Vivo Y53 review: Too simple or simply good?



We love our high-end premium smartphones, but we also have a soft spot for handsets that offer lots of value for a lower price. The Vivo Y53 — a smaller follow-up to last year’s Y55 — is one such gadget, and it’s priced just right.

Here’s how the front looks

Bezels are quite thick, but navigation buttons make use of the lower chin

This is the back

It’s made of solid plastic that isn’t slippery or bendable

And here are the micro-USB port and speaker underneath

Not the newer and increasingly popular USB Type-C, though

The 5-inch body with its smooth edges fits well in our hands

A nice change from all the oversized phones coming out

We just wish the screen were sharper and brighter

A 960 x 540-pixel resolution doesn’t cut it anymore

But what it has is a triple-card slot

You can fit two 4G LTE nano-SIMs and a microSD card simultaneously — good luck finding that in pricier phones!

Does it actually perform well?

This being an entry-level device, we weren’t blown away by the performance. Still, its Snapdragon 425 processor handles web browsing and light gaming well enough. You just have to lower graphics settings to their minimum to make games like NBA 2K17 and Asphalt 8 playable.

Our only gripes are the measly 2GB of memory and 16GB of built-in storage. The former limits the number of active apps you can have at once, making you restart previously used ones even after just a few minutes; the latter greatly hinders how many apps you can install. In our case, just installing NBA 2K17 and retaining all the preinstalled apps left us with only 6GB of space to spare.

Can it take great pictures?

Vivo takes phone photography seriously, even when it comes to its lower-end phones. Here a few samples we took to challenge the Y53:

As you can tell, low-light situations aren’t a strong suit, but that’s to be expected of an 8-megapixel camera with no assistance other than a simple LED flash. Daylight photos are far more pleasant, and don’t require steady hands to prevent blur. Selfies are hit or miss with the 5-megapixel front camera; we noticed lots of oversharpening on our faces whenever lighting became an issue.

Does it last longer than a day?

The great thing about having a low-powered processor and low-resolution display resolution is improved battery life. With the 2500mAh battery, we were generally happy with the Y53’s endurance, although it was barely enough to get past more than a day of typical usage, consisting of light gaming, a decent amount of messaging, and lots of web browsing.

If Vivo somehow manages to bring Android 7.0 Nougat to this phone (it’s currently stuck with 6.0 Marshmallow), we can expect greater battery life. Chances are slim, however, since even the newer, pricier Vivo models are launching with Marshmallow baked in.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Y53 is designed for the truly budget-conscious in mind. It basically gives you the essentials, such as dual-SIM LTE connectivity and a decent pair of cameras, in a price that should satisfy most consumers. Techies like us also appreciate the use of a Snapdragon processor instead of a chipset from less reliable manufacturers.

But while the Y53 may be one of the most affordable choices in Vivo’s catalog at PhP 6,990 ($140), it’s not necessarily the best bang for your buck. Spending a little more can net you the much more capable V5 Lite (PhP 9,990), which has a larger and sharper display, bigger battery, more integrated memory and storage, plus higher-quality cameras on both ends.

ASUS also recently launched the ZenFone Live with a similar price of PhP 6,995. Compared to the Y53, this phone has a more pixel-packed screen and more megapixels in its main camera, at the expense of a slightly slower processor and no triple-card slot.

If you’re willing to look into the gray market, the Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime is another excellent choice at PhP 8,700. It comes with a fast fingerprint scanner, generous battery capacity, and Full HD resolution for its front panel.

SEE ALSO: Vivo V5 Plus camera hands-on: Another perfect selfie?


OPPO A71 (2018) Hands-on: Same design, faster processor

Sacrifices were made to put in a Snapdragon processor



You might ask why are we writing about the same phone we already wrote about six months ago. I assure you, this is not the same device. There are more similarities than differences though, so that’s what we’ll talk about in this hands-on review of the new OPPO A71 (2018).

First impression: It’s practically the same phone

If you have the old A71 and you place it beside the new A71 (2018), there’s virtually no physical differences. The position of the ports are the same, the placement of buttons are the same, the dimensions are the same — everything is the same. Is that a good or a bad thing? For me, it’s good because there are benefits to having the same body of an older phone. Besides, last year’s A71 is just a few months old.

One of the advantages of the A71 (2018) having the same body is the chance of having more cases available for it. You can just buy or use a case for the old A71 and it’ll fit the new one perfectly. (Just like how the iPhone 6 accessories work for iPhone 6S and the iPhone 7 with the iPhone 8.) Also, there’s no reason for OPPO to add a little premium for a new design, making the phone cheaper than it could be.

Being labeled as a 2018 phone might disappoint some since the phone doesn’t sport an 18:9 aspect ratio; it still has a 5.2-inch HD display with a 16:9 ratio. It’s a budget phone, so I won’t take this against OPPO. Good news is, the display is pretty sharp and can get really bright. This makes it usable even when under direct sunlight.

One of the advantages of getting an OPPO phone is the triple-card slot which is ideal for users who have two SIM cards and their very own microSD card. You can put all three at the same time, unlike with hybrid solutions of other manufacturers. The Android version on board is still Nougat but it’s now topped with ColorOS 3.2 versus 3.1 from the older model.

