1MORE 1M301 Single Driver In-Ear Headphones Review

1MORE, who you may also know as the company behind Xiaomi’s headphones, is well known for producing headphones that both look and sound good at an affordable price.

Today, we will be taking a look at their 1M301 single driver in-ear headphones, which normally retails for S$59, but you can often find one under S$40 at electronics exhibitions.


Summary – Very Well Rounded!

The 1MORE 1M301 may not be the best in all areas when you compare it to similarly priced in-ear headphones, but there isn’t really anything bad about it.

Pros:

  • Luxurious unboxing experience
  • Cloth carrying pouch included
  • Elegant metal body design
  • Lower half of cable is Kevlar braided
  • Produces sound with good amount of details and deep bass
  • Great microphone
  • Volume buttons work on iOS & Android

Cons:

  • So so noise isolation?
  • Lack of cons

Unboxing – A Surreal Experience

1MORE doesn’t disappoint us with the 1M301’s packaging.

Like most of 1MORE’s other headphones, unboxing the 1M301 is like unboxing a pair of luxury headphones. Sliding off the outer cover reveals a box with 1MORE’s logo.

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Taking off the lid, you will find the headphones in the iconic 1MORE/Xiaomi box wrapped in plastic, as well as a compartment containing the accessories. Inside, you will find a black cloth carrying pouch of pretty good quality, as well as a metal shirt clip.

 

Moving on to the box containing the headphones. The layout is similar to what we have seen in the past: On the top layer, we have the headphones, with cable coiled around the cushion. Below, you will find 3 additional pairs of ear tips of various sizes.

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This kind exquisite unboxing experience on budget headphones is unique to 1MORE and it is the thing I look forward to most when getting 1MORE products. It may not affect the quality of the headphones, but leaves a really good first impression.


Design & Build Quality – Easily One of the Best

1M301’s sleek metal body, as well as the Kevlar braided lower half of the cable, makes it one of the most “premium” looking headphones under S$100.

From a distance, you will easily recognize that this is a pair of 1MORE in-ear headphones. The design of the metal body is very similar to those on some of 1MORE’s costlier in-ear headphones, including their ever so popular E1001 triple driver.

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The lower half of the cable, before the Y intersection, is Kevlar braided so it doesn’t tangle easily and even when it does, you can undo it with ease. The outer casing of the Y intersection and 3.5mm connector are made of metal. Looks beautiful!

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The housing for the volume controls is made of plastic, but the buttons are metal so it doesn’t ruin the looks of the 1M301. These are no ordinary volume and play/pause buttons and we will be taking a closer look at them in a short while.

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Overall, the 1M301’s design is a lot more elegant and premium-looking than what you would find from similarly priced in-ear headphones by other major headphone manufacturers.


Sound – Unsurprisingly Amazing

1MORE is well known for producing headphones with sound quality comparable to much costlier headphones from competitors. The 1M301 is no exception.

As the 1M301 is priced similarly to the Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro and Pro HD, both of which I have reviewed (both performed very well against similarly priced products from other manufacturers), I will be comparing them to the 1M301 in this review.

The level of details of the 1M301 is somewhere in between the Pro and Pro HD. Using my favorite track to test on Spotify (当爱来敲门 by 张碧晨), the 1M301 is missing a bit in trebles compared to the Pro HD, but still excellent level of details for its price.

In terms of sound signature, the 1M301 is closer to the Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro, with slight emphasis on the bass, but mids and trebles are still very clear and vibrant in the foreground.

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Which to choose between the 3? Each are amazing in their own ways, so you will have to test them to decide. For me, the Pro HD would be my first choice due to its clarity, followed closely by the 1M301 as I generally do not listen to music with too much bass.

The 1M301 stayed in my ears pretty well, even with quite a bit of movement. I did not experience any discomfort wearing it, so thumbs up for ergonomics. Noise isolation is just average and at moderate volume you can still hear the background.

Compared to 1MORE’s more affordable Piston Fit, the 1M301 produces mids that are cleaner, richer and more filling, resulting in a much more immersive experience. Bass is also much deeper, so the >2x price difference is more than justified.


Microphone – Not Too Shabby

1M301’s microphone may not be the best at eliminating background noise, but it is loud and clear.

In my 1MORE Piston Fit review, I was really shocked at how good the microphone quality was, especially when you consider its super low price tag. Is the 1M301’s microphone as good, or even better? The audio below is recorded with the 1M301.

Below is a recording with the Piston Fit for comparison. 1M301’s audio is louder, but the audio recorded with the Piston Fit gets rid of background noise better. The microphone on both are very clear though, which is pretty rare on budget headphones.

To make this more fun, here are short recordings of me trying to sing 九张机 by 叶炫清. In this case, the difference in quality of recorded audio actually narrowed, and I would say that the microphones on both headphones are equally good.

Recorded with 1M301

Recorded with Piston Fit

(Pardon the horrible singing. I have never learnt to sing and I rarely sing, so please 谅解. Now you know why I dislike KTV.)


Volume Buttons – Works on Both iOS & Android

Unlike other volume buttons, the 1M301’s is capable of controlling volume on both Android and iOS.

Volume buttons on headphones usually only work for either iOS or Android, a pain-in-the-ass if you use devices running both OS.

We have seen many different solutions for this, from having a physical switch to swap device type, like on the SenYeek earphones that I reviewed earlier, to having a built-in volume level setting, like what many Bluetooth headphones are using.

These solutions do work, but they all come with some kind of compromises. For example, if your headphone uses a built-in volume setting and your phone is muted, you will have to take out your phone to unmute it before you can listen to music.

1MORE’s solution is different. Through some mysterious magicking, they were able to make the volume buttons work seamlessly on both iOS and Android devices, and it can adjust your phone’s volume level directly on both OS. Sweet!


Conclusion – Excels in Almost Every Way

High recommend getting one!

While the 1MORE 1M301 may not be the best in all aspect, it does better than most of the competition in most aspects, if not all. There isn’t really anything bad about it, so you will not regret paying S$59 or less for the 1M301 in-ear headphones.

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A Visit to Mi Store @ VivoCity

The grand opening of Xiaomi’s new Mi Store at VivoCity took place this morning, but I was not able to be there due to NDP rehearsal. How can I miss the chance to visit the largest Mi Store yet on its big day? Thus, I headed there right after rehearsal ended.

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In case you couldn’t make it there too, here is a quick look at the new Mi Store at VivoCity. The store is located in a new section of VivoCity, which is accessible via an escalator near McDonald’s.

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Go up, turn left and you will see it. Inside, the VivoCity Mi Store isn’t too different from other Mi Stores and Mi Home we have seen. As always, the first few rows of long wooden tables are occupied by demo sets of Xiaomi’s latest phones.

