Reviews

vivo X70 review: Sexy, camera beast

It has the makings of a high-end smartphone!

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Over the years, vivo set out to take its brand to greater heights. Like OPPO, the Chinese company aims to be in the same league as Huawei — rivaling Samsung and worthy enough to take on Apple.

We thought it would be the NEX series that will elevate vivo’s standing, but the line didn’t fly. Instead, we get the X series which seems to refresh every six months or so.

Early this year, we got a hold on the vivo X60 series, which we’ve praised tremendously as the camera smartphone to beat. With the X70 series, vivo really took it up a notch.

In our vivo X70 Pro+ review, the Android flagship rivals Samsung’s best. So, can the base vivo X70 deliver on what its series promises — a premium flagship with cameras to beat?

Unboxing

The vivo X70 comes in a sleek, black box with its letters carved in a shiny silver colorway.

Details are on point with the way the box is crafted. It really excites you to see what’s in store for you.

Of course, the phone is wrapped in plastic — which will be the main point later.

Underneath is a set of accessories essential for your smartphone experience: warranty card, SIM ejector tool, USB-C cable, a 44W FlashCharge power brick, a clear case, a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle, and wired earphones.

Bringing sexy black

Seeing the vivo X70 for the first time charmed me. The Cosmic Black variant gave a sexy appeal, dressed in a black finish that’s soft but not slippery.

When hit by the sun, or any light, it explodes with shimmery glitter. I like how Vivo has taken what could otherwise be a black phone and not make it boring.

It has fine details, too. On its top, you can find a text written as “professional photography” that shines depending on the light.

Found on its right side are the power button and volume rockers.

The bottom side houses the sim tray, a USB-C port, and speaker grilles. There’s no headphone jack, which is why vivo included a dongle in the box.

It’s a bit sad, but you can only use two NanoSIM cards on its SIM card tray.

A sexier camera module

The vivo X70 series deviates from the familiar form of its predecessor, both for the X70 and X70 Pro. The X70 Pro+ has a larger camera bump added with curves around the module to soften the offensiveness of the large bump.

And it has a mirror-like piece called Ceramic Window, which doesn’t serve any practical purpose but it’s a nice design touch that helps balance the big bump.

Meanwhile, the X70 and X70 Pro doesn’t have the Ceramic Window. Instead, both phones have a slimmer, rectangular camera module that blends more with the design. Camera lenses are arranged vertically, and the LED flash is situated in the middle part.

Story-ready cameras

Onto most people’s favorite part: camera performance!

The vivo X70 has a triple rear camera setup: a 40-megapixel main sensor, a 12-megapixel telephoto, and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens. It doesn’t have the beastly lenses its siblings sport, but it doesn’t mean the vivo X70 can’t pack a punch in the camera department.

Regular, wide-angle, and 2x zoom

On a cloudy day, the power of Zeiss T* coating began to shine through. There were no exploding highlights whether you take a regular snap, a zoomed-in shot, or even if you use its wide-angle lens.

What I like about the vivo X70 is that the Zeiss T* coating isn’t its only strong suit. In whatever mode and lighting conditions, the vivo X70 showed its prowess.

Here’s a regular photo of a Salted Caramel Latte from Elephant Grounds Manila. Notice how the background took on a creamy blur, or bokeh since that’s a term most people are familiar with. I didn’t even use Portrait Mode to create the background blur.

The output reminded me of high-end phones that I’ve played around with over the past two years. This is some next-level sh*t from vivo!

Indoors, the X70 captures enough details and depicts an incandescent tone due to the lighting condition. However, the camera struggles in balancing the temperature as seen on the cool-hued highlights and warm shadows.

It’s definitely a rocker when it comes to photos taken with a lot of natural light. Some shots I’ve taken with the vivo X70 had a moment in my Instagram Stories.

With balanced colors and vibrant processing, I didn’t think of editing and plastering some filters like I would with my usual content.

The power of Zeiss T* coating can also be seen during dusk and lowlight. The neon and night lights looked crisper and sharper, removing unnecessary flares from blown highlights.

Great companion for food trips

In case you didn’t know the trick, I use 2x zoom to capture my food shots — be it a flat lay or a zoomed-in crop of the food I’m delighting on.

The X70 comes with AI processing that identifies food easily, resulting in a shot with popping colors. Although, even without the AI processing, the X70 captures vibrant photos of food whatever the lighting condition is.

See those strawberry doughnuts that were taken inside my bedroom in the middle of the night. The photo is kinda noisy, but they’re still vibrant and crispy.

