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Sony Xperia XZ Premium review

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As interesting as the new Xperia X lineup was in rebranding Sony’s flagship efforts, none of them could touch the Xperia Z series of years past in terms of prestige. Adding that “Z” to the Xperia XZ sort of, kinda, brought back that old flame, but it just wasn’t there for me. And that was the issue at hand.

The Xperia XZ came at a time when smartphones were already rocking up to 6GB of memory (the XZ had half of that), Quad HD displays (the XZ, again, settled for nearly half that), and slightly better processors. But that wasn’t the point of buying into the XZ experience; you buy one because of its fans-first approach, which we talked about a while back. At the same time, I just couldn’t recommend it over the more affordable, yet more feature-loaded flagships out there.

That changes with the Xperia XZ Premium, which aims to rectify what the non-Premium XZ couldn’t accomplish.

An evolution of a familiar aesthetic

Once again, this is practically the same design language we’ve been seeing from Sony since the original Xperia Z launched in 2013. That’s ages ago! Sure, there were refinements every now and then — such as the use of ALKALEIDO metal and a more ergonomic power button infused with the best-placed fingerprint scanner in the business — but it’s the same old look we’ve grown accustomed to.

Don’t get me wrong; while the XZ Premium is definitely gorgeous, its smudge-loving, hyper-reflective glass back can only bring it as far as my unsightly fingerprints do. It’s reminiscent of Sony’s previous excessively high-end smartphone, the Xperia Z5 Premium, which we reviewed in all its glory back in 2015.

And yet, the best design cues are all here. The volume buttons are now rightfully positioned above the power button; its 5.5-inch display (with the balanced top and bottom bezels) feels so perfectly sized in my somewhat large hands; the front-facing stereo speakers and IP68-rated water and dust resistance made a return; and the rear camera is still flush with the back panel — no wobbles on tables!

What you actually come for

But seriously, what you should really be after is the 4K resolution of its display. It’s only the second time Sony implemented such a monstrous pixel count on one of its phones, with the Z5 Premium being the last one. The difference here is it comes with an HDR (High Dynamic Range) panel this time, leading to deeper blacks and brighter highlights simultaneously.

As you can guess, you’d need content optimized for the resolution and HDR capability to truly get the most out of it. That’s a tall order with 4K HDR videos still in the early stages of breaking into the mainstream market — heck, finding such content on YouTube is considered special, and that’s if your internet connection is fast enough to stream without buffering every few seconds.

From my own tests, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between videos shown in 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) and Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels). The 5.5-inch screen is simply to small and the pixels are already densely packed enough at Quad HD. Like on the Z5 Premium, it feels like Sony is just showing off, rather than implementing a functional feature everyone can appreciate from the get-go.

Slower than slow, faster when it counts

The other highly touted feature is the super-slow-motion video recording, something we already enjoyed back in MWC last February:

It’s such a novelty feature, but we can’t get enough of the 960fps slow-mo video recording. Yes, that’s 960 frames per second! It’s the result of combining a super-fast processor in the Snapdragon 835, and a stronger focus on making a single camera great, instead of adding another one for optical zoom or background blur effects.

As for the still photo quality, we can’t give the same amount of praise. Although focus tracking and locking on to a subject is speedy, the final products (especially at night) sometimes left a lot to be desired. The issue seems to lie in the post-processing, which didn’t know how to optimize each photo’s colors or noise reduction, leaving us with mushy parts in some images. These are our best shots from a recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan:

Not bad really, as long as you take several shots and pick the best one. Our experience with the front-facing 13-megapixel camera was much more pleasant. Thanks to its own autofocusing system, which is still surprisingly rare in modern smartphones, selfies were sharp no matter how close or far our faces were from the lens.

Something new, something older

As mentioned earlier, a high point for the XZ Premium is its use of Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 835 SoC (System on a Chip). This processor is no joke; it’s the tiniest, most efficient, and most powerful of its kind. It’s the same chip that handles Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and OnePlus’ upcoming flagship handset. Partnered with 4GB of memory, up to 64GB of storage with microSD expansion, and the choice of owning a dual-SIM version, this is the definition of a premium Xperia device.

My only qualm lies in the actual video-watching experience. With a 3230mAh battery capacity, the XZ Premium doesn’t exactly last long for movie marathons. The battery percentage reaches near 10 percent after watching two full movies (about two hours each), and the average screen-on time with mixed usage hovers around five hours in a single day. In addition, despite having two separate speakers blasting audio towards your face, the maximum volume is inadequate. I ended up connecting my Sony MDR-1A headphones whenever I wasn’t too lazy to reach for them.

