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Monday, November 28, 2016

Trivoly Smart Watch Review



Smartwatches are fantastic. They give us a taste of the Dick Tracy future we always dreamed about. However, there seems to be something missing about high tech wearables. If you’re a person who appreciates the engineering and craftsmanship involved in making classic mechanical watches in the league of Rolex, Omega, IWC (just to name a few,) then you would know what I’m talking about. I looked back at my then LG G Watch R and realized that this thing had no soul, no heritage and no long-term value. Even a cheap mechanical Seiko watch had more charm and value than a smartwatch. It was then that I made the decision to free myself from the shackles of a high tech wearable. Don’t get me wrong, I still think smartwaches are great, but perhaps for specific uses. I could still see myself wearing one when I go to the gym or out for a run. But for everyday use, I was going back old school. After resurrecting my old mechanical watches, I realized that I sort of missed being able to get notifications on my watch. So after searching high and low, I found a solution called Trivoly on Kickstarter. The idea seemed like the best of both worlds. Their slogan is, “turns any watch into a smartwatch”.  I decided to back the project and after a few months of waiting, I finally have my Trivoly. Let’s see if this unique little gadget lives up to its promise.

Specs

Trivoly 2

• Full fitnes tracker: optical heart rate sensor,
pedometer, stairs, sleep, sports (works with
Strava, Google Fit, Apple Health and more)
• Messages, notifications, calls, alerts
• Control your smartphone from your wrist:
Camera, Spotify, iTunes, SONOS
• Works with any watch
• Sleek, ergonomic design
• Hypo allergenic: certified skin friendly
• Water resistant
• Up to 4 days battery life
• USB-charger

Trivoly 1 EUR 99
Trivoly 2 EUR 129

Design and use

The concept of the Trivoly is quite ingenious. Just stick this tiny disk behind your watch and it will basically turn it in to a smartwatch. While you obviously can’t read messages on it, at least you could get a vibrating alert every time you get a call or notification. The Trivoly has two versions. One that only gives notifications and the other version has some fitness tracking features like a heart rate sensor and step counting.
As with any Kickstarter project, there are risks involved. The first snag was the delay of about 4 months from the promised delivery date. The second was the negative feedback and comments I was seeing from the first batch of users. When it finally arrived, I was really excited to use it. Unfortunately, it seemed like the negative comments I saw were true. First of all, it’s not as thin as I had hoped. It makes your watch to sit too high on your wrist. It’s also a bit uncomfortable to wear and it leaves a mark on your wrist. Secondly, the build quality is pretty bad. It feels like it was made in a rush with no regard to fit and finish. It would be a sacrilege to put this under a Rolex. Lastly, the Trivoly Android App itself is quite terrible. It only supports a handful of third party apps. There’s no support for Viber, native Samsung text messaging app and alarms.










Verdict

While it may seem that Trivoly is a disaster, it’s not really that bad. To be fair, it does work as advertised. I was able to get call notifications, Whatsapp, Gmail and I was even able to control Spotify on it. Unfortunately, my stock messaging app for Samsung won’t work (you have to install a third party message app which I don’t want to do), no alarms which is probably one of the best features of a smartwatch and no Viber support. The heart rate and step counter are not accurate. In fact, the heartrate monitor would fail half the time. On the bright side, most of these issues are fixable if they update their app. What is not fixable is the build quality. I posted some photos to see what I mean. In the end, the Trivoly seems more like a prototype than a finished product. The makers of Trivoly truly have a bright and innovative concept. If they don’t straighten up their act, I sure hope someone else does.

The Good

Great idea
It works

The Bad

Build Quality
No Viber support
App needs improvement
Heartrate sensor does not always work

Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Review



Are you looking for a basic fitness tracker but don’t want to spend a lot of money? The Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 may just be the answer. You’ll get a basic fitness band with some smartwatch features, all for a very reasonable price. As you can tell from the name, this is the second generation of fitness trackers from Xiaomi. The first distinction is the OLED screen which is a huge improvement from the 3 dots of the previous model. I had ditched my Pebble and LG G Watch R and went back to mechanical watches. Yet, I still wanted the functionality of smartwatches without breaking the bank. Let’s see if the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 could fulfill just what I’m looking for.

