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Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: Vanilla flagship

No weird gimmicks, just the fun necessities

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Xiaomi’s promise of providing a fantastic price-to-feature ratio on their devices seems to have finally extended to their flagship. After dancing around the US$ 1000/ PhP 45,000+ range, they now give us the Mi 11. A smartphone that’s undeniably a flagship at just EUR 749/ PhP 36,990. Now that’s a great deal.

What makes the Mi 11 a flagship? 

There are a lot of indicators, but most people like to look at the specs to determine which category a smartphone should fall under. And on paper, the Mi 11 is no doubt a flagship.

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Display: 6.81” AMOLED with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Cameras: 108MP Wide + 13MP Ultra-wide + 5MP Telemacro
  • Configuration: 8GB RAM + 256GB ROM
  • Battery and charging: 4600mAh with a 55W charger in the box

If you’re solely playing the numbers game specs-wise, this is undoubtedly a flagship. And if you factor in the price, this might just be the best value flagship in the market right now.

Naturally, you’re curious about what it’s like to actually use the phone right? That’s what we’re here for.

Buttons-wise, everything’s on the right side

Mi 11

Being right-handed, this is a design choice I personally really like especially for a smartphone with as big a footprint as this one. Sliding my thumb upwards from the power button to adjust the volume while holding it in a single hand is convenient. Just not sure how lefties feel about this.

At the bottom you’ll find the speaker-grille, USB-C port, and SIM card tray

Mi 11

Not much to write about here. These are all pretty standard stuff. You can say the same about the back of the phone. Nothing too fancy about its backplate so you won’t feel bad covering it with some sort of case.

Holding the phone can be tricky

Something to take note of is how both the display and the back taper to the side of the phone. This makes the sides feel really thin. I imagine this was made with the intent of making it easier to hold the phone with one hand. It achieves that goal. However, for people like myself who have chubby hands, it’s easy for parts of your hand to touch the sides of the screen and trigger gesture navigation or hold the display in place even when you’re trying to scroll.

Jeon Somi is so freakin adorable

It’s a minor inconvenience at most but do expect a bit of annoyance especially when trying to use the phone with just one hand. This issue wasn’t persistent when using the phone with two hands.

Having reviewed several phones, I’ve found that my personal sweet spot in terms of display size is somewhere between 6.2” to 6.4”. Anything beyond that already starts feeling a little too large.

Media consumption

Naturally, one of the benefits of having a larger screen is a better media consumption experience. While this is true for the most part, I still personally would have preferred a slightly smaller screen.

That said, if your hands are big enough, this won’t be an issue. If your hands are small enough, it may also come to a point where you’re treating this almost as if it’s a mini tablet and that sort of works too.

Who’s watching Vincenzo right now?

But yeah, the AMOLED screen is great. The 8192 brightness levels are bright enough even under direct sunlight. There’s going to be some glare but nothing you shouldn’t be able to adjust too.

The issues with media consumption though had more to do with the processor and the software, not the display.

Turning the heat up 

I have developed this unhealthy habit of mindlessly viewing one TikTok video after another at night right before I fall asleep. Normally, I wouldn’t notice the time pass but I did so when I tried the same thing with the Mi 11.

Follow @moneyhealthcheck/Antonette Aquino on TikTok for some quality financial advice 👌🏼

In the first few days that we had the phone, it heats up significantly after just around 12-15 minutes of viewing. I tried having it cool down and watched a few more videos on YouTube and the same thing happened.

It was quite interesting since a 20-minute session of Call of Duty: Mobile didn’t heat up as much as it did when arguably, that was stressing out the processor more.

Mi 11

Final Killcam yo!

Thankfully, this was only during the first few days. There was a software update in the middle of our testing period that mostly resolved the issue. It still gets a little hot, but not to the point where you’d need to put the phone down. Which is perfect for when you’re binge watching on Netflix.

Backtracking a little bit to gaming, we only really played CODM extensively. A first person shooter is fantastic for testing touch input and the Mi 11 was a dream to play on. The display was smooth and the touch input felt snappy. We’re sure it can also handle other popular titles like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Wild Rift, PUBG, Genshin Impact.

Pretty darn good battery

One thing to remember about the Mi 11 is that it supports 5G. And while the chip and perhaps the UI does a lot in managing power consumption, it can still eat into the 4600mAh capacity quickly.

5G speed when you’re a little further away from the source

It’s advisable to manage your 5G usage during the day. If you’re out all day but don’t have to use your phone much, make sure to toggle the mobile data off. We extensively used it on a day that started at around 9AM and we were already juicing up by 2PM.

