Reviews

Vivo NEX 3 review: More now than next

Not the NEX we expected

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In 2018, just in time for the World Cup, the Vivo NEX was born. A play on the word “next,” it was a showcase of their innovative chops and a taste of what was yet to come in a phone that you could already buy.

In the span of just over a year we’ve seen three of these phones. The original NEX S had an under display fingerprint scanner. No bezels and a pop-up selfie camera — all of which were unheard of at that time.

The NEX Dual Display ditched the selfie camera and put a second display on the back of the phone so you didn’t need one.

Now, we have the Vivo NEX 3. Is it really the next big thing or it’s just what’s here and now?

This looks… familiar

The headliner is what Vivo calls a “waterfall display” which seemingly wraps around the edges of the phone. It’s like what you’ll find on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 or OnePlus 7 Pro, but the curves extend a little bit further down, giving the phone a 99.6% screen to body ratio with just a little bit of forehead and chin showing.

Up top cut into the forehead is an earpiece that doubles as a front firing speaker. It’s really more aesthetics than function. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still beautiful and cool.

They’ve also added a few touches like lighting effects when you listen to music with the display off. But there’s no WOW to it because it’s been done before.

If you really want to be blown away, take a look at Xiaomi’s Mix Alpha. That’s what a true wrap around screen looks like. Having said that, props go to Vivo, in the week that I used the phone I didn’t run into any problems triggering the sides of the screen. Their palm rejection tech is working as it should.

Now baked into the display is a fingerprint scanner. It’s fast and mostly reliable. But there’s no noticeable improvement over what we’ve seen this past year.

Look, Ma. No buttons !

Because the screen wraps around the display, there’s really no space for physical buttons. So the NEX 3 has none. At least where there usually are.

There’s a display on/off switch up top, but it’s small and in the most awkward of places, no one will use it. Instead of buttons the phone’s sides are touch sensitive.

There’s a grooved section that allows you to blindly find it. You can use it to turn the display on and off or squeeze and hold to bring up the power off function.

The volume up and down buttons are denoted by these faint symbols on the screen. You just squeeze on either side and it works like a regular volume rocker would.

You can also assign functions for the volume down button for when the display is turned off like for example to trigger the flashlight or camera.

I miss the physical buttons. Oftentimes, I accidentally would turn the screen off because my fingers are used to that tactile feel.

I know earlier this year Vivo toyed around with the idea of phones without buttons but I don’t believe button-less phones are the future — at least not with this kind of implementation. I could be wrong so, what do you think?

While we’re talking about buttons and ports. Up top flanking the the ill-placed display on/off button. are a microphone, pop-up camera module and a headphone jack!

On the bottom, more mics, speaker grilles, USB-C port, and a dual Nano SIM card slot.

Capable cameras

Like many of this year’s flagships the NEX 3 has 3 cameras. But what stands out is its 64 megapixel sensor on its main camera with a large 1/1.71 inch sensor, one of the biggest on a phone, matched only by the Huawei Mate 30 Pro.

The images on the 64MP camera are fused together into a 16 megapixel image and the resulting night shots are pretty impressive.

The phone also comes with an Ultra Wide Angle camera and a 2X telephoto camera. None of which have optical image stabilization built in.

Here are what sample photos are like.

One of the features Vivo is talking up is something called Super HDR portraits which retain detail in the face even when shooting against the sun.

Just like the original NEX, the NEX 3 has a pop-up selfie camera. it’s wider than usual to accommodate a flash. Not two selfie cameras like on Vivo’s new midrange V17 Pro.

Here’s how nighttime shots look like.

Fast charging could have been faster

The NEX 3 comes bundled with a 44W Super Flash Charger. Speeds are pretty good, 0-67% in 30 minutes. But again we’ve seen that before in 2019. The OnePlus 7T for example can get you to 70% in the same amount of time.

What would have been nice, was if Vivo added the 120W fast charging it teased at MWC Asia earlier this year. That could get you a 50% charge in 5 minutes. Now that would have been revolutionary.

Can run any game but…

Like many of this year’s top flagships. Positioning as a gaming device is also in the cards and it makes sense given the NEX 3’s launch market is China where mobile gaming numbers are highest.

The NEX 3 runs Qualcomm’s gaming-optimized Snapdragon 855+. That and Vivo’s vapor cooling system means the phone should crush your favorite mobile games. Whether that’s Asphalt 9, or PUBG, Arena of Valor, or if you’re like me — Mario Kart.