You may have noticed the Mi Mix 2S poster at the back. That isn’t here yet, but will be coming very soon.

Moving to the middle row, you will find other Xiaomi products on display, including the Mi Action Camera 4K and Dash Cam. The most exciting product has to be the Mi Robot Vacuum and you can watch it in action as it follows the red lines on the table.

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As mentioned earlier, this is the largest Mi Store in Singapore yet and that is very apparent when you walk to the very last row, which consist of two shelves and an empty table with chairs. So much space in this new Mi Store!

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Like the Mi Store at Bedok Mall, some of the products here are export set, like the induction rice cooker below. These are not covered under warranty by Mi Singapore, so do check with the friendly staffs at the Mi Store about warranty.

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Moving on to the new stuff. If you have visited Mi Home Suntec recently, you may have noticed a wooden train toy set on display. This wooden toy set is now on sale at Mi Store Vivo City for S$99. A little costly, but the quality is very good from what I can see.

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Here is another new toy you can get at Mi Store Vivo City: the Mi Fidget Cube. Build it and play with it!

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Next, we have the 10000mAh Mi Power Bank 2S, which usually cost S$28.80, but you can get it at S$19.90 from today till 1st July. It is slightly taller than the 10000mAh Mi Power Bank, but it has a second USB port, so you can charge 2 devices at once. Sweet!

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Lastly, hidden among all the Mi earphones are these Earpods lookalike. They blend in so well with the other earphones many people I know did not notice they were there. These are Xiaomi’s new dual driver earphones, priced at S$29.90.

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VivoCity Mi Store is having promotions for some products, including phones at S$99 (25 sets only), until tomorrow. Looking for a robot vacuum to clean your house or a dash cam for your new car? Here is your chance to save some money!

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I bought one of the new products mentioned above and will be reviewing it here soon. Can you guess which Mi product it is? (Hint: The bag is not big enough for the wooden toy, so that is definitely not it. There is nothing to write about the fidget cube, so…)

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Congrats to Era International Network (EIN) on the grand opening of the VivoCity Mi Store!

One Year of 8K Guy!

Hi there!

On this day one year ago, I started writing tech gadget reviews as 8K Guy over at that8kguy.wixsite.com/home. It was a slow start and few people read my articles, but I continued to write at least once per week and soon after, it started to gain momentum.

It was during this time I got to attend my first smartphone launch event as media. It felt different from going to launch events as a fan; everyone was there to work, not to have fun and bond with others, so the atmosphere was a little intimidating.

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Nevertheless, it is an experience that I am grateful to have. After all, how many people can claim that they went for a launch event as a reporter? I had two reject two other launch events invitation due to NS, but very soon I will be able to attend them again.

Then, in November 2017, I shifted the blog over to 8kguy.com. The blog was doing well, but a lack of domain name was holding it back. Without one, I had difficulties asking for review units and launch events press invites, difficulties getting seen as “legit”.

The problem? Wix’s plans were way out of my budget. Knowing that I had to get a proper domain name sooner or later, I paid for a WordPress subscription and abandoned the wixsite. It was not an easy decision, but I believe it paid off.

Thanks to the support from smartphone manufacturers like Neffos, OPPO and Vivo, not forgetting Mi Singapore, I was also able to review 7 smartphones in merely 3 months – a ginormous leap from what I had done in the past few years.

While the blog has yet to recover the lost in views from the switch to WordPress, the number of people visiting it is growing steadily each month. Previously on the wixsite, it took a while for growth to climb, so I am not too worried about that now.

The 8K Guy Facebook page also crossed 100 likes recently. This would not have been possible without the support from everyone who read and shared my articles, so a huge thank you to all of you! If you haven’t already, you can do so here.

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The next month or two will be quite hectic for me, but once that is over, you can expect a leap in quality of the articles posted on 8kguy.com. I am considering making video for my reviews, to give this blog a boost in audience, but I will need time to sort that out.

The first year of 8K Guy was though and there were times I asked myself why I am doing this, but things are only going to get better as the audience count grows. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who supported and followed me throughout this journey.

Yours sincerely,

8K Guy

OPPO R15 Review

In the past, OPPO’s R series have always been designed to be pieces of beautifully crafted artwork that looks good but also feel good in the hand. But with their latest device, the R15, it seems like OPPO is changing their priorities for the R series.

Huge thanks to OPPO Singapore for loaning me this review unit.


Summary – Unexciting Hardware, Superb Software

OPPO R15’s design isn’t refined as it could be and its hardware lacks the wow factor. But ColorOS has gotten so good, you will really enjoy using the R15.

Pros:

  • Screen protector and clear case included
  • Appealing glass back design
  • AMOLED, with always-on display (Screen Clock)
  • UI and most games run without any stutter
  • Rear cameras takes great photos, even at night
  • Superb selfie camera with pleasing colors
  • Great sounding audio from headphone jack
  • VOOC charging is very quick, even with device on
  • UI looks modern, easy to navigate
  • ColorOS 5.0 is feature packed but unobtrusive
  • Unlock with really quick with fingerprint or face

Cons:

  • Feel in hand not as good as predecessor
  • Still using Micro USB
  • Rear camera has focusing issues for near objects
  • Poor video stabilization

Others:

  • Battery lasts through a full day on moderate usage
  • Loud but harsh sounding bottom firing speaker

Pricing & Variants –

S$749 will get you an OPPO R15 with 128GB storage and 6GB RAM. Available in 3 attractive colors.

There are two phones in OPPO’s new R15 series, the regular R15 which we will be taking a look at today, as well as the R15 Pro which I will try to review soon. As you can infer from the names, R15 Pro is the better but costlier version.

R15 comes in a single 128/6GB configuration and that will cost you S$749 here in Singapore. A clear case is included and a screen protector has been pre-applied. It is available in three beautiful colors: Nebula Purple, Rouge Red and Frost White.


Design – Great Looks, Not so Great Feel

New glass back design looks beautiful, but does not feel as comfortable and thin as previous OPPO R series devices.

All R series devices we have seen in the past, with the exception of the original R1/R1s, had metal bodies. But probably influenced by Apple’s transition to glass back, OPPO opted for a glass back with metal frame on the new OPPO R15 and R15 Plus.

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The review unit I got was the Nebula Purple one, which looks like black or dark purple when there is not a lot of light around. But when you shine light at it, it changes to a lighter shade of purple and the gradient created from this is absolutely gorgeous.

The fingerprint scanner sits on the rear, above the OPPO logo. Look closer and you will realize that there is a strange outline around the fingerprint scanner, as well as the cameras. A “screen protector” has been applied on the rear too!

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But if you are a user of OPPO’s R11/R11s, you will be disappointed at how the R15 feels in the hand. Unlike on its predecessors, it seems like OPPO made no attempt to make it feel thin and sleek, so when you pick it up, it will not feel as impressive.

