Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy S9 Hands-On: Same but better

Samsung sets the bar high with a reimagined camera

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When Samsung sent out teasers for its Galaxy S9 launch earlier this month, it promised a re-imagined smartphone camera.  

So it comes as no surprise, now that the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are official, that this year’s new Samsung flagships are designed to be the best smartphone cameras in the biz.

Apart from a new paint job that includes a lovely shade of purple and a few minor adjustments, the new S9 doesn’t necessarily look or feel new. But, it is loaded with plenty of camera improvements meant to impress both casual and serious photography buffs.   

The Galaxy S9 and S8. Can you tell the difference?

Let’s start by addressing the first half of that statement.

Samsung’s smartphone design evolution hit a major milestone four years ago when it first embraced curved displays. Last year, after almost half a decade of iterating on this new and innovative form factor, Samsung found its sweet spot.

We first saw it on the S8; it repeats on this year’s S9, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend continued into the next year or so.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, two years in and it’s still one of the most beautifully designed smartphones out there. Like the S8, the S9 is all-glass, with Samsung’s signature, curved Infinity Display, that blends into its sides and back.

This year’s model is a wee bit taller and narrower, button placements are off by a few millimeters, and if you look closely, top and bottom chins are smaller as well. The only other aesthetic change is the position of the fingerprint sensor, now a few millimeters south of the phone’s rear camera.

Also a new shade, Lilac Purple, joins the rest of the standards: Midnight Black, Titanium Silver, and Coral Blue.  

Like the S8, the S9 comes in two sizes, 5.8 and 6.2 inches, dubbed the S9 and S9 Plus respectively. The latter, larger model is the better of the two phones. It’s got two main cameras, more memory, and a larger battery.

Reimagined Camera

If you look at the roster of the current best phones in the world today, one thing they all have in common is a great camera. In some ways, it’s almost the tie breaker that determines which of among these phones is best among the best.     

For more control, dive into the S9 camera app’s Pro Mode

While only extensive tests will prove if Samsung succeeded with the S9, on paper, its camera looks impressive. Let’s throw some specs out there:

A super fast f/1.5 lens, currently the fastest on a smartphone, and the kind you’ll want if you’re looking for great background blur, and great low-light shots, like in a bar on your night out.

That lens is also an f/2.4 lens, and with a feature called Dual Aperture, it is able to adjust between the two to let in more light as needed.  

When it’s dark and you need more light, it will shoot at f/1.5, making dimly lit photos brighter and less prone to blur. And when there is plenty of available light, it will switch to f/2.4 so you get more detail and sharpness.

All of this is done automatically and in the background, but if needed, you can manually switch between the two in Pro mode.

If you get the the larger S9 Plus, you also benefit from a second rear camera, which doubles as an optical 2X zoom lens, allowing you to zoom in closer on subjects. Two cameras also means you get the same feature we saw on the Galaxy Note 8 called Live Focus, which lets you adjust background blur during and after a photo is taken.

This feature isn’t available on the S9, so that’s definitely something you want to consider when choosing between the two models.

Stepping up your selfie game

The selfie camera too gets upgraded, with features clearly targeted at millennial females.

Apart from a software-based Selfie Focus mode, which gives your selfies that portrait-style background blur, there’s also standard selfie mode without background blur but with a bunch of beauty filters that make it look like you’re wearing makeup even if you don’t have any on.

Our Her GadgetMatch team loved how you can adjust the intensity of these effects, so your makeup game is on point without going overboard. You can also dive into each effect to change things like lip color, eyeshadow, and contour. What they didn’t like, however, was that you could not use makeup effects and background blur at the same time.  

Click over here to read more about four fun things you can do with the S9.

Super slow-mo video

One of the new things the S9 can do is super slow-mo video capture — 960 frames per second, to be exact. That’s four times more frames than what the S8 can capture.

While super niche, it’s a cool feature you have to see to appreciate. Check out the samples in our hands-on review below:

Capturing super slow-mo video can be done automatically, with motion detectors that trigger capture automatically once movement is detected. Or manually, which we’d recommended for most situations.

It takes a bit of practice to get your timing perfectly right, but once you do, the results are rewarding.

AR Emoji

It was only a matter of time till Samsung jumped on the animated stickers trend.

Samsung’s AR Emoji are reminiscent of Snapchat’s bitmoji, except that you don’t manually have to pain over crafting stickers after your own likeness.