But that’s really, extensive usage. We’re talking about connecting to a Zoom call, taking plenty of videos, and watching an hour long episode on Netflix all while relying on mobile 5G connection. It’s pretty darn good.

Mi 11

How many apps do you open in a day?

The 55W charger also tops the phone up quickly, so even if you don’t get to a full hundred, you can rest easy that you’ll have plenty of juice even if you were plugged for just a few minutes.

Oh and it also supports wireless charging which further solidifies its flagship pedigree. My personal recommendation is to use it with Xiaomi’s 30W wireless charger.

MiUI needs a little tweak

Let’s start with the good. MiUI is still very much smooth and buttery even if you don’t have the 120Hz screen refresh rate turned on. This was the most pleasant surprise I got since it felt extremely smooth to navigate out of the box. I was surprised to find that 120Hz wasn’t on by the default but it still felt really fast.

The icons are nice, the animations feel fluid, and it doesn’t at all feel bloated. There are pre-installed apps but these ones that you’ll likely use any way like the suite of Google apps, Facebook, and YouTube. I also like that when you swipe left, you’ll get the Google Cards instead of some news feed curated by the manufacturer.

These Google cards are more in line with the news I actually follow

My tiny annoyance came in its system-wide dark mode implementation. The UI felt like it took a few steps back when it forces dark mode on all apps. This results in a less polished dark mode look especially for apps that already have a native dark mode option.

This can easily be remedied by toggling off specific apps by going to Settings >Display > More Dark mode options. It’s a little annoying, but certainly not a deal breaker. I would have loved a smarter Dark Mode implementation but it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.

Either this should be smarter or it should just be turned off by default

Are the images flagship level?

Photos taken by Xiaomi devices have been… a little inconsistent. For instance, we’re huge fans of the Mi 9T Pro, but the Mi 10T Pro felt a bit short for us in certain situations. That said, overall, the cameras are wonderful for some casual point-and-shoot scenarios.

Mi 11

That’s Vincenz holding the Mi 11. He’s 1000x better than me in taking photos

We’ll throw in a few samples below for your appreciation but below them are links to camera shootouts of the Mi 11 vs both the Mi 10T Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for you to get a better picture (pun totally intended) of how the Mi 11’s cameras perform.

Daylight, auto white balance, food, ultra-wide

Night Mode

Selfie and portrait

As mentioned, we dig a little deeper into the photos in the following camera shootouts:

Mi 11 vs Mi 10T Pro

Mi 11 vs Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Mi 11 is also home to plenty of ‘Movie Magic’ features that you can really have fun with. One example is Time Freeze.

We’ll showcase more of those features in a quick video that we’ll embed here once it’s up.

Is the Xiaomi Mi 11 your GadgetMatch? 

Mi 11

The Xiaomi Mi 11 might be the easiest flagship to recommend. The features scream flagship but at a relatively friendly price.

Nearly everything else at its price point is missing one key feature or two. That’s not the case with the Mi 11. It’s not a smartphone that pushes the boundaries in terms of specs or tries something wildly different, but it ticks the right boxes of what a baseline flagship should be. It’s a complete experience with little to no compromise.

Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review

Do Photos Justify the Hump?

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Mi 11 Ultra

While there are many phones called Ultra, when Xiaomi uses the word, they mean it. Last year that meant a transparent see-through body and an insane 120W charging.

This year on the Mi 11 Ultra it means the world’s largest image sensor on a smartphone. But do the photos justify that big camera hump?

Watch our Review

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 review: A daring proposition

Bulky-sleek, with power you’ve relied on for years

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Strix Scar 17

Most gaming laptops these days are going for sleeker design options even with hefty internals inside. At first, you would think that it poses several issues with thermals and heat-filled components you can fry eggs on. Obviously, the benefit for it is a power-hungry machine for great gaming performance.

I’ve seen ASUS ROG’s previous STRIX SCAR laptops that follow a similar trend of producing sleek yet power-hungry devices. Unlike their other gaming laptops, these look and feel easy to bring around while equipped with the latest gaming-ready internal hardware. Again, with sleek form factors comes the thermal issues surrounding it.

So, when the latest version of the ASUS ROG STRIX SCAR 17 (G733) was launched, I wondered “what are these guys going for this time?” It arrived at my doorstep in a rather hefty packaging, with lots of freebies inside. Right out of the box, it doesn’t seem like it’s anything different from the other STRIX SCAR laptops they’ve had.

Wait, why does it look sleek but it feels bulky?

