Hands-On

vivo X50 Hands-On: Underrated, overshadowed

It deserves some spotlight

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We’ve all felt inadequate. This is especially when we’re surrounded by people we believe are better than us. This is the feeling I remember after having used the vivo X50 for a few days.

To start with, the vivo X50 is the more affordable sibling in the X50 series. It lacks the features that sets the X50 Pro apart: the Gimbal camera system, a flagship-grade chipset, and 5G connectivity.

But do we even need all the features that the X50 Pro has? For everyday users, the X50 is more than enough, and it deserves to be given a chance.

Like a dapper gentleman

First and foremost, the X50 is gleamingly handsome. If I were to draw a character, the X50 would look like a high-maintenance, dapper gentleman, whose hair and beard were trimmed and sculpted in a barberdashery (a barber and haberdashery in one) like Felipe & Sons.

It exudes a classic appearance that makes you want to hold it. But before you do that, you’d have to choose between the matte Frost Blue and the fingerprint-magnet glass in Glaze Black.

Personally, I prefer the Glaze Black due to my habit of leaving memories behind, like a smudge on a glass. Kidding aside, I love the reflective mirror-like design.

But its design doesn’t matter as much since I tend to slap a case on any phone I use. If I won’t, there’s a ninety-six percent chance of glass phones slipping from my regularly moisturized hands.

Comfortable and entertaining

Surprisingly, the X50 is lightweight and slim enough to sit comfortably in my tiny hands. It can reach the in-display fingerprint scanner easily.

On the front, the vivo X50 prides itself on the same 6.56-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ technology like the X50 Pro. Watching videos and playing games is a treat with its vibrant colors, high contrast, and bright screen.

There’s also an Ultra Game Mode — an exclusive feature found on Funtouch OS 10.5 (based on Android 10). Mobile games like PUBG Mobile and Mobile Legend: Bang Bang are supported by vivo’s gaming feature.

In case you didn’t know, this feature helps you stay focused on your game, whether you’re playing for fun or competitively. Notifications are definitely turned off and your system’s resources are managed well, especially when you opt for Esports mode. There will be no accidental touches, annoying calls, and it moderates your phone’s temperature for smoother gameplay. Moreover, it saves battery.

Serving more than enough of what you really need

Frankly, the vivo X50 packs enough power to fuel your entertainment needs. Whether it’s intensive gaming or seamless performance. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 730 and sports an 8GB RAM and 128GB built-in storage.

This handset is also equipped with a 4200mAh battery and supports vivo FlashCharge 2.0, reaching 33W of fast charging. Of course, it uses a Type-C port and cable, just like any normal 2020 phone.

With a bigger juice and near-flagship grade chipset, you can ensure a long-lasting experience. You can play to your heart’s content and binge-watch all 16 episodes of the latest K-drama people are talking about.

In my case, I watched the visual spectacle that is Fire Force — an animé based on the manga of the same name filled with brilliant animation sequences and blazingly hot character designs.

The downside in having this exquisite display while playing games or watching shows is the intrusive punch-hole cutout, which houses its 32-megapixel selfie camera.

Getting that glass skin

Moving to its selfies, the front camera struggles to take clear and decent selfies at low light but performs exceptionally with sufficient daylight.

Even under harsh sunlight, the vivo X50 snaps portrait-oriented selfies perfectly… for the ‘gram. I uploaded my selfies on Instagram Story’s Close Friends feature, handpicking people that are attracted to me so I can receive comments and validation.

Most of them complimented how I looked fresh, striking a close resemblance to South Korean actors’ glass skin apparent in K-dramas. On the other hand, some people were hesitant to compliment me because they’re too afraid to flirt and possibly fall for me. (Just kidding.)

Choosing the real you

But the truth is I’m not pore-less, and I refused to use vivo’s beauty mode since I thought it was too intense. Despite having beauty mode tailored for men, I was still averse since a beautified version of myself is far from how I actually look. And definitely not how I want to be seen.

What seems to be the common case in my selfies is how vivo pads beautification in its post-processing, even if you’re not actively using its beauty mode.

The thing is, vivo’s front camera uses an f/2.45 aperture, which results in backlit photos and brightened selfies. For reference, you can look at the well-lit busy background and cerulean-like sky on the middle photo above. Meanwhile, the photo on the right looks overexposed, even though I’m just basking under the sunlight inside a car.

