Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Is a smartphone enough to document your vacation?

I left all my other gadgets behind!

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Since the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 came out, it’s been touted as a “powerhouse” phone that can do everything — but a lot of people say that to a number of phones. Put into real-life context (which is the context we all really need), what can it do? My main question: Is it good enough that I can ditch other devices like my point-and-shoot camera? Also, will I lose the S Pen? What real-life scenario can I use live messaging in?

Photo credit: Joshua Vergara

I brought the Note 9 on a trip and put it to the ultimate test: A millennial girl on a beach vacation. This is how it all went down.

En route to California

Like all stories, we start with the journey.

I flew to LA to catch the boyfriend, Joshua (who was also playing with the Note 9 on this trip so we get insight from him, too), before we jet set to the ocean paradise that is Cabo San Lucas, Mexico which is to be the final destination of this piece.

I’ve been on the Note 9 for four days and I had not lost the S Pen, yet (hooray for little victories!). The Note 9, which looks almost exactly like the Note 8 is not really a pocket-friendly device. With its 6.4-inch screen, I can tell you now that no woman pocket would fit this thing comfortably. You best believe you’re holding on to the phone for the most part, but for such a big phone, it feels good to hold (shocking). It’s sleek and solid, though the glass panels on my copper unit are pretty smudgy so the phone, unless I clean it up, can look dirty at times.

Pocket fitting reenactment because, as I said, I brought no other cameras with me on this trip

The novelty of the S Pen does not wear off easily. After almost a week, I still found myself navigation the phone with the pen. Scribbling on this thing is pretty fun and definitely a blast for my Instagram stories — you can get more detailed with what you’re writing on the S Pen! And yes, airport selfies are still a thing because the S Pen makes remote selfies way easier.

Now, it might be just me, my scribbling, and my tinkering with the phone but I was expecting way more from my standby battery time. My battery lasted me through my airport wait in Manila (on data), until my Taipei stopover (on Wi-Fi) but I had to charge once I was on the plane bound for LA. This is fine as I was on my phone a lot during this period. What I couldn’t explain, however, was how my battery drained while on Airplane Mode after charging it to full in the first few hours of my 12-hour flight to 79 percent when I landed.

Nevertheless, got to California in one piece and had Ikea meatballs and The Hat so all was right in the world.

Barbecue Pitstop!

The next leg of this trip involves meat. We were flying to Cabo, but a Houston stop was in order: Joshua and I were heading to Texas and getting us some barbecue.

Now, remember when I said S Pen selfies were great? Let me demonstrate (again, because I never tire of how useful it is). Your photos can go from a close up to a wider view. All I did to take the wider photo was to prop it against a random wall at the airport and use the S Pen shutter.

So yeah, I was still taking tons of airport selfies like nobody’s business but at some point, I had to stop because we had to catch the Apple keynote (#AlwaysHustling). I gotta tell you, I was pretty thankful for the wide Note 9 screen — we watched the whole announcement on the Note and I couldn’t have asked for a better big phone to watch it on. I was following updates and tweeting reactions via my phone as this was all going down, and this is when split-screen capabilities on a bigger screen factor in. The processing power on this phone is enough for all these things without it slowing down or lagging.

An afternoon in Houston entails trying famed Texas Barbecue spots and you know what that means? More photos and IG stories!

I did notice, though, as one is prone to noticing when one’s hands are filled with barbecue and one wants to take more photos, that the combination face and/or iris scanner wasn’t as fast as other phones in the market. At the end of the day, I found myself swiping my pattern on the phone more — so much so that I was swiping even after I switched phones when the trip was over because I got so used to it.

Finally, Cabo

Another plane ride later, I was in Mexico for the first time and I was pretty excited. I was, at this point, vlogging and shooting stories of everything. As expected, photos with the rear cameras were great for Instagram (which is where most of my photos are going).

Live Focus using the rear cameras (which is basically why you have dual cameras on the back) also looked awesome; it was a perfect way to add drama to my vacation photos. See example below:

What’s great about the Note 9 is that it’s waterproof. What’s even greater is that the S Pen is waterproof. And yes, that means I was carrying my phone around in the water and forcing Joshua to take photos of me like this:

Excuse my hideous tan

Even dramatic beach photos like this:

But, even Joshua (who is the best IG boyfriend in the world) gets tired of shooting photos for me. When that happens, I just bust out the S Pen. Even in the water, I can take photos like this:

And since they said the S Pen can take photos from up to 10 meters, I put it to the test. And yes folks, the picture below was taken with the S Pen.

Of course, that last photo was just showing off. A more reasonable scenario with the S Pen would be for great group selfies.

The Note 9’s camera did not disappoint at all. Colors were vibrant, the details were crisp, selfies were flattering (the beauty mode set in low didn’t erase my face), and most photos would totally pass for IG.

Video looks pretty good on this phone, too. I especially love how smooth the built-in stabilization is. This thing’s camera can shoot in 4K at 60fps, or in 1080p at 240fps which makes for some sweet slow-mo footage. This phone is a quick and easy way to vlog, though don’t expect to get crazy with the camera settings. The video shooting mode doesn’t really give you a lot to work with, but that’s to be expected with most smartphones.

