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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.

Reviews

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6: A worthy pro tablet

Even more if you’re already invested in Huawei’s ecosystem

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MatePad Pro 12.6

Recovering from their dark past of being cannibalized by the growing sizes of smartphones, tablets have once again secured their spot in the market. From what had just seemed to be a bigger smartphone, tablets have gotten overhauled into a somewhat capable and more portable laptop replacement.

This is thanks to the few determined brands that persistently kept looking for innovative uses for these large devices.

Among the few is Huawei who once again brings us something very promising this year as they introduce their most powerful tablet yet – the new Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6.

Sleek design 

MatePad Pro 12.6

Faithful to the MatePad series’ design, the MatePad Pro is built with an aluminum body with a Matte Grey finish. On its front, we have the 12.6-inch OLED display framed with its sleek looking ultra slim bezels.

While the design isn’t something to marvel at, the incredibly thin 5.6mm bezels still manages to carry in it the front facing camera which makes it look a bit cleaner than the punch hole design seen on its predecessor.

MatePad Pro 12.6

For a 12.6-inch device, the MatePad Pro is relatively lightweight as it is lighter than Apple’s iPad Pro 12.9-inch at only 609g. Though you would still probably prefer to use this on your desk as hand holding it like you would with a smartphone would still feel tiring for your arms after a while. After all, you’re still carrying more than half a kilo.

Snappy performance with capable hardware

Running on flagship specs, the MatePad Pro is powered by a Kirin 9000E 5G SoC, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. If you’re unfamiliar with this chipset, this happens to be Huawei’s contender that goes head on with the also very powerful flagship from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 888.

MatePad Pro 12.6

So how does it perform? Well, just as you would expect from a flagship – everything felt snappy fast. From gaming on graphically demanding games, like Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends to some light video editing with FilmoraGo, the MatePad Pro handled everything like a charm. It was a struggle playing FPS games because of its size though, but its hardware is more than capable rendering everything even at the highest graphic settings.

Vibrant yet accurate OLED display

There’s plenty of room to play with in this 12.6-inch OLED display as its screen resolution of 2560×1600 and the 16:10 aspect ratio makes it perfect for multitasking apps side by side.

I understand that many creative professionals are probably eyeing on using this for creative work. And here I say, this display is also perfect for such use. With its DCI-P3 color gamut, colors appear closer to what they would actually look like in real life.

That being said, taking breaks and watching videos on this screen is also a pleasurable experience as the deep blacks and the high contrast produced by OLEDs really makes images pop.

MatePad Pro 12.6

The screen brightness is also more than enough for indoor use but much like any other OLED device, viewing under direct sunlight is a struggle.

A multifunctional keyboard and the new M-Pencil 2.0

A magnetic keyboard that doubles as a protective cover isn’t something new for tablets. I do like how the keys are widely spaced, the relatively long key travel and its professional look. However, do take note that this does not come close to the same user experience as Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad rather it is similar to their Smart Keyboard Folio.

For one, it doesn’t have a trackpad which is a bummer and the keys are placed near the edge of the frame. This leaves us no space to rest our palms on if we were to use this on smaller spaces.

The M-Pencil 2.0, on the other hand, is really good. With its 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, this new version of the M-Pencil is capable of simulating different strokes that artists do if they were using a brush or a pencil. It also has handy shortcuts like Double-tap Toggle which allows you to go back and forth selecting different tools. 

When left on its docked position, the M-Pencil 2.0 seamlessly connects to the tablet and automatically charges itself leaving it always fully charged and ready to use.

Powered by HarmonyOS 2.0

I had mixed feelings with HarmonyOS going into this review, and I can say, I still do. Yes, it does feel very polished and similar to Android but the app compatibility is still what keeps me away from fully investing myself in it.

While Huawei’s AppGallery may have a growing library of apps, it still lacks many of the familiar apps that we use. The good news is most of these apps are ones that can be accessed through the browser like Facebook, Youtube and Netflix. 

And here’s the thing. You’d probably use this tablet like how you’d use a laptop anyway and on our laptops, that’s exactly how we access these — on our browser.

