Hands-On

Mi MIX 2S hands-on: Xiaomi’s pride and joy

A little change goes a long way

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Xiaomi has had a great year and the launch of the Mi MIX 2S in Shanghai this week is a milestone for a number of reasons.

During his keynote, Founder and CEO Lei Jun was quick to point out that like a dark horse, Xiaomi came back to the world stage in 2017 — climbing back to the top five and nearly doubling shipment growth while the rest of the top smartphone manufacturers’ numbers suffered.

Xiaomi also reached its target revenue of CNY 100 billion (US$ 15.8 billion), after just seven years of operations.

Lei Jun says this was possible not just because of Xiaomi’s solid fanbase, but also because of their relentless commitment to innovation. Xiaomi was able to acquire more than 6,000 patents by the end of last year, with more than half being global patents. And of course, who could forget, Xiaomi popularized the now mainstream full-screen display.

While fans will always argue that Sharp did it first, it was Xiaomi who opened the doors for other OEMs with the original Mi MIX. At the time, Google’s Compatibility Definition Document said that all Android devices must conform to the 16:9 aspect ratio. But Xiaomi challenged that and changed the Android world forever with the original Mi MIX and its 17:9 ratio.

In December 2017, the Mi MIX and Mi MIX 2 have been added to the permanent collection of the contemporary art museum Centre Pompidou in France

And if innovation is the core of Xiaomi, design and quality are its life. Xiaomi is now the Chinese company that has won the most number of industrial awards not just in China but in other parts of the world.

But among its growing ecosystem, Xiaomi is proudest of its award-winning MIX line, with the Mi MIX and MIX 2 also parts of European art museum collections.

Same beautiful design

It comes as no surprise then that Xiaomi retained the same beautiful form factor in this S update. Despite everything we’ve seen so far, the Mi MIX 2S is still one of the most beautiful phones out there.

Xiaomi Global Spokesperson Donovan Sung says the MIX 2S represents the company’s dedication to cutting-edge innovation and top-notch quality design. No pun intended.

The only compromise and the one thing we haven’t liked since the original MIX is the awkward front camera placement.

Sure it makes the design unique and now iconic, but it’s still the sore point in a phone that would otherwise be great.

If you’re like our managing editor Marvin or account manager Alven who don’t take a lot of selfies, this shouldn’t really be a problem. Rotating the phone is always an option if you have to. But if you use Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and video calls a lot like the rest of the population, this might be a deal-breaker.

While most brands have opted to put their own versions of the notch to achieve a full-screen display, Xiaomi is choosing a rather uncomfortable route for the MIX line for now.

The 5MP selfie camera on the white Mi MIX 2S can trigger your OCD

Unlike the Mi MIX 2, the MIX 2S will not come in special edition unibody ceramic versions. Instead, we’re getting two colors by default: black or white.

Black is the more seamless of the two, especially when turned off — even the front camera has a black coating.

Sung says the ultimate vision for the MIX line is for the phone to become one unblemished piece of glass — no notch, no bezels. He says the black version of the Mi MIX 2S is the closest we have to that vision and as for me, I personally can’t wait for that future.

Xiaomi Global Spokesperson Donovan Sung says the black Mi MIX 2S is the closest we have to the future of an unblemished piece of glass

But me and the rest of the GadgetMatch team really like the white version even if the front camera sticks out. Having reviewed hundreds of smartphones, it’s a refreshing sight in a sea of black devices.

It’s also less of a fingerprint magnet, comes with a really nice matte case that doesn’t make the phone look cheap, and most importantly, matches my outfits better if I must say so myself.

That notch-free display

Not everyone gives users the option to hide the notch, hence the hesitation among Android fans. It can be distracting especially when watching videos or playing games.

On the Mi MIX 2s, that’s not a problem. Videos fill up the entire screen as long as the app supports taller aspect ratios.

