Reviews

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review: Flexing more camera muscles

Offering features never seen on a smartphone before

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Sony once again updates its flagship smartphone and this year, it seems like the Japanese handset maker wants to shake things up a bit.

We first saw the Xperia XZ2 at Mobile World Congress earlier this year and with its launch is the introduction of new and improved features. You’ve seen its curvy design, heard of its Snapdragon 845 processor, and witnessed its capability to shoot 4K HDR video.

So for this review, we tell you how these features helped us and how they worked together to provide the demands of everyday tasks.

Let’s start with the design…

Boxy no more

As you can probably already tell, the XZ2 breaks from the uniformity of Xperia handsets that has been going on for years now. Many have actually grown tired of its old OmniBalance form factor with sharp corners and large top and bottom bezels.

And in this time of bezel-less phones and curved designs, we really couldn’t blame them.

There’s still a bit of chin and forehead going on for the XZ2 but compared to its previous design, we’re not complaining. It’s significantly heavier, though, compared to its predecessor and you can really feel its heft when you hold the handset with one hand.

The new form factor is a welcome change. We now see a curved back made of glass which adds a premium feel when slapped on a phone. There’s a trade-off, however, by going for an all-glass design. The phone provides no grip and easily slides out of a loose pocket.

Its finish is so slippery that it sometimes struggles to lay still on a flat surface. The curved back also doesn’t help when you operate it while on a table. Although I personally am not a fan of phone cases, I think most users would rather have the XZ2 in one to add grip and protect its glossy surface as well.

All the buttons are tucked at the right side including the camera shutter, power/lock, and volume rocker. We have the hybrid dual-SIM tray up top and the USB-C port below. Nope, no 3.5mm audio jack here.

The Xperia XZ2 boasts dual front-firing speakers but they’re not easily seen. And while the earpiece acts as a loudspeaker, the second speaker is squeezed between the display and chassis at the bottom. Sneaky — and we like it.

Turn it around and you’ll see nothing but circles. From the sensors and LED flash, down to the single camera and finally the fingerprint scanner.

We’re just not big fans of the new placement of its fingerprint scanner. It feels too low and takes quite a bit of awareness to reach or you’ll end up smudging your rear camera.

Multimedia made more immersive

Not coming as a surprise, Sony has packed lots of multimedia goodness into the XZ2. It’s equipped with a 5.7-inch Full HD+ HDR display and enjoys features like X-Reality and HDR up-conversion found in the company’s latest televisions.

Audio has also been given attention to — because this is Sony we’re talking about. The aforementioned dual front speakers provide above-average volume and have more oomph for a phone speaker. The handset also supports hi-res audio so listening to your favorite artists in high quality is possible even through wireless headphones.

As an attempt to further enhance the experience while consuming content, Sony is introducing the Dynamic Vibration System to the XZ2. Similar to the haptic engine on a PlayStation’s DualShock controller, the feature can be turned on to feel synced vibrations while watching a video or listening to music.

Pressing the volume button will reveal the slider with four levels of intensity. Although a pretty cool feature to show off to friends, I could go on throughout the day without using it, so I consider it more of a gimmick and not as effective as the DualShock controller. Plus, it consumes more battery with all the vibration while you watch or play music.

Camera on steroids

If there’s one thing I was super excited about during the XZ2’s announcement, it was the camera. The new Sony flagship is the world’s first smartphone that can shoot 4K HDR video and capture super slow-mo Full HD videos at 960fps.

These were achieved through the phone’s new 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera that the company claims produces lifelike images. And with those in mind, we eagerly put the device to the test.

4K HDR video recording has good color and tonality. I found it easy to color correct during post-production thanks to its manageable dynamic range. Sony’s SteadyShot also works well for stabilizing video.

To capture things in super slow-motion, the handset shoots 960 frames per second just like on the XZ Premium (and later on the Galaxy S9+ and P20 Pro). Thing is, those phones all max out at 720p or HD, and it’s only the XZ2 that shoots the same frame rate at 1080p Full HD.

Again, there’s a trade-off for this. The length of the slow-mo video in Full HD is cut in half compared to when shot in HD. It’s a bit of a downer and it makes timing the action a bit of a challenge. Although with patience and a few practice shots, it could still achieve impressive shots.

Low-light shots for the rear camera are impressive, which wasn’t the case for its predecessor and even the XZ Premium. Its maximum ISO of 12800 is behind this feat. Meanwhile, its 5-megapixel front camera takes decent selfies. It comes with a 23mm wide-angle lens to accommodate more people in a selfie.