It does well performance-wise but a quick note on the waterfall display: it tapers off a little too soon, which means for some games that have buttons going over the edge of the screen, it’s quite a bit of a nuisance.

Is the Vivo NEX 3 your GadgetMatch?

Pricing and availability are as follows: China (CNY 5698), Philippines (PhP 39,999), Singapore (SG$ 1299), Malaysia (MYR 3899), India (INR 50,690).

If it is available in your country, should you buy it? The answer is no.

The features the NEX 3 offers are already available in many smartphones today and should make it to other Vivo smartphones in the next 6 months or so.

Don’t get me wrong, the NEX is a very capable smartphone. It does a lot of things really well. But it’s not just that.

Last year in China, Vivo’s VP for Design Kyle Hsiao told GadgetMatch that the goal of NEX is to always offer something different, something that breaks barriers.

Unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, the NEX 3 offers nothing groundbreaking. And where innovation is concerned, its fails to deliver on that promise: Bleeding edge tech that you can enjoy today.

Reviews

realme 6 Pro review: A step up from the competition

Has realme perfected the midrange formula?

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Putting “pro” on a smartphone implies that more high-end features should be expected. That’s what the realme 6 Pro is gunning for: more high-end features but also with a price tag that doesn’t breach premium territory.

The realme 6 Pro is the company’s answer to the demand for midrange phones with near-flaghip experience. This time around, the company upped its game by including more features that anyone can appreciate. As such, this device is also a step-up from last year’s realme XT in a lot of aspects. So, let’s find out what realme 6 Pro has to offer.

Design that strikes the eye

This year, realme is doing something different across its realme 6 series. All the phones are getting their own unique back designs. For the realme 6 Pro, you get a “lightning strike” effect that hits the eye when light hits the back cover. The company says this design was deliberately chosen to represent the youth’s vim and vigor. That makes sense, considering that realme is trying its best to be the smartphone brand of the youth.

Another thing that really strikes me is the finish of this device. realme has been churning out solid smartphones that don’t feel like they are made out of plastic. Holding the realme 6 Pro for the first time, you’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s made out of sturdy metal. Only when you “knock” on the back that you determine that this device is really made out of plastic. So, kudos to realme for that.

On the side, you’ll notice the flat power button that also acts as a side fingerprint scanner. Like the realme XT, the realme 6 Pro has a USB-C port on the bottom which supports quick charging.

A smooth and fluid display

In all honesty, the realme 6 Pro is the first device where I had the chance to play with a 90Hz display extensively. Right off the bat, I can tell you that the difference between 60Hz and 90Hz display is night and day. The best word to describe it is smooth. Yes, everything feels smooth with that refresh rate. Opening animations and scrolling are smooth, and once you switch back to 60Hz rate again, you may think that something is janky.

You actually have to see how life-changing 90Hz refresh rate is. Pity though, that most games still don’t support 90Hz refresh rate. That 90Hz is most useful when you’re playing games because everything’s much smoother with it.

Aside from high refresh rate support, I also like that the display is on FHD+ resolution. For a midrange in this day and age, having an FHD+ screen is necessary. You can expect to stream your favorite Netflix episodes or YouTube videos in glorious 1080P.

One minor gripe I have with the display is that it is not an OLED screen. I may be nitpicking here, but I think OLED screens are much better than a regular IPS LCD screen. Plus, more and more midrange devices are switching to OLED screens. You won’t really be bothered with the lack of an OLED screen here though since the colors are vibrant and there’s a lot of details to go around.

Performance that impresses

One word to describe realme 6 Pro’s performance: impressive. Under the hood, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G. This midrange processor is on par with the performance of high-end Snapdragon chipsets of yesteryears. It can handle almost any task you throw at it with ease.

I have yet to notice any lag in opening apps with this device. That’s an excellent thing, and not surprising since there’s 8GB of RAM to back the performance of the midrange processor.

Gaming is one aspect where you’ll feel like the realme 6 Pro is a step-up from the midrange competition. The processor here is capable of handling graphically-intensive games that you throw at it. Rules of Survival — a well-known battle royale mobile game — runs smoothly even in high graphic setting. Casual games run well on this device considering its powerful midrange processor.

realme UI is okay, but bloatware takes up space

As for realme UI, you may either love it or loathe it. Personally, I like realme’s twist on Android 10. Most of the interface elements are copied from iOS, and it shows. However, there are also a lot of tweaks and additions that make the interface stand-out. For example, you can use screen-off gestures, toggle the smart sidebar, or clone social media apps so you can use another account. You also get new features from Android 10 like Digital Well-being and a revamped gesture navigation.

