Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review

A product of years of perfecting

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This year marks one decade of Samsung Galaxy. And so, coming into 2019, the expectations were very high for the next Galaxy S. But the 10th-anniversary Galaxy is a two-part, two-phone story — one that represents the future and one that represents today.

A refined masterpiece that’s a product of years of perfecting, the new Galaxy S10+ is not mind-blowing or revolutionary. Neither is it perfect, but there’s something so satisfying about a product that’s well thought out and done right, and excellent in every aspect and angle.

There much to love about the Galaxy S10+ and I’m just gonna dive straight in.

After years of trial and error that saw them go from plastic, to leather, to glass, and then many tweaks and adjustments around curved glass, this is the moment that all these years have led up to and it’s glorious.

It’s the perfect mashup between the Galaxy S9 and the Note 9. And I like it. The design ID is still clearly Samsung: curved displays, rounded corners. I can’t quite put a finger on it — maybe it’s because the trim around the phone is more rounded and not as sharp, but whatever these changes are, they’ve made the S10+ a phone that I enjoy picking up. That, for me, is always an indicator of good design.

The official color of my review unit is called Prism White, and it has this pearlescent quality to it that changes from an iridescent blue to pink depending on the light. It’s really beautiful.

Of course the other big change is in front. After avoiding the notch trend completely for a good two years, Samsung’s finally embraced the all-screen display, laser cutting a hole (or two on the S10+) for the selfie cameras. The industry calls it a hole punch; Samsung calls it Infinity-O.

After much deliberation, I think I like this better than the notch. When watching videos, I don’t mind it as much. Maybe because it’s tucked away in one corner instead of in the middle. YouTube videos are usually 16:9 so they’ll have thick black bars on both sides. But you can punch out to fill the screen with a tiny crop.

Apps like Netflix refuse to fill beyond the area where the hole punch is. If it’s really not your cup of tea, you can go into settings and tick “Hide Front Camera” that gives the display a rather large forehead.

Samsung’s default wallpapers are purposely darker in the upper-right corner to hide the hole punch as much as possible. But I say, embrace it. We have been rocking an assortment of cheeky wallpapers that really tell you it’s there. If you want to download any of these, you can check this link. Samsung also has an “Embrace The Cutout” selection of S10 wallpapers you can buy from the Galaxy Themes Store.

It’s not all aesthetics. There’s also some functionality built in too, like when you take a selfie with the timer on, a lighted timer will travel around the cameras giving you a visual countdown, and showing you where to look.

I have many thoughts about smartphone displays, but mainly two of relevance here: One, display tech has gotten so good, that comparing displays requires a lot of nitpicking; and two, tech reviewers like me are so spoiled by the best displays, that we’re sometimes harder to please. But at the end of the day, having a good or great display isn’t what defines a smartphone.

Having said that, when it comes to the creme dela creme of display tech, it really doesn’t get better than this. Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED panel is in a league of its own: color, vibrancy, highlights, shadows, crispness. View-ability outdoors under bright sunlight, gentleness to your eyes when it’s dark — you name it.

Underneath it is an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Two years ago, many had expected Samsung to be the first to introduce an under-display fingerprint scanner, but they didn’t. That honor went to Vivo, followed by the likes of Huawei and OnePlus. But if you ask me, it’s been worth the wait.

The S10’s in-display fingerprint scanner is powered by Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic technology that’s a step up from the optical scanners used in other products. Instead of using a camera under the display to take a photo and determine a match, Qualcomm’s tech uses sonic sound waves to scan your pores and make a 3D image that’s used to identify you.

With the most recent update, I’ve found this tech to be almost as fast as physical scanners, and much, much quicker than current optical type in display scanners. You just have to quickly tap and not tap and hold for a second. If that’s not your cup of tea, face unlock is very fast but it’s not as secure. In fact, I was able to unlock the phone using a video clip on my iPad. Samsung previously offered a more secure iris scan face unlock, but ditched that tech on the S10.

So, if not display, what makes or breaks a smartphone? For me, the two most important things are battery life and camera performance. In these fronts, the S10+ is a big improvement from its predecessor.