I’ve also realized that most Android apps will actually work with HarmonyOS 2.0, you’d just have to install them manually. That’s where the new Petal Search feature comes in handy. You can simply type in the name of a third party app you’re looking for and it would look for an appropriate APK file for you from different sources.

Multi Screen Collaboration with Huawei devices

A feature you get access to if you’re living in Huawei’s ecosystem is the Multi Screen Collaboration. It’s also what I enjoyed most with this MatePad Pro. Paired with the MateBook D15 that I’m currently using, I was able to mirror and extend the laptop’s display to the MatePad as well as drag and drop my files between the two devices.

It certainly feels like you’re getting more out of your device as it opens up more possibilities of what you can do with this tablet. I was able to use the MatePad as a drawing tablet controlling the laptop as well as use it as an additional desktop workspace. This gave me much freedom for multitasking and an accurate reference monitor for photo editing.

Battery that’s built to last 

Back in the earlier days of tablets, I remember owning a tablet which struggled to last two hours on web browsing. That isn’t the case here. Huawei rates this device to last up to 9 hours straight web browsing with its large 10,050mAh battery. Long enough to last you a whole work day or even longer if you plan on doing work offline.

The included 40W fast charger should get you all juiced up for about a little over two hours which is pretty decent for such a big battery capacity. I also charged this with the charger that came with the MateBook D15 and that worked well too so less things to pack in case you happen to have both devices with you.

Cameras that may come in handy 

MatePad Pro 12.6

Kind of unique for a tablet, the MatePad Pro 12.6 comes packed with three cameras. A 13MP main shooter, 8MP wide angle and a 3D depth sensor.

You may kind of look weird doing mobile photography on such a huge device, but if that is really something that you prefer doing, the MatePad Pro can definitely get the job done.

I’d say decent enough image quality, but more than enough for a tablet since you’ll just probably use this to take photos of documents or references for work.

Exquisite audio quality for a tablet 

A total of eight speakers have been loaded into this body. With four woofers and four tweeters tuned by Harman Kardon, I was blown away by how good this sounded. This may just be the best sounding speaker setup I’ve experienced on a portable device.

Without exaggeration, this beats even most laptops I’ve used. I could really hear the details and the full range of instruments I’ve listened to. With deep kicks and crispy snare drums, nylon guitars and orchestrated string instruments sound heavenly. 

Is the MatePad Pro 12.6 your GadgetMatch?

If you’re just planning on getting something bigger than your phone for browsing and media consumption, the steep price tag of the MatePad Pro makes it hard to recommend.

This changes however, if you’re a graphic artist looking for an iPad Pro alternative especially if you consider that the competition is priced even higher. 

The solid specs, great display, large battery capacity and that stellar sound quality is absolutely worth the price. Even more if you’re already invested in Huawei’s ecosystem, adding the MatePad Pro really unlocks a range of handy features. It’s a very definite yes for me.

I’m really excited to see what’s in store for the MatePad Pro in the near future as more apps become available and grow more stable running on the HarmonyOS.

The MatePad Pro 12.6 retails at PhP 55,999.

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Huawei Watch 3 review: Apple of my eye, err, wrist

The Apple Watch of Huawei’s smartwatch lineup?!

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Huawei continues to mold its product lineups — particularly its wearables — shaping it to fit into the lives of its beloved consumers — Huawei fans and alike.

In a previous story, I listed a few reasons why the Huawei Watch 3 deserves to be on your wrist. Nearly a month later, I still stand by what I said about the Chinese company’s flagship wearable.

Of course, there are still factors to consider before deciding on a smartwatch. So let us help you figure out by tackling matters that you might be dying to find out.

In this review, we’ll detail my experience wearing this watch — the hiccups and the wonders encountered after wearing it for a few weeks. Together, let’s find out if the Huawei Watch 3 is really your GadgetMatch.

Comfort is key

The Huawei Watch 3 is beautifully designed, no doubt. While it exudes a classic appeal, the watch can suit different occasions. And it has a plethora of straps to choose from so you can mix and match. Although the availability depends on the region.

