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

43-inch realme Smart TV review: Picture-perfect quality within reach

The basics and features of premium TVs made more accessible

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Smart. That’s how I’ll describe life in 2021 and beyond. From phones, vehicles, appliances, and even a toothbrush — everything’s getting smarter. But smart devices almost always come at an expensive price tag. There may be affordable options but there’s always a compromise. Sometimes, you’ll just have to say, “you really get what you pay for.”

Say no more, folks. Popular smartphone maker realme expands its portfolio, bringing in smart devices as part of realme TechLife. And we know they make lots of affordable devices that won’t break your bank.

In lieu of this, realme aims to make technology more accessible so we can enjoy living a smart, connected life.  One of realme’s key products is its Smart TV lineup — a centerpiece for every connected home.

Wait, what? realme has a Smart TV lineup?

Yes, you read that right. Just a refresher in case you haven’t been making GadgetMatch.com your daily habit, realme launched its Smart TV lineup last 2020. It comes in two sizes: a 32-inch and 43-inch model, with varying differences.

Both models found their way to the Philippine archipelago, and we’ve got our hands on the 42-inch variant. And from here on, I’m going to share my experience with realme’s latest Smart TV.

Setting it up

Let me preface this story by saying that I’m the type of person who would ask for help. It’s simply because I’m too lazy or I don’t want to use my brain cells in trying to figure out how something works.

When I unboxed the package, I took out the 43-inch Smart TV which weighed 6.7kg, enough for most people to carry on their own.

On the inside, you can find two base stands and four screws that you’ll need for installation. There’s also a quick start guide, instruction manual, and a warranty card.

What I really loved right away is the remote control — it’s small and looks neat with its minimalistic approach. But don’t let its size fool you: It’s fast, responsive, and made navigating the TV easy.

Since it was an Android TV, I signed in with my Google account fairly easily. It also instantly connected to the WiFi, and happy to report it maintained a stable connection and didn’t disconnect abruptly unlike some of your ex-lovers.

The installation and setup were relatively easy for someone who doesn’t want to think. It also boosted my self-esteem, seeing how proud my self-proclaimed strong, independent self was, for being able to set everything up on my own.

Connectivity and customization

I mentioned that the Smart TV instantly connected to the WiFi, but in case you need to know, it supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, Infrared, and Bluetooth 5.0 for different wireless connections.

You can pair your Bluetooth-powered speakers, game controllers, and microphones. It also comes with three HDMI ports, two USB SPDIF ports, DVB-T2 for your digital TV, and Ethernet ports — for your wired connectivity needs.

Going back to my point about it being an Android TV, it’s because it runs Android TV OS based on Android 9.0 — which makes the interface simple and easy to navigate. It also personalizes and modifies recommended content based on your viewing and search history, and of course, to your liking.

The remote control or even your smartphone can also access the TV’s Google Assistant, which lets you customize your whole experience using your voice.

Picture-perfect viewing

The Smart TV evoked a premium-looking impression with its thin, inconspicuous bezels and edge-to-edge panel. It also gave an immersive experience even with just a 1920×1080 resolution.

Thanks to its Chroma Boost technology, the overall picture quality looks magnificent. In case you didn’t know about it, realme’s smartphone cameras use the same tech — improved brightness, color, contrast, and clarity  — which result in high-quality photos and stunning output.

With this, the Smart TV’s picture tuning looked visually appealing especially with its vibrant colors and ultra-high brightness of up to 400+ nits. I didn’t have trouble watching any shows even when harsh sunlight enters my living room. The picture quality looked even more alive at night or when the room is dark.

Viewing angles weren’t a problem, too. You can see the content clearly, thanks to its visual angle of up to 178 degrees. To provide a pleasant experience to different users, the TV lets you choose from seven display modes: Standard, Vivid, Sport, Movie, Game, Energy-Saving, and User.

