Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Max 2 Review: A worthy successor?

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When Xiaomi first announced its Mi Max last year, we were in awe; not just because of its sheer size, but because of how inexpensive it was. It continued on with its Prime variant five months after, and now, we have its latest generation. This is our review of the Xiaomi Mi Max 2.

Before we get into details, let’s take a look at its physique first.

The Mi Max 2 is a huge smartphone…

The enormous 6.44-inch 1080p display

… with solid build quality

The power button and volume rocker on the right

Xiaomi brings USB-C to the Mi Max 2

The USB-C port flanked by the speaker and microphone grilles

The antenna lines look just like the iPhone 7’s

Antenna bands are well-hidden

Clean aluminum slab with an underrated look

One big chunk of golden metal (or black if you have that color)

It runs MIUI 8 on top of Android Nougat

MIUI 8.5 Global to be specific, since we have the international version

It’s the ideal multimedia device

With its 6.44-inch display, the Mi Max 2 is able to deliver multimedia content better than smaller smartphones. The 1080p IPS LCD panel is still sharp at 342ppi despite its stretched dimensions, so I don’t have any issues with its clarity. What concerns me is its saturation and contrast, because when I compared it to other IPS panels, the Mi Max 2 looked slightly muted. There’s a higher contrast selection in the settings, but it didn’t provide the punchy values I was hoping for.

To compliment the big display, a pair of loud speakers is onboard the device. The stereo setup is discreet; we have the main loudspeaker at the bottom while the earpiece acts as the second channel to create the two-channel effect. I do enjoy using the Mi Max 2 to watch YouTube videos and movie trailers, thanks to the combination of the large display and quality speakers.

Also great for mobile gaming!

Gaming is also a strong suit of the Mi Max 2. It’s always better to play your favorite mobile titles on a big phone, as it lets you enjoy the games without the on-screen buttons occupying most of the display area. In addition, the gaming performance of the Mi Max 2 is something to brag about.

Powered by a Snapdragon 625 processor paired with 4GB of memory, intensive titles aren’t a chore for the handset. NBA 2K17 and Asphalt Xtreme run smoothly even on high settings, but some graphics optimizations are not available in other titles.

Camera is just okay

On paper, it has a 12-megapixel rear shooter with phase detection autofocus for quicker locks and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. Coming from other Xiaomi phones, we didn’t expect the Mi Max 2 to excel in mobile photography. Let’s take a look at the samples:

While daytime photography is a piece of cake for the handset, its f/2.2 aperture knocks it down when it comes to indoor and low-light environments. The slow shutter speed and noisy image processing don’t help either. The same goes for the front camera, too.

Even the flagship models of Xiaomi don’t do well in photography, if that may act as consolation.

Leave your power bank at home

The “Max” aspect of the phone is not just found in the display, but also in the battery. The Mi Max 2 has a 5300mAh battery which is 450mAh more than its predecessor without the added bulk. It takes advantage of Quick Charge 3.0 from Qualcomm for speedy charging. (Big batteries need fast charging!)

Using the bundled fast charger, I was able to get from zero to 10 percent in 15 minutes. After 30 minutes of charging, the phone gets 19% of juice; while a full charge takes a little longer at about 3 hours. For a cell this big, its charging times are pretty okay, since you’ll get more power on the road in return. With casual usage, the phone can last two to three days on average. Playing games with mobile internet would create a larger impact, but it can still last a full day.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

While the Mi Max 2 is a good smartphone overall, there are a few points that a buyer must think through before considering the handset.

First, it’s a large device that sits between the smartphone and tablet territories. One-handed use is tricky and it’s pretty cumbersome to slip into your pocket. On top of that, it has a lackluster camera, which is disappointing for its range. Lastly, it’s not a big upgrade from last year’s model. If you own the first Mi Max, there’s no need to get this newer one. The older model also has the Nougat update and more or less the same specs.

But, if you’re looking for a big smartphone (and we’re talking 6.44 inches big) that can deliver good performance without the hefty price tag, the Mi Max 2 is an excellent buy. We’ll consider its premium build as the cherry on top since most affordable devices have issues in this regard.

Our review unit is from Gearbest which sells the Mi Max 2 for just US$ 270.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Mi 6 Unboxing and Hands-on

[irp posts=”17735″ name=”Xiaomi Mi 6 Unboxing and Hands-on”]

Computers

LG UltraGear 25” Gaming Monitor review: Enough to get you started

Comes with key features for your first gaming PC build

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I’ve seen a ton of people purchase full gaming PC setups since the pandemic took center stage in our lives. I’m pretty sure a lot of these people spent the past few months saving every peso they could for it. Of course, I also did it with all the money I saved up and planned every purchase very carefully.

In getting your gaming PC build, one of the more important peripherals to consider is your monitor. Most people will tell you that any monitor is okay, but experts will say that you shouldn’t just get any monitor. Apart from color accurate and bright displays, your monitor should have a high enough refresh rate to keep up.

