Hands-On

Xiaomi Mi Max unboxing and hands-on review

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When Xiaomi decided to go big with their next smartphone, they weren’t kidding. The Mi Max overshadows most handsets in terms of size, pushing 6.44 inches of display on a full-metal body. It’s by far the China-based manufacturer’s largest phone since starting out, and it has GadgetMatch’s full attention right now.

As part of a series of supersized midranger reviews, the Mi Max currently sits at the top of the screen charts, eclipsing the 6-inch Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro and Sony Xperia XA Ultra we reviewed recently. But this isn’t the largest of the set; a certain Zen is going to impose its even more overbearing size over the competition soon.

Fortunately for the Mi Max, display size isn’t the only major feature Xiaomi jammed into it. We also have a fingerprint sensor on the back panel, a generous 4GB of RAM with 128GB of storage configuration, and an extra-large 4,850mAh battery capacity.

Could this be your next GadgetMatch? Watch the unboxing and hands-on video above to see our initial impressions, but don’t decide until we unveil all smartphones at the same time in our grand shootout. It’s a comparison you can’t afford to miss!

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How to maximize your Redmi 9

Smart tips for your budget smartphone

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Having a smartphone these days is akin to a necessity. However, times are especially hard and you may not have the means to splurge on the best ones. Here are tips on maximizing budget smartphones — specifically, the Xiaomi Redmi 9.

First of, let’s find out what we’re working with. Here’s a quick rundown of the device’s specs:

Redmi 9

Display 6.53” FHD+ Dot Drop Display, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor MediaTek Helio G80 Processor
RAM + ROM 3GB+32GB and 4GB+64GB
Battery Capacity 5020mAh, support for 18W charging
Front Camera 8MP
Rear Cameras 13MP main wide-angle camera

8MP ultra-wide angle camera

5MP macro camera

2MP depth sensor

There’s not a lot you’re working with here. But that’s to be expected from a phone that starts at PhP 6,990 (US$ 141) for the 3GB+32GB variant which is what we have with us currently.

Quick note: That specific variant is currently on sale today on Xiaomi’s official flagship store on Lazada. On July 7, 2020 only, it’s up for grabs for PhP 500 less or at exactly PhP 6,490 (US$ 131).

If you want to snap this up, here’s what you’re getting.

It doesn’t look like a budget phone

Some budget smartphones tend to look very bland. That’s not the case with the Redmi 9.

The Ocean Green variant has this subtle radial pattern on its back. It’s very nice to hold and marginally adds to the grip. That’s a thoughtful choice considering how most budget smartphones come in plain backs in a slippery plastic build.

Another thoughtful design decision is the alignment of the power button and volume keys. For a phone with this big a display, having them all on the right side is an underrated design decision.

Unfortunately, that design decision is countered by the placement of the fingerprint sensor. It’s curiously connected to the camera module. During your first few days of use, you’ll be prone to smudging the lens that sits right above it.

That said, that camera module also doesn’t look like it’s a budget smartphone. The vertical camera array is situated on the top middle part and is separated by a circle that looks like the source of the radial pattern.

Learn basic mobile photography skills

While we’re talking about the cameras, the versatility of the ones equipped on the Redmi 9 is pretty impressive.

On most occasions, you should be able to take a good enough photo for your social media feeds. But you can even take it a step further by learning some basic mobile photography skills.

Here are some tips and how tos from our archives that you might find useful:

  1. How to take slice of life photos
  2. Capturing festivities
  3. Using foreground element

Use the built-in photo editor

You don’t have plenty of space for apps, so it’s prudent to learn the in and outs of the built-in photo editor. Just go into the gallery and edit one of your photos, and you’ll be treated to plenty of options.

Take for instance this wide angle photo. It looks fine, but a little unbalanced.

On the photo editor, you can fix that by aligning the horizon to the grid and making the colors pop more.

If you’re feeling adventurous, there are also plenty of filters you can play with. Here’s a sample of how that same photo was turned into this very stylized one that looks almost like a scene from Attack on Titan. 

Google is your best friend 

One of my favorite Google Apps is Google Photos. It gives you unlimited storage of your photos at zero cost.

It’s most likely already installed on the Redmi 9 out of the box. Just make sure you turn syncing on so every time you take a photo, it’s automatically uploaded and backed up.

Google also has lite versions for most of their apps so that should help ease up the load on your limited RAM and storage.

Use lite versions of apps

Lite apps aren’t limited to Google though. More commonly used apps like Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, and even Spotify have lite versions.

These versions eat up less space and less memory when used. Of course, you’ll be missing some features, but that’s the trade-off.

What you can do is identify which app you use the most and need all of the features available, so you can get the full version of that app, while keeping everything else lite.