In my case, I didn’t have a choice aside from the black and plain fluoroelastomer strap. What I did was find a way to ship straps from China to get more designs that are apt for my style.

Anyhoo, let’s talk comfort. Regardless of the straps, comfort is key when it comes to smartwatches. It’ll be wrapped around your wrists for a long time, and it’s important to never have any issues with its heft and your skin.

Thankfully, the Huawei Watch 3 doesn’t feel heavy despite having a bigger watch case. What I find worrisome is how bulky it is for both my wrists and daily activities. It gets in the way sometimes — accidentally brushing metals, walls, and other furniture.

I appreciate not feeling any weight while wearing it, but it looks too big for me. Nonetheless, if you have thicker wrists, the watch case size won’t matter. And there are workarounds on how you can prevent your smartwatch from bumping stuff and from getting scratched.

Leave your phone behind

Like most smartwatches, you can connect the Huawei Watch 3 to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Just pair your devices and you can receive notifications, text messages, and calls.

But you can also connect the Huawei Watch 3 on a WiFi connection or a data hotspot. The smartwatch runs on HarmonyOS and comes with several apps; some are built-in and some are downloaded via AppGallery. Personally, I enjoy navigating Petal Maps — Huawei’s very own Maps — because frankly, it’s pretty much the same as Google Maps.

Wearing the Watch 3 made me use my phone less, seeing how I glance at my wrist to check who messaged me. And from those moments, I decide if the person is important enough to stop whatever I’m doing and pick my phone up to respond.

Receiving calls is also fun if you want to act like you’re a spy sent on a mission in whatever Sci-Fi film. Except, I don’t like it when people near me can hear the person on the other line.

If you’re looking for a different way to leave your phone and rely only on your smartwatch, the Huawei Watch 3 supports eSim technology.

Unfortunately, eSims are only available to postpaid plans on select carriers in my country, which I don’t have because I use a prepaid sim with large data allocation.  If you’re a postpaid subscriber, just ask your carrier for an eSim and they’ll help you set it up. That way, you can use your mobile number simultaneously — on your watch and on your smartphone.

If you still need more understanding of how eSim technology works, you better read our explainer.

Matches with everyone else

No, I’m not talking about how the smartwatch can match anyone in terms of style, appearance, and personality. Although, that could be the case because it could. But that’s not the point here.

The Huawei Watch 3 is perfectly compatible with all kinds of smartphone users — whether you’re a Huawei loyalist, a Samsung fanboy, a die-hard Xiaomi bunny, or an Apple-ogist.

Thing is, even though the Huawei Watch 3 runs on HarmonyOS, all you need is the Huawei Health app. And it’s downloadable on AppGallery, Play Store, and the App Store.

I paired the watch with several devices in my arsenal. From the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro, and even the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2. It easily syncs important data from your watch, and then you can preview it through the Health app.

More importantly, it’s uncomplicated to navigate even if you use a different ecosystem. As an Apple-ologist pointed out, the Huawei Watch 3 looks the same as the Apple Watch with only minor iterations from its design.

Although, we’re not surprised. Huawei openly expressed how they look up to Apple for inspiration… and probably imitation. But, whatever. Apple’s products are always user-friendly and won’t fry your last three brain cells — perfect for himbos like me.

As long as Huawei makes their products user-friendly too, I’m down with all of it. Based on experience, they make fantastic hardware and it’s a sweet treat if their software and user interface follows one of the best.

From swag to sweat

The Huawei Watch 3 can be a smartwatch for any occasion, assuming you have the perfect strap to suit different settings. During my stint, I used my China-bought Milanese strap when I met with friends and hop on a date. A silver accent works for me since I wear silver rings and earrings.

I have a fashion savant in my life who’s always advised me to match my metals. And I wore that principle to my heart. You don’t need to wear expensive jewelry and accessories to look expensive. Your watch should just go well with every other metal on your body.

On Huawei’s official website, the Steel and Leather straps work perfectly for your casual settings. You might want to consider those when you try to mix and match your outfits.

