buy, the conventional plan is to look at the Galaxy Note or S series for premium, Galaxy A or C for midrange, and Galaxy J for entry-level. Well, that’s just a general guideline.

For some instances, like the Galaxy J8 we have here, Samsung isn’t afraid to cross some boundaries. The J8 tangles closely with the lower-end spectrum of the A series while preserving what makes the J series the budget offering of Samsung.

We got our hands on a pre-retail unit, and even though its software and some features aren’t final yet, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what the Galaxy J8 is all about in our first impressions.

It has a 6-inch 720p AMOLED that’s bright but not too sharp

Comes with Samsung’s unique 18.5:9 aspect ratio

The rear houses the dual-camera setup and fingerprint scanner

Samsung learned from the past and gave the scanner an ideal placement, but it’s still kind of slow

The 16MP selfie camera has its own LED flash and can do facial recognition

Face unlocking is even slower than the fingerprint scanner, though

Its interface closely resembles that of more expensive Galaxies

This is Samsung’s Experience 9.0 UI on top of Android 8.0 Oreo

There’s room for two SIM cards and one microSD card

While this is great, the aging micro-USB port isn’t

All this in a signature Galaxy J plastic body 

Sticking to plastic is what separates it from the Galaxy A’s metal bodies

How well does it perform?

Samsung decided to go for a Snapdragon 450 chipset instead of their usual in-house Exynos chips. Coupled with 3GB of memory, this leads to midrange-level performance with high-end endurance.

During my time with this pre-release sample, there were several moments when I wish it would run faster. Switching between apps exhibited some lag and activating the camera wasn’t as instant as I’d hope it would be.

Still, it could handle all the games I threw at it, albeit with lowered graphics settings. I had no problem running Dragon Ball Legends and Asphalt Xtreme once I got into the apps; it was only when I switched to something else when the phone slowed down.

I only had 32GB of storage to play with, but it’s expandable using a microSD card, which I find vital if you’re a heavy camera user, as well.

Can it take nice photos?

This is one of the few Galaxy J series phones with a dual-camera setup — one has a 16-megapixel sensor while the other uses its 5-megapixel sensor to add depth information. This combination offers features like Live Focus which was once exclusive to the premium Galaxy S and Note lines.

And yet, I wasn’t that impressed by the image quality. I was often disappointed when the colors and saturation would look great on the preview, only to turn out dull once I take the picture and view it in the gallery. This may be because of non-retail software, but I’ve experienced this with other Galaxy J phones in the past.

Here are a few samples:

While focusing and exposure control is pretty good when there’s enough light, I had difficulty zeroing in on a subject when it got dark. In dimly lit environments, sharpness also takes a hit and noise becomes more apparent in each photo.

I had fun with the added features, however. Live Focus allowed me to adjust background blur after taking a shot, and AR stickers added some character to my selfies. Take a look:

There are other modes and options such as Selfie Focus and the ability to adjust beauty settings. Samsung still has a long way to go before matching the selfie game of Vivo or OPPO, but it’s getting better for the South Korean brand.

Can it last more than a day?

With a battery capacity of 3500mAh pushing a low-resolution HD+ panel and efficient processor, you’re sure to get over a day’s worth of work and play done on this phone. Even though I had to take a lot of photos and run through games during my review period, not once did I worry about the Galaxy J8 suddenly dying on me.

On the other hand, charging was a pain. Bringing the large battery to full using the slow bundled charger took ages — about 2.5 hours more or less. That’s an hour more than I’m used to because  of the fast charging tech I’ve been experiencing in a growing number of midrange devices.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It would take a proper retail unit and more testing to say for sure, but as it stands, the Galaxy J8 sits on a polarizing spot.

The Galaxy J8 currently retails for INR 18,990 (US$ 275) in India, placing it right below the more premium Galaxy A6 and above strong rivals such as the Moto G6 and ASUS ZenFone Max Pro (M1).

Moto’s G6, for example, has an all-glass design and the same processor, while the ZenFone Max Pro has a more powerful chipset at a fraction of the Galaxy J8’s price.

