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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Haylou GT1 Review




Are you in search for a decent pair of wireless earbuds but are on a tight budget? Perhaps you’ve been wondering how good are those cheap wireless earbuds you see on online shopping sites like Amazon, Lazada and Shopee. Hopefully, this review can give you some guidance on at least one of them.

The Good:

  • -          Price
  • -          Battery life
  • -          Comfortable fit


The Bad:

  • -          Micro USB charging
  • -          Questionable after-sales support



Specs:

  • -          Bluetooth 5.0
  • -          Touch control
  • -          Voice assistant support
  • -          3.5 hrs use, 12hrs max with 310 mAh charging case
  •              Price is between Php 700 – Php 1,000 (US$14-19) depending on flash sale prices


Help out techamuna.com, buy the Haylou GT1 here

Design and use:

The first thing I noticed with the GT1s was how small and lightweight they are. Comparing them to my already tiny Galaxy Buds, these are even smaller. One thing I can say is that the quality of the plastic is not up to Samsung Galaxy Buds or Apple Airpods standard. They feel cheap and hollow in comparison. However, at this price range, I’m willing to look past that, and after using it for about a week, it’s not that bad. One thing that I do like is that they fit very well in my ears. Since they are light and small, I could comfortably wear them for hours without any ear fatigue. Pairing is quite easy, not as simple as Airpods, and you’ll need to pair the right one first before the left. Since the instruction manual that came with it was in Chinese, a simple YouTube search will give you an easy guide to paring them. 



Battery life is also very good. I was able to use it for about 3 hours straight, and it still had not given a low battery warning. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to check the battery percentage.

Finally, we come to the sound quality. I’m happy to say that it’s okay. I would not call it exceptional or mind-blowing, but at this price, I was very pleasantly surprised. There’s a decent amount of base, plus the mids and highs are clean enough to hear the voice and other high pitched instruments.





Verdict:

Again, I was very pleasantly surprised by the GT1s. At first, I had a dilemma choosing between this, the Redmi Airdots and QCY QS2. What I liked about it was the size, as I wanted something small and pocketable. The final decision was made easy since I found them for just Php 700 (US$14) during a flash sale. I know that there are a lot of truly wireless earbuds to choose from, at least for me, the Haylou GT1 is a keeper. It has decent sound, good battery life, and very affordable.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Xiaomi Mi 9T / K20 Review







It’s amazing how fast technology advances. One segment where you can enjoy these benefits is in the mobile phone market. It’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago, you would have to spend an arm and a leg to get some of the features available on the Mi 9T (also called the Redmi K20 in other markets). 
After using Xiaomi phones for the last two years, I truly believe that brands like Xiaomi, Oppo, Viv0, and Huawei have given Samsung and Apple a cause to worry. Now let’s take a look at this phone and see what the big names in the industry have to worry about. 
Specs 
  • 6.39" inches AMOLEDFHD+ Full Screen Display
  • 6GB RAM and 64 GB or 128GB Version
  • Sony 48MP ultra high-resolution wide camera + 8MP telephoto camera + 13MP ultra wide-angle camera 20MP Pop-up selfie camera
  • Fast in-screen fingerprint sensor
  • 4000mAh High-capacity battery+ 18W Fast charge
  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon 730 up to 2.2GHz
  • Price Php 15,990 (US$305) 64GB. Php 17,990 (US$345) 128GB 


The Good
  • Price The great full-screen AMOLED display
  • The very useful wide-angle camera
  • Fast Snapdragon 730 processor
  • Great Battery life 
  • NFC
  • Design and build quality
  • Price


The Bad
  • Camera quality looks over-processed
  • No expandable storage
  • Included case not very useful
  • Fingerprint sensor not very accurate  


Design and Features
The first thing you’ll notice when you unbox the device is the design and build quality. Xiaomi leveled up and I have to say it’s stunning. The model comes in black, blue, and red. I chose the blue after seriously considering the red one, but no matter the color, anyone can be happy with either. The finish is just stunning, and while the glass back gives it some heft, it’s the good kind with a solid feeling in the hand. Turning it around and you’ll be greeted with a “notchless” bright AMOLED screen. It’s quite refreshing not to see a notch especially after using the Pocophone for about a year. It made me realize how much I missed AMOLED displays. I was a Samsung user from the S2 to the S8, and I missed those deep blacks. The rest of the phone is nice and slim, and considering the large 4000mha battery, it’s pretty easy to hold with one hard. 