Does my AR Emoji look anything like me?

On the S9, you can just take take a selfie and the phone does the rest. Apart from an exaggerated mouth, the caricatures are pretty accurate, and you can animate them or send them as animated GIFs on your messaging platform of choice.

The S9, however, struggles to accurately track your facial muscles, so something like say Animoji karaoke with Samsung AR Emoji might not be as successful.  

Refinements and tweaks

While most of the improvements have been camera-centric, Samsung did find the time to address user feedback with some much-needed updates.

Audio for one got a whole lot better. With built-in AKG stereo speakers — one front-firing from the ear piece and the other from its side through the usual speaker location — the resulting sound is louder and bolder. The new speaker setup also supports Dolby Atmos for an immersive surround sound-like listening experience.

On the S9, you still get the usual host of security features like Knox and Iris Scanning, but there’s a now a new setting called Intelligent Scan which merges facial recognition and its iris scanner so that you can unlock your phones easily in the dark or when you’re out and the sun is very bright. They also claim it is smart enough to tell twins apart, something Apple’s Face ID is unable to do.

Finally, addressing many a complaint including ours, the fingerprint sensor is in a new place, below the camera instead of directly beside it. We like this layout better, but think it’s still too close to the camera so it doesn’t quite solve the problem of accidental smudges. It’s not that big of a deal, but considering this is supposed to have fixed last year’s design problem, you’d think they would have done it better.

So is the Galaxy S9 your GadgetMatch?

It’s too early to tell, but clearly Samsung has set the bar high in 2018. They took an already solid phone and made it even better.

Unfortunately, that includes its high price tag. We’re not liking this new trend that sees most flagships priced above US$ 1,000, but from the looks of it, this is just beginning.

One thing we would have loved to see are advancements in the artificial intelligence space. But it sounds like Samsung is sharpening its chops before it rolls anything out.  

If you own an S8 or S8 Plus, the S9 may not offer enough to warrant an upgrade, unless you’re an early adopter, or must have the best smartphone camera money can buy.  

If you’re an S7 or S7 Plus user scheduled for an upgrade, the S9 and S9 Plus are an easy recommendation for us to make (especially with a carrier contract). The S9 Plus especially is a great buy. If you don’t mind the size difference, we’d definitely recommend it.

Hands-On

Redmi Note 10S: Is this the most ideal smartphone?

Great hardware under a simple, subtle design

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Redmi Note 10S

As the more affordable product line, Redmi continues to bring high-quality smartphones to a more accessible market. They may not come with the most flagship of hardware inside, but they still perform roughly at par with their powerful yet more expensive counterparts. This year, Redmi has something new up their sleeve in the Redmi Note 10S.

A simple design choice in my eyes

The moment I received and unboxed the Redmi Note 10S, I said to myself, “huh, what’s new?” I mean, it comes in the usual packaging, with all the documentation, a jelly case, and the charger inside. If anything, though, the phone itself sports a simple exterior design, which doesn’t particularly stand out for a good reason.

This unit came in an Onyx Gray colorway plastered at the back, and I’m also aware that it comes in two other colors, as well. For me, this color makes it look rather professional and complements the simple design as a whole. Although, I noticed that the back of the phone likes fingerprints so much, and it’s quite obvious in this colorway.

Now, another great aspect of the exterior design was the placement of the phone’s speakers. For phones such as this, you’d expect that it’s just one speaker and it’s beside the charging port. In the case of the Redmi Note 10S, it comes with two speakers found on opposite ends. Honestly, I found it practical to set it up like this, that other smartphones should consider.

Complementing hardware and software

Let’s get to the beef of the matter, shall we? In terms of the internal hardware, the Redmi Note 10S is decent in that department. It comes with a MediaTek Helio G95 chipset, with my unit sporting 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. On the external hardware, the phone comes with a 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED display, mostly suitable for great detail and color accuracy. 

Redmi Note 10S

Upon my initial set up and usage, the phone responds quite well and quickly. Powered by MIUI 12.5, apps load smoothly and I even found myself multitasking some apps a lot more. Although, there were times that things like Dark Mode were wonky in some apps, but I think that’s mostly on MIUI.

Furthermore, the AMOLED display is pretty bright even at around 40-50 percent brightness. Even in this setting, it manages to display images and videos with great detail with minimal stuttering. Also, those speakers I mentioned earlier are quite loud and actually give off a sense of immersion when watching movies. It’s all good stuff for now, but let’s see if it holds up later on.

