If you’re looking for a sub-$200 Android phone that excels in all aspects, go out and buy Xiaomi’s Redmi 4 Prime. Oops, sorry — I just gave away the conclusion.
I just can’t help but feel there’s not much competition against Xiaomi’s latest budget-friendly smartphone. Heck, we even have a list featuring some of the reasons why it beats everything else.
Still, the Redmi 4 Prime deserves a full review, so here it is.
First, here’s a short introduction.
Situated at the top of the recently launched Redmi 4 line, the Prime is the costliest of the trio, but not by a huge margin. The price is pegged at $133 in China, with international pricing hovering around $170, depending on the distributor.
That’s an insanely great deal for a phone this complete — that’s if you can find one. Like most Xiaomi devices, you’ll have to purchase it in China or from one of the many gray market channels, and make sure it actually works on your mobile network.
It’s also important to note that the Redmi 4 Prime officially shares the same name as the standard Redmi 4. The Prime moniker refers to the higher-end variant, but you shouldn’t look for it when shopping online. To differentiate the two, remember that the Prime has its LED flash to the left of the rear camera lens, while the standard version has its flash to the right.
It’s an absolute pleasure to hold, albeit slippery.
With a 5-inch display, the Prime has dimensions similar to Google’s 5-inch Pixel flagship. Not that the two phones are in any way comparable beyond that, but the Xiaomi has a full-metal build its credit.
It’s kind of slippery, though, and despite hours’ worth of online digging, I can’t confirm if the display has any sort of protection, like Gorilla Glass or some other anti-shatter glass. Smartphone brands are notorious for keeping this type of info under wraps to hide their cost-cutting practices.
To be safe, look for a protective case. The Redmi 4 Prime is already quite thick at 8.9mm, so it’s not like you’re ruining its figure.
All the features you need are here.
Other than the lack of frontal protection, you get the complete package on the outside: a bright Full HD LCD display, very accurate back-mounted fingerprint scanner, hybrid card tray (has one SIM slot and space for either another SIM or microSD card), and best of all, 4G LTE connectivity.
It would take some nitpicking to complain about the few shortcomings, such as the use of the older micro-USB standard instead of the more future-proof USB-C port, and the lack of NFC, which could have been used for quick wireless pairing with other devices. Most users won’t mind these flaws, because really, this phone is way below $200 in the first place.
This is how all affordable phones should perform.
What’s really surprising is how Xiaomi was able to equip a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor into this handset. In case you’re unfamiliar with chipsets, this processor is something you’d find on much more expensive midrange smartphones — and not on a phone priced this low.
Seriously, we’re talking about power greater than anything found in our best budget smartphone feature from last month. And this phone costs as little as the cheapest entry on that list.
It goes without saying that the Redmi 4 Prime performs beyond any other phone at this level. Apps open quickly, most new games run without any hiccups, and keeping tasks in check is aided by 3GB of memory and 32GB of internal storage.
MIUI is much improved.
Anyone who’s experienced Xiaomi’s signature interface knows how much of an Apple iOS ripoff it is. But that’s in the past; now, the eighth version of MIUI is mature enough to stand on its own.
MIUI 8 behaves like it should — an Android Marshmallow skin through and through. This isn’t to say it’s any closer to the operating system it’s built on, but it’s a lot more Android-like this time, without losing any of the deep customizations MIUI is known for.
Can’t follow? All you have to know is that the Prime’s software is user-friendly and colorful, yet still offers lots of options for adjusting the look and feel of the interface.
These are better cameras than you’d expect.
Normally, when you discover a phone this cheap, it’s the cameras that take the biggest hit. That isn’t the case here, however; the Redmi 4 Prime’s 5-megapixel front and 13-megapixel rear shooters are surprisingly good, and not just for entry-level standards. These are some samples:
As you can see, colors are vibrant whether HDR mode is on or not, and the sharpness is fantastic all throughout each photo. Taking pictures at night wasn’t that bad either, but you’ll have to keep your hands steady since there’s no image stabilization to assist you. If all else fails, you can make use of the dual-tone LED flash.
