Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 8 Review: Performer with a premium feel

Made for power users

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The prices of flagships have been skyrocketing of late especially with brands eager to apply new technology to their top-of-the-line phones. This movement has given birth to an interesting segment in the market — smartphones with top-tier processors but at close-to-midrange costs. This is where the Xiaomi Mi 8 comfortably sits.

There’s nothing particularly striking about the Mi 8’s design but that’s not us saying that it doesn’t look good. In fact, the black unit we reviewed has a subtle sexiness to it.


Subtle but sexy

Take a look at its back. It’s black, subtle, and sexy.

Immediately you’ll notice the fingerprint print scanner which is in a pretty standard location.

It also sports a dual-camera setup. Both are 12MP but one is at f/1.8 and the other has f/2.4 and 2x optical zoom. More on the cameras later.

As far as bezel-less phones go, this one’s pretty standard. The phone’s also easy to grip, with a 6.21-inch display that has an 83 percent screen-to-body-ratio. I imagine the same would be the case even for people with smaller hands.

The power and volume buttons are located on the right-hand side.

While on the left, there’s the dual-SIM card slot which unfortunately isn’t hybrid. No expandable storage on this one.

And lastly, at the bottom are the speakers and a USB-C slot. There’s no headphone jack as well but it does come bundled with a USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter just like the Xiaomi Mi A2.

The gestures take some getting used to

For this particular review, I stepped away from the usual navigation buttons on Android and tried to use gestures, especially since that’s the direction Google’s mobile operating system is going with Android Pie.

I have to admit, it took a lot of getting used to. Prior to the Mi 8, I have never really opted to use gestures on phones I have previously reviewed. I only really started feeling normal about swiping around four or five days into using it. Even now, I still end up pressing the bottom area to go back only to realize I removed the navigation buttons.

I said goodbye to the navigation buttons for this review

iPhone users as well as OPPO and Vivo users who went all in on the gestures in those brands’ recent phones probably wouldn’t have as much trouble as I had. One of the changes I truly enjoyed is the look of the recent apps which is closer to how it looks on iOS versus the usually stacked ones on Android. It was easier to see which apps were open and multitasking felt a lot more organic.

Heavy-hitting performer

Was it smooth, fast, and did the battery last long? The short answer is yes to all. The Xiaomi Mi 8 is a beast of a performer which is not surprising. The combination of the Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB of RAM (in this particular model, but you can go as high as 8GB), and the 3400mAh battery is a joy to use for any power user.

During a recent trip to Jakarta for the Southeast Asian launch of the Pocophone F1, I only brought the Mi 8 with me during the coverage to handle all the social posts as well as the articles on the phone. One would think that I would be out of juice following heavy usage during an event that went on for roughly around three and a half hours, but surprisingly I still had around 50 percent of battery left. I didn’t even start the event at a hundred percent and only charged the phone when I hit the sack.

I didn’t have time to truly play games on this but I did play a little bit of PUBG when I started just to see if it will play well on high graphics and it did. Daniel recommended I play Darkness Rises and it’s right up my alley. It’s a mindless hack-and-slash game with graphics that will also push your phones capabilities, and the Mi 8 handled it nicely.

A few hiccups

There were some things that ticked me off. When I switched to using the gestures it had some effect on the navigation of some apps. There were some moments I couldn’t immediately click the tweet button on Twitter. The button was so close to the top of the phone that instead of it being clicked, what ended up happening was the notification shade would slide down and I wasn’t even swiping!

During the coverage, I was also forced to reboot the phone since it lagged while I was using the camera. Instead of rebooting, the phone actually shut off and turning it back on took longer than usual. This was a one-time thing, though.

There was a software update recently and I had not encountered any of these hiccups since.

The cameras are okay

I didn’t find the cameras on the Mi 8 to be game-changers. They’re not bad; they’re just okay. I honestly enjoyed the cameras on the Mi A2 a lot more.

Take a look at these samples.

The 2x optical zoom is fantastic, though. It’s great for getting really intimate with your food.

It’s nice getting this close to something you truly love

Pineapples belong on pizza. There, I said it

The 20MP front-facing camera can also shoot portraits. The bokeh is software-assisted and doesn’t always hit the mark, but I find the results mostly satisfactory.

To buy or not to buy?

Power users will enjoy this phone. If you play a lot of mobile games, this phone will have no problems handling them even though it’s not exactly marketed for gaming. Aside from that one hiccup, it handles multitasking smoothly and the recent apps layout truly helps with that.

