Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro review: Exorbitant flagship

No longer a value for money phone

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Xiaomi’s new flagship is here. The company has made its name for making smartphones that offer great performance for much less. Is the Mi 10 Pro still a flagship killer?

As the Mi 10 Pro rolls out to more markets in the world, we take a look at what Xiaomi’s best smartphone of 2020 has to offer.

Familiar, forgettable design

If the Mi 10 Pro looks familiar, that’s because its looks resemble that of the Mi Note 10, which we reviewed back in November.

In case you need a refresher, the Mi Note 10 was the very first smartphone to debut with a 108MP camera — months ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. The new Mi 10 Pro also has a 108MP camera, although the similarities with the Mi Note 10 ends there.

The backbone of the Mi 10 Pro is Qualcomm’s new flagship processor the Snapdragon 865 while the Mi Note 10 is powered by the midrange Snapdragon 730G. This is important because this chipset enables some of the Mi 10 Pro’s best features including 5G and WiFi 6 support, as well as 8K video recording.

The Mi 10 Pro comes in two colors, Alpine White and Solstice Grey. They have a matte metallic finish.

It’s a good size although it’s slightly bigger than last year’s Mi 9 or Mi Note 10, as well as the Huawei P40 Pro and Galaxy S20+ which we think have the perfect size. All that said it doesn’t feel too big or hefty.

All the buttons are found on the right side — power and volume buttons. Where you really should look is up top, where you’d find speaker grilles. There’s another set on the bottom where you’d usually find them. We’ve seen stereo speakers on smartphones before but we don’t remember seeing this kind of implementation.

Also on the bottom are another set of microphones, USB-C port, and the nanoSIM card tray. The global version of the Mi 10 Pro only has one slot for a nanoSIM card, while the Chinese version has two.

Superb audio

Xiaomi says the Mi 10 Pro has one of the best speakers on a smartphone today. This is thanks to its dual super-linear speaker and and 7-magnet speaker design. It comes with 15 volume levels that you can crank all the way up without worrying about sound distortion or turn it all the way down and still experience a rich and deep sound.

DxOMark says it’s got the highest score of any smartphone audio they’ve tested. Audio isn’t our specialty but for what we use it for, it does sound loud, full, and clear. It’s perfect for watching Netflix or following recipes on YouTube while in the kitchen.

DxOMark also says that the Mi 10 Pro is the best phone they’ve tested when it comes to audio recording. Watch our review video and skip to 4:42 to listen to a sample recording.

Xiaomi’s best display

The display on the Mi 10 Pro is the best you can find on a Xiaomi phone to date. Like a lot of phones we’ve reviewed lately, it’s got an AMOLED display that curves on both sides.

Palm rejection on the Mi 10 Pro is also pretty good — we haven’t had issues of accidentally triggering anything on the edges while browsing.

The Mi 10 Pro display also has better sensitivity than ever. It sports a 90Hz refresh rate and a 180Hz sampling rate. The screen feels smoother when reading articles, scrolling through Instagram, or playing games.

It’s a great display overall, and definitely the best from Xiaomi, but not the best we’ve seen thus far.

Another gaming beast from Xiaomi

The Mi 10 Pro’s top of the line processor comes with a good helping of RAM and storage that starts at 8GB and 256GB respectively. But with great power comes great responsibility — and great cooling needs.

The Mi 10 Pro’s a large vapor chamber, 6-stack graphite layer, and heat-transmitting gel reduces CPU temperature by up to 10.5 degrees Celsius. So when you’re playing graphics intensive games the phone stays cool to the touch.

Impressive battery life and charging speeds

With a huge 4500 mAh battery, the Mi 10 Pro lasts more than a full day of heavy use. It comes bundled with a 65W charger but the phone itself maxes out at 50W. True to Xiaomi’s claim, it only takes around 45 minutes to fully charge its large battery.

The 65W adapter is power delivery compatible, which means it can be used to charge other devices like the Nintendo Switch, the iPad Pro, and the MacBook Air.

The Mi 10 Pro also supports 30W wireless charging, and 5W reverse wireless charging for when you want to top up another phone, a Qi-compatible smartwatch, or your wireless earbuds.

Cameras that can compete

Now, onto the main event. Gone were the days when Xiaomi flagships offered the best bang for your buck, but not delivering where it matters most — camera performance.

On its 10 year anniversary, the Mi 10 Pro’s quad-camera is here to compete with what other brands have to offer. It’s got a 108MP wide angle lens with OIS , an 8MP 10x hybrid zoom lens with OIS, a 12MP portrait lens, and a 20MP ultra wide angle lens.

“The Mi 10 Pro’s camera is finally able to truly go head to head with the best of the best.”