Performance
The Mi 9T is the very first device to use the new Snapdragon 730 processor. It’s one of Qualcomm's upper mid-range chip, and it feels very fast and snappy for everyday use. Coming from the Pocophone, I can’t tell any performance difference. That’s quite an achievement since technically, the Pocophone has a faster 845 chip. Even playing graphically-demanding games is no problem for this processor. 
Unboxing

The camera, on the other hand, is a mixed bag for me. Photos in bright light come out okay but I noticed some over-processing when you zoom into the image. I decided to use the Google Camera APK mod, and there was a significant improvement in the quality of the photos. The good thing is that Xiaomi can fix this in a software update and I have a feeling they will address this in future firmware rollouts. What I really enjoyed was the wide-angle camera. If there’s one thing I missed from having an old digital camera was the ability to shoot in wide. It just gives you so much shooting options that you wonder how you ever managed without it. 

Photo from the stock camera, it looks okay but..

If you zoom in, you'll see over processing

Using the Google Pixel camera app, photo looks much better

Zooming in, you can see more detail

Video is also very good. You get EIS, and you can also use the wide-angle lens for video. Resolution tops out at 4k, 30FPS. There’s no option for 4K, 60FPS. 
Lastly, the in-display fingerprint scanner is not as accurate compared to the old capacitive ones. Sometimes it would work consistently, while at other times, it would just refuse to register. Again, I’m hoping this is something that can be fixed with a software update. 

Verdict


By now you can tell that I really like this phone. More so since I was able to purchase it during a Lazada sale and together with a credit card promo, I only paid Php 13,900 (US$265) for the 128GB model. Considering its retail price of Php 17,990, that’s “bang for your buck” pricing if I ever saw one. And at that price, I’m willing to accept some of its shortcomings. Some of which can be improved with software updates, anyway. I think the days of the Php 50,000 (US$1000) flagship phones are numbered. Of course, some people will still want those, but the good news is that you don’t have to. You no longer need to pay through the roof for a phone that does 99 percent of what expensive flagship devices can do. Apple and Samsung, it’s time to level up!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Samsung Galaxy Buds Review




Back in 2016, a few months before Apple rolled out the AirPods, Samsung announced their first true wireless earphones, the Gear Icon X. While there is no question that the AirPods became the more successful product, Samsung has refined its original Gear Icon X to its third iteration, the newly announced Galaxy Buds. Let’s see if after three years they have what it takes to compete.

The Good:

- Price (Free if you pre-ordered a Galaxy S10 or US$129 / Php 6,990)
- USB C plus Wireless Charging
- Gear Wear App
- Ambient Sound

The Bad:

- The case only provides seven additional hours of charge
- App only works with Android
- Not very good for making phone calls

Design and Features:

Continuing the design characteristics of the original Gear Icon X, Samsung decided to keep its original profile but shrink it significantly to make the case more pocketable. Compared to the AirPods, they are still small enough to fit in your front pockets easily. I think this time, Samsung listened to its customers and made more practical improvements like removing the fitness tracking features and onboard music memory storage. Besides, most users will probably use a fitness band or smartwatch if they wanted to track steps and heart rate. Also, the majority of users will listen to music using their phone with their preferred music streaming service.






In the box, you will find a USB C cable, manuals and two extra sets of fins and ear tips. It uses Bluetooth 5.0, and together with the Wear App, you can customize your equalizer settings, touch controls, ambient sound, battery level and manage your Find Your Galaxy Buds feature if they get lost. While the Buds will work with Windows, Mac or iOS, they will work better with Android since you’ll have the benefit of using the app.

Verdict:

There’s a lot to like about the new Galaxy Buds. It’s very easy to pair, and they automatically connect to your device even before you put them in your ear. It’s that fast!  The touch controls are great but sometimes you can unintentionally activate them. It’s a good thing you can disable them in the app. The ambient sound is also quite useful if you want to hear your surroundings.
Samsung claims a battery life of 6 hours, plus an additional 7 hours in the case. Kudos to Samsung for including wireless charging. The most I have used it was three hours straight, and I still had about 40 percent left. They feel light and hardly any ear fatigue with prolonged use.

As for the sound, I originally had some mixed feelings about it. Reviews out there are a mixed bag. Some reviews claim that the sound is very good, while others would say the opposite. I was puzzled why this could be. When I first used it, I found the sound to be tinny and soft. But after finding the right ear tip plus fin and playing with equalizer settings, I was able to make it sound very good. The buds have a more neutral sound profile, but there was enough base for my liking. I have to be honest, this is not the earphones for bass heads. In other words, it is crucial to get a good seal if you want these earphones to sound good. I believe this is why there was such a contrast in the mixed reviews.