Be resourceful about it

One of the hallmarks of Xiaomi and Redmi is offering good value for less. That means making the most of what you have.

For the Redmi 9, this means knowing for sure what it can do, and allocating its existing resources based on your smartphone needs.

Remember, your smartphone is only as good as how you use it.

A quick reminder that the Redmi 9 (3GB+32GB) is currently on sale today on Xiaomi’s official flagship store on Lazada. On July 7, 2020 only, it’s up for grabs for PhP 500 less or at exactly PhP 6,490 (US$ 131).

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Samsung Galaxy M31: How long does a 6000mAh battery lasts?

We took the phone out for a spin!

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Having long-lasting device is a must when you need to stay connected.  When Samsung proudly introduced the Galaxy M31 with a  6,000mAh battery, it’s like god heard my woes. No more reliance on power banks and hogging wall sockets!

But how long does a 6000mAh battery last, especially for someone who’s overly attached to his smartphone? To find the answer, we fully charged a Galaxy M31 to see if it will last more than my ex-flings (or a day, in this case).

Hour 00: Making you mine

It was 2:20 PM when I took the fully charged Galaxy M31 to finish setting it up, and personalize it as my new daily driver for god knows how long. If you’re familiar with Samsung’s One UI 2.0, navigating the phone is a breeze.

I installed my essential apps — particularly Spotify — and spent at least an hour and a half to finish personalizing the phone. It was almost four in the afternoon when I decided to take a nap, with the battery currently sitting at 96 percent.

Hour 02: Vibing with your quirks

Thirty minutes later, I woke up from incessant sweating caused by a vexatious, humid atmosphere. When I checked the phone, I wasn’t surprised to see it drop to 95 percent. After all, Spotify was still playing on the background. I started prepping up to take a bath while dancing to “Mamma Mia” (I do hope youngins still know this classic).

Most of my Sundays are usually spent doing different hobbies, but having to test a phone’s battery life derailed my perfectly laid up weekend plan.

In lieu of doing things that feed my soul, I watched The Half Of It on Netflix and played Mobile Legends: Bang Bang in between supper, hourly snacks, skincare, and prepping myself to sleep.

Hour 08: Quarter good

Even with an annoying notch, watching and playing on a Super AMOLED screen is still a treat. I’m accustomed to using flagship smartphones, but the Galaxy M31 packed a punch for a midrange phone.

It’s powered by an Exynos 9611 chipset (which caused some heating), and a 6B RAM, and 128GB internal storage. A hiccup-free experience is guaranteed!

It was 10:10 PM when I turned the Wi-Fi off so I can sleep peacefully. The battery currently sits at 76 percent.

Hour 15: Staying strong

My nights are constantly haunted by my crushing regrets. In between interrupted periods of sleep, the phone’s battery sat at 75 percent. I decided to get out of the bed around 5 in the morning, planning a full day ahead.

I started catching up with news while hydrating myself with lemon water. Afterward, I opened my favorite app — Nike Training Club — to perform morning stretches. It offers quick, guided workouts for different purposes: strength, endurance, mobility, and flexibility.

Before I start my workout, I brought along my Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Fit E. If you’re deep into Samsung’s ecosystem, you’ll be disappointed with the unavailability of Galaxy Buds’ plugin, so no wireless listening for you. Although, you can rely on the Galaxy M31’s loudspeakers. Thankfully, the phone still connects seamlessly with my Galaxy Fit E.

At 6:25 AM, the battery dropped to 70 percent after conducting my morning routine. Do note that Spotify is constantly playing, even when I’m not actively using my phone. (Life without music sucks.)

Hour 17: Picture-perfect memories

It was almost seven in the morning when I started shooting a friend’s baked goods. As I sung to Taylor Swift’s “Death by a Thousand Cuts”, I let myself have fun using the Galaxy M31’s quad-camera setup.

I wrapped up around 7:19 AM with a 67 percent battery life. I took a bath and drove to Starbucks to get my favorite cold brew. Along the way, I took some selfies and snaps and uploaded them to Instagram Stories.

Hour 20 to 28: The last hurrah

I was back at my desk around 10 AM and started my daily grind. The phone sat at 43 percent after heavy and constant usage. I pulled my laptop and started working. Even with a bigger screen, I still used my phone to respond to messages, moderate social media pages, and watch on Netflix while eating.

The phone’s battery dipped to 15 percent at 6:48 PM, when my shift was about to end. To my astonishment, the Galaxy M31 lasted more than 28 hours on a single charge.

I charged the device at 7:08 PM and left it while I had dinner, took a bath, and did some house chores. It took at least three hours to fully charge the device from 15 to 95 percent, using its 15W fast charging adapter via USB-C.