As it stands, the Galaxy J8 is for Samsung fans who want the features of a dual-camera phone but don’t want to spend more for a Galaxy A6+. Build quality and raw performance shouldn’t matter that much to potential buyers, either.

Hands-On

Content creator switches from iPhone 6s Plus to OPPO Reno3

A buzzing switch?!

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When OPPO launched the third Reno series in less than a year, we were in for a surprise. It seems like OPPO is on a race, introducing a phone with a 5G-enabled chipset to get ahead of the 5G rollout. This despite 5G being ways away from mass adoption.

Still, there’s a reason why OPPO pumped out so many phones at a rapid pace. The Reno3 felt like an ode to OPPO’s innovation, promising a beautiful handset for selfie-lovers, photography enthusiasts, and to an extent, aspiring content creators.

To find out if the OPPO Reno3 delivers its promise, Her GadgetMatch sent the unit to Noela, a visual content creator currently based in Manila — who’s also a singer, selfie lover, and a fitness enthusiast. Moreover, she’s still using an aging iPhone 6s Plus for the longest time.

Will it entice her to switch after spending two months with the Reno3? And can it be Her GadgetMatch?

“Even an 8-year old kid can get it”

Last March, Noela received the OPPO Reno3 in time for a trip to Boracay. “When I first saw the Reno3, it felt like a smartphone I can rely on. It’s sleek, simple, and so lightweight just like my iPhone 6s Plus!”

Unfortunately, her trip was canceled due to sudden lockdown enforced in Metro Manila, one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the Philippines. She then had more time to play around with the phone.

When asked about her experience with the phone, she said “It was a breeze setting it up. I didn’t have trouble navigating it. It’s so easy that even an 8-year old kid can get it in one sitting.”

The OPPO Reno3 runs ColorOS 7 based on Android 10. With an improved user interface design, no wonder Noela was able to grasp the phone’s UI easily, even if she’s used to iOS.

“Lasted longer than I thought it would”

Living a digital nomadic lifestyle, Noela is glued to her phone and laptop. In our previous collaborations, she always had to rely on her power bank — or her friend’s power bank on certain occasions — to charge her iPhone 6s Plus.

She spends a lot of time managing a community, being stuck in conference calls, and constant updating of her work, thanks to her remote setup.

The OPPO Reno3 was a game-changer. Accustomed to her iPhone’s short battery life, the Reno3 surprised her with a 4025mAh battery. “It lasted longer than I thought it would,” she remarked.

“One time, I was able to use it for the whole weekend and I only charged it once. I even spent a lot of time on social media and switching to my favorite apps like Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, and YouTube. It has so much juice!”

It also took 30 minutes of charging from 10 percent to 77 percent, thanks to OPPO’s VOOC Flash Charge. “It’s super fast!” she said in astonishment.

“Great even without its AI beauty mode”

In between her work and fitness activities, Noela takes a lot of selfies. She believes taking selfies isn’t a trait of narcissism or vanity. It’s a form of appreciation, and a healthy idea to pass time and ease your boredom.

“When you look good, you feel good.”

Her love for taking selfies made her dabble into skincare and makeup. However, being quarantined and stuck with a phone made for selfies made her drop her usual intensive skincare and makeup routine.

“Seriously, I was wowed by its front camera. I find it great even without its AI beauty mode, although it’s a plus for the times I don’t wear makeup.”

She definitely enjoyed the Reno3’s 44-megapixel front camera. To fully maximize its selfie cam, she took different selfies while sharing a few tips to Her GadgetMatch.

“Always make sure that you’ve got a nice background.”

“If there’s natural light involved, play, and adjust with it as much as possible. You can pose with different facial expressions until you get the look you’re aiming for.”

“Lastly, take a lot of selfies — so you can have a variety of photos to choose from. ‘The more the merrier’ applies here!”

Although she was astounded with the Reno3’s front camera, Noela was a little bit disappointed with its rear cameras. Despite having a Quadcam setup (with 48-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens, 13-megapixel telephoto lens, and 2-megapixel photo lens), the results weren’t what she expected.

