Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ review

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Rarely am I ever impressed by new phones; waves and waves of products do that to you. But this is an exception. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ are really truly special.

If our hands-on video and loyalty-provoking articles haven’t been enough to convince you how beautiful they are, maybe this full review will. Just look at them — this is how phones should look like in 2017.

6.2-inch Galaxy S8+ on left, 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 to the right

Curves are in, thick bezels are out

Here’s how it compares to the LG G6

But honestly, they’re literally a handful

You’d be surprised how slim the two phones are for their large screen sizes; that’s because they use this new 18.5:9 aspect ratio that’s a lot longer than the usual 16:9 ratio use in practically every other phone out there. (The LG G6, in comparison, has an almost-as-long 18:9 ratio.)

But that doesn’t discount how unwieldy they can be in a single hand. Although accidental touches aren’t as common as with the Edge variants of the Galaxy S6 and S7, you’ll always be stretching and squirming your fingers around the AMOLED display, which, by the way, is rated as the best on a smartphone ever (all 1440 x 2960 pixels of it).

Samsung tried its best to find ways around the inconvenience. One was to bring back edge screen functionality, wherein you can swipe in a panel from the side to access quick settings and important contacts. The other is a gesture on the fingerprint scanner to bring down the notification shade. The Android Nougat interface, by the way, is a lot less cluttered compared to previous Galaxies and is easier to navigate now.

Reaching for the fingerprint scanner is a pain

Since this high-tech technology that would let you scan fingerprints anywhere on the front panel didn’t make it on time (would’ve been cool, though!), Samsung chose to place the fingerprint scanner right beside the camera lens at the back. We must say, it’s terrible. Not only does it make the lens prone to getting your greasy prints on it, the sensor isn’t even that accurate. Luckily, Sammy has some nice alternatives.

I thoroughly enjoyed using the iris scanner and facial recognition login features over the unintuitive fingerprint sensor. They’re both surprisingly accurate and have their own unique advantages. For the iris scanner, it works well even in poorly lit rooms; facial recognition, on the other hand, is less picky about your position and takes one less swipe to access from standby.

The Bixby button is so… Bixby

When something doesn’t work right, we should just call it “Bixby,” which is Samsung’s idea of the ideal virtual assistant. There’s a button right below the volume rocker to the side that lets you access Bixby even when the phone is asleep. Problem is, its functionality is… how do I put this… bad.

As of the moment, it can’t accept voice commands to do your bidding like with Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri. I was only able to scan objects seen through the camera app and look them up online, which then provided more information about the product. It wasn’t entirely accurate. Making matters worse is the current supported app list, consisting of two apps I actually use: YouTube and Uber — although strangely enough, YouTube compatibility disappeared from the list when I double-checked just now.

To our delight, Google Assistant is still available for those who’d rather not be Bixby’d; you can access it by holding the home button. Now, wouldn’t it be great if we could officially map Assistant on Bixby’s physical button? Get to it, Samsung!

DeX is DeXy

One more feature unique to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 line is DeX. Sounds silly, but it’s a docking system that allows these phones to connect to a monitor and turn themselves into a full-fledged desktop operating system. While it isn’t on the level of macOS or Windows (or even Linux), it’s a decent alternative to working with files on your phone if you really must use your phone. It comes complete with a taskbar, specific settings, and all your apps scaled to monitor proportions.

I personally don’t see this becoming a hit, especially since you must buy the DeX dock separately. In no way can this replace a true desktop PC experience, but it does make working and multitasking on your phone infinitely easier. I imagine this flying with consumers who travel from one workplace to another — and, umm, happen to have a monitor lying around at each destination.

Camera time!

Let’s be real: We all want to know how well the camera performs. After listing all its tricks and pitting it against its most bitter rivals, the Galaxy S8 duo have, hands down, the best set of cameras on any phone right now. Even if you ignore all the added features and upgrades over last year’s class-leading Galaxy S7, the fact it beat the Google Pixel is enough to earn its crown.

