Redmi Note 5 Unboxing & First Impression + Experiential Event

Yesterday, Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 5 in Singapore, available in two storage configurations: S$299 for the 32/3GB version and S$349 for the 64/4G version. Wait a minute, haven’t we reviewed the Redmi 5 Plus aka Redmi Note 5?

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Thank Xiaomi’s confusing naming scheme for that. The local Redmi 5 Plus is known as the Redmi Note 5 in India. Meanwhile, the local Redmi Note 5, which is the device we will be taking a look at today, is called the Redmi Note 5 Pro in India.

I attended the experiential event today and got to understand the Redmi Note 5 better. At the same time, I was able to borrow a review unit to test out over the next week, so I will be unboxing the device in this article as well. Two articles in one!

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Unboxing – Another Orange Box

Perhaps to save money on packaging design, all of Xiaomi’s recent Redmi devices come in an orange box, with the device name stated on the front. Pulling off the lid, you will find a clear case and right below it is the Redmi Note 5.

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At the bottom of the box, you will find a wall adapter, a Micro USB cable, the SIM removal tool, as well as a user manual. Would have been nice if a screen protector was included.

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First Impression – The Real Redmi Note 5!

Design

The Redmi Note 5 is very similar to the Redmi 5 Plus in terms of design, with the main differences being the rear camera position (due to the new dual camera setup), as well as the position of the camera, flash and ambient light sensor on the front.

So my impression of this design is the same as my verdict for the Redmi 5 Plus’s design, at least for now: too similar to the Redmi Note 3 and 4, getting a little stale. It is not a bad design, but reusing it for more than 2 years is just being lazy.

Rear Cameras

One thing that differentiates the Redmi Note 5 from the Redmi 5 Plus is the pair of cameras on the rear. This is the first time we are seeing a dual camera setup on a Redmi device.

The main camera comes with a 12MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture. It uses dual-pixel auto focus, which previously could only be found on much costlier flagship and premium mid-range device. This allows it to focus extremely quickly.

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The secondary 5MP camera is used for depth sensing and it works with AI edge detection to take bokeh images in portrait mode. I didn’t have anyone to test it on after unboxing, so here is a photo of durian ice-cream with biscuits in portrait mode.

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In the past, Redmi devices struggled to take photos in the dark, but that may not be the case anymore. The Redmi Note 5’s main 12MP camera has large 1.4µm pixels, which allows more light to enter, theoretically resulting in better low-light photos.

The photo below was taken with the Redmi Note 5 at night. I had taken a photo of the same artwork in my Redmi Note 4 review and there was a ton of noise, even though the sun had not completely set yet. The improvement is just unbelievable.

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That said, there are limitations to this camera at night. It is unable to focus on objects moving at night, resulting in blur. From what I have seen, it has the potential to compete with some S$700 devices, but I wouldn’t compare it to modern flagships.

For videos, the Redmi Note 5 has EIS for stabilization, so videos should turn out better. Sadly, it is only able to record up to 1080p videos on the rear camera. (Already have some recordings, but I am saving it for the full review. Stay tuned for that!)

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Front Camera

Front cameras on past Redmi devices are admittedly not very good, even on the recent Redmi 5 and 5 Plus. But with the Redmi Note 5, Xiaomi opted for a 13MP sensor. How does it perform?

Like the rear camera, the front camera is also capable of bokeh, called depth effect. Since it doesn’t have a secondary depth sensor though, the bokeh is created purely by AI edge detection. From my few minutes of testing it, it did a great job.

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But what isn’t so great is the color reproduction. Images taken with the selfie camera on the Redmi Note 5 seems to be a little pale, though a little bit of editing might do the trick.

What is a selfie camera without beautify? On the Redmi Note 5, Beautify got smarter with AI, just like we have seen last year on the OPPO R11s. The image on top that I used to demonstrate portrait mode was taken with Beautify enabled.

