First Look

IFA 2016: Sony launches flagship Xperia XZ, adds smaller X Compact

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We saw this coming last month, and now it’s a reality: Sony has unveiled its new flagship smartphone, the 5.2-inch Xperia XZ. Along with it comes the 4.6-inch Xperia X Compact, which, you could say, is the spiritual successor to the Z Compact series.

Sony Xperia XZ


It seems kind of odd to add a “Z” to the moniker – considering that Sony ditched the Z series last year in favor of its refreshed X lineup – but the company explained that the Xperia XZ departs from the established design language of the X series to form something different. The brand of aluminum employed on the new flagship is called ALKALEIDO, which admittedly felt really light and nice to touch during our time with the phone.

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In some of the photos, you’ll see a metal frame that adds to the curvature of the handset’s ends. We noticed it being very prone to smudges, but the rest of the body seemed to be resistant to blemishes. The best news is that the IP68-certified water and dust resistance is still here, and several of the traits we’ve grown accustomed to, such as the stereo speakers, side-mounted fingerprint scanner, and expandable storage via microSD, are all back.

The real star, however, is the newly developed 23-megapixel camera that’s backed by an autofocus system consisting of phase detection, an IR sensor, and laser assist capable of accurately measuring subject distance. An unusual omission is optical image stabilization, although Sony’s software algorithms should be able to stabilize shots just like on past Xperia flagships. The front camera has an equally impressive 13-megapixel sensor for your selfies.

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For the spec sheet enthusiasts, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a high-end Snapdragon 820 processor inside, together with 3GB of RAM and, thankfully, a USB Type-C port. You might be disappointed about the rather small 2,900mAh battery, but there’s Quick Charge 3.0 to make up for it and a decent 1080p resolution to lower the power drain.

There are three colors to choose from – Forest Blue, Mineral Black, and Platinum – and retail units will supposedly be available by October if things work out.

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Sony Xperia X Compact

Admittedly, most of us were more excited to hear about the Xperia X Compact, since the older Z5 Compact was the closest Android competition to the 4.7-inch Apple iPhone 6s. Unfortunately, the modest label applies to the internal parts, as well.

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The new compact series is no longer flagship level; the X Compact settles for a midrange Snapdragon 650 processor and a plastic build that isn’t even water resistant. The 720p display resolution and comparatively thick 9.5mm frame were expected, but don’t help in sweetening the deal. On the bright side, the X Compact adopts the same 23-megapixel main camera and advanced autofocus mechanism of its bigger siblings, minus the 4K video recording. Everything else is pleasant, from the USB Type-C port with Quick Charge 2.0 technology, to the acceptance of microSD cards as extra storage.

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Both handsets come with Android 6.0 Marshmallow on board, and not 7.0 Nougat. We’re perfectly fine with it, though, since Sony has always respected the purity of Android and even adds welcome touches to the interface. In this implementation, you can access Google Now by swiping to the left of the home screen, the drop-down settings and notifications are just like stock Android, and the drawer for all your apps is transparent.

The Xperia X Compact is expected to ship this month in White, Universe Black, and Mist Blue. Pricing for both smartphones hasn’t been revealed by Sony yet.

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[irp posts=”11148" name=”Sony Xperia XZ Premium Hands-On”]

Cameras

Fujifilm X-T30 first look: Is it really built for the outdoors?

GadgetMatch’s youngest producers shared their thoughts!

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Fujifilm invited the two youngest producers from the GadgetMatch team to a secret location to experience the newest mirrorless camera from the light and compact X-series, the Fujifilm X-T30. It was a chance to test and play around with the camera in the great outdoors.

Vincenz, a budding photographer, was eager to test out the capabilities of the X-T30. Meanwhile, MJ, an outdoor enthusiast, got thrilled to see how the camera fares as a companion to one’s travels.


Let’s see what these two producers have to say!

What’s your first impression upon seeing the camera up close?

Vincenz: Seeing it for the first time, you can already tell that it is a Fujifilm camera; their cameras really remind me of the vintage SLRs. The design is what makes the Fujifilm camera lineup “classic” versus other mirrorless bodies, especially if you rock the silver color.

