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

Health

How I got fit with the OPPO Watch

Our goal is to survive

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OPPO Watch

When the global health crisis struck the world into a colossal spiral while we all watched anxious in our homes, I decided to escape into a fitness challenge. Hey, I needed some form of healthy coping and I thought putting my frail, petite figure into the ringer was a good way to keep me distracted.

So, since the end of March of this year, I decided to do at-home workouts six days per week. And, by the end of April, I had somehow dedicated hours into working out consistently from Sundays to Fridays.

Deciding to be fit

If you’re thinking, “she’s mental,” hi. Yes, I am. I always knew I was capable of sticking to something I wanted to work towards. I’d go so far as to say I’ve always had an obsessive tendency towards things I set my mind on. There was, of course, a good incentive: my mental health.

I’ve always struggled with my mental health. Even when writing about how video games helped me through rough patches in my life, I’d spiral back into the same mental state over and over. I wanted to break that horrible cycle. And so, I set myself to use fitness to expend energy I would usually have to be anxious or self-destructive on something healthier and beneficial.

Oh, I almost forgot a tangent motivation to all of this: I was weaning off my medication. So, if you didn’t know, which you probably didn’t, I was taking antidepressants and mood stabilizers to get by.

Whenever I had teetered into fitness, I weirdly felt on-top-of-things. I brought this up to my psychiatrist and knew that if I wanted sustainable stability, I had to work on long term changes to my lifestyle.

So, back to the task at hand, I had consistently worked out, built muscle where I didn’t know I had and gained a ton of weight. By late August to early September, I had felt better mentally.

Tracking with the OPPO Watch

When I got the OPPO Watch, I had already checked out most of my personal goals except one: getting stunning abs. I went to work on journaling ab workouts I was going to do and healthy meals I wanted to treat myself to. I was planning on running outside to get my daily 10,000 steps through the watch’s Wear OS out of the way and was pretty excited to strap on the OPPO Watch.

Before we hop into my journey with the OPPO Watch, here’s a couple of things you might want to know. The Oppo Watch’s dual-curved 1.6-inch AMOLED display makes it look identical to the Apple Watch.

Elephant in the room finally out; let’s talk specs. It’s got a Snapdragon Wear 3100 SoC with an Apollo Chip. All of that runs on Wear OS by Google and is powered by a 300mAh battery. And, OPPO boasted the watch’s 21-day battery capacity. So, I was hyping myself up for a two-week ab workout program to accompany the specs and features the watch was decked out on.

Let me just get it out there: as much as the OPPO Watch has an identity crisis on potentially being an Apple Watch wannabe or clone, it delivers on looks. The watch is pretty and the interface never once stuttered while I used it. But I digress…

Road to getting abs

On day one, road to maybe getting abs, the watch flopped and stopped recording my run, and ab exercises because it had run out of battery. Frustrated but also quietly relieved, I dropped my plan for the afternoon and eased out of my workout quicker than I often would.

You see, I had become overly obsessed with working out. So much so, that I was scheduling everything else in my day around the 2-3 hours every single day I wanted to exercise.

Although it was a disappointing first day, it was a wake-up call. I had always felt fatigued and out of breath from just doing typical chores. I’ve long ignored this symptom of over-training and kept overworking myself.

As much as the watch didn’t get to keep up with my “typical” day, it drew red flags on the fact that I was unusually active.

Don’t get me wrong. The OPPO Watch is a great smartwatch. It’s got a ton of features I want a smartwatch to have. It had a training assistant, a heart rate monitor, a sleep tracker, sedentary reminders, and had a vast array of workouts you could track through Wear OS.

It was the best thing to help validate the hard work I was making on a daily. I would use and abuse installing the Google Fit app to track my strength training, workout sets, and footsteps. But, if there’s anything I slowly learned from over-training and “over tracking,” it’s that you tarnish your relationship to exercise if you obsess over calories.

More to getting fit than looking a certain way

If you’ve been hating yourself for not getting fit or not losing weight while the rest of the world is ablaze, let this be the reminder you need. We’re here to survive, not to pressure ourselves into losing weight, getting fit, building unhealthy self-images, or getting sick and injured.

This year, especially, is not the time. I know that being isolated can feel relentlessly daunting and peeking into social media feeds into unhealthy and toxic standards you might feel pressured to try to achieve. But, there’s more to health than trying to look a certain way — there’s the important bit about how you are and how you are feeling.

A lot of the ironically toxic parts of health and fitness is from building fundamental goals on visual validity: a number on the scale, a measurement, or aesthetic muscle development. When health and fitness should be about developing something sustainable: strength, flexibility, stamina, or better well-being.

It’s also good to note that quick and sudden fixes can show fast results but won’t be sustainable long-term. The quicker the change, the quicker it is to lose. Easing your way into small changes until you achieve a healthy lifestyle that isn’t restrictive of anything you want is the way to go.

