Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S Review: Faster, smarter

But is it better?

Published

on

Xiaomi is well-known for slaying the entry-level smartphone market with value-packed devices that make other brands shiver. But, every now and then, Xiaomi likes to go all out and treat both itself and fans to something a little more premium.

The Mi Mix 2S is the latest to do so, and it’s certainly a fantastic device inside and out. That extra “S” means this is an update to the Mi Mix 2 we reviewed last year, but there are a couple of features that make Xiaomi’s latest flagship stand out.

Our Creative Director Chay attended the launch in Shanghai last month and provided us with a highly thorough hands-on review of the Mi Mix 2S. It’s a must-read to knowing the background of the Mi Mix series and how this model differs from its predecessor.

The biggest takeaway from our initial impressions is that the Mi Mix 2S is largely the same as last year’s model. Its 5-megapixel selfie camera is still awkwardly placed on the bottom chin; the well-loved ceramic back with metal frame is back; and, of course, there’s no notch on the near-borderless 6-inch Full HD LCD panel.

So, what’s new? Since this is Xiaomi’s best handset to date, it comes with the best specs you can hope for. Our unit, in particular, is an undeniable beast: It owns a high-end Snapdragon 845 processor (same as on the Galaxy S9 and Xperia XZ2), 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage, and a 3400mAh battery with both Quick Charge and wireless charging support (finally). This is the type of configuration that can run a full version of Windows 10 without a hitch!

Lots of numbers, yes, but all you really need to know is that there’s no Android phone more powerful than this at the moment (that can change soon, though). It’s amazing how fast everything transitions in its MIUI 9.5 interface, which is based on Android 8.0 Oreo. You can seamlessly jump from a game as graphics-intensive as Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition to browsing on Chrome and Facebook, and still have enough power and memory left over to quickly snap a shot with the camera.

What helps make the interface so smooth is the new set of navigation gestures integrated into MIUI. You can now swipe from the bottom chin to go to the home screen, hold that gesture to see recent apps, and swipe from the left or right to go back. Not only does this remove the need for the traditional back-home-multitasking setup of Android, it also frees up more space on the Mi Mix 2S’ gorgeous 18:9 screen.

The speed and superb usability of the Mi Mix 2S made moving to other handsets feel like a chore to me. Suddenly, the Galaxy S9’s software felt sluggish in comparison and the Huawei P20’s all-in-one navigation button wasn’t that intuitive anymore. Not that those two flagships are slow by any means; the Mi Mix 2S simply doesn’t falter. Heck, I can open an app I used five days prior and it would be in the exact same state I left it in.

Speaking of days, the Mi Mix 2S can easily last two days of moderate usage without the need for a power bank. While not as outstanding as the original (and much larger) Mi Mix’s endurance, this is still beyond what most smartphones offer today. This is one of those phones I never worry about dying on me at the worst moments. I’d easily pick the Mi Mix 2S for short island getaways with no electric sockets in sight.

Because we’re living in 2018 — and this has been a gripe of Mi Mix users from the very start — there’s a dual-camera setup on the back (both 12 megapixels) that takes much better photos than we’re used to. (Imaging authority DxOMark goes as far as placing the Mi Mix 2S on the same footing as the iPhone X and Mate 10 Pro.)

Each smartphone manufacturer has a different implementation of twin cameras, and this Mi Mix has arguably the most useful one: a standard wide-angle lens with another telephoto shooter for 2X optical zoom. It definitely came in handy when I couldn’t get close enough to my subject. Here are a few cases:

 

 

Photos taken from a phone’s secondary telephoto lens usually come out crappy, but that wasn’t the case with the Mi Mix 2S, even in low-light indoor situations. I was never afraid to use it, and it felt like there was enough image stabilization to keep the shots sharp despite the added zoom.

The other major camera addition is artificial intelligence. Yes, AI terminology has been thrown around way too much during recent product launches, but that’s something we have to accept (at least for 2018). For the Mi Mix 2S, AI detection is an option you can manually turn on inside the camera app. Do so and the software will automatically scan the scene you’re looking at and tune the image to the best of its abilities.