When this phone first came out, it was a solid alternative to the OnePlus 6. It costs a few bucks less and you’re getting comparable phones. However, with the Pocophone F1 being available, that might be the more economic option.

The question you have to ask yourself is whether you would rather go for the glass and more premium feel of the Mi 8, or settle for the polycarbonate material on the Pocophone F1 just to get that similar level of performance.

If you already have this phone though, there’s no reason to feel bad. It shoots decent photos, looks and feels premium, and is one heck of a performer.

Xiaomi Mi 8 first look

The Xiaomi Mi 8 is a good phone and a solid deal!

Posted by GadgetMatch on Friday, August 3, 2018

Reviews

Xiaomi Mi A3 Review: The no-frills master

An all-rounder powered by stock Android

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It’s no secret, Xiaomi and Realme have been fighting the whole year and it’s impossible to declare a winner just yet. The two are constantly trying to undercut each other and this has been a huge boon for the end-user. We’re seeing a new phone launch every other month. Like they say, the more, the merrier!

Xiaomi and its love for the Snapdragon 625 processor is well documented, and this year the brand has a love affair with the 48-megapixel sensor. But while the Redmi series already has a few options to choose from, Xiaomi hasn’t given up on the A-lineup. With the Mi A3, the brand intends to bring its hardware expertise to a vanilla Android experience.


The Mi A2 received mixed response. Will Xiaomi be able to cover-up lost ground with the Mi A3? The Redmi Note 7 Pro is comparatively old now, can this phone take the weight of fighting-off the Realme 5 series? And most importantly, Is this your GadgetMatch?

A rare to find AMOLED display in this segment

Ultra-premium Gorilla Glass design

The rear sports a triple camera setup

USB-C port and the speaker grill on the bottom

Unmatchable design that screams premium

For the price, we’re used to seeing phones with a polycarbonate body. Brands have managed to incorporate gradient or reflective patterns, but plastic has a hollow feel that’ll always feel clumsy. Xiaomi just hit a home run with the Mi A3’s design and it screams premium. In fact, I’d go on to call this my favorite part about the phone.

The glass sandwich is surrounded by a metal railing and the construction feels sturdy. In fact, the slightly curved glass is very comfortable to hold and the reflective patterns have their own vibe. The phone is available in three colors, each suitable for every taste. We have the Not Grey unit that looks sober and a perfect fit for business meetings. The More Than White option looks very classy while the Not Just Blue is the most eye-catching.

The back consists of a triple camera array and company branding. The power button and volume rockers are located on the right while the SIM tray is on the left. A USB-C port is located on the bottom, along with two speaker grills. But, there’s just a mono speaker situated in the right grill and the left is a dummy, just like on the iPhone.

The headphone jack is making a comeback due to high demand and Xiaomi has also slapped an IR blaster on the top for added convenience. Weight is properly distributed and yes, the back is a fingerprint magnet. Smudges are easily visible and thanks to the glass, the phone is slightly slippery. I’d recommend slapping a case as soon as possible.

The front gets a 6-inch AMOLED display that houses a tiny water-drop notch on top. It’s an HD panel (720p), but before you jump to conclusions, consider the screen quality first. The color reproduction is on point with near-perfect saturation and decent sharpness. The panel sucks less power and also houses an in-display fingerprint scanner.

I won’t consider a 720p screen to be a drawback because the experience remains unhindered. Especially when it delivers top-notch quality by compromising a mere marketing tactic. Though, I wish maximum brightness was a tad bit higher.

The fingerprint scanner is a disappointment. I liked it in the beginning, but with day-to-day usage, it’s annoyingly slow. You need to press your finger onto it for quite some time and please don’t move around because reliability is poor. Phone makers should just stick to a physical sensor in these cases.

Whatever you need, it’ll get it done

The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 665 processor and comes with 4GB RAM in the base variant. Our device has 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage. Obviously, storage is expandable via a microSD card, but it’s not hybrid.

Thanks to the 720p display, the processor is able to sail through everything. In the period I used the phone, there have been no lags or stutters while moving around multiple apps or sifting through multiple browser tabs. In fact, the RAM was able to accommodate Uber, Google Maps, WhatsApp, Paytm, and Spotify all at once without a glitch.

It also features UFS 2.1 memory storage, translating into a faster user experience. PUBG was ultra-smooth on the maximum selection based on specs. Frame drops are negligible and the overall experience is satisfying. The processor doesn’t heat up considerably and longer periods of gaming saw no change in performance. So, if you’re looking forward to playing a game every now and then, this phone should be your first choice.