It topped DxOMark’s charts for a few months with an overall score of 124, and was only recently bumped down by the Huawei P40 Pro at 128.

As you know these are different times and we need to practice self-isolation, so we don’t have the usual travel photos to share as sample photos, but here are some snaps we took at home, on the roof deck, and on a trip to the supermarket.

These photos speak for themselves. The Mi 10 Pro took excellent photos both during the day and at night. But how does it fare vs other top flagships?

 

If you take a look at these side by side photos, you’ll notice the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, and Huawei P40 Pro all took great photos. Which one is better really depends on your personal preference. The photos from the S20 for example tend to be more saturated.

For the sake of comparing here are 108 megapixel photos taken with the S20 Ultra and Mi 10 Pro. When zoomed in, you can see that the latter actually does a better job in capturing details.

In low light, all three phones did equally good as well.

It wasn’t until all the lights were off where the Huawei P40 Pro showed that it’s still the best out there.

When a tiny light source from another phone was added in a completely dark room, both the Mi 10 Pro and P40 Pro produced decent shots. The S20 Ultra, however, struggled to focus.

One of the cameras on the Mi 10 Pro is a 12MP portrait lens, which is also used when you select 2X zoom. It’s supposedly comparable to a 50mm portrait lens — one of our favorites, actually. It’s a great focal length when taking photos from the waist up as it’s very flattering for the face and the results kinda agree. Sans any beauty effect it’s the lens that gives the skin its naturally soft look without going overboard.

What Xiaomi is most proud of with the Mi 10 Pro however, is its video capture capabilities. The Snapdragon 865 chipset found in the phone enables 8K video capture with the new Spectra 480.

Video also now comes with pro mode, so if you’re the type who likes to vlog or experiment with cinematic video on your phone, this phone is perfect for that. It comes with 8 classic movie filters and can shoot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Since we don’t have any travel videos to show this time around, here’s an attempt at a cinematic handwashing video shot with the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro.

Is the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro your GadgetMatch?

Xiaomi used to represent the best value for money phones in the market, at least in countries where it is sold. For many years the company made its name by selling great phones with top of the line specs for several hundred dollars less than its competitors.

That’s just not the case in 2020.

In China, The Mi 10 Pro starts at CNY 4,999 (US$ 715). Last year’s Mi 9 cost nearly half that price at CNY 2,999 (US$445).

When it launches in Europe this month, it’s going to be just as expensive as every other flagship smartphone. In Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium it will retail for EUR 999 (US$ 1,096).

The question is, is it worth it?

By merit alone, the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro has earned its stripes. It’s good enough to be compared to the Huawei P40 Pro and the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

But part of what you pay for is the prestige that’s associated with a particular brand name. That’s where Xiaomi falls short — it just isn’t there yet. It should have undercut its competition and sold it at EUR 849, that way we could wholeheartedly recommend that you buy it.

The Mi 10 Pro’s camera is finally able to truly go head to head with the best of the best. It’s the first time that its impressive resume matches real world experience.

If you’re a die hard Xiaomi fan looking to upgrade from the Mi 8 or Mi 9, this phone is worth it. But considering how much you paid for your old phone, you need to ask yourself — does your brand loyalty mean enough for you to dig deeper into your pockets?

If you were willing to pay $1,000 for a phone would you still get a Xiaomi phone or would you consider a more prestigious brand that might at the very least up your street cred, if not have higher resale value?

For everyone else looking for an alternative to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which by reputation is the world’s best Android phone, this is definitely a contender — an equal maybe, in some respects maybe even better. It’s got top of the line specs, good battery life, super fast charging, great audio and camera performance.

The biggest differentiator is Xiaomi’s feature-rich MIUI 11. You either love it or hate it. If you’re on the side that loves it, then it’s worth it.

Watch our Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro Unboxing and Review video here:

Laptops

Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen review: 4 months after

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Huawei MateBook D 15

The work from home and online class setup had us all adjusting to this new normal. You’ll see a lot of inquiries on Facebook groups about LED ring lights, microphones and midrange laptop recommendations. Huawei’s MateBook D series is among the ones you’ll see that has gotten a lot of popularity for this purpose.

It makes perfect sense, since back when I first reviewed the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen, I had a lot of good things to say about it. After four months under regular use, there are quite a few more that I came to realize about this device that I think you guys might find interesting.

It can get things done

A quick refresher on its specs, the D 15 2021 we have with us has an 11th gen Core i5 with the Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. 

It’s no question, if you’re just going to use this for online classes or regular zoom meetings, the D 15 probably won’t even break a sweat. However, I consider my power requirements to be somewhat on the heavy side for my photo and video editing needs.