Take a look at some more photos we’ve taken with the new king of camera phones:

Keep in mind that the two smartphones share the same cameras both in front (8 megapixels) and at the back (12 megapixels). This means the only differences between the flagship pair are the screen size and battery capacity, so don’t worry about missing out if you opt for the smaller model. (Take notes, Apple!)

Speed and endurance as slick as the glass back

The only thing smoother than the rear glass panel is the processor and its accompanying software. Depending on where you live, you’ll either get Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 835 processor or Samsung’s very own Exynos 8895, which is just as fast. Beyond the processing speeds, what really sets these two apart are their super-tiny 10nm fabrication, meaning they’re a lot more efficient and less battery-hungry than older flagship chipsets.

On top of that, the smaller footprint allowed Samsung to jam more features into the Galaxy S8 without adding to the heft. The battery, in particular, is generous enough considering how much space is used for the awesome display and camera. I was able to squeeze out about four hours of screen-on time with both Galaxy S8 models over the course of one day on a single charge.

While this sort of battery endurance may not sound so great, especially when compared to other large contenders, consider that I have Samsung’s Always On feature activated the entire time. This handy function shows me the time, date, remaining battery percentage, and my notifications even when the device is on standby. This keeps me from turning the phone on every few minutes to check messages — I’d sacrifice some battery life for this convenience any day.

Enough brains to back the brawns

I just love how Samsung made 64GB the minimum storage option for the Galaxy S8 duo. This marks 16GB as prehistoric, and forces 32GB out the door, as well. In addition, the hybrid SIM card tray allows you to extend the internal storage using a microSD card, if you choose to forego adding a second nano-SIM card, however.

In a bit of a surprise, the memory of the base models didn’t get a significant boost. In a world where 6GB of RAM is gradually becoming the standard for higher-end phones, both Galaxy S8 units settled for 4GB. I’m not complaining, though; not once did the Galaxy S8 or S8+ shut down an app before I was done with it or hinder my multitasking between programs.

To protect your investment (and it’s a hefty one), we once again have full water and dust resistance to keep the phones safe against nasty spills. Finally — and this is important for couples out there — the Galaxy S8 pair has Bluetooth 5.0, which lets you connect two pairs of wireless headphones at once!

Is this your GadgetMatch?

How much are you willing to shell out for the best smartphones currently available? If you say around $750 to $850 for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ respectively, you have your GadgetMatch! But seriously, these are expensive phones. It’s even worse if you live outside of the US, where prices are jacked up further; the Philippines has to deal with PhP 39,990 and PhP 45,990 for the two flagships.

There really is no way around it other than waiting for the prices to go down, which might probably happen when the next iPhone and Pixel roll out. If you do decide to bite the bullet and purchase either of these two Galaxies as soon as possible, I can’t blame you. In my opinion, they’re prettier than other near-borderless phones, and have the camera performance and security features to boot.

If you’re still worried about another Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, don’t be. Samsung clearly learned its lesson and is taking battery safety more seriously than any other manufacturer right now. You can learn more about the steps Samsung has taken to ensure better quality control in our comprehensive explainer.

SEE ALSO: YouTubers react to the Galaxy S8

[irp posts=”11903″ name=”YouTubers react to the Galaxy S8″]

Gaming

Kena: Bridge of Spirits isn’t for everybody

And, that’s fine

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Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure third-person video game. The game is developed and produced by Ember Lab. In the game, you play as Kena. She’s a young spirit guide who uses her magical abilities to help people pass on into the spirit world.

The game is stunning and deep dives into spiritual aspects like emotional entanglement with the physical word after passing away.

In case you don’t have a working pair of eyes

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a gorgeous game. Stunning yet scuffed at times, this game is nothing short of eye-candy. The background details and character design is just *chef’s kiss*. But, big butt (Editor’s Note: Not sure if this is a typo but we’ve decided to keep it as is), by the way, this aesthetic might not be to some people’s liking. Hear me out: this game looks and feels like you’re playing through a Disney Pixar movie. And, honestly, that might not be for everyone.

On the scuffed end of things, you’ll find that some things glitch through objects and terrain. But, to that, I think it adds to its charm. The silliness is often welcome and strangely expected in the whole gaming sense. This isn’t the first scuffed game to come across a gamer’s life and it won’t be the last. I think each game has its improvements and patches to develop and incorporate and the glitches make the whole experience memorable and meme-able.