Chromecast

One of my favorite features on the realme Smart TV is the built-in Google Chromecast technology. Ever since I discovered this feature from my techie friends, I’ve always loved using it on all applicable devices.

Anyhoo, you won’t bother using your brain cells with Chromecast. You can easily connect your smartphone with the Chromecast button (if it shows up) and link your TV. If both devices can’t see each other, you can proceed to the TV’s Settings option and get the code that you’ll input using your smartphone.

Once you’re done, voila! Enjoy using your smartphone as the host or navigator for all your entertainment needs. When I’m alone at home, I stream Taylor Swift’s concerts on YouTube which were remastered in 4K on the TV. I know it only has a Full HD resolution, but we all can agree that having Taylor Swift’s videos is worth playing on whatever screen.

Plus, the main issue here was the sound experience, which brings me to my next point.

Surround sound or just really loud?

Playing Taylor Swift’s concerts on the realme Smart TV is like being at a live concert. I streamed Swift’s videos while I clean the house or when I wash the dishes, singing and belting my heart out as she tearfully sings “All Too Well”.

And there’s a reason why it felt like I was at a live concert: the realme Smart TV uses 24W Quad Stereo Speakers with Dolby Audio MS12B solution. Sounds martian, right?

Basically, the speakers expand the bass frequency and high-frequency width, resulting in balanced audio even at the highest volume possible. It doesn’t sound cracked and distorted even if it reaches a frequency of 20,000Hz — the highest frequency that any human ear can listen to. For comparison, most TVs can only reach a frequency of 11,000Hz.

But for a sensitive person like me, the loud audio can be discomforting sometimes, especially for days when I just want to relax and watch some feel-good movies. My neighbors also complained since I live in a quiet neighborhood, and they didn’t like hearing what I was playing on my television.

Though the Dolby Audio solution fine-tunes the quality, controls the loudness levels and volume changes in a content’s audio, and creates surround sound to make it palatable to our audible range, it’s still recommended to use a soundbar for an enhanced sound experience. Especially if you want it to be really cinematic.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The 43-inch realme Smart TV has a lot to offer. It houses a MediaTek processor, sports a Full HD LED Display, equipped with Dolby Audio-tuned 24W speakers, and comes with Android TV out of the box. It presents a picture-perfect quality perfect for a theatrical experience at home, without paying for an exorbitant price.

Simply, this Smart TV made the basics and features of any premium TVs accessible at an affordable price, for any consumer to experience. The 43-inch realme Smart TV retails for PhP 18,990 and will be available on realme’s official channels and authorized stores and retailers.

Shopee Mega 3.3 Shopping Sale

Heads up! The realme Smart TV will be available on Shopee, in time for the 3.3 Mega Shopping Sale happening on March 3, 2021, at 12:00 AM (GMT+8).

Both models will get PhP 3,000 off; the 32-inch model with an SRP of PhP 11,990 will be available for PhP 8,990 while the 43-inch model with an SRP of PhP 18,990 will be available for PhP 15,990.

Make sure to use the voucher code: GADGETZONE8 before you check out. On another note, ten lucky buyers of the realme Smart TV will get a free realme Soundbar. Meanwhile, first-batch buyers of the TV will get free 12 months extended warranty worth PhP 3,990.

SEE ALSO: realme Smart TV: Price and availability in the Philippines

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India

Xiaomi Mi 10i Review: Master of the midrange

A near-perfect phone, designed for everyone

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For years Xiaomi has tried to get a foothold in the premium segment, but it just couldn’t hit the right spot. Despite engineering marvels like the Mi MIX series, it didn’t work. The company has also tried releasing a polished midrange phone under the Redmi branding but couldn’t meet inflated market expectations. Will the Mi 10i solidify its push?

The Chinese smartphone giant got its portfolio sorted at the beginning of 2020 by dividing the three brands — Mi for premium, Redmi for budget, and spun-off POCO into a completely independent brand. Now, Xiaomi has set its priorities straight and aims for the lucrative premium segment, one that’s gobbled by players like Samsung, Apple, Huawei, and to a certain degree, OnePlus, OPPO, and vivo.