When I first removed the device from the box, it felt a little bulkier physically. Don’t get me wrong, I looked at it from all angles and it’s still quite slim and sleek compared to most gaming laptops. However, I felt that this gaming laptop has some heft to it in its sleek form factor at about 2.7 kg.

While we’re on the form factor, ASUS ROG manages to retain the same design features with one key difference. The review unit I received came in a pristine black finish, with the LED ROG logo on the lid. Of course, you can’t really take any of the RGB LED strips away from the bottom of the laptop. For ergonomic reasons, most of the ports are at the back, which is a great touch.

Unlike the previous models, ASUS ROG’s main gimmick here is the customizable Armor Caps for added customization. Essentially, they’re just a part of the hinge mechanism for the display that you can customize with any color or logo. Plus, you can 3D print your own cap if you’re not really a fan of the ones they have in the box. Personally, it’s not something I’d completely rave about but it’s nice that they extended the customization to that level.

Gaming performance, as expected, delivers well

One thing I would completely rave about the ROG STRIX SCAR 17 is its gaming performance. See, the device comes with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and an NVIDIA RTX 3080 inside the bulky-sleek form factor. Ideally, what you’re getting is, quite simply, a power-efficient gaming setup fit for the competitive scene.

Most of the games I played through this machine ran quite well, all things considered. Part of the reason is also because the FHD anti-glare display also came with a 300Hz refresh rate, which is pretty smooth. Although, it does come with a 3ms response rate so you may have a little bit of difficulty reacting to somebody one-tapping you.

Now, because this device came with a more modern RTX card, I figured that I should look at some games a bit separately. Hopefully, I’m painting a good whole picture here:

Standard, old-fashioned, high quality gameplay

Without even turning any RTX setting on, most games fared more than well on the ROG STRIX SCAR 17. Here’s just a bit of a run down of how some of the games I played ran with their respective game settings:

Title Graphics Settings Avg. FPS
VALORANT Max. Settings Agent Select: 367 FPS

In-Game: 210 FPS

Fortnite Battle Royale Epic Settings 119-133 FPS
Apex Legends Max. Settings using all 16GB of VRAM Lobby: 125-130 FPS

In-Game: 155-170 FPS

Call of Duty: Warzone Max. Settings 107-110 FPS
Cyberpunk 2077 High Settings 67-74 FPS
Rocket League High Quality Settings 255-264 FPS
GTA V Max. Settings 91-103 FPS, depending on the environment
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Ultra Settings 91 FPS

Clearly, the RTX 3080 slayed in most competitive and casual games alike, while also providing accurate colors and details. There were some instances of momentary lag due to too many things happening — especially with intense gameplay. However, for the most part, it’s a gaming machine fit for every possible game you could throw at it.

Turn on the ray-tracing power

Admittedly, among all of the games I played, only four of them support any RTX functionality of any kind. Whether it was shadows or immense lighting effects, my assumption is that the RTX 3080 can simply handle all of it. My goal here was to, at the very least, achieve a playable frame rate given how beefy ray-tracing is:

Title RTX Compatible Graphics Settings Avg. FPS
Fortnite Battle Royale Yes Epic Settings

For RTX: set to Quality and all set to highest

50-57 FPS
Call of Duty: Warzone Yes Max. Settings 98-105 FPS
Cyberpunk 2077 Yes High Settings

DLSS on Quality

For RTX: set to Ultra

54-58 FPS
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Yes Ultra Settings

For RTX: no option for it, but there is RTX for Shadow Quality

94 FPS

While I was playing these games, it was a pleasure just taking in all the visual enhancements ray-tracing brings. Reflections and shadows are present and in roughly full detail, and I still got close to 60 FPS on games with the ray-tracing turned up high. Then again, I’m playing on a FHD display so I still prefer replicating this on higher resolutions.

Pumping the brakes for a little bit

With an AMD chip inside this machine, I was expecting that it would last quite well under significant load. During my entire usage of it, I got about 6-7 hours using it for productivity purposes and a little bit of gaming. When you’re gaming full time at 60 FPS, I only got about 2 hours worth of juice on it — right around most gaming laptops.

Although, when you do need to fill it up again, it doesn’t take that long. In my tests, it took close to 2 hours for one full charge provided you’re not doing anything else. While you’re using it while charging, it takes just an hour and 45 minutes longer on average. It’s still quite fast, but it’s probably also a reminder for you to take a break from intense gameplay.

Now, the package also came with a 100W USB-C charger that you can use for both your phone and laptop. Although it doesn’t charge your bulky laptop that fast, it’s something quite nice to include as a multi-device charger. 