However, this nitpicking can be handled easily if you know some tips and tricks in taking better selfies. Overall, the quality looks decent, and any selfie-taker or young professional who’d love to look good for a self-esteem boost will be satisfied with the results.

Putting Portrait Mode on a pedestal

It’s been years, but smartphone companies are still far from perfect in terms of their cameras’ portrait modes. Evident in the X50 is vivo’s attempt to produce cleaner bokeh albeit still unrefined.

When taking photos against a busy background, Portrait Mode should help you produce cleaner outputs while keeping the focus on the subject. But it’s still unpolished, as seen through the cutouts around my hair and shoulders. Additionally, vivo smartly applied HDR which lit my background causing haze around my face and hair.

Forgive me for slapping a clear case meant for the X50 Pro, I just really needed to put a case on.

Using its rear camera, the Portrait Mode had troubles dealing with depth of field (DoF), blurring my arms together with the background in the mirror. If you struggle with Portrait Mode, I mentioned in one of my camera hacks a trick on how to use mirrors to create better depth.

This way, you don’t have to be dependent on maxing out Portrait Mode, which results in ugly cutouts where you’d look like a pasted magazine cutout in a gaussian blurred image.

For every moment you can capture

The vivo X50 uses a quad-camera system similar to the X50 Pro, only with a smaller camera bump and narrower module. It uses Sony’s IMX598 sensor, comprised of a 48-megapixel primary shooter, a 13-megapixel portrait camera (with 50mm prime lens), an 8-megapixel ultrawide lens, and a 5-megapixel macro camera.

When compared to phones in a similar price range, the X50 is a mild contender in the camera department. It certainly packs useful features in shooting any type of photos. There’s a 120-degree super wide-angle, a clear 2X optical zoom, and 20X digital zoom.

Shot in auto mode on a 1:1 format (Square)

 

Backlit shot in auto mode on a 1:1 format (Square)

 

Flat lay produced through 2X optical zoom

 

20X digital zoom on a hive in my home’s window

 

Horizontal macro shot taken by placing the cameras close to the flowers

 

Vertical macro shot taken by placing the cameras close to the flowers

While vivo boasts of sharp and crystal clear night shots, I wasn’t able to test it due to curfew restrictions in my neighborhood.

The way our heart beats with strong connections

Casual users like me spend most of our time watching videos and listening to music. Of course, audio is as important as the display and other features. To audiophiles, vivo isn’t worth considering despite starting its humble story with peerless audio tuning.

Regardless, the vivo X50 fills a room loud enough like a night club booming with party speakers. It doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but Type-C wired earphones will still work well.

If you’re down with vivo’s ecosystem, it’s better to get the vivo TWS Neo since it pairs easily with the X50. Just like any other smartphone brand, vivo is focused in creating a seamless connection between its devices. With an R&D focused in audio, you get the same rich sound in both the X50 and TWS Neo.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

On paper, tech junkies might say a lot about its internals, yet vivo is more than the specs it offers. For years, vivo has been delivering an experience that is relevant to casual consumers.

The X50 is a testament to vivo’s history — offering the right power that everyday users need. While there are similar upper midrange phones with better specs and features, the vivo X50 still promises an all-around experience.

It may not have the X50 Pro’s flagship-grade power and extra features, the X50 serves that nearly similar flagship experience, at a reduced price. Undisturbed gaming, near-flagship efficient performance, better selfies and balanced cameras, and seamless ecosystem — what’s there to ask for?

Undoubtedly, it’s similar to the Samsung Galaxy A71. Both handsets are well-rounded, yet the X50 has a better build and design.

The vivo X50 retails for PhP 25,999 (US$ 536) in vivo’s official stores and authorized retail partners. Select outlets will also add in an exclusively X50 fit silicone Comfy case.

SEE ALSO: In having healthy connections through the vivo TWS Neo

Hands-On

Make moments tangible with Instax Square Link

Time to print those core memories!

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instax square link

Life looks pretty in squares — that’s how Instagram shaped our favorite moments in the past decade.

With every core memory uploaded in our social media feed for the world to see, there’s still something poignant about keeping a hard copy of your favorite moments. It feels nostalgic to be reminded of the good things in your life.

