Hands-On

Vivo APEX 2019 hands-on: Holes were just a legend

And buttons were never known

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Remember when every other smartphone had a notch and Vivo showed us a concept without one? That was exactly a year ago.

That device, the APEX 2018, did not become available in the market, but the all-display concept — with a pop-up camera and under-display fingerprint scanner — has since rolled out to Vivo smartphones you can buy today.


This year, they came up with a new concept phone — one without any buttons or holes. The APEX 2019 won’t be available for purchase as well, but as is the case with Vivo, we can expect some of these experimental features to trickle down to actual smartphones in the near future — first in the NEX line, and then to the V series.

The design

The premise of Vivo’s concept phone this year is simple but also controversial: a singular piece of glass you can interact with; one without any buttons or ports.

They believe that the display should be the exclusive focal point of human interaction, eliminating other design obstructions by reimagining them using other technology.

Vivo calls this approach Super Unibody — a phone carved out of a single piece of glass.

Unlike any other smartphone, there is no metal frame to hold it together on the sides. There are no physical buttons either. Of course one could argue the display is a separate piece of glass altogether.

To further drive home the simplicity concept, there also aren’t any speaker grilles, USB-C port, headphone jack, SIM card tray, or a selfie camera.

Even the back cameras are flushed against the body. If you must take a selfie, the back is reflective enough to be used as a mirror.

We were shown this concept phone in three colors: Meteor Gray, Quartz White, and Titan Silver. The white one especially is a looker and is smudge-proof.

While the phone isn’t going on sale, the next-generation Vivo NEX will probably come in these three colors as well.

To say that it’s beautiful would be an understatement. It’s a pleasure to look at and hold.

The challenge for up and coming brands like Vivo to make their mark in this very saturated and fiercely competitive smartphone market is sometimes undervalued. We appreciate how they are doing their part to innovate, as well as paint a picture of what smartphones of the future could look like.

How will the phone work without buttons or ports?

Vivo believes good design respects user habits. So while they took away all the physical buttons, it doesn’t mean the functions aren’t there anymore.

Vivo moved a lot of said functions to the part you interact with the most: the screen.

Combining pressure-sensing technology and capacitive touch, Vivo was able to reimagine the power and volume buttons here on the side.

You can’t really press them anymore, but there is haptic feedback so it would still resemble the feeling of touching actual buttons.

Oh, and the speakers? Vivo is trying screen sound casting technology once again. When we tried it on last year’s APEX we found that it wasn’t really loud enough to replace real speakers.

This year, Vivo says the choice of materials and shape of the glass at the back of the APEX 2019 make all the difference. They weren’t kidding. The sound coming out of the display is actually loud and clear.

Full-display fingerprint scanning

It’s only been a year, but we can’t forget it was actually Vivo and its partner Synaptics that put under-display fingerprint scanners for smartphones on the map.

It’s still not as good nor as fast as physical fingerprint readers, but since most of its competitors have caught up, Vivo hopes to elevate the tech even further by making the entire display a fingerprint reader.

It employs what Vivo calls fingerprint light. As the name suggests, pixels light up as an additional light source to help scan your fingerprint. We tried it and it works as advertised.

How does one charge or transfer files without a single port?

While it’s technically not a port, Vivo put inductive charging pins called Magport on the back of the phone as a charging and data transfer solution.

The Magport-to-USB cable magnetically latches on and the phone starts charging immediately. It should work the same way when transfering files.

One thing we would have wanted to finally see Vivo implement, and it would have made a lot of sense for this concept device, is wireless charging.

A wireless charging solution is an easy thing to do for Vivo, but the company says it’s wireless data transfer that’s still not very reliable right now.

Coming up NEX

The APEX 2019 is also Vivo’s first 5G device powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855. It has 12GB of RAM, 512GB of internal storage, and runs on Android Pie — all of which are specs and features we can expect to see on an upcoming Vivo NEX smartphone.

Oh, and one last thing, because there’s no SIM card tray on the APEX, we’ll likely see a combination of a regular SIM card and eSIM once this concept trickles down to a retail product.

Are you excited about Vivo’s vision of the future? If you could imagine the smartphone of the future, how would it look and what would it do?

Gaming

ROG Phone II Hands-on

Console replacement?

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Is there a place for gaming phones in 2019? ASUS believes so. In fact they’re so bullish about the mobile gaming industry that they’re giving their gaming phone an update!

For 10% off your first Squarespace website or domain, visit https://squarespace.com/gadgetmatch and use my coupon code: gadgetmatch


Special thanks to The Unlockr David Cogen for helping create this video.

