In case you haven’t heard, the future is here. In 2018, smartphone manufacturers are finding themselves in a race to designing a truly bezel-less phone.
Engineers will tell you a compromise has to be made in order to achieve that because of all the tech they have to fit into the front of the phone. Some brands opt for a notch to house all of that; some offer minimal bezels and curved edges; others have awkwardly placed front cameras.
Design: More than meets the eye
Vivo, it seems, is at the forefront of this all-display race. On the NEX, the Chinese company offers an exact 91.24 percent screen-to-body ratio, one of the highest we’ve seen on a smartphone. To do that, Vivo had to move things around and put more features under the display itself.
Sure, there’s a tiny chin at the bottom of the phone, but it’s not really something you’ll notice during everyday use, unless, maybe, you’re obsessive compulsive.
On the midrange NEX A, you’ll find a fingerprint sensor at the back of the phone. On the higher end NEX S, the fingerprint sensor is under the display — a feature Vivo first put on the X20 UD and X21. It’s something that might take a lot of getting used to, and in the past week of using the under-display method, I found myself entering my passcode more than using the scanner because it fails too often.
It would have been nice to have face unlock as a backup, but up top, there are no cameras to do that. It’s hidden inside the phone, and shows up only when activated on the camera app, but I’ll talk about that more later.
The NEX also does away with the traditional earpiece and replaces it with what Vivo calls Screen SoundCasting technology, which transforms the display into a speaker. Like most new tech, it works, but nothing beats the tried and tested front-firing stereo speakers found on other smartphones if you’re looking for great audio.
The display is Super AMOLED, which means more saturated colors and darker blacks. The viewing experience is great, although I can’t say for certain I will miss the bezel-less experience when I switch to a different phone in the future. Also, it’s bright enough for my day-to-day use outdoors, unless I’m wearing sunglasses.
On the back of the phone is a glass panel. The phone doesn’t have wireless charging or any water-resistance rating. Instead, if you look closely, you’ll find thousands of dynamic color diffraction units.
Compared to bright colors and gradients, the black NEX looks rather boring for a phone from the future. The design feature on the back is so subtle, it only shows when it’s hit by harsh lights.
Yes, the phone emits rainbows like a unicorn.
You can also see it indoors.
Apart from that, the phone looks and feels premium overall. The rounded corners offer a comfortable grip, and it feels like one solid piece of glass with no sharp edges.
And in case you’re wondering: There is a headphone jack.
Cameras: Cool and capable
Having a mechanical pop-up camera has its repercussions, but first let’s take a moment to appreciate how awesome this piece of tech really is.
A handful of curious people actually came up to me while shooting this around Moscow and when I showed them how it pops up, their jaws dropped.
If you’re wary about durability, Vivo says the camera has undergone drop- and dust-resistance tests, and can repeatedly elevate and retract up to 50,000 times. I did the math myself, and that’s around 137 years if you only take one selfie per day and 6.8 years if you shoot 20 each day. At this point, I can’t say if that claim is accurate, but the selfie camera feels well built and hasn’t shown any signs of wear and tear yet.
The whole process doesn’t feel as fast as a normal selfie camera would, only because a physical part of the phone moves; it’s honestly not something that would bother anyone over time. If you check the smartphone you’re using now, you’ll notice that switching to the front camera also doesn’t happen as fast as you’d think. After getting over the wow factor, I got so used to how natural the process is — so much so that I eventually forgot that the front camera needs to pop up before I take a selfie.
Inside is an 8-megapixel lens, with Face Beauty options for both photo and video modes. I appreciate that it makes my skin less oily and eyebags smaller, but I don’t really like how it flattens my cheeks, and makes my irises artificially bigger, rounder, and blacker.
— Chay Lazaro (@chaylazaro) June 14, 2018
One thing that makes the selfie camera stand out for me, aside from the fact that it literally stands out, is how well it handles dynamic range. For scenarios like this, you either get a blown-out window to keep my face well-exposed, or an underexposed subject with a properly lit background.
Here’s another one I took by my hotel window thanks to the palm gesture. The AI HDR feature on the Vivo NEX is able to balance it out, resulting in a photo that looks as if I have another light source (I didn’t).
The same AI HDR feature also functions on the dual rear cameras. It works really well, although some photos turn out oversharpened.
Both the front and rear cameras have portrait mode, which separates the foreground from the background and blurs the latter out. Like most phones we’ve reviewed, the bokeh still looks artificial, but the one taken with the rear shooters looks a lot more polished than that of the selfie cam.
In indoor and low-light scenarios, the phone does a pretty good job at capturing details and minimizing noise. Some photos have mushier details up close, as it tries to compensate for the lack of light sources.
One thing I always ask myself when testing smartphone cameras is this: Can I rely on it to take Instagram-worthy photos when traveling? In this case, the Vivo NEX ticks that box and that’s saying a lot considering it’s my first time in Russia. My only complaint is the lack of a useful secondary camera. A telephoto or wide-angle lens would be great while watching the World Cup or avoiding crowds in framing touristy landmarks.
