Hands-On

Vivo NEX hands-on review: The future looks great

Vivo’s best smartphone to date

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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.

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.

Hands-On

The Huawei Nova 7 and Freebuds 3i is the perfect match

Some things are better in pairs

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Huawei is adding two new devices to their ever increasing portfolio. These are a phone and another TWS option — the Huawei Nova 7 and Freebuds 3i. 

The two devices share a common trait in that they offer flagship-level performance for less. More details on pricing and availability later on. For now, let’s talk about the devices.

Huawei Nova 7

The first noticeable thing about the Nova 7 is the design on its back, especially for the purple variant. It follows the Nova pattern introduced in the Nova 5T.

Since it’s laying face down, next thing you’ll notice is the quad-camera setup. It’s rocking a 64MP main camera, an 8MP ultra-wide angle lens, an 8MP telephoto lens, and 2MP macro lens (which you probably wouldn’t and shouldn’t use).

Naturally, it has all the AI camera features and post processing found on Huawei phones. We haven’t tested the cameras but we’ll throw in a quick comparison with a similarly priced phone for the review.

Now that that’s out of the way, we can flip it over to reveal the 6.53” OLED display. For screen refresh rate junkies, you’re only getting 60Hz here — which is still fine. That OLED looks mighty fine on the eyes.

Inside, it’s powered by the new Kirin 985 SoC. It’s flagship-grade and has support for 5G. In the Philippines, Huawei is currently leading the market in terms of sheer number of phones with 5G.

They started in 2019 with the Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G and followed it up with the P40 Series. As of writing, Huawei also has the distinction of offering the most affordable flagship phone in the Philippines — the Huawei Nova 7 SE. 

As to the actual availability of 5G, that’s a topic for another article. But if you want some extra reading, here’s our 5G explainer.

Back to the phone, it has an 8GB + 256GB memory and internal storage combo. It also has a 4,000mAh battery with support for wired 40W Huawei SuperCharge. No wireless charging here.

First impressions 

We’ve been using the device for roughly a couple of days now and it’s been delightful to use for the most part.

If you’re salty about the lack of a higher refresh rate, I would say the vivid OLED display kind of makes up for it. Scrolling side-by-side a device with an IPS LCD screen but with a 120Hz screen refresh rate, it certainly feels less smooth. But what it “lacks” in fluidity is more than made up for by the crisp and vibrant display. Certainly crispier than any IPS LCD display.

In terms of general day-to-day use, it’s pretty stellar. We’ve noted on our OnePlus Nord review how good these midrange/upper-midrange SoCs have gotten and the Kirin 985 along with the RAM and the stability of EMUI 10.1 contributes to a hiccup-free experience.

App access is improved by the introduction of Petal Search. Type whatever app you need and you’ll be shown the source of the app. But you can download it directly from the Petal Search’s interface.

The phone is still without Google Mobile Services, so certain apps that require it like Google’s entire suite of apps, VSCO, Sound Hound, and others won’t work at all. Regardless, there are alternatives for all of these as we’ve noted in this App Gallery feature, and this video. 

Huawei Freebuds 3i

The Huawei Freebuds 3i is the Freebuds 3’s younger sibling. Like the Nova 7, we’ve had it for a couple of days and are blown away but how it performs.

It has ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) and this is something you notice right away as you put it on. The Freebuds 3i does this through the in-ear design and its three microphone system.

The stem design also isn’t just for show or to look like a certain competing TWS earphone. The stem acts as the microphone pick-up. We tested it on a few quick calls and the people on the other line noted that we sounded crystal clear.

It also has touch controls that are configurable through the Huawei AI Life app.

The perfect pair?

Huawei isn’t exactly packaging the two together. But since they’re launching at the same time, we used the two together and it’s quite a treat.

Like any first-party accessory, the Freebuds 3i is immediately detected by the Huawei Nova 7 making for a hassle free pairing.

The Nova 7 doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack so if you want to jump straight into the wireless life, pairing it with the Freebuds 3i is a good place to start.

Quick note: The Nova 7 does come with wired earphones along with a USB-C to 3.5mm converter in case you’re not yet ready to let go.

The listening experience, though, is elevated if you do decide to get the Freebuds 3i.

