Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: An all around wonder

Ideal for most users

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From the moment I picked up the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G, it’s been hard to let go. But I had a very different impression of the phone when it was just first announced. I thought it was boring and is just another cash-grab attempt by Samsung. Boy was I wrong. 

Spending roughly a little over two weeks with it, my opinion definitely shifted. From just another boring phone, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G started to look to me like the ideal smartphone for most users. 

Designed for optimal use 

The first thing that really caught my attention was when I first held the Galaxy S21 FE 5G. It felt… perfect. But really, the word I was looking for is ergonomic. It’s not too light and thin that you don’t feel like you’re carrying nothing. But it’s also not too hefty and  thick that it’ll put a strain on your hand if you hold it for too long. It feels like the sweet spot for most hand sizes.

The look also feels streamlined. Initially, I thought it was too simple. However, after prolonged use, it looked more sleek and subtle than plain and bland. If your taste skews towards minimalism, you’ll likely gravitate towards this phone’s design. It comes in Graphite, Olive, Lavender, and White so there’s a healthy selection of colorways.

It also felt durable. The ‘glasstic’ material used didn’t make me feel compelled to get a case while using it. You just get the feeling that it won’t break easily. It’s perfect for clumsy types who often drop their phones unintentionally. 

Our Associate Creative Producer did point out that the back can be a sweat magnet. Not encouraging for people with sweaty palms. Although, this might easily be addressed by getting a case anyway.  

Reliable performance 

Powered by Samsung’s Exynos 2100 chip, the phone didn’t leave me wanting in terms of performance. Over the course of my usage, it learned the apps I use the most and kept them active in the background. This means they load right from where I left them during instances that I switch from app to app. 

ONE UI 4 also felt smooth and snappy. Navigating the phone felt fast, but this has been the case with most flagship-level Samsung smartphones over the past 3-4 years. 

There’s a feature where you can open certain apps as if it was floating. Kind of like a chat head but for different apps. It worked on Telegram and Twitter during my time with the phone. It’s cool for quick glances, but I found it mostly annoying, but that’s just me. 

The sensors felt snappy, too. Whether it’s Face Unlock or the fingerprint scanner, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G unlocked pretty quickly. This is underrated as some smartphones still struggle with speed and consistency on this matter. 

Great for watching and gaming 

In line with its overall design, the weight also makes it easy to hold even for extended periods of time. That means interacting with and watching on the 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display (120Hz, HDR10+) was extremely satisfying. 

I watched The Journalist and Single’s Inferno (Best girl 안예원 An Yea-Won deserved more screentime!) before bed on the Galaxy S21 FE 5G. Despite both shows having nearly hour-long episodes, I didn’t feel any strain at all holding the phone while watching. 

The display was also okay and usable under direct sunlight. The team didn’t completely agree on this matter so ultimately, it’ll likely come down to how sharp your eyes are. Our general advice is still to find a shade when you can. 

Like most other Samsung phones, the heating is still there especially when your playtime goes from minutes to hours. I recently decided to finally really play some Genshin Impact over the holidays. I ran the game and had a pretty desirable experience. No unnecessary lags or stutters for one of the most graphic heavy mobile games today. So, it’s safe to say your other games will likely perform well here too. 

Our Associate Creative Director did point out that the heating was prevalent even when you’re not gaming. Personally, I only experienced the heating while playing and charging. But there’ve been several instances of heating with Exynos-powered smartphones so it’s worth mentioning here. 

Battery life and charging

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has a 4,500mAh battery and supports 25W fast charging, 15W fast wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging. 

I was most pleasantly surprised with the addition of wireless charging. It’s a feature I constantly look for in smartphones now. You also don’t have to use a Samsung power brick to take advantage of the fast charging speeds. Which is great if you’ve invested in a multiport GaN charger. 

So, how long does the phone last? Naturally, this depends on each person’s usage. But the three of us in the team who used the phone all felt like it drained pretty fast. You can mitigate this by turning off a few features, but a software update to address power consumption seems in order. 