Watching Android Authority‘s Mi MIX 2S video on the white Mi MIX 2S

One caveat though is Netflix doesn’t support beta ROMs, which most of our Xiaomi units are on. It doesn’t even show up on the Google Play Store. There are, of course, do-it-yourself fixes available online, but like most users, I would rather have my favorite apps like Netflix available at my disposal without much tinkering, especially for a phone designed perfectly for content consumption.

Other than that, Xiaomi kept the same LCD display from the previous generations. It’s not the brightest we’ve seen but it’s bright enough for use under the sun.

AI in Cameras

Like most phones this year, the biggest upgrade on the Mi MIX 2S has to do with the cameras. Not only does it have dual 12-megapixel cameras, they’re also now equipped with AI, largely thanks to the high-end Snapdragon 845 chipset found inside.

Mi MIX 2’s single rear camera vs Mi MIX 2S’ dual cameras

The unit I’m using doesn’t have the final software yet so I didn’t really get to test all the new features, but at the event, Xiaomi showed off what it can do. The camera adjusts settings depending on your subject and scenario. It can detect 206 (yes, 206!) different scenes, including different settings for thinner leaves and Instagram-worthy succulents.

Some of the different scenes that can be detected by the Mi MIX 2S’ AI cameras

There’s real-time translation and currency conversion, which would be really useful in China for tourists like me. There’s also depth effect even on the selfie camera, and probably what I’m most excited to try: dynamic bokeh.

That said, the camera improvements don’t stop with the AI features. Compared to the Mi MIX 2, the MIX 2S’ cameras are noticeably better at handling dynamic range resulting in better color accuracy.

Photos are also more detailed and sharper without being oversharpened.

Selfies are not as mushy as before but still too tight for our liking, making group selfies almost impossible.

Although low-light photos have always been a weak spot for Xiaomi phones, improvements can be seen on the Mi MIX 2S on the main rear camera. It still has optical image stabilization, but now has a bigger 1.4µm pixel size on its new Sony IMX 363 sensor.

The second camera on the Mi MIX 2S is a telephoto lens for zoomed-in shots and portrait mode, which works surprisingly well — a far-cry from the Mi 6 and Mi A1’s crooked cutouts — even with my usually challenging wavy hair.

DxOMark gave the Mi MIX 2S an impressive photo score of 101 and an overall score of 97 — the same overall score as the iPhone X and Huawei Mate 10 Pro’s. I didn’t get to do a comparison with those two but here are more sample photos I took around Shanghai:

Despite the high photo score, DxOMark gave the phone a lower 88 for video performance, which is usually the case for a lot of smartphones. Even with OIS, videos shot on the Mi MIX 2S can still be a little shaky. Although I had way too much fun using the built-in time-lapse feature on the camera.

Efficient battery

Apart from powerful chipsets coupled with cheaper price tags, battery life on Xiaomi phones is usually what we’re most impressed with, and the Mi MIX 2S is no exception.

After a 10-hour day of taking photos and videos, checking emails, writing, a lot of social media, I still managed to get a little above five hours of screen-on time. Although again, the phone I’m using doesn’t have the final software yet so it can still improve or regress from here.

I didn’t do a charging test, but I got to try the white wireless charger that matches my new phone. Yes, the Mi MIX 2S now supports the standard Qi wireless charging and Xiaomi will be selling its own wireless charger for CNY 99 (US$ 15).

It only charges at a maximum of 7.5W, which is faster than most wireless chargers, but still a little slower than Samsung’s wireless charging pad that maxes out at 9W. A full charge of the Mi MIX 2S on the Xiaomi wireless charger takes less than three hours.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It’s hard to say given I haven’t tried the phone’s new features and full potential. But there’s one thing I know for sure: While more and more manufacturers are increasing prices for their devices recently, Xiaomi is proud to stay true to its brand.

Whenever asked whether they can maintain the same value proposition, Xiaomi’s response is always a resounding yes; they have been doing it for seven years and there’s no changing that.