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While I understand the shift to a glass design contributed to the bulk, it is possible to make it feel thinner through “illusions”, like on the Vivo X21. The R15 and X21 are similar in thickness at 7.4mm, but the X21 feels a lot thinner and sleeker.

On the top, we have a single microphone. Below, we have a headphone jack, as well as 2 speaker grills, with a Micro USB port in between. But only the left speaker grill contains the speaker, with the right one housing another microphone.

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It is rather disappointing that OPPO is still using Micro USB. On previous R series devices, I understand why they avoided switching, as USB Type-C would make the phones thicker. But the R15 isn’t trying to be thin, so why doesn’t it have Type-C?

Moving to the front, we can see that the R15 is yet another phone that uses the notch design, with tiny bezels and small bottom chin. If you do not like the notch, wait for the OPPO Find X; that is almost completely bezeless, without a notch.

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Display – Always-On Screen Clock!

6.28″ FHD+ AMOLED display looks too vibrant but overall not bad. Capable of always-on display that shows the time whenever display is off.

The R15’s 6.28″ FHD+ AMOLED display has a 19:9 ratio, with a notch at the top. The display produces very deep blacks and can get quite bright, but is very over-saturated at the same time. It may not have the most accurate colors, but it is a nice display.

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Unlike IPS LCD, AMOLED displays can light up only required parts of the display, enabling “always-on displays”, seen on phones like Galaxy S7. OPPO’s implementation of this is called Screen Clock, which shows the time when your screen is off.

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It is disabled by default, but you can enable it in the settings. Whenever you receive a message or WeChat notification, you will also see an icon below the clock. No need to turn on the display to check the time anymore. Super convenient!

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To navigate through the UI, you can either use on-screen navigation bar or swipe-up gestures. On the OPPO R15, you have 4 gesture layouts to choose from and with this, I was able to find one that I could easily get used to. Nice!

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Performance – A MTK Processor that Doesn’t Suck?

Despite being a MediaTek processor, the Helio P60 in the R15 performs really well in actual usage.

Powering the OPPO R15 is MediaTek’s Helio P60 processor, with 6GB of RAM. I have always found MediaTek processors to be inferior to their Snapdragon counterparts, but this might be the first MediaTek processor that I do not mind using.

There were 3 things about MTK processors that made me avoid them: poor gaming performance, overheating and poor battery life. Thankfully, I have experienced none of them during my 2 weeks with the OPPO R15. Lets start with the first 2.

Just like the Helio P25 processor in the Neffos N1 I reviewed recently, the Helio P60 in the OPPO R15 performs exceptionally well in benchmarks, even outperforming its Qualcomm Snapdragon equivalent (Snapdragon 660) in some cases.

But unlike the Helio P25, the Helio P60’s benchmark scores do reflect its performance during gaming, which is to say, very good. Playing 王者荣耀 and PUBG Mobile on the R15, the games ran smoothly without a hitch and the device stayed cool.


Rear Cameras – Excellent, With a Small Problem

Takes great photos day and night and is capable of bokeh shots, but has issues focusing on small, near objects. Video stabilization is a little disappointing.

OPPO equipped the R15 with a dual rear camera setup, with the primary camera is 16MP sensor with sensor size of 1.22μm and f/1.7 aperture. Meanwhile, the secondary camera is 5MP, with f/2.2 aperture, used for depth sensing in portrait mode.

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Under well-lit conditions, the R15’s rear cameras captures photos with great level of details and good dynamic range. Photos look over-saturated when viewed directly from the R15, but on a display with more accurate colors, they look a lot better.

At night, we do see a bit of noise, but colors are retained really well and photos still has plenty of details. As mentioned earlier, the OPPO R15 has a portrait mode, which lets you take bokeh photos with various color/effect filters.

In portrait mode, you are automatically zoomed in to get closer to your subject. Edge detection is not perfect, but pretty good for a smartphone. The real issue starts when you try to take a close up bokeh photo of small objects.

The above comparison illustrates what I mean. Despite numerous attempts to focus on the plant and blur the background, the R15 always ended up with the background in focus. Even the soya ice-cream shot above took me numerous tries.

The focusing problem does not stop there. At night, I found the R15 to constantly hunt for focus when recording videos and slow-mos. That said, videos do look really good when they are in focus, with very little noise and great color reproduction.

In the day, the R15’s 1080p video doesn’t have the focusing issue, with great amount of details and colors turn out really good too, but the poor stabilization means that videos turn out blur and shaky when you are moving around.


Front Camera – Fabulous Selfies!

Colors look great, not washed-out like on other devices I have used. Can also take bokeh shots.

I have used many smartphones with very high resolution or very wide angle, but they all face one common issue: poor dynamic range. Due to this, backgrounds are often overexposed or very pale looking, which makes the selfies unappealing.

This is not the case for the OPPO R15 though, as you can see from the selfies I took below. Colors look very appealing, comparable to what you will get from the rear camera. Even at night, the selfie camera of the R15 handles colors really well.

The 20MP front facing camera of R15 is also capable of bokeh effect, but it is known as Depth Effect here, not Portrait mode. It isn’t perfect; just look at how it blurs out my hair.

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Like Vivo’s X21, the OPPO R15 has AR stickers in its camera app, the quality of stickers are on par, but the quantity way less than what Vivo has to offer. It is still really fun though.

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Audio – Great Headphone Audio, Harsh Speaker

Bottom firing speaker is loud but treble sounds harsh, great for video consumption but not for music.

At max volume, the single bottom-firing speaker on the OPPO R15 is noticeably louder than the Redmi 5’s, but trebles sound a little harsh, with distortion. Great for watching YouTube videos and movies, not so much for listening to music.

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Listening to the R15 on my 1MORE 1M301, trebles seem to be less vibrant and rich as compared to using my Redmi 5, but bass seems to be slightly deeper and more impactful. Both sound really good in their respective ways, so there is no clear winner.


Endurance & Charging – VOOC!

Lasts a full day on moderate usage. VOOC is still one of the best fast charging solution available today.

In the performance portion of this review, I mentioned that poor battery life was one of the reasons I disliked MediaTek’s processors. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be an issue on the R15.

On moderate usage, the OPPO R15 got through a full day with 24% battery left by 10PM, with Screen Clock enabled. This is nothing to write home about, but it places the R15 on par with  other phones with 3450mAh battery and similar specs.

  • Total time 15h 45min
  • Screen-on time ≈4.5h
  • 1h 18min browser
  • 30min Instagram
  • 21min Facebook
  • 15min PUBG Mobile
  • 14min Camera

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Next, I tested OPPO R15’s endurance under heavy usage, playing graphic intensive games like 王者荣耀. With a total game time of more than 3.5h, the phone had hit 10% by 10PM. If you game a lot, you will have to charge the R15 during the day.