The Mi 10i is surely a midrange phone, but it has a lot of expectations to meet. And it’s an important product for Xiaomi since it’s again trying to test the INR 20,000+ range. There’s also tough competition from the OnePlus Nord, Galaxy A51, as well as the realme X3. So, how does Xiaomi’s new offering fare? Let’s see!

How’s the design? Is it comfortable to hold for gaming or streaming?

I’ve got the Pacific Sunrise color option, and it looks phenomenal. The phone has a unique color palette and a premium touch that makes it look much more expensive than it really is. The front and back of the device are protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5, but it has a very satisfying opaque finish that gives it a very translucent look. It may be glass, but it’ll never attract fingerprints, and that’s one of my favorite things about the phone.

The back has a gradient of cyan or light blue and a mix of orange and pink. While colors or gradients are usually personal preferences and range from person to person, everyone I showed the phone to loved it.

You’ll find the power and volume buttons on the right, the USB-C port at the bottom, and the IR blaster at the top. Like the Mi 10T series, Xiaomi has added a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that’s baked into the power button, and it’s speedy.

The rear has a circular camera module that may remind you of the OnePlus 7T, but the Mi 10i has a slightly different design which actually looks quite good. Due to the bigger 108 megapixel primary sensor, the camera module bulges a lot. But it isn’t annoying because the phone is pretty stable on a flat surface and doesn’t wobble like the Mi 10T series.

Xiaomi has added an IP53 rating for water resistance, so you don’t have to worry about splashes or even light rain. Lastly, the phone retains my beloved 3.5mm headphone jack. I hope Xiaomi continues to add it in future phones.

Lastly, the phone weighs more than 210gms. The weight is easily noticeable, and it does get annoying after extended usage. I prefer a lighter phone because it helps with ergonomics and can withstand falls slightly better.

Is the LCD panel immersive? Does the high refresh rate drain battery?

Looks so good, yeah looks so sweet

The Mi 10i has a 6.7-inch LCD display with a 120Hz refresh rate and Full HD+ resolution. There’s not much to say about the screen because it’s like you’d expect it to be. Xiaomi has a lot of experience with these panels now, and the color reproduction is accurate and vibrant, blacks are deep enough, and the viewing angle is top-notch. However, I feel that it could’ve been brighter. Under direct sunlight, it sometimes becomes difficult to view texts and emails on the go.

Yes, an AMOLED display will have deeper blacks, and that’s where the OnePlus Nord gets a lead. But considering the price difference between the two, Xiaomi smartly opted for an LCD panel and added 120Hz support. Day-to-day tasks are smoothly done, and the overall experience of having a smooth user experience pays off in the longer run. Although, you can adjust the refresh rate according to your preference.

The screen doesn’t suck too much power because it has an automatic variable refresh rate that adjusts according to your usage. So, if you’re watching a YouTube video, don’t worry. The panel knows the playback is at a lower refresh rate and makes the appropriate changes. In the end, you’re with a dynamic display that uses resources only when required. And, if you’re desperate to save power, there’s an option to downgrade to 30Hz as well!

How hard can you game on the Mi 10i? Is MIUI optimized?

The Mi 10i is one of the first phones to be powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 750G chipset. It is an octa-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz and built on an 8nm fabrication while the graphics are taken care of by the Adreno 619 GPU. This is also a 5G enabled chipset which comes with Qualcomm’s X52 5G modem for 5G connectivity. My unit has 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage.

As for the real-life usage and performance, as expected, the device shines at everything you throw at it. Be it a light task or a heavy task; the device is capable of handling it all. Xiaomi has mastered MIUI’s integration with a range of hardware, and the results are visible across all its phones. The Xiaomi Mi 10i runs MIUI 12, which is still Android 10-based (we’d expect Android 11 by now). If you’ve used MIUI before, you know what you’re getting into.

