Features

Sony Xperia’s Reality

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It’s been a full month since the biggest tech coverage of my life to date. Having finished Legal Management in college, and then eventually making a career in Creatives, never did I think I’d be in Spain, as a journalist, covering one of the world’s biggest tech events.

But last month I made it, as part of GadgetMatch’s two-man team covering Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

There was a lot to see at MWC, where almost all the biggest names in smartphones and mobile communications came out to play. Our small team didn’t have time to be at every launch event, so we instead visited as many booths as humanly possible, spending more time at those that offered more stories worth telling. Four days was not enough.

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Low-light selfie taken with the new Sony Xperia X, printed on Instax

One of the events we completely missed while in Barcelona was the launch of Sony’s Xperia X. We spent a significant amount of time at Sony’s booth checking out their new devices, so upon returning to Manila I knew it was one that I had to watch back online.

Sony’s keynote lacked the flashy things most brands would have to make their announcements an experience on its own and highlights that would leave a lasting impression. There were no grand stages. No dramatic lighting. No mind-blowing products or moments. No surprise appearances by tech celebrities. There weren’t even any leaks or teasers to hype it up prior to the event itself.

I don’t know how I would have felt had I been there in person – underwhelmed maybe – considering that the night before I came face to face with Mark Zuckerberg and my personal hero, Pranav Mistry, at Samsung Unpacked. (Still not over it, tbh.)

But while the likes of Samsung and LG battled it out in on stage, Sony’s no non-sense, no-frills event took a step back and reminded us of what makes smartphones and technology so great.

Sans any gaudiness, Sony’s keynote was just as insightful, its simplicity allowing me to appreciate and digest its vision more.

Sony President and CEO Kazuo Hirai was first to take the stage. Recognizing that Barcelona was home to one of the world’s best football teams, he likened Sony to football – it is all about excitement, the joy, the wonder, about providing that feeling of wow.

He then asked, “how often do you check your smartphone during the day?”

Apparently, in the United States alone, smartphones are checked 8 billion times a day. “That’s an awful lot of checking smartphones,” he remarked.

This, he says, is why smartphones and other communication devices are so important to Sony. Also maybe part of the reason the Japanese brand hasn’t stopped making smartphones despite losses year after year.

Sony’s Dream Destination

Next on stage was Sony Mobile Communications President & CEO Hiroki Totoki.

“To bring ideas to life, we’ve been continuing our journey. A journey has a destination, which is defined in our vision” Totoki said.

Sony’s destination? A world where people are looking up at the sky, not down on screens. A world where devices don’t just provide ease and convenience, but wonder and joy. A world where people and devices interact in a more meaningful way so that we can spend more time experiencing the world around us.

With the new Xperia X lineup, Sony hopes to achieve that world, but not without a bit of confusion first.

Sony’s new Xperia X line doesn’t aim for the top, but are interesting nonetheless

For years Sony’s top of the line smartphone has been the Xperia Z – a gold standard in premium design, top of the line smartphone cameras, and the industry leader in water resistant smartphones. At MWC, Sony was abandoning Z for X, introducing a new line of smartphones, that like their launch event, wasn’t as flashy.

The decision is one that Sony can justify, “Wouldn’t you rather be a part of the things happening around you and leave the worries and tasks to your Xperia?” challenged Totoki to an unresponsive crowd.

No one really expects a brand like Sony to come out with a smartphone that’s not better than its previous flagship, unless it’s a midrange phone. Sure on paper the X Performance actually bests the Z5 Premium, but there’s something about this release that feels like concessions have been made, and while bigger and better is a mantra of this tech industry, that may not be a bad thing.

Instead of adding new features to smartphones people don’t really use, Sony’s strategy was to improve things that matter most to us ordinary folk: battery life and camera. We have yet to find out how true the promises are as the phones will not be officially released until summer. But the promise of a not so high-end, top of the line smartphone appeals to me, and should to most users.

I don’t necessarily need a processor with screaming speeds, or an ultra high definition display with more pixels than my eyes can see. But I’d love a well-balanced, reasonably-priced smartphone, with a great camera and solid battery life.

I haven’t been around this industry long enough to say whether Sony’s decision to regroup, drop the Z, and launch an all-new Xperia X lineup, is a step in the right direction. Sony also has yet to make an official statement about the big change, but after time with the phones in Barcelona, I am more than hopeful.

sony-xperia-mwc-20160318-01

The Xperia Eye

At MWC, Sony also announced a bunch of concept devices, like the Xperia Eye, a life-blogging camera that has sensors smart enough to detect faces and moments so that it captures only those that truly matter. Sure you’re still capturing the moment, which we millennials have a predisposition for, but the technology is designed to take a step back so you can enjoy and experience moments instead of trying to capture them.

