Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Premium phone you can afford

Premium experience at a palatable price!

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This is the Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition). It’s not the most exciting phone of the year, but possibly one of Samsung’s most important. It isn’t awe-inspiring like the Galaxy Z Fold 2.

But what it lacks in its ability to be attention-grabbing, it more than makes up for with its more affordable price point. All while delivering on the most beloved features of the S20 series.

Of course, a cheaper price tag means there has to be compromises somewhere. In this review, we’ll take a look at the choices Samsung made, and whether or not the S20 FE deserves to be a part of this high-end lineup. Or if it’s just a fancy name on a mid-range phone?

Unboxing

Galaxy S20 FE

Unlike the rest of Samsung’s S20 lineup that comes with black boxes, the S20 FE comes in this white box. The text styling is very much the same. If you look closely, there are icons engraved on the box. The packaging order is also pretty standard.

Galaxy S20 FE

Our unit comes in a sleek, Cloud Navy color. If Navy isn’t your thing, there are five more color options to choose from: Red, White, Lavender, Mint, and Orange.

In the box are the SIM tray ejection pin, the usual quick start guide, a 15W travel adapter, and a USB-C to USB-A cable.

Part of the family?

On the outside, you’ll find the Galaxy S20 FE sharing the same design ID as the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra. The same rounded corners, same shaped aluminum frame, same placements for its button ports, and antenna lines.

It also got the same Infinity O display with a punch-hole for the selfie camera. The much loved 120Hz refresh rate is here, as well.

The handset also carries the same top-of-the-line processors: Snapdragon 865 for the 5G variant, and Exynos 990 for the LTE-only model. It has triple cameras, too! Wide, Ultra Wide, 3X Zoom, Night Mode, Pro Mode, and Space Zoom.

Additionally, it has a pretty large battery, stereo speakers, an IP rating for water and dust resistance, and even a micro SD card slot for expandable memory.

Whoever told you plastic is cheap is seriously disturbed

For it to be priced at US$ 300 less than the S20, Samsung had to make cuts, but we think they chose wisely.

First, its body is made of polycarbonate plastic instead of gorilla glass. Plastic, when done right, doesn’t have to look or feel cheap.

Galaxy S20 FE

Just like the Note 20, the S20 FE doesn’t feel nor look cheap, especially with those eye-candy colors.

Of course, the all-glass S20 definitely feels more premium, but slap a case and you wouldn’t notice a difference. But then again, you probably don’t even need a case when a phone has a plastic back.

Learning to compromise

While the S20 FE prides itself on a 120Hz display, its resolution maxes out at Full HD+. It isn’t a deal-breaker though. Even if the first S20 trio all have Quad HD+ displays, you’re stuck at Full HD+ if you want to enjoy that high refresh rate.

Galaxy S20 FE

Speaking of displays, the S20 FE has a flat display — which to some is actually better. It has a 6.5-inch screen that’s slightly larger than the S20, and almost as big as the S20+ because of its larger bezels.

Despite the size, it’s still comfortable for one-handed use. And that bigger screen is always a plus when it comes to watching videos or playing games.

Half the memory

The S20 FE has half the amount of RAM as the regular S20. But it doesn’t mean that it’s lackluster when it comes to its performance. For everyday tasks like surfing, watching YouTube and/or Netflix, or scrolling through Instagram, the RAM size won’t even matter.

Galaxy S20 FE

RAM will only matter when you’re multitasking or when you quickly switch between several open apps, one after the other. Despite the reduced RAM size, it still shares the same top-of-the-line processors as its more expensive siblings. It’s still a heavy lifter, performance-wise.

In fact, the phone worked just like any other during our stint — whether it’s watching Start-Up on Netflix, switching between multiple messaging apps, or playing League of Legends: Wild Rift.

Faster unlock

Instead of using Qualcomm’s Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanner, the S20 FE uses an optical — still under-display scanner — from a company called Goodix, which also makes them for the OnePlus 8 and Huawei P40 series.

Surprisingly, the Galaxy S20 FE unlocked more consistently than the Galaxy S20.

The same triple camera setup

In every phone review, the most exciting part is testing and comparing the phone’s cameras. The Galaxy S20 FE has the same standard triple camera setup, offering you wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto.

It has a 12-megapixel main camera with a 123-degree field of view, a 12-megapixel wide camera same as the S20 and S20+, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera.

Galaxy S20 FE

Although, it doesn’t have the exact same hardware so it produced slightly different shots compared to its siblings.

Playing around with the rear camera

The first thing you’ll notice in these photos is the balance — both in color and contrast. These sample photos taken using 1x Auto mode were neither cool nor warm, and shadows are balanced evenly along with the highlights.