If you are having trouble watching this video, click here.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Phone II Hands-On: The ultimate in mobile gaming

With new and improved accessories too

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Is there a place for gaming phones in 2019? ASUS believes so. In fact they’re so bullish about the mobile gaming industry that they’re giving their gaming phone an update. This is our ROG Phone II hands-on.

At first glance, it’s not very different from last year’s model and that’s intentional. Their focus hasn’t been to rework the wheel but to make the original even better.


The phone is now taller, giving it that now popular 19.5: 9 aspect ratio. It’s built tough with a Gorilla Glass 6 display and is intentionally flashy with RGB lighting baked into the logo on its back with ROG’s trademark styling.

Best display on a smartphone today

The flat all screen display is edge-to-edge except for its top and bottom. ASUS said this is a design decision so that gripping the phone doesn’t get in the way of gameplay.

It also leaves room for the dual front firing speakers and a selfie camera. It’s strategically placed so game streamers can play and stream at the same time.

The panel itself is impressive possibly the best we’ve seen on a smartphone today. It’s the world’s first 120Hz AMOLED display on a smartphone with a super fast one millisecond response time.

It not only gives you buttery smooth transitions, but combined with ultra low touch latency, it’s supposedly also going to give you an advantage when pulling the trigger in a head-to-head shooting game. This HDR display is glorious. Colors pop and images are rich and vibrant. It’s my new favorite display and is perfect whether you’re watching videos or playing games.

Baked into the display is a fingerprint scanner which, based on our initial tests, is quick and snappy.

Performance fit for the most competitive gamers

When it launches, the ROG Phone II will also be one of the most powerful smartphones in the market today. Topping early benchmark tests versus other flagships including the Galaxy S10+ from Samsung and the OnePlus 7 Pro.

It’s powered by an updated version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 — the 855 Plus which is even faster. Coupled with an updated Adreno 640, it’s promising a 15 percent GPU performance.

A completely souped up model will have 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The phone promises to handle any power intensive game you throw at it with not only fast frame rates but also a commitment to sustained performance across long gaming sessions.

To keep its internals running at optimal condition the phone offers three steps of cooling: First with a 3D Vapor Chamber, second with a built-in heat sink and vents on its back cover, and third via an attachment called the Aero Active Cooler II. With all of these working together, ASUS promises unbeatable performance.

A battery that can handle all that power

So what about battery life? Surely all of this performance power will take a toll on battery life? Nope. The ROG Phone 2 will come with a massive 6000mAh battery. That’s 2000mAh more than most flagships these days.

ASUS is promising 7.1 hours of battery life when playing something like PUBG. What excites me the most is that non-gamers could potentially get two days of more than average use.

The phone also comes with fast charging support built in. A full charge will take one hour and 21 minutes.

More love for gamers

There is much more gamers will love about the new ROG Phone II. ASUS kept the Dual USB-C ports — one on the bottom of the phone and one on its side. This means you can charge the device and continue playing any which way you like.

I also particularly like the improved air triggers that let you control your game by tapping either top side of your phone in landscape mode. Along with an improved vibration motor, the phone feels more like a game controller than ever before.

It’s clear that this isn’t your average phone. It’s one built specifically for gamers. But having said all that ASUS says it’s not just the best gaming phone. It’s a great flagship too!

To ensure the experience is top notch. They gave the ROG Phone II the same impressive camera that’s on the Zenfone 6. Except for its flipping mechanism of course.

A 48MP main camera and a 13MP ultra wide secondary camera. Take a look at some sample photos.

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On the front of the phone is a 24MP selfie camera. Here are some selfie samples.

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The ROG Phone Ecosystem

Depending on how you like to play, ASUS attempted to cater to every game style with a range of accessories made specifically for the ROG Phone II.

The new Kunai gamepad comes with controllers that snap on to a bumper reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch. You can also attach the controllers to the Kunai Holder and use them as you would a gamepad.

The Twin View Dock from last year has also been updated making it lighter and easier to use. It can also be used in conjunction with the GamePad.

Other accessories include the Aero Active Cooler II, Aero Case, and the Lighting Armor Case. Older accessories like the desktop dock, Pro Dock, and the WiGig Display Dock Plus also support this new model.

Is the ROG Phone II your GadgetMatch?

Let me start by saying this phone isn’t for everyone. From the way it looks, to some of its standout feature, these are things that appeal to a very special kind of user.

If you’re the type who is serious about mobile gaming then it definitely is going to be a good investment. If you’re not a gamer but care about things like a great display and ultra long battery life this might be a phone worth considering also.