“I find it pale unless you adjust your settings. Yes, it’s detailed, but I want the photos to be lively and rich in colors,” Noela expressed her dismay.

As a solution, she relied on using her favorite photo-editing software such as VSCO, Snapseed, and Adobe Lightroom to add vibrance to her photos. Though she admittedly post-process her photos, Noela still finds it a bit of a hassle to edit photos before uploading on Instagram Stories.

“A red flag”

Apart from the problems Noela encountered, her greatest distress was the delays in her experience — which is a dealbreaker and perhaps, the biggest downside of the phone.

Even with a 5G-enabled Helio P90 chipset from MediaTek, 8GB of memory, and 128GB of storage, the Reno3 wasn’t a reliable companion for a multitasker like her.

“There were a lot of delays when I was switching between apps. When I was posting a pre-shoot video on Instagram, the app also froze. Throughout my usage, I find myself relaunching apps more often. This is such a red flag.”

Despite her grievances, She still believed that she’ll use the OPPO Reno3. She had high hopes that OPPO can improve at least its features and user interface through software updates.

Is this Her GadgetMatch?

“My iPhone is so outdated. But I can say that OPPO’s Reno3 is so much better than my iPhone 6s Plus. I love its cameras, its features, and it has huge storage for all my selfies. Also, it’s a hundred percent user-friendly.”

Noela told Her GadgetMatch how the Reno3’s simple and classy design speaks to her personality on another level. Additionally, it has what she needs right now, which also fits her current nomadic lifestyle.

Her experience — despite having a big dealbreaker — is still enough for her to switch to the Reno3. Considerably an upgrade from her aging iPhone. True to her words, the OPPO Reno3 could be Her GadgetMatch.

You’ll always go back to your favorite

However, Noela’s case is a rare gem. She simply grew fond of the Reno3 after trying it for a while. It’s like discovering you like cold brew so you decided to love it. But by default, you’ll always go back to your favorite Caramel Macchiato, since it’s that one drink you’ve tried and tested — and it’s guaranteed to not let you down. Frankly, we all love the familiar.

Admittedly, had Noela seen the iPhone SE before the Reno3, she won’t even bother switching. At the time she had the Reno3, it was a much more affordable alternative compared to upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro.

Pricing and availability

The OPPO Reno3 currently retails for SG$ 549 in Singapore and is available in Midnight Black and Sky White. In the Philippines, it retails for PhP 18,990. It will be available in Auroral Blue, Midnight Black, and Sky White. Additionally, it comes with a free Rockspace EB60 Bluetooth Earbuds.

The Reno3 will be available on Shopee starting April 30, 2020 and on Lazada starting May 13, 2020.

Watch Noela’s vlog which was shot and edited using the OPPO Reno3:

SEE ALSO: OPPO Reno3 Pro review: Disappointed but not surprised | OPPO Reno3 series pricing and availability in the Philippines

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Accessories

Google Pixel Buds 2: Unboxing and Hands-on

The second Pixel Buds just got better

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Finally! The second Pixel Buds are here. After being announced a few months back, the new Pixel Buds are here with better features in mind.

Although there is no support for ANC (Active Noise-Cancellation) unlike the AirPods Pro and Huawei Freebuds 3, you’ll still get nifty features overall.

To know more, just watch our video here.

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Hands-On

Huawei P40 Pro Unboxing and Complete Hands-On

‘Visionary Photography’

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Everything you need to know about the new Huawei P40 Series. Yep there are 3 phones this year, the P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro+. Yep a pro plus model!

In this video you get a P40 Pro Unboxing, Hands-On, some photo samples, and a camera comparison vs the P30 Pro.

Of course I’ll also answer you questions: What’s new? How is the P40 Pro’s camera vs the P30 Pro, and what’s it like without Google Play Services? And while you’ll have to wait for my full review for a verdict, I’ll try to answer the question, Is it your GadgetMatch?

Watch our Hands-On video.

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