Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 9T Review: An iPhone user’s take

Flagship-like performance for less than half the price

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Three years had passed since I last used an Android phone as my daily driver. It was a Samsung Galaxy Note 5. It performed so well that I got upset the moment it stopped functioning. I had since been using an iPhone — the 6 Plus and the XR. Before the Note 5 I had used the iPhone 3Gs and the iPhone 4S.

I’m no stranger to using non iPhones though. The phones I’ve used has been mostly a mixed bag: Nokia 6070, Motorola SLVR L6, Motorola RAZR V3i, Sony Ericsson F305, and Samsung Wave. So when I was given the chance to use the Xiaomi Mi 9T, I welcomed the experience with open arms.

Unlike the OnePlus 6T which is the more advanced version of the OnePlus 6, do not confuse yourself as the this is not the “Pro” version of the Xiaomi Mi 9, not even the Redmi K20 Pro.

The design is oddly attractive

Unlike most Xiaomi phones, the rear cameras were placed in the middle. I don’t have OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) but I would choose the symmetrical design over anything else.

Although the Carbon Black color does not have any striking effect as the Flame Red or the icy effect of the Glacier Blue, it looks stealthy with those lines that blend well with the design as a whole.

The metal frame blends with the phone’s color when not heavily lit

Both the power button and volume buttons are found at the right side of the phone. I like how they distinguished the power button with a red accent.

The audio jack is something you can’t find on most smartphones nowadays

The top part houses the headphone jack, microphone, and the pop-up camera module. Unlike its Mi 9 and Mi 9 SE siblings, the Mi 9T doesn’t have an IR blaster.

The bottom part shows the speaker grilles, dual nano-SIM card slot, microphone, and (finally) a USB-C port — which other manufacturers refuse to include on their midrange phones 👀.

It may not have any dual speakers but it’s loud enough when you play music, videos, or games.

I like it BIG

Those bezels are thinner than my trust issues combined

Having large hands, I prefer using big phones (owning a Note 5 and 6 Plus made all sense). It’s just surprising how Xiaomi kept the bezels thin enough to accommodate this massive display in such a form factor.

The AMOLED display makes visuals pop-up (pun intended)

I can appreciate music videos (and Yeji) better with this display

One thing I miss about the Galaxy Note 5 is its Super AMOLED display. Xiaomi Mi 9T has a 6.39″ Full HD+ fullscreen display with the same AMOLED technology that showcases deeper blacks and whiter whites in comparison to other phone screens. My iPhone XR with an IPS-LCD display can’t relate to this display superiority.

The HDR display is a nice addition

I was able to enjoy watching El and the Gang with Mi 9T’s Netflix HDR compatibility

Not all phones are created equal — but the Mi 9T boasts HDR compatibility, specifically for Netflix. It may not matter to most people but personally, it made my entertainment experience a lot better.

In-display fingerprint scanners are not perfect but they work fine

With this display tech, it’s expected for this phone to have an in-display fingerprint scanner. Although it’s nowhere near the accuracy of phones with physical fingerprint scanners, it still does the trick.

Ambient display is underappreciated

Ambient displays or the Always-On Display (AOD) is an Android feature I (desperately) want iOS to have. It has kept me updated with my social media updates by just glancing without ever unlocking the phone.

The pop-up camera solves the notch dilemma

Pop-up cameras are not really my cup of tea as I don’t take selfies that much, but I would still choose them over bothersome notches and punch hole displays.

No one can really tell how long it will last because of its motorized parts, but I would keep this feature for the sake of keeping the fullscreen display (not until companies make in-display cameras a thing).

Face Unlock doesn’t make sense

Honestly speaking, the pop-up camera takes a while to appear. The added facial recognition doubles the unlocking time, making this feature senseless. I guess I was just used to the speed, accuracy, and reliability of Apple’s FaceID.

Surprising performance for less than half the price

This Mi 9T is equipped with Snapdragon 730, 6GB RAM and 64GB of onboard storage. I don’t wanna focus on the specifics but in my experience, it performs well as I was able to play graphics-intensive games like SimCity: Build It for several hours.

Some minor issues I noticed are the casual lags while playing, specifically when I simultaneously build and upgrade buildings. Also, games like  Asphalt 9 can’t be downloaded from the Play Store due to compatibility issues with the display. APK files might work although I don’t recommend that as it might ruin the device. Another I noticed is that the phone is prone to accidental touches when in landscape mode. This can be frustrating especially since most games include small elements found at the edge of the screen.

Overall, I would say performance is on par and can keep up with the competition.

MIUI 10 felt familiar

I’m aware that there are differences among Android phones when it comes to the User Interface (UI): Samsung’s One UI, Huawei’s EMUI, ASUS’ ZenUI, Oppo’s ColorOS, Vivo’s Funtouch OS, you name them. I was also able to use the Xiaomi Mi A2 before but instead of MIUI, it runs Google’s Android One.