And now we have to talk about an ongoing legacy: the Xperia UI. Being a user since the first Xperia Z smartphone, I must say there hasn’t been much change since 2013, and that’s disappointing. Having been spoiled by the advancements of several Android Nougat-based interfaces and even Android O on our Pixel, going back to the Xperia UI feels like a trip down memory lane. The notifications and quick settings panel takes up a lot of space; the settings menu chooses to spread out several categories without simplification; and the side-scrolling app drawer doesn’t feel that fluid anymore.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I have to look at this from three different perspectives to get a proper answer: a hardcore multimedia consumer, myself, and an Xperia fan.

For users heavily reliant on their smartphone to get things done, the XZ Premium is an excellent choice. As one of the few handsets to have a Snapdragon 835 chipset, there is no going around how fast and efficient this phone is. Not once did it overheat during intense use, and the overall audio-visual treat of its display, speakers, and camera — despite their shortcomings — rarely failed me. Again, its Xperia interface is a little behind the competition, but all the Android 7.1 Nougat optimization is still there.

As for myself, I have a hard time stomaching the price tag. At INR 61,990 in India and PhP 45,490 in the Philippines, it’s up there with the Galaxy S8 in pricing, and this is for a phone that hasn’t evolved much in design, features, or interface. If Sony somehow managed to trim down the bezels, overhaul the UI, or add another class-defining feature, I’d be more inclined to spend for such a premium.

And for Xperia fans, this should be classified as a maybe. Do you really need a 4K display and super-slow-mo video recording over whatever Xperia you have now? If not, I’d recommend looking for a discounted Xperia XZ instead or the more recent Xperia XZs, which has slightly better specifications over its older counterpart.

SEE ALSO: Stunning red Sony Xperia XZ Premium leaks

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Huawei MatePad 2021 review: Midrange tablet contender

A multimedia champ

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In the age of advanced technology, there is still space for budget and mid-range devices. This is where the Huawei MatePad 2021 comes in. A simple but capable tablet that can keep up with your daily needs.

Here I am, using the device for some time now and I can actually say, man, this is good! At first, I was doubtful about the capabilities of the MatePad given that it does not have Google services. But to my surprise, this device can stand on its own and deliver great performance when you need it to. But of course, it has its own setbacks.

Design

The new MatePad is a simple but clean design. The weight of the device is so light, it’s not a hassle to hold around all day. I advise you to place a case over that tablet. Its weight can definitely fool you and it has an occasional slipping from time to time. The device is easy to hold in landscape orientation, it feels good on the hands too.

Unfortunately, when you hold it in a portrait orientation, it suddenly feels too slim, but bearable. Its curved corners help with the grip and the screen follows that curved corners too, giving it a modern look. Its midnight grey colorway is definitely a great color, but I hope they add more colors to their lineup.

Camera

The single shooter camera at the back is nothing special. I understand how a number of tablets do not really prioritize it. The quality of the rear camera is acceptable given that there’s good lighting in your area.

The front-facing camera is not good at all. However, given its price and the fact that it’s a tablet, you shouldn’t expect much from it anyway.

Display

I love the screen size. It has curved corners and is well optimized with the apps. The IPS display is 2000×1000. Great quality, but there are better screens out there. For a mid-range device, the display is highly acceptable.

Having a 10.4-inch screen, multitasking is a breeze. With this, you can use two apps and still have a sizeable screen for content. eBook mode is like the ultra power saving mode on Samsung galaxy phones. Your screen will turn black and white which not only saves you from eye strain, it also saves the battery of the device  — which is amazing!

Audio

The Histen 6.0 3D stereo provided with the MatePad is superb for its price. The quad-speaker setup of this device surely gives it a huge boost and is rare in the mid-range market.

Music streaming was such an amazing experience, it gave me all smiles while testing it out. Even at maximum volume, the audio wasn’t bad at all, the clarity of the music and the instruments still sound superb and this is a huge plus to the device.

Multimedia goodness

The MatePad was pretty good when it came to multimedia consumption, you can download Netflix, HBO Go, and Spotify, just to name a few! The apps were perfectly optimized and the display surely keeps the experience enjoyable. Watching Netflix, HBO Go and YouTube content was fun. I have not experienced any issue regarding the apps itself as it fits perfectly to the size of the display.

Downloading apps can be a new experience when using a Huawei Device. They have their own Huawei AppGallery that may or may not offer you all of the apps you want. For downloading the apps like Netflix, HBO Go and many more, you will be redirected to an APK site. Once in the APK site there will be a download link for you to click and wait for the app to be downloaded. After the process, you’ll find your app ready to set up and use on a daily.