  • Total time 15h 5min
  • Screen-on time 5.5h
  • 王者荣耀 2h 16min
  • PUBG Mobile 1h 10min
  • Facebook 44min
  • Sword Man – Monster Hunter 16min
  • YouTube 11min

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One of OPPO’s most popular feature is VOOC charging, which promises 2 hours of talk time with 5 minutes of charging. But with so many fast charging technologies emerging in recent years, is VOOC still the best? Let’s find out.

I drained the R15 down to 5% battery remaining. With the device powered on but screen turned off, I charged it with the VOOC wall adapter and cable that came in the box. After 5 minutes, the phone was at 13% and at the 40min mark, it had 75% battery.

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As seen from my regular usage test, 75% battery should last you through the day. But why stop there? After an hour, the R15 hit 91% battery. It is clear that charging has slowed down at this point in time. The R15 was fully charged at after 1.5 hours.

All of these with the phone is in standby mode. Not bad!


Software – ColorOS has Grown Up!

ColorOS has a new bold and modern style. It is feature packed but unobtrusive and still as easy to use as ever. The best Android skin I have used till date.

Having experienced multiple generations of ColorOS, I have seen it mature in terms of design and user interface. Each version of ColorOS improved on how a user interact with their OPPO device, but none is as drastic as the shift to ColorOS 5.0.

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OPPO R15 runs ColorOS 5.0 on top of Android 8.1.0 out of the box. ColorOS 5.0 brings a new style to the design of the UI, making it rounder, bolder and more intuitive. It also brings a couple of new features, as well as improves on some old ones.

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For example, in previous versions of ColorOS, split screen had very limited app support. On ColorOS 5.0, split screen now supports most apps including third party ones, with the exception of some OPPO-made ones like gallery and themes.

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Accessing split screen is also really easy now. Simply swipe up with three fingers on the screen or go to recent tasks, swipe up on an app and select split-screen. Look at how modern and sleek the new UI is. OPPO is really stepping up on its software design.

There is also a new smart assistant, where you can create shortcuts to your favorite apps and contacts, check the weather, as well as see the number of steps you took today. The step tracker is not part of any app and can only be accessed from here.

With ColorOS 5.0, the R15 gets access to features that are not yet available on other OPPO devices. The Screen Clock always-on display mentioned earlier is just one of them. You also get “Full Screen Multitasking”, which is a lot cooler than it sounds.

When your phone is in landscape and you are watching a video or playing games, you will see these icons appear above and below the notch. The bottom icons allow you to quickly hide banner notifications, take a screenshot or record the screen.

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Meanwhile, the icons above will alert you when you receive a message in apps like WhatsApp and WeChat. Tapping on the icons will open a pop-up window, allowing you to view/reply to messages while watching videos or playing games.

Speaking of gaming, this is not a new feature but the R15 has something called Game Acceleration, which allows for a smoother gaming experience. However, it seems like some popular games are not supported at the moment. Hmm…

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Despite being a brand from China, OPPO cares a lot about your privacy and security. On top of secure keyboard (which activates when typing passwords) and app lock, you also get really cool sounding features like “Pseudo Base Station Blocking”.

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Don’t ask me, I have no idea what that does… There is a new feature that will provide apps will empty call logs, contacts and messages, so you can prevent apps from collecting your personal information. Security freaks will love this feature.

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While we are on the topic of security, lets talk about ways to unlock the OPPO R15. The rear fingerprint scanner is super fast like previous generations, but you can also unlock the OPPO R15 with your face! It is pretty accurate and quick.

ColorOS 5.0 may have a ton of features, but many of them only appear when you need them and are easy to use. The execution of most features are very good, though there are some things that needs to be fixed, like the tiny mobile data icon.

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Still can’t find it? I couldn’t too, when I first started using the R15. It is the tiny symbol beside the words 4G on the reception bar. Why would anyone do that? Why is there a need to make it so small? @OPPO Please revert it back to the regular icon.

ColorOS 5.0 is like the smartest kid in class, but doesn’t boast about it. It is very talented and does its work really well, but you never know how good it is until you need its help.


Conclusion – Handing Spotlight Back to the Find Series

OPPO was saving its best features for the Find X, so the R15 doesn’t stand out from the crowd in terms of hardware. But ColorOS is now good enough to justify getting the R15.

OPPO didn’t put all their latest and greatest innovations into the R15, in preparation of the return of their flagship Find series. So hardware wise, there isn’t anything very outstanding about the OPPO R15 compared to the competition.

But OPPO doesn’t need flashy hardware to sell their devices. They already have a lead in 2 other areas: software and reputation.

ColorOS has matured a lot in the past few years and V5.0 is just so refined and well thought out that it delivers one of the best, if not the best, user experience that I have ever seen.

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Over the years, OPPO has built up a strong reputation globally. They are no longer the unknown China brand we know them to be back in the early days. Perhaps this why OPPO is re-entering the flagship market now – they are ready to take on Samsung.

To the most important question: Should you get one? If you are looking for a device that doesn’t require a steep learning curve, works well and costs under S$800, sure. But if you can afford it, why not get the slightly costlier R15 Pro or wait for the Find X?

Redmi Note 5 Review

Two years ago, I wrote my first smartphone review, one about the Redmi Note 3 on Mi Community. Last year, I reviewed its successor, the Redmi Note 4. So lets keep up this  tradition and review the recently launched Redmi Note 5.

Huge thanks to ECS for loaning me this brand new review unit.


Summary – A Budget Phone with Great Cameras!

An improvement from the Redmi Note 4 in most aspects, especially in the camera department. Worth upgrading to.

Pros:

  • Affordable price tag
  • Clear case included
  • Beautiful 18:9 display with great viewing angles
  • Excellent performance for price
  • Rear cameras focus quickly with dual pixel autofocus
  • Insane low-light photos considering price
  • Selfie camera has plenty of details
  • Refined camera app
  • Bottom-firing speakers sound better than RMN4’s

Cons:

  • Camera protrudes even with case
  • Design getting stale
  • Battery life not as good as Redmi Note 4

Xiaomi’s Confusing Naming Scheme

Not the same as Redmi 5 Plus. Similar to Redmi Note 5 Pro, but with different set of cameras on the front and rear.

You may have noticed that I wrote a review about the Redmi 5 Plus, aka Redmi Note 5, a while ago, so why am I reviewing it again? The answer is: I am not. The device in today’s article is a different Redmi Note 5 and you can thank Xiaomi for that.

The device I reviewed earlier is known as the Redmi 5 Plus in Singapore, while India calls it the Redmi Note 5. Meanwhile, the one we will be taking a look at today is called Redmi Note 5 in Singapore, and Redmi Note 5 Pro in India. Confused?