Pricing and availability

The Huawei Nova 7 will retail for PhP 23,990 (US$ 488). It comes in two colors: Midsummer Purple.

Like any recent Huawei releases, it comes with an array of freebies. The first 100 buyers will get a Huawei Watch GT2e, VIP Service, and Tresemmé Shampoo and Conditioner so you’ll look fly in your selfies.

There’s also a spezial offer. The first 5 customers who order the Nova 7 during the airtime of noontime show Eat Bulaga, you’ll get the Huawei Freebuds 3 for free.

If you don’t watch the show, there are other ways to snag a free Huawei Freebuds 3. Just make sure you order between July 31 to August 2, 2020 at these times: 12MN, 10AM, 2PM, 6PM, and 10PM.

Meanwhile, the Huawei Freebuds 3i will retail for PhP 5,990 (US$ 122) with a free case that has a mini lanyard. The Freebuds 3i comes in two colors: Ceramic White and Carbon Black.

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OnePlus Nord Unboxing & Hands On: Prepare to be surprised!

Could this be the new flagship killer?

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OnePlus goes back to its roots with an impressive sub-US$450 smartphone. Could this be the new flagship killer? This is our OnePlus Nord Unboxing & Hands-On.

The OnePlus Nord will retail for 399 EUR / 27999 INR (8/128GB model) when it launches in Europe and India on August 4th.

Other variants include a 12GB/256GB model (499 EUR / 29999 INR) and a special 6/64GB variant for India ONLY which will retail for 24999 INR.

In case the video isn’t working, click here.

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5 things we like about the realme Watch

A fitness band you won’t mind wearing in non-workout scenarios

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realme has been on a roll in expanding their product portfolio. They started with smartphones, added some earphones and powerbanks, and this year they have two wearables so far – the realme smartband and the realme Watch.

Today we’re listing some of the things we really liked about the realme Watch. Oh and quick note – most of this video was shot using the realme X3 SuperZoom.

Battery Life

Okay so, number one is battery life.

At the time that this was written, the Watch was at 52 percent and it has been seven days since the last time it was fully charged. If I use it more or less the same way I have in the past seven days, then it’ll be another week before it completely runs out of juice.

It’s definitely a plus when you don’t have to think about charging your watch too often.

Variety of workouts

At launch it can track 14 different workouts with good variety.

You have stuff like Running, Walking, Strength Training, Yoga and even sports like Football, Table Tennis, and Badminton.

The only “workout” I really got to try is walking, since I absolutely dread running — or any other form of exercise for that matter. But the fitness tracking was fairly accurate for the most part.

I was dying to try basketball since that’s the only workout I truly enjoy. Unfortunately the courts are still closed because in case you forgot, the Coronavirus is still very much out there taking lives and we are totally not winning that battle.

Casual fit

If it’s just your regular trip to the grocery store, then this watch will suit you just fine.

Perhaps, you can also wear this on regular work days if you’re required to report onsite. Point is, since it doesn’t look like a fitness band. You can probably get away with wearing it in most casual situations.

Remote camera

This one was particularly useful for when I was making this video.

The remote camera camera works for both photo and video. And for photos, it can be set to either take the snap right away or with a timer.

Very convenient if, like me, you’re forever alone, and need or want photos of yourself.

Water reminder

For you thirsty folks out there, it also has a water reminder option that you can turn on using the realme link app.

You can set a time period when you should be reminded, as well as the frequency of the reminder. I didn’t exactly follow this all the time since I sorely lack discipline, but it’s nice to have that constant reminder.

Is the realme Watch worth buying?

To properly set your expectations, you’ll need to think of the realme Watch as more of an enlarged fitness band versus an actual Smart Watch, since most of its features are geared towards health and fitness.

And if you look at it, it’s… okay. Not really something you’d want to show off.

Underneath the display there’s this subtle realme branding that could’ve been smaller or they could’ve totally done away with. That might have helped with the overall look a little bit.

The watch faces are also limited at launch, but realme emphasized that a wide variety of choices is coming soon.

For PhP 3990 (US$ 81), you get a fitness band that you wouldn’t mind wearing in non-workout scenarios. I think that’s the primary benefit that you get, for paying around twice the price of a regular fitness band.

In case the video isn’t working, watch it here.

SEE ALSO: realme X3 SuperZoom, realme Watch price in the Philippines

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