Beefy under the hood, too

Inside, the Xperia XZ2 carries a top-shelf Snapdragon 845 and is partnered with 4GB of RAM. This means it can handle heavy processing and even multitasking like any other premium flagship smartphone.

Indeed, while playing graphics-intensive games like Asphalt Xtreme and Tekken, it was able to render graphics effortlessly and multiplayer titles like PUBG Mobile ran smoothly. It does get warm after a few minutes of playing but nothing too alarming.

The XZ2 runs on Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box and has 64GB worth of internal storage. If you run out, there’s still an option to expand the capacity through an additional microSD. You’ll just have to sacrifice the second SIM slot.

Other notable features

Apart from all that, Sony has given the XZ2 the usual bells and whistles we’ve seen on their previous phones. It still has a water and dust resistance rating of IP68, which means you don’t have to worry about getting it drenched in rain.

The handset also features NFC for wireless pairing and 3D Creator that lets you scan objects, heads, and faces, and turn them into AR models or 3D print them.

It’s interesting to note that you can finally do a 3D scan using the selfie camera — a feature which wasn’t available previously. It wasn’t easy to perform though and needs some practice to perfect before you can produce a pleasing render of yourself.

Wired or wireless

With a 3180mAh battery, the Xperia XZ2 could easily last me a day on a single charge with casual usage. Although, shooting super slow-mo and 4K video will exhaust the battery a lot sooner which is totally understandable.

Though not as fast as when it’s plugged in, the handset already supports Qi wireless charging which is always nice to have when you’re at home most of the time. Through wired charging, it takes exactly one hour from four percent to reach 71 percent.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

This is not your usual selfie phone with basic features. Sony has made a serious contender with the Xperia XZ2 by giving it pioneering features, a redesigned appearance, and an engine that can take on the demands of everyday users.

With its camera and multimedia capabilities, we see its appeal toward those who are into creating and consuming content on the go.

Not everything is a hit. We find its new design super slippery and a bit on the heavy side. There’s no audio jack, the position of fingerprint scanner takes a while to get used to, and its Dynamic Vibration System could be done without.

It’s what it does best that makes me stick up for it as a video guy. 4K HDR recording is something I always want to have access to and slowing random things down is always pure joy.

Pricing was initially revealed in Singapore at SG$ 998 (US$ 760) followed by the United States at US$ 799. It was also launched yesterday in the Philippines for PhP 43,990 which converts to about US$ 840 and the most expensive so far.

Sony has made the XZ2 a pioneer in aspects of mobile videography and of course, it comes at a price. So if you want to be one of the firsts to experience these new capabilities, then this is your GadgetMatch of 2018.

Reviews

POCO M5 review: No need to break the bank

More than just a gaming phone

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Gaming is usually an expensive hobby. Between new hardware and pricey games, it’s too common to feel broke as a gamer. However, buying into gaming shouldn’t always break the bank. If you’re a mobile gamer, the world now has options to feed your habit without feeling guilty. Earlier this month, POCO launched a new gaming smartphone for budget-conscious gamers — the POCO M5. Now, almost a month after the launch, let’s see how the phone holds up.

Big but light

Boasting a 6.58-inch screen, the POCO M5 is quite hefty. However, despite the size, the phone is a few millimeters narrower than my main driver. It’s gigantic but not uncomfortably so. Of course, size is a great aspect to boast for a gaming phone. Watching Netflix is more than enjoyable on the POCO M5.

Adding to that, the smartphone is remarkably light for its size. Weighing in at just 201 grams, it sits comfortably on my hand while I’m either watching or playing.

As for other design quirks, the smartphone does take some creative liberties behind the screen. Instead of a smooth back, the rear has a leathery texture, adding to a premium feel. Also, like the Pixel 6 series, it sports a camera island that wraps around the entire width of the rear panel. However, unlike the aforementioned Google flagship, the island doesn’t protrude as much, making for a pleasantly stable surface.

Gaming on a budget

Armed with the MediaTek Helio G99 octa-core processor, the POCO M5 is capable of holding its own weight. Besides the processor, it also has up to 6GB of RAM and up to 128GB of internal storage (expandable through a microSD slot). It’s not quite a flagship, but it’s enough to get the job done.