What surprised me was I didn’t find myself having to go back to my main editing workstation and have actually done more work on the D 15 than I expected. It may not be as fast, but it also wasn’t drastically slower.

Plus the fact that this has a more accurate display with its 100 percent sRGB color gamut, the 15.6-inch LED display is perfect for my daily Photoshop use.

Portability also applies at home

Huawei MateBook D 15

Working from home for a long time and looking at the same thing over and over, not having to be able to go to places, had many of us bored and unmotivated. I personally always had that urge to look for another spot just for the change of scenery.

Thankfully, weighing only 1.56kg, it gave me the flexibility for me to place it in different places. I didn’t worry that the surface wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Battery life

The capability to place the D 15 on different places wouldn’t really matter if you’re still stuck near an outlet because you’re constantly required to plug it in. Fortunately, the 42Wh battery of the D 15 keeps us away from the charger for around nine to ten hours before needing to plug it back in.

Huawei addresses issues and gives regular updates

Huawei MateBook D 15

During its time with me, the D 15 had quite a few driver and software updates. Along with one of the updates came a fix for an issue I had with its fingerprint scanner where it frequently had trouble recognizing my fingerprint. While it shouldn’t have had that issue to begin with, the regular updates are an indication that users aren’t abandoned and issues are in fact being addressed on Huawei’s end.

I also learned from Huawei’s website that the MateBook series has a Windows 11 upgrade rollout plan. That’s something nice to look forward to.

Undesirable camera angle

Huawei MateBook D 15

Sadly, not everything is praise worthy on the D 15. The hidden web camera, while innovative, came at the cost of an awful camera angle. Since it is placed on the keyboard, it is also pointed upwards.

Using it, you’ll mostly see an unflattering image of yourself often emphasizing the size of your nostrils.But if you decide that you’d want to use a laptop raiser for a more comfortable viewing angle, the camera won’t be pointed downwards. That’d make it barely usable.

A generous availability of ports

Huawei MateBook D 15

Being the boxing fan that I am, the recent Pacquiao fight had me subscribing for a pay-per-view service. The full sized HDMI port on the D 15 was heaven sent. During the fight as I was able to output the fight on our dated TV set. It let us to enjoy the stream on a bigger screen.

The availability of USB ports on both sides also let us to choose where certain devices can be plugged. We didn’t worry about hitting our external drives with our mouse or fitting multiple USB devices side by side.

Multi-Screen Collaboration

I did not find myself using this feature as much. However, having this capability eliminated the need for me to grab a USB cable to transfer files from my phone. A quick tap of my phone and I was ready to transfer photos I recently. It’s great for some quick editing before posting on Instagram. 

Is this still your GadgetMatch?

Huawei MateBook D 15

When I think of the D 15, freedom is the word that comes to mind. It gives so much freedom to work anywhere with its portability and battery life. You get freedom to do what you wish with it with its capable hardware. There’s also freedom from wires with the Multi-Screen Collaboration. And even freedom to plug various devices with its great selection of ports.

It’s a no fuss kind of laptop that just gets things done. Its sheer simplicity is what makes it a great device.

If you’re interested in getting the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, you can now get it for PhP 48,999.00.

 

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Review: Best Android smartwatch yet?

But is it any better than the Apple Watch?

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Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch4 just recently — which is the successor to 2019’s Galaxy Watch Active2.

Now with the power of a BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) via its Bio Active Sensor, the Galaxy Watch4 can simply measure your body composition with just your two fingers and wrist.

But is it any better than the Apple Watch?

Watch our Samsung Galaxy Watch4 review now to know more.

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Accessories

Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1: Intuitive and portable podcasting rig

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AU-AM200-S1

I am a fan of quality and affordable gear. Modern manufacturing techniques and advancements in technology gave us a vast selection of gadgets in all shapes and sizes.

With the gaining popularity of live streaming, the demand for good audio interface and microphones is growing. The brand Maono, relatively speaking, is a newcomer that offers affordable audio products.

What we’ve got here is the Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1, which is a portable podcasting gear. This is the very first product I’ve got the chance to try from this brand and I’m liking it so far. This bundle is ideal for someone who is just getting into podcasting or a musician looking for a cheaper alternative.

What’s in the box?

AM200 Podcast Console

At first glance I actually thought it was a miniatured DJ turntable because of the two mini platters, but those are just volume knobs for the mics and music. It is a 3-channel mixer-type audio interface with five outputs. The two inputs are designated for mics and/or instruments and the other input is for music. Three outputs (3.5mm TRRS) for smartphones are available so you can stream simultaneously on different platforms.

A separate main and monitor output is available so you can listen to what your audience hears. Note that all the inputs and outputs are for 3.5mm jacks so if you are planning to plug in an instrument directly using a PL (1/4 inch) cable, you will need a 3.5mm adapter.