Stronger, cleaner bokeh

Time and time again, we’ve preached on shying away from Portrait Mode since smartphone makers haven’t perfected the feature. And we looked like cutouts from a magazine whenever we use Portrait Mode.

But vivo has made significant progress in that area. Look at my dog’s photo and notice how it created that soft blur on its edges as if it was taken by a mirrorless camera.

Left: Selfie taken using default mode | Right: Selfie using Portrait Mode f/1.0

I’ve tried the Portrait Mode while taking a selfie and set the aperture to f/1.0 to create that strong background blur. And hopefully, add depth to an otherwise flat photo. If you’re unfamiliar with photography terminologies, the aperture is listed as bokeh on the camera interface.

The cutout looks awesome for the upper half, especially in my hair. It’s clean and precise — vivo certainly has come so far. However, it didn’t blur the railings of my chair and everything else on the bottom half.

This is precisely why I personally don’t like Portrait Mode. It looks unrealistic from a photographer’s perspective. And it still needs to be perfected. Moreover, strong blurs are often used on product shots and zoomed-in crops, not when you’re a little bit far from the camera.

Beautified, anytime of the day

Regardless of the lighting condition, the vivo X70 takes selfies that make you feel good about yourself. I have complained about unnecessary beautification even in regular shots taken using the vivo X50, but the selfie I took for the X70 is surprisingly better.

It retained the details — scars, pimple marks, wrinkles, and the texture of my face — but still made it soft and appealing. There’s still a pad of beautification, but it’s barely noticeable. The selfies are reminiscent of photos I took using Xiaomi’s high-end smartphones. Which, for me, is still the selfie king of smartphone brands.

The beauty mode, on the other hand, still gives an unreal output. But the effect gives you more flexibility and freedom to alter what’s only necessary, and hopefully tone it down. Do note that beauty mode is only accessible when you use Portrait Mode.

In my case, I put the aperture back to f/16 to remove the unnecessary background blur. And so we can focus on how the beauty mode lit my face as if it was glowing. Eyes are also sparkly, and my skin looked more alive. Except, it’s still far from reality.

I got good use of the beauty mode when I worked out at night. I wanted to take a selfie but I look so worn out. Using the beauty mode and a bit of background blur put more attention to my face — which has been looking lively and fresh even with all the sweat.

The only caveat is that I look like a Ken Doll (yes, Barbie Doll’s boyfriend) due to excessive smoothening. Even if I toned down the smoothening, the effect has been more visible due to direct light hitting my skin.

Nonetheless, vivo’s cameras for both front and rear are amazingly good. I actually took some photos that I uploaded to my Instagram feed — and I only upload photos from smartphones that I really like.

This photo is an example of a post-processed photo taken using the vivo X70. And yes, it’s up on my Instagram for anyone to enjoy.

Eye-candy display

Moving to its front, the vivo X70 sports a 6.56-inch AMOLED display. It didn’t have a curved screen like the vivo X70 Pro+ but the vanilla X70 still looked like a beaut.

Colors pop like any other AMOLED display, but are more evident in the wallpaper I illustrated back in 2020. Anyhoo, the vivo X70 offered a multimedia experience that lets you want to skip work. It didn’t have a stereo speaker, but the loudspeaker made up for it especially when you’re watching your favorite shows on Netflix.

It’s also perfect for gaming, allowing you to play titles that you enjoy even when they’re graphics-intensive. But for the record, MOBAs do well when playing on this phone such as Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Pokémon Unite. The X70 is lightweight so you don’t have to worry about straining your fingers from long gameplays.

Moreover, it doesn’t heat up easily nor lags on whatever you’re doing with the phone. Performance is buttery-smooth and seamless, especially when you use its 120Hz refresh rate. Oh, scrolling and multitasking are so good. Thanks to its MediaTek Dimensity 1200 processor, 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 128GB of UFS 3.1 internal storage.

FunTouch is now really fun to use

The vivo X70 runs Android 11 out of the box, with a skin on top called FunTouch. Apart from the Quick Settings Panel which kind of looks clunky, for the most part, it looks just like the Pixel launcher.

Google News Feed when you swipe to the right, and an App Drawer when you swipe up. It comes with a few nifty customizations. Quick Action, for example, lets you assign a shortcut to the volume down button. When you press it for two seconds, you can launch the camera or the flashlight.

Further, I think they have the best implementation of split-screen on Android. With one app open, you just need to swipe up with three fingers. The other half shows you the app drawer from which you can launch a second app.