I’ve used the S10+ as my daily driver for a couple of weeks now. My use is probably heavier than the average user. I’m always on my phone, watching YouTube videos, scrolling through social media, and taking photos. And because I review other phones, oftentimes when I’m out, it’s also a portable hotspot.

That said, battery life on the S10+ has been impressive. Based on my real world use, most users will get a whole day with more than average use. It’s not as long-lasting as say the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, but it’s noticeably longer-lasting than previous Samsung phones I’ve used.

The S10+ comes with a fast charger that can get you from zero to 100 percent in just over an hour and 40 minutes. There’s also reverse wireless charging, a feature we first saw on the Mate 20 Pro last year. While it’s cool to be able to charge another phone on the back of yours, charging is a slow trickle at best and is really just designed to charge smaller accessories, like Samsung’s new wireless buds or a Qi-compatible smartwatch.

Those who’ve watched my videos over the years know I prefer a zoom lens to wide-angle, but three weeks traveling with the S10+ have changed that. This phone has three rear cameras, featuring both an ultra-wide angle and zoom lens. I love that I don’t have to pick between the two, and to be honest, when you’re traveling, nothing beats an ultra-wide.

Whether you’re shooting outdoors or indoors, the S10+ shoots beautiful photos. But it isn’t the low-light champ it used to be. If I were to nitpick, the phone has the tendency to favor highlights, so photos are sometimes unnecessarily brighter than they need to be — sometimes almost overexposed.

There’s a new AI-based Scene Optimizer that can can adjust settings based on what it thinks is best for a shot. I leave it off because the phone does a good job otherwise. But it needs to be turned on for Night Mode to work. You know the long exposure night shot that we’ve seen on many phones recently? It’s on the S10, too. But, there’s a catch.

The phone has to think the scene needs night mode and it chooses to turn on. But oftentimes, it doesn’t think night mode is warranted. It can be frustrating, and would have been nice to get a button to turn it on when you need it. Maybe Samsung can fix this in an upcoming update.

My review unit is the S10+ which means instead of one front camera, there are two. The other is mainly for measuring depth. Even though there’s a toggle that makes it seem like there’s a second wide-angle camera, this is not the case. The other just crops in closer. I don’t like selfies taken with the S10+. I think they are too soft. I don’t mind a good skin softening filter that I can turn on or off. On the S10+, it doesn’t even look like that. It looks too soft, almost blurry.

Where the S10’s cameras do a great job at is shooting video. It is the first of its kind to support HDR10+ video capture. Of course, you need a display that supports it, and that does not include the S10. Video stabilization is great, however.

There’s plenty else to like about the S10+. I really like the changes they’ve made to their UI. One UI is cleaner, simpler, and well thought-out. Dark Mode is great and it helps save battery, too. My only peeve is the way the app drawer works. You swipe up to reveal it, but have to swipe to the left to see your second page of apps.

It’s backed up with the highest of specs. Including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chip here in the US and Samsung’s Exynos 9820 elsewhere in Asia. There’s still a headphone jack, support for up to 1TB of external storage, and water and dust resistance. Of course it’s all not sugar plums and unicorns.

Apart my from camera complaints, I’m not a fan of the power button being so high up. And speaking of buttons, the dedicated Bixby button can finally be reassigned to something else — except Google Assistant, which is a bummer. Bixby is a con in and of itself. I’ll leave it at that.

Is the Samsung Galaxy S10+ your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for one of the best Android phones that you can get almost regardless of where you live, the Galaxy S10 is on top of our list. Some might argue that many of its new features have been seen before on other smartphones; that’s true, and that doesn’t look good on Samsung’s report card as an innovator.

However, in some cases, while late, Samsung has gone out and done it better. And while objectively, the Galaxy S10+ isn’t the best at anything, it’s so well balanced a smartphone, that it’s hard not to recommend. It does things right, and does things good. From where it stands at this point in the year, it’s set a high bar for the rest of the industry to follow.

Undeniably, the Galaxy S10+ deserves the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval. If you’re in the market for a new Android smartphone and are willing to shell out the US$ 1,000 asking price, then we give you our blessing.

