Reviews

vivo V19 Neo: The ideal early 2019 midranger

Nope, not a typo

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Maybe this is why it has “19” on it. On paper, the vivo V19 Neo has the makings of a contending midranger… in early 2019. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think.

Why early 2019? Because that’s exactly what it looks like on paper.

vivo V19 Neo
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 AIE
RAM and internal storage 8GB + 128GB
Battery 4500mAh with Dual-Engine Fast Charging (9V 2A)
OS Funtouch OS 10 (Android 10)
Display 6.44” FHD+ Super AMOLED
Front Camera 32MP
Rear Cameras 48MP + 8MP (Wide-Angle) + 2MP (Bokeh) + 2MP (Macro)
Ports USB-C, headphone jack

 

It has the same processor and front-facing camera as the vivo V15 Pro — a phone that came out in March 2019. 🙂

But of course, the v19 Neo is superior in other areas like RAM, battery capacity, and USB connector. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that this phone looks dated on paper.

I keep saying on paper because after spending a few days with the phone, it didn’t really leave me wanting for much. At least, not for most of the things I regularly do on a smartphone.

Let’s slow down a little bit and appreciate how this phone looks.

The variant we have is the Crystal White and it looks immaculate

Here’s a closer look at its quad-camera module 

On the bottom there’s the speaker grille, USB-C port, and headphone jack 

On the right side is the power button and volume rockers 

And on the top-left side you’ll find the SIM Card tray 

On the lower back of the phone is the nice and clean vivo branding 

Funtouch OS has one really good thing going for it 

I was really looking forward to using a vivo phone for many reasons. One of which is Funtouch OS. It’s been so long since I spent significant time with it. I can say for certain I don’t completely hate it.

One thing I really love about it is the Control Center. When you switch over to gesture control, it gives you the freedom to choose where you want it.

It can be a swipe down from the top-right corner like on iOS. It can also be a swipe up on either bottom side. A fantastic option for two reasons:

  1. With a 20:9 screen aspect ratio, it’s a pretty tall phone and it can be a challenge to swipe down from the top corner.
  2. Being able to swipe up from either bottom side shows consideration for left-handers.

This quick access to the control center is incredibly thoughtful

It’s fantastic. Easy access to the brightness and volume settings as well as quick toggles like rotation lock, mobile data, Wi-Fi, and most of the stuff you expect to find on a control center.

The settings screen is also very clean and most of the stuff you might want to tweak are fairly easy to find. Being that it’s using a SUPER AMOLED screen, there’s a lot of incentive with going dark mode.

Minor gripe with dark mode

However, I have a little issue with vivo’s implementation of dark mode. Like other dark modes, once you change your system, some apps will follow and switch over to its native dark mode.

In other phones, if the app has no support for dark mode, it’ll just ignore the system’s prompt. This isn’t the case with Funtouch OS and Facebook.

While Facebook for web dark mode is now slowly rolling out, there’s no official app version yet. But vivo forces the app to go dark and it looks funky.

Some things just don’t look right on Facebook. Little details like the dark Facebook logo on top against the black background feels off. Reactions also have this white outer-glow making them stick-out like a sore thumb.

It’s a minor gripe. One that was easily remedied by switching over to light mode. Which still looks fantastic. I forgot how clean Instagram looks in light mode since I’ve decided to go dark.

The real problem is the sh*t ton of bloatware that comes with it. There’s “Hot Games”, “Hot Apps”, and more like it that I guarantee you will never touch. It’s just there eating precious space.

A steady performer

Another reason why I was excited to use a midranger is to see how much of a gap there is in performance against flagships. For the duration of the lockdown, I’ve spent much of my time with 2020 flagships and I was curious if there will be a drastic dropoff in performance.

I would say there is some dropoff, but I wouldn’t call it significant. I did experience my first app crash for the first time in a while, but it only happened once.

Other than that, the vivo V19 Neo has been extremely satisfactory. I have zero problems jumping from app to app. My most used apps keep running in the background, and the general experience feels not that different from a flagship.

I even found myself enjoying the relatively new mobile game 7 Deadly Sins: Grand Cross. It’s fantastic. It’s based on the first season of the animé and is a turn-based JRPG made for mobile with its vertical orientation.

It looks great and the v19 Neo ran that game in High graphics settings with absolutely zero hiccups. That’s why I’m willing to bet it’ll have no problem running the games you play (which I don’t).

vivo’s Ultra Game Mode also remains one of my favorite mobile gaming features. It blocks notifications while you play and focuses processing power on your game to give you the best experience.

Don’t get too caught up with the megapixel race 

I hadn’t extensively tested the cameras but I did try capturing a few shots.

It still creates fantastic separation and depth of field when taking photos up close.

vivo’s backlight HDR is top-notch.

And generally, photos are vivid and dynamic.

As you can see, these are pretty darn good. I did try Night mode in absolute darkness and honestly there’s no point in showing the photo because there’s nothing to see. You’ll still need some form of ample light source for night mode to kick in.

Despite not having a main camera with a gaudy megapixel count, the vivo V19 Neo’s cameras are more than capable and the images it produces are hard to not like.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

At PhP 17,999 (US$ 358), it’s a little pricier than midrangers that are absolutely killing it in this segment. That said, the vivo V19 Neo is uniquely important as it proves a few things. First, your smartphone from one year ago is still pretty darn good.

That feels like a crazy thought especially with how fast brands are pumping out phones these days. But this shows that a two-year cycle is still for phones is still very much valid.

