Hands-On

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Hands-on: The new budget smartphone king?

The successor to the popular Redmi Note 4 doesn’t disappoint

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Xiaomi’s latest bang-for-buck phone is finally in my hands! Since its first appearance in India (as the Redmi Note 5 Pro), I immediately knew it would be a worthy successor to the Redmi Note 4 people loved. Without further ado, this is my hands-on with the Redmi Note 5.

As always, let’s get to know the phone’s physique first.

It has a 5.99-inch Full HD+ display in an 18:9 ratio

It’s crisp and vibrant plus it’s protected by Gorilla Glass

The selfie camera and earpiece are where they should be

The buttons for volume and power are on the right side

Just two buttons serving their functions

While the hybrid card slot is hiding on the left

Do you want a second SIM card or a microSD card? Choose!

The IR blaster and secondary microphone sit on top

Switching TV channels is something a Redmi phone can also do

The bottom is pretty busy with the audio port, microphone, micro-USB port, and loudspeaker

Xiaomi is not yet switching to USB-C for its budget devices

It’s got a basic Redmi look at the back with the fingerprint reader in the middle

The whole body is made of metal and plastic

The rear camera looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Copied from the iPhone X

What’s inside the Redmi Note 5?

As a budget phone from Xiaomi, the Redmi Note 5 doesn’t have crazy new features, but it does have everything you can ask out of a decent everyday smartphone. First of all, its display has an 18:9 ratio which is pretty much the staple nowadays and a crisp 403ppi pixel density. In terms of display quality, it’s not far behind from its more expensive counterparts. It’s still an LCD panel though, and not Super AMOLED like with Samsung phones.

The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor which is the same chipset found on the ZenFone 5 that retails for around US$ 400. My Redmi Note 5 review unit comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage which is being sold in China for CNY 1,399 or PhP 11,990 in the Philippines (roughly US$ 225 only). That’s almost half the price of the ZenFone 5!

Moving forward, the Redmi Note 5’s processing power makes it passable as a gaming phone. Choosing ultra-high graphics will render the game with low frame rates and appear laggy, but if you know how to hit the sweet spot (somewhere in between medium and high settings, depending on the game) you can enjoy your favorite titles with no issues. So far, I’ve been playing Asphalt Xtreme and PUBG: Mobile, and I haven’t encountered any major lag or overheating.

As for its cameras, there’s a dual rear camera setup composed of a 12-megapixel main shooter with an f/1.9 aperture and a secondary 5-megapixel sensor to assist in depth sensing. Since the phone has two rear cameras, it can shoot portraits with creamy bokeh. For selfies, it has a 13-megapixel front camera with built-in beautification mode and depth effect, as well.

The phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box that’s skinned with MIUI 9.5. The latest version of Android and MIUI help with the phone’s lag-free operation. Despite being heavily skinned with Xiaomi’s custom UI, the Redmi Note 5 doesn’t stutter or freeze. I’ll see in the coming days how far the phone can go without slowing down.

Another feature of the Redmi Note 4 that the Redmi Note 5 inherits is the large battery capacity. It still has a sizeable 4000mAh battery sealed inside its body. Sadly, it charges through a micro-USB port and there’s no mention of Quick Charge support. I’ll be testing the phone’s battery life and charging times to let you guys know how it fares.

Pricing alone makes the Redmi Note 5 a viable option if you’re looking for a powerful phone that doesn’t cost much. But, of course, not all phones are created equal. I’ll be taking the Redmi Note 5 for a full spin in the coming days and I’ll share my full review.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Redmi 5A excels in sales, become top Android phone worldwide

Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy M20 hands-on: Give the users what they want

Awakening of the sleeping giant

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Samsung has been the smartphone market leader for half a decade now, and its flagship phones continue to be an inspiration for everyone. However, while the brand is dominating in developed markets, it has taken a massive beating in the developing ones.

Thanks to players like Xiaomi, the South Korean brand has consistently lost market share in countries like India. Samsung slowly prepared itself to change strategy by the end of last year and intends to go hard in 2019. It announced the new Galaxy M-series lineup of phones in the budget segment and the M10 and M20 are the first ones to roll off the shelf.