The HDR balances the exposure and highlights, too. If you’ll look at the photo above, the clouds didn’t appear blown out.

Bokeh — even without portrait mode — looks seamless, crisp, and clean.

When taking photos close to dusk, and even in the blue hour, the S20 FE produces lesser noise but the loss in quality is noticeable when you zoom in.

The loss in quality is even more evident when you use the telephoto lens at night.

When it gets really dark, Night Mode kicks in. Compared to the S20, the S20 FE’s long exposure results in brighter photos with more color and detail.

If you can see the vibrant TukTuk and the food shot in a Thai restaurant, the S20 FE packed some punch when taking photos in low light.

Even when you subject the camera to an extremely low light test (without using Night Mode), the results are still astounding.

Now, let’s move over to the ultra wide-angle lens. The S20 FE has a slightly wider field of view, albeit looking dull, cooler, and gloomy.

Meanwhile, using the 3X Optical Zoom lens can have a different result depending on the photo. Sometimes, it takes brighter photos. But more importantly, there is lesser noise even when using zoom.

On paper, the S20 and its siblings have more superior camera, but the S20 FE doesn’t fall behind. Personally, we didn’t feel we’re using less of a smartphone camera, seeing how we’ve used the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra this year.

The only disadvantage would be the S20 FE’s ability to shoot videos only in 4K. Frankly, we don’t think most users will mind if they can’t shoot in 8K. We personally don’t.

Selfies we enjoy

Upfront, the S20 FE has a better selfie camera — which makes sense based on the user this phone targets. Both in day and night (and in a pandemic wedding using a pink stage light), the S20 FE surely delivers.

We’re happy since our faces didn’t wash up. Some smartphones — even without beauty mode — beautifies your face and it’s annoying AF.

Battery that delivers

The Galaxy S20 FE packs the same 4500mAh battery as the S20+. During our stint, the phone lasted a solid day of moderate use, with some left-over for the next morning. About six to seven hours of Screen on Time switching between WiFi and Cellular.

Galaxy S20 FE

It’s a big deal that the Galaxy S20 FE delivers on battery life. Imagine having to charge your phone before the end of the day. So. Inconvenient.

The phone only ships with a 15W charger in the box, but it does support 25W fast charging. With the bundled charger, the phone got to 13 percent in 10 minutes, 36 percent in 30, and a full charge in 90 minutes.

Samsung’s 25W charging adapter is an optional US$ 34.99 purchase, although we found it on Amazon for US$ 13.99. Using that fast charger, you can get to 23 percent in 10 minutes, 50 percent in 30 minutes as claimed, and 100 percent in 65 minutes.

Furthermore, the Galaxy S20 FE supports up to 15W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging, in case you need to recharge your Galaxy Buds Live.

Final thoughts

The arrival of the S20 FE is a sign of good things to come. If for anything, it’s an acknowledgment that users who have come to love the S Series, just aren’t willing to pay a thousand dollars for it anymore.

Galaxy S20 FE

Should Samsung release a follow-up, they should make an adjustment to the S21’s base price.

This year, we’ve seen companies offer a less prestigious processor — the likes of the premium midrange Snapdragon 765G — seen on the likes of the LG Velvet, OnePlus Nord, and the Pixel 5.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you as a user value most. Frankly, we think Samsung did all the right things here.

By satisfying the needs of the spec-obsessed who need the best processor and the fastest display, and those of the everyday user who will benefit most from long battery life, and almost-as-good camera — at a more palatable US$ 700 price tag.

And for that, we gave it the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval.

Galaxy S20 FE

In the Philippines, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE retails for PhP 35,990. It’s available on Samsung’s Online Store, Samsung’s official physical stores, and authorized retailers. The Galaxy S20 FE is also available via Smart’s Signature Plans.

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NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Review

Playable Anime

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NieR Replicant

An earnest protagonist, a “tsundere” who’s also kind of there for fan service, an almost fourth-wall breaking character, and a world dealing with an underlying crisis; NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139 (which we’ll refer to as NieR Replicant henceforth) has all the elements of a wonderful anime. Except, it’s a game — one that goes out of its way to offer multiple types of play.

After getting through a single playthrough of NieR Replicant, I found that most of the things I said I liked in my first impressions (music, gameplay, combat, dialogue) were the ones that will endear me to the game even further.

Everything for your sister

As the protagonist, you play the role of a brother who will do just about anything and everything for your sister. The game starts off with you looking for a way to cure the mysterious illness that’s befallen your sister.

This is the main driving force of the main character. All his actions in the main storyline are all in the service of doing what’s best for his sister.

