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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:

Flagship Performance
All day battery life
IR Face Unlock

The Bad:

Notch Screen
No camera OIS
No wireless charging


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


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


  • 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)


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.


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.


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.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Stirling Robot Vacuum Cleaner Review

The Good:


Works as advertised

Useful remote

The Bad:

Difficult to get

No Warranty

No App or Wifi control


Php 2,500 in HMR or OLX


Do you hate vacuuming? Are you as lazy as me? Then maybe a robot vacuum might be just what you need? Stirling may not a household name. This is the first time I encountered the brand. Stirling is an Australian brand which sells washing machines, microwaves, and others home appliances. Their robot vacuum cleaners are overstock items imported from Australia and sold locally through warehouse dealers like HMR. I was able to get mine through an importer from OLX. Usually, the starting price for a decent robot vacuum is about Php 7-10 thousand so when I saw the price of Php2,500 I just had to give it a try.

In the box you get the vacuum, extra brush, charging base, remote and a sensor for places you want the vacuum to avoid. Setup is straightforward. However, I urge you to read the manual as the remote control setup requires you to pair it with the vacuum using a unique code.  This is very important because using the remote makes this vacuum more efficient. 

I’ve been using this vacuum for over a month, and I must say that I’m very impressed. Using it is very easy, it has sensors and AI built-in so it will find the best way to clean. While it does like to take its time cleaning,  I discovered that auto mode works best at the same time using the remote to point it in the right direction. It does tend to get stuck under low objects like chairs if the height is just tall enough that the sensors think that there is no obstacle. Also, it works best on hardwood floors. One nice feature is that will return to its charging base automatically once its battery gets low or you can also use the remote. 

It’s difficult to find faults in a product that does so much but costs a fraction of the price of other robot vacuums. There is no APP or WIFI to control this device, and you can’t integrate it with Alexa or Google Home, but it does what it’s supposed to, which is to clean automatically.  It may not have the all the bells and whistles of a Roomba, but if you want a cheap and straightforward robot vacuum, it ’s hard to find something better than this.

Xiaomi SL2 USB Electric Shaver Review

The Good:

Very portable
USB C charging
Easy to clean
Good performance
Wet or Dry use

The Bad:

Difficult to find
No charger in the package, just a USB C cable


Between Php 1,200 to 1,700 (US$23-32)
Shopee or Lazada

If you’re wondering why I chose the Xiaomi instead of going with mainstream shaver brands like Philips or Braun, I’ve been impressed with Xiaomi products so I thought I’d give their shaver a try. I need a small portable shaver for travel. I considered the Philips PQ206/190 and the Braun M90. But they were both more expensive and didn’t offer some of the features of the Xiaomi.

In the box, you get the shaver, USB C cable, cloth pouch and instruction manual. Everything is in Chinese but using it is very straightforward.


After using this Xiaomi shaver for a week, I can finally compare it to the Braun Series 3 I reviewed a few weeks ago. First, the Xiaomi is approximately 1/4 the price of the Braun plus it is also smaller but less powerful. It is also a rotary style shaver vs. the foil design on the Braun. To be honest, I was quite surprised by the results. You can see the before and after photos below.

There is not much difference in the actual shaving results, perhaps just a slightly better shave using the Braun. The one advantage of the Braun is that it’s more powerful, so it takes less time to shave. I have to say that for the price, the Xiaomi wins with its versatility. Meaning you can use it as a daily and a travel shaver. I was so impressed that I ordered another one for my son.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Braun Series 3 3040 Review

The Good:

Reasonable price (for Braun shavers)
Easy to clean
Wet and Dry use
Built-in trimmer

The Bad:

Difficult to get locally
Cheaper alternatives are available


Php P4,200 on Shopee or Lazada
US$ 60 on Amazon


Have you ever wondered why some people use electric shavers? If you’ve been using disposable shaver blades for years, check out this review as it just might make you change your mind. Full disclosure, this is the first electric shaver I’ve used. Except for a cheap one I kept in the car for emergency use 20 years ago. I did a lot of research before deciding on this Braun 3040. I considered some cheaper alternatives like the Philips AT610/620 and the Xiaom Mijia Flex Razor. Since I needed a portable shaver for travel, I also bought a Xiaomi USB shaver. I’m still waiting for delivery, so it will be interesting how this compares to the Braun.

