Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE Review: For those who like it small

A pocketable flagship-like phone

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Xiaomi‘s line of flagship phones for 2019 has been in the market for a few months now. The Mi 9 is indeed a smartphone that offers a great specs-to-price ratio; however, some users find high-end phones nowadays to be larger than usual. That includes the Mi 9 and the newly announced OnePlus 7 Pro.

We certainly miss the Compact models of the Xperia line, but it seems like Sony isn’t announcing anything new soon. Good thing  Xiaomi made its upper-midrange offering pocket-friendly — not just in price, but also in size.

This is the Mi 9 SE and it’s not as expensive as Xiaomi’s flagship models, but it’s also not that cheap. Aside from specs, the phone’s highlighted feature is its pocketable size.

It has a 5.97-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display

The panel is made by Samsung

There’s a tiny notch for the front camera

It’s not different from other notched displays

The dual nano-SIM card tray is on the left

There’s no space for a microSD card

The physical buttons are all on the right

The power and volume rocker blend well in the frame

The top has the IR blaster and secondary mic

The IR is a rare feature among phones

The bottom houses the loudspeaker and USB-C port

The main microphone is also at the bottom

The back is a flat slab of shiny glass

It’s so reflective, it’s like a mirror

The camera layout is similar to the Mi 9’s

Three cameras in one row

A pocketable all-display phone

The Mi 9 SE doesn’t look any different from its more expensive cousin. It also has an edge-to-edge display with a small notch on top to house a front-facing camera. The display measures just below six inches and it’s a Super AMOLED panel from Samsung. The screen’s resolution is at Full HD+ which is pretty sharp.

Since its an AMOLED, the color reproduction is top-notch and the blacks are indeed black. Beneath the display is a fingerprint scanner that lights up when needed. It takes less than a second to read, but it’s not the fastest I’ve tried. Thankfully, a smooth slab of Gorilla Glass 5 protects the display from unwanted scratches.

In the sea of sizable Android phones, the Mi 9 SE’s pocketable dimensions are welcoming. The phone’s display doesn’t look small and limiting because of its thin bezels. Once you get a hold of the phone, you’ll appreciate its size. It’s not as petite as former Xperia Compact models from Sony, although it’s fairly small by today’s standards.

The overall design of the Mi 9 SE isn’t special, but it doesn’t look and feel cheap either. The use of glass in the front and back elevates the phone’s premium touch, but I’m not a fan of its chrome-like side frame. Still, the Mi 9 SE is an attractive piece of hardware that can also act as a mirror with its uber-reflective rear glass.

Flagship-like performance in a smaller package

Powering the Mi 9 SE is the Snapdragon 712, a brand-new flagship-grade processor from Qualcomm. While the Snapdragon 712 is a new chip, it’s not that different from its predecessor which powers last year’s Mi 8 SE. The new processor is just slightly faster on paper, so the real-world difference is hardly noticeable. That means Mi 8 SE users can skip the Mi 9 SE if they are after a performance upgrade.

The phone runs MIUI 10 out of the box and it’s based on the latest Android 9 Pie. Xiaomi is good at keeping their devices updated, which is one of their strengths. With 6GB of memory to work with, the Mi 9 SE can handle multiple apps at the same time. So far, I haven’t encountered any lag during my time with the phone.

Moreover, MIUI 10 is one of the nicest skins for Android. The changes aren’t just cosmetic, they are also functional. The extra features from Xiaomi surely come in handy, especially the built-in system-wide dark mode.

When it comes to gaming, the Mi 9 SE can deliver high-quality graphics anytime. By default, most games are already set to high settings which means this phone is ready for mobile gamers. The screen does feel a bit small when compared to my previous devices, especially to my daily driver –the Huawei P30 Pro. My go-to games like Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile run smoothly on the device.

Triple the sensors, triple the fun

The biggest upgrade of the Mi 9 SE is found in the camera department. From two cameras, the new model now has three: a regular, a telephoto, and an ultra wide-angle.