I’m a non-Fujifilm user (and I’m using a DSLR to be specific); I’m surprised there is enough grip for me to hold on despite its compact size. Obviously, there’s so much difference when looking at it than actually holding it. Overall, it’s so handy and a breeze to shoot with.

MJ: What I love about Fujifilm is how their cameras scream style and creativity. Surely, the X-T30 is a good-looking camera reminiscent of vintage cameras.

Aside from being a stunner on any occasion, it matches my small hands. It’s easy to carry and it makes shooting a whole lot simpler for me. This camera is a relief; I don’t have to worry about straining my hands after a day’s worth of photographs and adventures.

How was your experience?

MJ: For someone who enjoys playing outdoors, the X-T30 was fun to use. At first, the controls got me confused. I kept forgetting how to navigate the camera. (The last time I used a Fujifilm camera was almost a year ago.)

If you’re scared of trying out a new camera, don’t worry; the X-T30 is easy to learn with its user-friendly interface. It only takes a few minutes to an hour (depending on your learning curve) to grasp the whole controls. You can start shooting right away.

This camera is a real treat, especially for travelers. It’s so lightweight and compact. You can bring it wherever you go. During our trek, I crossed a river and hopped onto slippery rocks. But I didn’t feel like I was carrying a camera. I was more focused on keeping myself safe rather than being anxious about breaking the camera.

The controls are easily accessible too, which is a plus point for people in search of their next travel camera. When you’re shooting landscapes and sceneries, there are moments that need to be captured quickly or else you’ll miss your only chance.

Vincenz: Using it blew me away. This was my second time using a Fujifilm camera (X-H1 was the first one I used for a sponsored shoot), but I never really got into the system. Fair enough this time, I was able to learn X-T30’s dials and controls quickly.

I was still nitpicking even after learning the basics. Adjusting the ISO was tricky on my part. For some reason, it eventually “locks out.” Maybe there’s just some setting that needs to be adjusted. The touch AF was so handy when I tried capturing moving objects (specifically birds and animals). Plus, the Eye and Face Tracking made the experience a lot better when I shot human element/s in a composition.

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I explored more of the camera’s features such as the film simulation modes with Fujifilm’s very own color profiles. It depends on what scene you’re shooting. It’s useful for instant color grading. I also tried the mechanical and silent electronic shutters, the exposure bracketing, the slow shutter speed, and more.

With Fujifilm’s Bluetooth-capable Camera Remote app, you can share your photos on social media in no time. The app is also helpful if you want to control the camera wirelessly. All I can say is, there are more things to discover if you’ll spend time with the camera.

What dismayed me, though, is the lack of optical image stabilization or OIS. Sure, it takes sharper photographs with its fast shutter speed, but it’s not that versatile when shooting video. What’s the use of 4K and having Cinematic F-Log option? I get it, though. Stabilizers and tripods are there. It just would have been better if had a built-in stabilizer, especially for adventurers who love packing light.

Is it really a good companion for your adventures?

Vincenz: I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to answer “yes” since I really enjoyed shooting with it. Generally speaking, people think DSLR cameras are for professionals while mirrorless cameras are for noobs. Well, that’s a biased remark because the quality of the output still depends on how you compose your shots.

What I can brag about this camera is how Fujifilm managed to fit in an amazing camera sensor. Plus, it has all the nifty features in such a compact and lightweight body. It’s a great adventure companion. But, if you’re looking for a vlogging camera instead, this isn’t the one for you.

MJ: Absolutely! While I need more time to actually test the camera on my travels, it’s promising even for the first time. For casual photographers and travelers, it’s a good companion that can capture your adventures in the urban jungle or the great outdoors.

It’s easy to carry. With its compact size, it’s pocketable in cargo shorts and oversized trench coats. It also carries the distinct Fujifilm design which makes it a perfect accessory to match your clothing style. Lastly, despite being small and fashionable, it can do its job in taking postcard-worthy photos and cinematic videos. At least for me, it has what I need.

SEE ALSO: Fujifilm Instax SQ20 hands-on: How good is it?