That’s what the Instax Square Link delivers. The newest instant printer comes in square, as compared to its previous siblings in the instax link lineup.

The sweet spot

The previous instant printers come in the usual mini film prints, and a wide, rectangular one. Having a square format provides a sweet spot for instant prints since it’s neither too big nor small.

Even the design of the device itself looks almost square, albeit taller. It sports the usual big button in its center that powers up the device, while there’s a smaller circle on its top-left part for linking the device to your smartphone.

It’s still as straightforward as it gets, whether you’re already familiar with previous instax printers or not. You simply click the big button until it lights up, link it to your smartphone and confirm the serial number found on the bottom side of the device, and do all the magic inside the app — which you can download via App Store or Play Store.

instax square link

New device, new features

The instax Square Link carries all the good things from the previous instax printers through its dedicated app.

You can still make personalized stickers, continuously print your best moments with just a press of a button, and collage and edit your photos in frames. They’re pretty much the same features you can find on the instax Link WIDE and instax mini Link 2.

instax square link

However, instax introduced new features that make printing more exciting. Now, instax takes AR to a new level by allowing users to print with personalized AR effects, accessible using a QR code.

It also included a feature where you can chat with a friend or loved one and have the conversation printed as text bubbles to add a more personal touch for those who are in long-distance relationships.

Printing your favorite moments

instax square link

While the new features are a much-welcome addition, I still stick to what Instax is good about. At its core, it’s still printing your favorite moments and of course, sharing them with the people you love.

Back then, I would print my photos and keep them to myself — inside photobooks and boxes that would never see the light of day unless I’m feeling nostalgic.

Being surrounded by new people encouraged me to be more giving, rather than just being selfish with my memories. And instead of constantly seeking validation and sharing my favorite moments with the world, I now love the idea of being intimate and sharing my core memories with only a handful of people.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

instax square link

The Instax Square Link is still an instant printer like its siblings. If square formats are your thing, this is easily your GadgetMatch. For wide, rectangular prints, there’s the instax Link WIDE.

And if the original, mini-sized film prints are what you’re after, you can never go wrong with the instax mini Link 2. Whatever formats you want, there’s an instax for you.

The instax Square Link comes in Ash White and Midnight Green. It’s available in all authorized Fujifilm instax dealers nationwide and Fujifilm’s online flagship stores.

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Hands-On

90 days with the Galaxy Z Fold4

A three-month affair with Samsung’s high-end foldable

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Galaxy Z Fold4

The first time I laid eyes on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4, it felt like seeing a friend whom you know has gone through several character developments.

It’s not a love-at-first-sight scenario unlike what struck me when I saw the Galaxy Z Flip3. Despite having a marvelous time using the Fold’s predecessor, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of having a long-time affair with this foldable smartphone.

So I gave it another try — 90 days, that is. Just like that hilarious reality series brimming with loathsome personalities.

30 days

On the first month of having the Galaxy Z Fold4, I treated it like a partner that I’m becoming acquainted with. I thought of it as an ex-lover who got better, trying to win my heart again.

The first thing I did was personalize it to my liking. I ordered a case from China that would make me happy while using the device while keeping it protected from scratches and dents — if it accidentally slips.

Using it bare, you can feel that the device is lighter than its predecessors. True to the company’s claim. It’s like a classic tale of shedding a few pounds and increasing your worth. The Fold is more attractive when it’s lightweight.

Yet somehow, it didn’t feel safe and secure in my grip. It’s slippery, too massive in my tiny hands, and still felt fragile despite proving its immense durability over the years.

A smartphone with an almost US$ 2000 price tag is certainly delicate, no matter how you look at it.

With the phone case I bought, the Fold felt heavier but it gave me assurance that it was protected from anything that might break it.

Arm and eye candy

I’ve brought the Galaxy Z Fold4 to meetings, events, and conferences. Every time I whip it out of my bag, I pique the crowd’s curiosity.

The Fold4 isn’t a shiny new toy anymore. But it bedazzles anyone who sees it for a multitude of reasons. Expensive, a unique form factor, and surely, an innovation to most eyes.

It’s like having a partner that’s both an arm and eye candy. I enjoy the attention I get from the crowd, mesmerizing them as I showcase the Fold’s camera features.