A memorable cast

Along the way you meet the rest of the main cast. This includes a magical, talking, floating book named Grimoir Weiss who serves as both a helpful ally and a backseat protagonist who never fails to point out the obvious in every situation in a way that almost feels like it’s being directed at the player.

You’ll also build a certain level of kinship with people in your town as well as key characters in every main area of the game. This includes the two other members of your party: Kaine and Emil — both of which also have interesting backstories which I will not spoil here. Just know that all these relationships and it resonates with you, the player, will determine much of what you’ll feel about the game’s story.

NieR Replicant

“Fan Service” Kaine

Dealing with loss

One thing that you will constantly encounter in the game is the feeling of dealing with loss. It already feels heavy on its own, but if I may step back a bit. Having to deal with loss in real life recently and feeling the collective grief of people in my circle also having to deal with the same just amplifies the general feeling of hopelessness and emptiness of experiencing loss.

This feeling, however prevalent in the game, is perfectly balanced by the injection of humor from Grimoir Weiss and the happy memories you have with the ones you’ve lost. Memories also play a part in key points of the story.

Multi-faceted gameplay 

Shifting the tone a little bit, the overall gameplay of NieR Replicant will keep you on your toes.

It’s not just a mindless hack and slash game. There are sections where it’ll turn into a 2D platformer with some sprinkles of puzzle solving.

The level designs are fantastic. One thing that stood out to me is how the Square Enix and Toylogic very intentionally frames certain levels. Since this is, after all, a sort of remake of game that was first released in 2010, it is free from the burden of giving the player full camera control. This results in beautifully framed scenes as you play.

There’s one particular area that reminds me of the camera work on the original Resident Evil games on the PlayStation One.

Later on in the game, you’ll enter a deeper portion of that area and it will give you an entire section of the game that looks and plays like Diablo II. 

These areas are all perfectly placed in different sections of the game that certainly adds to the overall pacing. It can feel draggy, especially when you’re doing side quests, but having levels and areas like this make it all better. Oh and yeah, take some time to do side quests, it’ll help with getting gold (the game’s currency), some useful items, and immerse you further in the game’s world.

Here’s a quick look at the combat in the early part of the game.

The music is just… *chef’s kiss

I’ve already talked about this at length in my first impressions. But even then, it would be a disservice to not mention it here again. The music in this game is just my cup of tea.

It’s the kind of music that really transports you into the game world. If you’ve ever had fantasies of being whisked away to a different reality, the music in this game is what you would imagine to be playing.

It perfectly evokes the proper mood in every area of the game. The main village gives off this “going on an epic adventure” vibe, the area filled with robots sound robotic, and the aforementioned Resident Evil-like area fills you with horror. You can even say it almost foreshadows the fate of some levels and locations. That’s how good the music in this game is.

You can listen to the 2010 versions of the music here. Bear in mind that most of these were re-done/re-recorded for NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139.

Should you play NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… ?

Anyone who’s into narrative-driven games should give NieR Replicant a whirl. That’s also especially true if you’re an anime fan. It will feel familiar because of certain tropes, some fan service, and a time skip.

It’s a fantastic entry point into the whole NieR franchise. It will get you curious about the NieR world at large and will certainly make you want to explore or replay the 2017 hit game NieR:Automata. But of course, not before you give NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… all the playthroughs it deserves.

NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… is available April 23 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Steam.

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realme C25: Your budget content creation companion

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realme C25

During this pandemic lockdown, many of us maximized the advantages of being online and ventured into selling our products or creating vlogs and podcasts to keep us sane and productive.

In these unprecedented times, it is highly essential to have a smartphone that is reliable not just for your day-to-day activities but also for your digital content creation. 

And truly, realme commits to providing us with amazing options for that, such as their new follow-up to the C series, the realme C25.

For starters, let’s check out what this smartphone has in store for us.

Pleasing to your senses

Similar to realme’s budget gaming phone narzo 30A that they recently launched, the C25 flaunts a large 6.5-inch screen but with a 1600×720 display.

Despite it not being in full HD+, the phone’s resolution actually shows pretty accurate colors and good viewing angles. The screen has peak brightness of up to 480 nits which is already bright but could’ve used some improvement especially if you’ll be using it outdoors. 

Up front, you will notice the selfie camera at the center which is a bit intrusive for my taste. Luckily, the bezels surrounding the screen are not thicker than today’s standards.

realme C25

The C25 comes in Water Blue and Water Grey and I was actually glad to unbox the Water Blue variant since I can see the details clearer on the back cover.