For Samsung fans wanting to save a few hundred bucks, I’d consider the more affordable Galaxy S10e which we’ll review separately. You can also avail of a trade-in offer from your carrier. T-Mobile, for example, is offering up to US$ 390 off for qualifying phones including the Galaxy S8 and S9. That brings the price down to a more reasonable US$ 605.

If that’s still a lot to pay, check out the OnePlus 6T if you’re in the US. And if you’re elsewhere in the world, I’m also a big fan of the new Xiaomi Mi 9.

Gaming

realme 6 review: Perfect gaming phone for the lockdown?

Let’s play to cope

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realme is stepping up to the plate with a new gaming phone with the realme 6. Was anyone particularly surprised? I was. But, before we get into the review, there’s no point avoiding the giant invasive elephant in the room whenever we talk about new releases. COVID-19 has drastically shifted our lives and has ultimately changed how we interact with everyone. It’s dramatically changed how we navigate our day-to-day.

Painful reality

But, reality still. For the most part, everything is in one enclosed space now. There’s no spatial separation between work, school, home, and play. Honestly, time has also probably warped since this entire thing hit the fan for most of us. We’ve probably lost track of time more than once in the entire year and it’s still just May.

Strap up, boys and girls, 2020 is a wild one.

Which brings me to something I personally find helpful in an anxiety-inducing time: playing games. Now, now, a bunch of gatekeepers have kept to their high horse over the ancient PC or console debate but, I think phones have a large new place in the argument.

Games, like most other art forms, rooted itself as a form of entertainment, a pass-time. Granted, a large industry grew from building competitiveness within the ecosystem, the point still stands. Games are for fun. Play it however way you like. It is still for your enjoyment or entertainment.

What’s this got to do with anything?

Things don’t exist in their own fantastical bubble. Don’t we just all wish it did though? I’d previously referenced how video games have had a significantly positive impact on my mental health. In a time where anxiety, depression, and manic attacks are at an all-time high, I think I don’t just speak for myself when I say having something for cognitive distraction or a twinge of healthy escapism is helpful and welcome.

Here’s where I timely segue into how the realme 6 played a quiet role in calming the daunting storm stirring in my head in most days.

A “gaming phone” how?

Okay, this phone sat in my apartment since the lockdown began and I’m not going to lie, the timing was a little strange. This year didn’t just start a mess, it proceeded to get worse and worse. From volcanoes erupting, forest fires, Kobe, and locusts, you could say the universe heard everyone’s posts testing how it could get any worse and slapped big ol’ corona into the mix.

That aside, I lucked out a bit with the Realme 6 with me since the lockdown began. With a Helio G90T processor, 90Hz refresh rate display, 8GB RAM and 128 GB storage and fast-charging 4,300mAh battery, you can only imagine the reckless abandon I had when playing new offline games during the quarantine.

The phone measures 6.5 inches and optimizes it with FHD resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 to make sure that beauty stays protected. The Realme 6 doesn’t really disappoint.

It delivers on all those specs and makes playing games look stunning. It’s so good that when you’re a little manic and need some cathartic kills, there’s honestly nothing wrong with hopping into a game and getting some frags.

Not just a gaming phone

Here, we talk about the things we didn’t ask for but, obviously things the phone delivers on without being asked of. The realme 6 is a pretty impressive phone. It delivers on all fronts relating to gaming and even the battery life can hold up to more than eight (8) hours of play and use.

But, that isn’t what makes the realme 6 a phone. We can call it a convenient handheld with everything so far but it has a decent set of cameras worth mentioning.

The cameras

The Realme 6 has a 64MP Quad camera with a 16MP in-display selfie camera. It’s got Super Nightscape 2.0 for low-light shots, Ultra Image Stabilization, 120fps Slow-Mo Selfie, and Real-Time Bokeh Video.

I went out to test these features and they deliver. The photos below are pretty telling of my uneventful lockdown lifestyle so dial it down on dissing the silly still shots.

Selfie, ta-dah!

Nit-picking the little things

If there’s one silly downside though, the phone does struggle to focus on moving objects. And, if there’s one petty thing I personally am not a fan of, it’s notches and in-display selfie cameras.

No jabs at realme for that one though, that’s all me. Anything blocking even the tiniest part of any display just throws me off and reminds me of the Zima Blue episode in Love, Death, and Robots.