Staying cool under pressure

I touched on this earlier about how most sleek gaming laptops have some thermal issues with it. If it comes with heavy-duty components, the devices tend to get pretty warm and uncomfortable to use for a lengthy period of time. Sometimes, it would feel like you could fry eggs on your keyboard, but please don’t try to do that.

In the ROG STRIX SCAR 17’s case, it does feel warm around the sides and rear end — where most of the ports are found. When you’re playing for longer hours or under all that ray-tracing workload, it heats up significantly. I mean, just the air coming out of the heatsinks at the sides feels enough to burn my hand. Also, the fans tend to get quite loud at times, so prepare your headphones.

However, for some reason, it wasn’t uncomfortable, especially around the keyboard. See, ASUS used its patent Liquid Metal cooling technology for the powerful CPU and GPU inside. Even while boosting the GPU to push out better performance, the device remained warm enough not to make the keyboard an uncomfortable, hot piece of equipment.

About the other assets in the package

Apart from everything I’ve mentioned above, I feel there are a lot of other things to highlight for this device. First off, I thoroughly enjoyed using the mechanical keyboard of the ROG STRIX SCAR 17. It uses optical mechanical switches that act a level of clickiness with every key press, and they’re also quite accurate.

One other thing I liked was the inclusion of more ROG peripherals within the package itself. When I took everything out of the box, the ROG STRIX SCAR 17 came with the ROG Chakram Core, the ROG Delta RGB Headset, and the ROG Eye. All in all, it feels like a complete package that you can also give content creation or streaming a go for this device.

Also, inside the package is the Keystone II in a nifty keychain. Essentially, if you’ve had any of your Aura Sync settings or you just need a ghost drive, this is one of ASUS’s technologies that will surely be useful.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At PhP 199,995, the ASUS ROG STRIX SCAR 17 has a daring proposition for the competitive gamer. On the outside, it’s a bulky-sleek gaming machine with a ton of RGB to go around and customization options galore. Inside, you will find one of the bulkiest and hottest sets of components assembled for competitive gaming performance.

Stream Like Water for better health!

It’s a package that ASUS ROG has delivered in many forms for years on end. Yes, they will come with the usual thermal issues and even a little too much RGB for others. Although it is at a hefty price point, it is still a device worth your hard-earned money in the long run.

Quite simply, the ROG STRIX SCAR 17 is a gaming laptop — to quote ASUS ROG on this — “for those who dare.” It’s something they’ve said for their ASUS ROG Phone 5, but I think it extends even further to their gaming laptops. 

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Reviews

Amazfit GTR 2e review: A very stylish fitness companion

Filled to the brim with features

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The wearable market is booming, and Amazfit is among the first to take full advantage of the affordable segment. The brand has rapidly developed its portfolio in a short span of two years. Today we’ve got the Amazfit GTR 2e for review, and it’s supposed to be a “lighter” alternative to the GTR 2.

Its new offering is sitting in a very competitive market as the sub-INR 15,000 (US$ 201) range has a lot of competition from bigger players Mi and realme. Amazfit has largely been focused on value-for-money fitness trackers with the Bip series but has expanded to midrange significantly in recent times.

With a new design, upgraded features, and robust battery life, is the Amazfit GTR 2e your GadgetMatch? Let’s find out!

It has an exquisite design

The watch has a surprisingly premium design that constitutes an aluminum alloy casing and 2.5D curved glass. The body of the watch is subtly curved and polished to give a very aesthetic vibe. The glass has a black outline that masquerades to be a bezel-less display. The outline also has small markings that go perfectly with analog watch faces.

Despite sturdy steel construction, it weighs just 40 grams. The body is also aptly sized, and it conveniently blends with a long-sleeve shirt. My unit has a soft silicone strap which is very comfortable for extended usage. You can also seamlessly wear it while sleeping, and you won’t feel a thing. The band measures 22mm, and you can swap any band of your choice from the after-market.

On the bottom is Huami’s in-house sensor called BioTracker 2. It’s capable of measuring heart rate and blood oxygen. Except for the touchscreen display, there are two physical buttons for navigation on the right side. The top-bottom takes you back to the watch face while the one beneath it opens the app scroller. You can customize the latter to open an app quickly.

An AMOLED display with more than sufficient brightness

The Amazfit GTR 2e sports a 1.39-inch AMOLED always-on display, and it does full justice to the sleek design. The panel is pitch black and produces zestful colors along with exceptional brightness. Everything is clearly visible under direct sunlight, even in a hot and tropical city like Mumbai. And auto-brightness works very accurately. Furthermore, you can manually set the brightness quickly, thanks to a quick toggle option.