Lovin’ that fast charge

The vivo X70 has a 4400mAh battery capacity, capable of 44W fast charging. The phone lasted me a day of social media use, horoscope browsing, and taking photos and videos for my Instagram. When my phone’s battery dropped to 14 percent, I charged it using its cable and 44W FlashCharge power brick.

Starting at 14 percent, the battery juiced up to 51 percent in just 20 minutes. Then, it filled up to 70 percent after 21 minutes. It moved to 86 percent after nine minutes, and after seven minutes, the phone’s battery level is now at 94 percent. After six more minutes, the phone successfully reached 100 percent.

Surprisingly, the vivo X70 filled its tank for nearly an hour.

Built-in apps are holding it back from being premium

With everything that we’ve tackled, the vivo X70 seems like a premium phone already. In some way, it already is. But I still don’t feel it. The problem here lies in the bloatware, especially with the unit I had here in the Philippines.

Notifications from multiple pre-installed apps pop up even during the first time I booted the phone. Most of it comes from its pre-installed Browser and the V-Appstore that comes with silent notifications. This can be really annoying if you’re the finicky type and wants your notifications cleared as much as possible.

I don’t really have a problem with notifications. Even high-end smartphones from Samsung and Huawei have those annoying ones. And you can even turn it off accordingly on the settings.

The problem is the content — a lot of which isn’t something that interests me. Most updates sliding in my notification bar are news picked up by the pre-installed Browser.

For example, stories about the break-up of local celebrities Aljur Abrenica and Kylie Padilla, as well as the new affair of Abrenica with AJ Raval. There are also stories about the dramas of Julia Barretto — none of which are stories that entice the market that vivo is trying to appeal to.

I understand that these are from partnerships that vivo has. Infinix, Tecno, and other budget smartphones have this. My business degree understands that these are revenue-driving initiatives. But it doesn’t really help with vivo’s goals to be in the same league as Samsung and Huawei.

OPPO doesn’t even have annoying content in its pricier smartphones, which is why I fell in love quickly with the Find X3 Pro. That’s one reason why OPPO was able to step into the premium category, and here’s to hoping vivo can follow its footsteps.

In the end, holding the vivo X70 with those notifications on felt like I was holding and looking at a budget smartphone like the Infinix Note 10 Pro. I’m certain that’s not what vivo is going for.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The vivo X70 is surely an excellent phone. If you want to soak up the goodness of the Zeiss partnership and the pride brought by the X70 Pro+ as a competitive Android flagship that can rival even Samsung’s best, then by all means go ahead.

Consider the vivo X70 your GadgetMatch. It’s basically a stripped-down X70 Pro+ without all the bells and whistles. A vanilla variant that you can still call a sexy beast.

Its got killer cameras, buttery-smooth performance, and a convenient user experience that lets you live the most out of a tech-oriented lifestyle. It may have its shortcomings, particularly in stuff that holds its back from being a premium phone, but there’s always a workaround.

As an Android fan, I’m certain you can tinker around with the settings on the vivo X70 — and you can customize it the way you want it to look and feel.

The vivo X70 retails for PhP 34,999. It’s available in all vivo concept stores or kiosks nationwide.

SEE ALSO: Galaxy S21 Ultra vs vivo X70 Pro+: Camera shootout | vivo X70 Pro review: Galaxy S21 Ultra Slayer?

Lifestyle

Amazon Kindle PaperWhite Signature Edition Review

The best Kindle for every bookworm?

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It’s been a while ever since the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite had a refresh. To be particular about it, its 10th-Generation model was released last 2018 — merely three years ago!

This 2021, the new 11th-Gen Kindle PaperWhite offers better upgrades including a larger and brighter display, as well as USB-C and wireless charging support.

But are those enough to make you upgrade? Or should you wait for the next version of Kindle Oasis instead?

Head over to our unboxing and in-depth review of the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite and watch it in 4K too.

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Accessories

AirPods 3 Unboxing and Review

Watch before you buy!

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If you’ve been holding your money for so long just to buy the new AirPods 3 (also called the AirPods 3rd Generation), this is your chance to finally get one.

But with the absence of removable ear tips and Active Noise Cancellation from the AirPods Pro, would you still consider buying the pair?

Head over to our AirPods 3 Unboxing and Review to help your impulsive self.

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Gaming

Hot Wheels Unleashed review: A childhood dream realized

It’s action-packed and rather nostalgic

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Hot Wheels Unleashed

As a kid, I wanted all kinds of toys whenever we went to toy stores in the city. One of the very first toys I had an obsession over was Hot Wheels. From collecting cars to building tracks in the living room, it became the quintessential set of toys that got me into racing games all this time.