I gave Xiaomi’s AI application a chance. These are samples taken with and without AI:

 

 

Impressive? Not totally. While the AI-enabled photos do look better, it’s nothing more than a slight bump in contrast and saturation — something you can do yourself within the camera app’s manual settings or on Snapseed right after shooting. Chances are you’re going to desaturate the picture and turn up its brightness on Instagram anyway, so I myself found little need to activate AI for any instance.

Unfortunately, the built-in AI can’t do anything to save the inverted selfie camera. Again, it’s the same cumbersome, low-resolution shooter we experienced on the previous Mi Mix. Although the results are acceptable under bright daylight, I couldn’t bring myself to use it at night. See for yourself:

Another issue with the camera placement is its incompatibility with most apps outside of Xiaomi’s own. The interfaces of Instagram and Skype won’t adjust their orientation when you flip the phone around to bring the front-facing cam up top. This leaves you with no choice but to let the selfie shooter watch you from below and up your nose. This is Chay’s step-by-step struggle:

My recommendation: Skip this phone if you’re crazy about selfies. It simple isn’t worth the effort of flipping the phone every time and risk dropping it on concrete. But if you’re the type who uses the rear cameras 90 percent of the time — like me — there isn’t anything else to complain about. Just look at how well the Mi Mix 2S can shoot when given a chance:

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Mi Mix 2S is an incremental update in every sense, and that’s to be expected as the “S” evolution of the lineup. It’s slightly faster, a bit smarter, and has the camera upgrade we’ve been clamoring for since the first Mi Mix came to be two years ago. Yet, there are other features that still haven’t made the cut.

Its audio port continues to be missing in action (and probably won’t come back), waterproofing is still non-existent, and the awkward selfie camera stands as Xiaomi’s sole answer to the near-borderless, anti-notch movement.

Despite all that, this is the phone to beat in terms of pure performance and price. The Mi Mix 2S is one of the most affordable Snapdragon 845-powered phones in the market and its rear cameras have finally caught up with the competition.

At the same time, since this is a minor step in the Mi Mix timeline, the Mi Mix 3 could be only a few months away with an all-new design. If Xiaomi figures out how to bring the front camera to the top without adding a notch in the next generation, they’ll have an absolute winner.

For now, who is the Mi Mix 2S for? Those who want a good-looking Android (in white) with the best hardware, a large battery, and decent set of cameras. The starting price is a reasonable US$ 525 — a rather small price to pay in today’s US$ 1,000 smartphone era.

Gaming

Kena: Bridge of Spirits isn’t for everybody

And, that’s fine

Published

on

By

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure third-person video game. The game is developed and produced by Ember Lab. In the game, you play as Kena. She’s a young spirit guide who uses her magical abilities to help people pass on into the spirit world.

The game is stunning and deep dives into spiritual aspects like emotional entanglement with the physical word after passing away.

In case you don’t have a working pair of eyes

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a gorgeous game. Stunning yet scuffed at times, this game is nothing short of eye-candy. The background details and character design is just *chef’s kiss*. But, big butt (Editor’s Note: Not sure if this is a typo but we’ve decided to keep it as is), by the way, this aesthetic might not be to some people’s liking. Hear me out: this game looks and feels like you’re playing through a Disney Pixar movie. And, honestly, that might not be for everyone.

On the scuffed end of things, you’ll find that some things glitch through objects and terrain. But, to that, I think it adds to its charm. The silliness is often welcome and strangely expected in the whole gaming sense. This isn’t the first scuffed game to come across a gamer’s life and it won’t be the last. I think each game has its improvements and patches to develop and incorporate and the glitches make the whole experience memorable and meme-able.

The crutch everyone won’t shut up about

This game is weirdly forgettable for people who’ve played a lot of third-person action adventures. Why? Well, this isn’t the first of its kind. Kena: Bridge of Spirits takes from many games before it and blends its inspirations together pretty nicely without overcomplicating its mechanics.