The crutch everyone won’t shut up about

This game is weirdly forgettable for people who’ve played a lot of third-person action adventures. Why? Well, this isn’t the first of its kind. Kena: Bridge of Spirits takes from many games before it and blends its inspirations together pretty nicely without overcomplicating its mechanics.

I would say though, that this can be what I personally found to be endearing with Kena. It unapologetically makes for a good entry-level action-adventure game for people who might not normally gravitate to games like it. With its beautiful visuals and memorable take on grievances, Kena pulls at sentimental heartstrings without the stupidly complicated skill building of most other action adventures out there.

Don’t hate the game

Nor, the player. The game is simple. That can be refreshing for some players or just boring to some. Which, I’ll say now, to each their own. Most games under the same category are far more convoluted and complex. So, if that’s something you like, this isn’t for you. And that’s totally fine.

Most of the game plays on collecting cute Rot along the way. And, on top of the usual skill building, most rewards you’ll find in hidden spots are either more Rot or hats for them. It doesn’t really require that much mental gymnastics to play this game. You can play to relax and just enjoy the journey. Which, for me, is great! Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the perfect game for when you want to play with family watching. I’m sure it’ll feel like a movie to them.

Is this your GAME Match?

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game worth trying no matter how familiar you are with video games in the same category. The barrier of entry is super friendly and simplistic so, you won’t need that much video game experience to immerse in the story. Plus, you can customize the game for when you want more of a challenge.

I do have to say though, that this game might fight to keep your interest at times but, it sure can lure you back in. As for me, I was happy to play this game. It was challenging at times and, it might not be the best one on my list. But, it gets honorary points for being simple, gorgeous, and family-friendly.

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Reviews

Apple Watch Series 7: In-Depth Fitness Review

For fitness buffs and starters alike

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In our previous video, Michael Josh did an unboxing of the new Apple Watch Series 7 in Starlight. He even became NY’s next top model as the Apple Watch can also be your next best fashion piece.

This time around, we go all-out to show you the fitness benefits of using the latest Apple Watch.

While an incremental update and lack of new sensors mean little, the longer battery life, faster charging, and larger display of the Apple Watch Series 7 mean it’s even better than before.

Here’s our in-depth fitness review of the new Apple Watch Series 7.

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Laptops

realme Book review: Done right the first time around

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realme Book

The pandemic has brought about major changes on how we depend on our gadgets. We stay glued to our smartphones for hours to stay connected. Most of us also continue with our work from home setup, causing the demand for laptops to continue to rise and opening the market to new players. 

realme tries to steal the scene as they make their laptop debut with the realme Book, aimed at competing at the midrange level where many brands have already made their mark. 

Let’s check out if the realme Book can be a great contender in the laptop arena. 

Familiar yet better  

realme Book

Having a first look at the realme Book, the similarity of its design is undeniable with the MacBook though I don’t really think it’s a bad thing. Its sleek and stylish minimalist design actually makes me feel like I’m using a premium laptop. 

Compared to its smartphones that have those flashy labels, realme veered away from that with their first laptop as they kept the label subtle and you can barely see the “Dare to Leap” mark on one of its rubber feet. 

Its 14-inch sleek aluminum alloy body with matte finish really feels solid and has little or no flex on its slim chassis.

If you’re someone who likes to work in different corners of your home or at al fresco shops, the realme book can easily fit in your bag with its 14.9mm width and 1.38kg weight. When working on a flat surface, the rubber feet on the back actually help the laptop stay stable. 

In terms of port options, you get one USB-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and two Type-C ports, one being a Thunderbolt 4 for the core i5 variant.

realme Book

The USB port was a bit too tight that it required me to exert effort to pull out my USB device. Also, this laptop lacks an SD card slot and HDMI port. It doesn’t bother me that much but it may be a deal-breaker for other users. 

realme Book

Top-Notch Display 

One thing that the realme Book can really boast about is its display. As full HD display is common in laptops from its competition, the realme Book takes it up a notch with its 2K Ultra-HD screen with 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution delivering stellar image quality with sharp detail. 