The M20 has been launched in India for INR 10,990 (US$ 154) and comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. The option with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage costs INR 12,990 (US$ 182). The phone goes up against the Redmi 6 Pro, Realme U1, and even the Mi A2.

To start with, Samsung has opted to go with a basic design, consisting of a plastic body that is curved at the edges and is pretty glossy. The phone is extremely comfortable to hold, and the build quality is top-notch. Even the buttons are very tactile and bezels are smaller.

On the front is a 6.3-inch TFT display with a Full HD resolution and small water-drop style notch on the top. This is the first Samsung phone to feature a notch, and the display quality is surprisingly good. The color production is vivid and satisfying, while the viewing angles are perfect. It is easily visible even under direct sunlight.

For authentication, a fingerprint scanner is located on the rear and it is fast enough. You also have the option of face unlock and it works quickly in well-lit conditions. It has dual-SIM support and there’s a separate slot for microSD card, as well.

Powering the phone is an octa-core Exynos 7904 processor, which is considered to be on par with the Snapdragon 636. It is a very power-efficient processor with more emphasis on the cameras. Day-to-day tasks are handled smoothly and games like PUBG are playable with low graphics.

It has a dual-camera setup on the rear, consisting of a 13-megapixel primary shooter and a 5-megapixel wide-angle sensor. The pictures clicked during daytime are decently saturated but lack sharpness. Even focus tends to get slow in low-light conditions. The wide-angle lens works best in bright surroundings only and is a very handy tool. For selfies, it has an 8-megapixel shooter with built-in beauty enhancements.

It ships with Samsung Experience 9.5 out of the box and is actually well optimized. There is barely any lag and the UI offers a plethora of customizations and features. The company announced that the Android Pie update will be landing soon. Lastly, it has a massive 5000mAh battery that’ll get you through two days of usage.

Xiaomi has been successful because it offers users a balanced product that suits everyone’s needs. With the M20, Samsung goes down the same road. While the recently announced A-series phones were for photography enthusiasts, the M20 is good enough for everything.

The M20 is no disruptor, but an indication that Samsung is gearing up. And as a generation-one product, it’s performing fairly well.

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Cameras

Fujifilm Instax SQ20 hands-on: How good is it?

Trying out the new Motion Mode on doggies!

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Fujifilm’s sequel to their first ever digital/analog hybrid is here and it’s looking better than ever. The Instax SQ20 is one classy-looking instant camera but what can it do? With a set of built-in filters and new features like the Motion Mode, it looks like a promising device.

I finally try it out, with help from some doggies, on our hands-on video.

The SQ20 retails for US$ 199 in the US, PhP 12,999 in the Philippines, and SG$ 299 in Singapore.

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

READ ALSO: Fujifilm Instax SQ10 review

READ ALSO: Prynt Pocket unboxing and review: A printer that prints videos?

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Hands-On

Huawei Nova 4 Hands-on: A ‘hole’ new approach

Does the punch-hole display make a difference?

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One of the reasons why Huawei is always on the news, aside from the controversies, is because they have new phones every other week. I’m still loving the Mate 20 Pro for its amazing cameras, but there’s now the Nova 4 that, in my opinion, will be an interesting option for new smartphone buyers.

The Huawei Nova 4 offers pretty much everything a premium midrange phone should: a nice display, beautiful body, and good cameras. It’s also one of the few phones in the market that has a hole in its display instead of a notch.

Is a punch-hole display more preferable than a notch? That’s what I tried to find out while using the Nova 4 for this hands-on.

First, let’s start with the basics:

It’s got a notch-less 6.4-inch display

In exchange, there’s a hole for the front camera

There’s support for two nano-SIM cards

No space for a microSD card, though

On its right are the physical buttons

They blend in well with the phone’s frame

The 3.5mm headphone jack is on top

Along with an IR blaster and noise-canceling microphone

At the bottom is the reversible USB-C port

There’s also the loudspeaker and main microphone

The back houses three cameras

And the swift fingerprint reader

The gradient color scheme is present

This has become Huawei’s signature

Can’t deny that it’s from Huawei

From its body to its color, the Nova 4 contains 100 percent of Huawei’s DNA. Gone are the days where we associate every touchscreen phone as an iPhone. Once the gradient color of the Nova 4 shifts, it instantly captivates. The usual question I get when my friends see me holding the Nova 4 is: It that a Huawei?

