Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S Review: Faster, smarter

But is it better?

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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

ROG Zephyrus G15: Lean, mean, gaming machine

And it’s a looker too

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Zephyrus G15

One of my favorite things about getting to try many new gadgets is that I learn more about myself and my preferences. The ROG Zephyrus G15 (2022) GA503 – which henceforth will just be referred to as just Zephyrus G15 – did just that for me and what I want in gaming laptops. 

For context, I have been sparingly using my ROG Flow X13 for most of my general Windows and PC gaming needs. It’s a great device, don’t get me wrong. But having to prop up the laptop itself along with the XG Mobile to reach its full potential can be quite cumbersome.

It’s a huge contrast to the Zephyrus G15 where I simply fire it up and it just works in a jiffy. And all the ports I normally use are right there, ready to use. I’m a big fan of convenience so I absolutely love it when gadgets just work without much friction. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Based on this introduction, I’m sure you already have some idea on what I generally think about the Zephyrus G15. But allow me to discuss it further. 

Tale of the tape

Zephyrus G15

Specs and benchmarks never tell the whole story. But specs are a good place to start. Here’s what our review unit is packing: 

  • AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS
  • 15″ WQHD (2560 x 1440) 16:9 240hz Pantone Validated 100% DCI-P
  • RTX 3070 TI 8GB GDDR6
  • 16GB DDR5 on board  + 16GB DDR5-4800 SO-DIMM
  • 1TB M.2 NVM PCIe 4.0 SSD
  • Moonlight White

Some standout stuff from the information provided above are the new processor, the Pantone Validated display as well as the RAM available. This isn’t even its highest configuration. There’s a variant that runs RTX 3080. You can upgrade your RAM up to 48GB and there’s another SSD slot so you can expand your storage. 

Zephyrus G15

That means there’s plenty of room to up the ante down the line should you choose to do so. That’s not something that you can say for every gaming laptop. 

Immaculate look and design

I love that ROG sent over the Moonlight White version for us to try. Black is great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s refreshing to see gaming laptops brimming with power come in other colorways that could appeal to people that are kind of just over with black. 

The magnesium-aluminum lid and chassis also maintain the Zephyrus look giving it a sleek and tough exterior, while keeping the ROG Zephyrus identity. And you don’t have to worry too much about it picking up dust and dirt. In the few weeks I spent with it, it stayed pristine looking despite little to no wiping maintenance. That’s thanks largely to the wear-resistant coating which works exactly as advertised. 

Zephyrus G15

Adding to the overall functional design is the ErgoLift Hinge. This is one of my favorite things about ASUS laptops. The ergolift hinge not only allows a 180° for more flexibility, it’s also just ultra satisfying to move and look at. 

It looks fresh, feels tough, and is relatively compact making it easy to carry around. It’s a looker with some bells and whistles in the right places.

Ports, keyboard, and trackpad

Zephyrus G15

Speaking of those bells and whistles, the Zephyrus G15 is packed with possibly all the ports you’ll need. Whether that’s for a remote setup or one that’s neatly tucked into a home office desk. 

Zephyrus G15

Here’s everything it has to offer: 

  • USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (2x)
  • USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-C(supports DP 1.4 & 100W PD Charger), (2x)
  • LAN RJ-45 jack (1x)
  • HDMI 2.0b (1x)
  • Micro SD Card Reader (UHS-II), (1x)
  • 3.5mm Audio combo jack (1x)
  • Kensington Lock (1x)

 

Zephyrus G15

The Stealth Type keyboard was a curious choice but one that I welcome. I was of the impression that the gaming demographic skews more towards the clickity clack of mechanical keyboards. But the one equipped on the Zephyrus G15 is about as quiet as they come. No complaints here though, as it didn’t distract my at-the-moment entanglement in slumber as I toiled away over late night labor. 

Zephyrus G15

One of the best trackpad experiences on a Windows Gaming laptop.

The trackpad, too, was such a pleasant surprise. Perhaps it’s also in conjunction with Windows 11 but using a trackpad on Windows now doesn’t feel as laggy as it used to. On days that I only worked using the Zephyrus G15, I never felt the need to connect a mouse. That feels like a breakthrough as I have never been able to say that for any of the Windows laptops I’ve reviewed in the past. 

Plays like a console

Yes, I paired a DualSense controller with the Zephyrus G15

Alright, before any PC gaming enthusiasts come at my throat, what I mean here is mostly the quality of life things. When I got the Zephyrus G15, I didn’t tweak it very much. Heck, I even opened Armoury Crate less than five times during my time with it. Despite this, it had no trouble running the games I attempted to play. Some of which are even very demanding AAA titles. 