Specs

.42 inch OLED Display
Shows Sleep, Steps, Heartrate, Time and Battery
Incoming call and notification alert
IP67 Water Resistance
70 mAh battery with up to 20 days standby
iOS and Android compatible
Between Php 1,400-1,800 on Lazada.com

Design and Features

Almost all fitness trackers look and feel the same. I mean you can’t really do much with a band that you put on your wrist. Just like phones, they may all look similar but there are still some design choices that make them stand out from the others. Xiaomi decided to improve on the 1st gen by including an OLED screen. This is a huge improvement from the 3 dots one would get in the previous model. At least now you can see your steps, heart rate, time and battery without the need to open the app. The band itself is light, fits well, and comfortable to use all day. One of the bonus features is the ability to get notifications from your phone. While it won’t display your message, at least it will vibrate and tell you if it’s a call or an app notification. I really wish they did include the option to display the message. The Xiaomi App is actually pretty good but a bit basic. It does show you all the important stuff like steps taken, calories burned, sleep data, history, notification settings and ability to set alarms which I really like. It does not have the ability to track different types of activities like weightlifting, cycling, swimming, etc. I compared step and heart rate tracking with a treadmill and my Galaxy S7 and it wasn’t far off.
One feature that could place the Xiaomi Mi Band at a competitive level along with more popular brands is the battery life. It is rated at 20 days. So far, I’ve actually been getting more than that. While Fitbit and other brands can only manage 7 days, by experience, the Xiaomi needs to be charged only once a month.







Verdict

Fitbit, Garmin and Misfit may have the market share when it comes to wearables but they should start getting worried when the likes of Xiaomi are making good wearables at a fraction of the price. While it may not be as good as a Fitbit yet, it’s pretty close. The huge price difference plus the excellent battery life justifies its existence.

The Good

Price
Battery life
Call and App notifications

The Bad


Limited activity tracking

Flash Plus 2 Review



Last year I reviewed the Alcatel Flash 2 and said that it was probably the best Android phone you could get at that price range. This year, Flash decided to break away from Alcatel and go on its own although it’s still part of the TCL group which also makes Alcatel’s phones. Their new phone called Flash Plus 2 continues the brand model’s name offering real value for money products. Initially available through online retailer Lazada, there was no way to see the actual phone in person so I took a gamble and decided to get one. Let’s see once again if I made the right decision.

Specs

5.5” FHD IPS 1920×1080 pixels Resolution at 401 ppi
ROM: 16GB/32GB high speed EMMC
RAM: 2GB/3GB LPDDR3
End user memory: 10.4GB/25.4GB
MicroSD (up to 128GB)
Android  Marshmallow 6.0
CPU:MTK Helio P10 MT6755M
13MP Autofocus f/2.0 aperture CMOS. Rear Camera
5M F2.4 Front Fixed focus camera with LED Flash. Front Camera
Dual SIM LTE/WiFi/GSM Connectivity
AKM4375 Chipser+NXP9890 Audio Amplifier
Fingerprint Sensor
Battery: 3000mAh
Talk time: 16hrs(2G) / 15hrs(3G)
Standby time: 528hrs(2G) / 405hrs(4G)

Price Php 6,190 16GB/2GB and Php 8,490 32GB/3GB

Design and Features

Before I continue my review, I have to mention that there are two models of this phone. One with 16GB ROM and 2GB RAM and the other with 32GB and 3GB RAM. The model I’m reviewing is the 32/3GB model. I decided to get the higher model as I took advantage of a sale on Lazada. Design-wise it looks great, a big departure from the previous models. Instead of plastic, they now use metal components except for the upper and lower edges that house the antennas. A big improvement nonetheless and it does gives it a more premium look and feel. The back is still removable to give access to the SD and SIM slots and one thing that I need to mention is that you get two SIM slots plus micro SD and none of the hybrid/SIM configuration that everyone seems to be adopting. One thing that is puzzling is that you can’t replace the battery on a phone that has a removable back.