I would say though, that this can be what I personally found to be endearing with Kena. It unapologetically makes for a good entry-level action-adventure game for people who might not normally gravitate to games like it. With its beautiful visuals and memorable take on grievances, Kena pulls at sentimental heartstrings without the stupidly complicated skill building of most other action adventures out there.

Don’t hate the game

Nor, the player. The game is simple. That can be refreshing for some players or just boring to some. Which, I’ll say now, to each their own. Most games under the same category are far more convoluted and complex. So, if that’s something you like, this isn’t for you. And that’s totally fine.

Most of the game plays on collecting cute Rot along the way. And, on top of the usual skill building, most rewards you’ll find in hidden spots are either more Rot or hats for them. It doesn’t really require that much mental gymnastics to play this game. You can play to relax and just enjoy the journey. Which, for me, is great! Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the perfect game for when you want to play with family watching. I’m sure it’ll feel like a movie to them.

Is this your GAME Match?

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game worth trying no matter how familiar you are with video games in the same category. The barrier of entry is super friendly and simplistic so, you won’t need that much video game experience to immerse in the story. Plus, you can customize the game for when you want more of a challenge.

I do have to say though, that this game might fight to keep your interest at times but, it sure can lure you back in. As for me, I was happy to play this game. It was challenging at times and, it might not be the best one on my list. But, it gets honorary points for being simple, gorgeous, and family-friendly.

Continue Reading

Reviews

Apple Watch Series 7: In-Depth Fitness Review

For fitness buffs and starters alike

Published

on

In our previous video, Michael Josh did an unboxing of the new Apple Watch Series 7 in Starlight. He even became NY’s next top model as the Apple Watch can also be your next best fashion piece.

This time around, we go all-out to show you the fitness benefits of using the latest Apple Watch.

While an incremental update and lack of new sensors mean little, the longer battery life, faster charging, and larger display of the Apple Watch Series 7 mean it’s even better than before.

Here’s our in-depth fitness review of the new Apple Watch Series 7.

Continue Reading

Laptops

realme Book review: Done right the first time around

Published

on

realme Book

The pandemic has brought about major changes on how we depend on our gadgets. We stay glued to our smartphones for hours to stay connected. Most of us also continue with our work from home setup, causing the demand for laptops to continue to rise and opening the market to new players. 

realme tries to steal the scene as they make their laptop debut with the realme Book, aimed at competing at the midrange level where many brands have already made their mark. 

Let’s check out if the realme Book can be a great contender in the laptop arena. 

Familiar yet better  

realme Book

Having a first look at the realme Book, the similarity of its design is undeniable with the MacBook though I don’t really think it’s a bad thing. Its sleek and stylish minimalist design actually makes me feel like I’m using a premium laptop. 

Compared to its smartphones that have those flashy labels, realme veered away from that with their first laptop as they kept the label subtle and you can barely see the “Dare to Leap” mark on one of its rubber feet. 

Its 14-inch sleek aluminum alloy body with matte finish really feels solid and has little or no flex on its slim chassis.

If you’re someone who likes to work in different corners of your home or at al fresco shops, the realme book can easily fit in your bag with its 14.9mm width and 1.38kg weight. When working on a flat surface, the rubber feet on the back actually help the laptop stay stable. 

In terms of port options, you get one USB-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and two Type-C ports, one being a Thunderbolt 4 for the core i5 variant.

realme Book

The USB port was a bit too tight that it required me to exert effort to pull out my USB device. Also, this laptop lacks an SD card slot and HDMI port. It doesn’t bother me that much but it may be a deal-breaker for other users. 

realme Book

Top-Notch Display 

One thing that the realme Book can really boast about is its display. As full HD display is common in laptops from its competition, the realme Book takes it up a notch with its 2K Ultra-HD screen with 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution delivering stellar image quality with sharp detail. 

The realme Book also packs in 100 percent sRGB wide color gamut that enables true-to-life visuals and a peak brightness of 400 nits which maintains high quality image even under direct sunlight. 