Check out more photos I took with the Vivo NEX below and on my Instagram.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The Vivo NEX is no longer the concept phone we saw at Mobile World Congress in February. Our first glimpse into the future is here; it’s exciting and looks great.
If you want to be one of the first to step into that, then by all means get the phone if you can and if it’s within your budget. For a smartphone from Vivo, the price is a little steep — CNY 3,898 (US$ 608) for the NEX A, and CNY 4,498 (US$ 702) for the NEX S. That’s more than its other value-for-money flagship counterparts like the OnePlus 6 and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. It’s also only available in China for now.
But what the NEX offers are features other smartphones don’t have. It’s a phone that you’d want to show off to your friends, and they’ll surely want to see it, too.
Its defining feature is a beautiful, unique design that changes the way we’ve been using the smartphone: under-display fingerprint sensor, the display as a speaker, and a pop-up camera. Even then, the learning curve is not that high if you do decide to switch. Once you get over all the new tech, using the phone will feel as natural and normal as any other phone you’ve gotten used to.
I can’t say for certain that it’s the best in the market today, but this is undoubtedly Vivo’s best smartphone to date. And in so many ways, what Vivo made here is already comparable to a lot of premium smartphones, one that’s more than deserving of your time and consideration.
Lenovo Yoga S730 hands-on: Not the Yoga you used to know
Still, it’s a great notebook
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…
… that can lay flat on a table
There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right…
… and a USB-C port for charging on the left
It has a pretty large touchpad
Windows Hello is present via the fingerprint reader
It’s indeed a lightweight notebook
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.
Watching TWICELIGHTS on a 75″ Samsung 4K QLED TV
Almost as good as attending the concert
K-Pop girl group TWICE is currently on their first world tour called TWICELIGHTS and due to schedule conflicts as well as an inability to camp out for tickets, I missed all possible chances to see this nine-member group live.
I was devastated after being told that the tickets had already been sold out. This, despite me waking up much, much earlier than I usually do on a weekend and lining up for hours.
So I did the next best thing — watch fancams on the 75” Q90R Flagship QLED 4K HDR 2000 Smart TV.
4K in all its glory
My advice in watching 4K fancams is to select the ones that focus on a certain member. This will give you a better and closer look and really feel that 4K goodness.
That said, the 4K footage will vary depending on the device it was shot at. Some 4K footage don’t do well in concert lighting conditions and when zoomed in which is the case for most fancams.
Despite this, the Samsung Q90R more than delivered. It didn’t matter if I was sitting on the couch directly in front of the TV or over to the side at our dining area. I was getting the same quality no matter the viewing angle.
TWICELIGHTS on the 75” Samsung 4K QLED TV is an absolute joy to watch. Instead of being stuck with a single view, you get to experience the concert from a multitude of perspectives thanks to the various fansites that cover TWICE.
I put together a playlist on YouTube which you can find towards the end of this article. If you see an abundance of Momo and Chaeyoung fancams, this is because those two are my biases.
After watching (and *ehem rewatching) the concert, I had to test what else this TV can do.
The girls already look good in HD, and they look even better when upscaled to 4K. You see, this is what the TV is capable of. Much like its 8K counterpart, the Q90R is equipped with a chip that upscales footage to 4K.
The music videos, which are mostly just in 1080p, look stunning on the 75-inch 4K QLED display. This is especially true for K-Pop videos that are known to be colorful.
Something we quickly noticed though is that some of the upscaled videos appear a little more saturated than usual. Personally, this didn’t really bother me but it might be important to note for those considering to purchase this TV.
Gaming and watching movies
The saturation doesn’t stop at upscaling. When you switch to game mode, the colors tend to switch to colors that some people might find too aggressive.
We played NBA 2K19 on the monitor and some courts almost hurt your eye because of how strong they appear. This wasn’t the case for other games though.
The same is true when watching movies built for 4K machines. It’s a perfect blend of “damn this looks like I’m actually seeing them in real life” while maintaining that cinematic feel. Words aren’t enough, you truly need to see this in person.
With Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video pre-installed, you won’t run out of 4K content to go through. My only gripe is that the TV doesn’t support the NBA App. Basketball is one of the few things I actually try to watch live but that’s not possible unless I have a cable subscription which I have no plans of getting any time soon.
At first I thought this was just a glitch on the particular unit we were lent but Samsung confirmed that they currently do not support the NBA app. However, they added that they are “looking to find ways to improve customer experience by expanding our content services and apps available in our smart TVs.”
There weren’t a lot but I did experience some casting issues on the Q90R. YouTube worked perfectly but other apps like VLive struggled to connect right away unlike when I’m just using a chromecast.
There’s also this little hiccup when you want to watch Facebook videos. The TV will force you to use the Facebook Watch app and have to connect a single user’s account to the TV versus anyone just being able to cast a video as long as they are connected to the same wifi network.
It’s a minor inconvenience although it could be an issue if you have to have more than one person connect their Facebook account to the TV just so they have easy access to the Facebook videos they prefer watching. That said, I don’t imagine a lot of people need to use Facebook Watch to begin with.