We also have to mention that the MatePad is supported by the M-Pencil. This means you can have more than one mode of entertainment for your device. Take down notes or draw the MatePad is surely lucky to have a stylus fitted for its capabilities.

Gaming

Gaming in this device is, what can I say? — AMAZING! Great graphics and playing games in the highest settings is no problem for this tablet. Personally, playing games like Mobile Legends is perfect for tablets. Playing PUBG Mobile on this device was quite an experience.

Don’t worry about your device when it comes to gaming, it’s a piece of cake for this one! A little bit of advice, Huawei encourages you to turn off Bluetooth when playing games, the reason is unknown but they’re preventing lag given the notification.

Battery Life

The MatePad holds a 7,250mAh battery, making it a long-lasting device. I played five games in Mobile Legends and the device still stands at 100 percent battery life! You can watch season one of Brooklyn Nine-nine and still have a few more left in the tank. believe me, I’ve tried it myself.

Problems

The MatePad surely is a surprising and powerful device, but it seems that this tablet is being held back at some point.

The device lags when using its gestures, from closing apps to left and right swipes, the tablet finds itself lagging and buggy. One huge problem that they need to fix is the App Gallery, now, don’t get me wrong, it works.

The thing is, when you download apps, it takes you to another site and then you download the APK file. YouTube app is nowhere to be found and it’s kind of a bummer. Users will be stuck with a website version turned to an app. The YouTube “app”  is buggy and is a pain to use.

Limited apps are available, and lets face it the apps there are not the ones we use on a daily. There are a few apps loaded but not installed and it’s not a pretty sight. It looks like uninstalled bloatware craving for your attention. My advice to anyone who’s going to buy this is that pick some of the provided apps and then remove the remaining apps.

Downloading apps can be a pain too if you’re not familiar with the current Huawei System.

Should you buy the Huawei MatePad?

My answer is a yes, even though they lack Google support and it has a few laggy moments. The MatePad is surely a bang-for-your-buck device. Whatever your current tablet can do, the MatePad can do it too, maybe even better.

The MatePad 2021 retails for PhP 18,990 / SG$ 498

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Sony BRAVIA XR X90J review: Stunning visual experience

Doesn’t rival that of most KPop idols, but still great

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I’d like to look at smart TVs as an investment for any living space. If you’re not into cable television, these TVs provide a great source of entertainment for you. Also, like standard TVs, you can connect several devices to it to expand its usage. Whether it’s your phone, laptop, or game console, it supports all of those.

This year, Sony has a new smart TV offering in the Sony BRAVIA XR X90J, and it’s not just any other TV. On paper, it boasts what seems to be the most all-around TV experience you could imagine. Whether you binge watch Netflix or own a next-gen console, this looks like the ideal TV for you.

When I first read the spec sheet, I thought that this was too good to be true. The longer I used it, however, I think it’s safe to say that Sony might be up to something here.

The TV in its full glory

Here’s a rundown of everything you should know about the Sony BRAVIA XR X90J. For starters, this particular TV comes in either a 55-inch or 65-inch display; there is a 75-inch option but it’s currently not offered here. The unit Sony sent me was the 65-inch one, but the rest of the spec sheet applies to both sizes.

The BRAVIA XR X90J comes with a Cognitive Processor XR built inside, which provides several key features and adjustments to the viewing experience. Of course, the display fully supports a maximum of 4K in resolution, with HDR10 and Dolby Vision support. Also, it comes with two Dolby Atmos surround sound speakers at the back, placed at each side.

In terms of port selection, the BRAVIA XR X90J comes with two USB Type-A ports, four HDMI ports, one digital audio port, and an RJ45 Ethernet port. As a smart TV, it comes with 16GB of storage for your streaming apps and other media. Also, it sports up to an 802.11ac WiFi standard and Bluetooth 4.2 for mice and keyboards.

Who really needs this TV?

The moment I got the TV, I wanted to find out who exactly will benefit the most out of using it. The thing is, everything I just mentioned appeals to practically anyone who wants to invest in something like this. So, how about I break these down and see where the BRAVIA XR X90J fits best, given the following:

For somebody who just wants a big TV

If you were somebody looking for a relatively large TV, the BRAVIA XR X90J exceeds the bare minimum you need. I’m assuming you own a TV box that connects via HDMI, so this TV feels at home with what you’re after. Of course, with its size, I feel it gives you an experience similar to having a mini-theater in your living space.

