Hands-On

Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro: A pricey gimmick

It looks good though

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Don’t get me wrong: I am absolutely in love with the Xiaomi Mi 8. The GadgetMatch peeps can even tell you how much I didn’t want to let that phone go. It’s literally the phone I would buy for myself.

With the Mi 8 Pro, you’re pretty much getting the same top-shelf specs albeit in a different package.


That different package is this — the Transparent Titanium “color design” as Xiaomi noted on the phone’s global page. It will make you think you’re looking at the phone’s actual internals. I have to say, it is appealing but as is the case with the Mi 8 Explorer Edition, it’s all for show.

If you can get over (and maybe even appreciate) that the transparent look is all aesthetics, then you can move on to the good stuff. And the good stuff are plenty.

You’re looking at a phone equipped with the Snapdragon 845 SoC along with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. It only has a 3000mAh battery but it does support quick charge.

This means you’ll have no trouble running games like PUBG, Asphalt 9, Ragnarok Mobile, and basically whatever game you feel like playing. This also means the Mi 8 Pro is a lean, mean multitasking machine.

You can shuffle through all your social media apps, email, notes, as well as three dating apps so you can keep swiping away even though the person you really want to talk to is already reachable through other messaging apps. I digress. (Editor’s note: Sad.)

Unlocking can be a pain

The other main addition is the in-screen fingerprint sensor. On paper, it looks promising and I really appreciate that I don’t have to lift the phone to unlock when it’s lying flat on the table. However, “pressing lightly” as Xiaomi suggests just doesn’t do the trick.

I can’t count how many times I pressed the fingerprint sensor with it asking me to “press a bit harder.” I’d like to think I was already pressing hard. For comparison’s sake, I did use the Vivo V11 quite a bit too and didn’t encounter the same problems using its in-display fingerprint scanner.

It’s pretty fast when I apply the right amount of pressure, but the thing is I don’t always do so. To save myself from being asked to press harder all the damn time, I resorted to mostly using face unlock. It’s an option I wouldn’t have considered had I not used the iPhone XR a while back, but that’s a story for another time.

The phone warns you that it’s not as secure as the fingerprint sensor and that it can be unlocked using faces and objects that look like you. I tried putting a steamed bun in front of the phone and thankfully it stayed locked. I’m gonna mark that down as a win.

Kidding aside, my personal experience with the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro’s in-screen fingerprint sensor leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, this phone is pretty darn solid.

The other good stuff

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro sports the same cameras as the Xiaomi Mi 8 — that’s two 12MP rear cameras that capture images more than good enough for sharing on your social media feed.

Here are some samples taken in Singapore:

One of my personal favorites to try on any phone is the portrait mode. Again, I think the Mi 8 Pro does it pretty well. The image does get grainy if you try it in low-light conditions so I suggest sticking to normal shots and not use portrait mode when lighting in your area is less than ideal.

The front camera is a 20MP shooter that also has portrait mode and captures a fair amount of detail when you have a bright background.

I’m also a huge fan of MIUI. It’s just a thoughtful and clean user interface. I especially love the fullscreen gestures which I admittedly took time getting used to when I first tried them on the Mi 8. But they’re great once you get the hang of it.

Swiping on either side of the screen functions as the back button. Hold it long enough and you’ll be taken to the last app you used. That’s such a great feature especially when I’m darting between social media apps during event coverage.

Should you buy it over the Xiaomi Mi 8?

The easy answer is no. Most of the good stuff that you’ll find on the Mi 8 Pro are already on the Mi 8. One of the Mi 8’s main attractions, other than everything I’ve already mentioned thus far, is its pricing.

The Mi 8 is a solid flagship phone that’s an easy recommendation for anyone who wants those specs but doesn’t have the budget for the big hitters like the iPhone XS, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

With the Mi 8 Pro, you’ll shell out roughly around US$ 200 more and for what? An ice-breaking design that doesn’t really do much other than catch someone’s attention and an in-screen fingerprint sensor that’s still in its early stages. It’s simply not worth it.

If you’re hell bent on spending close to or around US$ 700 on a smartphone, there are better choices out there. But if you love what Xiaomi has to offer, you can drop the Pro and just grab the Mi 8.

Hands-On

Realme 5 Pro Hands-On: It’s all about the numbers

Finally a real competitor

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Realme has launched a wide array of phones this year and it doesn’t look like they’re stopping anytime soon. The brand is extremely aggressive about marketing and thanks to immense pressure from Xiaomi, Vivo, and Samsung, they’ve unveiled the Realme 5 Pro.

It has a faster processor, quad-camera setup on the rear, and flashier design. While the Realme X is built for a slightly more premium experience, the Realme 5 Pro is intended to be an affordable all-rounder that excels at everything.