Coming home, I switch to my black, fluoroelastomer strap. It’s a durable yet comfortable rubber apt for physical activities and humid weather.

As I’ve said earlier, comfort is key and that’s the case for the Huawei Watch 3. Despite the bulky size, surprisingly, it doesn’t get in the way of my workouts. Not once did I feel anxious about my watch brushing off with my weights and other metals.

Speaking of weights, the Huawei Watch 3 accompanied me in my strength and conditioning training. All the essential tracking and features helped me complete my program, prompting me to change my habits to make fitness a sustainable activity and eventually, a lifestyle.

From sweat resistance that pushed me to continue with my routines, timers and stopwatches that aided me in measuring my tempo, the sports tracking mode that helped me understand my patterns, to all-day monitoring with blood oxygen, heart rate, temperature, and even sleep — the Huawei Watch 3 has it all.

Health features

Packed with salient health features apt for the current era, the Huawei Watch 3 might make you wonder: Do they really work? And do we even need them?

At first, I was cynical with all the mumbo jumbo presented in smartwatch campaigns. But after my experience, I had a change of heart. Wholeheartedly, I would say yes — they work and we need it.

Starting with the basics, it has the usual features found on any smartwatch. You can track your step count, calories burned, and your heart rate. It also reminds you to get up and move after a period of inactivity.

There’s also a feature where you can track your stress levels, and probably help you cope and manage your stress. As for me, it didn’t particularly help but maybe someone out there can benefit from it. The important thing is there’s a tool that could possibly help.

What I loved the most is the sleep report I receive every morning. Tracking my sleep helped me understand my patterns — which is a key factor I consider before going on my day or performing an exercise routine.

Checking my reports helps me decide if I’m going for two cups of coffee throughout the day, if I’m well-rested enough to execute intense forms during training, or if I need to take more naps.

While all of these reports are summarized and can be previewed using your smartwatch, the intensive details are listed on the Huawei Health app.

Since it consistently tracks and monitors various data, the Huawei Watch 3 constantly consumes the battery life, just like any device that’s connected to Bluetooth, WiFi, and performing background activities.

True to its promise, it has a 3-day battery life that accompanies you in your daily activities. Switching it to ultra-long battery life mode extends it up to 14 days, except I don’t really see myself using this mode in the future.

Charging it is fairly quick. I left it charging after an hour of napping, and when I woke up, I saw it fully charged — ready to be slapped on my wrist again.

Is this watch a match?

But then again, I wish it had a longer battery life like the Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro. If the Huawei Watch 3 can last up to two weeks, it could’ve been my GadgetMatch.

It’s a versatile smartwatch that you can add to your collection of watches. So well-rounded and user-friendly, it works without any tinkering involved. All you have to do is wear it and watch how it performs feats that might elevate your lifestyle.

The Huawei Watch 3 retails for PhP 18,999 — a price tag befitting a premium smartwatch. If anything, Huawei found itself its very own Apple Watch.

Brazenly, I would say the Huawei Watch 3 felt like the Apple Watch of all Huawei smartwatches. It simply works, and it’s beautiful, powerful, and functional in its own right. Complete with an ecosystem that you can enjoy for a seamless AI life.

It’s also user-friendly, stylish, and leaning towards yuppies with a balanced lifestyle than geeks and techies basking in gadgets and other forms of technology.

The Huawei Watch 3 is available on Huawei Store and authorized platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, as well as Huawei Experience stores and other retail partners.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro review: Swanky and smart | Apple Watch Series 6 Review

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Samsung The Frame Review: Stunning!

✨ Aesthetic TVs for your living room ✨

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It was a little too long ago when Samsung announced its first sets of TVs along with a lot of framed artworks in a museum in Paris.

Four years after that special launch, Samsung is proud with the current lineup of The Frame. But with other cheaper options such as Samsung’s new 4K QLED TV line and other models from various TV brands, is Samsung’s The Frame worth the extra money?

Watch our Samsung The Frame Review now if you’re curious to find out.

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