Flying back

The flight back to California was spent on our phones. I discovered the wonders of Alphabear and Joshua was busy (way too busy 🙄) playing Shadow Fight 3 on his Note 9. Suffice to say, there were no hitches when it comes to mobile games on these devices.

I also caught up with my Bojack Horseman episodes on that flight. Say what you want but I still like my audio jacks, despite being recently converted to wireless headphones, and I’m pretty glad the Note 9 still has it.

So, is this smartphone enough? Will it suffice for a whole trip? Well, it was enough for me and that says a lot. A quick look at all the things I’ve been doing on and with my phone just goes to show that I’m a pretty heavy media user, and the Note 9 definitely kept up. This is the first time in a while that I traveled without a dedicated camera and I’m still very happy with the photos and videos I came home with.

And though I realized (probably way too late) that there really isn’t any practical use for Live Messages or AR Emoji (because honestly, they haven’t gotten better), the bottom line is that all you really need is a phone that can cover the basics and do it well. The Note 9 is a definite candidate in that department.

Oh, and I never lost the S Pen.

*Joshua uses a Snapdragon 845-powered Note 9, while I have been rocking the Exynos 9810 variant.

SEE ALSO: How to be productive with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Reviews

Honor Band 5 Review: Reliable fitness companion

Counting steps was fun!

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We went hiking with the Honor Band 5 and I learned a few things about hiking, the fitness wearable, and myself — which is mostly just about how generally unfit I am.

The hike took place at Masungi Georeserve. It’s a conservation area in the Philippines that’s about 47 kilometers away from Metro Manila. One of the staff told us that during the prehistoric era, the entire reserve was submerged in water. Millions of years later, it’s now a mountain range inhabited by different species of plants, insects, and animals. Fun!

A view of a section of Masungi Georeserve

Unlike other trek sites, the Masungi Georeserve is  more… tamed. The rangers have built a path for curious hikers but if, like me, you have zero experience trekking or hiking, then don’t think for a second that this is going to be easy.

You need to have the right gear

The thing about having fitness goals (or just goals in general, really) are they need to be measurable for you to know your progress. With the Honor Band 5 slapped on my wrist, I was excited to find out several things but I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did when the hike wrapped up. More on this later.

MJ showing he has all the right gear for the hike

Another proper gear you need to take note of is your shoes. Just as there’s a pair meant for running, playing basketball, and training, there are also shoes made specifically for hiking.

I went out of my way to get a pair prior to the hike and it made a huge difference. I had a relatively easier time going through the terrain than some of the people I went with who wore regular running or training sneakers. This meant I had one less thing to worry about.

Getting started

Before we started, we first set up the Honor Band 5. To do so, you’ll need to download the Huawei Health app. Through the app you can see all your metrics as well as update the firmware and download more watch faces.

There were a variety of watch faces. They ranged from simple ones that just show you the time and the number of steps you’ve taken to those that showed the time, steps, and even heart rate.

For this particular trek, I wanted to check on my heart rate. I was happy to know it was still beating despite multiple failed romantic pursuits. In fact, it spiked more than I thought it would during the hike.

Design-wise, none of the watch faces really stood out. But there are enough options that I’m confident you’ll find something you’ll like and would want to stick with.

Tracking is insightful and fun

Onto to the hike! We were told it would take about four to five hours to complete the route. Naturally, we took longer than that. To completely track everything you need to go to workouts and choose outdoor walk.

The Honor Band 5 supports other workouts too like outdoor and indoor running, outdoor and indoor cycling, free training, and much more.

The trek had several stops — some were for resting, others were for the accompanying ranger to tell us more about the reserve. At each stop, I would check on the watch to see how many steps I’ve taken so far. Especially since the trail varies from straight and narrow paths to ones that require climbing.

The trek involved climbing down nets like this

Having the heart rate monitor up, I also made a conscious effort to check on my breathing. I’ve never really had strong lungs. Even when I still used to play basketball regularly when I was a lot younger, I was quick to run out of breath.

When I saw my heart rate going up so much higher than usual, I made it a point to stop for a while and take a few deep breaths to gather myself. The SpO2 Monitor2 also came in handy here. It detects your level of oxygen at different altitudes and thankfully mine stayed in the normal range for much of the trek.

There were too many of these nets. Not apparent in photo is the fear and dread I felt climbing down

Additionally, the colored amoled display on the Honor Band 5 made it easy to check on my numbers. This is also through even when it started to rain. I could still see the numbers clearly despite the watch being drenched.

The Honor Band 5 is water resistant for up to 50m. So not only can it survive the rain, it’s also made to accompany you during your swimming sessions.

Taking a closer look at the numbers

After the hike, you’ll need to stop the tracking so you get your entire workout summary. It took us nearly eight hours to complete the trek and the rest of my numbers are pretty interesting.

The Masungi Georeserve took our collective breaths in more ways than one

I took a total of 11,611 steps on an average cadence of 24 steps per minute with an average speed of 1.78km/h and an average heart rate of 129 bpm. If you thought that was confusing, it only means I’m about as out of shape as I expected myself to be.