Plug and play

You can connect it to a computer with the USB A to C cable that is included. It doesn’t require any drivers, so, just plug it in and it’s good to go. It should be compatible to most DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) for music recording. There is a 3-band EQ along with a “REC” volume knob which is like a “Send” knob to feed the audio to the devices it’s connected to.

Two crossfaders control the monitor volume and echo level. The “monitor” crossfader controls both the volume level for the (main) output and the monitor (output). I wish they installed separated levers for each one to control them independently.

This is also the case for the mic volume knob, it controls both the levels of mic 1 and mic 2. It would’ve have been handy if there are separate knobs for each but I think they did this design to fit in a compact box.

For outdoor streaming and recording

At the middle portion, you’ll notice along the LED indicator level signal is a battery indicator. Yes, this is also battery powered which makes it suitable for out of home live streaming, if you prefer creating something for your viewers elsewhere. You can easily recharge the batteries with the USB C cable.

There are also audio sample pads, buttons for sound effects and pitch shifters.

AU-PM360TR Microphone

AU-AM200-S1

This condenser microphone does not require phantom power. It runs below 5V, through the XLR to 3.5mm cable, unlike the industry standard condenser microphones. With its cardioid polar pattern, it will be more sensitive to sounds being captured in front of it.

Earphones

It comes with a pair of in-ear earbuds with a very long cable, enough to cover the distance for a typical on-desk live streaming. I think that the sound quality would be more appreciated by most modern pop listeners who like a lot of bass. Because it does deliver that low-mid thump.

Tripod

Out of the box, the microphone comes attached to the mini tabletop tripod. The microphone is detachable to the tripod, but if it is used handheld, it will pick-up a lot of hand noise. So, it is better to leave it on the tripod.

Other accessories included are: XLR to 3.5mm cable, two 3.5mm TRRS cables, USB A to USB C cable, and a windscreen cap.

Performance

For podcasting, it is very easy to use. It’s what the AU-AM200-S1 is made for and they did a good job. The microphone delivers a clearer and louder output compared to built-in mics in smartphones/laptops or headsets. You can control the volume of music accompaniment easily with the wheel knob, whenever you want to highlight the music or the voice.

Plus, the sound samples like the applause, laughter, cheering etc., are nice additions for some impromptu segments in your streams. You can also record your own samples by pressing the “loop back” button and assigning to any of the blank buttons available.

Since the microphone does not require a phantom power, the output is weaker compared to classic condenser microphones. The sound quality is good nevertheless.

AU-AM200-S1

For music recording, you can record your instruments with it on your preferred DAW. I connected my guitar to my digital effects processor with a 3.5mm headphones jack going to the mic input of Maono console. I noticed that the 2 mic inputs have high gain levels because my guitar was already clipping with the volume knob on the AM200 console at around 10 o’clock.

Usually, I set the volume on my guitar effects unit on almost full when I am recording with a different audio interface and mixers. But with the Maono AU-AM200-S1, I only had to set the volume of my guitar effects at 50 percent. This is good because it doesn’t have a designated gain knob. Just watch out for clipping- if it happens, you may want to lower the volume from the source.

I recorded a few short audio samples to demonstrate how the Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 handles recording. Please excuse my singing voice.

Mic only without echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only with 50% echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only with 100% echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only without echo – vocal and guitar

Mic only with post-editing – vocal and guitar

Guitar through a digital effects processor

In a full band mix – Recorded vocals and guitars (both acoustic and electric)

Fully recorded demo

 

There are two functions that I have a few comments on:

AU-AM200-S1

Denoise — This is their “smart noise cancelling” feature that reduces background noise. It does its job as a noise gate, but unfortunately, you cannot adjust the settings (threshold, attack, range, etc.). Depending on how loud the ambient noise is, the mic sometimes gets a stuttering sound when this feature is engaged. If the room is quiet enough, there shouldn’t be any problem.

Music Only — This feature attempts to minimize the vocals in the music that you are playing, but similarly to the denoise, it sometimes affects the mic audio quality. I suggest looking for backing tracks of the songs you want to sing during your live stream beforehand.

Is the AU-AM200-S1 your GadgetMatch?

AU-AM200-S1

The Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 bundle is a usable and functional piece of gear. I see it as a bring-it-anywhere, all-in-one podcasting kit. It would have been more convenient (for me) if they included ¼ inch inputs for mics and instruments. Although, I guess it would kind of defeat its portable nature because most PL cables are thicker and heavier compared to the 3.5mm cables included in this bundle.

Pricing and Availability

The Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 retails for $109.00 and is available for purchase in Amazon, Shopee, and Lazada. You can check out their other products at the official Maono website.

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