When Hot Wheels Unleashed was released, I instantly knew that this was a game I didn’t want to miss. As someone who plays a ton of racing games, this one felt right at home next to Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Unlike CTR:NF, the nostalgia I felt for this game was more on the side of “playing my toys on a virtual screen” type of thing.

However, if you’re looking for another game to help you pass the time, is this a game worth considering?

A racing game at its core

As with most games involving toy cars, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels right at home as a racing game. It even comes with some of the most standard game modes you can think of for any racing game, so you won’t necessarily miss out if you’re a racing game fan. Where this game sets itself apart is in its easy-to-grasp game mechanics.

Usually, all you have to do is drive around the course and win 1st Place by outspeeding and outsmarting (in some situations) your opponents. You still do that but with some key differences, particularly towards boosting. Honestly, I like the fact that boosts are activated by button pushes and accumulated by drifting. To me, it’s friendly even to new players getting into racing games.

Hot Wheels Unleashed

The other thing I like is the fact that each Hot Wheels toy car comes with its own cart stats, and not just a general one all throughout. This also gives you an incentive to try and get every available model in the game and try them out for yourself. Furthermore, you can even upgrade these stats using Gears, and customize their Livery to however you like.

Creativity and originality in track design

Every racing game needs some interesting tracks to race around, especially with something like Hot Wheels. In Hot Wheels Unleashed, you have access to 5 main backdrops, each with about 8-9 different tracks that come with their own surprises. From high-arching loops to acid pits, each track will have you doing things a bit differently each time you race.

In fact, the first thing I noticed was that the elements in the tracks are quite similar to the actual models in those track builder sets. The designers did an incredible job with maximizing the entire backdrop to produce tracks with enough twists and turns along the way. Also, I would even argue that these tracks let you play around with the driving mechanics.

Now, I have some good news and bad news for you on these tracks. The bad news is that when you start the game, most of the tracks are locked as in-game transactions. If you wanted to unlock them the easy way, just pay a few bucks to get in-game currency and buy them.

However, the good news is you can unlock them by completing the Hot Wheels City Rumble mode. Although it will be an immense grind on your part, but I honestly think it’s worth it!

Wait, you can make your own tracks?!

Yes, you read that right: Hot Wheels Unleashed also allows you to create your own tracks to race on with your friends online. See, one unique mode to the game is the Track Builder, and I guess the name is self-explanatory. To be honest, this game mode was the best and it actually brings me back to my childhood.

Once you start the game mode, you basically have a blank canvas to work with, depending on the main backdrop you choose. After choosing your desired backdrop, you have a variety of track builder pieces to choose from and customize. Also, it even comes with your set of obstacles and boost pads to add some flavor to your tracks.

I absolutely enjoyed going on Track Builder as someone who collected Hot Wheels track sets before. Basically, you can create some of the most death-defying tracks that your younger self could not afford to before. Seriously, Hot Wheels track builder sets are expensive, and this game basically lets you experience this without spending a hefty amount.

Some low points

Much like most racing games, this one doesn’t come with its own set of shortcomings. To no one’s surprise, this game comes with a Hot Pass that allows you to earn more cars, tracks, and track builder sets. The good thing about it is, well, it’s more content at your disposal. At the time of writing, they’re currently running one with Batman vehicles as the main rewards,

The thing I don’t like about it is that you have to pay for it. I genuinely feel that this is something that would have been better off as a Battle Pass-type of package instead of paid DLC. I mean, it’s additional content that people also want to try out but with a rather hefty price tag. Maybe if they did it this way, people would continue to grind out the game.

Another thing that felt lacking in my eyes was the Basement, particularly the customization aspect.

I get it, it’s another main backdrop for your tracks and you can work with a ton of elements when creating your own. However, I didn’t like that the customization was limited to just the exterior design. Honestly,  I was looking for more customization options like moving the furniture around.

A roaring good time

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a racing game that feels right at home with the best of them. From a vast selection of carts to creative and unique track design, it feels fresh to anybody trying to get into racing games. Also, if you grew up playing your Hot Wheels car collection, this takes you back to simpler times.

Again, it’s not perfect and hopefully with upcoming patches, the game does get better. However, they missed out on some opportunities to make it a worthwhile game to play for any occasion. Sure, if you had money to burn, this wouldn’t be an issue; for others, however, they want a lot more without spending too much.

Overall, this game will give you a roaring good time, especially when you just need some down time from all the stress. What made it even more special for me was that this game pretty much made one of my childhood dreams a reality!

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