Backing these internals is a beefier 4000mAh battery that supports 18W fast charging. The in-box charger is rated for 10W and can charge the phone completely within two hours. With super-heavy usage, the phone lasted me almost 20 hours. I’d have to charge it once in 36 hours otherwise. Improving in this department was a smart move by Xiaomi.

Star of the show: Stock Android

Lastly, the key highlight of the phone is its software — pure Android. In partnership with Google’s Android One project, the phone is promised to receive timely security and feature updates. If you’re someone like me who prefers a clean UI with no fancy shenanigans, the Mi A3 should be your GadgetMatch.

However, the no-shenanigans approach isn’t for everyone. Skins like MIUI and ColorOS offer a host of additional features like gesture support, a higher level of customization, and mini-applications. The software is a very subjective topic and you’ll be the best judge here.

Triple camera setup for the third iteration

The rear gets a 48-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Obviously, a standard picture is shot at 12-megapixel and a dedicated mode will trigger the full capabilities of the primary lens. Addition of a wide-angle lens is extremely important because you’re able to leverage a new perspective, without compromising on primary abilities.

The first thing you’ll notice about the output is, the colors don’t look natural. But, its enjoyable and a few colors are emphasized to look different. I’ve got no qualms against the AI-driven approach because it was able to properly reproduce vivid pictures every single time. The primary lens gets the job done perfectly and in well-lit areas, it often outperforms phones with double the price tag.

Focusing on a nearby object does tend to get a little over-exposed, you’d have to manually tone it down. On the flip side, autofocus is super fast and always gets it right. Switching to Night Mode, the results are a mixed bag. Sometimes, the camera gets a perfect shot. Otherwise, it lacks sharpness. But, considering the price, I’d give some leeway. Same goes for the portrait mode because it often fails to detect object borders.

Videos can be shot at 4K with 30fps and I’ve found the electronic stabilization to be above average. Gentle movement will be easily covered up while running will get a little shaky. Overall, the video sharpness is sufficient and the camera can quickly change exposure when moving from a well-lit area to a low-light zone.

For selfies, the notch houses a 32-megapixel sensor and it’s just how’d you expect it to be. Images are pretty sharp, color production is programmed to match the skin, and additional features like a beauty mode are always handy.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I call this a no-frills master because Xiaomi focused on improving the end experience and ignored non-essential waggery. The design is premium, the display is vibrant, performance is snappy, cameras are average, and the battery is huge. Quite a lot of high-end features like an IR blaster, wide-angle lens, and in-display fingerprint scanner make it a lucrative deal.

Nokia-branded phones are your only other option and they pale in comparison. With the same software, hardware becomes the only differentiating factor. The Samsung Galaxy M30 can be a worthy competitor, but will you be fine with OneUI?

The phone is just a notch lower than the Redmi Note 7 Pro and with a starting price of INR 12,999 (US$ 180, PhP 11,990), I’d say it’s on par now. For a straightforward hassle-free experience and peace of mind, this should be your GadgetMatch.

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Sony XB900N Review: All about that bass

And then some

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In case you’ve been keeping a watch on the whole Noise Cancelling headphones scene, you’ve probably heard the news — Sony makes some of the best Noise Cancelling headphones in the business.

Nowadays if you ask most tech people — what’s a good pair of noise canceling headphones? The answer will almost always be — The Bose Quiet Comfort series or, more recently, the Sony 1000XM3.


Now, the 1000XM series are Sony’s flagship noise canceling headphones. And flagship headphones tend to cost a premium, which they’re totally worth for sure, but not everyone can afford super premium headphones!

That’s why I was happy to see Sony announce the new XB-900N recently. The Sony XB-900N, or the 900N as we’ll call it for the rest of this review, are a much more approachable pair of noise canceling headphones.

So while they probably won’t have the same level of noise-canceling power as the 1000XM3, there’s still a lot to like here, especially at this price point.

Expensive looking without being THAT expensive

The 900N shares a lot of design similarities as the more premium XM3, which is a good thing because that means these headphones look expensive.

The exterior is mostly hard plastic, and the headband has a nice foam padding on the underside. There’s also a tiny NFC logo on the left side which you can just tap a compatible Android phone against, to pair it with these headphones, which is super convenient.

Apart from that, there’s Sony branding on both earcups as well, and you’ll notice bass vents present which look pretty cool.

On the left earcup, you’ll find two buttons and ports present, along with one of the two microphones. One button is for power and the other button can be set to trigger your phone’s voice assistant but I’ll talk about that a bit later.

