Reviews

Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus (Redmi Note 5) Review

New face, familiar performance

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Xiaomi’s latest budget offering finally arrived in our office and I used it as my daily driver to see if it lives up to its hype. We all know Xiaomi offers the best specs to price ratio, but is the Redmi 5 Plus (known as the Redmi Note 5 in India) the new budget phone king?

The Redmi 5 Plus is all about its new 5.99-inch 18:9 display

Embracing the latest tall display trend

It’s supposed to be a “near-borderless” phone but the bezels are still quite thick

The chin is thicker than the forehead

On top of the phone are the audio port, secondary microphone, and IR blaster

Xiaomi sticks with infrared for controlling appliances

At the bottom are the aging micro-USB port and loudspeakers

When will Xiaomi shift to USB-C for their budget phones?

The power button and volume rocker are on the right side

Both have the same texture, so you’ll have to get familiar with them

The card tray on the left is a hybrid slot for nano-SIM and microSD cards

You can’t have the best of both worlds

The back houses the fingerprint sensor and primary camera along with the LED flash

The back is reminiscent of the predecessors

MIUI 9 is at the helm but still based on Nougat

The UI looks great on the longer display

Redmi embraces the new display ratio

Last year, we saw the trend of tall displays. The new 18:9 standard was not exclusive to the bezel-less flagships, as we have seen them even with midrange phones — then to budget devices. It’s expected that other budget-centric brands like Xiaomi will release their own for the masses, and that gave birth to the Redmi 5. The one we have here is the Plus variant which has a bigger IPS LCD with wide-viewing angles and good color reproduction.

I see Xiaomi as the pioneer of bezel-less phones with the Mi Mix, but they had to make some cuts to keep it within the range of Redmi phones. So, the Redmi 5 Plus still has some bezels all around the display. It’s noticeable that the bottom bezel or the chin is slightly thicker than the top.

As mentioned earlier, the back of the phone looks and feels like its predecessor. The front might look different thanks to the 18:9 display ratio and reduced bezels, but the back is oddly similar. If we are to compare the Redmi 5 Plus to the Redmi Note 4, the latter will just look stouter. The rear camera placement is the same, as well as the LED flash and fingerprint reader. Even the mixed aluminum and plastic build sports the same trick for seamless mixing.

The upgrade is mostly external

The real specs upgrade for the Redmi 5 series is found on the Redmi 5 Note Pro — not on this one. The Redmi 5 Plus (or Redmi 5 Note) is virtually identical to its predecessor with the same Snapdragon 625 processor, up to 4GB of memory, and up to 64GB of storage. Our review unit has the highest-end configuration with 4GB and 64GB of memory and storage, respectively. While the Snapdragon 625 is an efficient chipset, it’s already showing signs of aging.

The processor powering the phone was released back in 2016, and it’s been well-received especially on budget devices from Xiaomi. But with all the extra features that apps are getting, the phone might not be able to keep up for long. For instance, it’s a bit laggy when posting videos or Boomerang clips on Instagram Stories, and I’m getting longer waiting times when opening certain games. Software optimization could address these issues, though.

When it comes to gaming, you shouldn’t worry. The usual mobile games I play like Asphalt Extreme and NBA 2K18 ran fine even on high settings, but you’ll have to turn off some extra effects to get better frame rates. General phone use was also good with little to no hiccups.

The phone runs MIUI 9 out of the box but still based on Android 7.1 Nougat. While I can’t hate MIUI because of its speed and additional features on top of stock Android, it can get quite cumbersome at times with settings and permissions. MIUI 9 is a refinement of everything the MIUI team learned from previous versions and it’s still as colorful as before. There’s no news if it’ll get an update to Android 8.0 Oreo, but with MIUI 9 at the helm, it doesn’t really matter since you already have most of the new Android features and important security patches.

Typical Xiaomi-grade camera

Even with their flagship devices, Xiaomi can’t pull off superb quality shooters. So, what should we expect from their budget phones like the Redmi 5 Plus? The phone is equipped with a 12-megapixel primary shooter accompanied by a dual-tone LED flash. According to spec sheets, the aperture of the lens is just f/2.2 which is disappointing and it shows when shooting in dim environments. Night shots are also just so-so, so don’t expect the phone to capture plenty of details.

As for selfies, there’s a 5-megapixel front shooter that has the usual Xiaomi beauty effect that somehow doesn’t work well with my face, so I turned it off most of the time. It’s also not as wide as other selfie phones.

One thing I like about Xiaomi’s camera is its launcher. It’s pretty straightforward and simple. There are also a few modes you can jump into if you want to get the best possible shot depending on the subject.