Zephyrus G15

I’m a big fan of tech that just works. Especially with my current workload, the less time I have to figure something out, the better. And that’s the case with this gaming laptop. I simply fired up Steam, downloaded the games, and played to my heart’s content. 

Zephyrus G15

Teen Gohan vs Cell is a classic.

Naturally, I checked the settings on some of the first few games I tried like Control, Genshin Impact, and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Everything was consistently on the highest settings right off the bat. Lags and stutters? I don’t know them. Not with the Zephyrus G15 in tow. 

To better understand where I’m coming from, I own an ROG Flow X13. The one that comes with the ROG XG Mobile. It’s a great machine, no doubt. But to get the most out of it, I still have to hook up the XG Mobile to the Flow X13. Whereas with the Zephyrus G15, I simply have to turn the laptop on. That’s an underrated level of convenience that may or may not mean much for some of you. 

You still have Armoury Crate but I didn’t feel the need to touch it as much.

It’s seriously making me consider trading up for the Zephyrus G15. And that’s just with the raw performance of games. I haven’t even talked about how good the display and speakers are. 

Eyes and ears candy 

Zephyrus G15

Its high-level performance is of course complemented by a stellar audio-visual experience. As indicated in the specs section earlier, this laptop sports a 15” WQHD 16:9 display with a 240Hz refresh rate. It’s also Pantone Validated which is great for color accuracy if you’re working on anything that involves visual media.

But all you really need to know is that it’s an absolute treat to the eyes. The 240Hz refresh rate on the panel is great for first-person shooters. Unfortunately, I am not great at first person shooters. I’d like to take this opportunity to whoever I played Valorant with because I totally dragged the team down. 

Zephyrus G15

This is a “Tomboy” fancam but listen to her album “MY” too!

 

It is a visual treat, no doubt. But like (G)-IDLE’s Miyeon, the Zephyrus G15 isn’t just a treat for the eyes. It also sounds hella good. I spent a good chunk of time watching Miyeon’s fancams on this thing and it’s just a fantastic overall experience. 

I also watched a few episodes of Netflix’s Business Proposal at the time of writing. Really, whatever type of content you consume, it’s bound to look and sound great on this thing. 

Zephyrus G15

Kim SeJeong is just adorable

One thing we did learn is that the display struggles a bit under really bright environments. When taking photos of the device, we opted to step out for natural light. But if you’re using this to work or play remotely, I recommend you find some place that isn’t too bright. 

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Zephyrus G15

The ROG Zephyrus G15 (2022) GA503 is easily one of my personal favorite devices that I’ve reviewed so far in 2022. It’s about as close as it can get to a plug and play PC gaming experience. And that’s not something you can say for many laptops and/or PCs. 

The Zephyrus G15 (2022) brings with it a distinct look, top-notch gaming performance, and a really solid audio-visual experience. As a gaming laptop, this is about as perfect as it gets and is something I can easily recommend especially if you’re willing to splurge for it.

Official pricing will be announced soon. We’ll update this space when it’s out.

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vivo X80 Pro Unboxing and Review

vivo’s best smartphone just got even better!

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The vivo X70 Pro+ was launched just several months ago. However, we’re already having a follow-up!

Unlike the X50, X60, and X70 series, the X80 series only consists of two models this time around.

Namely the X80 and X80 Pro — with the latter being vivo’s latest flagship smartphone.

But what makes it different from its predecessor? And what makes the successor a lot more exciting?

Watch our vivo X80 Pro Unboxing and Review now to find out more!

 

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S22+ review: Love at first touch

Can’t help but fall deeper

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Galaxy S22+

A cosmic pull. A supernatural attraction. These aren’t phrases one normally says on a smartphone review. And yet, here I am. Falling madly for the Samsung Galaxy S22+. 

However, this wasn’t the case from the get go. First, I saw it in photos and it was alright. Then, I saw the specs on paper. Yeah, that’s pretty good. It was just another flagship, I thought. 

But everything changed when it came to my doorstep and held it in my hands. 

(P.S. All of my subheadings below are taken from the song “One Touch” by Gabe Bondoc. You can play it while you read 🙂). 

One touch and I’m hooked and I am drowning

Galaxy S22+

I am completely aware how overly infatuated I’m coming off and will come off for the rest of this article. But, having been in this smartphone reviewing gig for close to seven (7) years now, I’ve become almost numb to the usual releases. 

Yes, every now and then I take a liking to a smartphone or two. But it has been a while since I really, really wanted to keep and/or buy a phone I’m reviewing. 

The Samsung Galaxy S22+ just felt perfect on my hands. The right width, the right length, and the right thickness. The heft of the device, its shiny metallic edges, and the clean premium finish of the back all scream premium. The material on its back has a smooth, matte feel and finish. It’s both smudge and scratch resistant.