Same sentiments can be said for video recording, except there’s one minor caveat: Audio recording turns into a jumbled-up mess when recording heavy bass. I experienced this firsthand at a concert; standing close to the speakers while shooting was a terrible idea.
OMG, this battery!
I can’t believe I’m saving this part for last: The Prime’s battery is such a beast! While it shouldn’t be much of a surprise with it having a large 4100mAh capacity, bigger phones with similar batteries simply aren’t as efficient as this.
I was able to record six and a half hours of screen-on time on a single charge, which included lots of time playing games, testing the cameras, and leaving my 4G LTE connection constantly on. If I were to tone each of those down, over seven hours of active usage is quite realistic.
This leads to an endurance of two days with heavy usage — three days if you play more sparingly. We can credit these numbers to the energy-efficient processor and display panel, as well as the lighter MIUI implementation.
My only knock against it is the lack of fast charging. Using the bundled charger, it takes more or less two and a half hours to fill up the Redmi 4 Prime from zero percent. It’s a small price to pay for over a day of use, though.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
There are only a few reasons why the Redmi 4 Prime might not be for you: It lacks NFC connectivity; charging times are painstakingly slow; and you might have a difficult time finding one.
The first two may not actually matter to most consumers, but the third reason definitely does. Unless you have a reliable gray market source, securing a unit in the US or any non-Asian country can be cumbersome.
If you do manage to purchase the Redmi 4 Prime, congratulations! You’ll have a tough time finding a better deal at this price point. The only possible threat is the pending release of the slightly pricier Mi 5c, although I doubt it’ll undermine any of the Prime’s qualities.
You can also consider the similarly priced Vivo Y55, but none of its specs — from the display resolution to the processor and memory — can match the Redmi 4 Prime’s.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! review: Catching ’em all once again
Isn’t Eevee absolutely adorable?
Countless times, my friends have jokingly asked, “Where’s Mario?” My name — Luigi — has unwittingly cursed me into a lifetime of jokes associated with Mario’s green-suited brother. Ironically, my favorite Nintendo franchise isn’t even remotely related to the Super Mario Brothers series. Since childhood, the prestige has always gone to the Pokémon franchise.
During my Game Boy days, I played through the classics of the Pokémon franchise. Sadly, that streak ended with Pokémon Emerald, immediately before the arrival of the first Nintendo DS. Since then, the franchise’s Generation 4 ushered in a period of silence.
Thankfully, Pokémon’s decline was halted by the arrival of the mobile game, Pokémon GO. The pioneering AR game brought back a wave of nostalgia. Despite the initial popularity, the game’s novelty was short-lived, failing to measure up with the classic games. Of course, the game wasn’t from Nintendo.
Now, Nintendo has finally taken over the franchise’s modern renaissance. Weeks ago, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! launched for the Nintendo Switch, promising a new world for the new generation. Besides ushering a generation, the nostalgic series revitalizes the old and creates a new ecosystem.
Right on the tin, both games advertise a return to Kanto, home of the first Pokémon. Pikachu and Eevee are remasters of the original Pokémon Yellow. In the original, Pikachu replaced the traditional trio of Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. Likewise, Pikachu and Eevee replaces the starter Pokémon based on the version you purchase.
Likewise, both games share the same story elements with Pokémon Yellow: Team Rocket’s antics, Lavender Town’s eerie story, Mewtwo’s appearance. Of course, because of the times, Nintendo updated some minor elements for a modern audience. For example, in-game television sets come with Nintendo Switch units. Characters talk about Alolan Pokémon, smartphone technology, and most importantly, Pokémon GO.
Cuter, cuddlier, livelier
After Pokémon GO’s initial wave of novelty, the franchise’s fans chided the game for depersonalizing their favorite creatures. In GO, Pokémon became collectibles, valuing quantity over quality. Completely contrasted to this, Pikachu and Eevee added a thick layer of personality to all 151 original Pokémon.