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a phone with an extreme persona like this Aurora Blue variant of the Nova 4 I have for review. I still prefer my discreet OnePlus 6 in black, but that’s just me. Of course, there’s a black variant of the Nova 4 available as well for those who don’t want a phone that becomes a centerpiece on a table.

The shape and size of the Nova 4 are no different from any premium phone that came out lately. It’s got a glass front and back with a shiny metal frame and the sides of the phone curve gently, making it easier to grip. Overall, I found no issues about the build of the Nova 4, aside from it being smudgy most of the time.

At first, I found the punch-hole to be as annoying as the notch. The hole is larger than expected, but I got used to it. Most apps treat the hole like a notch, so the experience is similar to before. The punch-hole doesn’t have an advantage over the notch in terms of usability.

Where the punch-hole shines is how it’s more tolerable when watching a video in full screen. Some games are not aware of the area the hole is occupying, thus control buttons get covered. Turning off the “full screen display” switch for some games fixes this.

Flagship-grade speed and stability

Enough with the looks; let’s now dive into the internals of the phone. The brain of the Nova 4 is the Kirin 970 processor. It’s the previous flagship 10nm chipset from Huawei’s own labs. It’s also inside the Mate 10 and the P20 series. Moreover, the Nova 4 has the same processor as its predecessor.

Performance-wise, there’s no big difference. This means Nova 3 owners don’t need to upgrade, unless they want a new and different-looking phone. The advantage of the Nova 4 is its upgraded memory to 8GB, although storage remains the same at 128GB.

Android Pie comes out of the box with Huawei’s EMUI 9 placed on top. Frankly, there’s not much new about the custom interface since EMUI 6, aside from the staple features of Android Pie. The heavy skin of EMUI doesn’t affect the performance of the phone, but it’s also not the best-looking.

In terms of gaming, popular titles like Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile are playable on high graphics settings. There’s no sign of hiccups or lag thanks to the optimizations by Huawei’s GPU Turbo.

As mentioned, the hole in the display is considered a “notch” by the system, so you can still hide the area it occupies by diving into the Settings panel. This makes the phone look hole-free, but you lose the extra screen real estate in some apps. So far, there are no issues with system and third-party apps, and I hope it stays that way.

Good cameras with ultra wide-angle lens

When it comes to taking photos, the Nova 4 doesn’t disappoint. It’s got a main 20-megapixel camera paired with an ultra wide-angle 16-megapixel shooter. There’s also a 2-megapixel depth sensor to help in taking portrait shots with bokeh effect. As for selfies, the 25-megapixel front camera can take detailed and pleasing stills.

AI scene detection is available both on the front and rear cameras, so the phone always helps in taking the best-possible photo. Check out these samples:

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Like with most camera phones, the Nova 4 can take good-looking photos in broad daylight. Good thing the quality doesn’t drop when shooting indoors or in the evening. Generally, the Nova 4 is a capable phone for taking photos, except the ultra wide-angle lens doesn’t sport autofocus. Night mode is also available when you need to take photos in incredibly dark environments.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Huawei Nova 4 is a new smartphone with a fresh approach to the notch dilemma. If you dislike the notch, the punch-hole display is your next best option.

For me, the ideal best bezel-less phone doesn’t have a notch or a hole — just like the Mi Mix 3, OPPO Find X, or Vivo NEX. Those phones have their own issues about their approach, however. It’s just a matter of preference at this point because nothing is perfect — for now.

While I wait for the perfect bezel-less phone without moving parts or display cutouts, I appreciate the options given to us. In the end, it’s your choice if you want a notch, a hole, or a mechanism to house the selfie camera. There are also phones without front cameras at all, maybe that’s your cup of tea — or coffee.

SEE ALSO: How the Huawei Watch GT made me believe in smartwatches

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