Truly a Smart TV
One of the things I truly appreciate about the Q90R is how seamless you interact with it. The remote and the TV’s interface is well thought-out.
The Q90R foregoes the usual remote in favor of what looks like a circular directional pad which works perfectly on the TV’s interface. The other buttons can also be easily located by feeling your way on the remote. Adjusting the volume is as simple as pushing up or down on a button.
You can, of course, use the mic and ask Bixby to do things on the TV for you but personally that’s not my thing. I don’t want to have to speak when interacting with my TV but I find that this can be a useful way for other people.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The 75” Q90R Flagship QLED 4K HDR 2000 Smart TV is an entertainment powerhouse. It’s perfect for family gatherings and inviting a large group of friends for some Netflix and chilling. It’ll set you back at PhP 359,999 (roughly around US$ 7010).
However, if you have an extra PhP 240,000 lying around, you might want to opt for the 8K version which retails for PhP 599,999 (roughly around US$ 11,700) which puts you in better position to be ready for the future. If not, the 4K isn’t shabby at all.
ASUS Zen AiO 27 hands-on: A step up from before
Your next home PC?
Let’s take a break from laptops and check out this desktop PC from ASUS. This is the Zen AiO 27 and it looks so much better than any of the previous all-in-ones we reviewed from the Taiwanese company.
Let’s find out in this hands-on.
This AiO has a gorgeous 27-inch UHD display
The bezels surrounding the screen are slim
It has an outward notch at the bottom for the webcam
There are four speakers located at the back
Quick-access ports are on the right side of the base
The remaining ports are all at the back
The front has two LED indicators and an SD card reader
The base even has a wireless charging pad
A full-size wireless keyboard comes in the box
There’s also a bundled wireless optical mouse
The Zen AiO design upgrade we’ve been waiting for
ASUS’ new Zen AiO 27 finally gets the design upgrade it deserves. It’s not an iMac copy-cat anymore and it looks even better than Apple’s desktop PC. ASUS certainly took a step forward in design; however, I’ve seen better-looking AiOs running Windows 10 like Dell’s new Inspiron desktops.
Perhaps, the best asset of the Zen AiO 27 is its display. It’s a 27-inch IPS LCD panel with a UHD resolution and multi-touch support. The display is Pantone Validated for color accuracy and it has ASUS’ NanoEdge design for slimmer bezels all around.
Although, like on smartphones, slimmer bezels come at a cost. ASUS had to put an outward notch to house a webcam and, for some reason, they placed it at the bottom. When I tested the webcam, it was showing myself from an awkward angle. As a consolation, it’s also equipped with an IR sensor for hands-free face login with Windows Hello.
The Zen AiO 27’s stand lets users view the display from multiple angles. It can tilt and swivel, plus the height can be adjusted with one finger. There’s no option for rotating the display, but that’s okay.
Design-wise, the Zen AiO 27 is a thing of beauty. I do appreciate its brushed metal-effect finish of really dark blue (darker than navy blue) with gold trims and accents. The audio and visual department of the PC delivers top-notch quality as well.
Slim and powerful, but not enough for 4K
All of the power of the Zen AiO 27 comes from beneath. The components are all housed in the base of the PC, which is neat and practical. How so? There are two storage slots and memory is user upgradeable up to 32GB.
The specs of the model I have are impressive with an Intel Core i7-8700T processor, 16GB DDR4 memory, 512GB M.2 SSD, and 2TB HDD. It also has discrete graphics using NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1050, which is kind of old but still very capable.
The base also has a Thunderbolt 3 port and features Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band gigabit-class Wi-Fi. Needless to say, it runs Windows 10 Home out of the box.
I have no complaints with the general performance of the Zen AiO 27 thanks to its incredible specifications. I can easily multitask with multiple windows open and quickly render images from Photoshop. The configuration is also enough to ensure smooth video editing.
When it comes to gaming though, it doesn’t hit the mark. While the GTX 1050 GPU is good for games like Fortnite or anything with similar graphics power requirements, it’s not enough to push pixels in UHD.
This means you can’t take full advantage of the crisp display of the Zen AiO 27. It’s best to keep the game’s resolution in Full HD to have at least 60fps in not-so-demanding titles. Too bad I can’t enjoy Cities: Skylines in 4K.
I wasn’t able to try it out, but the Zen AiO 27’s can also act as an external monitor since it has an HDMI-in port. Any HDMI-connected source can use the UHD display as a second monitor.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The ASUS Zen AiO 27 is indeed premium with an asking price of PhP 149,995 in the Philippines. It’s available through ASUS Concept Stores nationwide.
Of course, if you are to build your own desktop PC, you could get more power with the same budget. You could even still use an ASUS monitor, keyboard, mouse, and components since the company also sells those.
What you won’t get is the convenience of a plug-and-play, space-saving AiO. It’s like bringing out a laptop and plugging in the charger. If only ASUS included a better wireless keyboard and mouse, it would have been a better package.
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