Hands-On

Sony Xperia X Hands-On

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In a surprise announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sony said goodbye to its top of the line Xperia Z smartphone, unveiling in its place a trio of new smartphones collectively referred to as Xperia X.

Specs-wise the new Xperia X line isn’t going to be the most high end smartphone release of 2016 but Sony’s left just enough for the phones to be desirable.

On the X Sony is ditching its glass for metal. All 3 phones sport the familiar boxy Xperia frame, although these phones feel curvier and rounder and better in the hands.

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

Sony’s new Xperia X line doesn’t aim for the top, but are interesting nonetheless (L-R: Xperia X Performance, Xperia X, Xperia XA)

Micro SD card and sim card slots still go on the left while the camera button, volume rocker, and power button are still on the right hand side of the device.

Instead of adding more features that you’ll hardly ever use, Sony says it added intelligence and improvements to key functions like battery and camera.

The Xperia X lineup boasts of Qnovo technology which promises reduced charging times increased battery lifespan, and smarter battery management.

It’s worth pointing out that Sony has put smaller capacity batteries onto its Xperia X line: the Xperia X Performance gets 2700 mAh, Xperia X 2620 mAh, and Xperia XA 2300 mAh. This resulted in thinner phones without sacrificing its promise of 2 days battery life. Although that’s not something we can test at the moment as the phones will not be officially released until some time between July to September.

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Just like the Z5, the Xperia X and Xperia X Performance get a 23MP main camera, while the entry level Xperia XA gets a 13MP main shooter.

Sony also added a new camera feature called Predictive Hybrid Autofocus to the Xperia X and Xperia X Performance. It tracks a moving subject, locking focus even while it moves in and out of frame.

The new camera is also one of the fastest in the market today – launching and capturing moments straight from standby mode.

Front-facing cameras are also much improved now with 8MP on the XA, and 13MP on the X and X Performance. They take selfies just as good as the Samsung Galaxy S7 can, if not even better.

While specs-wise the Xperia XA is not as impressive as its big brothers, on the outside it’s actually the one that stands out with a display that’s flushed against its sides. It also looks like the leanest of the bunch because it doesn’t come with a fingerprint scanner.

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The X and X Performance have fingerprint scanners built into their power buttons just like the Z5. You unlock by pressing your thumb against the button, which Sony says is the most natural way to unlock a smartphone.

The X and X Performance also have higher resolution displays, more RAM and better processors. The XA is powered by Mediatek Helio P10, while the X is powered by last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 and the X Performance the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820.  

The X Performance being the most premium variant is sadly the only one that retains the signature feature of the Xperia Z line: waterproofing. The phone has an IP68 rating meaning it will last up to 30 minutes underwater up to depths of 1.5 meters.

Cameras

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

Trying out the new Motion Mode on doggies!

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Fujifilm’s sequel to their first ever digital/analog hybrid is here and it’s looking better than ever. The Instax SQ20 is one classy-looking instant camera but what can it do? With a set of built-in filters and new features like the Motion Mode, it looks like a promising device.

I finally try it out, with help from some doggies, on our hands-on video.

The SQ20 retails for US$ 199 in the US, PhP 12,999 in the Philippines, and SG$ 299 in Singapore.

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

READ ALSO: Fujifilm Instax SQ10 review

READ ALSO: Prynt Pocket unboxing and review: A printer that prints videos?

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Hands-On

Huawei Nova 4 Hands-on: A ‘hole’ new approach

Does the punch-hole display make a difference?

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One of the reasons why Huawei is always on the news, aside from the controversies, is because they have new phones every other week. I’m still loving the Mate 20 Pro for its amazing cameras, but there’s now the Nova 4 that, in my opinion, will be an interesting option for new smartphone buyers.

The Huawei Nova 4 offers pretty much everything a premium midrange phone should: a nice display, beautiful body, and good cameras. It’s also one of the few phones in the market that has a hole in its display instead of a notch.

Is a punch-hole display more preferable than a notch? That’s what I tried to find out while using the Nova 4 for this hands-on.

First, let’s start with the basics:

It’s got a notch-less 6.4-inch display

In exchange, there’s a hole for the front camera

There’s support for two nano-SIM cards

No space for a microSD card, though

On its right are the physical buttons

They blend in well with the phone’s frame

The 3.5mm headphone jack is on top

Along with an IR blaster and noise-canceling microphone

At the bottom is the reversible USB-C port

There’s also the loudspeaker and main microphone

The back houses three cameras

And the swift fingerprint reader

The gradient color scheme is present

This has become Huawei’s signature

Can’t deny that it’s from Huawei

From its body to its color, the Nova 4 contains 100 percent of Huawei’s DNA. Gone are the days where we associate every touchscreen phone as an iPhone. Once the gradient color of the Nova 4 shifts, it instantly captivates. The usual question I get when my friends see me holding the Nova 4 is: It that a Huawei?