What also sets it apart from other laptops is its 3:2 aspect ratio, giving you more vertical room compared to most laptops that are either 16:10 or 16:9. This feature is an advantage when it comes to your productivity especially if you usually work on documents, spreadsheets or social media content for work. 

However, this becomes a disadvantage when you’re watching videos since you’ll have wider black bars at the top and bottom of the screen due to movies and series being usually formatted with 16:9 ratio.  

Another impressive feature of this laptop is that realme was able to fit its web camera on its narrow bezels, unlike Huawei that had to sacrifice a good camera angle with their Matebook’s hidden camera placed on its keyboard. 

realme Book

Comfortable for work 

Speaking of the keyboard, typing on the realme Book is satisfying thanks to its 1.3mm key travel and the sound of its clicks is just right for my preference.

The keyboard also comes with a 3-mode backlit option which you can activate and adjust by pressing the F7 key. This is convenient especially when you have to work or use the laptop for a while during the night. It is also interesting since this is a feature that you barely get to experience on laptops at this price. 

realme Book

Compared to other laptops, the trackpad on the realme Book is pretty huge but doesn’t get in the way of typing. It is also very responsive to the touch and works precisely with all gestures and clicks. 

realme Book

And similar to the Huawei Matebook devices, it also has a fingerprint-sensor embedded power button to boot it up which is actually a handy feature to have in a laptop. 

Power Performance 

As for breezing through tasks, the realme Book is highly capable to give you the best experience being powered by the 11th Gen Intel Core processor. Paired with this is the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 8GB DDR4 memory and 512GB PCIe SSD storage. 

Aside from writing and creating social media content, I sometimes do photo and basic video editing for my side hustles. With the power combo under this laptop’s hood, it didn’t come as a surprise that the realme Book actually handled my tasks smoothly. 

Even with games such as Valorant, I was able to play it at 2K resolution at high settings and it didn’t feel laggy at all. Of course, if you’d want a faster frame rate, you can always lower down your settings to improve your gaming experience. 

realme Book

I also noticed that while playing games, the laptop didn’t feel heated up at all. I checked via HWMOnitor and its temperature was just hovering a little over 60 degrees. This is actually cool for its slim body. I guess we can attribute this to its efficient cooling system with dual 8mm heat pipes and high speed, high airflow fans.

Quick juice up 

When working, I usually take short breaks in between major tasks to refresh my mind. So it’s actually enough for me that the realme Book’s 54 Wh battery can support up to 9 hours of work and leisure, keeping me powered and connected.

And once the battery already ran out, the 65W fast charger got me to a 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes so I was able to conveniently continue with whatever I’m doing.

It’s also a plus that the charger of the realme Book is small and just slightly heavier than a smartphone charger so it’s an easy carry in the bag. It also has the same USB-C cable used to charge our smartphones so you won’t have to carry another charger for your smartphone when traveling. 

Immersive speakers  

For a laptop this slim, I was quite surprised that the sound coming from its down-firing Harman speakers is considerably loud and well defined. 

When I tried listening to my playlists, I did notice that while it did not have as much bass as I would have preferred, it does sound fuller compared to others. When it comes to binging series and playing games, the speakers did a great job of simulating space that sounds pleasant and immersive. I guess I can say, it does sound better than many of the laptops I’ve tried.

Is the realme Book your GadgetMatch? 

As a new player in the laptop market, the realme Book makes a pretty great attempt at laptops and definitely challenges competing and more established brands. 

Sure this laptop may not be perfect but realme has brought their expertise in creating attractive smartphones to this laptop that definitely looks premium for its price. Also with its 2K Ultra-HD display, sleek and sturdy aluminum build, premium design, powerful performance and immersive audio, this laptop is definitely a solid deal for its price. 

The realme Book is available in Real Grey and Real Blue colors and retails at PhP 37,990 for the i3 variant and PhP 47,990 for the i5 variant.

Continue Reading

Trending