If there’s really one annoying thing with the realme 6 Pro, that would be the bloatware. On first set-up, you’ll be surprised to see myIM3, Lazada, Trip.com, UCBrowser, WA Business, Webnovel, and much more pre-installed. This feels like a huge step-down for a 2020 release. Most manufacturers are already trimming the number of pre-installed third-party apps but it looks like realme hasn’t gotten the memo yet.

Luckily though, some of the apps on this device are actually useful. Game Space automatically frees up some RAM and activates the Do Not Disturb mode whenever you’re playing a supported game. This device also has some useful utilities like Compass, FM Radio, and the Weather app that’s not available on stock Android by default.

Cameras that impress

For the realme 6 Pro, you get a rear cameara setup of 64MP wide-angle + 12MP telephoto + 8MP ultra-wide-angle + 2MP macro lens.

The shots taken by realme 6 Pro is excellent in daylight conditions. You get a nice color rendition all-around, though it may appear a bit saturated for some. Noise is kept to a minimum, and the cameras nail the white balance for most shots. There are enough details to go around too. However, zooming in on a particular shot, you also notice an oil painting effect that somewhat ruins the shot.

Turning on the HDR helps to recover some of the overexposed areas in the image, particularly the skies. In the images below, you’ll notice how the image with the HDR appears more realistic. The garage on the left image is just smeared out, while on the right, you can work out some details. The green fence has a much natural color too on the right. Overall, it’s better to leave the HDR settings turned on.

At night, realme 6 Pro took photos with a lot of smeared details and muted colors. They also have a lot of noise in them. This is why you ought to turn on Nightscape mode in this setting. With Nightscape, the camera’s aperture remains open for a longer period of time, letting in more light in the process. As such, you get a more true-to-life image with more resolved details, vibrant colors, and lesser noise.

There’s a lot of camera modes to pick from too. Aside from the Nightscape mode, you also get Ultra Macro and Panorama mode on this device. It’s worth mentioning that the camera can switch from ultra-wide-angle lens to wide-angle, 3x zoom mode, and 5x zoom mode in an instant, making the realme 6 Pro a versatile shooting device.

Steady selfies

The selfie camera on the realme 6 Pro is more than fine for everyday usage. There are two selfie cameras on this device, unlike most midrange devices on the market. The main selfie camera is a 16MP wide-angle while the other is an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera. The main camera reproduces color nicely with plenty of details for most situations. Realme applies beauty filters by default, resulting in smoothened skin and artificial skin tones. Some may not like this though, and fortunately, there’s an option to turn it off.

How does the ultra-wide camera fare? The photos taken with the camera still gets the color right, but you will also notice some smeared details. In most cases, I still recommend using the main selfie camera.  The only time I would recommend using the ultra-wide camera is when you have a lot of people that need to fit in for that one selfie.

Solid battery life

Battery life on the realme 6 Pro is one of the best I’ve seen from a midrange smartphone. It really is a huge step-up from the competition, considering that realme put a large 4,300 mAh battery on this device. Of course, your mileage may vary. Playing games or browsing continually for hours will drain the battery more. The same is true when you fire up the 90Hz screen refresh rate. Expect a day’s battery life if you do all these three.

However, that large battery also means you can stretch realme 6 Pro’s battery life for two days. All you have to do is be mindful of your device usage or close any battery-draining apps. Selecting the refresh rate to “Auto” will also help in extending battery life.

There’s an included 30W VOOC fast charger on the box. It charges the device quickly, and I was able to go from 7% to 95% in an hour. It’s super-fast, which is useful if you always charge on the go.

Is the realme 6 Pro your GadgetMatch?

realme really stepped up their game this time with the realme 6 Pro. It carries features that you’d normally only find on flagships, and it is easily one of the best midrange phones out there. However, all the step-up in features also comes a hefty price tag. This device comes with a price tag of PhP 16,990 (USD 339) for the highest configuration, which is 8GB of RAM + 128GB of storage.

However, that price tag is worth it considering the features you’re getting here. You are actually getting a much better value with this device compared to realme XT, which has also the same price at launch. It finally feels like that realme has perfected the midrange phone formula with this device. As such, the realme 6 Pro can become your next midrange GadgetMatch, considering that it is a step-up from the competition.