Mostly, this dynamic personality applies to your chosen partner, Pikachu or Eevee. Like Yellow, your partner Pokémon follows you around. However, instead of just a few pixelated frames, both have their own new sets of animations and moves. For example, Pikachu hangs out on your shoulder as you walk. Eevee perches atop your head. In combat, both have exclusive move sets. Eevee, for example, uses Veevee Volley, an extremely strong Normal move that activates only occasionally. Cutely, you can interact with both partners outside of combat, petting them or playing patty-cake using the Switch’s touchscreen.
Additionally, you can take a Pokémon out of its Poké Ball, acting as a secondary companion. Also, their animation depends on their build. Mew floats ahead of you. Kangaskhan carries you in its pouch. Charizard flies and carries you on its back. It creates a much more dynamic world compared to the original games.
Speaking of, wild Pokémon encounters are no longer completely random. Instead, you can see the wild Pokémon wandering around, letting you choose which to catch. Catching them is also different. Instead of going into combat, the games adapt the same system as Pokémon GO, using catch rings and berries.
Creating a Pokémon ecosystem
Along with the games, Nintendo also launched a new controller, the Poké Ball Plus, specifically made for the new Pokémon games. Unfortunately, the optional controller, shaped like a Poké Ball, is pricey, costing US$ 49.99 on its own. The bundle — the game plus the ball — costs US$ 99.99, reducing the price by 10 bucks. That said, why should you buy a Poké Ball Plus?
Firstly, the ball comes with a free Mew. Traditionally, this mythical Pokémon was obtainable only through Nintendo-exclusive events or hacks. The Ball finally provides an easily accessible way to obtain one of the franchise’s most elusive Pokémon.
Secondly, it creates a new experience for the franchise. While it has only two buttons, you can use the ball in a throwing motion to catch Pokémon. Instead of just pressing A, the new mechanic simulates the feeling of actually throwing a Poké Ball. It’s unique and strangely gratifying. Additionally, you can take a Pokémon (housed inside the Poké Ball) with you on your daily commute. As you walk, it gets experience, similar to GO’s buddy system.
Thirdly, the ball acts as a Pokémon GO Plus, connecting the Switch games with GO’s world. To those who still play GO, the Poké Ball is a welcome arsenal, especially in crowded cityscapes. Similarly, you can transfer Pokémon from GO to Switch, making it easier to fill a Pokédex.
Finally, the Poké Ball Plus is a clear indication of the Pokémon franchise’s future. Next year, Nintendo will launch a fresher addition to the franchise, marking the console’s first full-fledged Pokémon game. By then, the future game will fully integrate the Ball into its mechanics, making the controller a worthy investment.
With Pikachu and Eevee, the Pokémon franchise heralds a new generation for both old and beginning players. For old players, they create a refreshed wave of nostalgia. For beginning players, both games are a good start to the new generation.
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 review
Part two of the Max experiment
The ZenFone Max Pro M1 was one of those unicorns in the smartphone realm. Not only did it have dual cameras and a massive battery, it also came with stock Android — a rarity in ASUS’ lineup.
It was priced just right, hovering around the US$ 200 sweet spot in most regions. That being said, a successor was definitely in order, and the M2 I have here might bring that magic back.
The ZenFone Max Pro M2 is certainly bigger, badder, and more of a gaming phone than the M1 was. But with a higher price tag, is it still an easy-to-recommend product, especially with all the great options in the market?
On the outside, it’s a typical ZenFone, from the solid build to the super-bright 6.3-inch 1080p LCD. New this time around is the notch that houses the front-facing camera. It’s a sore spot in an otherwise clean design, but at this point, I can no longer argue against the established trend.
Next is the move from a metal coating to a shinier material for the rear. I can’t confirm yet if it’s mostly glass or plastic, but it’s more of a fingerprint magnet than what the previous ZenFone Max models had. ASUS does include a clear case to prevent unsightly fingerprints.