My last point was only partially correct though, and that is a very common mistake. While the local Redmi Note 5 may look the same as the Redmi Note 5 Pro, they are different device. Don’t worry, even the official Xiaomi Lazada store got confused.

Screenshot-2018-6-11 Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 (3+32GB) Buy sell online Mobiles with cheap price Lazada Singapore

While most of the specs are the same, the front and rear cameras used on the two variants are very different.

On paper, we are getting are the superior cameras, with larger pixels and greater aperture that theoretically result in better under low-light photos. Also, our variant has dual pixel autofocus, which is allows the camera to focus really quickly.


Pricing & Variants – Very Affordable

S$299 for 32/3GB, S$349 for 64/4GB.

The Redmi Note 5 comes in 2 storage/RAM configurations in Singapore. The 32/3GB version will cost you S$299 and is only available in black and gold. Meanwhile, the 64/4GB one goes for S$349 and comes in blue, black or gold.


Design – Getting Repetitive…

Design isn’t too different from previous generations, new 18:9 display and dual camera setup on the rear.

There honestly isn’t a lot to talk about the Redmi Note 5’s design. It is very similar to the Redmi 5 Plus, with the most noticeable difference being the dual rear cameras at the top left corner, which resembles the iPhone X’s dual rear cameras.

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But like I have repeated myself in the Redmi 5 and Redmi 5 Plus review, this design is getting kind of stale at this point in time. While Xiaomi has tweaked the design slightly to improve its looks each year, it is still reminiscent of the Redmi Note 3.

On the front, we are getting an 18:9 5.99″ display, like on the Redmi 5 Plus. The front camera, flash and ambient light sensor position are mirror imaged though, the screen protector is slightly different for both devices. Just Xiaomi being Xiaomi.

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On the top we have an IR blaster for remote control and a microphone. Meanwhile, at the the bottom, you will find the single speaker grill, micro USB port, another microphone, as well as the headphone jack. Very similar to the Redmi 5 Plus.

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The rear cameras protrudes quite a bit even with the included case, so I place it down with screen facing the table most of the time. Annoying, but if it is required for the superb camera, which I will cover in a short while, the compromise is worth it.


Display – 18:9, Like Most of 2018’s Budget Phones

Similar to Redmi 5 Plus. Enable full screen gestures to make full use of the 18:9 display.

Redmi Note 5 uses an 18:9 5.99″ FHD+ IPS LCD panel, like the Redmi 5 Plus, but they are not the same panel, with colors appearing deeper on the Redmi Note 5. Redmi Note 5’s display is slightly on the cool side and viewing angles are excellent.

By default, the Redmi Note 5 uses on-screen navigation buttons. If you find that a waste of screen estate, you can enable full-screen gestures, which hides the on-screen navigation bar and uses iPhone X-like gestures for navigation instead.

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A flaw with this full screen gestures though is that you are no longer able to access one-handed mode.


Performance – New Snapdragon 636 Processor!

Very powerful processor for the price.

Powered by the Snapdragon 636 processor, the Redmi Note 5 is the most powerful Redmi device til date, scoring 1320 single-core and 4845 multi-core in Geekbench 4.0 and a whopping 117495 in AnTuTu benchmarks. Not bad for a S$349 device.

But benchmarks do not always reflect the true performance of a device, as seen from my Neffos N1 review. So how well does the Redmi Note 5 perform in real life? Very well actually.

Scrolling through MIUI is as smooth as ever, browsing social media is a very pleasant experience and light games run without issues. Even in graphic intensive games like PUBG and 王者荣耀, the Redmi Note 5 runs smoothly with little to no stutter.


Rear Camera – Is This Really a S$349 Device?!!!

Takes very impressive low-light photos for a budget phone, focuses really quickly due to dual pixel autofocus.

There are two reasons to get the Redmi Note 5 over the more affordable Redmi 5 Plus and one of them is the gaming performance, as seen earlier. The other is camera performance. On the rear, Redmi Note 5 is equipped with a pair of cameras.

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The main camera is 12MP with f/1.9 aperture, with pixel size of 1.4μm. Theoretically, this makes the Redmi Note 5’s rear camera a beast under low light. It also has dual pixel autofocus, which allows it to focus really quickly on subjects.

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In fact, it focuses so fast that you do not even see the circle icon that shows it trying to hunt for focus in the app. You can compare it to the Redmi 5, shown below. So much faster.

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Here are some photos taken with the Redmi Note 5’s rear camera. With good lighting, the Redmi Note 5 takes beautiful images with accurate colors. But this is what we have come to expect from most phones, even budget ones under S$200.

Moving to low lighting conditions though, this is when things get unbelievable. Photos turn out a tad bit over saturated, but are well focused, with plenty of details and the sky actually looks black, not overexposed like on similarly priced devices.

However, that does not mean that the Redmi Note 5’s rear camera can compete with modern flagship device’s camera under low light. At night, the Redmi Note 5 still struggles with moving objects, especially smaller ones like this flower.

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Meanwhile, its 5MP secondary camera is used mainly for depth sensing, allowing for beautiful bokeh photos, like the ones you see below. It is not perfect at detecting edges though, especially when it gets dark or when the subject is to complex.

While the Redmi Note 5’s rear camera setup is still no fight for modern day flagship devices, it is leaps and bounds better than what we have ever seen on any budget device.

As for videos, the Redmi Note 5 can record up to 1080p. There is electronic image stabilization and it does quite a good job, though I have seen better. Like with photos, the Redmi Note 5 focuses really fast in videos, so they look very good.

At night though, you will see a lot of noise and a lot of details are lost, but colors still look good. I would say that the video is just barely usable. Hence, if you need to record videos at night, you might still want to pay more for flagship devices.


Selfie Camera – Bokeh on Selfies!

Finally getting bokeh selfies on a Redmi device!

On the front of the Redmi Note 5 we have a 13MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. Pictures turn out pretty good for a S$349 device, with plenty of details but colors tend to be a little washed out, like most smartphone selfie cameras I have used.

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What is a selfie camera without Beautify? On the Redmi Note 5, AI is used to determine the best beauty profile. This results in selfies that hides most of your facial imperfections, yet without the “unnatural” look that haunts previous versions of Beautify.

Also, through the use of AI, Xiaomi brings portrait mode to the front camera. The edge detection is pretty commendable considering that there is no secondary camera. But it has difficulties detecting small objects, like earphone cables.

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Audio – An Improvement Over Its Predecessor

Audio from headphone jack sounds great, bottom-firing speaker is a huge improvement from the Redmi Note 4.