On the right earcup you’ll see the second microphone, along with an entire flat surface which is touch-sensitive.

Just like the XM3, the flat outside of the right earcup has touch-enabled pads. It’s one large solid piece though, so there’s no separate sections with different features like on the XM3.

Easy navigation and control

You can swipe up or down vertically to increase or decrease your audio volume. Swipe sideways to skip tracks, and double tap in the center to pause music. You can also tap the center of the earcups to answer or end a phone call.

But my favorite feature has to be the “quick attention mode.” It automatically and instantly lowers the volume of whatever you’re listening to, in case you need to speak to someone in front of you, or listen to something going on around you. All you have to do is cover the right earcup with the palm of your hand.

This feature is really handy, especially if you’re like me and like to wear your headphones in the office, or in a cafe, and some random human comes up to you and says something.

These gestures take a little getting used to, and you’ll either find them super useful or super frustrating. Either way it’s still cool to have.

Support for a virtual assistant

Speaking of frustrating, like I mentioned earlier, Sony allows you to choose between Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa for a dedicated button on the 900N. But if you choose to have a digital assistant then you’ll lose the ability to use that button to cycle between noise canceling modes.

Not that there’s too many Noise cancellation modes on the 900N, there’s two – an ambient mode where the noise cancellation is less aggressive and you can hear what’s happening around you, or the full-on noise cancellation mode.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of digital assistants on phones. I use Google Assistant all the time on my Google Home, likewise for Alexa on my Echo, but on my phone I just never find them quick enough. So while I might not find this particular feature very useful, I understand that some of y’all out there might really like it, so here you go.

Just FYI, you can turn off the noise cancelling on these phones as well, but I’m not entirely sure why you’d want to, since it doesn’t really affect the audio quality TOO much. And while these are primarily marketed as wireless headphones, you can use them wired as well. Which will help get even more battery life out of these headphones, if necessary.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the headphones also fold up for easy storage when not in use. It comes with a nice carrying case too which makes it much easier to carry around when you’re not using it.

Something you can wear for hours 

Sony has done SUCH a great job on nailing comfort on the XB900N. Just like the more premium 1000XM3, there’s a cushy headband (with very prominent Sony branding), and super soft, sturdy earpads that have an around-the-ear fit.

The headband in particular has a good enough tension with the headphones feeling nice and secure around your ears. This helps give a good amount of noise isolation to help with the noise cancellation.

The headphones weigh a very light 254 grams so even after wearing them straight for a few hours, I never felt like it was pinching my brain too much.

That being said, I will mention though, that it’s been a little too humid where I live for the last few weeks and as a result if you’re in a really humid environment, there can be quite a bit of moisture built up between your eyes and the earpads so you’d want to take a break every hour or so.

But essentially the Sony XB900N is meant to be used for travel. Your daily commute to work, or a flight, or long bus or subway ride, and in these scenarios you could comfortably wear these headphones for hours.

More codec options for a better listening experience

The Sony WH-XB900N headphones are powered by 40mm dynamic drivers, with a frequency response range of 20-40,000Hz when used with Sony’s own high-quality LDAC codec at 990kbps.

They connect over Bluetooth 4.2, but there’s also support for a whole bunch of bluetooth codecs, which is something Sony does that most other headphone companies do not. There’s support for AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC codecs.

If you’re only going to use these headphones with an iPhone or an iPad, then it’ll stick to the AAC codec.

BUT if you’re using it with an Android phone, or anything with better source equipment, you’ll get to try out the additional codec support which definitely helps with a better listening experience.

Like for example, if you’re using it with the OnePlus 7 Pro, you’ll be able to use the LDAC or aptX HD codecs.

But let’s talk about how good the noise cancellation is.

No QN1 chip but still gets the job done 

The Sony XB900N does not have their new QN1 noise-cancelling chip that’s used on the flagship XM3. Like most other headphones, the DAC (digital-to-analog converter) has to handle noise cancellation duties as well. It won’t be as impressive as the XM3, which also customizes the ANC for atmospheric pressure when you’re on a plane, but it still does a really good job.

Once you switch on that noise cancellation, all those annoying sounds in the background around you just fade away. Granted it’s not as silencing as the XM3, but it’s definitely one of the best at this price range.

All about that bass

Now I’m not sure if you noticed this, but the “XB” in “XB900N” stands for “Extra Bass.” The very prominent branding on the box mentally prepares you for this. As a result, the XB900N is more suited for bass-heavy music styles that have a lot more thump. If you’re a fan of EDM, Hip-hop, or bass heavy POP tracks then you’ll love the audio quality.