On the back you’ll find the fingerprint scanner, which isn’t that fast for logging in but more reliable than its face scanning. After alternating between the two, I ended up using the fingerprint sensor more, though that’s not to say it has a major advantage.
However, what matters more is the processor this smartphone comes with. It’s a Snapdragon 660, a chipset you’d normally find on more expensive handsets. Coupled with up to 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage, its performance certainly fits the bill.
If the storage isn’t enough, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a triple-card slot inside to house two nano-SIM cards and a microSD at the same time. If you’re planning to use this as a pure gaming device, that extra space holds a lot of weight.
During day-to-day activities like taking photos, multitasking around productivity apps, and binging on Netflix, I had no qualms whatsoever. It’s comparable to what the Nokia 7 Plus and Vivo V11 can do with the same chipset, and it helps that pure Android is on board to prevent bloatware from getting in the way.
But what we really want to test is mobile games, since ASUS is promoting the ZenFone Max Pro M2 as a budget-friendly gaming device. Early impression: Performance depends on which games you play.
I tried Ragnarok M and although the phone kept cool no matter how long I played, it would throttle at certain times, leading to choppy frame rates when there was too much action happening at once. I didn’t experience this with similarly priced phones like the Pocophone F1 and Honor Play.
Things are a little different with Asphalt 9, which relies more on bursts of intense processing with short breaks in between. This allowed the ZenFone Max Pro M2 to shine more, providing really smooth gameplay without heating up.
But what’s truly impressive is the battery life. I could play either of those games for five hours straight and they would reduce the percentage to only half. That’s amazing, and at the same time expected out of a 5000mAh capacity.
Unfortunately, topping up this battery to full using the bundled charger is a royal pain. With an average of 15 percent gains every 30 minutes, it would take around 3.5 hours to reach a hundred. I tried using faster chargers but the results were practically the same.
I’m not sure if this was a cost-cutting move or an oversight; either way, it sucks to wait for the phone to charge so long between gaming sessions. It doesn’t help that I’m forced to plug in through its micro-USB port. Every other device I own made the switch to the superior USB-C.
My bigger concern is ASUS’ update plans for this phone’s aging Android 8.1 Oreo, which came out in 2017. Despite being stock in nature, it isn’t part of the Android One program, so Google won’t be able aid in pushing new software.
For reference, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is still on Oreo, with no sign of Pie this year. While having a pure Android experience is great, not having timely updates defeats some of the purpose. In some cases, I actually miss ZenUI and the attention ASUS gives to it.
On that note, my review unit had some issues with the camera app at first, but ASUS has since fixed all the bugs. The app originally called Camera App Lite would often hang or not allow me to capture a shot even when all conditions were met. It’s simply called Camera now and works quite well with its clean interface.
During my short time with the cameras, I was impressed by the dynamic range and ability to maintain sharpness under poor lighting conditions. Both the rear 12-megapixel sensor and 13-megapixel selfie shooter performed as expected out of a midrange handset — meaning they were satisfying to use — though I question the usability of the 5-megapixel depth sensor on the back.
Blurring the background and cutting out the edges of a subject weren’t strong points for the rear shooters. What I did like was the saturation and strong colors they produced. Here are some samples:
Editor’s note: This section initially stated that the camera app was buggy and felt like beta software. ASUS has since reached out and updated our unit. The camera performance is much improved now and doesn’t exhibit any of the aforementioned faults.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
With a price increase of about US$ 100, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 isn’t as affordable as it once was, although I do appreciate the improvements in multiple aspects.
The new chipset is a definite winner, and the sleeker design makes it easier to show off in public. In addition, everything that made the M1 so special is still there, from the massive battery to the bright screen.
I recommend this particular ZenFone to those who value performance and want something more out of a gaming smartphone. It may not be as fast as the Honor Play or Pocophone F1, but it’s the most well-rounded device in the entire ZenFone lineup.
Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best
It’s just missing one thing…
It was during IFA 2018 when Lenovo introduced their latest premium convertible for consumers — the Yoga C930. It doesn’t have a good name, but it does offer everything a Yoga should, especially in media consumption.
Notebooks with flipping displays, like the Yoga lineup, are not just designed for typing. Most manufacturers market their convertibles to be perfect for entertainment, yet they largely fail in one aspect where they should shine — audio.
When Lenovo introduced the Yoga C930 with the rotating soundbar and Dolby Atmos, I hoped that it was not just a marketing ploy. But, is it? Let me share my thoughts about Lenovo’s newest convertible.
No fuss design
The Yoga C930 has a metal shell with a familiar aesthetic from Lenovo. My unit has a dark finish that’s aptly named Iron Gray. If you want a lighter shade, Lenovo is also offering the notebook in Mica, which is close to white. Everything about the body of the Yoga C930 screams premium; nothing here looks cheap or ugly.
To make it more special, the sides and the hinge of the Yoga C930 have a brushed finish. It’s a minor touch, but it’s highly noticeable whenever you’re checking where you should plug your peripherals. I also think that it helps hide unsightly scratches and gives the notebook a bit of shine.
While we’re at it, the available ports on the Yoga C930 are generally okay. It’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports that fully support PowerDelivery, DisplayPort, and USB 3.1 functions. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports employ 4x lanes for PCIe, so you can connect the Yoga C930 to an external GPU, which is good because this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics unit.
Apart from a couple of versatile USB-C interfaces, there’s also a classic full-size USB that we all know and love. Thankfully, Lenovo knows that this is still a widely used port and bringing a dongle just to read a thumb drive is a hassle. The 3.5mm audio port is also available when you need to plug in a pair of wired headphones.
All of the ports on the Yoga C930 are on its left side, leaving the right with just the power button. There are no volume buttons, either.
While I appreciate that Lenovo provided both USB-A and USB-C ports, I was still hoping for more; another USB-C with PowerDelivery on the right and a full-size SD card reader would do. The Yoga C930 is slim, but it’s not ultra-slim like the fan-less MacBook which got away with having one port (or maybe two if you count the headphone jack).
The Yoga C930 has a fairly large 14-inch display (13.9 inches according to Lenovo), but with minimum side bezels. Since this is made for watching videos, the aspect ratio is still stuck at 16:9.
There are two resolutions available for the Lenovo C930: Full HD or Ultra HD. The one I have here is just the Full HD variant, but it still has the key feature: Dolby Vision. The best way to fully appreciate the display is to play an HDR or Dolby Vision-enabled title. You can find some on Netflix if you’re using the highest-tier plan.
The display gets bright enough to be used outdoors and really dim when you need it to. It’s vibrant and has deep blacks even if it’s only an LCD panel.
When watching a video, I prefer to use the Yoga C930 in Tent mode. It can also be used in Stand mode with the keyboard facing down, but for some reason, Lenovo didn’t put little rubber feet to protect the keyboard when placed on a surface. You have to be cautious where you place the notebook or you risk scratching it.
The integrated soundbar of the Yoga C930 is designed to always face the user. That’s another advantage of watching videos in Tent mode; the speaker is facing upwards. I get to hear the sound directly without any muffle. I must say, the Yoga C930 has one of the clearest speakers I’ve tried on a notebook. It gets really loud, too.
It even has Dolby Atmos to enhance it further, but it’s not as immersive as advertised. To be fair though, I get to hear the stereo effect better than on other notebooks.
The device is least useful (for me) when it’s in Tablet mode. The Yoga C930 is too heavy to be a tablet, plus the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it feel like I’m reading from a really tall magazine. But, this is where the built-in pen comes in handy. The integrated stylus makes it easy for doodlers to annotate on screen.