Listening with my JBL Synchros S300i headphones, I compared the Redmi Note 5’s headphone jack output to the Redmi 5’s. Redmi Note 5 had less emphasis on bass while the highs it produced had less distortion compared to the Redmi 5.

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I found listening to Redmi 5 to be more lively and magical, while the Redmi Note 5 sounded more natural. Despite their differences, I will say that both sound very good when you put them against other phones in the same price range.

As for the bottom-firing speakers, both can get quite loud, but clarity is quite a bit better on the Redmi 5. But compared to Redmi Note 4’s bottom-firing speaker, the Redmi Note 5’s is just so much cleaner and louder. Big improvements.


Battery Life – 1.5 Days of Regular Usage

Very long endurance, though not as long as its predecessor.

When the Redmi Note 3 launched, its huge 4000mAh battery made it an endurance beast. Then, with a less power hungry processor and a slightly larger 4100mAh battery, the Redmi Note 4 had even better battery life than its predecessor.

Then, Xiaomi went back to a 4000mAh battery on the Redmi Note 5. The Redmi 5 Plus that I reviewed earlier also had a 4000mAh battery, but its endurance wasn’t as impressive as I had hope. So how is the endurance of the Redmi Note 5?

Unfortunately, not as good as the Redmi Note 4. I only had time to conduct a single light to moderate usage test and on a single charge, the Redmi Note 5 lasted for 2 full days with 5h sot.

  • Total time 1d 14h 33min
  • Screen-on time 5h
  • 1h 3min 王者荣耀
  • 40min Soul Knights
  • 45min Facebook
  • 53min music
  • >2h hotspot

Most people will spend more time on their phone than I did during the test, so on regular usage, the Redmi Note 5 should last about 1.5 days, similar to the Redmi 5 Plus. It is very good for a smartphone, but Redmi Note 4’s battery life was better.


Software – New Camera App Layout

MIUI stays mostly untouched, except for new camera app.

Redmi Note 5 runs MIUI 9.5 on top of Android 8.1 Oreo. Xiaomi likes to keep the software experience universal across their device, so the features you will find here is mostly the same as what you would find on other Xiaomi devices.

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One notable change though is the camera app. Instead of a menu for the different modes, you now get to switch between modes with a swipe, like on iOS. Xiaomi also replaced the old color filters with new ones, while removing all the effect filters.

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MIUI is very feature-packed, yet it doesn’t feel too bloated. All of the features in MIUI are very well implemented and only features that will add convenience, like currency converter, are included in MIUI. No gimmicky features, minimal bloatware.


Conclusion – Camera Phone on Budget!

If you are on a tight budget and need a phone with good camera, the Redmi Note 5 is your best option right now.

In recent years, budget devices are getting so good that you can find ones that perform exceptionally well in various aspects: build quality (Neffos N1), performance (Redmi Note 3) and battery life (Redmi Note 4). But camera wasn’t one of them.

Until now. As one of the costliest part of a smartphone, camera is often the factor that separates budget devices from premium devices. Redmi Note 5 is trying to change that and while its camera is still not up there yet, it is very close.

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If you are currently using a Redmi Note 4, should you get a Redmi Note 5? Yes! Unlike moving from a Redmi Note 3 to Note 4, the improvements brought by the Redmi Note 5 is pretty drastic and it is better than its predecessor in almost every way.

OPPO R15 Unboxing

For years, OPPO’s R series was known for its premium metal design, superb selfie camera and VOOC fast charging. But this year, OPPO is changing things up a bit, opting for a glass back on the R15 and R15 Pro, with a metal frame around the devices.

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Is OPPO R15 the R11s successor we were waiting for? Is it worth S$749? With a new competitor in town, will OPPO be able to hold onto its crown in the premium mid-range smartphone market? All of this will be answered in my full review.

But before I spend two weeks testing the R15, here is my unboxing and first impression of the all new OPPO R15.


Unboxing – Very OPPO, As Usual

If you have unboxed an OPPO R series device from the past 3-4 years, you already know what to expect in the box of the R15. As usual, we get a clear case inside the box. A screen protector has also been pre-applied on the front and back of the device.

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Below the device, you will find 3 other accessories: VOOC fast charging Micro USB cable and wall adapter, plus a pair of earphones. These are no ordinary cable or quick charge wall adapter – you will need them in order to fast charge the R15.

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As always, the VOOC cable is coiled up really nicely, held in place by 2 clips. This shows OPPO’s attention to details and is something many smartphone manufacturers should learn. It is small things like this that gives users a great first impression.


First Impression – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Design

As mentioned earlier, the R15 has a glass back unlike its recent predecessors, which all boasts beautifully crafted metal bodies. It is hard to deny that the R15 isn’t beautiful from the rear, with an eye-catching purple gradient design. (Also available in red)

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But the move to glass comes with compromises. Glass adds bulk to the device and without curves on the side, the OPPO R15 feels thick compared to its predecessors. If OPPO had followed what Vivo did with the X21, the R15 would feel a lot nicer.

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Next, the front of the device looks just like almost every other smartphone of this price range in 2018; It has a notch on top, with tiny bezels on the side and a short bottom chin.

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If I had replaced the image above with one of the Vivo X21, I believe most people would not even notice that it isn’t an R15.

Rear Cameras

Both the R11 and R11s had a dual camera setup on its rear, so it isn’t surprising that the R15 has it too. The primary camera houses a 16MP IMX519 sensor, which is supposedly better than the R11 and R11’s IMX398 under low light due to larger pixels.

Meanwhile, the secondary camera is unfortunately now a 5MP shooter with f/2.2 aperture, used mainly for depth sensing. I wish OPPO had used the same secondary camera as on the costlier R15 Pro, which is 20MP with an f/1.7 aperture.

You will understand why I say that once you read my full review, but meanwhile, here are some photos taken with the OPPO R15’s rear camera. Some of them are taken on portrait mode, which adds bokeh effect and color filters.

For portrait mode, you get automatically zoomed in, so subjects appear nearer than they actually are, thus you don’t have to get too close to your subject. However, I do notice that the R15 has some difficulties focusing on near objects on portrait mode.

Front Camera

On the front of the R15 we have a single 20MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. Yes, the resolution is very high for a front-facing camera, but what really caught my attention is its ability to reproduce colors that are more accurate than most other phones.

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Most phones I have used recently tend to produce images that are a little washed out, which is very noticeable when you have a dark background. Hence, the R15’s selfie camera could potentially be one of the best you can get right now.

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Like the rear cameras, the selfie camera on the R15 is capable of taking bokeh photos. Despite not having a secondary camera for depth sensing, the results of the bokeh seems to be really impressive, with very accurate edge detection. Nice!

One of OPPO’s most popular selfie feature is AI Beautify and through AI, the R15 selects the best beautification profile for you. It works really well, as you can see in the 2 images above. You can hardly see the pimples I got from going outfield 2 days ago.

