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Sony continues to build on what they’ve established as their own niche when it comes to mobile videography. With the Xperia XZ2, they push the envelope by offering 4K HDR video and super slow-mo recording at Full HD resolution. This is our Sony Xperia XZ2 review.

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Vivo NEX S: What’s taking selfies with a pop-up camera like?

And other relevant questions about Vivo’s newest flagship

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“It has a pop-up selfie camera.” That was the only thing I heard when the Vivo NEX was announced, and all other features faded into the background. Seriously, my main excitement over this phone stems from the fact that it has a mechanical camera that comes out when you take photos with the front-facing camera.

How would it work? Why the technical maneuvering to make this camera happen? Would it break after the gajillion selfies I take in a day? These were all questions I needed answers to. So, it’s time for a quick review — and by quick, I mean I’m only tackling the key features. (You can read the full hands-on review here.)

What’s the deal with this phone anyway?

The Vivo NEX, to us mere mortals (your average non-techie consumer), looks like a typical smartphone. Until you have to scan your fingerprint and take a selfie, that is. Of course, a number of people have given praise to this handset for being the future of smartphones — and I can’t blame them. In a sea of identical notched devices, a camera with moving parts sounds oh so exciting.

You’ll realize that the hype is real when you finally get this baby in your hands. Anything that feels less than premium in my hands is a big no-no for me, and the NEX doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Unlike the previous midrange Vivo releases that didn’t quite do it for me, this handset has a good weight to it and you can definitely feel the glass build.

Sure, it comes in drab black, but if the light hits right, you can see colors of the rainbow. No, really:

It’s a nice lighting touch, though to be honest, it just looks more black in most lighting scenarios. I’m pretty disappointed I’m not the dazzling unicorn I thought I’d be by using this phone, but that’s just me.

Do we really need all that screen?

A 91+ percent screen ratio is a big deal in terms of measurement and smartphone hype, but it’s just a bunch of numbers to me. Admittedly, however, the wider screen experience is good — the obsession with a wider screen in a smaller phone body is understandable for people with smaller hands like mine.

Speaking as someone who hides the notch when I have the option to, the lack of screen obtrusion is refreshing. More screen means a literal bigger picture, which is great when being viewed on a massive 6.59-inch Super AMOLED screen. As much as I’d love to say that’s a problem for the small-screened population, it’s the lack of standard in screen ratios that’s the real culprit, so I’ll leave it at that.

How does the fingerprint sensor feel?

Hidden in plain sight is the fingerprint sensor. Yes, it’s in the display! You know where to scan your fingerprint because when the phone’s locked, the area of the screen where you’re supposed to put your finger lights up.

How does this new technology fare? Well, it’s decent. Compared to other fingerprint scanners which take less than a second to unlock with a slight touch from your finger, the in-display sensor on this thing is less sensitive and it takes longer. You’d have to hold your finger precisely on the correct area of the screen for a second or two.

Call me spoiled, but in a time of talking refrigerators, that two-second delay feels so long. Impressive as an under-display fingerprint sensor may be, anything longer than a second just feels so laggy to impatient old me, especially since the only two options to unlock this phone is via the sensor or entering a code (which is so 2010). The phone isn’t equipped with face unlock technology since, to get to the front-facing camera, you’d need the phone unlocked.

Vivo offers an alternative to all this in the form of the lower-priced Vivo NEX A, though, so problem solved. That version of the NEX has an actual fingerprint scanner  — the usual fast one — on the back of the phone.

What’s taking selfies with a pop-up camera like?

First of all, I’d like to admit: Taking selfies with a pop-up camera is pretty cool. The reaction I get when other people see this moving part on my phone is priceless.

How it works is the camera pops up every time you flip the camera to selfie mode. The whole thing barely makes a sound, though there are options to add a sound effect every time the cam came out, but I refused to turn that on because who wants an alert every time a selfie is attempted? It’s a pretty smooth movement so once the novelty faded out, there were times I even forgot it was happening.

Forgetting that tiny protruding camera was actually what scared me. One too many times, I’d accidentally tap the selfie camera option and, without me noticing, the camera would come out. This happened in my bag, in my hands, or even on my cluttered desk, and every time I was scared I’d break this tiny moving part.