Fast but not incredible
Let’s talk about power. The Yoga C930 I have is powered by the latest 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor paired with 12GB DDR4 memory and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Configurations may vary in some regions, so the Yoga C930 in your stores might be more powerful or inferior.
There’s one thing that’s missing though, and it’s not an option anyone can get either: discrete graphics.
As mentioned, the Yoga C930 is not an ultraportable. It has nowhere near the portability of Dell’s XPS 13 or even Lenovo’s own Yoga Book. It’s big enough to house at least a modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 — just like the latest ZenBook from ASUS.
My usage includes multiple tabs on Chrome, some slight editing on Photoshop, and hours of binge-watching on Netflix. I primarily used the notebook for typing and browsing, which are not heavy tasks.
So far, I had no major performance issues during my time with the Yoga C930. I didn’t bother to install games because it lacks discrete graphics.
Of course, the notebook runs Windows 10. I got the October 2018 update just last week, and it made the dark mode better. It matches the gray motif of the device.
It’s ideal for my own use
Putting all the technical specifications aside, the Yoga C930 has been a great companion.
Aside from the soundbar, I also fully appreciate the notebook’s keyboard. It’s not as great as the one on ThinkPads, but it’s good enough for me. It’s well-spaced and has a good amount of key travel.
The touchpad uses Microsoft Precision drivers and it fully supports all the gestures of Windows 10. It has a glass surface and picks up all the inputs. A responsive touchpad and a good keyboard is the combo I need for work.
There’s also something about the craftsmanship of the Yoga C930 that gives assurance that it’s a well-built device. Perhaps it’s the balance between weight and dimensions.
Lastly, the webcam has a physically cover — just like a ThinkPad’s. It’s nice to see nifty features of Lenovo’s business laptops on a consumer device. I don’t have to cover the webcam anymore with a piece of tape.
Great battery life
I am generally impressed with the longevity of the Yoga C930. Lenovo promises all-day battery life, but we all know that is somehow a stretch. Based on my usage, I get around eight to nine hours. I also experience about the same when watching Netflix non-stop.
It’ll not beat records, but I am always assured that even if I leave my charger at home, I know I can rely on the Yoga C930 to get me through a full day.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
You probably already think that this is my GadgetMatch, which I’ll not deny. I had a good time with the Yoga C930, despite its shortcomings. It’s a premium convertible that managed to meet my expectations. I’m hoping Lenovo will soon have an option with discrete graphics. For now, you can maximize the device by plugging in an external GPU.
The Yoga C930 has a starting price of US$ 1,399. It’s a bit pricier than I expected from its specs, but it’s a premium convertible that offers more versatility than regular laptops.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! review: Catching ’em all once again
Isn't Eevee absolutely adorable?
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 review
Part two of the Max experiment
Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best
It's just missing one thing...
Vivo outs dual-display phone, China bans iPhones: Weekend Rewind
OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition: Price and availability in the Philippines
Philippine telcos are now required to unlock phones after lock-in period
Huawei Nova 4 press renders leak before official announcement
Huawei P30 will have a notch and curved display
Best Budget Smartphones in the Philippines below P10,000
Best Midrange Smartphones in the Philippines from P10,000 to P20,000
Best Midrange Smartphones from $200 to $400
Best Upper-Midrange Smartphones in the Philippines from P20,000 to P30,000
Best Premium Smartphones in the Philippines above P30,000
Lifestyle2 weeks ago
Zepeto lets you create a 3D character version of yourself
Reviews1 week ago
Apple iPhone XR review: By Android users
Enterprise1 week ago
Converge introduces faster fiber plans starting at 35Mbps
News2 weeks ago
Android 9 Pie starts seeding to Huawei P20 series in China
Features6 days ago
Here’s why OPPO created a new brand called Realme
News2 weeks ago
Samsung caught tweeting with an iPhone
Features4 days ago
Honor 8X vs Xiaomi Mi A2: Head-to-head comparison
News1 week ago
Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 855, promises 5G phones in 2019