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Performance

Redmi Note 5 is the first device to be powered by the Snapdragon 636, with 8 Kyro 260 cores. I have never used a device with it before so I do not know what to expect from it, but I will be putting it through thorough testing in my full review.

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Battery

Like the Redmi 5 Plus, the Redmi Note 5 has a 4000mAh non-removable battery. In my review, the Redmi 5 Plus didn’t do as well as its predecessors, so I hope the Redmi Note 5 will do better. Will the new processor be more efficient?

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Experiential Event – Claw Machine!

From 1st June to 3rd June 2018, spend more than S$99 at Mi Home Suntec City and you will get a chance at the claw machine! Attractive prizes are to be won, including power banks, VR headsets, smart watches and even an electric scooter!

You can also get free cotton candy too! No spending is required, but why not get yourself some really affordable Mi gadgets? The 5000mAh Mi Power Bank is going at only S$9.90!


Conclusion – Another Year, Another Redmi Note

When I tested the Redmi 5 Plus a while back, I wasn’t very impressed as it didn’t offer a lot of improvements. With the new dual rear camera setup and a better processor, is the Redmi Note 5 the Redmi Note 4 successor we have been waiting for?

Vivo X21 Unboxing & First Impression

For the last 3 years, OPPO’s R series devices dominated the premium mid-range market in Singapore. But there is a new competitor in town and it is one that OPPO should be afraid of. This new competitor is no other than Vivo and their X series.

For those that are unaware, Vivo is OPPO’s main competitor/rival back in their homeland. Both companies sell similarly specced and priced products, spend a ton of money on advertisement and open a lot of physical stores in China.

Vivo is finally bringing their premium mid-range X series to Singapore with the X21 priced at S$799, available at M1 and StarHub. In this article, we will be taking a quick look at the Vivo X21. (Full review coming soon. Stay tuned!)


Unboxing – All You Need is Included!

The box of the X21 looks exquisite. It also gets a lot of attention, but probably for the wrong reason. Vivo is the official smartphone sponsor for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and judging from the design of the box, they are very proud of that.

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Inside the box, you will find everything you need: wall adapter and Micro USB cable, earphones, SIM removal tool, user manual and a case. A screen protector has even been applied, so you do not need to pay extra for any basic phone accessories.

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The website doesn’t say anything about fast charging, but the wall adapter supports 9V 2A, so what gives? Does the Vivo X21 support fast charging? I will leave that for my full review.

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First Impression – What OPPO’s R15 Should Have Been

With last year’s iPhones switching from metal to glass housing, many manufacturers are following suit; Vivo and OPPO are no exception. With a grayish glass back and a black metal frame, both really reflective, the X21 is one eye-catching device.

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Despite both having a glass back and metal frame, the Vivo X21 feels a lot nicer in the hand compared to OPPO’s R15. Why? The X21’s rear glass is curved at the sides and the metal frame is curved sharply in the middle, making it feel thin.

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Meanwhile, OPPO’s R15 feels light but thick, losing the appeal of its predecessors, the R11 and R11s. I may be a huge fan of OPPO, but if you were to ask me to choose between the X21 and the R15’s design, I would pick the X21 without hesitation.

Yes! The headphone jack is still here, located at the top.

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Unlike most phones I have seen, the SIM tray of the X21 is located at the bottom, so you can swap SIM cards even with the included case on. Beside it is the Micro USB port, as well as a single speaker grill. Micro USB on a S$799 2018 device? Hmm…

Now, to the front. Like most phones coming out in 2018, the X21’s display has very little bezel, and a notch. To be honest, the notch isn’t as bothersome as many reviewers paint it out to be.

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Next, the most exciting aspect of the device, but also the most disappointing one, is the in-display fingerprint scanner. The X21 is the first smartphone to have a fingerprint scanner under its display and that sounds very cool, until you use it.

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Setting up my fingerprint on the X21 was a torturous process, with many failed attempts. Unlocking the device was also slow and prone to failures with the in-display fingerprint scanner. Clearly, the technology isn’t ready for prime time yet.

