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.

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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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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