It’s exactly what the LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor brings to the table, at least on paper. But is this worth checking out, especially for first time PC setup builders? Here’s a rundown of the specs:

It has a 23.6-inch TN FHD panel, with a 144Hz refresh rate

It comes with two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort

The design, on its own, is nothing spectacular

The LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor comes in a package you normally expect from most lightweight gaming monitors. A hardened-plastic enclosure covers the display, and the monitor even comes with a metal stand in gray and red accents. Upon unboxing, I found it relatively easy to set up and position alongside my PC setup.

Immediately, the first and only thing I noticed was the thick bezel surrounding the display. To be honest, it’s a relatively minor issue for me ever since other brands started reducing theirs. Although I would have appreciated a little more screen space, especially while playing games.

A display that meets expectations for the most part

Most gaming monitors come with high refresh rates to keep up during pressure situations. Fortunately, the LG UltraGear Gaming Monitor comes with a 144Hz panel which is more than enough. Also, it even sports a 1ms response rate so you’re able to stay at the top of your game. 

Most games I tried with this monitor performed with relative ease and no visible sign of image tearing. FPS games like CS:GO and Valorant, in my opinion, work best with this setup given that you can run these games on low-end setups.

Also, it’s quite bright and color accurate which is great for content creators. Although, in some cases, I felt that it didn’t handle dark color areas well. I tried to compensate by simply adjusting the brightness, but it didn’t do anything significantly different. At least it’s an anti-glare TN panel, so you don’t have to worry about the sun.

Comes with features that works depending on the other hardware

This monitor supports AMD’s FreeSync technology which further improves gameplay experience. Honestly, I felt this should be a standard for most gaming monitors — including those that support NVIDIA GSync. Also, there are other optimizations like Dynamic Action Sync (DAS) and motion blur reduction.

However, this monitor actually benefits you only if you’re currently rocking an AMD Radeon graphics card. Ideally, it would still work pretty well when you plug it to an NVIDIA card but expect some image tearing. It wasn’t a big issue for me since I could still apply the reduced motion blur and DAS.

Port selection for this monitor is more than enough for a normal PC setup. Two HDMI ports are available at your disposal, which is great if you want to use it for your consoles. The added DisplayPort provides more connectivity, especially since most graphics cards support it. Keep in mind though: if you plan to plug your console, don’t expect the 144Hz refresh rate.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For PhP 12,599 (US$ 257), the LG UltraGear 24” Gaming Monitor ticks all the necessary boxes. What you have is a high refresh rate monitor with good color accuracy, and fully optimized for gaming. Combined with a great selection of ports, this monitor is a great option for your first PC build.

However, if you have strict preferences for your monitor, this might not be what you’re looking for. If you’re not a fan of thick bezels or you’re more conservative with your money, I wouldn’t practically recommend this. Also, you wouldn’t be able to fully maximize its potential if you don’t own an AMD graphics card.

All things considered, it’s enough to get you started on your gaming PC setup. Even with cheaper alternatives out there, I still recommend you give this a shot.

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India

POCO M2 Pro review: A Redmi Note 9 Pro without ads

What’s the difference?

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With a new strategy in place, POCO announced the POCO X2 in the first quarter, and now, it’s back with another offering — the POCO M2 Pro. It’s an affordable offering that’s found a comfortable spot in India’s INR sub-15,000 price bracket. But, there’s a twist.

POCO made its debut with the POCO F1. It was a legendary phone because it did the unexpected — flagship-grade performance at an affordable price. Since then, POCO as a brand has been synonymous to aggressive pricing and top-notch specifications. However, the POCO F1 was launched in 2018 and a lot has changed since then.

For starters, POCO was a dormant brand throughout 2019 and made a comeback at the beginning of 2020. We expected a successor of its infamous first phone, but everything was going to change. POCO is now an independent brand that takes autonomous business and marketing decisions. To make it clear, Mi, Redmi, and POCO are three different teams right now.

If you look closer, the POCO M2 Pro is nothing but a rebranded Redmi Note 9 Pro. Furthermore, the 4GB+64GB entry-level option of both phones has the same price of INR 13,999 (US$ 186). So, what’s different about POCO’s offering? Why should this phone be your GadgetMatch?

A proven design that fits everyone

The Redmi Note 9 Pro series has a very ergonomic design that looks premium as well as sturdy. The quad-camera setup has a significantly larger bump but it gets covered perfectly with the in-box case. The rear sports Gorilla Glass 5 and underneath it is a diagonally-lined pattern. While the phone looks stunning, using it without a case isn’t recommended since it’s prone to smudges and micro scratches.

The rear is the only thing that physically differentiates the phone from Redmi Note 9 Pro. The USB port, volume rockers, fingerprint scanner, and speaker grille are from the same Redmi mold.