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Gaming

realme 6 review: Perfect gaming phone for the lockdown?

Let’s play to cope

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realme is stepping up to the plate with a new gaming phone with the realme 6. Was anyone particularly surprised? I was. But, before we get into the review, there’s no point avoiding the giant invasive elephant in the room whenever we talk about new releases. COVID-19 has drastically shifted our lives and has ultimately changed how we interact with everyone. It’s dramatically changed how we navigate our day-to-day.

Painful reality

But, reality still. For the most part, everything is in one enclosed space now. There’s no spatial separation between work, school, home, and play. Honestly, time has also probably warped since this entire thing hit the fan for most of us. We’ve probably lost track of time more than once in the entire year and it’s still just May.

Strap up, boys and girls, 2020 is a wild one.

Which brings me to something I personally find helpful in an anxiety-inducing time: playing games. Now, now, a bunch of gatekeepers have kept to their high horse over the ancient PC or console debate but, I think phones have a large new place in the argument.

Games, like most other art forms, rooted itself as a form of entertainment, a pass-time. Granted, a large industry grew from building competitiveness within the ecosystem, the point still stands. Games are for fun. Play it however way you like. It is still for your enjoyment or entertainment.

What’s this got to do with anything?

Things don’t exist in their own fantastical bubble. Don’t we just all wish it did though? I’d previously referenced how video games have had a significantly positive impact on my mental health. In a time where anxiety, depression, and manic attacks are at an all-time high, I think I don’t just speak for myself when I say having something for cognitive distraction or a twinge of healthy escapism is helpful and welcome.

Here’s where I timely segue into how the realme 6 played a quiet role in calming the daunting storm stirring in my head in most days.

A “gaming phone” how?

Okay, this phone sat in my apartment since the lockdown began and I’m not going to lie, the timing was a little strange. This year didn’t just start a mess, it proceeded to get worse and worse. From volcanoes erupting, forest fires, Kobe, and locusts, you could say the universe heard everyone’s posts testing how it could get any worse and slapped big ol’ corona into the mix.

That aside, I lucked out a bit with the Realme 6 with me since the lockdown began. With a Helio G90T processor, 90Hz refresh rate display, 8GB RAM and 128 GB storage and fast-charging 4,300mAh battery, you can only imagine the reckless abandon I had when playing new offline games during the quarantine.

The phone measures 6.5 inches and optimizes it with FHD resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 to make sure that beauty stays protected. The Realme 6 doesn’t really disappoint.

It delivers on all those specs and makes playing games look stunning. It’s so good that when you’re a little manic and need some cathartic kills, there’s honestly nothing wrong with hopping into a game and getting some frags.

Not just a gaming phone

Here, we talk about the things we didn’t ask for but, obviously things the phone delivers on without being asked of. The realme 6 is a pretty impressive phone. It delivers on all fronts relating to gaming and even the battery life can hold up to more than eight (8) hours of play and use.

But, that isn’t what makes the realme 6 a phone. We can call it a convenient handheld with everything so far but it has a decent set of cameras worth mentioning.

The cameras

The Realme 6 has a 64MP Quad camera with a 16MP in-display selfie camera. It’s got Super Nightscape 2.0 for low-light shots, Ultra Image Stabilization, 120fps Slow-Mo Selfie, and Real-Time Bokeh Video.

I went out to test these features and they deliver. The photos below are pretty telling of my uneventful lockdown lifestyle so dial it down on dissing the silly still shots.

Selfie, ta-dah!

Nit-picking the little things

If there’s one silly downside though, the phone does struggle to focus on moving objects. And, if there’s one petty thing I personally am not a fan of, it’s notches and in-display selfie cameras.

No jabs at realme for that one though, that’s all me. Anything blocking even the tiniest part of any display just throws me off and reminds me of the Zima Blue episode in Love, Death, and Robots.

Sometimes, it’s not a design flaw; sometimes, it’s just a depressive lunatic associating a tiny round in-display camera to the void of her own existence.

Is the realme 6 your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for the perfect phone to play and keep yourself sane with progressive quality lockdown selfies and photos, this is the phone for you. It lets you play, keep sane, and gets through a full day of use quite easily.

If you’re looking for a phone that delivers on stunning gameplay, performance, and lots of storage while having uncompromised camera features, this is definitely the phone you’re looking for.

Real talk real quick though, I think the realme 6 was the perfect lockdown companion. There’s been many a time where I found myself stirring some random crap up and I needed a moment of just disconnecting to ironically come back more connected. Some paradox of an existence we all have, huh.