Longevity is where the phone triumphs

Battery life is perhaps the most important aspect of an entry-level phone. If you’re sticking to a budget, you might not get the best camera but it should at least last the whole day on a single charge. With a 4000mAh battery, the Redmi 5 Plus can.

After using the phone as my daily driver for more than a week, I rarely looked for the charger. I don’t even worry about running out of juice while on the road. Based on actual usage, the phone can last for more than 24 hours with about eight hours of screen-on time. On a really busy day, the phone can do around 20 hours. If you’re wondering, my usage is all about mobile data. I connect to Wi-Fi from time to time when in the office and at home, but LTE is my savior when in public places.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re a Redmi fan looking for an upgrade, you might want to skip this one. The true upgrade is found on the Redmi Note 5 Pro with its latest processor and familiar-looking rear cameras. If still available, you can opt for the good old Redmi Note 4 which is supposedly cheaper now with the new releases in the market.

Honestly, it’s disappointing to see Xiaomi recycling their design for the budget series. The Redmi 5 Plus doesn’t bring anything new to the table even with its 18:9 display. But, that could have been the point of the phone all along since they released the Redmi Note 5 Pro shortly after.

The Redmi 5 Plus starts at CNY 999 or around US$ 150 for the base 3GB/32GB model, while the top-of-the-line 4GB/64GB variant sells for CNY 1,299 or about US$ 180. You can purchase the Redmi 5 Plus just like the one we have from GearBest.

Reviews

Redmi 10 review: Page out of a premium playbook

That 50-megapixel shooter is the saving grace

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Budget phones used to be just budget phones. They used to lack groundbreaking features to make your experience seamless. And you’ll need to shell out a lot of cash just to get a decent phone that actually works. But I was speaking about budget phones from around five years ago.

In 2021, smartphone companies are reinventing what it means to have an entry-level handset. Xiaomi’s sub-brand Redmi, which has been leading the segment for a few years now, seems to set the course again on a new range of affordable smartphones.

Meet the Redmi 10 — the successor to its popular Redmi 9 — offering premium-like design and smart features but with a price tag that you can easily reach.

Finally looking like its siblings

The Redmi 10 rehashed its looks, looking differently than its predecessor. It employed the same design language found on other Redmi and Xiaomi smartphones, which was a trend started by Samsung — trickling down from its flagship to the more affordable Galaxy A series.

Somehow, it’s working since the Redmi 10 looks sleeker and it can be quite difficult to tell the difference compared to the Redmi Note 10 Pro. And even the Xiaomi 10T Pro. Unless, of course, you’re a tech junkie and a Xiaomi fan. But that’s probably the case when you have the Carbon Gray color option.

Nonetheless, the Redmi 10 in Carbon Gray looks neutral yet sleek with its frosted glass-looking back which is just actually plastic. But it makes up for being lightweight so it doesn’t put a strain on your hands for endless scrolling on TikTok. Just a heads-up, though. Carbon Gray is a smudge-magnet so you need to slap a clear case on — which comes in the box.

Moving to its frame and details, it’s also made of plastic but it comes with sweet, round edges and flat sides. Which I appreciate because the era of curved phones is now in my past.

SIM tray

The left side houses the SIM tray while the volume rockers and the power button doubling as a fingerprint scanner are found on the right.

Power button/fingerprint scanner and volume rockers

Speaking of which, gliding your fingers across the scanner will prompt it to read your fingerprint easily — but it takes a second to boot the phone.

On the top side of the frame, you can find a stereo speaker, IR blaster, and the well-loved 3.5mm audio jack.

On the bottom side are the other loudspeaker and a USB-C port.

Performing quite well for your needs

Let’s talk about the design again, but on the front panel of the phone. The Redmi 10 sports a 6.5-inch IPS LCD panel with 2400×1800 resolution. It’s adorned with thinner bezels equal on all sides except the chin. The punch-hole cutout seems bigger than other smartphones employing the same approach, too.

Despite the front design that clearly indicates it’s still a budget phone, the magic lies behind it. The Redmi 10 comes with the latest MIUI 12.5 based on Android 11. Having said that, you can expect that even if you have an entry-level device, Xiaomi will still supply you with core Android updates.

It also has a 90Hz refresh rate — which seems to be a staple to most smartphones. People are always clamoring about higher refresh rates for their gaming needs, and to be “in”. It also comes with AdaptiveSync, which adjusts the refresh rate depending on the content being viewed.