When it comes to its construction, realme put this phone a notch above the rest. They processed it using the industry-leading German fixed-axis precise radium engraving machine, making the device more appealing, comfortable to the touch and less susceptible to fingerprints and smudges.

 You can also see its square camera setup cut-out and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor at the upper middle part.

realme C25

While on the right side of the phone are its volume rockers and power button.

realme C25

Gives you enough space

As someone who is largely dependent on my phone for casual photos and preview for my shoots, one thing I really liked about the C25 is its large storage. You have 4GB of RAM on this phone and have two storage options, 64GB and 128GB.

And when you check the left side of the phone, you’d see that there are two nano SIM card slots and a dedicated microSD card slot to bring you more network and storage freedom as you can expand it by up to 256GB.

Snap and create

One big advantage of the realme C25 is that this is their first phone belonging to their C-series that features a 48MP AI-triple camera. Its camera setup consists of a 48MP primary camera, 2MP monochrome lens and  2MP macro lens.

realme C25

I tested all cameras and noticed that its main camera produced vibrant colors but isn’t very detailed. You can also notice the graininess on this photo.

As for its night mode, the camera produced decent exposures but its processing is not at par with flagship phones.

Its macro lens on the other hand, showed great details which would definitely be helpful if you have an online business and you’d be using your C25 to take shots of your products.

Power under the hood

One amazing feature about the realme C25 is that you can find the MediaTek Helio G70 processor at the core of this device, ensuring a powerful and swift performance for content creators and gamers alike, giving people another reason to compare it to its brother, the narzo 30A.

realme C25

Another big advantage of this phone is that it runs on realme UI 2.0 on Android 11, making its interface pleasant and easy to navigate.

Battery that you need

The winning feature for the realme C25 is that it is equipped with a whopping 6,000 mAh battery that can let you do your daily tasks, watch videos, play your games and even do your shoots for your content all day long without worrying.

On the first day that I had it, I fully charged the battery and left it open for 24 hours without much activity and its level just went down to 98%. For the next couple of days, I used it for my usual activities, and it just went lowbatt after 3 days.

This phone even has some helpful battery settings such as App Quick Freeze which can minimize your battery use by background apps, and Screen Battery Optimization that can tone down some of the phone’s display effects to save power.

realme C25

Complementing this huge battery is a 18W fast charger which can fully charge it in two hours. Another bonus is that despite it being a budget phone, the realme C25 has reverse wired charging in case you have an emergency and you forgot to bring a powerbank for your other gadgets.  

Unrivaled durability and reliability

Though in denial, I must admit I can be really clumsy that I tend to drop my phone or splash it with water from time to time. With the realme C25, I don’t have to worry too much about these situations as it is the first smartphone that passed TÜV Rheinland Smartphone High Reliability Certification. 

This means that this phone encompassed daily use test scenarios such as drop, wear and tear, extreme environment test scenarios and component reliability test scenarios based on the three- year life cycle of smartphones.

For realme to take this further step and invest on such an upgrade for the C25 definitely sets higher standards for other budget phones.

Is realme C25 your GadgetMatch?

This phone is really targeted for people on a budget but are looking for a smartphone with a high battery capacity, good cameras, performance, latest software and durable and reliable for your day-to-day tasks and content creation.

If all these features tick all the boxes on your checklist, then the realme C25 is definitely your GadgetMatch.

But if you’re looking for a smartphone with a better screen, faster charging and other camera features such as an ultrawide lens, you may opt for a higher end smartphone.

The realme C25 is available in Water Blue and Water Grey variants and is priced at PhP 7,490 for the 4GB RAM + 64GB internal storage and PhP 8,490 for the 4GB RAM + 128GB internal storage.  

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Balan Wonderworld review: A theater for young ages

Facing the reality behind the curtains

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Balan Wonderworld

Have you ever had those moments in your younger years that hurt you a ton? Have they also happened as you got older and a bit wiser? Such is life on our own planet Earth: full of ups and downs. With each moment, we learn new things about ourselves and from our own shortcomings to become better people. However, there are times when things get too overwhelming.

We all need an escape, no matter how young or old we might be. For the older ones, it’s having some time alone, watching movies or TV shows. With the younger generation, it’s playing video games or window shopping online. For our good friends Leo or Emma, their daring escape from their problems led them to the mysterious world of Balan Wonderworld.

I decided to give this game a shot, seeing as it’s one of those less-hyped titles from Square Enix. I want to know what it could offer to a semi-casual player like myself when I need stress relief. Also, Square Enix loves to draw you in with some lore in between to keep you hooked from start to end.

So, what exactly is happening here?