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a phone with an extreme persona like this Aurora Blue variant of the Nova 4 I have for review. I still prefer my discreet OnePlus 6 in black, but that’s just me. Of course, there’s a black variant of the Nova 4 available as well for those who don’t want a phone that becomes a centerpiece on a table.

The shape and size of the Nova 4 are no different from any premium phone that came out lately. It’s got a glass front and back with a shiny metal frame and the sides of the phone curve gently, making it easier to grip. Overall, I found no issues about the build of the Nova 4, aside from it being smudgy most of the time.

At first, I found the punch-hole to be as annoying as the notch. The hole is larger than expected, but I got used to it. Most apps treat the hole like a notch, so the experience is similar to before. The punch-hole doesn’t have an advantage over the notch in terms of usability.

Where the punch-hole shines is how it’s more tolerable when watching a video in full screen. Some games are not aware of the area the hole is occupying, thus control buttons get covered. Turning off the “full screen display” switch for some games fixes this.

Flagship-grade speed and stability

Enough with the looks; let’s now dive into the internals of the phone. The brain of the Nova 4 is the Kirin 970 processor. It’s the previous flagship 10nm chipset from Huawei’s own labs. It’s also inside the Mate 10 and the P20 series. Moreover, the Nova 4 has the same processor as its predecessor.

Performance-wise, there’s no big difference. This means Nova 3 owners don’t need to upgrade, unless they want a new and different-looking phone. The advantage of the Nova 4 is its upgraded memory to 8GB, although storage remains the same at 128GB.

Android Pie comes out of the box with Huawei’s EMUI 9 placed on top. Frankly, there’s not much new about the custom interface since EMUI 6, aside from the staple features of Android Pie. The heavy skin of EMUI doesn’t affect the performance of the phone, but it’s also not the best-looking.

In terms of gaming, popular titles like Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile are playable on high graphics settings. There’s no sign of hiccups or lag thanks to the optimizations by Huawei’s GPU Turbo.

As mentioned, the hole in the display is considered a “notch” by the system, so you can still hide the area it occupies by diving into the Settings panel. This makes the phone look hole-free, but you lose the extra screen real estate in some apps. So far, there are no issues with system and third-party apps, and I hope it stays that way.

Good cameras with ultra wide-angle lens

When it comes to taking photos, the Nova 4 doesn’t disappoint. It’s got a main 20-megapixel camera paired with an ultra wide-angle 16-megapixel shooter. There’s also a 2-megapixel depth sensor to help in taking portrait shots with bokeh effect. As for selfies, the 25-megapixel front camera can take detailed and pleasing stills.

AI scene detection is available both on the front and rear cameras, so the phone always helps in taking the best-possible photo. Check out these samples:

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Like with most camera phones, the Nova 4 can take good-looking photos in broad daylight. Good thing the quality doesn’t drop when shooting indoors or in the evening. Generally, the Nova 4 is a capable phone for taking photos, except the ultra wide-angle lens doesn’t sport autofocus. Night mode is also available when you need to take photos in incredibly dark environments.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Huawei Nova 4 is a new smartphone with a fresh approach to the notch dilemma. If you dislike the notch, the punch-hole display is your next best option.

For me, the ideal best bezel-less phone doesn’t have a notch or a hole — just like the Mi Mix 3, OPPO Find X, or Vivo NEX. Those phones have their own issues about their approach, however. It’s just a matter of preference at this point because nothing is perfect — for now.

While I wait for the perfect bezel-less phone without moving parts or display cutouts, I appreciate the options given to us. In the end, it’s your choice if you want a notch, a hole, or a mechanism to house the selfie camera. There are also phones without front cameras at all, maybe that’s your cup of tea — or coffee.

SEE ALSO: How the Huawei Watch GT made me believe in smartwatches

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Accessories

Neutrogena’s Light Treatment stick will target your pimples

I tried it to see if it works!

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Adult acne is real and it has plagued one too many women (and men!). In the search for beauty tech that will help rid me of my breakouts forever, I discovered Neutrogena’s Light Therapy Acne Spot Treatment. (It’s a mouthful, I know.)

This LED light treatment stick uses red and blue LED lights to target specific spots on your face to treat acne in the most unobtrusive way possible. But, how exactly does it work and is it effective? I gave it a shot and here’s how my experience went.

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

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