When you watch on Netflix, or if you play online games, AdaptiveSync will adjust accordingly. So you don’t have to worry about the battery life that easily drains when using a higher refresh rate. But then again, the Redmi 10 sports a 5,000mAh battery. It lasted me a day of heavy use and lasted up to three days when I put it on standby.

Although, my only problem would be its max 18W capacity when it comes to “fast” charging. So the 22.5W charging brick included won’t be of any help. It takes more than an hour to fill the juice, making it your cue to detach from your phone for a little while.

The dealbreakers

I only played Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on the Redmi 10 since it’s the only mobile game I play right now. I put it into the highest settings possible, in which case it performed decently.

However, I experienced the same type of drag I had when I used the Infinix Note 10 Pro. There was a noticeable delay — which lasts for one to two seconds — when toggling buttons and switching scenes inside the game. The delay still occurs even if you change to the lowest setting possible.

I’m starting to think that it’s a similar theme for budget phones, but it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker especially when you consistently play in the budget segment.

And even with a Helio G88 processor, the phone heats up a little while you’re playing mid-game. Nonetheless, it still performs decently as expected out of an entry-level handset. To expect more from it is just asking too much — there’s a Redmi Note 10 Pro if you want better performance at an easily reachable price tag.

The Redmi 10 comes in various configurations depending on your country: 4GB/64GB, 4GB/128GB, and 6GB/128GB. It has expandable storage through a dedicated microSD card slot.

What worries me is that the internal storage uses an eMMC 5.1 chip, not the UFS. So the reading and writing of data is slower and might wear out over time. Translation: slowed down performance after considerable updates.

So if you’re thinking of multitasking and using this phone for work, I’d advise you not to. Use it casually so you can make it last longer.

Specs

Processor

MediaTek Helio G88

Configuration

4GB/64GB, 4GB/128GB, and 6GB/128GB

Battery

5000mAh + 18W charging

OS

Android 11, MIUI 12.5

Front camera

8MP

Rear camera

50MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP

Display

6.5” FHD+ IPS LCD

90Hz refresh rate

2460×1080 resolution

Dimension

162 x 75.5 x 8.9 mm

50-megapixel goodness?

It’s rare for an entry-level smartphone to have a high megapixel count. In a way, the Redmi 10 is raising the bar for smartphones in the budget segment. After all, it delivers a quad-camera system: a 50-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, a 2-megapixel macro shooter, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. On the front, it has an 8-megapixel selfie shooter.

For most people, this kind of camera setup works. So we took a few samples to see if the Redmi 10 can cover the bases.

For regular shots, the Redmi 10 takes decent captures both indoors and outdoors. As long as it comes with sufficient lighting. When taking backlit shots, the Redmi 10 doesn’t post-process and keeps shadows dark.

When using the ultra wide-angle lens, the Redmi 10 struggles with exposure and highlights both day and night.

Food photos aren’t tasty-looking due to their lack of vibrance, even if you use the AI Cam. To make it look even more appetizing, I used the 2X optical zoom to capture more details and take better flat lays.

Cutouts are okay whether auto shots at night or even the portrait mode. Except photos don’t look as detailed as they should.

The same goes for shots taken at night using auto mode and night mode.

Of course, we took samples using the 50-megapixel shooter. It did well during daytime shots, retaining as many details as it can but compromises when it comes to color accuracy. At night, on the other hand, still struggles with exposure and highlights — a noticeable flaw for a supposedly great quad-camera system.

Moving on to selfies, its 8-megapixel front shooter pads a slight beautification to its photos even if you turn off its beauty mode. Color balance also varies depending on the lighting condition.

In a way, it delivers how it’s supposed to. If anything, a filter wouldn’t hurt if you want to correct the color balance of the photos. There are built-in presets, but you can never go wrong with Instagram filters!

Is this your BudgetMatch?

There are things to love about the Redmi 10, and there are things that might raise some red flags. Depending on your needs, the Redmi 10 can cover the base and perform decently as expected of an entry-level smartphone. It’s got a sleeker look, a 50-megapixel shooter that you can show off, a 90Hz refresh rate — all at an affordable price tag.

But if you’re asking for it to do more, then you’re way better off choosing something else. For nearly the same price, there’s the POCO M3. For those who need better performance for all-around use, add a few more bucks and you can get the Redmi Note 10 Pro.

On another note, the realme 8 5G is also a good alternative granted you can increase your budget by a tad. It has similar features — a 90Hz refresh rate, same display and panel, same battery, and charging capability. But more importantly, it has 5G connectivity which helps for future-proofing.