On the other hand, the face unlock on the Vivo X21 works fabulously, detecting my face quickly in various lighting conditions. It may not be as secure as fingerprint, but I have resorted to using it over the in-display fingerprint scanner due to its speed.

As for the cameras, I want to keep most of the surprises for my full review, but I can confidently say that the Vivo X21’s cameras produces incredible photos for a under S$800 device, both front and back. Here are sample shots I took with the cameras:

The Vivo X21 runs Funtouch OS 4.0, an updated version of what we saw on the V7+ earlier this year. The layout remain almost untouched, but its design has been refined and some of my concerns were addressed. A huge improvement.


Conclusion – A Very Promising Device

Over the next few days, I will being testing out different aspects of the Vivo X21 and will be covering all of them in my full review. I am loving what I have seen thus far and have very high hopes for the Vivo X21. Stay tuned for my full review!

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Love the Vivo X21’s AR stickers!!!

 

TP-Link Neffos N1 Unboxing

You may know TP-Link for their network products, but did you know they make phones too? Today, we will be unboxing their latest mid-range smartphone, the Neffos N1, which you can purchase from TP-Link’s authorized distributors for S$368.

Huge thanks to TP-Link Singapore for loaning me this Neffos N1 review unit. All opinions below are of my own.


Unboxing – Out of Battery?!!!

The Neffos N1’s packaging is easily identifiable, with an image of the N1 printed at the front of the box. Shaking off the cover, which requires breaking 2 seals on the sides, we are greeted with the phone, sitting right on top of the box.

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Let’s put the phone aside first. There are 2 boxes of accessories. Inside the box with the SIM removal tool is a tempered glass screen protector, as well as some paperwork.

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In the second box you will find a pair of earphones (with 3.5mm connector) , a wall adapter with fast charging, as well as a USB Type-C cable. Finally we get Type-C on a budget phone!

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I do wish that a clear case was included with the N1 though. Considering how uncommon Neffos devices are in Singapore, getting a case for the N1 would be a challenge.

Back to the phone. After peeling off the sticker on the front and rear, I powered on the phone, only to get a message that the phone would be turning off in a couple of seconds. Oops! What is going on? Then I look at the battery indicator. 1%…

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That says 2 things about the Neffos N1: (1) Not even TP-Link opened the box to charge the device, so you can be very sure that the phone is completely new. (2) This device probably sat in the warehouse for a really long time.


First Impression – An Unusual 2018 Budget Phone

Display

Most phones in 2018 come with an 18:9 display, but the Neffos N1 isn’t one of them. 16:9 is not a big deal; the thing that bothers me are the top and bottom chins. With so many phones going almost bezeless, the thick chins make the N1 feel dated.

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Design

Right below the display are the back-lit navigation buttons. The left and right buttons are not fixed: you can assign either one to be the “Back” button and the other will be the “Recent” button.

Turning to the rear, we see a familiar design. Where have we seen this before? *Cough* Huawei P9 *Cough* While not the most original, the design of the Neffos N1 looks really sleek and the build quality is comparable to some over S$600 devices.

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Power button is located on the right, with the SIM tray above it. On the left we have the volume buttons and a mute switch. Having used the iPhone SE as my daily driver for 2 years, I can attest that mute switch is not just for show. It is really useful!

Front & Rear Cameras

Neffos N1 is equipped with dual 12MP cameras on the rear: one RGB and the other monochrome, similar to Huawei’s implementation. Below is a sample shot taken with the Neffos N1 with HDR on. More photos in my full review.

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The 8MP front camera of the Neffos N1 has 86° wide angle, much wider than what you get on a typical selfie camera. Sweet! Images taken with it do not seem to be very sharp, but look alright if you do not zoom in. Beautify is a little weak.