The screen is a 5.5 inch display with a full 1080p resolution. However it’s not as bright as I would like. It’s ok for indoor use but a bit hard to read outdoors. I had to disable the auto brightness and crank it up all the way to suit my needs. Also, the side bezels are a bit thick but still not a deal breaker. Performance from the P10 processor is actually good as long as you stick with the model with 3GB of RAM. Other reviews mention some lag issues with the 2GB model. I’m hoping most of them can be fixed a firmware update. I was able to play some games like Sniper 3D, Galaga Wars, Gunship Strike with no issues. Youtube, Spotify and other apps worked without a hitch. Multitasking is also pretty good. The 13 MP camera was a mixed bag. In good light, you can get really good photos but in low light, you can feel it struggle and most of my shots came out grainy which is to be expected at this price range. Video is limited to 1080p so no 4k just yet. I’ll post some photos so you can see for yourself. Battery life is adequate for a full day usage. Having 4G on standby usage caused a 25% drop. The fast charger is big help when you just need a quick top up. Audio quality is quite impressive using a headset and the speaker. Lastly, I have to mention one nice surprise, the fingerprint scanner works very well. In fact, the scanner works better than my Samsung Galaxy S7.





Front camera

Low light shot









Verdict

All in all, I’m quite impressed by this phone. The Flash Plus 2 is one of the first phones to have Mediatek’s Helio P10 chip inside and I have to say that performance is quite impressive as long as you get the 3GB RAM model. Despite some issues with the screen brightness and camera performance, this is still one of the best phones you can get in the sub Php 8k category. One tip is to wait for a Lazada sale and combine it with a promo code to get more than 1k off the list price.

The good

Price
Performance
Fast fingerprint scanner
Almost stock version of Android

The bad

Screen brightness

Camera’s low light performance

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Samsung LED View Cover for Galaxy S7


 The Galaxy S7 has been reviewed so many times that I decided to review the case that I got for it. Truth be told I actually got the S7 partially because of this case. It's so unique that I'm surprised that there are just a few reviews about it.

Design and features 

Samsung did something quite exceptional with this case. At first glance, it looks just like an ordinary leather case. But the magic starts once you get calls or other notifications.  Embedded inside the front cover are a row of LED lights that activates only when you get calls or notifications. Once activated you can swipe to answer calls, silence an alarm, check the time, and control various functions. You can specify how the cover activates and even set icons to correspond to specific callers in the phone settings. 










The rest of the case itself is well made. It protects your phone from almost all angles. There is even a sleeve to put an ID card. But what is most impressive is how the case is powered.  There are no batteries. It just uses the power from the wireless charging capabilities of the phone. Quite ingenious.




Verdict 

In case you're wondering, the Galaxy S7 is quite exceptional as well. The case just makes it even better. To put it simply, it enhances the functionality of the phone perfectly. 

There are just a few quirks that I wish Samsung would fix like compatibility with third party apps like Viber and Whatsapp. Right now, the case only responds to the stock apps. The price is a grievance too. At Php2,800, it is quite expensive for a case considering you can get a simple wallet case for Php500. With that said, it's still a unique case that lights up not only itself but also my face every time I use it.


Update 1 Oct. 10 2016 - After just two months of using the LED Cover it suddenly stopped working. I tried to return it to Samsung but my case is still pending as they are giving me a hard time with my warranty coverage. I'm afraid to think how painfully hard it would be if anything would happen to my S7. Samsung might need to change their name to "Shamesung". 

The Good


Unique 

Looks

Build quality

The Bad



Price

Compatibility with other apps