What are the differences between the 2017 vs 2018 variant?

Both A71s look the same on the outside, but the specifications are quite different from each other. The main difference between the two is their processors. The older model has a MediaTek MT6750 which is the go-to processor of OPPO last year before they shifted to Helio P23, the latest from MediaTek that’s found on the F5 series. As an upgrade, the 2018 variant gets a Snapdragon 425 processor which is really efficient and practically replaces the popular Snapdragon 625 on more expensive phones.

The 2018 model has a better processor but, unfortunately, has lower memory — 2GB versus 3GB. The storage remains the same at 16GB and the dedicated microSD card slot, again, is available when the user needs additional space.

Does the lower memory affect the overall performance of the phone? Not really. I used the old A71 last year and using the new A71 doesn’t feel significantly better. In terms of speed, the A71 (2018) loads apps faster and doesn’t lag at all. When multiple apps are open though, switching between them takes a couple of seconds. That’s probably where the bottleneck is due to lower memory, but it’s nothing to worry about unless you’re a power user who has a lot of apps running at the same time.

Does it take better photos?

Not much has changed in the camera department. A 13-megapixel sensor still acts as the primary shooter at the back along with an LED flash, while a 5-megapixel front-facing camera takes care of selfies. What’s new is the AI selfie feature which we first saw on the F5. According to OPPO, their AI for selfies takes the most suitable beautify effect for the subject.

Here are some samples using the rear and front cameras:

Both the rear and front cameras take decent pictures. They’re not bad, but also not too great. At least I can say that for its price range, it’s one of those with better cameras. I’m just still not convinced with the AI selfie, but they work well with women more often.

Is it worth the upgrade?

If you have the old OPPO A71, there’s no need to get the new version since it’s just an incremental update. I see the OPPO A71 (2018) to be more suited for those looking to have a new phone that takes good selfies and just works well for everyday use.

It even has a more affordable price of just PhP 7,990 (US$ 155) at launch in the Philippines.

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MWC 2018

Samsung Galaxy S9 Review

Are these new features worth the price increase?



In our Samsung Galaxy S9 Review video, we hope to answer questions you may have to help you make an informed decision before buying the phone.

Is Dual Aperture a gimmick? How good is the S9’s camera? S9 or S9+? Is it even worth it?

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S9 Hands-On: AR Emoji and super slow-mo

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Her GadgetMatch

Samsung Galaxy S9: An honest review of AR Emoji and more

Find a phone that gives you both



The Galaxy S9 is here and as the excitement over AR Emoji settles, I ask the questions: Is Samsung’s latest flagship worth it? What can AR Emoji do? Does camera performance justify this new release?

If you’re not so techie, like me, and you’re thinking of getting this new phone, read on. I try out all the key features and answer all those questions (and play with more emoji!) in this article.

Look and feel

The Samsung Galaxy S9 looks almost exactly like the S8 — from the curved Infinity Display to the sleek smooth body, this handset is a Samsung déjà vu.

This is, perhaps, the biggest criticism that the S9 has gotten. But I say: It’s what’s on the inside that counts (more on this later) — and if anything, new colors make up for it looking like its predecessor.

Yes, there’s a purple S9 that matches my hair and it’s looking gorgeous. I mean, we hold phones more than we hold hands — these things might as well be your best accessory.

Having the same look as the S8, it follows; I still love the feel of this phone, it fits my teeny hands well, and its curved display is still an enjoyable experience. It’s all glass, though, so it can be a little slippery.

There’s one noticeable change on the S9. Samsung moved the fingerprint reader below the camera. This should mean less accidental smudges on the shooter.

It must also be pointed out: At a time when most brands are shamelessly copying the notch (which isn’t really a look that’s all that, TBH), Samsung stands firmly behind their design. I believe that’s something they should be applauded for.

AR Emoji

Let’s get this out of the way first: My emoji looks nothing like me, even my mother won’t recognize that pink-haired emoji. It’s an absolute shame.

And although there are some emoji that look like the people they’re supposed to be, I’m not lucky enough to be one of them. Again, see:

The idea of having this tiny avatar on my phone excited me so much but trying it out was a different experience. For all its cuteness, tracking wasn’t really very good. A lot of times, the AR Emoji couldn’t even catch up with what I was doing. It doesn’t even track my tongue when I stick it out like this 😛 — the emoji just gives me a weird face.

What I did enjoy playing with were the preset AR Emoji GIFs. Creating your emoji produces a whole line of GIFs from that likeness — ones you can send out via different platforms! To make it easier, Samsung has also integrated the GIF sending on the Samsung keyboard. Oh, what fun! Above photo is an account of an actual conversation between me and Chay soon after we discovered this feature.

Selfie shooter

The S9’s front-facing shooter has a Selfie Focus mode which allows for the bokeh effect. It also has an adjustable beauty mode, which should really be on every phone, if you ask me. Airbrushing doesn’t look too overwhelming but I did wish they didn’t whiten my face as much.