A plastic design that looks flashier

We have the Blue variant and Realme calls this a holographic design due to the reflection and slight color gradient. We’ve previously seen this diamond cut design language in a lot of other phones and it offers a new choice to users instead of just relying on a plain metal back.

The phone feels sturdy enough and has slightly curved corners for an ergonomic user experience. Realme says the phone is splash resistant including the buttons as well as the charging port.

Holographic diamond cut back

The power button is located on the right

Volume buttons and SIM-tray are located on the left

Realme has finally endorsed USB-C and the headphone jack continues its legacy

A sharp and well saturated display

The Realme X has an AMOLED panel, but this one sports an LCD screen. This cost-cutting measure shouldn’t be a major drawback since the display is very sharp and bright enough. The colors are punchy, but tend to look too saturated sometimes. Thankfully, you can adjust or even schedule the screen’s warmth.

It’s 6.3-inch screen has Gorilla Glass protection and houses a small water-drop style notch on the top. The bezels are small and the chin is quite paltry as well.

A powerful processor that’s perfect for regular use

Powering the phone is an octa-core Snapdragon 712 processor that clocks at 2.3Ghz. A dedicated NPU looks after AI operations and the base option comes with 4GB of RAM. Storage is expandable via a microSD card.

Four cameras to help you get the best shot

It has a 48-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, 2-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Rest assured, you’re covered from all ends. Whether its a low-light shot or a huge group photo, this setup is perfect for the average Joe.

For selfies, the notch houses a 16-megapixel front-facing shooter. Realme has added a handful of modes like Chromaboost, Nightscape, and Portrait Mode in the camera app.

ColorsOS to get you through the day

The Realme 5 Pro ships with ColorOS 6.0 and a few minor changes include new icons, smoother transitions, and filtering.

A near-perfect battery

It has a 4,000mAh battery and it is sufficient to get you through a day of heavy usage. It supports VOOC 3.0 fast charging technology and can charge your phone completely in about an hour and a half.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Realme 5 Pro ticks all the boxes, and we’ll be doing an in-depth review soon. For now, it offers a robust camera setup, substantial performance, and a new design. Although, a few cost-cutting measures like plastic build and LCD display are clearly visible.

ColorOS can be a deciding factor since it still isn’t well refined. If you’re looking for a long-lasting phone that has consistent updates, a Nokia-branded phone or Xiaomi’s Mi A3 are the only alternatives in this price segment. And even though the Redmi Note 7 Pro was launched just a few months back, it may have lost its edge in this ever-changing world due to a better processor, versatile camera, and faster charging.

SEE ALSO: Realme 5 series pricing and availability in India

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Hands-On

Sights and sounds of summer in the Upper East Side

Capturing New York City on film

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“You need to come back, New York is different in the summer,” a friend urged one absurdly cold day back in May. “It has a different energy to it; it’s more alive,” another friend noted with excitement about the magical effects of the impending warm weather on the city.

Living in a tropical country my whole life and enduring constant humidity year per year, I never really understood the hype. What could be so special about spending yet another summer in another city, I thought.  On the contrary, it’s lower temperatures that always excited me. The thought of layering with soft wool sweaters and thick coats, and wearing thigh-high boots on vacation was ideal. It was something I never get to do on the daily, so I longed for it — until I was forced to live out of a suitcase from winter to spring, that is.


Having gone through the chore of exactly that — wearing wool sweaters, thick coats, and boots just to get eggs at the nearest bodega or go for a coffee run next door — made me appreciate being able to wear just about anything I want in the summer including the potential sweating that goes along with it. After months of freezing weather, summer just feels so liberating that you’ll appreciate the heat even if it means smeared eyeliners and a face so oily you could fry two eggs on it.

That je ne sais quoi of summer in the city is not something anyone can describe with mere words or capture on Instagram without losing its essence. This article certainly doesn’t, but here are some vignettes I caught on film, complete with audio recordings, using the Instax Mini LiPlay, one Sunday morning stroll along Upper East Side.

One large cold brew to go

Like any other day, I start with a nice cup of cold brew. Cafes like Bluestone Lane usually gets packed for brunch. It’s especially nice when the sun is out that friends and families eat al fresco. Listen to the audio recording here.

Hotdogs and city performers

Hotdog stands can be found at every corner of the city. This one is outside the Guggenheim Museum, which tourists flock and buskers frequent. Listen to the audio recording here.

Honking yellow cabs

The sound of the train arriving or cabs honking is normally unbearable, but in New York it’s part of what makes the city full of character. Listen to the audio recording here. 