Everyday operations — browsing, texting, taking photos — felt seamless. The smartphone never felt slow or laggy — at least during non-gaming sessions.

Unfortunately, the phone’s gaming capabilities fall a bit short from “true gaming phone” territory. While Genshin Impact (which the phone came installed with) played well, meatier games like Diablo Immortal did run into some lag spikes. Thankfully, it’s not a huge downside. Despite playing in low to medium settings, Diablo Immortal played well enough to get through an hour of unbridled gameplay.

Heat wasn’t an issue, either. After playing through an hour, the smartphone never really got hot enough to an uncomfortable level. Plus, with a plastic case, the heat simmered down to lukewarm levels. It might be different during a hot summer day, but the transition between summer to fall is a good time to have this phone.

Taken with the POCO M5

An impressive camera for its price

For a phone with an affordable price tag, the POCO M5 carries an impressive camera combination. Sporting a 50-megapixel main sensor and two 2-megapixel macro/depth sensors, the smartphone can deliver photos that are good enough for the ‘gram.

Taken with the POCO M5

Under bright to overcast lighting situations, photos offered substantial detail and contrast. In fact, it was enough to go up against my Pixel 6. Of course, it doesn’t do as much for less-than-stellar lighting conditions. Regardless, it does remarkably well for its price point.

For example, I took the phone to a live show. The photos were a delight. Although, if you zoom in enough, you can spot some pixelation. It doesn’t matter as much, especially since the photo itself is still impressive.

Taken with the POCO M5

Similarly, the phone does well enough for night shots. Taking photos required stable hands, of course, but the photos were decent. A well-lit photo at night is more than enough for a phone of this caliber.

Gaming all day

With a huge 5000mAh battery, the POCO M5 lasted more than a day. The battery does well for everyday use and some moderate gaming on the side. Further, I tried an all-day screen test with the phone. Despite being on for an entire day (that is, from 5AM to 10PM), the smartphone still had more than a quarter of its battery left.

Charging is standard. With a fast 18W charging standard, the phone filled up to 100 from 15 percent in around 90 minutes.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Coming in black, green, or yellow, the POCO M5 is available now starting at EUR 189 (going up to EUR 229 for the highest trim). For its price point, the new smartphone is a worthy purchase if you’re looking to game on a budget. And that’s without the additional frills you’re enjoying.

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Reviews

vivo Y35 review: Y series upgraded

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vivo Y35

We know that the Y series is vivo’s entry-level line of smartphones and is among their highest selling variants to date. So, it does feel confusing that the vivo Y35 still belongs in this category as a lot of its features already belong to a higher class. 

It has everything a Y series should be but also a lot to take it to the next level.

That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss as we talk more about the identity crisis this phone is having and why it actually is pretty good.

Specs

A quick recap of the specs before we proceed. The vivo Y35 is running on the Snapdragon 680 chipset with 8GB RAM plus 8GB of extended RAM, it also has a large internal storage of 256GB and is being powered by a 5,000mAh battery with a 44W Flash Charge.

Designed like a Y series and that means beautiful

vivo Y35

The way this phone is designed looks and feels almost exactly like vivo’s other entry-level offerings. It’s not necessarily a bad thing since their designs are recognizably attractive and are pretty well built.

With this one, the size feels slightly thicker and heavier on the hands. It can be both a blessing and a curse especially for people with bigger hands. I like that it feels a bit chunky. It makes it easier to grip though it also bulges a bit in my pants’ pocket.

vivo Y35

It’s commendable that for a relatively affordable phone, I feel proud to bring out even in sophisticated engagements. Contrasting the camera module’s dark gray mirror finish with the Dawn Gold colorway of the whole body is picture-perfect.

Plus, I greatly appreciate that they finally went with a matte textured back case which doesn’t attract smudges.

Responsive Display 

vivo Y35

If you place the Y35 side by side with other budget phones from vivo, you’ll probably think they’re all using the same screens. Most of them still have a chin and a dew drop front camera design. But on paper, most of them slightly differ. 

The one on the Y35 is a 6.58-inch, full HD+, IPS display but now boasts a 90Hz refresh rate. So it does feel a bit more responsive adding to its overall user experience.

vivo Y35

Given that this isn’t AMOLED, we can’t expect it to have the same vibrance of that kind. But at least the viewing angles are decent and colors are nicely saturated.

Outdoor usage may be a bit of a struggle but not to the point that it gets annoying.