From my tests (that means a lot of selfies), the bokeh cutout is more or less accurate, but it still isn’t perfect. Selfie shots also seem like they’re automatically brightened overall which is good because it makes you fresh; however, this sometimes makes for overexposed backgrounds.

But, what I totally love about the S9’s built-in camera app is a feature you can find on the separate Selfie mode: makeup filters. To test it out, I shot with literally no makeup and this was the effect. I look ready for a night out!

I didn’t even have powder on when I shot this

There are a number of preset looks, plus the option to toggle the intensity of each filter. You can even isolate each part of your face — eyebrows, eyelashes, lips, cheeks, contouring, blush, and more — then adjust accordingly.

This photo below, which showcases a more subtle makeup look, was taken five seconds after the photo above. Listen, boys, this is what #nomakeup is, but not what it looks like. 😂

Those virtual eyelashes, though!

The filters work well even with glasses, on boys, and in groups. Proof:

Joshua would make a cute girl

What’s sorely missing, however, is the bokeh effect on the Selfie mode. If you choose to virtually paint your face, this means no more blurred background as this is only doable through the Selfie Focus mode where makeup isn’t available.

And sure, you can download any beauty app and get similar results with filters or editing, but that’s not the point. Aside from the possibility of great, on fleek looks 24/7 without moving an actual makeup brush, I just honestly love that this feature was built into a flagship phone. Push comes to shove, premium devices will usually have the same level of phone specs. It’s the little features like this that become the tie-breaker for me.

Rear cameras

The Galaxy S9 (and S9+) rear cameras are said to be groundbreaking as they house the world’s first dual aperture smartphone cameras. But, I won’t deal with that because of too many technicalities. What you need to know is that this feature, which allows the tiny camera to adjust to allow more or less light come in, is automatically activated when you shoot on Auto.

That being said; on Auto, the camera performs well.

It was already evening when this photo was taken!

Here are more low-light photo samples taken by Michael Josh (most of my low-light photo samples were taken in Amsterdam; my apologies for not being able to show them as they’re x-rated 😅).

The S9 only has one camera on the back, unlike the S9+. This means there is no Live Focus function on this thing. There is, however, a Selective Focus function which allows you to blur our either the background or the foreground of the photo which results in pictures like this.

Look at that creamy background blur!

There is also a Food Mode built-into the camera app, for all your food flat lay needs.

Chay’s homemade one pot pasta

Samsung shooters are already known to saturate photos. As you can see, this mode does that even more to make yummy food look even more enticing. There’s also a radial blur effect happening, reminiscent of Instagram’s blur option where you pick a certain point to focus on, and the rest of the photo is just blurred out.

As pretty as this mode can make the food look, it still doesn’t change the fact that it will all end up in my tummy.

Word of caution though; the saturation can sometimes be too much and there’s no intensity toggle for this mode. On the off chance that it is too much, I just switch to Auto which brings me back to normal shooting.


This phone can shoot in slow-mo at 960 frames per second — which is all a bunch of numbers to me until I see what that means:

I have to be honest: Everything looks better in slow-mo. Even crappy birds look pretty cool.

Me making a mess look almost artsy:

And did you notice the background music? These samples were fresh off the S9, no need for editing as the device allows you to cut up video, and even edit music in.

Shooting slow-mo can be tricky, however — I had one too many failed attempts because I kept pressing the slow-mo button too early, or too late. But, once you get used to it and the proper timing, it gets waaaay more fun. Just make sure to do it in a well-lit area, and I mean full on studio lights well-lit or a bright, sunny day well-lit. Otherwise, video comes out grainy.

READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy S9 Review: Brilliant but underwhelming


Considering that this is a flagship, I expected top-of-the-line specs on this device and the S9 delivered in that aspect. Just know that the technology on this handset is on par with most flagships out now and this phone will be able to handle your everyday smartphone needs — from social media, to AR Bitmoji Snaps, to everyday work productivity. But, that was to be expected from any Samsung headliner.

As for the camera, it’s definitely capable, with low-light photography as a big strength. If you’re looking for a phone with a great camera, this should be on your list of choices. But that’s the thing: There are still a number of other great camera phones out there and though the S9 performed, I can’t for sure say it’s the absolute best. At the end of the day, it all boils down to aesthetics and preference.

That being said, what I love about this device are the add-on features which gave this handset enough points for me to consider getting it. 

Although I was a little disappointed with AR Emoji, I find that the makeup beauty mode isn’t getting old — in fact, I’ve gone three days without real makeup but my online persona has managed to look on fleek. The slow-mo capabilities are impressive and the fact that it comes in stunning purple just makes me want to rock this phone daily.

With this device, Samsung seems to consider a demographic (*ehem ehem*) that most tech companies ignore when releasing flagships. On top of quality performance, these add-ons are a definite delight for users like me.

Find a phone that gives you both: Fun and functionality are two things that I look for in phones, and more often than not, I’ve had to compromise. If the release of the S9 is any indication, it seems that’s all about to change.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S9: Four fun new features

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ vs Google Pixel 2: Camera Shootout

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