Sometimes, it’s not a design flaw; sometimes, it’s just a depressive lunatic associating a tiny round in-display camera to the void of her own existence.

Is the realme 6 your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for the perfect phone to play and keep yourself sane with progressive quality lockdown selfies and photos, this is the phone for you. It lets you play, keep sane, and gets through a full day of use quite easily.

If you’re looking for a phone that delivers on stunning gameplay, performance, and lots of storage while having uncompromised camera features, this is definitely the phone you’re looking for.

Real talk real quick though, I think the realme 6 was the perfect lockdown companion. There’s been many a time where I found myself stirring some random crap up and I needed a moment of just disconnecting to ironically come back more connected. Some paradox of an existence we all have, huh.

The realme 6 — a successor of the realme 5 Pro — is available in 4GB RAM + 128GB storage for PhP11,990 and in 8GB RAM + 128GB storage variant for PhP13,990. It can be purchased online on the official realme Lazada store.

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Gaming

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 review: A fun beat’em up

Relive the story without having to replay hundreds of episodes

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Have you ever wanted to play as your favorite One Piece character while mowing through mobs like a one-man army? Then One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is for you.

This game from Omega Force incorporates One Piece’s well-loved story and characters with gameplay from the Dynasty Warriors franchise — the property that the developer is most known for. This is the fourth installment in the series and is the follow-up from the 2015 One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3.

It adds more to the story, some game elements, and the most noticeable is the character roster that’s massive compared to previous entries. It’s available in Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows platforms.

Simple game modes

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 has three modes: Dramatic Log, Free Log, and Treasure Log. Dramatic Log is where all of One Piece’s story so far. It’s crammed into ten plus hours of chapters and episodes which is no easy feat especially for a long-running series like this one.

While the efforts are commendable, a casual fan who hasn’t closely followed the manga or anime would have more questions than answers. I can understand that this game is geared towards One Piece fans. Anyone who has read the manga up to the latest chapter or watched the latest episode of the anime should have no trouble keeping up.

Free Log is where you can go back to the episodes you’ve already cleared in Dramatic Log with any unlocked character. The last mode, the Treasure Log, is where you go through missions to gain materials for upgrades. Some characters can be unlocked by completing a certain number of missions in this mode.

One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 also has a multiplayer feature. You can play co-op with other players to aid you in your missions. Luckily for me, it didn’t have the connectivity issues that frustrated me in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. Unlike in that game, it’s easy to join other players’ sessions as long as they’re available.

Most characters can be unlocked by progressing through the Dramatic Log while some others by meeting certain conditions.

Unapologetically a beat’em up game

Pirate Warriors 4 is an action-adventure beat ‘em up game. That means you get to through hordes of pirate or navy lackeys like an absolute badass until the boss shows up. You go through main missions with mini objectives sprinkled here and there. These include eliminating certain characters or protecting allies from getting their HP reduced to zero.

Stronger enemies have armor gauges under the HP bars that are needed to be depleted in order for you to inflict damage. Controls are easy to get a grasp of: two buttons for attack, one for dashing/dodging and one for jumping.

I started the game mindlessly mashing the buttons until I found out my favorite button combinations through experimentation. I learned later that the moves list can be found in the menus with enough digging.

One thing I found challenging was controlling certain characters that are naturally airborne. It can be hard to hit grounded enemies when you can’t control your character’s elevation and have to wait until when you’re just hovering above ground.

This is one of the reasons why I shied away from using Luffy’s 4th gear form or Sanji unless I’m required to in Dramatic Log. Using the camera lock on stronger enemies like bosses alleviates this a bit but the controls still require a bit of a learning curve.

The game also allows for customization options. By earning the required materials and enough of the in-game currency, you will be able to upgrade your character’s stats, skills, and special moves.

There’s a common attribute and skill tree that can be used by all characters. Then there’s also character-specific ones that can be unlocked once that character reaches a certain level.

Thanks to my usual habit of hoarding in-game materials, I didn’t bother with this until later on in the story where I noticed that I’m not dealing enough damage and the missions are becoming more time-consuming. I breezed through the rest of the story after upgrading my offensive capabilities.