I can take a group selfie like a regular smartphone, or prop it open and use its under-display camera. Furthermore, I used the rear camera to take a selfie, by exhibiting how the secondary screen can act as a mirror when taking photos.

The same trick can be used when taking portraits of friends and acquaintances, so they can strike a pose while giving them a glimpse of how they’d look.

Here are some photos I took using the Galaxy Z Fold4 in different modes:

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

The Galaxy Z Fold4 has a versatile arsenal of cameras at its disposal, breaking the notion that all features of a flagship smartphone should be used to maximize its worth.

After all, people have different preferences and usage regarding the devices they own. With a unique form factor, the Fold sets itself as an everyday device that can adapt to different situations. At least, that’s what I thought of after having the device for a month.

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

Galaxy Z Fold4

60 days

Days with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 got a little bit stale after the first month, seeing how I got swamped with various projects at work.

The honeymoon phase fizzled already, getting used to having the Fold with me at all times.

I’ve recognized its ability to help me catch up with work while on the go. It lets me check designs, communicate through emails and chats while power walking through fifth and ninth avenue in Bonifacio Global City. With it, I can also monitor my platforms through its big screen.

Galaxy Z Fold4

Occasionally, I use it to play SimCity — a game I play to train my decision-making skills by becoming a mayor of a made-up town. The device offered plenty of screen real estate to give me an overview of the game. However, I couldn’t say the same for other titles.

Some would enjoy having the bigger screen on a portable, versatile device as they play graphics-intensive and action-packed titles. I saw some tech creators do it. Not me, though.

It allows me to have a tighter and firmer grip on my device as I smash my thumbs against the display. The Fold4 required me to spread my fingers apart to support the device when playing games.

Entertainment on the go

While I have qualms regarding playing games on the Fold4, the same cannot be said when watching films and TV shows. With its lightweight form factor, it’s easier to hold with one hand when watching videos on the go.

Galaxy Z Fold4

But if I get exhausted, I can prop it up and fold it halfway so it stands on its own. It’s a much smaller screen real estate, but it’s manageable to watch on, especially when you don’t have any phone stand that can support the Fold4’s size.

Lasts for quite a while

For what it’s worth, I’m elated with how the Fold lasted me throughout the day. It didn’t give up on me on days when I’m stuck running around the Fort, traveling between cities, and being out and about.

Galaxy Z Fold4

Most reviewers picked on the device’s battery and “slow” fast-charging, but seeing how I’m the peak, multi-tasking average user — it’s still enough. It could’ve been better, that’s for sure. Especially for days when I leave in the morning and back home at almost midnight. Halfway, I would need to recharge my device.

But truth be told, nowadays, people bring power banks and carry their cables and adapters in case they find sockets to charge their devices on. Besides, the Fold is barely a device you bring along for long days of work outside — it really just isn’t it.

Galaxy Z Fold4

90 days

After spending two months with the Fold4, I found it difficult to keep using the foldable smartphone as my lifestyle changed.

I can only keep up with using it when I’m handling commitments to my work and my sports team. I’ve been using the device as a work notebook in most cases. From tracking down my meetings, hopping on zoom calls at the nearest Starbucks cafe, and catching up with important messages.

Galaxy Z Fold4

As I put more focus on being an athlete, it was challenging to bring the Fold to my training. It doesn’t fit my armband, and it’s heavy for my belt bag and hydration vest. I felt it will impede me from reaching new personal records.

My last race, which was held in Timberland Heights, didn’t give me the opportunity to use the Fold4’s impressive set of cameras.

I had wished it was there with me. To capture my favorite moments of triumph and victory over a grueling race course. But I didn’t since the device wasn’t meant for rugged activities.

As I ended my 90-day stint with the Galaxy Z Fold4, I’ve had epiphanies regarding the device and of course, myself.

It wasn’t meant to be

The Galaxy Z Fold4 wasn’t meant for me and the person I’m becoming, no matter how much I enjoy its features and unique form factor.

Galaxy Z Fold4

It’s like a lesson of learning how to cherish the people we come across. We might be able to delight in the experience of having them with us for a moment in time, but our paths only cross for a short while.