Battery and Charging is its best feature

One of the highlights on the Y35 is its fast charging capabilities. vivo claims this phone can charge up to 70 percent in just 34 minutes. It’s quite unusual to experience in this category of smartphones.

Based on my personal test, the 44W Flash Charge on this was able to get a 20 percent increase in just ten minutes of charging. And from 15 percent, it took a whole hour and two minutes for it to get fully charged.

Not entirely the same as vivo’s claims but still remarkably fast. Especially if we consider that most entry-level phones do take more than two hours to get fully charged.

This means we can now change our overnight charging habit to just charging before we prepare ourselves for leaving the house.

vivo Y35

Battery performance was also fairly good. I managed to use this mostly on data connection, streaming a whole bunch of YouTube videos in a four-hour bus trip to Baguio and I ended the whole day still with 58 percent battery remaining.

That’s pretty decent for a 5,000 mAh battery if you ask me.

Built for Multi-Tasking 

vivo Y35

Aside from the large RAM and storage, there really isn’t much to go crazy about the Y35’s hardware and performance. Apps run more or less the same as other Snapdragon 680 powered phones. But the benefits of having more RAM is quite noticeable.

It can surely handle running apps side by side on multi-window mode but not absurdly responsive. It also manages to return to apps I have running in the background without having to wait for it to load all over again.

vivo Y35

I assume games may have also benefited from the large available RAM as Call of Duty: Mobile is able to run lag-free at very high settings with high FPS enabled. 

vivo Y35

But I feel that among the games I’ve tried, Genshin Impact had a more significant benefit from its specs. Despite being very demanding, the Y35 seemed pretty comfortable handling this game at its default setting with no noticeable slowdowns.

At medium setting, slowdowns did become evident but dropping a few settings to low made the game run at nearly its full speed. I even managed to configure some settings to a combination of high graphic options and this worked out pretty well, too.

Cameras that take Insta-worthy snaps 

vivo Y35

Like the display, I was also expecting the camera to be the exact same one that came with the Y35’s more affordable siblings. With 50MP for its main camera, 2MP bokeh shooter, 2MP macro camera and 16MP selfie camera, on paper, these do seem very similar.

But having the chance to use a lot of them, I can say that that isn’t the case. Image quality has improved but not so drastically.

 

 

 

 

It often gets the colors where I want them and looks Insta-worthy but so long as we manually adjust the exposure slider. Not doing so will mostly result in an overly exposed image which isn’t too appealing.

I noticed that it still has difficulty capturing details in background subjects like leaves of trees. However, I may belong in the minority who actually likes the look of its softness. It kind of reminds me of old digicams which make some shots feel nostalgic if that makes sense.

What I really liked was the ability to recover quickly after taking a shot. I think this could also be a product of its hardware specs and not the camera itself. Whatever it is, it helps ease shooting. The Y35 manages to snap at fast moving subjects allowing me to catch candid moments as it happens.

Is the vivo Y35 your GadgetMatch?

vivo Y35

Priced at PhP 14,999 as of writing, the vivo Y35 does seem to be pushing against the boundaries of the entry-level category. For just a little bit more, a lower mid-range phone isn’t too far off which would likely be better in most cases.

Having this consideration in mind, I think the Y35 would be an ideal fit for people eyeing a budget phone who are willing to stretch their pockets a bit for more features.

vivo Y35

It’s fast enough for daily tasks and games. and is capable of capturing the moment with its decent cameras. It’s also a fast and vibrant display, and best of all, it charges fast and won’t easily die down on you. Plus it also looks really nice, albeit with the notch design.

Basically, it’s a phone that gets the job done with a few extras here and there. Maybe vivo can consider calling this a Y series Plus or Pro? 

The vivo Y35 is available in Dawn Gold or Agate Black colors at their Shopee, Lazada, Tiktok Shop and vivo e-store and all vivo Concept stores nationwide.

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Accessories

Apple AirPods Pro 2 Review

Is it worth the upgrade?

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After years of waiting, Apple has finally updated their AirPods Pro from 2019.

The AirPods Pro 2nd Generation may look like its old predecessor, but it offers more than what its “unchanged” look.

There’s an upgraded H2 chip, better ANC, longer battery life, a charging case with speakers and MagSafe, and more!

But are these features worth the upgrade?

Or is it better for a first-time AirPods user to invest on the AirPods 3 instead?

Head over to our in-depth Apple AirPods 2 review to feed your curiosities.

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