The primary shooter is a 48-megapixel camera with an f/1.8 aperture designed for everyday shooting. Paired with AI scene recognition, the Mi 9 SE’s main camera can take great stills in various lighting conditions.

The second one is an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom. I personally don’t feel the need for a telephoto lens on a mobile phone, but it’s available for situations when you need to get closer to your subject. Take this ground signage as an example:

What I enjoy using is the ultra wide-angle lens. The phone’s third camera, which has a 13-megapixel sensor, can take a different prospective. When taking a photo of landscape or any open space, the phone’s AI will suggest to also take a photo using the ultra wide-angle camera. The quality doesn’t match the main shooter, but it’s highly usable.

As for selfies, there’s a 20-megapixel camera inside the display’s notch. Like with most front-facing cameras, it comes with beauty filers and artificial bokeh effects to mimic a high-quality portrait shot. For a front camera, it’s one of the sharpest and most detailed selfie shooters I’ve tried.

With a total of four cameras, there are a lot of ways you can take photos (and also videos) with the Mi 9 SE. Having both an ultra wide-angle and telephoto lens is the perfect setup for a modern camera phone, especially within the phone’s price point.

Fast charging battery

Despite the relatively pocketable dimensions of the Mi 9 SE, it still has a respectable battery capacity at 3070mAh. The efficiency of the new Snapdragon processor and the battery-saving features of Android Pie-based MIUI 10 help the Mi 9 SE last long on the road.

The phone was able to last a full day with heavy use which includes consistent internet connection over Wi-Fi or LTE, push notifications, and some gaming on the side. On lighter days, I am able to get almost two days of battery life. My average screen-on-time is around three to five per charge.

When it’s time to charge the battery, the bundled fast charger fills up the Mi 9 SE from zero to 47 percent in just 30 minutes. A full charge takes an hour and a half.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Mi 9 SE unit I have for review retails for PhP 15,990 (6GB+64GB) at Authorized Mi Stores in the Philippines, which is roughly US$ 310 when converted. For that price, the phone already offers a lot. I can’t think of any new phone that matches the Mi 9 SE in terms of price and features, making it an easy recommendation for those looking to buy a new phone.

The phone doesn’t have any flaws (nothing major, at least) that’ll turn off potential buyers, including myself. Is the Mi 9 SE the perfect midrange phone existing today? I can’t say for sure, but it’s clearly the best you can get in its range.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi unveils the Mi 9 SE Brown Bear Edition with custom case and themes

Gaming

Kena: Bridge of Spirits isn’t for everybody

And, that’s fine

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Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure third-person video game. The game is developed and produced by Ember Lab. In the game, you play as Kena. She’s a young spirit guide who uses her magical abilities to help people pass on into the spirit world.

The game is stunning and deep dives into spiritual aspects like emotional entanglement with the physical word after passing away.

In case you don’t have a working pair of eyes

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a gorgeous game. Stunning yet scuffed at times, this game is nothing short of eye-candy. The background details and character design is just *chef’s kiss*. But, big butt (Editor’s Note: Not sure if this is a typo but we’ve decided to keep it as is), by the way, this aesthetic might not be to some people’s liking. Hear me out: this game looks and feels like you’re playing through a Disney Pixar movie. And, honestly, that might not be for everyone.

On the scuffed end of things, you’ll find that some things glitch through objects and terrain. But, to that, I think it adds to its charm. The silliness is often welcome and strangely expected in the whole gaming sense. This isn’t the first scuffed game to come across a gamer’s life and it won’t be the last. I think each game has its improvements and patches to develop and incorporate and the glitches make the whole experience memorable and meme-able.

The crutch everyone won’t shut up about

This game is weirdly forgettable for people who’ve played a lot of third-person action adventures. Why? Well, this isn’t the first of its kind. Kena: Bridge of Spirits takes from many games before it and blends its inspirations together pretty nicely without overcomplicating its mechanics.