Redmi Note 10S

One look into the cameras for now

Apart from the hardware inside, I also wanted to focus on the cameras the Redmi Note 10S comes with. On its rear, you get an interesting quad-camera setup, with a 64MP lens as the star of the show. Along with this, you also get an 8MP wide-angle lens, a 2MP macro camera and depth sensor for that extra level of detail.

With some of the shots I initially took, I was fairly impressed with the image quality and color accuracy. From my view, it doesn’t look like there was any noticeable grain in the images, so that’s a good start. However, I ran into some trouble with the auto-focus mechanic in the camera. Hopefully, it will improve with prolonged use.

Redmi Note 10S

Up front, you only get a single 13MP lens lodged at the top of the display. For the most part, it did a good job of capturing selfies under great lighting conditions. 

A promising start, maybe?

So far, the Redmi Note 10S ticks all the boxes when it comes to being a great yet affordable smartphone. Inside and out, the phone allows you to do quite a lot and experience near-flagship features without sacrificing so much in the process. Whether or not this will hold up with longer and more drastic usage, you’ll just have to wait and see.

Redmi Note 10S

The Redmi Note 10S retails for PhP 11,990 and only comes with a configuration of 8GB RAM and128GB storage.

Buy it from Lazada.

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3 reasons why the Huawei Watch 3 deserves to be on your wrist

A must-have for those who live and breathe Huawei

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The Huawei Watch 3 has arrived in the Philippines and certainly on my wrist. This sleek-looking smartwatch is Huawei’s new flagship wearable — and there’s more to it than being a regular smartwatch wrapped around that space between your hand and forearm. Here are three reasons why you need to check this smartwatch out, and why it probably deserves to be worn by you.

Beautifully designed

Compared to its predecessors, the Huawei Watch 3 feels like a device that underwent a metamorphosis. A butterfly ready to spread its wings and bring wonders to the world.

The rounded case exudes a classic appeal; a semblance of watches from the recent and distant past. Unequivocally, Huawei kept it sleek with its circular finish. Those tiny details tell me the watch was studied carefully by designers and engineers, putting so much thought while keeping it simple and appealing.

It certainly won’t ruin your outfits in different situations such as casual date nights, quick errands, or sports, and other physical activities. For professional and formal settings though, you might need to invest in a strap that matches perfectly.

I’ve been using the black and plain fluoroelastomer strap, which is suitable for casual settings and active lifestyle, and also it’s the only one available at the moment in my country, but you can mix it with other straps depending on your region. Options include steel, nylon, and leather — and colors vary per style.

Apart from its stylish bearing, the Huawei Watch 3 is designed with features that make it worthy of being called a smartwatch. It sports a 1.43-inch AMOLED display, highlighting a vibrant and vivid display that makes the content visible even if you’re outdoors.

Also, there’s plenty of watch faces to choose from, and the user interface is designed simplistically to make navigation easier.

Top-notch connectivity

The Huawei Watch 3’s battery life averages three days when using the smart mode. Though, it can be extended up to 14 days when using the ultra-long battery life mode. This gives you plenty of time to stay connected without the need for your mobile phone. Dear, it’s time to let it rest comfortably inside your purse or leave it at home.

But how are you going to stay connected if it’s not connected to your phone?

If that is your question, fret not. Huawei equipped the watch with eSim technology, so you just need to go to your carrier and ask for an eSim QR that you can scan on your Huawei Health app, and voila, your smartwatch can use the same mobile number you use on your smartphone.

Now, it’s going to be easy for you to answer calls even when you’re out on a run, or when you’re heading elsewhere and you’re in a hurry. The Huawei Watch 3 runs on HarmonyOS, so the watch comes with pre-installed apps that you can enjoy seamlessly with your other Huawei devices.

There’s an AppGallery, in case you want to install more apps that suit your lifestyle. For music lovers, you can make the watch be your remote control and navigate your music playback. All can be done with a single flick on your wrist!

Your personal health manager

If you’re serious about maintaining an active lifestyle, the Huawei Watch 3 is a candidate as a companion. There’s a Skin Temperature detector that lets you know when your temperature is high. A must-have in this era, right?