One thing I’ll praise the BRAVIA XR X90J on is its surround sound speakers. With its XR Sound Position and XR Surround, any TV show, movie, or live concert feels so real. Again, I go back to that mini-theater experience because that’s what it can give you. Also, it’s surprisingly loud even at volume level 16 even if you’re far from the TV.

Although, most TV boxes only go up to 1080p at around 60Hz, so you will sacrifice some details in your viewing experience. Honestly, even with the XR 4K Upscaling and 4K XR Smoothing working their magic, it still looks a bit grainy when you get up close. If this isn’t a huge problem for you, then this is a pretty worthy investment.

For the smart home owner or resident online binge watcher

Let’s say you don’t own a TV box and instead enjoy watching shows and movies on streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, or Disney+. Well, the BRAVIA XR X90J is a Google-powered smart TV so it already fits what you need from it. Also, this TV comes with a ton of other smart features that bring your devices together in one suite.

 

If you want that sweet 4K viewing experience with KPop music videos or Netflix Originals, this TV serves you what you want. Because of the Cognitive Processor XR, the TV produces stunning visuals and colors to enhance the viewing experience. Honestly, I felt that Sony built this with the binge watcher in mind, and it clearly shows.

Apart from the multitude of streaming services, the BRAVIA XR also comes with Chromecast and Apple AirPlay support. Basically, if you need a second display for your work presentations or Netflix parties, this feature allows you to do exactly that. Although, don’t you think it’s a bit overkill for work purposes?

For the owner of a next-gen console or gaming PC

As a gamer myself, the BRAVIA XR X90J appeals to me particularly because of one important feature: 4K at 120Hz. I mean, imagine playing all sorts of games at the highest visual detail while at a high refresh rate. That’s what PlayStation and Xbox want for you with their next-gen consoles.

Even though you can plug in your current-gen consoles or your RGB-filled gaming PC, Sony designed this TV for the next-gen. I hooked up my Xbox Series X to this TV, and I know how weird that sounds brand-wise. Throughout my entire play time, everything looks beautiful and vibrant, with the added bonus of reacting to things faster.

Of course, like every other display in the market, there’s a catch to achieving this. See, the BRAVIA XR X90J comes with four HDMI ports, with only two of them with 4K/120Hz support by default. Now, I had to tinker with the settings to find out that this TV also supports Dolby Vision, something the Series X also supports. Unfortunately, turning that setting on caps the refresh rate at 60Hz, so 4K at 120 FPS wouldn’t be possible. So, if you pick this up, just be wary of that.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Starting at PhP 77,779, the Sony BRAVIA XR X90J ticks all the boxes for a great smart TV. For whatever use case, it provides a viewing experience that is simply captivating from the comfort of your home. With all the features it comes with, it deserves praise for exceeding my expectations.

Again, in some cases, I feel this TV might be a little too much for some people. Obviously, given the price point, there are more affordable options that give you roughly the same experience. Also, the BRAVIA XR X90J’s features can only do so much with the hardware you plug in there.

Nonetheless, I believe Sony hit the nail when it came to this TV. If you’re looking to upgrade your living space in the near future, this is one worthy investment. 

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realme Watch 2 Pro: When purpose meets versatility

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As someone who just started to be fond of smartwatches, I’ve been in search of one that doesn’t burn my pocket yet has all the features that suit my lifestyle. 

Starting with smartphones, TV, wireless earbuds and AIOT gadgets, realme has been keen on expanding its ecosystem to suit people’s day-to-day needs and routine. With their latest device, the realme Watch 2 Pro continues to live up to that challenge. 

Would the realme Watch 2 Pro be the one to put an end to my search? Let’s find out. 

Large colored display 

When you’re running or doing a highly intensive exercise, it’s hard to check your progress on a typical smartwatch. So I really appreciate the fact that the realme Watch 2 Pro has a large 1.75-inch colored display with a 385 x 320 pixels resolution which makes it easy for me to check my health stats at a glance. 

It also has 600 nits of peak brightness so I was still able to see my activity data clearly even if I worked out under direct sunlight.

realme Watch 2 Pro

Getting my hands all sweaty wasn’t a problem since the Watch 2 Pro has an anti-fingerprint coating so the screen only gets minimal smudges. 

You wouldn’t want to get your screen blurry because you’d want to see it, especially now that you can choose from up to 100 watch faces for whatever suits your outfit and mood. Some can be directly picked from your Watch 2 Pro while some are available for download via the realme Link app.