Software

OPPO R15 runs on ColorOS 5.0. Having experienced Color OS for multiple generations, I must say that it has gotten a lot better over the years, with the latest version 5.0 feeling the most refined in terms of design and implementation of features.

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If you ask me right now: In what way is the OPPO R15 better than the similarly priced Vivo X21? I can confidently reply that ColorOS is just much more polished than FunTouch OS. In fact, I might even go as far as saying that it feels nicer than MIUI.

I will go into more details in my full review.


Conclusion – Promising, But What About the R15 Pro?

For now, the OPPO R15 looks very promising. But when you take a look at its sibling, the R15 Pro, which only costs S$150 more, you will wonder why the difference between both devices is so huge. Is there any reason to get the R15 then?

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Unlike the R15 Pro, R15 does not have NFC or ingress protection, and is powered by MediaTek’s Helio P60 processor instead of Snapdragon 660. Also, as mentioned earlier, it uses an inferior 5MP f/2.2 secondary rear camera, vs 20MP f/1.7 on the R15 Pro.

I will try to get my hands on a R15 Pro review unit in the next few weeks. But for now, I will be working on my OPPO R15 and Redmi Note 5 review, both coming very soon, so stay tuned!

Vivo X21 Review

Without a doubt, in-display fingerprint scanner is going to be one of this year’s hottest smartphone trend. Vivo’s X21 is the first phone to receive this new technology, and we can expect to see a lot more phones with it in the near future.

But there is a lot more to the Vivo X21 than its in-display fingerprint scanner and even without it, the X21 is one excellent device. Without further ado, here is my review of the Vivo X21. Huge thanks to Vivo Singapore for lending me the review unit.


Summary – The New King of Premium Mid-Rangers

Vivo X21 is a beautiful premium mid-range device that gets a lot of things right. While not perfect, I really enjoyed my time with it and I am sure you will too.

Pros:

  • Eye-catching design, great feel in hand
  • Case, screen protector & earphones included
  • Large 6.28″ 19:9 Super AMOLED display
  • UI and most games run smoothly without a hitch
  • Fun and easy-to-use camera app
  • Very respectable camera performance for price
  • Great sounding bottom firing speaker
  • Face unlock works well, even in low light
  • Supports fast charging with included wall adapter

Cons:

  • Still using Micro USB
  • Limited app support for split screen
  • No NFC and wireless charging despite glass back
  • In-display fingerprint scanner slow, difficult to set up

Others:

  • UI is better now, but still has room for improvement
  • Battery lasts through a day of moderate usage

Variants & Pricing – Reasonable

Compared to competing products in the same category, the Vivo X21 is reasonably priced at S$799. It is only available in Black at the moment, with 128GB ROM and 6GB RAM.

In Singapore, the 128/6GB Vivo X21 will cost you S$799 off-contract. This places it between rival OPPO’s R15 (S$749) and R15 Pro (S$899), both also with 128GB ROM and 6GB RAM, so I would say that the X21 is priced reasonably.

In case 128GB of storage is not enough for you, the Vivo X21 is also expandable via a Micro SD card up to 256GB. The SIM tray is a hybrid one, accepting either 2 nano SIM cards or one nano SIM card plus a Micro SD card.

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At the moment, it is only available in black here in Singapore. I hope Vivo will bring in the red and white versions. Most of the accessories you will need come with the X21, including a pre-applied screen protector, case and earphones.


Design – Calling it Magnificent is an Understatement

A glass phone that feels thin!

You may have noticed that many phones this year are ditching metal uni-body for a glass back. The Vivo X21 is one of them, featuring a glass back that is curved at the sides, with a metal frame around the device that is equally reflective.

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The metal frame curves at a steep angle in the middle, which creates an illusion that makes the phone feel thinner in the hand. We have seen the same trick on OPPO’s R11s, which unfortunately was excluded from OPPO’s latest device, the R15.

With the steep curves around the center of the metal frame, you also get a better grip. This is especially important for a phone with a glass back; you don’t want to drop it. But if you are still concerned about breaking it, put on the included case.

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On the top, we have a headphone jack (hooray!) and a microphone. At the bottom, we have a single speaker grill, a Micro USB port, as well as a SIM tray. A little disappointing to see Micro USB on a device that costs close to S$800 in 2018.

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The left side of the X21 is completely empty, while the power and volume buttons sit on the right side, as usual. Now, to most exciting yet controversial aspect of the design: the display in front.

Why controversial? Like almost every other non-budget smartphones in 2018, the X21 has a notch on top, with tiny side bezels and a small chin below the 19:9 6.28″ display. Place it beside an Honor 10 or OnePlus 6 and have fun guessing which is which.

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Despite being “Black” according to Vivo’s website, the X21 looks more grayish under sunlight, especially with its reflective properties. Overall, I am very impressed by the design of the X21 and I am sure you will too when you use it.


Display – Not(ch) Bad Eh?

It has a notch, but there is nothing else to complain about.

Love Samsung’s smartphone displays? Then you will love this display too. The Vivo X21 uses a 19:9 6.28″ FHD+ Super AMOLED display. This display is very bright and a little over-saturated, with excellent viewing angles. A nice display.

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As you may expect from AMOLED technology, blacks are super deep as only required portions are lit up. Vivo uses this to show a fingerprint icon for the in-display fingerprint scanner when the screen is off. If only Vivo added always-on display…

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Vivo knows that the notch might obstruct certain buttons in some games, so they have something called “Safe Area Display”, which is basically running the games in 16:9, avoiding the notch. This can be disabled in the settings app.

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Performance – Good Enough for its Intended Audience

The Snapdragon 660 processor inside is good enough for most users but the most hardcore gamers. This phone ain’t designed for hardcore gamers anyways.

As a premium mid-range device, the Vivo X21 isn’t meant for hardcore mobile gaming. That said, with a Snapdragon 660 processor and 6GB of RAM, scrolling through the UI is butter smooth and most games run without a hitch.

Even on graphic-intensive games like PUBG Mobile and 王者荣耀, with graphics on balance and frame rate at medium in PUBG Mobile, the Vivo X21 did not stutter. Even when there is a lot of action going on, the X21 held up well.

Hence, it is no surprise that the Vivo X21 performed well in benchmarks, scoring 1615 (single-core)/ 5673 (multi-core) on Geekbench 4 and 129404 on AnTuTu.


Rear Camera – That Bokeh Mode

Capable of taking stunning bokeh photos and selfies Capable of 4K video recording, but you will want to record in 1080p for better stabilization.

On the rear, the Vivo X21 is equipped with a pair of cameras: a 12MP dual pixel main camera with f/1.8 aperture and a 5MP secondary camera with f/2.4 aperture for depth sensing.