The Mi MIX 2S is proof that Xiaomi’s reputation of building high-quality products for much less is here to stay. It will be available in China starting April 3 and pricing is as follows: CNY 3,299 (US$ 525) for the 6GB + 64GB model, CNY 3,599 (US$ 573) for the 6GB + 128GB model, and CNY 3,999 (US$ 573) for the 8GB + 256GB model.

Although if there’s one thing that’s changed about Xiaomi, it’s that they’re no longer the same Chinese startup that disrupted the smartphone space in 2011.

Their expansion in Western Europe and launching not in Beijing but in the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai signify that Xiaomi recognizes they’re now a global company, ready and confident to be compared with the rest of the world.

With Xiaomi leading the way, and the MIX line as their pride and joy, Lei Jun says together with other Chinese companies, they are embarking on a transformation — changing the way the world perceives their products — shifting from the derogatory made in China to a proud label of designed in China.

Hands-On

Redmi Note 10S: Is this the most ideal smartphone?

Great hardware under a simple, subtle design

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Redmi Note 10S

As the more affordable product line, Redmi continues to bring high-quality smartphones to a more accessible market. They may not come with the most flagship of hardware inside, but they still perform roughly at par with their powerful yet more expensive counterparts. This year, Redmi has something new up their sleeve in the Redmi Note 10S.

A simple design choice in my eyes

The moment I received and unboxed the Redmi Note 10S, I said to myself, “huh, what’s new?” I mean, it comes in the usual packaging, with all the documentation, a jelly case, and the charger inside. If anything, though, the phone itself sports a simple exterior design, which doesn’t particularly stand out for a good reason.

This unit came in an Onyx Gray colorway plastered at the back, and I’m also aware that it comes in two other colors, as well. For me, this color makes it look rather professional and complements the simple design as a whole. Although, I noticed that the back of the phone likes fingerprints so much, and it’s quite obvious in this colorway.

Now, another great aspect of the exterior design was the placement of the phone’s speakers. For phones such as this, you’d expect that it’s just one speaker and it’s beside the charging port. In the case of the Redmi Note 10S, it comes with two speakers found on opposite ends. Honestly, I found it practical to set it up like this, that other smartphones should consider.

Complementing hardware and software

Let’s get to the beef of the matter, shall we? In terms of the internal hardware, the Redmi Note 10S is decent in that department. It comes with a MediaTek Helio G95 chipset, with my unit sporting 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. On the external hardware, the phone comes with a 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED display, mostly suitable for great detail and color accuracy. 

Redmi Note 10S

Upon my initial set up and usage, the phone responds quite well and quickly. Powered by MIUI 12.5, apps load smoothly and I even found myself multitasking some apps a lot more. Although, there were times that things like Dark Mode were wonky in some apps, but I think that’s mostly on MIUI.

Furthermore, the AMOLED display is pretty bright even at around 40-50 percent brightness. Even in this setting, it manages to display images and videos with great detail with minimal stuttering. Also, those speakers I mentioned earlier are quite loud and actually give off a sense of immersion when watching movies. It’s all good stuff for now, but let’s see if it holds up later on.

Redmi Note 10S

One look into the cameras for now

Apart from the hardware inside, I also wanted to focus on the cameras the Redmi Note 10S comes with. On its rear, you get an interesting quad-camera setup, with a 64MP lens as the star of the show. Along with this, you also get an 8MP wide-angle lens, a 2MP macro camera and depth sensor for that extra level of detail.

With some of the shots I initially took, I was fairly impressed with the image quality and color accuracy. From my view, it doesn’t look like there was any noticeable grain in the images, so that’s a good start. However, I ran into some trouble with the auto-focus mechanic in the camera. Hopefully, it will improve with prolonged use.

Redmi Note 10S

Up front, you only get a single 13MP lens lodged at the top of the display. For the most part, it did a good job of capturing selfies under great lighting conditions. 

A promising start, maybe?