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Others

Out of the box, Neffos N1 runs NFUI 7.0 on top of Android 7.1.1 Nougat. Although it doesn’t have an app drawer, NFUI is a lot closer to stock Android than heavily modified Android skins, like MIUI and EMUI or even ColorOS.

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Bloatware is minimal and instead of building its own gallery, music and calendar app, TP-Link made Google Photos, Play Music and Calendar the default apps, basically reducing the number of duplicate apps on the Neffos N1. Sweet!

The fingerprint scanner on the rear is quite fast, but there is a little bit of delay before the screen lights up, making it feel slower. The SIM tray contains one slot for a nano SIM and a hybrid slot that accepts either a nano SIM or Micro SD card.


Conclusion

At S$368, the Neffos N1 competes with devices like the Redmi 5 Plus (64/4GB) and Honor 7x. It doesn’t have the beautiful 18:9 aspect ratio on the other 2 devices, but it tries to make up for it in other ways, build quality for example.

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I will be testing out the Neffos N1 more thoroughly in the next 2 days, before I return it back to TP-Link. There are a few areas I am really keen to test in my full review of the N1, most notably the rear camera, charging speed and WiFi performance.

Stay tuned for my full review!

Vivo V7+ Unboxing & First Impression

You may not have heard of Vivo, but they are one of the largest phone manufacturers from China. And no, they are not related to VivoCity. Recently, Vivo entered Singapore’s smartphone market, bringing two affordable devices: Y65 and V7+.

In this article, we will unbox the Vivo V7+ and take a quick look at its design, software and cameras. Huge thanks to Vivo Singapore for lending me the device to review.


Unboxing – All the Accessories You Need!

Vivo V7+ comes in rather uninspiring white box. Inside the box you will find the device, wall adapter and micro USB cable and a pair of headphones that looks a lot like Apple’s Earpods. A clear jelly case is also included in the box.

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First Impression – Looking Good

Display & Form Factor

Like most recent smartphones, the V7+ has an 18:9 display, so you will be able to see more in apps that support the 18:9 screen ratio. At 5.99″ HD+, the resolution is a little low for the size, but viewing angles are good and colors look pretty accurate.

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Similar to the Redmi 5 I tested recently, Vivo V7+ uses on-screen navigation bar, which eats up a portion of your screen. But the bottom chin here is quite a bit smaller than on the Redmi 5, so I can understand why capacitive buttons were not used.

Design

The design of the Vivo V7+ isn’t the most original we have seen, but there are some things that I really like about it. The sides are curved in a way that makes the phone feel thinner and the shiny silver accents around the device is really eye-catching.

Front & Rear Cameras

The rear camera on the Vivo V7+ is a 16MP shooter, with f/2.0 aperture and PDAF. We do not know a lot about this camera, but the photos I have taken with it looks promising. I will be testing the V7+’s rear camera more thoroughly in my full review.

Its 24MP front camera also has f/2.0 aperture. It has a selfie flash, like the Redmi 5, but this one seems a lot brighter, so bright it will hurt your eyes. The V7+’s selfie camera comes with some nifty features like portrait mode and face beauty (aka beautify).

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Others

Vivo V7+ runs FunTouch OS 3.2 on top of Android 7.1.2 out of the box. FunTouch is similar to OPPO’s ColorOS in many ways, even sharing the same TouchPal keyboard. One thing I wish they shared was the Settings app; FunTouch’s one is a mess.

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The fingerprint scanner on the rear is relatively quick. Alternatively, you can use the face recognition to unlock your device, which is surprisingly fast too. Not sure how accurate it is, but you do not have to use it if you do not feel it is secure.

If you are someone that likes to travel, you might be interested in the Vivo V7+. It has dual SIM slots and a dedicated SD card slot, which is pretty rare. Most phones use hybrid SIM trays, accepting only a SIM card plus SD card or a second SIM card.


Conclusion

At S$469, the Vivo V7+ seems costly at first, considering its specs. But after using it for a few minutes, I notice that there are a couple of things the V7+ can do really well, things that are often neglected on more affordable phones like the Redmi 5.