Using the MIUI 10 felt familiar to me though. There are a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to features — but in a good way. UI is ever-responsive and multitasking is a breeze. There were some hiccups especially when I use the iOS-like fullscreen gestures, but it’s still more tolerable than my iPhone 6 Plus’ terrible performance.

Battery life is outstanding

4% left after more than a day of normal usage

The combination of its 4000mAh battery and Snapdragon’s 8nm processor made this phone last for more than a day with normal usage. It’s even ideal for multimedia consumption. The phone was able to keep some 28 percent of spare juice after binge-watching all eight episodes of Stranger Things 3 for more than six hours straight. I watched every episode in 1080p HDR with 75 percent display brightness.

Games are obviously battery hogs, but battery performance is not as terrible as most smartphones out there. It can still last you almost a day after several hours of continuous gameplay. It honestly deserves the “Battery Champ” title among low-midrange smartphones.

Quick charge and USB-C: Two things that work together

It’s 2019, there’s no place for micro USBs anymore. Xiaomi is doing it right with using USB-C as the standard for ports — even for midrangers like the Mi 9T.

Those reversible cables and the existence of 18W Quick Charge make everything less of a hassle. With the charging brick and cable that came out of the box, I was able to observe that it can fill up from one percent to 100 percent in just one hour and 30~45 minutes.

Highlight of the show: triple-treat cameras

Triple cameras are nothing new anymore —  but being able to pack three camera sensors at such an affordable price felt like a smart bargain.

Auto Mode works most of the time

Going into the specifics, it has a 48MP f/1.8 main camera, 8MP f/2.4 telephoto zoom camera, and one of my favorites, 13MP f/2.4 ultra-wide camera.

It even works great under dark lighting conditions

Using Auto Mode under such lighting condition, I was still able to capture great-looking shots.

Night Mode is stunning

What I don’t like about iPhones is the lack of Night Mode. I even downloaded a third-party app just to acquire the same functionality. Well, that feature already comes in this phone — and it’s impressive.

Portrait Mode, HDR, and AI are doing their work properly

But sometimes, I don’t like the camera’s post-processing

A lot of people brag about their #NoFilter shots but everyone should take note that post-processing already takes place once a photo gets captured. Applying the principles of photography, not everything that is vibrant turns out to be the best photograph. The camera software’s post-processing technique in one of my shots was an eyesore.

Selfies look decent enough

If you are a selfie addict, it performs well in great lightning conditions. But according to the judgments of MJ (who’s a selfie expert), he would still prefer the Mi 9 SE over this.

Another minor error I experienced while using it is when it stops working and displays “Can’t connect to camera”. It happened not just ONCE or TWICE, but several times. Even updating MIUI 10 does not fix the issue. I hope Xiaomi would resolve this in the future.

As someone who has used an iPhone for several years, there is always the skepticism about the camera quality of midrange phones. Despite the inconsistencies in software performance, Mi 9T has proven that the quality of the cameras should not be compromised regardless of its price.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Unlike iPhones, getting this will not cost you your two kidneys. The Xiaomi Mi 9T with the 6GB/64GB configuration retails for PHP 15,490. They are also selling a 6GB/128GB configuration for PHP 17,490.

For people who are looking for a smartphone that performs well in all aspects, this is one of the best picks. If you care about the fullscreen display, faster internals, and bigger battery, it’s no-brainer to choose this over the Mi 9 SE as they both have the same price. If you prefer a smaller form factor, choose the latter.

I also recommend this for people who are looking for newer phones to replace their old-generation iPhones. If you are the type of person who uses a phone regardless of the Operating System (Android vs iOS), this is a great choice.

Lifestyle

Amazon Kindle PaperWhite Signature Edition Review

The best Kindle for every bookworm?

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It’s been a while ever since the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite had a refresh. To be particular about it, its 10th-Generation model was released last 2018 — merely three years ago!

This 2021, the new 11th-Gen Kindle PaperWhite offers better upgrades including a larger and brighter display, as well as USB-C and wireless charging support.

But are those enough to make you upgrade? Or should you wait for the next version of Kindle Oasis instead?

Head over to our unboxing and in-depth review of the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite and watch it in 4K too.

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Accessories

AirPods 3 Unboxing and Review

Watch before you buy!

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If you’ve been holding your money for so long just to buy the new AirPods 3 (also called the AirPods 3rd Generation), this is your chance to finally get one.

But with the absence of removable ear tips and Active Noise Cancellation from the AirPods Pro, would you still consider buying the pair?

Head over to our AirPods 3 Unboxing and Review to help your impulsive self.