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

This spot in Central Park is beautiful whether you’re there to see snow falling or flowers blooming; hear trees rustling or dried leaves crackling. Listen to the audio recording here.

Pick a spot at Central Park

Central Park is so big of an oasis that you can have your quiet little spot for reading and alone time, or watch kids and dogs play if you wanted to. Listen to the audio recording here.

Sun’s out, bikes out

Whether it’s for cardio, getting from one place to another, or just for leisure, everyone seems to be on their bikes during summer. Other locals take advantage of this and sell ice cold water for $2 in the middle of the park for anyone who needs to cool down. Listen to the audio recording here.

Grab something quick and cheap

For those who might want a quick bite after a long walk or bike ride, there are food trucks everywhere. Tacos? Check. Gyros? Check. Ice cream? Check. Listen to the audio recording here.

The Met

It can get too crowded for my taste, but The Met is quickly becoming my favorite place in the city. It’s where I can run to for shelter when it’s below freezing outside, or when temperatures get higher, walk around the vicinity for no reason or people watch on the steps. I can get trapped here for days and not feel like I’m wasting my time. Listen to the audio recording here.

Witnessing New York City transform from a dark, cold abyss in the winter, to a city with blossoming tress in spring, to the vibrant concrete jungle that it truly is in the summer, is special. If you live in this city, or travel here a lot, it’s something you will learn to cherish once you see and hear it for yourself.

WATCH: Winter in New York

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Gaming

ASUS TUF Gaming FX505DU Hands-on: An immersive experience for less

Striking a balance between performance and affordability

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We’ve got our hands on the ASUS TUF Gaming FX705 and the TUF Gaming FX505DY so you’re probably familiar with how the TUF Gaming series positions itself as the middle ground that offers premium features but with a more affordable asking price.

Another model from the same series has reached our headquarters. This time it’s the TUF Gaming FX505DU which is a newer model in the family. That single letter difference in the model name (DY to DU) suggests that it’s almost the same, with slight differences here and there. Let’s check out what those are.


It’s done with a polycarbonate body

Instead, goes for a more premium metallic shell

ROG DNA is present

Makes the overall aesthetics look edgier

Sports the same 15.6-inch IPS-level 120Hz display

Also with slim side and top bezels

Keyboard is backlit

Although this one has RGB color going on

There are distinct WASD keycaps as well

Still emphasizing its gaming origin

Loudspeakers are located at the bottom

Equipped with DTS Studio Sound

Spacious trackpad

Ergonomically placed, too

All the ports remain on the left

Leaves space when using a mouse on the right

A little subtle on the design, but…

The FX505DU, like its siblings, isn’t as flashy as the company’s more expensive ROG laptops, but it still looks like a gaming rig nonetheless. The lid is plain and straightforward but with that ‘X’ pattern that suggests it’s no common office laptop.

Once you open the lid, the brushed metal design seen on the body makes it look premium. It still has a large chin, but it isn’t much of an eyesore as the slim top and side bezels surrounding its Full HD display will catch your attention right away.

There’s also a webcam for video calls positioned on top so that’s a good thing. When it comes to typing, we don’t have any major qualms about it but I personally could use a bit more travel for the keys. It comes with two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0, an HDMI, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

Overall, build quality is something that I like about this model as it has been certified to pass military-grade stress tests. Factor in the cool RGB backlighting and its edgy design and you have a good-looking yet tough gaming laptop.

Play wherever you go

Inside, it packs an AMD Ryzen 7-3750H which is then partnered to NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1660Ti. Together, they are a combo for fast and satisfactory performance while its 8GB RAM proved sufficient for day-to-day tasks. If needed, the memory could be modified up to 32GB for even snappier performances.

It runs Windows 10 Home out of the box and as for storage, it comes with a 1TB HDD plus a 256GB SSD.

We’ve tried a couple of games on it like Assassin’s Creed: Origins and battle royale titles like Fortnite and CS:GO — just like we did with the previous FX505DY. We’re happy to report that it could handle them easily but noticed a few lags here and there especially when there was a lot of movement happening. Not enough to affect the gaming performance, though, but we thought we’d just let you know.

The built-in loudspeakers sound decent and come with DTS Studio Sound to tweak and make the quality better. Still, it might not be for players looking for high-quality audio and you’d still be better off with dedicated gaming headphones plugged in.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It’s true that more expensive gaming rigs provide better gaming experience, but what ASUS is going for here with their TUF Gaming series is to strike the balance between performance and affordability.

With the FX505DU and its PhP 71,995 price tag, it offers a competitive gaming experience with 120Hz display, slim bezels, more premium materials, and internals that will ensure you have what you need to be able to have immersive gameplay wherever you go.

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