I would say though, that this can be what I personally found to be endearing with Kena. It unapologetically makes for a good entry-level action-adventure game for people who might not normally gravitate to games like it. With its beautiful visuals and memorable take on grievances, Kena pulls at sentimental heartstrings without the stupidly complicated skill building of most other action adventures out there.

Don’t hate the game

Nor, the player. The game is simple. That can be refreshing for some players or just boring to some. Which, I’ll say now, to each their own. Most games under the same category are far more convoluted and complex. So, if that’s something you like, this isn’t for you. And that’s totally fine.

Most of the game plays on collecting cute Rot along the way. And, on top of the usual skill building, most rewards you’ll find in hidden spots are either more Rot or hats for them. It doesn’t really require that much mental gymnastics to play this game. You can play to relax and just enjoy the journey. Which, for me, is great! Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the perfect game for when you want to play with family watching. I’m sure it’ll feel like a movie to them.

Is this your GAME Match?

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game worth trying no matter how familiar you are with video games in the same category. The barrier of entry is super friendly and simplistic so, you won’t need that much video game experience to immerse in the story. Plus, you can customize the game for when you want more of a challenge.

I do have to say though, that this game might fight to keep your interest at times but, it sure can lure you back in. As for me, I was happy to play this game. It was challenging at times and, it might not be the best one on my list. But, it gets honorary points for being simple, gorgeous, and family-friendly.

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Reviews

Apple Watch Series 7: In-Depth Fitness Review

For fitness buffs and starters alike

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In our previous video, Michael Josh did an unboxing of the new Apple Watch Series 7 in Starlight. He even became NY’s next top model as the Apple Watch can also be your next best fashion piece.

This time around, we go all-out to show you the fitness benefits of using the latest Apple Watch.

While an incremental update and lack of new sensors mean little, the longer battery life, faster charging, and larger display of the Apple Watch Series 7 mean it’s even better than before.

Here’s our in-depth fitness review of the new Apple Watch Series 7.

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Laptops

realme Book review: Done right the first time around

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realme Book

The pandemic has brought about major changes on how we depend on our gadgets. We stay glued to our smartphones for hours to stay connected. Most of us also continue with our work from home setup, causing the demand for laptops to continue to rise and opening the market to new players. 

realme tries to steal the scene as they make their laptop debut with the realme Book, aimed at competing at the midrange level where many brands have already made their mark. 

Let’s check out if the realme Book can be a great contender in the laptop arena. 

Familiar yet better  

realme Book

Having a first look at the realme Book, the similarity of its design is undeniable with the MacBook though I don’t really think it’s a bad thing. Its sleek and stylish minimalist design actually makes me feel like I’m using a premium laptop. 

Compared to its smartphones that have those flashy labels, realme veered away from that with their first laptop as they kept the label subtle and you can barely see the “Dare to Leap” mark on one of its rubber feet. 

Its 14-inch sleek aluminum alloy body with matte finish really feels solid and has little or no flex on its slim chassis.

If you’re someone who likes to work in different corners of your home or at al fresco shops, the realme book can easily fit in your bag with its 14.9mm width and 1.38kg weight. When working on a flat surface, the rubber feet on the back actually help the laptop stay stable. 

In terms of port options, you get one USB-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and two Type-C ports, one being a Thunderbolt 4 for the core i5 variant.

realme Book

The USB port was a bit too tight that it required me to exert effort to pull out my USB device. Also, this laptop lacks an SD card slot and HDMI port. It doesn’t bother me that much but it may be a deal-breaker for other users. 

realme Book

Top-Notch Display 

One thing that the realme Book can really boast about is its display. As full HD display is common in laptops from its competition, the realme Book takes it up a notch with its 2K Ultra-HD screen with 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution delivering stellar image quality with sharp detail. 

The realme Book also packs in 100 percent sRGB wide color gamut that enables true-to-life visuals and a peak brightness of 400 nits which maintains high quality image even under direct sunlight. 

