Features

Sony, Heima team up to push 4K HDR TVs in home setting

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Covering television sets can be a chore, even for tech journalists, because let’s face it: Even in this day and age, being interested in a new TV usually still feels like forcing yourself to eat right — special features and screen sizes be damned. I imagine the same is true among shoppers navigating the aisles of appliance stores, hoping to find the right set to bring home and show the family.

As a former retail employee, I can tell you the decision almost always comes down to just two things: size and price. Which in turn, thwarts any and all efforts to upsell. I don’t care that you’re selling a 4K TV that I can interact and have a conversation with. I just want something that’s affordable and will fit my living room nicely.

This hasn’t escaped Sony’s attention. So this year, the Japanese electronics giant has taken a different approach to showing off its latest Bravia line of televisions to the Philippine media, some of whom have followed the industry long enough to witness TVs require special glasses and bend and grow in size while significantly reducing their back fat.

Sony Bravia 4K HDR TV (2)

Sony’s 4K HDR TV has a slim form factor with tangle-free cabling

The approach involved collaborating with furniture and lifestyle store Heima to create sets where Sony’s (relatively) new HDR televisions, which were first unveiled at CES back in January, could be displayed in a more familiar environment, in a place that feels like home.

Because we don’t sit on marble floors under bright white lights, surrounded by strangers and rows of flat screens of all sizes, when we binge-watch ten episodes of our favorite show, right?

We binge-watch in private — seated on a couch, remote in one hand and a giant bowl of popcorn in the other. And it is in that environment that I’d want to be sweet-talked into shelling out huge wads of disposable income for a TV that supports high dynamic range, among other attractions.

Sony Bravia 4K HDR TV (3)

Side-by-side comparison with a 4K TV by a rival brand

Now that we’ve approached the subject, can I just say that if I had deep pockets and 4K HDR was the streaming standard and I was actually on the market for a new TV, I’d be clawing at Sony’s door, pointing at a 4K HDR television while screaming, “Take my money!” Alas, I’m not any of those things.

I am, however, genuinely pumped about the latest generation of Sony HDR TVs that push picture quality forward to new levels of awesome.

I can devote a few paragraphs to discuss how HDR results in more realistic colors and a greater range of brightness and shadow detail, but the bottomline is the technology brings a more striking visual change than crowding more pixels into a given space.

Images look crisper in 4K resolution, obviously, but HDR affects viewing experience in more ways than one. It’s the next frontier for the industry, and it sells itself at face value, which is why Sony and other big-name manufacturers are wasting no time throwing their collective weight behind it.

Sony Bravia 4K HDR TV (1)

You can tell it’s expensive by looking at the gold trim

Earlier this week, Sony announced a new service that streams 4K HDR content to compatible TVs for as low as $US30 per movie.

And if it is indeed the next big thing to hit flat screens, you can bet that Sony won’t be needing to spruce up the show floor any more than is necessary.

Pricing for Sony’s 4K HDR TVs starts at Php100,000, or about $US2,200, for the 55-inch model.

[irp posts=”9240″ name=”Sony launched an incredible 4K HDR OLED TV”]

Smartphones

Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro Unboxing

What’s inside the box?

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You already know how impressed we were during the hands-on, so now it’s time to see what comes in the package of Huawei’s newest flagships. This is our Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro unboxing.

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Hands-On

Cherry Mobile Flare S7 Plus hands-on: A step-up

The company’s greatest contender

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Cherry Mobile recently launched their new Flare S7 series, which is essentially their main smartphone lineup for the year. The greatest offering among the bunch is the Flare S7 Plus, a device with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a 2018 phone.

Since it’s from Cherry Mobile, you’d expect the phone to be cheap, right? Price-wise, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another affordable phone.

Here’s what I got to say about the Flare S7 Plus.

Cherry Mobile has officially joined the notch wagon with a borderless 6.18-inch display. It’s a Full HD+ panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it’s Cherry Mobile’s best display yet.

It’s vibrant and produces vivid colors, but the user interface kind of ruins the beauty of the display. It’s best to download your preferred third-party launcher and customize to your heart’s content.

Unlike with other midrange phones, the Flare S7 Plus’ notch is pretty wide and there’s a reason for it. The phone is equipped with more advanced facial recognition hardware including an IR camera. This ensures higher accuracy, faster unlocking, and even better face detection in low-light.

If you’re not a fan of face unlock, you can always resort to the fingerprint sensor placed on the back of the phone. Based on my usage, the fingerprint reader is faster most of the time than the face unlock. Good thing you have the best of both worlds.

Now that we’re on the back of the phone, let’s talk about another special feature of the Flare S7 Plus. Finally, Cherry Mobile embraces a more elegant design using a glass back and metal frame. I was told that they used Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so it won’t scratch easily in your pocket or on the table.

Since we we have a glass back, it’s possible to put in wireless charging and the company did just that. Simply place the phone on any Qi standard wireless charger, and let the magic happen.