And if you haven’t, don’t worry. The skin is heavily customizable and has a lot of nifty features that are very utilitarian. The RAM management and multitasking was also excellent. Apps stayed longer than I’d expected in the background, and switching between apps did not force reload the content.

All modern games run smoothly on the phone, and there’s barely any lag or stuttering. Though, I did notice some frame drops when playing Call of Duty: Mobile for more than an hour. If you’re expecting any considerable raw performance improvement against the Snapdragon 765G, don’t. The difference is negligible, and you won’t realize it in real-life unless you start mining Bitcoins on your phone.

Most importantly, how’s the 108MP camera? Is it as good as the Mi 10T series?

Just like the Mi 10T Pro series, the Mi 10i gets a 108 megapixel sensor, but it isn’t the same one as the Mi 10T Pro. It comes with a 1/1.52-inch sensor, and Xiaomi claims it’s more compact than the HM1 sensor, which reduces the camera bump. Pictures are usually taken in 12-megapixels via binning technology, retaining details, natural color, and accurate contrast.

One of my favorite things about the sensor is its capability to capture excellent pictures with HDR. The algorithm can cleverly process the image to ensure there’s no excessive noise correction. The sensor can detect colors precisely and adjust exposure even under direct sunlight. The 108-megapixel mode can be accessed in the camera app with more options. The amount of detail captured by the camera in 108MP mode is truly incredible.

Low-light pictures are slightly disappointing because they often over-sharpen details, and the result looks quite artificial. The night mode compensates for this, but it mostly makes the image brighter and doesn’t necessarily optimize it.

Accompanying the primary sensor is an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens that isn’t that wide and struggles to capture detail. The quality degradation is easily visible, and this is definitely a cost-cutting measure for the company. There’s also a 2-megapixel macro and portrait sensor, which are now commonly found on almost all Xiaomi phones. It’s worth noting that the phone doesn’t have optical image stabilization, so if you’re into video, this definitely isn’t for you.

Despite the criticism, I’d say the phone has the best cameras you’d find in this price range. The competition is far away, and the 108 megapixel becomes a deal-breaker for many. Most of the issues I’ve encountered are software-based, and Xiaomi can fix them via OTA updates.

How long can it last? Should I invest in a 5G phone right now?

The Mi 10i 5G has a 4800mAh battery with 33W fast charging, and Xiaomi includes a 33W charging brick in the box. It took me an hour to charge it from 0 to 100, and that’s definitely a good deal. Thanks to Adaptive Sync (variable refresh rate of the screen), the phone can deliver a screen-on-time of more than seven hours in one go. Sometimes, it’ll even go up to eight hours under comfortable situations.

India is yet to roll-out 5G on a commercial scale, and the expected launch timeline from telcos currently stands at 2022. The government is yet to hold a spectrum auction, so there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved before we get to experience it. In my opinion, practical coverage of 5G is still two years away. 5G should be no reason for you to buy this phone.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a phone that excels at everything, then this phone is for you. The design honestly feels flagship grade and reeks premium, the processor is brand new and packs a punch, the cameras are above average and can go the extra mile if you’re a photography enthusiast, and lastly, the battery backup is optimum.

Gamers won’t be disappointed because the chipset is capable enough, and the phone barely heats up. This phone is made for everyone and does not stick to any particular niche. Considering the starting price of INR 21,999 (US$ 303), the Mi 10i is an easy recommendation. And even though we can’t enjoy 5G this year, it’s great to see the market get flooded with options. After all, the trickle-down effect will soon give us affordable 5G phones.

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review: For Pro Users!

Is it worth the $400 premium?

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What makes a smartphone ultra? We dissect the extras that make Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra the phone for power users.

Is it worth the $400 premium vs the Galaxy S21? What’s been added, what’s been taken away, and does it make a difference?

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy S21 Review: Samsung’s Best for Less!

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