For the past two weeks with the OPPO Watch, I decided to be more attuned with myself, mentally and physically. It was a good time for my body to recover from brutal stress I put it through.

The watch’s Wear OS features breathing exercises that helped a lot with this. I would find myself struggling with anxiety late at night and I’d go on the watch and do the breathing exercises until I calmed down. I know the feature is simple and I can do without it but, having something to guide me through deep breathes really helped.

Throughout my two weeks of what was meant to be non-stop ab exercises, I decided to work out on days I felt like working out and rested on days I wanted to. The OPPO Watch gave me a good feel of my health with my heart rate and step count even if I stayed indoors.

It monitored and gave me customizable daily goals which were less about reaching them every day and more about realistic and forgiving progress.

Oh! It’s good to note that the watch might be able to last about a week but it’ll need to be on power saver mode. You’ll be limited to viewing the time, checking your pulse when you want to, counting your steps, and getting notifications.

On that week, I kept active and went about my day without worrying about the nitty-gritty details of how much calories I burnt from walking, running, or lifting weights.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I didn’t keep the OPPO Watch on power saver mode for long for a few reasons. To recover from over-training, I wanted to improve on my sleep and work on my relationship with exercise and calories so tracking my sleep was important to me.

On top of that, the breathing exercises weren’t accessible on power saver mode which was a huge bummer seeing as that feature helped me through some anxious nights — what a legend of a feature.

The OPPO Watch is decked out with so much to help you get better, happier, and healthier but only in ways, you choose to. So if you’re not a fitness fiend and are looking for a smartwatch to just track your pulse, steps, and of course, keep track of time, consider this watch. The OPPO Watch costs PhP 12,990/GBP 229.

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Gaming

Marvel’s Avengers: Does it stick the superhero landing?

A title featuring Earth’s mightiest heroes carries great expectations

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Marvel's Avengers

The Avengers is the most popular superhero team today thanks in large part to the 23 films and counting that belong to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU. This could lead one to believe that anything that has “Marvel’s Avengers” on it will be well-made and polished because of heightened expectations and the backing of perhaps the largest entertainment company today. Well, not quite.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming following the rather lukewarm reception to the A-Day trailer that was released in E3 2019. But that was just a trailer. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics — the companies responsible for the game’s development — still had time to address things.

While there may have been improvements here or there, the overall experience just falls a bit short of the grandiose, spectacle, and fun factor that we’ve come to associate with the Avengers.

Heroes divided

So what’s wrong with it, exactly? There’s not one big glaring thing. But the sum of its parts just doesn’t feel like it makes up a cohesive whole.

Just like how the team was split up after the disaster that was A-Day, the game feels like it’s split between two disjointed parts.

The first is the Reassemble Campaign which takes you through a 10-12 hour single-player Action-RPG type of campaign. You get a chance to play as all of the Avengers but the story is mostly told through the perspective of Kamala Khan AKA Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel hard-carrying this game

The second is the Avengers Initiative which is the multiplayer live service part of the game. It’s the part that the developers hoped would keep players coming back.

While the two game modes share the same combat, skills, items, and mission design, the overall experience varies heavily depending on what type of game you’re into.

Ms. Marvel coming of age story

At the core of the Reassemble Campaign is Kamala Khan/ Ms. Marvel. She goes from this bright-eyed fangirl in A-day to a hero in her own right, fighting alongside the heroes she admired.

As someone who generally prefers single-player games, this was the part of the game I enjoyed the most. It’s got enough heart, humor, and character that made the MCU such a mainstream hit, while also sprinkling a little bit of Saturday-morning-cartoon campiness.

The best thing about the story is the dynamic between the characters: Kamala and Bruce Banner’s mentor-mentee relationship, the anger between Tony Stark and Bruce after the latter’s testimonies in court after A-Day, and this bromance between Tony and Steve Rogers.

There’s a lot of great character moments here that should be familiar to Marvel fans whether you came in from the comic books, TV series, or the MCU.

It isn’t without any problems though. Thor had very little to do with the plot except for just being there. He played the deus ex machina role when he first rejoined the team. I guess that’s fitting for a literal god.

The boss battles are also very mediocre. After squaring off against Taskmaster and the Abomination, the next boss battles will all be against AIM Robots. For a superhero hero team with such a rich rogues gallery, this was rather disappointing.

Modok was the only other non AIM robot villain

While it sort of makes sense given the flow of the story, I think they could have thrown in even at least one more Marvel villain there or at least have another tussle against Taskmaster and the Abomination.

Other than that, the story is pretty solid. I wish I could say the same for gameplay.

Grinding for gear

The core of the gameplay is the combat, skills, and gears. This is what connects the single-player campaign to the multiplayer missions. It’s a mixed bag to say the least.