It’s unsure at this point whether this camera will actually hit the shelves or just remain a concept but it reiterates Sony’s destination, where technology doesn’t distract us from the world we live in.

Reality vs Virtual Reality

While companies like Samsung try to make virtual reality more attainable to the masses, Sony chose to get in touch with a different reality – the one we live and breathe.

“We want our Xperias to help you interact and connect in a closer, more natural, more meaningful way – to understand your preferences, activities, and behaviour, and to recognize the environment around you. To predict and understand what you want to do making it hassle-free so you can enjoy and experience more of the good things in life,” said Totoki.

There’s a little bit from my humanities-heavy education that helps me appreciate where Sony is going. Earlier I talked about Pranav Mistry, whose TED Talk was a requirement in my Philosophy of the Human Person class. It’s a video that stuck with me all these years, and the technology he demonstrated then continues to amaze me to this day, despite everything I’ve seen so far.

Like Sony, I dream of a world where technology allows us to do two things: a) extend our capabilities so that we can do things that weren’t humanly possible before, and b) do things with so much ease and convenience that it allows us to be more human.

It’s always been a hit or miss for Sony at events like this, and Sony Mobile’s numbers would tell you it’s been a miss for quite some time. And it’s ironic that Sony is trying to sell me more devices, as if everything I already have is not enough, just to achieve a world where interactions are more meaningful.

But if there’s one thing I know Sony got right this time, it’s this: there’s a world in front of us that’s so much bigger and I’d happily look up and be inspired by that. Now I don’t know about you, but more than the specs of a shiny new phone, that’s what I’m more excited about.

[irp posts=”8989″ name=”7 reasons why the Sony Xperia XZ succeeds”]

Features

8 things we like about the Samsung Crystal UHD TU8000

Definitely one of the best value 4K Smart TV around!

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Samsung Crystal UHD TU8000

Samsung is known for a lot of things. And in the home theater department, the South Korean giant cemented itself as one of the leading brands.

There are a lot of reasons why. But for starters, the company creates sturdy yet well-designed TVs. It never shies from packing its devices with plenty of smart features. More importantly, there’s a range of lineups that suit your taste, preference, lifestyle, and of course, budget.

Of all its lineup, Samsung’s Crystal UHD TV series is the one that’s worth checking out, if you’re in the market for an affordable Smart TV. And the Crystal UHD TU8000 variant, in my opinion, is one of the best value Smart TV you can get right now. It’s a really sweet package, and here are 8 reasons why.

Easy setup via SmartThings app

Smart TVs are supposed to be smart, and shouldn’t be a gatekeeper between the tech-savvy and everyday consumer. Samsung kept this in mind, so they optimized the TV setup. You can quickly finish it on the TV itself, or you can connect it via SmartThings app, and do everything on your smartphone!

One of the best smart TV system

Samsung’s TV that has 4K HDR, like the Crystal UHD TV series, is powered by Tizen — an open-source operating system developed by Samsung which can be seen on smartwatches, smart TVs, and appliances.

With this system, you can have quick access to popular streaming services. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, and even Apple TV — without the need for a dedicated Apple TV box.

Operating systems are often overlooked, but it’s one part of what makes or breaks your watching experience. Samsung’s Tizen made navigation easy, smooth, and functional. It might be due for a look upgrade, but it still gets the job done. It’s perfect for nights when you don’t want to engage your brain and watch telly after a long day at work.

Detailed picture quality

Watching on any Samsung TV is a treat for your eyes, with its sharp and detailed picture quality. It uses an LCD UHD panel technology, so its strength isn’t blowing your mind (and eyes) with vivid colors and a vibrant palette.

Rather, it keeps the visuals interesting by leveling the natural colors. Moreover, you can adjust its picture modes to match your preferences and your room’s lighting condition.

4K and Upscaling

Even though we already have 8K technology, I still enjoyed the 4K HDR capabilities of Samsung’s Crystal UHD TU8000. It was cinematic, immersive, and visually astonishing.

After all, the TV automatically switches to HDR mode whenever you’re watching HDR content, and upscales non-4K videos decently. And if you’re worried about added noise after being upscaled, fret not. The upscaling technology keeps quite a good amount of detail.

Ambient Mode

Samsung Crystal UHD TU8000

The artistic Ambient Mode, which was only exclusive to the high-end QLED range, made its way to the Crystal UHD TV series — and I love it. You can choose what to do with the display when you’re not using your telly. Opt for nice scenery, place images directly from your Samsung phone’s gallery, make it look like a frame — the choice is yours.

Samsung Crystal UHD TU8000

Lastly, the TV operates on lower power mode when in Ambient mode. So it’s not just prettifying your display when not in use, it helps save energy, too.