While doing some research, I found out that there are two kinds of shaver designs, Foil and Rotary. Most review sites say that one is better for thick hair, while the other is for light to medium growth hair. Most of it is confusing and some contradictory. But most sites agree that the Braun Series 3 is the best budget shaver you can get for less than USD$100. There’s also a consensus for wet and dry shavers.

Braun has a huge line of shavers, and it can be very confusing. They have a Series 1 all the way to the Series 9. One way to look at it is like buying a BMW. A Series 7 will be better than a 1 series. What you get will also depend on your budget. That is where the Series 3 comes in. It’s right in the middle of the line. So now let’s shave and see the difference. Check out the photos below.


Half wet and half dry


After using it for about a week, I have to say I’m happy with it. While it does not shave as close as a blade, it’s close enough. One advantage of using an electric shaver is that you don’t need to worry about getting a nick or a cut. I preferred a wet shave rather than a dry. Also, you’ll need to do a double or even a triple pass to get a clean shave. The built-in trimmer also helps with hard to reach places. Charging takes about an hour and should be good for a week of daily use. One tip I can give is to use an aftershave lotion or balm to prevent irritation.

Call me a convert on electric shavers. It will be interesting to see how it will compare to the rotary shaver I ordered. Check back in a few weeks to see my review on that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Review

The Good

Value for money
All day battery life
Good performance
MIUI (surprisingly good)
Free case in the box
Built-in Spam blocker works 

The Bad

Micro USB charging, not USB C
Uses hybrid dual SIM 
Camera low light performance


5.99 inch IPS FHD display
Snapdragon 636
4GB RAM, 64GB Storage
Dual Hybrid SIM with Micro SD
WIFI AC, Bluetooth 5, LTE
Camera 12MP+5MP and 13MP Front
Micro USB
4000mAh Battery
Price Php 11,990 (US$220)


I've been a Samsung user since the Galaxy S2 (except for a year using LG). I decided to experiment. Can I live with a mid-range phone? What exactly are you giving up when you don’t buy a 40k ($800) device? 

I had a difficult time choosing between a few mid-range devices like the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, Huawei Nova 3i, and a few Xiaomi phones. I finally picked the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 and gave up my Galaxy S8. Was it the right decision? Read on and see.

First, let's look at the design. The Redmi Note 5 looks nice, a typical mix of metal and plastic. Build quality is solid. Looks aren't a priority for me (since I'll end up putting a case on it). Side bezels are thin, but the top and bottom ones could be smaller. The screen is bright, and colors are accurate, outdoor usage wasn't a problem either. 

No headphones in the box. But you do get a free case.

Still uses Micro USB

Three things surprised me. The performance of the phone was fast. Everything was snappy, even quicker than my S8. The second surprise was the fingerprint scanner (again, faster than my S8). Lastly, MIUI, Xiaomi’s skin on top Android 8.1 was a pleasure to use. 
To be honest, I was prepared to hate it and had already decided to change it with Nova launcher. But after using it, I liked it. Ok, so it's basically an homage to iOS. But in reality, it’s very user-friendly and still has enough of Android to customize it to your liking. 
Probably the best selling point is this phone's battery life. Finally, a phone that lasts all day. To give you an example, I took the Note 5 off the charger at 7 am, used about 7 hours on LTE, 2 hours of Waze, the rest on WIFI, a few calls, Chrome, YouTube, Spotify and by 10 pm, I still had 49% left. Why can't Samsung or Apple put bigger batteries on their phones?

What do you give up when you don’t buy an expensive flagship phone? No wireless charging, no water residence rating, no Gorilla glass protection. The camera, while excellent, is not outstanding. Especially in low light. Check out the same photos.

Portrait mode

Low Light

Very Low light

So, to answer the question. Yes, you can live with this phone, with one caveat. One thing remains to be seen. The real test is if it’s built to last. I’ll probably be able to tell after 6 months to 1 year of usage. On the other hand, even if it doesn’t, you can buy 3 to 4 of these for one flagship device. If it breaks, buy another one. You'll still save money.