It’s not exactly magic per se, but it’s amazing to have your phone charge by placing it on a table. This phone costs less than half of most flagships that don’t even support wireless charging.

Of course, you can always charge this phone’s 3050mAh battery through the reversible USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port because, sadly, the Flare S7 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Cherry Mobile bundles a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter inside the box, so you can still use your legacy headphones as you please.

Powering the Flare S7 Plus is a MediaTek Helio P60 processor. We have already tried the capabilities of this chipset with the OPPO F9, and it definitely delivers great performance. If you’re into benchmarking, you’ll be glad to know the Helio P60 scores higher than its competitors.

The phone also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage which is pretty standard nowadays. It boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but there’s no word when Android 9 Pie is coming.

The gaming performance of the Flare S7 Plus is above average, which is what you can expect from the Helio P60. The Mali-G72 MP3 GPU works well with intensive games, but you must reduce the graphics quality a bit to get consistently high frame rates.

As for the cameras, the Flare S7 Plus has capable shooters that are probably the fruit of Cherry Mobile’s investment in improving their R&D when it comes to picture quality. The phone has dual rear shooters using a main 16-megapixel RGB sensor and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. In the front, there’s another 16-megapixel selfie camera that’s paired with the IR sensor when needed. Check out the samples below:

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An additional feature of the front sensors is FlareMoji. Using the IR sensor and facial recognition, you can animate cutesy characters. Check this out:

It’s essentially like Apple’s Animoji, but the tracking is nowhere near as smooth as with the iPhone. Anyhow, it’s still enjoyable to use.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For just PhP 11,999 (US$ 225), the Flare S7 Plus offers a lot. You get a great premium phone with midrange power, beautiful display, and a plethora of extra features like wireless charging and an IR face scanner. The software UI is quite a letdown, but you can always download a launcher from the Play Store.

If you’re wondering what the Flare S7 Plus is in other markets, it’s also called the BLU VIVO XI+ and they share similar specifications and design.

SEE ALSO: Cherry Mobile announces Flare S7 series with three new smartphones

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Features

What does the GPU Turbo do to your phone?

Is it more than just a marketing gimmick?

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It’s been two months since Huawei rolled out the GPU Turbo update to its smartphones. Promised with a 60 percent increase in performance and reducing 30 percent on power consumption, a lot of fans and users were excited after the announcement.

Back then, everyone (including me) was hyped about lag-free games and longer battery life while playing. However, upon receiving the update, I began to wonder: Has GPU Turbo delivered what it promised?

What’s inside the update?

GPU Turbo was originally marketed as an improved gameplay experience, available only to PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

The Game Suite app, which comes with the update, offers an uninterrupted gaming feature, hiding all notifications when enabled (except for calls, alarms, and low-battery alerts).

Mistouch prevention is another feature to avert users from clicking the back and home button while playing — perfect for when you want to focus on your game.

Screenshots by Miguel Pineda, Huawei Mate 10 user

To some older smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10, the Game Suite App offers three performance modes: Gaming mode, which improves game performance but increases power consumption; Smart mode, which balances performance and power consumption; and Power saving mode, which saves power but reduces game performance.

For the newer Huawei P20 Pro (which I’ve been using) and Honor Play, it only has a gaming acceleration mode to toggle on or off.

Thoughts on the reduced power consumption

Because I used the Mate 10 before and recently transitioned to the P20 Pro, I’ve experienced the GPU Turbo update in both phones and I can guarantee that they’ve delivered on lowered power consumption.

With Game Suite, I can put my phone on power saving mode to further save battery. For instance, I was only able to drain the Mate 10 down to 15 percent during a 12-hour road trip despite switching between the games I play and other apps, such as Messenger, Netflix, Spotify, and taking photos and videos every once in a while. The same goes for the P20 Pro.

As a power user, I already get a lot of things done with these highly efficient smartphones and GPU Turbo; these allowed me to do more on a single charge. However, it’s a different case for gaming.

Improved gaming experience, but there’s a catch…

When I started playing games on gaming mode (or game acceleration mode on the P20 Pro), I could run Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on a high frame rate with the highest graphics setting available. Compared to how the game stuttered and lagged during 5v5 clashes, with GPU Turbo, it now runs smoothly, as if I have a smartphone made for gaming.

System notice when enabling the high frame rate on Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and the effects it may have on your gameplay

As shown above, most mobile games will notify their users about the possible repercussions of higher frame rates and using the best settings available. To prove that a smartphone with GPU Turbo can handle this, I sought out to confirm my suspicions.

After asking fellow Huawei users, I found out that after installing GPU Turbo, energy consumption is a lot faster than before. Their smartphones also heat up more easily, especially when playing games with the game acceleration mode on. This isn’t part of what was promised, and it’s pretty disappointing.

It’s not yet perfect

In my experience, GPU Turbo tries to boost performance above a smartphone’s limit hoping that users can experience better gameplay.

GPU Turbo can’t choose when to perform its best. It’s an update that is constantly running in our smartphones without any way to switch it off. We can only hope that Huawei will address these issues for the next batch of updates.

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