Stylish, functional, and sturdy

The TU8000 is pretty sturdy despite using plastic on its back panel, bezels, and stand. Nonetheless, it looks stylish whether it’s mounted on a wall or on a TV stand. Its back is designed with cables in mind, allowing you to manage it in an orderly manner to keep your TV neat and clean.

While already looking stylish, the TV never forgot about functionality, too. It has three HDMI ports, two USB ports, an ethernet port, a common interface slot, and an input for composite video and radio-frequency antenna. It definitely suits whatever kind of user you are!

Remote Control

Samsung Crystal UHD TU8000

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the remote control. It’s lightweight, fits my hands with its slim and curvy figure, and easy to navigate with its buttons that are only necessary. It’s also a smart assistant and a voice remote in one, so you can use your voice to search in apps like YouTube and make it function like Bixby, Alexa, or Google Assistant.

Pricing

Samsung Crystal UHD TU8000

The Samsung Crystal UHD TU8000 sits well at an affordable price point. The 43-inch model retails for PhP 27,999 while the 50-inch model costs PhP 33,999. For those who want a larger unit, the 55-inch model retails for PhP 41,999.

Bonus: Soundbar

Frankly, the sound quality isn’t the best when it comes to Samsung’s Crystal UHD TV TU8000. It’s loud and decent, however, having an impressive picture quality should be matched with stellar audio quality.

This is why pairing it with Samsung’s TF-400 Soundbar made the audio-visual experience heavenly, especially the Surround Sound that the soundbar offers. It’s really a match made in heaven, so if you’re considering the Crystal UHD for its 4K HDR capabilities, make sure you pair it with the right soundbar.

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Features

5 timeless gifts you can give to a mom anytime of the year

Bizarre gifts on their secret wishlists

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We’ve seen it all: the kinds of gifts we need to give moms in our lives — whether they’re your mom, someone who’s a long-time mom, a friend who recently became a mom or a colleague that’s soon-to-be a mom. Every year, we get new ideas on how to celebrate them and how to make them feel special.

But this year, we’re taking it differently. We asked a few moms what’s secretly on their wish lists. And y’all, we didn’t expect these responses. Here’s a round-up of the bizarre gifts that we can gift every mom, Mother’s Day or not.

Pregnancy Pillow

Pregnancy is a beautiful journey albeit an arduous one. For Ana, 25, and a soon-to-be mom, body pain and finding comfort have been the biggest issues in her wonderful journey. While she gets excited to see her newborn, she finds it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. For her, having a pregnancy pillow would solve 99 percent of her body pain — which she experiences every day.

Buy here: Lazada

Sunset Lamp

Taking walks during sunset could be a therapeutic and beneficial exercise for soon-to-be moms. However, the pandemic imposed restrictions to keep us safe that resulted in a challenging situation where it’s difficult to cope and relax. Sunset lamps offer a good alternative; projecting aesthetically pleasing lighting similar to golden hour. All at the comforts of your own home.

Buy here: Lazada | Shopee

Self-care kit

When you’re a new mom, all your attention and resources shift to providing what your baby needs. To a point where you forget how to take care of yourself. For Lorraine, 31, and a mom to a 10-month old boy, self-care days are a must: getting a massage, going to a spa, having her hair styled, and other treatments to her skin, mind, body, and soul.

Given the dire circumstances, going out is dangerous for her and her baby, which is why she secretly wishes to be gifted by a self-care kit — a massager, hairdryer, hair straightener, and an epilator.

Epilator: Lazada | Shopee

Hair straightener: Lazada | Shopee

Massage Gun: Lazada | Shopee

Hairdryer: Lazada | Shopee

Space-saving and eco-friendly form of transportation

For Jean, 26, and a mom to a 4-year old boy, taking care of your health is more than just about the food you eat and the exercises you do. It’s also taking care of your emotional and mental health, and making a contribution to making the world a better place.

Through a foldable bike, she wishes to lessen her carbon footprint by using an eco-friendly form of transportation and save space, something that meticulous, organized homemakers want. Coincidentally, it’s also a good bonding activity with her kid. Think: mom and son biking on a Saturday afternoon.

Buy here: Lazada

A bigger TV

Having a TV is integral in keeping your family together. After all, it is a centerpiece for any home. Jenny, 48, a mom of four young adults, is always concerned about her and her children’s health. Although, secretly, she wishes to have her TV upgraded to a bigger one — at least 55- or 65-inch such as the Samsung Crystal UHD TV — to host movie nights and bond with her children, now that everyone is already having their own lives.

As a long-time mom, Jenny doesn’t like to splurge on what’s the latest gadget or appliance there is in. She wants the best value, and of course, something that lasts for a long time.