On a side note, the Galaxy M31’s battery is such a rocker when left on standby mode. On a Tuesday afternoon, I left a fully charged Galaxy M31 in a safe. I checked back Saturday afternoon, and I was surprised to see its battery dipped from 100 percent to 33 percent.

Is it your GadgetMatch?

Summing it up, the Galaxy M31 is a capable and dependable midrange smartphone. It offers reliable performance with a battery that can keep up with you for more than a day. If you’re a power user looking for an affordable handset with no bells and whistles, this one is for you.

The Galaxy M31 is currently available in Black and Blue and retails for PhP 13,990 (US$ 283). It’s online-exclusive and will be available for purchase at Samsung’s Online store.

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realme X3 SuperZoom: A potential flagship killer

It all depends on the pricing

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I wrote about realme being a true disruptor and they have a chance to continue on that path with the realme X3 SuperZoom.

On paper, this phone screams flagship.

realme x3 SuperZoom

Display 6.6-inch Ultra-smooth FHD+ display

120Hz refresh rate

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
RAM + ROM 12GB + 256GB
Battery 4200mAh

30W Dart Flash Charge

Rear cameras 64MP Ultra high-resolution wide angle

8MP Ultra-wide angle

8MP Periscope

2MP Macro

Selfie cameras 32MP Main

8MP Ultra-wide

Right off the bat, you’ll notice two things that are present in most 2020 flagships that this phone doesn’t have. One is support for 5G, and the other is wireless charging.

However, those are two features that many people might consider icing on an otherwise perfectly tasty cake. Both 5G and wireless charging are nice to have, but I wouldn’t call them pillar features at this point in time.

Flagship performance

I had a blast using this phone for the past week since setting it up. Having used midrange phones that didn’t offer a higher screen refresh rate for a while and then jumping back to a phone with a 120Hz screen refresh rate, you can certainly tell the difference.

I cannot stress enough how smooth and fast everything feels. Browsing, swiping, toggling from app to app, it all felt seamless and speedy on the realme X3 SuperZoom.

To date, I’ve only used three phones with this feature — the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Find X2 Pro, and the ROG Phone 2. Now, the realme X3 SuperZoom joins that list. That’s pretty good company.

In fact, that Snapdragon 855+ and 120Hz screen refresh rate combo was one of the main highlights of the ROG Phone 2. Naturally, I tried a little bit of gaming on the realme X3 SuperZoom.

I played Call of Duty Mobile for the first time since reviewing the ROG Phone 2. While the performance is largely the same, the experience is a tad bit different.

Not entirely “flagship feel”

This one’s harder to explain. There are certain premium phones that just scream premium owing to a combination of things — the phone’s overall feel, a certain heft, looks, and performance.

While the X3 SuperZoom knocks it out of the park in the performance department, it falls just a tad bit short in the other departments. But I’d like to emphasize that this isn’t an entirely bad thing at all.

The phone — especially the Arctic White variant that I have — looks stunning. The front and back are made with glass, but a closer inspection will show that the sides are made with plastic.

Unlike phones that are north of PhP 40,000 or around US$ 800, it doesn’t have that wholistic glass feel, premium heft, and overall “it” factor. But that’s okay, because it’s not trying to compete with those flagships in that department.

Focusing on what matters

That “flagship feel” is almost an abstract concept and is truly reserved for most premium flagship phones. It’s a luxury.

This brings us back to what I think is the overarching theme of the realme X3 SuperZoom, and perhaps the theme of most realme smartphones —  flagship features for less.

One of those flagship features are the cameras. You’ve already seen the specs up top, so now here’s a quick look at the zoom features. The samples below only go as far as 10X Zoom — which I think is the optimal zoom on this phone.

It can go as far as 60X Zoom, but as I mentioned in previous reviews, the max zoom capacity on these phones isn’t necessarily their best.

I also like the color and detail it produces. Here’s a photo under good daylight.

This one’s indoors with a wide window light source.

While this one is taken at night.

There are a lot more features to explore which we will try to do so in the full review.

Flagship killer? 

There’s a lot going for the realme X3 SuperZoom. Its performance, looks, and camera capabilities are all top-notch. The realme UI — which is unsurprisingly reminiscent of ColorOS 7.1 — is clean AF.

There’s still some bloatware that you can easily tuck in the app drawer, but overall, it adds to the smooth and fast experience with a clean look and a ton of customization options.

In India, the price of this phone has been revealed to be INR 32,999 or US$ 436. That’s roughly PhP 22,000 BUT realme Philippines has been careful to point out that due to “local tax and tariffs,” the pricing will likely be different.

The launch and pricing announcement is happening on July 9 2020, iff they’re able to keep this below PhP 30,000, then we might just have a strong flagship killer contender.

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