But if you don’t listen to a lot of bass-pounding tracks then you might find the audio quality a little exhausting. Thankfully, in this case, you can use Sony’s “Headphones Connect” app to change the default, bass heavy equalizer to a different soundstage.

The Sony Headphones Connect app also allows you to tweak more settings for the headphones, including the equalizer I mentioned, adaptive sound control, ambient sound control, Sony’s DSEE sound enhancement system, and more. You can also use them to answer phone calls, and the microphone quality is superb.

Overall though, I’m quite a fan of the audio tuning, but then I’m all about that bass. Vocals are crisp, and that thumpy bass is tight, and resonates inside those earcups. There’s clear, clean audio coming through across the frequency range. And for softer, instrumental, or acoustic genres of music, you could just tweak things in Sony’s headphones app.

Superb battery life

The Sony XB900N boasts 30 hours of battery life with Noise Cancellation switched on. Not only is this just like the more expensive 1000XM3, but it’s pretty much very accurate.

I used these during writing and video editing sessions in cafes for about three to four hours each day for about an entire week before I even got a low battery alert. That’s just freakin’ awesome.

When it comes to charging the headphones, the first positive surprise is that it charges over a USB Type-C port!

It’s really great to see Sony adopt this incredibly convenient standard, especially if you only have type-c cables around like I do.

I mean come on, it’s 2019.

Coming to charging specifically, a ten minute charge will give you about an hour worth of battery life, but a full charge can take about three to four hours depending on the charger you’re using. It’s not great but it’s not too bad either considering the kind of battery life you’re getting.

Is the Sony XB900N your GadgetMatch? 

At US$ 250, the Sony XB900N is worth every penny.

It has sound quality that rivals headphones that cost a lot more. That, combined with the solid noise cancellation, make it a really great buy at the price point.

Now, remember, the audio tuning tends to be a little bass-heavy so if you like that you’re set, but if you don’t then you will have to make equalizer tweaks to handle that. But then again if you want THE BEST audio, you’ll have to spend a bit more and get the Sony WH-1000XM3.

But at the price point it sells at, there’s just no beating the Sony XB900N as an all-around package. There’s great battery life, good audio drivers and, support for a whole bunch of bluetooth audio codecs. Sony has another winner on their hands.

Definitely recommended. This is going to be THE pair of headphones I recommend in this price range for a while.

SEE ALSO: Sony WF-1000XM3: Masterclass in noise cancellation

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Elodie unicorn diffuser: Adorable lamp and humidifier for your baby’s nursery

Keep cold and flu viruses at bay with this super cute unicorn humidifier

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Infants and toddlers are especially vulnerable to sickness-causing bacteria that thrive in dry air so it is important for parents to be aware of the humidity level of their homes. This is why a diffuser is an essential item in many moms’ checklists, including mine, to add healthy moisture to every home.

A humidifier, night light, and a cute unicorn accessory all-in-one — the Elodie Unicorn LED Diffuser 2.0 by Smoko makes a perfect addition to your baby’s nursery.


“It can continuously change colors on its own if that’s the magical show that you wish to achieve.”

How it works

Using ultrasonic vibration technology, the machine breaks its water particles into cool mist. The amount of mist that comes out of its golden horn depends on the humidity, temperature, and air flow in your room.

Its full tank capacity of 200ml should last for up to 6-8 hours although it only lasted for 4 hours, in my case.

You can choose to set the duration to one hour, two hours, or to stay on until the machine automatically shuts off when it is out of water. The water tank is pretty big which allows for easy refill.

This unicorn can also light up with 8 different colors: red, violet, blue, light blue, green, yellow, white, pink. It can continuously change colors on its own if that’s the magical show that you wish to achieve.

Low maintenance

It’s important to regularly clean any diffuser to prevent the buildup of mold. With Elodie, maintenance is a piece of cake.

Just empty the tank after 5-6 uses and wipe with a clean, soft, and damp cloth. If you choose to use essential oils, you’ll want to clean the tank before using a different one.

When not in use, just keep the tank dry. You wouldn’t want idle water to attract bugs or insects.

Is it any good?

At US$ 65, this isn’t some smart high-tech humidifier, but it does the job of doing exactly what I need it to do: add moisture to the nursery I’m building for my baby, and more.

It also doesn’t make any noise, neither does it leak nor scatter water droplets. It’s simple but with added unicorn cuteness other diffusers don’t have.

 

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