Balan Wonderworld starts off with a story that provides little context to the main characters. Essentially, you play as either Leo or Emma, two children experiencing some personal troubles. I decided to play as Leo mostly because his opening cutscene was him dancing on the street, which is quite relatable. Apparently, in Leo’s case, a group of equally skilled dancers took notice, but he just shunned them away for unexplainable reasons.

Eventually, he and Emma find themselves in this mysterious theater guarded by Balan, a magician-like figure. According to the game’s lore, the theater only shows up to those who are experiencing troubles in their lives. I guess you could consider Leo/Emma extremely lucky, but they’re also confused as to why they’re in the theater. A few moments later, they find themselves in a magical world behind the theater — essentially pulling a Narnia on you.

Balan Wonderworld

Leo in the Island of Tims

You may be wondering how all of this just happened, and I’m here to tell you that I have no idea. In its early stages, the game doesn’t explain to you a lot of details in hopes of putting the pieces of the story together. As I progressed through the story later on, I’m still trying to understand how these things happened. Not the kind of start I was expecting.

The simplest gameplay mechanic for Square Enix

After the intro cutscene, you find yourself on the Island of Tims, which is pretty empty to start. It’s mostly just grassland with some flowers, lakes, and bridges. Eventually, you will slowly rebuild the Tims Tower, which doesn’t seem that important initially. Part of the rebuild involves the inhabitants of the island: the Tims which aids you for the main completion quest.

Now, this platforming game features twelve Chapters, each with two levels and a boss fight. In all the levels, you only ever need to press one button to get through the entire game: the X button. See, every other button and trigger on your controller allows you to jump and platform around — something the X button does anyway. However, the X button is this game’s primary action button because of another gameplay mechanic.

Collect-a-thon Platformer

In each level, Leo/Emma will collect a set of costumes that grant them special abilities. From jump attacks to increased air time, these costumes allow you to explore the game’s vast stages to look for collectibles for completion. As mentioned earlier, almost all of the abilities are bound to the X button — something you don’t really see with Square Enix’s other prominent titles.

Balan Wonderworld

Some of the costumes you will collect throughout the game

Apart from the costumes, you will also collect Drops, Tim Eggs and Balan Statues in each stage. Collecting Drops allows you to grow your Tims to grant you boosts when playing every stage. Meanwhile, collecting a certain number of Balan Statues opens the next set of Chapters and worlds to explore.

As somebody who is fond of stage-by-stage platforming, this was pretty standard stuff even in an open-world setting. Personally, I found myself getting side-tracked with all the collectibles if I wanted to progress further into the game. However, it also makes the game roughly easy to breeze by when you’re not out to complete it. In essence, I felt it doesn’t motivate you enough to complete it 100 percent.

Uncovering your troubles and rising above them

Let’s tackle what I think is the main reason why you found yourself platforming in Balan’s magical world. I mentioned earlier that the character you control is going through some personal issues, and that the magical world showed up for them because of it. With each Chapter, Leo/Emma encounters people who also have undergone some life problems, as well.

Balan Wonderworld

One of the main boss fights in the game

Before each boss fight, a cutscene introduces you to the main story of each person you encounter in the Chapter’s stages. Essentially, it highlights the following aspects: how they started, the rise, and the fall (and eventual shift to the dark side). You are basically tasked to free these people from the Negati, a demon-like presence that is the manifestation of their troubles.

The happy ending in one of the early chapters of the game

After beating each boss, another cutscene starts that shows an epilogue of sorts, detailing the events that happened after you free people of the Negati. You see people get back on their feet, or become more open to other people about their interests. Also, each ending cutscene starts off with a performance with the AI versions of the costumes you collect. I found it quite cheesy and a little extra in some instances.

A game that doesn’t explain much when it should

Everything about Balan Wonderworld made me ask myself, “why is this all happening?” To be honest, I felt that nothing about the game was explained properly the moment you start playing. From the simplistic gameplay mechanic to the storylines in each chapter, it all feels like it lacks purpose. Furthermore, even your role in lifting these people up from their troubles isn’t explained properly.

While playing through this game, I got the feeling that this was intended for kids even if some of the issues tackled here applied to adults. In its raw gameplay alone, it’s simple to understand and easy to navigate that even five year olds will get through the mechanics easily. The collect-a-thon element only somewhat adds a level of depth to the overall gameplay.

Gameplay mechanics aside, the entire story behind Balan Wonderworld just happens with little to no context or purpose. You aimlessly go into each Chapter, uncover the story behind each character, beat the demon inside them, and they’re freed of the negativity inside them. If you’re a child playing this game, it’s something that you’ll enjoy. As an adult, however, it doesn’t do much to draw you in for long.

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