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Under sunlight and artificial lighting, the X21’s rear cameras produce stunning photos with pretty accurate colors and plenty of details. With a 5MP sensor for depth sensing, the X21 is not only capable of bokeh, but does it surprisingly well.

You can also use the rear camera to take selfies, with face beauty (beautify) and bokeh effect. With a few taps in the camera settings, you can use your palm to activate the camera shutter, which makes taking selfie with the rear camera a lot easier.

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I (shamelessly) used the Vivo X21 to take a couple of photos for an upcoming review and the photos look so good! I shall not reveal too much but here is one of them. Look at that bokeh. Breathtaking! Tempted to get a X21 after I return this review unit.

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At night, the X21 is capable of taking good looking images that are still worthy to be posted on Instagram, but there is quite a bit of noise and the lost in detail is quite apparent.

Vivo X21 is capable of shooting up to 4K videos at 30fps. Don’t get too excited though. While colors do look good, 4K videos turn out blurry due to bad stabilization (if there is even stabilization). Will not recommend using it without a tripod.

On the other hand, 1080p videos turn out to be a lot more stable, even as I walked faster. This results in footage that looks much nicer, so you will want to shoot in 1080p most of the time.


Front Camera – AR Stickers!

For a front camera, the Vivo X21’s selfie shooter is very good, but the rear camera produces much better selfies. Ladies will love the AR sticker function.

Similar to the rear, the front of the Vivo X21 houses a 12MP dual pixel camera, but this time with an aperture of f/2.0. Selfies turn out a little soft with poor dynamic range, but compared to the competition it is already among the best

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The front facing camera on the Vivo X21 is capable of bokeh mode and it works well too, even without a secondary depth sensing camera. But whenever possible, I would still use the rear camera for selfies as the image quality is just much better.

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One thing I really enjoyed about the selfie camera is the AR Sticker mode, similar to what you get on Snapchat. While it is also available on the rear camera, it is a lot more fun when you can see yourself in the display.  My sister is addicted to it!


Audio – Great Speakers, Decent Headphone Output

Bottom-firing speaker severely lacks bass, but vocals sound good. Meanwhile, listening via headphones, the X21 emphasizes too much on bass, crippling the mids.

Listening with my 1MORE 1M301, the X21 emphasizes a little too much on bass, overshadowing and even losing quite a bit of details in the mids. While I do not get the “silent headphone jack” problem like on the V7+, it doesn’t sound as good as Redmi 5.

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With so little room in the front, the Vivo X21 could only house a single bottom-firing speaker. Compared to the Redmi 5, its sound isn’t as vibrant and bass sounds tiny even for a smartphone, but vocals sound less constricted and more natural.


Unlocking – Face > In-Display Fingerprint Scanner

The reliability of the fingerprint scanner depends on how well you set it up, but the setup process is tedious and frustrating. Meanwhile, face unlock works surprisingly well.

A key feature of the Vivo X21, one that sets it apart from most smartphones we have today, is the in-display fingerprint scanner. Unfortunately, it is pretty slow (0.6s) and if you don’t set it up properly, it will often fail to recognize your fingerprint.

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The setup process was one of the most annoying that I have been through, rejecting scans frequently and failing after multiple rejections. For best results. you want to scan your entire thumb, but it is very difficult to do so when it keeps failing.

From my testing, the best way to set it up is to avoid scanning near your fingernail. Also, the app may ask you to press deeper, but I found that to make things worst. Instead, holding down for a longer time (about 1 whole second) seems to help.

Meanwhile, Face Unlock on the X21 is quick and works well in different lighting conditions. Turn on “raise to wake” and the device will unlock instantly when you pick it up. Sweet! This has been my default unlocking method since day 1.

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Endurance & Charging – Fast Charging!!!

Lasts through a day with moderate usage. Fast charging supported with the included wall adapter! For best results, turn of the device while charging.

Powering the Vivo X21 is a 3200mAh battery. In my test, it got through a full day on moderate usage with ease, with 23% battery remaining at the end of the day. To estimate screen-on time, I subtracted the idle duration from RF service duration.

Total duration = 15h

Screen-On Time = 5h 12min

Main usage:

  • 46min Facebook
  • 40min YouTube
  • 22min Instagram
  • 1h17min music
  • 37min Xiaomi AI
  • 36min light games (Jetpack Joyride & Connection)

With heavier usage, the Vivo X21 will require charging halfway through the day. But considering that this phone is targeted at the less tech-savvy who is unlikely to use their phones so heavily, the battery endurance of the X21 is acceptable.

In my unboxing article, I mentioned that the Vivo X21 comes with a 9V 2A wall adapter, which could be a hint that the X21 supports fast charging. And that is indeed true. To test the charging speed and power drawn, I drained the X21 to under 5% battery.

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There are 3 scenarios to consider: screen on, screen off and device off. In all 3 scenarios, my USB tester read 7.45V, but the current differed, at 1.2A, 1.6A and 1.85A respectively. Hence, to achieve max charging speed, we should power off the device.

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Next, I charged the X21, powered off, from 3% battery. After 30min, the phone was at 62% and at the 1 hour mark, it had hit 93%. So if you forgot to charge your phone the previous night, an hour’s charge should get you through the entire day.


Software – Better, Still has Room for Improvement

More enjoyable to use than previous versions, but some of the flaws from before hasn’t been addressed.

If you have read my Vivo V7+ review, you will know that I was not a fan of Vivo’s Funtouch OS as it felt unpolished at that point in time. Now that we are at version 4.0, has it gotten any better? In my opinion, yes and a little bit of no.

Some of my concerns hasn’t been addressed: the weird app naming is still here and split screen added support for a few more apps but it still isn’t as good as stock Android’s.

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However, I must say that Funtouch OS feels a lot nicer now, with more modern icons and a curvier design that matches the curved corners of the display. Navigation gestures now has a tutorial and the gesture for one-handed mode seem more responsive.

There are a couple of features in Funtouch OS 4.0 that I really like. There is a gaming mode that removes distractions and obstructions when you are gaming on your Vivo X21. You can even add some non-game apps like Facebook!

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When watching videos on YouTube and a WhatsApp message comes in, you get a tiny icon bubble instead of the normal notification bubble that blocks 1/3 of your screen. Tapping on the bubble will open WhatsApp in split screen.

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Conclusion – The X21 Doesn’t Disappoint

If you are a hardcore gamer, you will not like the X21’s Snapdragon 660 processor, but the device ain’t meant for you anyways. For everyone else, while the Vivo X21 may not sound too impressive on paper, you will really enjoy using it.

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Want to get the Vivo X21 after reading this article? You can purchase it from M1 and StarHub for S$799 off-contract or at one of Vivo Singapore’s authorized distributors, listed on their website.