If you want to be sentimental, you can even put up a photo of you with your special someone or your dog as your watch face. 

realme Watch 2 Pro

Stylish and practical strap

The realme Watch 2 Pro came with easy-to-wear liquid silicone watch straps. You can choose between Black which was the one I got and the light grey variant. 

realme Watch 2 Pro

If you want other options, this smartwatch can work with standard straps so you can mix it up with different outfits depending on the occasion. A simple feature for some but a thumbs up factor for me is that there are many holes punched on the strap so I can easily adjust it on my wrist. 

Magnetic charging, not that you always need it

Seeing the rear of the realme Watch 2 Pro, it’s easy to tell that you can charge it with the magnetic dock that comes with the package. You need to carefully keep it since it’s the only charger you can use to juice this up but you definitely won’t have to use it that often. 

realme Watch 2 Pro

When I got this smartwatch, I didn’t charge it since the battery was still at 95 percent and it still lasted for 10 days. And when the battery went really low, it only took me about an hour to bring it back to full charge. 

A mode for all your sports and workout 

I’ve tried other smartwatches which had very limited selections of sports modes, so it was a great deal that the realme Watch 2 Pro has 90 sports modes. You may not instantly see it on the menu of your smartwatch but once you connect it to your realme Link app, the whole list becomes available. 

Choose which sport or physical activity from jump rope to swimming that you usually do so you can instantly customize and add those on the menu of your smartwatch. Then you can check out your workout summary after each activity. 

realme Watch 2 Pro

Working up a sweat or even spilling your water during your workout won’t matter to the realme Watch 2 Pro with its IP68 Water Resistance rating.  

Monitor your overall well-being 

Since we still don’t get to go out that much due to the pandemic, I try to keep myself fit and healthy even at the comfort of my home, and the realme Watch 2 Pro has been my fitness buddy lately due to its plethora of monitoring features. 

This smartwatch can monitor your heart rate, thanks to its PPG bio-sensor. During my HIIT routine, I got so pumped listening to my workout beats and the Watch 2 Pro alerted me of my heart rate getting too high, reminding me to relax a bit and drink water. 

realme Watch 2 Pro

It also has a sleep monitor where I was able to get an overview of my sleep time and quality. It serves as a wake up call for me to get more rest daily so I can be pumped up for the next day. 

What also came in handy is its SpO2 monitor for blood oxygen tracking which is a key measurement for breathing and blood circulation. In just 30 seconds, I was able to check that my blood oxygen is at its normal level.

realme Watch 2 Pro

Precision at your fingertips 

What’s usually found in higher end smartwatches can actually be found on the realme Watch 2 Pro – a High-Precision Dual Satellite GPS. In a few seconds after I set up my Outdoor Walk activity, this smartwatch was able to accurately get my location data and step tracking. 

realme Watch 2 Pro

Stay connected 

In between exercise routines, you get into this workout zone that you sometimes just want to be away from your phone so you can concentrate.

But just in case you’re waiting for an important message or notification,  you can still have access to those since you can seamlessly pair the realme Watch 2 Pro with your smartphone via the realme Link app.

realme Watch 2 Pro

Just activate smart notifications from third-party apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp then you can read your messages directly on your smartwatch. 

Being controlling can also be good 

As realme strengthens its foothold in the AIOT category, they’ve made it a point that the realme Watch 2 Pro has an AIOT control feature, making it a hub for your realme AIOT TechLife devices. 

I was able to use this smartwatch to control my realme Buds Wireless 2 Neo to adjust its volume and choose from its 3 sound effects modes depending on the music I’m listening to. You can also remotely control the music player on your phone with this wearable and it also has a remote camera feature so you can take snaps of yourself even if you are alone.  

After a busy day of work and exercise, you may sometimes just doze off on your bed and wake up thirsty in the middle of the night. realme has also got your safety covered with their motion-activated Night Light.

You can place it by the stairs or near your refrigerator so it can detect your movement easily.  Now you don’t have to fumble around at night to find the light switch and safely get your glass of water. 

Is the realme Watch 2 Pro your Gadgetmatch? 

This may be a case of different strokes for different folks, but if you’re someone like me who just needs a reliable tech companion to keep track of your activities and monitor your health, then the realme Watch 2 Pro is actually a competitive choice. 

At PhP 4,490 with major features like 90 sports mode, a High Precision Dual Satellite GPS and its AIOT Control Feature, this wearable may finally put an end to your smartwatch search. 

You can get the realme Watch 2 Pro at Lazada, Shopee and authorized realme stores nationwide. 

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