I’m a fan of its button placements too. With both the power button and volume rockers flushed on the right-hand side. It’s easy to slide up and down to press what you need to press.

And the metal lining on the edges feels smooth but grippable and perfectly complements the flat display. 

Excuse me, I don’t mean to be staring

It’s no secret that Samsung consistently offers one of the best displays, especially in their flagship line. This remains true for the 6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel equipped on this beaut. The colors are rich and crisp under favorable lighting conditions. But even in broad daylight, the display is bright enough (1750 nits peak) to be comfortably operated without having to squint. 

Galaxy S22+

I had a grand time watching my favorite shows on the Samsung Galaxy S22+. I’ve had it for a while so I saw a few episodes of the Netflix K-Drama Business Proposal on it. I have also been catching up weekly on the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. For content that supports it, HDR10+ kicks in to elevate the visual experience. 

Galaxy S22+

The display looks so majestic that it prompted me to put the love of my life Momo Hirai of TWICE as my wallpaper. And then of course, there’s the dynamic refresh rate that goes up as high as 120Hz. This means the screen changes its refresh rate depending on what you’re doing. If you’re scrolling through socials and what not, it kicks into high gear to give you a smooth experience. When idle, the refresh rate lowers down to save battery. 

My heart won’t slow ’cause of you

The Galaxy S22+’s overall performance will really keep your heart racing. Normal, day-to-day interactions with your phone just feel extra sharp. The many features mentioned above coupled with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 powering this phone keeps it humming no matter what you do. 

Keeping up with the news in the morning, checking socials to see what you missed, using messaging apps to keep in touch whether for work or personal matters – all of these just feel like a breeze. And the ONE UI 4.1 skin on top of this Android 12 flavor definitely contributes to just how things flow when you use this smartphone. 

Galaxy S22+

I didn’t do a lot of gaming, though. To test it, I defaulted to my go-to which is a few hours of Call of Duty Mobile. As expected it runs without hiccups on high graphics settings. There’s a game manager of sorts here that I didn’t tinker with much. It’s not too different from the ones implemented in previous Samsung phones. Some key features include focusing the phone’s resources to gaming and limiting or completely blocking notifications. 

Battery life is also admirable. One afternoon, I used it to tune into a friend’s wedding via Zoom. The entire ceremony lasted roughly around two (2) hours. In that period, the Galaxy S22+’s battery went from 82% to 76%. 

Naturally, that isn’t the single indication of its battery performance. I generally start my days at around 9AM and end at around 8PM. On days that I’m glued to my laptop, with only occasional glimpses on the phone, I would end the day between 60% to 70%. On days that I’m out and about and rely on it a lot to get work done, my day ends with around 25% to 35% of battery left. 

You’re looking fine today, not that I only noticed now

Galaxy S22+

I have already done an entire separate article about the cameras on the Galaxy S22+. It’s one of the things that I enjoyed the most about the phone. It’s almost as if it’s impossible to take a bad photo with this on hand. 

Easily switching between lenses is great. But what’s even better is how the quality and color reproduction doesn’t vary much from lens to lens. Check these samples out.

Samsung Galaxy S22+

And you can even use 10X Zoom with barely any detail loss, especially if it’s a photo that you’re just uploading on social media. 

Samsung Galaxy S22+

That versatility is unmatched and is fantastic for quick, run and gun shoots like the one I did during the opening of the XM Studio in Singapore. 

I am thoroughly impressed and extremely satisfied with the quality of images it produces. And that’s saying a lot seeing as my regular daily phones include an iPhone 11 Pro and an OPPO Find X3 Pro. Both of which are excellent shooters in their own right.

Oh and yeah, “Nightography”. 

Samsung Galaxy S22+

You think there is a way that I can get you to stay?

You see, the thing about the Galaxy S22+ is that with just the first touch, you already know you’re in contact with something that you should hold onto for dear life. I can’t tell you how many oohs and aahs I got after letting other people hold it in their hands. It just has that effect.

Additionally, the phone is a smooth amalgamation of many other standout phones. It has the breathtaking display of Samsung phones, an overall footprint that feels like an iPhone 12/13 Pro Max, cameras that rival those that partner with notable camera brands, and much, much more. All of that comes in this package that looks and feels well-built on a phone that is easily an all-rounder performer. 

Truly, I never want to let it go. And that’s not something I always say about smartphones. So here’s to hoping that this high praise leads to the Galaxy S22+ staying with me more than a little while longer. 

The Samsung Galaxy S22+ 5G is still available today in Samsung stores near you, via online at Samsung.com, or at your preferred telecommunication service provider. Pricing information on our key markets are linked in the following: USA | Singapore | Philippines

I know it’s been a while since its release. Despite all the hype long gone, it’s still a phone you won’t regret buying.

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