It wasn’t even a “right device, wrong time” situation. It’s simply a case of not being my GadgetMatch. Think of the relationships you’ve had in the past. The connections you’ve outgrown. The people you left behind because you weren’t aligned anymore.

That is my case for the Galaxy Z Fold4. It’s a fleeting affair. A companionship that harmoniously blended into my life for three months. That is until I decided to leave my comfort zone and pursued what really makes my soul jump.

Galaxy Z Fold4

I don’t intend to bring it into the new chapter of my life. But if my path moved once more and we crossed paths, maybe I can take it for another time. Maybe, third time’s the charm. Or maybe, it’s an experience that I will fondly recall in the months to come.

Who knows? The future is uncertain and that’s what makes life exciting. C’est la vie.

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Gaming

One Piece Odyssey Hands-On: Open world, tactical battles

Designed like a true JRPG, felt like it too

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It dawned upon us that BANDAI NAMCO is known for having a string of One Piece video games out there. Across multiple systems, the franchise mostly hosted a ton of role-playing games and some fighting games here and there. This time around, the company is looking for some way to merge the two themes into the next generation.

One Piece Odyssey is the fruit of their labor, and is initially designed to be a “fully-fleshed out JPRG” by their standards. Their new, next-gen optimized title brings together all the role playing mixed with turn-based combat. All in an ideally open world setting. Of course, the stars of the show include your favorite characters from the popular anime itself!

We got a chance to try this game out for ourselves at the Thailand Game Show 2022. Here’s what we think about this upcoming JRPG:

The Straw Hat Pirates journey into the unknown

In One Piece Odyssey, you join the Straw Hat Pirates in an adventure to a mysterious island called Waford. Legend has it that it’s a place where no journeyman has ever come back, as a wild storm covers the island and all nearby areas. During the Thailand Game Show preview, we even got a preview of one of the areas you can visit, Alabasta.

No One Piece game is complete without the full force of the Straw Hat Pirates as some of your favorite characters are here. From Monkey D. Luffy to Chopper, everyone has a role to play especially in a more open world setting. Of course, it wouldn’t be an adventure without some back and forth banter within the crew, especially with the members you take with you. I only wished that the banter didn’t take up 60% of the time you spend playing the game.

Much like any open world game, you also get your fair share of main and side quests with the rest of the crew. With these, you get to explore some of the areas in a whole new way and even discover some secrets to help clear the storm. Visually, everything looked detailed enough and designed well against the One Piece art style.

Turn-based combat with some rock-paper-scissors

As a Japanese RPG, there’s no better way to express it than through turn-based, command-focused combat. For One Piece Odyssey, this comes in the form of enemy Encounters throughout both main and side quests that are usually done with groups of enemies. Much like all other JRPGs, each character comes with their own set of attacks designed for either combat or support.

In a rather unique twist, Encounters come with enemies in which you are either strong or weak against. Think of it like playing Pokémon but with One Piece characters and enemies, which I honestly found pretty cool. Instead of going into every battle and just keep attacking, there’s an added layer of strategy added to it. At the end of each Encounter, your crew members earn XP and even level up to gain some strength and attribute boosts.

Also, as an additional combat mechanic, you can even initiate attacks that deal damage within an area-of-effect and can heal other members, given the open world setting. This is honestly good when dealing with hordes of enemies during specific Encounters. Although, this is only available for a specific set of characters, so choose wisely.

Need more plot details

The thing though is, well, the short demo we played during the Thailand Game Show 2022 didn’t really provide much details on the full story. Somehow, the gang found themselves already within the island areas, fighting a storm that clouds the whole area. Also, there are a bunch of new characters you will meet along the way.

As revealed during the TGS 2022 festivities, One Piece Odyssey comes with the arrival of Lim and Adeo, two mysterious characters with their own sets of abilities. Although, it’s quite unclear as to what their intentions are for the Straw Hat Crew. Hopefully, more details will be revealed soon.

Overall, One Piece Odyssey serves up a promising title for JRPG fans and even One Piece fans alike. I honestly enjoyed the short time experiencing this game, from the exploration to the combat mechanics. If anything, I can give the amount of dialogue in between loading and cutscenes a pass despite how much of your time is consumed by it.

You might have to wait a while for the full game as One Piece Odyssey will be available January 2023 for both modern and next-gen consoles plus the PC.

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