You can check your data against what is supposed to be the average for a healthy human being. With this you can start working towards that goal. The idea is to gradually reach a state of being healthy and tracking your numbers will help you do that.

Other features and final thoughts

The Honor Band 5 also has a few other nifty features like Find Your Phone. Say you forgot where you last put your phone, the fitness band can ring it for you.

There’s also TruSleep tech that I didn’t get to try as much on this device but I did on the Honor Watch Magic so watch out for that article as well.

Just me trying to look triumphant midway through the hike

The Honor Band 5 promises up to 14 days of battery life. I had it on for a few more days post the trek and didn’t really charge it up until the 10th or 11th day. Which is still pretty darn good.

At PhP 1,699 (US$ 33), the Honor Band 5 lives up to its billing as your personal fitness tracker. The colored AMOLED display is great and the tracking is where you’d expect it to be. It’s also comfortable enough that you won’t mind having it on while you workout.

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Reviews

Vivo V17 Pro Unboxing and Review

Overpriced and gimmicky?

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Vivo’s newest smartphone has cool camera features, including the world’s first dual pop-up selfie camera.

But is that enough for you to want to upgrade, or is the Vivo V17 Pro overpriced with a lot of gimmicks?

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Her GadgetMatch

LG Pra.L’s Galvanic Ion Booster makes your skincare products more effective

Makes your visits to the facial clinic less frequent

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The marriage of beauty and tech is not an entirely new thing. Ionic products, tools that are supposed to help slow down the signs of ageing, even water bottles that will supposedly make water better for your skin — they have been around for a while. LG’s new, Pra.L line is one of the most recent launches which was met with both shock and awe. This is mainly due to the new claims of what their high-grade devices can do but also because of the price tag they come with.

I personally love this whole movement. In the advent of the informed consumer trend, more and more people are becoming concerned about what they put on their skin. It’s highly common now that women who are into skincare are vigorously discussing ingredients. A lot of us are also becoming more interested in the details of what aestheticians are doing for us.

The entire Pra.L line is practically a beauty clinic within the convenience of your own home. It is democratizing the technology of some of the most common, non-invasive treatments and making it accessible to consumers who want to do things on their own.

One of the notable devices in the line is the Galvanic Ion Booster. The idea of an ion booster to help skincare products penetrate deeper into the skin is not entirely new. LG’s version of the device, however, is definitely a cut above most of the products in the market.

As someone with sensitive skin which is on a recovery period from hormonal breakouts, I tend to be quite picky with anything I put on my skin. It has also been recommended that I go for simpler routines using as few products as possible. With little product, you’d want them to be as effective as possible. This is where this device comes in.

Ease of use

For the past month, I’ve been using the Galvanic Ion Booster religiously — morning and night. I would use the cleansing mode with my CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser (green bottle, for normal to dry skin). The device literally tells you which part of your face you should be using it on. The voice is not too loud but perky enough to get you out of your own head. Just in case you get too in the zone. Using galvanic ion technology, the device helps the cleanser draw out the impurities in your pores. Expect a slight vibration that is more relaxing than uncomfortable.

For the boost mode, I either use it with a vitamin C serum or The Ordinary’s Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA. Both serums are helpful in brightening the skin and fading out the marks left behind by intense breakouts. For the boost mode, the same technology is applied but in a reverse direction, helping the product and its ingredients penetrate your skin deeper. The boost mode is something I enjoy a lot as you can actually feel your products getting absorbed right away. I top everything with a gentle moisturizer from La Roche-Posay and on days when it’s extremely dry outside, a face oil from Australian indie beauty brand Ipsum.

I also use it with retinol treatments once a week but would make sure I double up on sunscreen the next day. The heat and vibration from the device do render retinol to be more effective. However, it will also make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

When a stubborn pimple decides to pop up unannounced, I also use the boost mode to help my Mamonde AC Balance Spot Serum be absorbed faster. I wake up the next day with the little bugger dry and ready to be forgotten in the next couple of days.

Worth the price tag?

The device’s triangular head is made out of medical-grade titanium, making it safe for use on your skin. The shape is also effective in reaching the small nooks around your face like the sides of your nose. I just make sure to clean the device with running water and wipe it dry before putting on the cover.

LG’s Galvanic Ion Booster also has a good weight to it without being too heavy. The device also travels well — it comes with its own carrying pouch — and can charge with a micro USB cable or through the charging dock it comes with. The sleek design of the device makes it an easy hold and a joy to use. This, despite having to move it around your face for about three minutes per mode. Sounds like a short time but not when you’re a busy, working woman. I found it to be a lesson in slowing down and just making sure I enjoy doing my skincare routine instead of rushing through it like a chore — a form of self-love if you will.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

After a month of use, my skin feels more plump and healthy. It’s also brighter and blemishes became more manageable. I can highly recommend this for the skincare junkie; It’s a game-changer.

The device retails for SG$ 529 which might seem like a huge blow to the wallet. However, prevention is definitely less expensive than cure so think of it as an investment for the future.

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