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Gaming

Hot Wheels Unleashed review: A childhood dream realized

It’s action-packed and rather nostalgic

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Hot Wheels Unleashed

As a kid, I wanted all kinds of toys whenever we went to toy stores in the city. One of the very first toys I had an obsession over was Hot Wheels. From collecting cars to building tracks in the living room, it became the quintessential set of toys that got me into racing games all this time.

When Hot Wheels Unleashed was released, I instantly knew that this was a game I didn’t want to miss. As someone who plays a ton of racing games, this one felt right at home next to Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Unlike CTR:NF, the nostalgia I felt for this game was more on the side of “playing my toys on a virtual screen” type of thing.

However, if you’re looking for another game to help you pass the time, is this a game worth considering?

A racing game at its core

As with most games involving toy cars, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels right at home as a racing game. It even comes with some of the most standard game modes you can think of for any racing game, so you won’t necessarily miss out if you’re a racing game fan. Where this game sets itself apart is in its easy-to-grasp game mechanics.

Usually, all you have to do is drive around the course and win 1st Place by outspeeding and outsmarting (in some situations) your opponents. You still do that but with some key differences, particularly towards boosting. Honestly, I like the fact that boosts are activated by button pushes and accumulated by drifting. To me, it’s friendly even to new players getting into racing games.

Hot Wheels Unleashed

The other thing I like is the fact that each Hot Wheels toy car comes with its own cart stats, and not just a general one all throughout. This also gives you an incentive to try and get every available model in the game and try them out for yourself. Furthermore, you can even upgrade these stats using Gears, and customize their Livery to however you like.

Creativity and originality in track design

Every racing game needs some interesting tracks to race around, especially with something like Hot Wheels. In Hot Wheels Unleashed, you have access to 5 main backdrops, each with about 8-9 different tracks that come with their own surprises. From high-arching loops to acid pits, each track will have you doing things a bit differently each time you race.

In fact, the first thing I noticed was that the elements in the tracks are quite similar to the actual models in those track builder sets. The designers did an incredible job with maximizing the entire backdrop to produce tracks with enough twists and turns along the way. Also, I would even argue that these tracks let you play around with the driving mechanics.

Now, I have some good news and bad news for you on these tracks. The bad news is that when you start the game, most of the tracks are locked as in-game transactions. If you wanted to unlock them the easy way, just pay a few bucks to get in-game currency and buy them.

However, the good news is you can unlock them by completing the Hot Wheels City Rumble mode. Although it will be an immense grind on your part, but I honestly think it’s worth it!

Wait, you can make your own tracks?!

Yes, you read that right: Hot Wheels Unleashed also allows you to create your own tracks to race on with your friends online. See, one unique mode to the game is the Track Builder, and I guess the name is self-explanatory. To be honest, this game mode was the best and it actually brings me back to my childhood.

Once you start the game mode, you basically have a blank canvas to work with, depending on the main backdrop you choose. After choosing your desired backdrop, you have a variety of track builder pieces to choose from and customize. Also, it even comes with your set of obstacles and boost pads to add some flavor to your tracks.

I absolutely enjoyed going on Track Builder as someone who collected Hot Wheels track sets before. Basically, you can create some of the most death-defying tracks that your younger self could not afford to before. Seriously, Hot Wheels track builder sets are expensive, and this game basically lets you experience this without spending a hefty amount.

Some low points

Much like most racing games, this one doesn’t come with its own set of shortcomings. To no one’s surprise, this game comes with a Hot Pass that allows you to earn more cars, tracks, and track builder sets. The good thing about it is, well, it’s more content at your disposal. At the time of writing, they’re currently running one with Batman vehicles as the main rewards,

The thing I don’t like about it is that you have to pay for it. I genuinely feel that this is something that would have been better off as a Battle Pass-type of package instead of paid DLC. I mean, it’s additional content that people also want to try out but with a rather hefty price tag. Maybe if they did it this way, people would continue to grind out the game.

Another thing that felt lacking in my eyes was the Basement, particularly the customization aspect.

I get it, it’s another main backdrop for your tracks and you can work with a ton of elements when creating your own. However, I didn’t like that the customization was limited to just the exterior design. Honestly,  I was looking for more customization options like moving the furniture around.

A roaring good time

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a racing game that feels right at home with the best of them. From a vast selection of carts to creative and unique track design, it feels fresh to anybody trying to get into racing games. Also, if you grew up playing your Hot Wheels car collection, this takes you back to simpler times.

Again, it’s not perfect and hopefully with upcoming patches, the game does get better. However, they missed out on some opportunities to make it a worthwhile game to play for any occasion. Sure, if you had money to burn, this wouldn’t be an issue; for others, however, they want a lot more without spending too much.

Overall, this game will give you a roaring good time, especially when you just need some down time from all the stress. What made it even more special for me was that this game pretty much made one of my childhood dreams a reality!

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