The skill tree for each character is deep but you’ll have to grind through the missions to really get to all of them. More on this later. Meanwhile, the gears are… okay.

There are plenty of skills to unlock

While most other reviewers griped about the lack of cosmetic effect from the gear you pickup, I thought this was mostly okay. It’s almost the same with Marvel’s Spider-Man where I can pick whatever suit I want but change my abilities depending on what the mission requires.

The thing is, in the Spider-Man game by Insomniac, the suit came at no cost. In Marvel’s Avengers, while you can grind your way into some awesome cosmetic changes, a bulk of the better looking ones are stuck behind a paywall. That’s what really grinds most people’s gears, I think.

What grinds your gears?

I also recognize that more thought could have been put into the gears seeing as the whole point of the game is getting loot and items while you’re out on missions. For instance, they could have opted to have a set of cosmetic options for gear that negate certain status effects like frosting.

Feel like a superhero

Despite sharing mostly the same controls — light and heavy attacks, dodging, and jumping on the main buttons plus special abilities on the shoulder buttons —  the game does a good job of making each character feel distinct.

Your experience playing as Iron Man will be very different from the one playing as Thor despite both sharing the ability to fly. Same is true for Captain America and Black Widow even though they’re both mostly grounded melee fighters.

Marvel’s Avengers

The stretchy Ms. Marvel also offers perhaps one of the most unique play styles as she also has the ability to heal. It’s perfect for when you’re embarking on multiplayer missions.

Mission unbearable

The missions are where I think the game fumbles a lot. They have a relatively good combat core to build around, but the level designs and challenges leave so much room for improvement.

The missions revolve around retrieving an item, defeating hordes of AIM robots and soldiers, and most frustratingly, defending a small circular area while being swarmed by even more AIM robots and soldiers.

Combat can get chaotic

It’s just a whole bunch of small fries coming at you from left and right. There’s very little variation and it can get old real quick. What’s even more frustrating is to really level up the characters, these are the missions you have to grind through. You don’t get to the really good parts of the combat unless you go through these missions.

Remember the final act of both The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron where the team is battling against armies of Chitari and Ultron’s robots? That’s what the missions feel like except it happens over, and over, and over, and over again.

Good for team players

To balance the opinion, I spoke with our good friend Francis Romero who is both a long-time gamer and huge Marvel fan. Unlike yours truly, Francis actually finds enjoyment in the missions.

What struck me the most with his observation is how team play is crucial in the missions. You can customize your characters’ loadouts to fit the needs of the team. Each one can play a certain role so you can accomplish missions with relative ease.

Flying to a mission

For instance, he said he wasn’t a fan of Ms. Marvel being part of his main team but being a healer, she would be an essential part of the team.

In this regard, the play-with-friends appeal is real. It’s honestly not my cup of tea, but there’s certainly something here that can be enjoyed by people with actual friends or those who play well in a team-setting.

A better future

The other appeal of Marvel’s Avengers being a live service game is the promise of a better future. The developers have already promised that any future DLC content will be free-of-charge.

Hawk-eye — both Will Barton and Kate Bishop — have already been teased and there are more characters coming in the future. Each character, I supposed, will come with their own unique story that will build on the campaign. Their abilities will also be something to consider when building a team for the Avengers Initiative missions.

While the present may be slightly disappointing, a promising future awaits.

Does it stick the superhero landing?

The promise of a better future shouldn’t be the leg that a game stands on. The game can be a little fun at best and a messy, buggy experience at worst.

The loading time from one segment of the game to another is ridiculously long. It almost feels like you can watch an entire MCU film and the game would still be loading when you come back to it.

This loading screen can go on FOREVER

Marvel’s Avengers is weighed down by the expectations surrounding it. When you have a title so mainstream and the backing of an entertainment giant that has dominated the mainstream consciousness for a better part of the decade, it’s fair to expect a polished game. One that feels like the triumphant third act of most MCU films.

Instead, it feels more like the first time Tony Stark took the Iron Man Mark II out for a spin in the first Iron Man movie. It was a fun but clunky ride, and when he soared to go higher he ran into an icing problem.

Marvel’s Avengers

In many ways, that’s what this Marvel’s Avengers game feels like. It’s clunky but fun and while it’s not perfect, there’s certainly something here that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics can build on.

It doesn’t quite stick the superhero landing, but it sure as hell didn’t crash and burn.

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 Review: Ahead of Its Time!

Experience the future for $1999

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The first Galaxy Fold may have encountered several issues, but this year’s Fold is all about polishing and revamping things.

With a more durable hinge mechanism, maximized screen, improved materials, better cameras, and the fastest internals around, the Galaxy Z Fold2 is an impressive engineering feat.

$1999 isn’t cheap, but this device is meant for those who want to experience the future in their hands today.

Head over to our in-depth Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 review here.

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