You can upgrade your attributes and even gain skills and specials. The Beginning Map applies to all characters while there are maps specific for characters.

A fun way to recap One Piece

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4  lets you relive the story without having to replay hundreds of episodes of the anime. Beating up hordes of enemy pirates as your favorite character from the series while feeling like a one-man army just feels great.

I found it time-consuming at first but once you’ve upgraded your stats, you can easily sneak in a round or two during your short breaks. The menu layout requires a bit of digging to find what you want or need (like reviewing the objectives or your moves list) and some controls can use a little improvement.

I enjoyed playing One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 and I’m sure a bonafide One Piece fan would feel at home. Now, it’s  time to pick up the manga so I can be filled in with the things I missed in the story.


This game was reviewed on a PS4 by Lance Aquino. He juggles multiple hobbies while working in the BPO industry. Outside of gaming, he mostly tries to learn how to draw and write short stories that are often inspired by the anime or manga that he watched or read.

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Philippines

realme 6i review: You gain some, you lose some

Finally, a budget device with a USB-C

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realme had been busy over the past years in making feature-packed smartphones at an affordable price. The realme 5 series last year is compelling evidence that the company nailed it in this regard. That series alone was one of the most sold in the Philippines. Now, Realme is keen to capitalize on its success with the new realme 6 series.

The first device in the series is now officially available in the country. realme 6i builds on the popularity and success of realme 5. Almost everything that made the realme 5 successful makes a return 0n the 6i. There are some aspects too that got improved. But is it enough to be a worthy successor to the realme 5?

That question alone bears a significant impact on how successful this device. realme 6i is once again competing for a spot on one of the best budget smartphones list. Let’s find out how the device 6i fares against the competition.

A polarizing design on the back

Right off the bat, the design of the realme 6i stands out like on the realme 5. This time around, the gradient pattern on the back is different. When hit by light, the back of the device gives a grill-like pattern. The new design pattern is surely polarizing. Some will love it, but others may not. I fall in the latter.

It comes in two colors: Matcha Green and Milk White. Sure enough, if you saw the realme 6i in press renders, you’ll be forgiven for imagining your favorite drink too. In real-world usage though, the colors are much more subdued than what Realme wants you to see. I have the Matcha Green on hand and it looks more like the color of a leaf to me.

It is easy to handle the device despite its large size. Also, you won’t feel that the device is made out of plastic. realme 6i is well-made, and it can trick you into thinking that it’s made from aluminum.

Moving over to the front, you still get a waterdrop notch up top and narrow bezels all-around. The power button is still on the right, and the volume controls are on the left. If there’s one big change this year, that will be the new USB-C port on the bottom. Finally, a budget device with a USB-C. And, there’s still a headphone jack on this device!

Vibrant but dim screen

There’s nothing to write home about realme 6i’s display. It carried over the display from its predecessor. As such, you still get a 6.5-inch 1600 x 720 IPS LCD screen. You won’t notice the individual pixels on this phone and the colors are vibrant enough for HD videos. However, it can’t compare to an OLED screen. On my OnePlus 6T, colors are much more vibrant and saturated. Granted, this is a lower-res screen, but putting an OLED there could have helped in making the display much more true-to-life.

The notch above the display is small that you don’t notice it on day-to-day usage. Plus, the display is almost near the sweet spot of 21:9, so you can use two apps side-by-side comfortably if that’s your fancy.

There’s a major problem with the display though. The maximum brightness of this device is not enough for a comfortable outdoor viewing experience. On a sunny day, I can’t even read the text and see the content on my screen. I don’t know if this is a software or a hardware issue. realme has to fix this problem urgently in the future.

Zippy performance for everyday use

The realme 6i flies through daily tasks. There’s a Helio P90 processor powering the device which is more than enough for day-to-day use. I didn’t notice any lag while browsing the web, peeking through Reddit threads, and viewing my Messenger conversations. Suffice to say, it’s more than capable and can confidently handle any task you throw at it.