So far, the Redmi Note 10S ticks all the boxes when it comes to being a great yet affordable smartphone. Inside and out, the phone allows you to do quite a lot and experience near-flagship features without sacrificing so much in the process. Whether or not this will hold up with longer and more drastic usage, you’ll just have to wait and see.

Redmi Note 10S

The Redmi Note 10S retails for PhP 11,990 and only comes with a configuration of 8GB RAM and128GB storage.

Buy it from Lazada.

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Hands-On

3 reasons why the Huawei Watch 3 deserves to be on your wrist

A must-have for those who live and breathe Huawei

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The Huawei Watch 3 has arrived in the Philippines and certainly on my wrist. This sleek-looking smartwatch is Huawei’s new flagship wearable — and there’s more to it than being a regular smartwatch wrapped around that space between your hand and forearm. Here are three reasons why you need to check this smartwatch out, and why it probably deserves to be worn by you.

Beautifully designed

Compared to its predecessors, the Huawei Watch 3 feels like a device that underwent a metamorphosis. A butterfly ready to spread its wings and bring wonders to the world.

The rounded case exudes a classic appeal; a semblance of watches from the recent and distant past. Unequivocally, Huawei kept it sleek with its circular finish. Those tiny details tell me the watch was studied carefully by designers and engineers, putting so much thought while keeping it simple and appealing.

It certainly won’t ruin your outfits in different situations such as casual date nights, quick errands, or sports, and other physical activities. For professional and formal settings though, you might need to invest in a strap that matches perfectly.

I’ve been using the black and plain fluoroelastomer strap, which is suitable for casual settings and active lifestyle, and also it’s the only one available at the moment in my country, but you can mix it with other straps depending on your region. Options include steel, nylon, and leather — and colors vary per style.

Apart from its stylish bearing, the Huawei Watch 3 is designed with features that make it worthy of being called a smartwatch. It sports a 1.43-inch AMOLED display, highlighting a vibrant and vivid display that makes the content visible even if you’re outdoors.

Also, there’s plenty of watch faces to choose from, and the user interface is designed simplistically to make navigation easier.

Top-notch connectivity

The Huawei Watch 3’s battery life averages three days when using the smart mode. Though, it can be extended up to 14 days when using the ultra-long battery life mode. This gives you plenty of time to stay connected without the need for your mobile phone. Dear, it’s time to let it rest comfortably inside your purse or leave it at home.

But how are you going to stay connected if it’s not connected to your phone?

If that is your question, fret not. Huawei equipped the watch with eSim technology, so you just need to go to your carrier and ask for an eSim QR that you can scan on your Huawei Health app, and voila, your smartwatch can use the same mobile number you use on your smartphone.

Now, it’s going to be easy for you to answer calls even when you’re out on a run, or when you’re heading elsewhere and you’re in a hurry. The Huawei Watch 3 runs on HarmonyOS, so the watch comes with pre-installed apps that you can enjoy seamlessly with your other Huawei devices.

There’s an AppGallery, in case you want to install more apps that suit your lifestyle. For music lovers, you can make the watch be your remote control and navigate your music playback. All can be done with a single flick on your wrist!

Your personal health manager

If you’re serious about maintaining an active lifestyle, the Huawei Watch 3 is a candidate as a companion. There’s a Skin Temperature detector that lets you know when your temperature is high. A must-have in this era, right?

It also has SpO2 monitoring, which allows you to track your blood oxygen saturation. Even your heart, Huawei’s TruSeen technology monitors your heart rate so you can be in control of your health, and so you can take care of yourself the way you need it to.

Personally, it felt like all-day health management and I have yet to dive more into it to see what else these features can do. But for now, I enjoy seeing records of my step count, periods of activity, stress levels, and the most important thing — sleep quality.

Other than the fitness trackers, the watch comes with 100+ workout modes with automatic exercise detection for common workouts. To be able to maximize this feature, Huawei’s health app is the way to go.