Sure, Vivo said they did drop tests and that the camera can pop up to 50,000 times (Chay did the math: That’s 137 years if you only take one selfie per day), but does that mean it’s Isa-proof? It did survive more than a week in my hands, but I don’t think that thing would’ve survived a solid drop if it so happened with the camera out. (Because let’s be honest, everyone drops their phones.)

The selfie camera on the NEX is pretty good and I love how its AI beauty mode is so subtle but effective. Of course, the beauty mode can still be too much at optimum settings, but who told you to amp up the filter that high, Brenda?

Additionally, the rear cameras are pretty good, too. Honestly, it’s a pretty capable IG camera. See for yourself:

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For more photo samples, check out our 24 Hours at the World Cup with the Vivo NEX.

Do I likey?

Me likey what I’ve seen so far.

If you’re in the business of reviewing phones and gadgets, it’s easy to get bored with all the identical phones being churned out nowadays. That being said, it’s also easy to get carried away by something just by virtue of it being different.

Truth be told, this is one solid phone from Vivo. Honestly, it’s a flagship that I would totally use, even for just the selfie camera. But, on top of it being novel, I’m happy to report that it performs well, all things considered. Despite caveats, it’s a phone that pushes boundaries and dares to stray from what conventional smartphones are making.

And, don’t we all love that exciting wildcard? C’mon, live a little and take poppin’ (pun intended) selfies along the way.

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Samsung Galaxy A6+ Review: Filling the gap

Something in between

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Samsung continues to populate the Android smartphone market just like any other phone manufacturer. Two months ago, the South Korean company announced the Galaxy A6+ along with the Galaxy A6. The Galaxy A6+, as expected, is the better phone of the two with a bigger screen, better processor, and dual rear cameras. If you’re familiar with the designs of Samsung phones, you might mistake this phone as the direct successor to the Galaxy J7 Pro because of some physical similarities.

How much better is the Galaxy A6+ for it to be above the Galaxy J series? Let’s find out.

It has a 6-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display

Comes with a Full HD+ resolution

It has an 18.5:9 aspect ratio with minimal bezels, just like with the Galaxy A8 (2018)

The top bezel is wide enough to have a front LED flash

The top portion of the phone is clean

You can only see a couple of antenna bands here

On the left side are the volume buttons…

The opposite side has the loudspeaker

And also two separate card trays

One for the main SIM card and another for the second one and a microSD card

The bottom is pretty busy with the mic, micro-USB, and 3.5mm port

Why is Samsung still not widely adopting USB-C?

The back has the U-shaped antenna bands from the Galaxy J series

This is what makes the Galaxy A6+ look like a member of the Galaxy J series

Let’s not forget about the two rear cameras and fingerprint reader

While the body’s design is borrowed from the Galaxy J7 Pro, the camera is from the Galaxy A8 (2018) or Galaxy S9’s look

A familiar but surprisingly fresh design

The phone’s design blends both the recent Galaxy J and Galaxy A phones, specifically the Galaxy J7 Pro and Galaxy A8 (2018). Or if you wanna get picky, the Galaxy S9 too, but without the curved sides of the display. Moving forward, the Galaxy A6+ looks and feels like a premium phone. The seamless unibody has the cold touch I always look for when using a phone with a metal body. The finish of my review unit is matte, but it’s still a bit slippery on my hand.

The body has a nice rounded shape, making it comfortable to hold. When I wrap my hand around the phone, I don’t feel any sharp edges, which is a good thing. I can easily use the phone with one hand, but I find the phone more suitable for two-handed operation due to its large display.

Aside from black, the phone also comes in blue, gold, and lavender depending on your market region. It doesn’t have the most exciting colors (Huawei and Honor are currently leading in that aspect), but they look sleek and formal.

Great-performing midrange phone

Powered by the efficient Snapdragon 450 processor, the Galaxy A6+ can easily get things done. The processor is paired with 4GB of memory and Android 8.0 Oreo skinned with Samsung Experience version 9.0. During my usage, I didn’t encounter any lag, so the power that this phone has is already sufficient to provide a smooth user experience. I’m just not sure if this will get Android P in the future. Perhaps it will since it’s under the Galaxy A-series, but the timeline is yet to be confirmed.