Representatives from ASUS tell me that once the phone rolls out globally this September there will also be an option to change its interface to the stock-like ZenUI for a more everyday smartphone feel. That’s good news too.

The ROG Phone II launches in China this week. The Global Version is coming first week of September – our review video will drop around the same time.

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Hands-On

Lenovo Yoga S730 hands-on: Not the Yoga you used to know

Still, it’s a great notebook

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Since Ultrabooks or laptops that are premium and portable came into the PC market, it’s been hard to ignore their appeal. They’re sleek and at the same time powerful. There’s no sacrifice needed just to have a reliable notebook that you can put in your bag with ease.

A number of manufacturers have come up with their own style for the next-gen laptop, but it was Lenovo who inked the Yoga brand into our minds. A Yoga laptop can instantly transform into multiple modes, but the one I have here is different.


Let’s take a look at the Yoga S730.

It has a 13.3-inch IPS display…

With a full HD resolution

… that can lay flat on a table

Might come in handy when presenting

There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right…

You may connect a 4K monitor or an eGPU

… and a USB-C port for charging on the left

It supports Lenovo’s RapidCharge technology

It has a pretty large touchpad

It uses Windows Precision drivers

Windows Hello is present via the fingerprint reader

Login without typing a long password

It’s indeed a lightweight notebook

One of the lightest in its class

Thin and really light

First things first, the Yoga S730 doesn’t have a 360-degree hinge despite having the “Yoga” moniker attached to it. Lenovo now has a new naming scheme that classifies all of its premium notebooks as Yoga. What matters now is its model name, which is S730. The “S” denotes that it’s part of the slim and sleek lineup. If you want a true Yoga that’s a convertible, you gotta look for the letter “C” in the name.

I know it’s confusing, but that’s what Lenovo is pushing for now. So now, not all premium notebooks from Lenovo will have a bendy display; however, the 360-degree hinge is part of the premium package a Yoga offers, right?

Anyhow, the Yoga S730 features a 13.3-inch IPS LCD with a Full HD resolution. It’s nowhere near the sharpness of MacBook’s Retina Display, but it’s crisp enough for its size. I even find it even more pleasant to look at than my other 13-inch notebook with the same resolution. Perhaps, the Dolby Vision feature really works on Lenovo’s screen.

I also do appreciate the slim bezels surrounding the display. It’s not edge-to-edge like Dell’s XPS 13, but it’s close enough. Despite having a 13-inch screen, the Yoga S730 is just as big as a good old 11-inch netbook from yesteryears.

With its size, it’s pegged as an ultraportable notebook. At just 11.9mm thin, the Yoga S730 is Lenovo’s slimmest Yoga notebook. With that, I worked on the laptop for a few days at a coffee shop. Indeed, it’s light and easy to carry around; however, I find the keyboard to be a bit shallow. The typing experience is not quite what I expected from a high-end Lenovo notebook.

The whole body of the laptop is made from sand-blasted aluminum. It’s cold to touch, which is always welcome.

Capable of more

Inside, the Yoga S730 is powered by an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage. It’s a specced-up variant, so you don’t have to compromise performance over mobility.

Without a dedicated graphics unit though, the Yoga S730 won’t be able to handle intensive games as well as gamers would like. Casual titles will run just fine (even CS:GO and Sims 4), but don’t expect it to be a portable gaming laptop despite its high-end specifications.

The Yoga S730 doesn’t have any full-size HDMI or USB ports, a sacrifice that has to be made in order to keep the laptop slim. Instead, it has three USB-C ports; two of which supports Thunderbolt 3.

If you fully take advantage of Thunderbolt for extra graphics oomph and external 4K displays, the Yoga S730 will please you. If not, you better do because having Thunderbolt 3 is an added premium you already paid for and it doesn’t come cheap.

Battery-wise, Lenovo promises up to 12 hours of continuous use. Real-life usage might clock in around nine to 10 hours only, though. Also, Lenovo’s RapidCharge technology will fill up the battery up to 80 percent in just one hour.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For PHP 69,995, the new Yoga S730 is one of the premium yet not-so-expensive laptops in the market. It’s portable thanks to its slim and light body, but it has more than enough power for everyday computing. With its Thunderbolt 3 ports, it also has the ability to have external graphics power when needed.

Lenovo has a competitive laptop here, and it’s an easy recommendation for its specs and price. Just keep in mind that it’s not a convertible despite having the Yoga brand.

SEE ALSO: This is the World’s First Foldable Computer by Lenovo

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