Flagship-grade cameras

The phone has a main camera array featuring the following: 12MP main, 8MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide. It doesn’t have the extreme zoom capabilities of its S21 siblings, but it trumps them in the selfie shooter department with 32MP compared to the 10MP on the S21 and S21+. 

The selfies, by default, don’t apply too much filter. It’s just a healthy amount to make you look fresh while still looking like yourself. 

There’s also a wide-angle option so you can fit in more than one person in the selfie. 

The main cameras are fantastic. The images taken are flagship-grade. 

The ultra wide angle lens is a dream to use.

And even though the telephoto lens doesn’t have a high megapixel count, it still came out with some decent shots. 

Night shots are more varied. It’ll struggle when there’s very little light source, but with enough of them to go around, you still get detailed images.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is just a few notches off base flagship smartphones when it comes to pricing (US$ 699/ PhP 41,990/ SG$ 1,048). But the performance, design, and camera capabilities are all nearly at that level. 

The pricing might give you some pause. However, we’re 100 percent certain you won’t feel cheated once you start using the phone. It’s great all around and I’m comfortable calling it the best smartphone for most users as early as now. Granted, you might have to make sure you bring around a powerbank with you, but I’m willing to bet most people already do that anyway.

Personally, this is the first time since I reviewed the OPPO Find X3 Pro that I’ve been extremely satisfied with using a smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is an absolute joy to use and is a worthy buy even with new, more advanced phones on the horizon.

Reviews

OnePlus 11 Review: Flagship Killer is Back!

Premium, but not overpriced

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After frustrations and disappointment from its solid fanbase, it seems like OnePlus has finally addressed it by going back to their roots.

The new OnePlus 11 may look just like any other Android flagship out there, but they finally brought the price below the US$ 700 mark.

Even without the “Pro” branding, you get “Pro-grade” hardware such as a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, up to 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and a super fast 80W SuperVOOC charging.

Alongside the Hasselblad partnership, you still get that specially-made color processing algorithm for your photos.

But with all the good stuff, there are also compromises.

Are you willing to sacrifice those for the newest OnePlus flagship experience?

Watch our in-depth OnePlus 11 review to find out more!

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Reviews

POCO X5 Pro 5G review: Must-have mid-ranger?

Business as usual for POCO

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POCO X5 Pro 5G

Standing out in a crowded mid-range segment has become increasingly difficult in 2023. It isn’t enough to hit home runs; to stand out, you need to hit grand slams. To be a game-changer, a smartphone needs to be a generational talent. 

It’s difficult to be painted as generational, especially because mid-rangers, by nature, face compromises that force manufacturers to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible. A mid-ranger truly needs to be special, so it can be undeniable rather than undesirable.

The POCO X5 Pro 5G is the Chinese brand’s latest attempt at bringing a game-changing smartphone to the ultra competitive segment. They’re branding the X5 Pro 5G as ‘The secret to win’, a device that will help students and young professionals succeed with whatever challenges they’re facing. 

It’s one thing to make a hefty promise, but it’s another thing to walk the talk. Does the POCO X5 Pro 5G stand and deliver, or is it just another self-proclaimed game-changer exposed as a wannabe flagship killer? 

Design: Puts the MID in midrange

 

Remember when I said that manufacturers tend to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible? Right out of the box, even without holding the phone, you already know where POCO decided to make its necessary sacrifices. 

Allow me to describe this design with a Gen Z word made popular by Long Island’s very best in professional wrestling: mid. The X5 Pro 5G’s design, is quite frankly, mid. It doesn’t stand out in the mid-range segment, nor, does it even impress for any unique personality quirks. You’d prefer to purchase a unique case for this so you wouldn’t hesitate to bring this out during parties.

Durability: A phone that will last through an Iron Man Match

POCO X5 Pro 5G

First impressions matter, but they aren’t everything. While the X5 Pro 5G isn’t for those looking for love at first sight, its choice of materials will leave you impressed in the long run.