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First Look

Huawei Mate X first look: Answering the burning questions

From software to durability

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No smartphone development has been hotter than foldables this year. Sure, 5G connectivity and hole-punch cameras may be the buzz words of 2019, but folding displays are the future tech we have now.

While the Galaxy Fold is expected to launch sooner, no one except Samsung’s executives and developers have used the device. It’s a stark contrast to the Mate X, which has not only been handled by media during the last Mobile World Congress, but also made its way to Southeast Asia already.


I was fortunate enough to spend some hands-on time with the Mate X; not enough to present a comprehensive experience, but good enough to address some questions our readers have asked since the foldable was first announced.

Is there enough heft to it?

The funny thing is, the Mate X feels heavy in its smartphone state, but almost too light when in tablet mode. That’s because there’s a lot of screen (8 inches when opened up) and battery capacity (4600mAh split into two units) for a handset, while being remarkably thin for a slate.

There’s a sort of handle to the side that’s helpful for holding the device when opened up, yet prevents it from lying down flat when unfolded. When folded, however, the smartphone-like thinness and curves on the sides make the Mate X such a joy to grasp — well, based on my early usage at least.

How durable are the display and hinge?

This is one question that’s crossed everyone’s mind. Although the idea of a folding display gives the impression of poor quality, Huawei’s implementation is anything but. Huawei is said to have worked for three years on the Mate X’s sturdy hinge, and though it’s too early to judge the plastic display’s durability, it feels like it can take constant, everyday folding.

I can’t attest to the display’s scratch resistance, but it does get quite smudgy with dirty fingers. It’s especially apparent with the sheer size of the panel. It’s even more obvious because of how reflective the screen is under bright lights. Again, these are things that’ll take time before we can come to a conclusion.

Are the cameras any good?

There are pros and cons to the Mate X’s camera system. The good: Since it has three cameras on the back for everything, there’s no need for a notch, and they’re as good as the Mate 20 Pro’s chart-topping shooters. The bad: Because of the placement, you can’t take advantage of the 8-inch screen for video calls.

Still, it’s a fine compromise and doesn’t get in the way of the phone’s usability. What’s especially great is that you can use the rear display like a mirror during smartphone mode so that the subject can see his or herself for better compositions. It’s a lot like what the Vivo NEX Dual Display offers.

Is the software optimized for foldables?

The lingering question after the Mate X’s launch was: Will the software — and its developers by extension — adjust to this new form factor? From the few apps I got to try out, the experience was surprisingly smooth, allowing me to fold and unfold the device at any time without noticeable lag or glitches.

That’s saying a lot for a device which isn’t even in the consumer market yet and has no apps with its unusual aspect ratios in mind. The possibilities here are endless if game developers are willing to adjust their titles to this; imagine switching from one viewing mode to another with a simple fold.

What else is there to know?

A minor gripe I had with the Mate X during my short time with it was the single loudspeaker. Considering how gorgeous the display is, I was hoping for more power and bass out of the lone audio source. However, I’m sure anyone who can afford a Mate X already has excellent wireless or USB-C headphones on hand.

I didn’t get to test the security features, but I did like the placement of the fingerprint scanner on the side-mounted power button. It felt natural and well within reach. There’s no under-display scanner, unfortunately, and I can’t say for certain if unlocking this phone with the rear cameras is a practical option.

Is this a glimpse into the future or a niche product?

This is what I got asked most once my friends found out I tried out the world’s first outward-folding smartphone, and it’s definitely the most difficult question to answer. With the pricing Huawei and Samsung have chosen for their first-generation products, they’re certainly reserved for those who can afford it, and not those who simply desire it (like myself).

Unless prices go down in the next year or two, foldables will never be as practical as a smartphone-tablet combo, or even a handset paired with a reliable laptop. It’ll take a while before folding phones go mainstream, but for now, the Mate X is fun as hell to use, and I can’t wait to play around with an actual retail unit.

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CES 2019

Lenovo Smart Clock First Look

It’s the perfect bedroom companion

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Lenovo’s Smart Clock is a new kind of alarm clock. Think of it as a cross between a Google Home Mini and a Lenovo Smart Display with a built-in virtual assistant, speakers for playing music, and a tiny 4-inch display. This is our Lenovo Smart Clock first look.

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