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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.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro Review




The update to Xiaomi’s top-selling Redmi Note 5 is finally out, and on paper there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference from the previous model. But with so many new phones coming out from the competition, is it enough of an upgrade to warrant your hard-earned cash? So once again let’s see if I made the right decision in getting this phone.

The Good

-         Price
-         Snappy user interface
-         Expandable Storage
-         Screen Quality
-         Camera performance
-         Battery life

The Bad

-         Micro USB Charging
-         Same processor and RAM as the previous model
-         Still on MIUI 9
-         Notch display hides some notification icons

Specs:

  • 6.26” notch, FHD+, 19:9
  • Qualcomm SD636, 14nm Octa-core
  • 3/32 and 4/64 GB RAM/STORAGE
  • Nano SIM slot + Nano SIM/MicroSD slot (Hybrid)
  • Global SKU: LTE B1/3/4/5/7/8/20/38/40 WCDMA B1/B2/B4/B5/B8 GSM B2/B3/B5/B8
  • Rear camera: 12MP (1.4μm 2PD) +5MP; Front camera: 20+2MP, selfie flash LED
  • Micro-USB USB2.0
  • Fingerprint (rear-mounted)
  • Battery Capacity: 4000mAh
  • Price Php 12,990 (4GB/64GB)

Verdict:

When I reviewed the Redmi Note 5 a few months ago, I was so happy with its performance that I decided to ditch my Samsung S8 and use it as my main phone. So much so that I convinced my wife who has been a longtime iPhone user, to try switching to Android. Since her iPhone 6 was starting to show its age and the outrageously high prices of the new iPhone XS, I asked her to give the Redmi Note 6 Pro a try instead. At first, I thought of getting the new Honor 8X but since MIUI has so many similarities with IOS, I thought that the transition would be better on a Xiaomi device. Of course, part of my motivation was also so that I’d be able to review a new gadget.






Comparing it to the Note 5, there doesn’t seem to be much of an upgrade apart from the taller notch display and upgraded selfie cameras. The device has a slightly slimmer screen so it provides a better one-handed operation (but just slightly). While almost all phone manufacturers now use a notched display, I prefer having more space for notification. For example, you can’t see the battery percentage on the notification screen on this device.

The Notch! No battery percentage!


On the camera, you now get AI scene recognition, and I noticed the slightly better camera quality particularly in low light. Also, there are more manual camera control options than on the Note 5.

Redmi Note 5 portrait mode


Redmi Note 6 Pro portrait mode


Redmi Note 6 Pro


Redmi Note 5


Redmi Note 5


Redmi Note 6 Pro

Almost everything else works similar to the Note 5. You still get the same snappy performance, same outstanding battery life, but for some reason, it still comes with MIUI 9 while my Note 5 is already on version 10. Hopefully,  Xiaomi will push an update soon. I wish Xiaomi put a Snapdragon 660 processor and USB C charging as that would have made it a no-brainer bang-for-your-buck device. Thankfully, the battery lasts the whole day, so you really just need to deal with micro USB at night.

Should you upgrade to the Redmi Note 6? If you’re coming from the Note 5, then the answer is No. But if you’re coming from another device or an older Xiaomi phone, then yes, you should. There is still enough of an update that the Redmi Note 6 can still be considered one of the best in this price range.



Friday, October 5, 2018

InnovWeight Smart Scale Review





In the world of weighing scales, there are “regular” scales, and there are “smart” scales.  After doing some research, I narrowed down my choices to the Xiaiomi Smart Body scale and the InnovWeight Smart Scale. And as much as I wanted to get the Xiaomi, it was out of stock. My decision was made easier when Lazada had a one-day sale for the InnovWeight which I got for just Php880 (US$17). So now let’s see what added benefits (if any) are in store, in using another smart device.


Specs:


Measures 8 key health parameters: body weight, body fat, BMI, muscle mass, visceral fat, basal metabolic rate, body water, and bone mass .

Wirelessly transmits data to smartphone's (via Bluetooth) InnovWeight app in just seconds.

Simply step on the scale to turn it on and start the measurements.

The app can store data up to 10users.

Data can be viewed in graph or list mode.

Maximum load capacity of 150 kg (330 lb).

Compatible with the latest iOS and Android smartphones.

Powered by 3 X AAA batteries.


Verdict:

The real question is, what benefits does a smart scale have over a regular scale? It all boils down to the App. Since any scale can give you your weight, a smart scale can give you a lot of data relating to your weight. By passing an electrical signal through your body, the scale can get your weight, body fat, BMI, mass, and more. Of course, all that information is useless unless you have a way to interpret it. Through the InnovWeight app, you can see what that data means and also gives some suggestions on how to improve your health. For example, if your Visceral Fat is high, it suggests that you should be wary of fatty liver. It also suggests a healthier lifestyle by not staying up late and taking daily walks. Having all that information presented to you is quite an eye opener especially if you’re planning to lose weight or even just for someone wanting to have a healthier lifestyle.





The decision to get this scale was very easy. With over 400 five-star ratings on Lazada, it is a very effective and affordable way to maintain a healthy life.