It’s great to have a midrange Samsung phone running a Snapdragon processor since it’s compatible with most games in the Google Play Store. Not that Exynos processors don’t have the power, but developers optimize their apps (especially games) with Snapdragon chipsets more.

Since the Galaxy A6+ has been a secondary phone for me, I filled its 32GB internal storage with games and played a lot on it. I was able to enjoy Asphalt Xtreme on high settings and even some graphics-intensive titles including Tekken Mobile and Power Rangers: Legacy Wars. PUBG Mobile was automatically set to low, but you can always adjust the settings to get more details.

As for the rear fingerprint reader, it works well and can be used along with face unlock. The fingerprint reader is more secure and reliable though, since this phone doesn’t have infrared cameras like the Galaxy S9 and Note 8.

Takes more than decent pictures, plus bokeh!

Samsung is gradually putting two sensors on the back of their phones, and the Galaxy A6+ is the latest in the bunch. A main 16-megapixel f/1.7 sensor is paired with a secondary 5-megapixel f/1.9 sensor for depth sensing. Just like other simple dual-camera setups, the additional sensor helps add bokeh — there’s no optical zoom or super wide-angle lens.

I took the phone around Taipei for some sample photos. Taiwan’s capital is a colorful city which the phone continues to brighten up through its cameras. Under direct light, the photos I took are sharp or maybe too sharp at times. Even when the sun sets, the rear shooter can take good-looking photos thanks to its large aperture. Moving subjects can be a problem at night though, but that’s understandable since the phone prioritizes the exposure over speed.

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When it comes to selfies, the Galaxy A6+ continues to carry the flag of the Galaxy A series as Samsung’s selfie-centric line. The 24-megapixel f/1.9 front-facing can shoot detailed and pleasant selfies. The built-in beauty mode is not as impressive as OPPO’s or Vivo’s, but it’s there. Of course, AR stickers are also available but not the AR Emoji feature from the Galaxy S9.

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For a point-and-shoot camera phone, the Galaxy A6+ will do great for everyday shooting. Both the front and rear shooters have large apertures for bright photos and quick snaps. Selfies are also in check and there’s even a dedicated LED flash so you can still take portraits in the dark.

One for the road but…

For you to be able to enjoy what the phone has to offer all day, it’s gotta have a long battery life. Thankfully, the large 3500mAh battery sealed inside the metal body of the Galaxy A6+ delivers well enough. I used the phone as my secondary device while roaming around Taipei, mostly for taking photos and as a mobile hotspot using a local SIM card. I easily got three days of usage since I didn’t use the phone as much, but it can definitely last more than a day if used moderately on its own.

While the battery life of the handset is impressive, the charging time is not. The phone charges through the micro-USB port found at the bottom of the phone. Using a fast charger, I get only 13 percent after a quick 15 minute top-up, while a 30-minute charge gives me 24 percent. My personal charger is already Quick Charge 3.0-compatible, but that’s definitely not supported by the phone.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking to upgrade your old Galaxy J series phone to a more premium Samsung phone, you can test the waters with the Galaxy A6+. We’re aware of the increase in smartphone prices (especially with Samsung), so we understand if some users might find this phone to be on the expensive side. Maybe if Samsung didn’t resort to recycling the U-shaped antenna design, people (including myself) would not associate this phone as part of the cheaper Galaxy J lineup.

The Galaxy A6+ is priced at EUR 369 (US$ 430) in Europe, but is slightly cheaper in some parts of Asia: INR 25,990 in India, PhP 22,990 in the Philippines, and MYR 1,399 in Malaysia. It costs more than the competition, but the added premium is a requirement to get a more admirable phone from Samsung.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy A6 Hands-on: Repackaging the older series

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Huawei P20 Lite Review

A shy midrange phone worth paying attention to

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Amid the praises Huawei is getting for the P20 and P20 Pro, it seems like people are forgetting that there’s a shy midrange variant in the series — a variant that doesn’t have any camera branding or high price tag. This is our Huawei P20 Lite review.

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