I don’t mind rebranded phones as long as they’re not yet available in the same market. If POCO wants to be taken seriously as an independent brand, it needs to stand on its own and bring out original offerings. Realme has done a much better job of publicly distancing itself from OPPO, even though it leverages the same supply chain.

A perfect display

It sports a 6.67-inch Full HD+ display with a tiny punch-hole cut-out that houses the front camera. Unlike the competing Realme 6, it doesn’t have a 90Hz panel and runs at 60Hz. However, considering the price, I wouldn’t consider this to be a con. There are barely any games that can leverage higher refresh rates and the phone is meant to be an all-rounder.

The screen has sufficient brightness and can be seen easily under direct sunlight. The colors look slightly over-saturated but it can be adjusted according to your preference. Being an LCD panel, it does a pretty good job of creating deeper blacks.

POCO Performance

The brand is known for its performance-centric phones and the legacy continues here with a Snapdragon 720G chipset. Any task you throw at it will be done without a glitch. My unit has 6GB RAM and it never slowed down or struggled to handle multiple apps at once. Being a power user, I often use Outlook, Twitter, Gmail, Microsoft Word, and WhatsApp in close proximity. Safe to say, it didn’t feel like I needed a better or more powerful chipset.

I don’t play a lot of games except for reviewing and PUBG is my first preference. The overall experience is smooth and hassle-free. Even at higher settings, the phone gets a little warm but there no visible frame drops. Although, the weight of the phone does get annoying after a while. Similarly, a heavy game like World of Tanks also gets through without any turbulence.

The phone ships with MIUI out-of-the-box and since the Redmi Note 9 Pro series also ships with the same chipset, software updates should drop-in seamlessly.

Powering the phone is a 5000mAh battery and I clocked a little more than seven hours of screen time on a full charge. It has support for 33W fast charging and takes around one hour and twenty-five minutes to fully charge.

Quad-cameras that’ll get anything done

The rear houses a quad-camera setup consisting of a 48-megapixel sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 5-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel sensor. We’ve seen this camera setup on a plethora of Xiaomi phones and it’s safe to assume the output is top-notch. Thanks to Xiaomi’s reach, the AI-assisted changes are accurate as well as satisfactory.

I mean to say, the algorithm knows where to work and how to produce pleasing pictures. Sometimes you may notice over-saturation in landscape pictures, but AI-mode can be switched off with a quick tap. The dynamic range is near-perfect while the overall tone is on the warmer side.

While daytime pictures are excellent, the primary sensor struggles in the dark. Shots can often be grainy or blurry if you’re not careful about being steady.

For the pros out there, a manual mode is available to tinker with the finer details. Portrait mode works flawlessly and works on better than expected on dogs too!

The display cut-out houses a 16-megapixel selfie camera and it’s flawless. Details are retained accurately and the focus is ultra-fast. This sensor also is tuned on the warmer side and comes with an optional beauty mode.

On the video side, it supports recording at up to 4K 30fps. Obviously, there’s no optical image stabilization. But, the electronic rendering is good enough and gets the job done.

No ads in MIUI

Yes, the phone runs on MIUI 11. No, it doesn’t have any ads.

This is the only visible change I can see between the POCO M2 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro. MIUI has a lot of customization and functionality, minus the learning curve. The phone is perfect for everyone can be used without any deep technical knowledge. Software support is stable and while there were a few bugs, the overall experience remained unhindered.

The most frequent complaint about MIUI is the ads. This phone won’t spam your notification area and this can be a relief for many. There are a few pre-installed apps, but they can be easily disabled. In a nutshell, the POCO M2 Pro offers a better user experience while retaining top-notch hardware. Lastly, instead of MIUI launcher, this phone has POCO launcher.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I’d recommend this phone without any buts. The display is immersive, performance is best-in-class, the cameras do a decent job, and the battery can easily last you a day. With MIUI, the uniform Xiaomi experience is brought back without its biggest con. Design is a personal preference and I’ve found both, the POCO M2 Pro, as well as the Redmi Note 9 Pro, be impressive.

For the consumers, this is a win-win situation. But, for the brand, it’s a mixed bag. POCO intended to move out of Xiaomi’s camp but hasn’t been able to do that efficiently this year. To become a truly independent brand, it’ll have to stop depending on the parent so much and create its own identity. Right now, the original POCO F1 fans are disappointed along with the current followers who expected a fresh offering.

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Reviews

Google Pixel 4a Unboxing & Review: Unbelievably Good?

A direct contender of the iPhone SE and OnePlus Nord

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Google’s ‘a'(ffordable) line-up may be long overdue because of the pandemic — but after several months of waiting, we finally have one on our hands.

Cheaper than last year’s US$ 399 Pixel 3a, the US$ 349 Pixel 4a might just be the most affordable flagship killer contender you can get over the 2020 iPhone SE and the OnePlus Nord.

But can the mid-tier specifications and less-fancy phone features justify its affordable price tag? Head over to our in-depth Pixel 4a review here.

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