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Over the next few days, I will be using the Vivo V7+ as my daily driver, putting it through different usage scenarios and tests. My review of the V7+ will be coming very soon, so stay tuned!

Xiaomi Redmi 5 Unboxing & First Impression

In my Redmi Note 3 and Redmi Note 4 reviews, I praised them for their excellent bang-for-the-buck, offering superb performance and experience at a very low price. Now that another year has passed, we are getting a new generation of Redmi devices.

But this year, I will not be reviewing the Redmi Note 5, aka Redmi 5 Plus. Instead, we will be taking a look at the Redmi 5, its smaller and less powerful, but more affordable sibling. The Redmi 5 goes for S$179 (2/16GB) and S$219 (3/32GB) in Singapore.


Unboxing – Clear Case Now Included!

The Redmi 5 comes in a striking Mi-orange box about the size of the Redmi Note 4’s, but thicker. Isn’t the Redmi 5 a smaller phone? Why is the packaging thicker? Unlike Redmi devices from the past, the Redmi 5 comes with a clear case in the box. Sweet!

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Other than that, you are getting the usual stuff: an instruction manual, SIM removal tool, charging cable and wall adapter.

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First Impression – Refreshing, But is It Really Better?

Display & Form Factor

The most significant update to the Redmi 5 is without a doubt the new 18:9 display. With it, you get more space vertically compared to its predecessor, the Redmi 4X. According to Xiaomi, this will allow for more room in games, web browsing and apps.

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But that also make it a taller phone, so using it one-handed is not as convenient as before. The height of the Redmi 5 is comparable to that of the Redmi Note 4. Thankfully, MIUI has a one-handed mode, which can be enabled in the settings.

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Xiaomi is using an on-screen navigation bar on the Redmi 5, so for most apps, you are actually getting just a tiny bit more screen real estate than before. I would have preferred a navigation bar on the lower chin instead, like on previous devices.

Rear Design

The rear of the phone will look very familiar to Redmi Note 3 and 4 users, but it is a considerable improvement if you are coming from the Redmi 4X. The camera lens is slightly protruding, but this should not be a concern if you have a case.

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Front & Rear Camera

Let’s talk more about the rear camera. It is still 12MP, but each individual pixel has been bumped up in size, theoretically taking in more light and producing better photos. Unlike the Redmi 5 Plus, the Redmi 5 only has a single LED flash on the rear.

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Take a look at the photos below. The ones on the left are taken with the Redmi Note 4, while those on the right are taken with the new Redmi 5. Which is better in your opinion?

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More sample shots will be provided in my full review. Moving on to the 5MP front camera, Xiaomi added a single LED light, located beside the ambient light sensor. But even with the flash light, selfies turn out decent at most under artificial/low lighting.

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Others

The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is as quick as ever and setting up requires just a few seconds. An IR blaster is located at the top of the device, so is a headphone jack. The Redmi 5 comes in three color options: gold, black and a beautiful new blue color.

One thing that really disappointed me on the Redmi 5 was the Micro USB port. While not many budget phones have USB Type-C yet, I was expecting Xiaomi to be the one that pushes for it. We may have to wait another year or two to retire Micro USB.

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From my image comparing the size of the Redmi 5 and the Redmi Note 4 on top, you may have noticed that the Redmi 5 has certification markings on the back, which was absent on the Redmi Note 4. Would have been nice if it wasn’t there, but not a big deal.


Conclusion

With many manufacturers using the 18:9 display as an excuse to hike price, I am really glad that Mi Singapore maintained last year’s pricing for the Redmi 5. I am looking forward to testing in the next couple of weeks, especially the rear camera.

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Do you have any questions regarding the Redmi 5 or 5 Plus? Comment below and I will try to address them on my Redmi 5 review. Would you also like to see a review on the Redmi 5 Plus? If you are, also leave a comment and I will try to borrow one.