Finally, I have a wish list for Samsung in their next version. One, a longer charge for the case would be nice; two, improve on the voice calls; and third, for their App to work on iOS. I’ve been using Apple’s AirPods with my Android phone since it came out because, to be honest, they were the best, easy to pair and they work instantly. My only real problem with them was (aside from the price) that they would fall off with the slightest touch from my shirt or jacket collar. I have to say that Samsung finally made its equivalent or dare I say, even better product. For Android users, these Galaxy Buds are a no-brainer. Get them!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 Review




From all the phones that came out in 2018, the Pocophone F1 may be considered the most disruptive. Xiaomi’s idea was simple. Make a phone with flagship internals at the lowest price possible. For a starting price of about US$330, you could get a “flagship” grade phone. I took advantage of Lazada’s 11.11 sale, and together with a credit card promo, I was able to get the 6GB/128GB variant for only Php14,000 or about US$260. A fantastic deal! Now, after using it for about two weeks let’s see if this phone is the real deal.

The Good:

Price
Flagship Performance
All day battery life
USB C
IR Face Unlock

The Bad:

Notch Screen
No NFC
No camera OIS
No wireless charging

Specs:

6.18” 18.7:9 display (2246 x 1080) FHD+
MIUI 10, Android Oreo
Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 845
8x Qualcomm® Kryo™ 385 cores, Up to 2.8 GHz
6GB RAM, 64/128/256GB ROM
12+5MP dual pixel AI dual camera, Main Camera Sony IMX363 12MP, 1.4μm, 20MP front camera
Rear fingerprint sensor
Battery: 4000mAh



Verdict:

The Pocophone is one of those anomalies in the smartphone world. While almost every manufacturer is moving away from plastic by using shiny glass and metal as their casing material, Xiaomi gave simple marching orders to their engineers. Make a phone with top internals and forget how it looks outside. In other words, make a phone for phone nerds. And they did.

SnapDragon 845 processor with liquid cooling, up to 8GB RAM, up to 256GB Storage, Dual SIM, SD Card expansion,  USB C, headphone jack, good camera and big ass 4000mAh battery. It’s like they asked me what I wanted in a phone and then they built it.


Naturally, they had to do some cost-cutting. The phone is made out of plastic (actually they call it polycarbonate), they used an LCD screen instead of AMOLED, no wireless charging, no waterproofing and no OIS in the camera. All of which are reasonable compromises to get it down to this price point.

Look, a lot of you might say that plastic is so 2015. It may very well be since my last plastic phone was my Samsung S4. But in reality, the first thing you do with a new phone is slap a rubber or plastic case on it anyway. The LCD screen may not be a nice as an AMOLED but it’s still very good and usable even under bright sunlight. You might think that this phone is all about compromise but it even beats some flagship phones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and even the so-called flagship killer OnePlus. Things like liquid cooling, SD expansion, headphone jack, and even the big battery are just some examples of features the others don’t have.







I also have to point out some negatives. Aside from the plastic build (which doesn’t bother me), the notch on the LCD annoys me. It cuts out notifications that you normally would see on the top of the screen. Hopefully, Xiaomi can address it in future software updates. MIUI 10, Xiaomi’s skin on top of Android may turn off some users. Like I said in previous reviews, I was prepared to hate it, but after using it, it has grown on me. 

I have discovered a lot of useful features like the Fullscreen gestures, Dual SIM support, built-in spam blocker, MI Cloud and even MiMessage which is like iMessage on IOS. I also need to mention that the Pocophone has its own launcher which adds some additional features on top of MIUI like having an App Drawer. And as an icing on the nerd cake, those that like to unlock and install custom ROMs, Xiaomi has made it very easy and you can find a lot of tutorials on YouTube. I was also able to install the Google Pixel 3 camera, and it has blown me away with its Night Sight feature. I also need to mention that the fingerprint scanner is lightning fast, IR face unlock works even in complete darkness, and the 4000mAh battery lasts the whole day which makes up for not having wireless charging.

Stock camera app

Using the Google Pixel Camera APK



It may seem that this review is all positive, and to be honest, I have a hard time finding faults with this phone, especially when I think of how much I paid for it. The closest competitor I can think of is the Honor Play, but even that will have a pretty hard time competing. I’m sure by now other manufacturers have taken notice which makes me excited to see what phones will be coming out next year. But for now, the Pocophone F1 is without a doubt the ultimate bang for your buck phone.