What also sets it apart from other laptops is its 3:2 aspect ratio, giving you more vertical room compared to most laptops that are either 16:10 or 16:9. This feature is an advantage when it comes to your productivity especially if you usually work on documents, spreadsheets or social media content for work. 

However, this becomes a disadvantage when you’re watching videos since you’ll have wider black bars at the top and bottom of the screen due to movies and series being usually formatted with 16:9 ratio.  

Another impressive feature of this laptop is that realme was able to fit its web camera on its narrow bezels, unlike Huawei that had to sacrifice a good camera angle with their Matebook’s hidden camera placed on its keyboard. 

realme Book

Comfortable for work 

Speaking of the keyboard, typing on the realme Book is satisfying thanks to its 1.3mm key travel and the sound of its clicks is just right for my preference.

The keyboard also comes with a 3-mode backlit option which you can activate and adjust by pressing the F7 key. This is convenient especially when you have to work or use the laptop for a while during the night. It is also interesting since this is a feature that you barely get to experience on laptops at this price. 

realme Book

Compared to other laptops, the trackpad on the realme Book is pretty huge but doesn’t get in the way of typing. It is also very responsive to the touch and works precisely with all gestures and clicks. 

realme Book

And similar to the Huawei Matebook devices, it also has a fingerprint-sensor embedded power button to boot it up which is actually a handy feature to have in a laptop. 

Power Performance 

As for breezing through tasks, the realme Book is highly capable to give you the best experience being powered by the 11th Gen Intel Core processor. Paired with this is the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 8GB DDR4 memory and 512GB PCIe SSD storage. 

Aside from writing and creating social media content, I sometimes do photo and basic video editing for my side hustles. With the power combo under this laptop’s hood, it didn’t come as a surprise that the realme Book actually handled my tasks smoothly. 

Even with games such as Valorant, I was able to play it at 2K resolution at high settings and it didn’t feel laggy at all. Of course, if you’d want a faster frame rate, you can always lower down your settings to improve your gaming experience. 

realme Book

I also noticed that while playing games, the laptop didn’t feel heated up at all. I checked via HWMOnitor and its temperature was just hovering a little over 60 degrees. This is actually cool for its slim body. I guess we can attribute this to its efficient cooling system with dual 8mm heat pipes and high speed, high airflow fans.

Quick juice up 

When working, I usually take short breaks in between major tasks to refresh my mind. So it’s actually enough for me that the realme Book’s 54 Wh battery can support up to 9 hours of work and leisure, keeping me powered and connected.

And once the battery already ran out, the 65W fast charger got me to a 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes so I was able to conveniently continue with whatever I’m doing.

It’s also a plus that the charger of the realme Book is small and just slightly heavier than a smartphone charger so it’s an easy carry in the bag. It also has the same USB-C cable used to charge our smartphones so you won’t have to carry another charger for your smartphone when traveling. 

Immersive speakers  

For a laptop this slim, I was quite surprised that the sound coming from its down-firing Harman speakers is considerably loud and well defined. 

When I tried listening to my playlists, I did notice that while it did not have as much bass as I would have preferred, it does sound fuller compared to others. When it comes to binging series and playing games, the speakers did a great job of simulating space that sounds pleasant and immersive. I guess I can say, it does sound better than many of the laptops I’ve tried.

Is the realme Book your GadgetMatch? 

As a new player in the laptop market, the realme Book makes a pretty great attempt at laptops and definitely challenges competing and more established brands. 

Sure this laptop may not be perfect but realme has brought their expertise in creating attractive smartphones to this laptop that definitely looks premium for its price. Also with its 2K Ultra-HD display, sleek and sturdy aluminum build, premium design, powerful performance and immersive audio, this laptop is definitely a solid deal for its price. 

The realme Book is available in Real Grey and Real Blue colors and retails at PhP 37,990 for the i3 variant and PhP 47,990 for the i5 variant.

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