The realme Book also packs in 100 percent sRGB wide color gamut that enables true-to-life visuals and a peak brightness of 400 nits which maintains high quality image even under direct sunlight. 

What also sets it apart from other laptops is its 3:2 aspect ratio, giving you more vertical room compared to most laptops that are either 16:10 or 16:9. This feature is an advantage when it comes to your productivity especially if you usually work on documents, spreadsheets or social media content for work. 

However, this becomes a disadvantage when you’re watching videos since you’ll have wider black bars at the top and bottom of the screen due to movies and series being usually formatted with 16:9 ratio.  

Another impressive feature of this laptop is that realme was able to fit its web camera on its narrow bezels, unlike Huawei that had to sacrifice a good camera angle with their Matebook’s hidden camera placed on its keyboard. 

realme Book

Comfortable for work 

Speaking of the keyboard, typing on the realme Book is satisfying thanks to its 1.3mm key travel and the sound of its clicks is just right for my preference.

The keyboard also comes with a 3-mode backlit option which you can activate and adjust by pressing the F7 key. This is convenient especially when you have to work or use the laptop for a while during the night. It is also interesting since this is a feature that you barely get to experience on laptops at this price. 

realme Book

Compared to other laptops, the trackpad on the realme Book is pretty huge but doesn’t get in the way of typing. It is also very responsive to the touch and works precisely with all gestures and clicks. 

realme Book

And similar to the Huawei Matebook devices, it also has a fingerprint-sensor embedded power button to boot it up which is actually a handy feature to have in a laptop. 

Power Performance 

As for breezing through tasks, the realme Book is highly capable to give you the best experience being powered by the 11th Gen Intel Core processor. Paired with this is the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 8GB DDR4 memory and 512GB PCIe SSD storage. 

Aside from writing and creating social media content, I sometimes do photo and basic video editing for my side hustles. With the power combo under this laptop’s hood, it didn’t come as a surprise that the realme Book actually handled my tasks smoothly. 

Even with games such as Valorant, I was able to play it at 2K resolution at high settings and it didn’t feel laggy at all. Of course, if you’d want a faster frame rate, you can always lower down your settings to improve your gaming experience. 

realme Book

I also noticed that while playing games, the laptop didn’t feel heated up at all. I checked via HWMOnitor and its temperature was just hovering a little over 60 degrees. This is actually cool for its slim body. I guess we can attribute this to its efficient cooling system with dual 8mm heat pipes and high speed, high airflow fans.

Quick juice up 

When working, I usually take short breaks in between major tasks to refresh my mind. So it’s actually enough for me that the realme Book’s 54 Wh battery can support up to 9 hours of work and leisure, keeping me powered and connected.

And once the battery already ran out, the 65W fast charger got me to a 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes so I was able to conveniently continue with whatever I’m doing.

It’s also a plus that the charger of the realme Book is small and just slightly heavier than a smartphone charger so it’s an easy carry in the bag. It also has the same USB-C cable used to charge our smartphones so you won’t have to carry another charger for your smartphone when traveling. 

Immersive speakers  

For a laptop this slim, I was quite surprised that the sound coming from its down-firing Harman speakers is considerably loud and well defined. 

When I tried listening to my playlists, I did notice that while it did not have as much bass as I would have preferred, it does sound fuller compared to others. When it comes to binging series and playing games, the speakers did a great job of simulating space that sounds pleasant and immersive. I guess I can say, it does sound better than many of the laptops I’ve tried.

Is the realme Book your GadgetMatch? 

As a new player in the laptop market, the realme Book makes a pretty great attempt at laptops and definitely challenges competing and more established brands. 

Sure this laptop may not be perfect but realme has brought their expertise in creating attractive smartphones to this laptop that definitely looks premium for its price. Also with its 2K Ultra-HD display, sleek and sturdy aluminum build, premium design, powerful performance and immersive audio, this laptop is definitely a solid deal for its price. 

The realme Book is available in Real Grey and Real Blue colors and retails at PhP 37,990 for the i3 variant and PhP 47,990 for the i5 variant.

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