Its body measures 46mm, and there’s only one size option. My wrists are significantly thin, so I had slight issues in keeping the watch firm. If you’re as skinny as me, a smaller tracker like the Fitbit Versa 2 would be suggested. Although, I’m pretty sure any average body figure will fit flawlessly.

There are many pre-installed watch faces, and if you need more, there’s a dedicated watch face store within the Zepp app. Over the years, Amazfit has done a solid job of encouraging developers to get creative. In the end, you’re left with many options that’ll always match your outfit and mood.

It’s got a ton of fitness features

I don’t generally work out but have a very active lifestyle. So there’s a lot of walking, running, and numerous football matches. In a nutshell, the pedometer measures your steps accurately, and the GPS plots your course without a glitch.

The Amazfit GTR 2e supports various high-intensity interval training exercises, and the usual presets like swimming and cycling. For the fitness freaks, there are more than 90 different modes that cover pretty much everything. To make it more interesting, there’s also a parkour option.

One of my favorite features is the altimeter which displays your altitude against sea level. I compared the results against my Casio watch’s readings, and it would usually tally. The sensor isn’t speedy in refreshing, so it may not function properly if you’re not stationary.

The heart rate scanner is pretty accurate, with a tiny margin of error. I’m sure it could be more accurate, but two to four beats up or down isn’t significant. The Zepp app offers deep insights like stress, altitude, stride, and even speed. It works round the clock and will keep recording the readings in periodic intervals.

Sleep tracking is also error-free, and it’ll detect you’re up within a minute. Sleep is also divided into light sleep, REM, and deep sleep. The graph is quite helpful, and it’ll also give you a breathing score. If you thought all of this was enough, there’s more.

Based on manual inputs like weight, water consumption, and diet, the watch can automatically calculate your BMI, body composition, and even muscle mass. While it isn’t as accurate as a full-fledged scanner, it does add a convenient reference frame.

Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, an oximeter or blood oxygen level monitor is a must-have. The Amazfit GTR 2e features a SpO2 scanner that’ll show blood oxygen levels on a scale of one to 100. Anything above 95 is considered safe, and the watch usually clocked mine around 98. It has the ability to alert you in case oxygen intake is dangerously low.

Lastly, it has PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence), which actively keeps track of your resting heart rate, maximum heart rate, and other fluctuations based on activity. Every week, it’ll give you a score out of 100 to show how healthy or normal your heart functioning is. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a certified medical product and should be relied upon accordingly.

How smart is it?

I wouldn’t call it a smartwatch because it can’t function as a standalone device. But it’s undoubtedly a brim-packed fitness tracker. There’s a weather app, music controls, alarms, events, timer, altimeter, compass, and more.

It can also display notifications from pretty much any app on your phone. But you can’t quickly send a canned message. Viewing a notification is the only thing you can do. The haptic feedback is powerful, and it comes in very handy when you’re driving or riding and need to be notified about a call. I’d say the feedback feels premium and goes hand-in-hand with the alloy design.

The Zepp app is overly complicated and desperately needs a makeover. In a bid to show as much information as possible, the brand has ended up with a cumbersome app that often becomes confusing. Thankfully, there’s an option to export all your fitness data to third parties like Google Fit, Strava, WeChat, and more. Many may find the detail-rich app a blessing, but subjectively speaking, it’s a mess.

Coming to the most critical aspect of a wearable, Amazfit claims the GTR 2e can last 24 days on a single charge. I initially thought it’s exaggerated, but it isn’t. After ten days, the watch was at 53 percent with the always-on display switched off. In one go, I was able to use the watch for 19 days. That’s a lot of runtime for a watch that weighs just 40 grams.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a stylish watch that can be worn at a party or the gym, the Amazfit GTR 2e is made for you. With an elegant design, excellent battery life, top-notch display, and tonnes of fitness features, this watch is a no-brainer.

The brand has maintained a balance between features and looks. I don’t think there are any major compromises, and considering the price of INR 14,999 (US$ 201), it can perfectly complement any phone. The best part is, the watch is often available for INR 9,999 (US$ 135) in India, and that makes for a blockbuster deal.

I wouldn’t recommend the watch if you’re looking for a full-fledged smartwatch. The Amazfit GTR 2e’s elder sibling, the GTR 2, gets in-built storage for music playback and a mic for incoming calls. There’s also support for Amazon Alexa, which opens up a whole new world of connectivity.

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