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

I believe it can, especially if you’re looking for an all-around watch that you can use. It ticks the right boxes: a classic appeal, plenty of straps to mix and match with your outfit, top-notch connectivity, and health management features that allow you to be in control.

The price might be too steep, but it’s a premium smartwatch for a reason. And it’s best used when you’re already enjoying Huawei’s ecosystem, and have plenty of devices that let you enjoy their seamless AI life.

The Huawei Watch 3 retails for PhP 18,999. It will be available on Huawei Store and authorized platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, as well as Huawei Experience stores and other retail partners.

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Hands-On

vivo V21 Series Hands-On

A pair of no-miss midrangers

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vivo V21

Light, slim and packed to the brim with specs and features that won’t leave you wanting. This is the vivo v21 series. Featuring the vivo v21 and the vivo V21e.

It’s a pair of midrangers equipped with specs to meet your smartphone needs. Take a look at their specs side-by-side:

vivo V21 vivo V21e
DISPLAY 6.44”, AMOLED, 90Hz, HDR10+ 6.44”, AMOLED, HDR10
PROCESSOR MediaTek Dimensity 800U 5G Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G
BATTERY 4,000 mAh 4,000 mAh
CAMERAS 64MP f/1.8 wide

8MP f/2.2 ultrawide

2MP f/2/4 macro

64MP f/1.9 wide

8MP f/2.2 ultrawide

2MP f/2/4 macro

As you can see, this pair is nearly identical with the only main differences being 5G connectivity, the processors, and the available colors. The vivo V21 comes in Dusk Blue, Sunset Dazzle, Arctic White. Meanwhile, the V21e comes in Diamond Flare, Roman Black.

Mobile photography

The vivo V21 series has a slew of photo and video taking pictures which we’ll discuss more in detail in another video. Because sometimes, we just want to snap away when we’re out and about.

The photos taken on auto mode already look pretty darn fine and ready for all your social media channels. As mentioned earlier, you can also play around with some of the features. Especially the portrait mode plus filters. One scene can look different with just a few taps and snaps.

Neat, right? Now, naturally you’re going to do a lot more with your phone than just take snazzy pics.

Both the Meditek Dimensity 800U 5G and Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chipsets are very capable midrange processors. You can pretty much open all your most used apps at the same time, and not worry about the phones slowing down.

They’ll run smoothly whether you’re just browsing socials, writing emails, sending messages telling your friends to stream TWICE’s “Alcohol Free” music video.

Speaking of which, the video viewing experience on the vivo V21 series is also pretty darn good. The AMOLED displays are just a treat to the eyes. They’re great for getting lost in a YouTube rabbit hole or binge-watching your favorite shows on Netflix!

Mobile gaming

Not into binge-watching? Why not try playing games?

Mobile gaming is all the rage these days. The games playable on smartphones keep getting better and prettier. Mobile Legends, PUBG, and Call of Duty Mobile are pretty popular titles. Then there’s also the massive hit Genshin Impact. All these games run smoothly on the vivo V21 series. Thanks to the processor and the 8GB + 3GB extended RAM feature.

You can be sure to focus on your gaming session with the Ultra Game Mode that lets you block notifications so nothing gets in the way of you winning your matches!

Naturally, after all of that browsing, watching, and playing, your phone will need to juice up. The 4000mAh fills up rather quickly thanks to its support for 33W fast charging. You can get up to 63 percent in just 30 minutes. Pretty darn quick!

The vivo V21 series is a no-miss pair of midrange smartphones.They feel great on your hands, are easy on the eyes, and performs just about as good as any midranger out there.

Best of all, you can prepare for the future with the vivo V21 5G or play it safe in 4G with the vivo V21e.

This pair of vivo Smartphones are available in vivo’s official stores as well online stores Shopee and Lazada.

  • vivo V21 5G – PhP 23,999 
  • vivo V21e – PhP 17,999

This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and vivo Philippines.

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