Frankly, the Redmi 9T appears so much better it feels like this one’s a downgrade. The only salvation for the Redmi 10 is that it’s got a better look, smarter features, and it has a 50-megapixel shooter compared to the alternatives mentioned.

If all your needs are covered, then this could be your BudgetMatch. But to most people, the Redmi 10 falls short especially when it comes to that eMMC 5.1 storage — when most smartphones are using UFS already.

The Redmi 10 retails for PhP 7,590 for the 4GB+64GB variant, and PhP 8,590 for the 6GB+128GB variant. It comes in three colors: Carbon Gray, Pebble White, Sea Blue. It’s available for purchase at Xiaomi’s official stores and authorized retailers.

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Reviews

POCO X3 GT review: Competitive midranger

An impressive phone that deserves your attention

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POCO X3 GT

The midrange segment, in my opinion, might be the most competitive smartphone category. Midrange phones are jam-packed with features and clever engineering. They are versatile, unique, and beautiful. The POCO X3 GT has a lot to contend with, but it can more than hold its own.

Before we proceed, here’s the unboxing article I posted a while back in case you missed it. You can check that out for a bit and comeback or join me now as we dive right into what makes this a midrange contender.

Premium feel

From the moment I took the POCO X3 GT out of the box, I already had an inkling that it’ll be good. The hardware feels premium despite the plastic back. This review unit comes in a shiny silver-y finish. It’s a classic neutral look.

The phone greets you with a huge 6.6-inch display and its quality is superb. The Corning Gorilla Glass Victus is the bodyguard of our display. It can withstand drops from two meters, that’s about six feet and six inches (6’6″). It’s a pretty tough glass so you need now worry about accidental drops from the office table or anything similar. It can handle it.

The phone also has an IP53 rating. It should be fine with some splashes here or there. However, do yourself a favor and buy a case or use the one included in the box for some extra layer of protection.

Navigation options

The POCO X3 GT runs on MIUI 12.5 on top of Android 11. The phone unlocks with the power button integrated with the fingerprint sensor. Other ways to unlock are facial recognition, pin code, and pattern.

Quick tip: you can switch your fingerprint sensor to “press” as the X3 GT’s always-on reader is primarily activated. That’s a good way to prevent unintentional unlocking and will save you a bit of battery.

Navigation options are either the traditional buttons at the bottom or through gestures. The gestures seem easy to learn. However, I personally prefer the navigation buttons as it’s easier for me exit games and access the task manager that way.

Performance and gaming

The 120Hz display is refreshing and it’s pleasing to the eyes. Once you go 120, It’s hard to revert to 60Hz. It also has a touch sampling rate of 240Hz, and oh boy, this one’s great. Playing games and swiping left to right is just flat-out fun and enjoyable.

You can definitely feel the MediaTek Dimensity 1100 on this device, as everything feels swift and easy. I ran most games in full settings and did not experience any sort of lag during gameplay. Although there are some games that need a little optimization like Call of Duty: Mobile and Plants Versus Zombies (yes I still play that game).

Multitasking for this device is easy and smooth. The screen size helps to make it a pleasant experience.

Surprising battery drain

The POCO X3 GT has a 5,000mAh battery. It’s good and long-lasting battery… until you get to 50 percent. When it does, it drains like crazy! It does come with a 67W charging brick which fully charges the battery in just around 35 to 40 minutes. There are also two battery saving modes: Battery saver and the Ultra battery saver but they don’t really seem to help much.

Pretty good cameras

We all want to know how the camera works. But first, the specs. You get a triple rear camera setup: 64MP wide camera has an aperture of f/1.79, the ultra-wide is 8Mp with an aperture of f/2.2, and the macro is 2Mp with an aperture of f/2.4. The camera performance is okay for its category. Maybe in some cases, it’s not only good in the mid-range, maybe creep it up a little and surely it’ll have a spot higher.

The color accuracy is good, the processing of the photos is a little bit aggressive but it’s not a huge issue. Zooming in to photos isn’t a problem. Zoom will sacrifice quality but the results are still highly acceptable. Portrait photos on this phone is also great and it cuts around the corners with accuracy.

Checkout the samples below.

A minor setback

The POCO X3 GT sounds good so far right? However, like plenty of other smartphone releases today, it doesn’t come with earphones in the box. Some buyers might find this frustrating. It’s a trend started by Apple and one I’m not particularly happy with.

Sticking with audio, the phone’s speakers were poor. Playing Call of Duty: Mobile without earphones was such a nuisance. Watching videos is acceptable if you don’t care too much about audio. However, you’ll likely need to turn the volume up to really enjoy.