This phone simply works. It clearly isn’t the prettiest phone, but pretty doesn’t always mean substantial. Plastic is still the most practical material for a smartphone, and POCO’s choice of plastics for the X5 Pro 5G hit the mark. It’s so durable, in fact, you could confidently use the phone without a case even when walking around the streets of Metro Manila. 

The X5 Pro 5G’s battery performance enriches its durability. During the review period, I had the opportunity of using the phone not only as my main daily driver, but also as my primary hotspot source during remote work situations. Even for extremely heavy users, this is a phone that can last you through the day. In rare cases when you’ll need to charge in the middle of the day, the X5 Pro 5G comes with a 67W charger out of the box (yes, they still have chargers out of the box! Big W here by POCO). 

Performance: Will have you feeling like a generational talent 

POCO X5 Pro 5G

Most manufacturers hope to position their mid-rangers as bang-for-you-buck devices that can bring flagship-level technology. It’s a hefty promise. Most brands tend to miss the mark, one way or another. 

Coming from a flagship daily driver, I was already expecting a drop in performance when the X5 Pro 5G came in. Right out of the box, to my surprise, it didn’t feel like there was any drop in overall performance. Even a week after, the X5 Pro 5G’s maintained the smoothness it came with from Day 1. POCO did not miss the mark.

The 120 Hz refresh rate certainly helped accentuate that feeling of smoothness, especially when going through daily social media scrolling. But even when testing with a relatively high-intensive game such as DB Legends, the X5 Pro 5G and its Snapdragon 778G processor went through the gauntlet with relative ease. Relative to other mid-range phones, that’s generational. 

Camera: Consistently colorful 

POCO X5 Pro 5G

There’s a common misconception that when you have more cameras, the better shots you’ll get. Having multiple cameras isn’t enough; choosing the right lenses and having software that processes shots properly matters even more. 

I’m happy to say that at the very least, POCO was able to choose the right lenses for its multi-camera setup. Supporting its 108MP wide camera is an 8MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP macro camera. Other manufacturers have missed the mark by taking out the ultra-wide, but thankfully, POCO did not make that mistake. 

The ultra-wide lens performs relatively well too. The difference in quality between the main lens and the ultra-wide isn’t as drastic as you’d expect. It captures detail very well, and HDR is on point too. 

Users concerned about their social media image don’t have to worry. Its ultra-wide lens is good enough for your much-coveted Gen Z selfies. 

Performance outdoors is definitely better. There’s a noticeable drop in quality when taking indoor shots, but its nothing too criminal. 

Night mode on the X5 Pro 5G was decent too. On this shot of my very good friend’s jersey, it captured the details well, although there’s noticeable grain in the background. 

In terms of processing, the X5 Pro 5G comes out with consistently colorful shots, which is to be expected at this point. It ups the saturation to intense levels, and shadows can be overblown at times. It’s nothing too concerning, just something to consider before posting your photos on the ‘gram.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

POC X5 Pro 5G

With an SRP of PhP 16,999, the POCO X5 Pro 5G presents itself with an intriguing list of features. At first glance it won’t impress, but its value as a smartphone is all about what’s under the hood. It’s a powerful device that gets the job done. Whether you’re a busy workaholic, a student who’s trying to survive through modern hybrid setups, or a gamer who wants to pick up endless W’s, the POCO X5 Pro 5G is a great choice to have if you’re looking for a weapon that will bring you victory in whatever battles you’ll face. 

The POCO X5 Pro 5G may just be better than you, and you’ll know it. Its design is mid, but everything else, you wouldn’t hesitate to call generational.

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Computers

Apple M2 Mac mini Review

More Affordable, More Powerful

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Apple silently revealed the 2023 M2 Mac mini to the world.

Back in 2005, the Mac mini G4 was the cheapest Mac you can buy for US$ 499.

Almost 18 years after, the Mac mini still is the cheapest Mac at just US$ 599.

That’s still a lot of savings versus buying a US$ 1299 iMac.

The biggest difference? The newest Mac mini runs two of the most powerful chips right now — the M2 and M2 Pro.

But is it actually the right Mac for you?

Watch our Apple M2 Mac mini review now!

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