Gaming’s a mixed bag, though. For graphics-intensive tasks, the device struggles a bit. When I played the relatively-obscure but polished clone of Minecraft — Survivalcraft — the frame rates dropped to an unacceptable three FPS after setting off multiple explosions. I recommend toning down the graphics a bit if you want to play modern graphically-intensive games.

realme’s own twist to Android 10 is a bit polished, but you can’t help but notice its similarity to iOS and OneUI. However, to distinguish its own OS, it added a few niceties that anyone will surely appreciate in their day-to-day usage. You can customize the navigation gestures and even tweak the icons if you like. Realme UI has come a long way, and overall, I like the coherent design of the icons and the system.

However, that’s where the good side ends. Personally, there’s a lot of performance drawbacks that I experienced on the realme 6i. Chief among them is loads of bloatware on this thing. Right out of the box, I get the Agoda, Opera, Lazada, Facebook, Trip.com, and Webnovel app. I don’t need these apps, along with realme’s own app store that annoyed me every time I install an app from the Google Play Store. Fortunately, I can disable or uninstall these apps.

There are gesture bugs and touch input delays too. I can’t count the times I had to double-tap or even triple-tap a button on the bottom of the screen because the screen can’t recognize my touch.

Decent all-around cameras

Now onto the tricky part: the camera. realme 6i’s camera takes decent photos if there’s enough light. The photos taken on this thing showed punchy colors and enough details to make it usable for day to day use. On the photos below, I can commend Realme 6i for getting the colors of the foliage right. What I liked most about this photo is how it gets the bokeh right:

And since pizza’s one of the comfort food we miss during the lockdown, we had a pizza delivered right into our house. Look at how the realme 6i nailed the colors green and red bell peppers, white onions, and the bits of meat.

However, I put the emphasis on decent photos: if you really are nitpicking, you will notice that the photos are a bit muted and dull. Take this photo, for example:

The leaves on the tree turned out nice. However, looking over to the house, I can definitely tell that the color is washed out. In real life, the color is much more vibrant than what realme 6i wants you to believe. The house has a much vibrant pink to it. The issue here could be blamed on getting the white balance wrong.

Turning on the HDR helps to boost the colors a bit. Some details are also recovered too. I recommend turning on the HDR on shots with contrasting scenes like this one to make the photos a bit nicer to look at.

The camera of the realme 6i starts to show its limitation on dimly-light environments too. There’s a night mode on this device to help it capture better photos at night. However, just avoid taking a photo at night since it tends to capture blurry photos.

The camera also had different shooting modes to meet your needs. There’s Panorama mode and Ultra Macro mode so you can take landscape and close-up shots. Personally, I find them useful in certain scenarios, but photos taken with these modes sometimes lack detail with washed-out colors and blurred details.

The shots taken on the front-facing camera of the Realme 6i is fine for social media posts. However, when you look closely at the photos below, you’ll see that the colors are a bit washed-out. The camera tends to smoothen out my face, which is a result of the beauty filter turned on by default. The camera app itself has settings to “beautify” and tweak your face appearance, which is nice for people like me who always have pimple break-outs.

Humungous battery that charges quickly

The battery on this device remains at a massive 5,000mAh. That alone will give you solid two-day battery life for normal use cases. However, if you heavily game on the realme 6i, expect to last only a day. Either way, it is a solid battery champ.

Even better, this device now has a quick-charging feature. realme 5 doesn’t have that feature and as a result, you have to wait for hours just to recharge. With the quick-charging feature, I can just plug the Realme 6i and wait for two hours to go from 20% to 80%. It’s not exactly the fastest, but other devices in the budget segment don’t have this feature yet. So, this is a win-win for users and Realme itself.

Is the Realme 6i your GadgetMatch?

The realme 6i really tries its best to offer the features that made the realme 5 a fan-favorite. In some aspects, it even tried to one-up its predecessor by including new features that really matter to consumers. And I love what realme did this year: they offered fast-charging on their budget device and they even bundled a USB-C. Granted, there are some drawbacks to this device, but they are minor complaints that you won’t notice or can be remedied in future software updates.

Perhaps the one thing that will make you consider this device is the price: the 3/64GB storage retails at PhP 7,490 while the 4/128GB storage retails at PhP 9,490. Combined with the features it has, the realme 6i can be your next GadgetMatch.

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