Final thoughts

The POCO X3 GT is by far one of the better phones I have used in the midrange segment. It has what I think is a beautiful design and comes with 120Hz refresh rate. The software also complements the hardware perfectly. It was so good that I didn’t miss using my iPhone 12 Pro as much, which doesn’t really happen when reviewing devices.

The POCO X3 GT is currently available in three colorways, the Stargaze Black, Wave Blue, and Cloud White. It will come in two variants: The 8GB+128GB variant which retails at PhP 15,990 and the 8GB+256GB variant which is priced at PhP 17,990.

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Laptops

Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen review: 4 months after

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Huawei MateBook D 15

The work from home and online class setup had us all adjusting to this new normal. You’ll see a lot of inquiries on Facebook groups about LED ring lights, microphones and midrange laptop recommendations. Huawei’s MateBook D series is among the ones you’ll see that has gotten a lot of popularity for this purpose.

It makes perfect sense, since back when I first reviewed the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen, I had a lot of good things to say about it. After four months under regular use, there are quite a few more that I came to realize about this device that I think you guys might find interesting.

It can get things done

A quick refresher on its specs, the D 15 2021 we have with us has an 11th gen Core i5 with the Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. 

It’s no question, if you’re just going to use this for online classes or regular zoom meetings, the D 15 probably won’t even break a sweat. However, I consider my power requirements to be somewhat on the heavy side for my photo and video editing needs.

What surprised me was I didn’t find myself having to go back to my main editing workstation and have actually done more work on the D 15 than I expected. It may not be as fast, but it also wasn’t drastically slower.

Plus the fact that this has a more accurate display with its 100 percent sRGB color gamut, the 15.6-inch LED display is perfect for my daily Photoshop use.

Portability also applies at home

Huawei MateBook D 15

Working from home for a long time and looking at the same thing over and over, not having to be able to go to places, had many of us bored and unmotivated. I personally always had that urge to look for another spot just for the change of scenery.

Thankfully, weighing only 1.56kg, it gave me the flexibility for me to place it in different places. I didn’t worry that the surface wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Battery life

The capability to place the D 15 on different places wouldn’t really matter if you’re still stuck near an outlet because you’re constantly required to plug it in. Fortunately, the 42Wh battery of the D 15 keeps us away from the charger for around nine to ten hours before needing to plug it back in.

Huawei addresses issues and gives regular updates

Huawei MateBook D 15

During its time with me, the D 15 had quite a few driver and software updates. Along with one of the updates came a fix for an issue I had with its fingerprint scanner where it frequently had trouble recognizing my fingerprint. While it shouldn’t have had that issue to begin with, the regular updates are an indication that users aren’t abandoned and issues are in fact being addressed on Huawei’s end.

I also learned from Huawei’s website that the MateBook series has a Windows 11 upgrade rollout plan. That’s something nice to look forward to.

Undesirable camera angle

Huawei MateBook D 15

Sadly, not everything is praise worthy on the D 15. The hidden web camera, while innovative, came at the cost of an awful camera angle. Since it is placed on the keyboard, it is also pointed upwards.

Using it, you’ll mostly see an unflattering image of yourself often emphasizing the size of your nostrils.But if you decide that you’d want to use a laptop raiser for a more comfortable viewing angle, the camera won’t be pointed downwards. That’d make it barely usable.

A generous availability of ports

Huawei MateBook D 15

Being the boxing fan that I am, the recent Pacquiao fight had me subscribing for a pay-per-view service. The full sized HDMI port on the D 15 was heaven sent. During the fight as I was able to output the fight on our dated TV set. It let us to enjoy the stream on a bigger screen.

The availability of USB ports on both sides also let us to choose where certain devices can be plugged. We didn’t worry about hitting our external drives with our mouse or fitting multiple USB devices side by side.

Multi-Screen Collaboration

I did not find myself using this feature as much. However, having this capability eliminated the need for me to grab a USB cable to transfer files from my phone. A quick tap of my phone and I was ready to transfer photos I recently. It’s great for some quick editing before posting on Instagram. 

Is this still your GadgetMatch?

Huawei MateBook D 15

When I think of the D 15, freedom is the word that comes to mind. It gives so much freedom to work anywhere with its portability and battery life. You get freedom to do what you wish with it with its capable hardware. There’s also freedom from wires with the Multi-Screen Collaboration. And even freedom to plug various devices with its great selection of ports.

It’s a no fuss kind of laptop that just gets things done. Its sheer simplicity is what makes it a great device.

If you’re interested in getting the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, you can now get it for PhP 48,999.00.

 

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