I did miss a few things from flagships: The 90Hz and 120Hz screen refresh rate just spoils your eyes so much, I’ve become reliant on wireless charging, and of course there’s just this certain — as Michael Josh and Chay like to call it — je ne sais quoi to certain flagships.

If any of the aforementioned make it to midrangers, it should be treated as bonus and not a requirement. At least, not yet.

When it comes down to what most people need, this midranger delivers. The SUPER AMOLED display, although not buttery smooth, is still a sight for sore eyes. Wireless charging is a luxury. And if you pick your spots properly, you’ll still capture some pretty darn good photos.

Oh and this has Google Mobile Services. It’s a convenience that I’ve come to miss having also used a midrange Huawei device recently.

The vivo V19 Neo carries specs from 2019, reminding us of the phones we loved from a year ago. Hopefully it also serves as a reminder for vivo on how bold and innovative they were in this segment.

Hopefully, when the next V-series phone comes along, we’ll think more of the future rather than the past.

SEE ALSO: vivo V19 Neo pricing and availability in the Philippines

Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

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Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

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Accessories

Redmi Earbuds S review: Affordable TWS without compromises

Making TWS earphones more accessible

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Truly wireless (TWS) earphones have been around for a while. Apple kick-started the hype with the launch of the AirPods and numerous brands have released alternatives since. However, they’ve always been very expensive.

With brands keen on ditching the headphone jack, users are often left with no option but to find wireless options. Redmi phones continue to have a headphone jack, but the brand also wants to remain focused on its target — deliver quality products at an affordable price.

The Redmi Earbuds S is the first TWS offering in India under the Redmi brand. While the brand stands strong in the smartphone segment, it has some cut-throat competition from realme. With a price tag of INR 1,799 (US$ 24), does it have enough firepower to take on the competition? If you’re looking for an entry-level TWS solution, can you trust the Earbuds S? Let’s find out!

Not AirPods knock-offs

If you’ve been following the TWS market, the Earbuds S will look familiar. These are sold as the AirDots S in China and many have ordered them previously via international marketplaces. In India, Redmi is calling them the Earbuds S and these could land in more south-east Asian markets soon.

While the trend is to follow Apple’s design language, the Earbuds S is going against the flow. It has its own distinctive design that looks nothing like a cheap knock-off.

The pill-shaped case is compact, feels solid in hand, and has a subtle curve on the bottom. The case size is perfect and it’ll always slide into your pocket smoothly.

Each earbud weighs just 4g and the in-ear design is immensely comfortable. I’ve worn them pretty much all day long and never felt any irritation, pain, or slightest of inconvenience. The snug fit also ensures adequate noise isolation and wearing them while driving for calls is seamless.

There’s not much to talk about with the design since it’s basic and gets the job done. They’re built out of plastic and its clearly evident at first sight.

I won’t count this as a drawback since it helps reduce overall weight and I wouldn’t expect metal or premium construction at this price.

Easy to use, fairly straightforward

The lid is very basic but has a satisfying feel to it when closing. Unlike the popular AirPods, these sit in your ears at a 45-degree angle. Paired along are two earbud tips to suit your ear canal. I didn’t have to use them and the standard size that comes along worked fine.

Using them is a very straightforward process. Open the lid, remove the earbuds, and wear them.

They’ll connect to your phone as soon as they’re disconnected from the case. I’ve never faced any connection issues so far. Each earbud has a button for quick controls such as music playback options and calling up Google Assistant.

On the flip side, you can’t rely on the earbuds to change the volume level or play a previous song. That can only be managed via your phone.

Pressing the button thrice will trigger the low-latency gaming mode. A feature that’ll be very handy while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile or Mobile Legends.

Each earbud has an indicator light that shows the status. Red means they’re charging while white means successful connection establishment. Lastly, they’re IPX4 certified, meaning sweat resistance. This obviously translates to a perfect workout session.

Punchy bass, relatively good audio

This is where I was surprised the most. Considering the nifty features it already has, I expected some kind of compromise in this department. And, I was wrong.

It has 7.2mm drivers and delivers punchy bass — a must-have for Bollywood music. Mainstream genres like pop sound amazing and if you’re not an audiophile, you won’t have any complaints.

The maximum volume is sufficiently loud and coupled with good isolation, even a busy market street is easily navigable.

However, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, these aren’t meant for you. The low frequency takes over while the mids are flat. You can use an equalizer to change the settings but the inherent tuning is in favor of bass-heavy music.

Furthermore, these connect via the SBC codec and there’s no support for aptX. I wouldn’t call this a drawback because the brand has to cut corners to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Adequate playback duration

Xiaomi claims the earbuds can deliver up to four hours of playback on a single charge and I’ve reached 3 hours 45 minutes in one go. So, their claims aren’t farfetched.

The case can charge the earbuds fully twice, delivering a total of 12 hours of playback in one go. If you’re going to use them for conference calls, music, and other work-related activities, they’ll easily get you through a working day.

The case takes almost two hours to charge fully. For frequent travelers, this can be a major drawback. Furthermore, the case charges via a microUSB port instead of the now-standard USB-C. Don’t forget to carry that extra charging cord along!

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

Yes. It definitely can. While there are a lot of minor additions I’d want to see, the price brings me back to reality.

In a nutshell, they’re designed aptly, deliver ordinarily better audio, and have 12 hours of playback. For US$ 25, there’s no better deal available. Keep in mind, the Redmi Earbuds S are making TWS earphones more accessible to everyone.

If you’re looking for top-notch audio quality, there are premium offerings like the OPPO Enco Free, Galaxy Buds, and 1More Truly Stylish. On the affordable side, realme Buds Air Neo and OPPO Enco W31 can be alternatives but are still priced considerably high.

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