It also has SpO2 monitoring, which allows you to track your blood oxygen saturation. Even your heart, Huawei’s TruSeen technology monitors your heart rate so you can be in control of your health, and so you can take care of yourself the way you need it to.

Personally, it felt like all-day health management and I have yet to dive more into it to see what else these features can do. But for now, I enjoy seeing records of my step count, periods of activity, stress levels, and the most important thing — sleep quality.

Other than the fitness trackers, the watch comes with 100+ workout modes with automatic exercise detection for common workouts. To be able to maximize this feature, Huawei’s health app is the way to go.

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

I believe it can, especially if you’re looking for an all-around watch that you can use. It ticks the right boxes: a classic appeal, plenty of straps to mix and match with your outfit, top-notch connectivity, and health management features that allow you to be in control.

The price might be too steep, but it’s a premium smartwatch for a reason. And it’s best used when you’re already enjoying Huawei’s ecosystem, and have plenty of devices that let you enjoy their seamless AI life.

The Huawei Watch 3 retails for PhP 18,999. It will be available on Huawei Store and authorized platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, as well as Huawei Experience stores and other retail partners.

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vivo V21 Series Hands-On

A pair of no-miss midrangers

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vivo V21

Light, slim and packed to the brim with specs and features that won’t leave you wanting. This is the vivo v21 series. Featuring the vivo v21 and the vivo V21e.

It’s a pair of midrangers equipped with specs to meet your smartphone needs. Take a look at their specs side-by-side:

vivo V21 vivo V21e
DISPLAY 6.44”, AMOLED, 90Hz, HDR10+ 6.44”, AMOLED, HDR10
PROCESSOR MediaTek Dimensity 800U 5G Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G
BATTERY 4,000 mAh 4,000 mAh
CAMERAS 64MP f/1.8 wide

8MP f/2.2 ultrawide

2MP f/2/4 macro

64MP f/1.9 wide

8MP f/2.2 ultrawide

2MP f/2/4 macro

As you can see, this pair is nearly identical with the only main differences being 5G connectivity, the processors, and the available colors. The vivo V21 comes in Dusk Blue, Sunset Dazzle, Arctic White. Meanwhile, the V21e comes in Diamond Flare, Roman Black.

Mobile photography

The vivo V21 series has a slew of photo and video taking pictures which we’ll discuss more in detail in another video. Because sometimes, we just want to snap away when we’re out and about.

The photos taken on auto mode already look pretty darn fine and ready for all your social media channels. As mentioned earlier, you can also play around with some of the features. Especially the portrait mode plus filters. One scene can look different with just a few taps and snaps.

Neat, right? Now, naturally you’re going to do a lot more with your phone than just take snazzy pics.

Both the Meditek Dimensity 800U 5G and Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chipsets are very capable midrange processors. You can pretty much open all your most used apps at the same time, and not worry about the phones slowing down.

They’ll run smoothly whether you’re just browsing socials, writing emails, sending messages telling your friends to stream TWICE’s “Alcohol Free” music video.

Speaking of which, the video viewing experience on the vivo V21 series is also pretty darn good. The AMOLED displays are just a treat to the eyes. They’re great for getting lost in a YouTube rabbit hole or binge-watching your favorite shows on Netflix!

Mobile gaming

Not into binge-watching? Why not try playing games?

Mobile gaming is all the rage these days. The games playable on smartphones keep getting better and prettier. Mobile Legends, PUBG, and Call of Duty Mobile are pretty popular titles. Then there’s also the massive hit Genshin Impact. All these games run smoothly on the vivo V21 series. Thanks to the processor and the 8GB + 3GB extended RAM feature.

You can be sure to focus on your gaming session with the Ultra Game Mode that lets you block notifications so nothing gets in the way of you winning your matches!

Naturally, after all of that browsing, watching, and playing, your phone will need to juice up. The 4000mAh fills up rather quickly thanks to its support for 33W fast charging. You can get up to 63 percent in just 30 minutes. Pretty darn quick!

The vivo V21 series is a no-miss pair of midrange smartphones.They feel great on your hands, are easy on the eyes, and performs just about as good as any midranger out there.

Best of all, you can prepare for the future with the vivo V21 5G or play it safe in 4G with the vivo V21e.

This pair of vivo Smartphones are available in vivo’s official stores as well online stores Shopee and Lazada.

  • vivo V21 5G – PhP 23,999 
  • vivo V21e – PhP 17,999

This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and vivo Philippines.

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