The realme 6 — a successor of the realme 5 Pro — is available in 4GB RAM + 128GB storage for PhP11,990 and in 8GB RAM + 128GB storage variant for PhP13,990. It can be purchased online on the official realme Lazada store.

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One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 review: A fun beat’em up

Relive the story without having to replay hundreds of episodes

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Have you ever wanted to play as your favorite One Piece character while mowing through mobs like a one-man army? Then One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is for you.

This game from Omega Force incorporates One Piece’s well-loved story and characters with gameplay from the Dynasty Warriors franchise — the property that the developer is most known for. This is the fourth installment in the series and is the follow-up from the 2015 One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3.

It adds more to the story, some game elements, and the most noticeable is the character roster that’s massive compared to previous entries. It’s available in Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows platforms.

Simple game modes

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 has three modes: Dramatic Log, Free Log, and Treasure Log. Dramatic Log is where all of One Piece’s story so far. It’s crammed into ten plus hours of chapters and episodes which is no easy feat especially for a long-running series like this one.

While the efforts are commendable, a casual fan who hasn’t closely followed the manga or anime would have more questions than answers. I can understand that this game is geared towards One Piece fans. Anyone who has read the manga up to the latest chapter or watched the latest episode of the anime should have no trouble keeping up.

Free Log is where you can go back to the episodes you’ve already cleared in Dramatic Log with any unlocked character. The last mode, the Treasure Log, is where you go through missions to gain materials for upgrades. Some characters can be unlocked by completing a certain number of missions in this mode.

One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 also has a multiplayer feature. You can play co-op with other players to aid you in your missions. Luckily for me, it didn’t have the connectivity issues that frustrated me in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. Unlike in that game, it’s easy to join other players’ sessions as long as they’re available.

Most characters can be unlocked by progressing through the Dramatic Log while some others by meeting certain conditions.

Unapologetically a beat’em up game

Pirate Warriors 4 is an action-adventure beat ‘em up game. That means you get to through hordes of pirate or navy lackeys like an absolute badass until the boss shows up. You go through main missions with mini objectives sprinkled here and there. These include eliminating certain characters or protecting allies from getting their HP reduced to zero.

Stronger enemies have armor gauges under the HP bars that are needed to be depleted in order for you to inflict damage. Controls are easy to get a grasp of: two buttons for attack, one for dashing/dodging and one for jumping.

I started the game mindlessly mashing the buttons until I found out my favorite button combinations through experimentation. I learned later that the moves list can be found in the menus with enough digging.

One thing I found challenging was controlling certain characters that are naturally airborne. It can be hard to hit grounded enemies when you can’t control your character’s elevation and have to wait until when you’re just hovering above ground.

This is one of the reasons why I shied away from using Luffy’s 4th gear form or Sanji unless I’m required to in Dramatic Log. Using the camera lock on stronger enemies like bosses alleviates this a bit but the controls still require a bit of a learning curve.

The game also allows for customization options. By earning the required materials and enough of the in-game currency, you will be able to upgrade your character’s stats, skills, and special moves.

There’s a common attribute and skill tree that can be used by all characters. Then there’s also character-specific ones that can be unlocked once that character reaches a certain level.

Thanks to my usual habit of hoarding in-game materials, I didn’t bother with this until later on in the story where I noticed that I’m not dealing enough damage and the missions are becoming more time-consuming. I breezed through the rest of the story after upgrading my offensive capabilities.

You can upgrade your attributes and even gain skills and specials. The Beginning Map applies to all characters while there are maps specific for characters.

A fun way to recap One Piece

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4  lets you relive the story without having to replay hundreds of episodes of the anime. Beating up hordes of enemy pirates as your favorite character from the series while feeling like a one-man army just feels great.

I found it time-consuming at first but once you’ve upgraded your stats, you can easily sneak in a round or two during your short breaks. The menu layout requires a bit of digging to find what you want or need (like reviewing the objectives or your moves list) and some controls can use a little improvement.

I enjoyed playing One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 and I’m sure a bonafide One Piece fan would feel at home. Now, it’s  time to pick up the manga so I can be filled in with the things I missed in the story.


This game was reviewed on a PS4 by Lance Aquino. He juggles multiple hobbies while working in the BPO industry. Outside of gaming, he mostly tries to learn how to draw and write short stories that are often inspired by the anime or manga that he watched or read.

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