Buy here: Lazada | Shopee

SEE ALSO: 10 gift ideas for the new mom on your list | 6 best gifts women actually want

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24 Hours Series

A 24-Hour soundtrip with the Huawei FreeBuds 4i

From waking up to sleeping soundly at night

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Huawei Freebuds 4i

For about a year or so now, I’ve considered my Huawei FreeBuds Lite as my go-to wireless earphones for day-to-day activities. I mean, I could basically just tone everyone out while I proceed to go about my day — whether it’s the weekday or weekend. Plus, I mean I own a Huawei phone so I guess I’d like to keep things a bit consistent.

Until one day, I was lucky enough to test out the new Huawei FreeBuds 4i, which was something quite surprising considering I was looking for another pair anyway. So I told myself, “why not, let’s use this entire thing for a whole day and see what happens.”

Wake up in the morning, feelin’ like…

Huawei Freebuds 4i

I’m pretty sure you know what comes after, so let’s get the morning started. That particular Friday morning, I woke up at around 6:30 to 7:00 AM despite only getting 6 hours of sleep. Before starting the day, I did a bit of stretching to some music that powers me right up. So, I popped in the Huawei FreeBuds 4i and instantly, I just heard nothing but the music.

To be honest, being disturbed early in the morning isn’t fun and the FreeBuds 4i’s Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) does wonders for that. In essence, it eliminates every possible noise you can hear and just lets you enjoy your ad-free music on Spotify. Yes, even the sound of loud cars and whirring fans disappear from your ears.

After my morning routine, I grabbed myself some breakfast matched with a nice cup of coffee. Even when there’s still work to do, you can’t really skip a good breakfast! To help me get myself ready for the work day, I tuned up some podcasts about my favorite topics and issues to discuss. With the FreeBuds 4i’s ANC, it was nice to properly hear and focus on the discussion points.

Work hard, play hard

Huawei Freebuds 4i

With breakfast out of the way, I had some work to do — mostly on the creative side of things and some writing. For the most part, I just stayed in my room and opened my Macbook to get things started. Luckily, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i was compatible with my Apple device, and connects quite fast.

Part of my work includes having voice and video calls with some colleagues and friends through my Huawei phone. With the FreeBuds 4i, I had a pleasant experience with the noise cancellation technologies that my friends could hear my voice clearly. Also, I turned on Awareness mode either through the Huawei AI Life app or a long press on the right earbud. You know, just in case somebody in the family needed my help and they were calling me.

During my breaks, I find myself playing some nice, good ‘ol fashioned League of Legends: Wild Rift on my phone. I teamed up with some friends through the Discord app, and turned up the game’s volume to a tolerable amount. While using the FreeBuds 4i, I heard all the game’s sounds deeply while finding a way to make team comms be a little better.

The night is still young, and so are we

Huawei Freebuds 4i

After my eight and a half hours of work and play, it was time for a little bit of relaxation before dinner time. I usually spend this time watching some YouTube videos or a series/movie on Netflix. For this particular Friday afternoon, I watched some VODs from the VALORANT Masters regional qualifiers for that week.

Of course, I had to quickly charge the FreeBuds 4i since it was running non-stop for eight or so hours. By quickly charging it, I mean all I needed was to give it a 10-minute recharge in the case and it’s all good to go. Essentially, this set of wireless earphones gives you about 4 hours of use in just a short amount of charging time.

Within those 4 hours, I reviewed three different sets of VODs of qualifying matches while having a smooth audio experience. With a dynamic 10mm audio driver and low latency audio algorithms, I could take in all the intense action between the best teams in VALORANT plus some commentary. After watching, I put down the earphones and gave it some more time to charge while having dinner.

Sweet lullaby, I want it more everyday

Huawei Freebuds 4i

After a hearty dinner, it was finally time to get some sleep and recharge for the next day. Of course, I made it a point to watch a Netflix series and have late night calls with my girl beforehand. Then, I prepared for bed and fired up my playlist to doze off into the night.

Before I began, I popped in the FreeBuds 4i and allowed the case to just charge in the background. For the next 8-10 hours, it would be my companion through the calls and the soundtrip to sleep. Furthermore, I didn’t have to worry too much if the songs stop playing when one of the earphones falls off my ear.

With 10 hours of continuous playback and a comfortable fit in my ear, the FreeBuds 4i allowed me to just close my eyes and recharge in peace. Also, I would sometimes check the battery percentage through the Huawei AI Life app to gauge how long my soundtrip would be. By the time I woke up the next day, it would be prime and ready for another recharge like me.

The Huawei FreeBuds 4i comes in at PhP 3,599, and in three colorways: Ceramic White, Carbon Black, and Red. 


This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Philippines.

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