SGiNO 6 Review

One of the most important and costliest aspect of modern smartphone is its cameras. In the past 4 years, smartphone cameras have gotten so good that even some budget phones can take great photos in the dark, Redmi Note 5 for example.

But with cameras becoming so crucial, only a handful of manufacturers are producing non-camera phones. If you are working somewhere where cameras are prohibited, should you remove your phone’s camera or get a non-camera phone?

In this article, we will be taking a look at iNO’s latest non-camera smartphone, the SGiNO 6, available for preorder right now on iNO’s website for S$358. Is it any good? Let’s find out. Thanks to iNO for providing me with the device to review.


Summary – Not for the Masses

SGiNO 6 isn’t a very good device, so are most other non-camera phones out there. Get it only if you need one.

Pros:

  • Great looking glass back design
  • Doesn’t have a camera (great for Red Zones)
  • Supports wireless charging

Cons:

  • Not very value-for-money
  • Severe overheating issues
  • Poor gaming performance
  • Many small issues with internal design
  • Outdated UI

Others:

  • Decent battery life, slow charging
  • Close to stock Android

Design – Not Too Bad

Not the best glass back design I have seen. But on a phone where design doesn’t matter, having it is a bonus.

If you are getting a non-camera phone for work, you probably already have a fanciful smartphone you use outside of work, so the design of the non-camera phone shouldn’t really matter. That said, iNO went for a glass back design anyways.

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Compared to modern smartphones, the SGiNO 6 is thick and heavy, but the extra weight makes it feel well built. The design is very basic and it certainly isn’t the nicest looking or feeling glass smartphone, but it could have been much worse.

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About as thick as 5 twenty cent coins

A headphone jack is located at the top and on the bottom we have two speaker grills, though only the right one houses the speaker. On the right, we have the power button indicated by a shiny red marking, as well as the volume buttons.

On the right is the SIM tray. On my pre-production unit, the SIM tray ejector mechanism is located too deep inside, so SIM ejector tools cannot be used, but iNO says that it might be changed in the actual units that are going on sale. We shall see.

On the front, we have a 5.2″ 16:9 FHD display, with a speaker grill on the top and a fingerprint scanner on the bottom. For a device coming out in 2018, the top and bottom chins are very wide, but it is something I can definitely live with.

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As expected from a non-camera phone, there is not a single camera to be found on the SGiNO 6, though iNO kept the flashlight on the rear so you can still look for your stuff in the dark.

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Overall, the SGiNO 6’s design isn’t bad, but also isn’t very impressive for a 2018 smartphone. Considering that it is built for a niche market where looks doesn’t really matter in the first place, I can’t really complain about the design of the SGiNO 6.


Performance – Not for the Gamers

Sketchy benchmarks. Severe overheating. Poor real-life performance. Not for gamers.

Powered by a MediaTek 6750T, keep your expectations low if you want to game on the SGiNO 6. I was unable to get Geekbench 4 running and AnTuTu produced very sketchy results. Off to a bad start. Will the SGiNO 6 do any better in actual usage?

Even under light usage, the SGiNO 6 heats up quite a bit near its volume buttons. It gets worst when you play games on it, which is a little concerning. But you wouldn’t be gaming on the SGiNO 6 very often. It isn’t very good at it to be honest.

The SGiNO lags at the most unexpected times. Brawl Stars runs decently during gameplay as long as you have a stable connection to the internet, but struggles to load the animation of unlocking a new character. Huh? What is happening?

Something similar can be seen when you play Alto’s Odyssey. The game runs at a playable frame rate until your character hits a rock, then the phone will lag and you will see him falling in slow motion. Really strange indeed.

Heavier games like ROS can still run, but is very choppy. With some skill, it is playable, but the experience isn’t enjoyable. The overheating also gets to a point that I would consider uncomfortable. This device is just not for heavy gaming.

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Camera – There is None!

The absence of camera on the SGiNO 6 is the only reason you should pay so much for it.

If it isn’t very clear already, the SGiNO 6 does not have a camera and it is selling it as one of its key feature. But can we actually call not having cameras a feature? It seems kind of silly to pay more to not have one of the costliest parts of a phone.

But if you are the intended audience for the device, you probably do not have a choice. There isn’t a lot of alternatives out there due to low demand for non-camera phones, so if your work strictly requires one, this is one of your only options.

From my understanding, it is not that iNO is purposefully overpricing their phones, but that there is just not enough customers for them to produce them at a scale that would lower the cost. If only there was more demand for non-camera phones…

As you can see, we are stuck in a loop here. Without enough people buying them, there isn’t a way we can drive down the cost non-camera phones. But when the phone is priced so much higher than its camera counterparts, few are willing to pay for it.


Software – Outdated Design, Unrefined Experience

Close to stock Android, but design of certain apps are ancient and some features do not work very well.

SGiNO 6 may be running Android Oreo out of the box, but there are some aspects of the software that just feels so dated. The music app has this pre-Lollipop design and that compass app feels prehistoric. Also, some of those app icons are just bad…

There are many aspects of the software that are not very well implemented. For example, the “device usage” list in the settings app will only show battery consumed by certain apps, which is actually a problem for my battery tests below.

When connected to a WiFi network, the mobile data icon appears the same regardless if it is on or off, which can lead to a disaster: If you unknowingly left it on while downloading a huge file and WiFi disconnects, be prepared to burst your data limit.

The rest is pretty much what you would expect from stock Android. Features that you love about Android are all here: split screen, app drawer, minimal bloatware, etc… There is even a Pedometer app to keep track of your daily step count.


Battery & Charging – Not Up to Expectations

Battery is huge, but actual battery life isn’t very impressive. Also, due to size of the battery, charging takes really long.

Powering the SGiNO 6 is a 4040mAh battery, which is still pretty big by today’s standards. But perhaps due to the inefficient processor that results in overheating, it doesn’t really perform up to par with other phones of similar battery capacity.

With light usage, which includes surfing the web, browsing social media and playing light games like Brawl Stars and Soul Knight, I was able to drain the battery to 18% by 11PM, with a screen-on time of only 3h 19min after over 15.5h of usage.

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Under heavier usage where I try to drain its battery as quickly as possible, the phone had 10% battery remaining after playing 2h 5min of ROS and watching 30min of YouTube. With a total screen-on time of 3h 12min, its battery life is just so so.

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Using the included charger rated at 5V 2.0A, the SGiNO took 4h to charge from 5% to 55%. Even considering its battery size, the charging speed of the SGiNO 6 is pretty slow. For a full charge, expect to wait for 8h or even more.

The device can also be charged wirelessly, but considering that even wired charging takes a long time, you will probably want to only use this to charge the phone overnight.

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Others – More Problems!

Fingerprint scanner is accurate but always get disabled in the pocket. Headphone jack is poorly designed, connection loose for most headphones I tested.

Fingerprint scanner on the SGiNO may not be the fastest, but it is accurate when clean. However, it keeps “reading fingerprints” in my pocket, so when I take the device out, it would often be disabled and I have to type in the password instead.

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On my pre-production device, the headphone jack is very loose (for most headphones I tested) and the device often fails to detect my 1MORE 1M301 whenever I plug it in. This might be fixed on by the time you receive the SGiNO 6 though.

Also, Tmall and Taobao apps on the Play Store are not compatible with the SGiNO 6. It doesn’t matter for most people, but for someone like me who shops on these apps frequently, this is a deal breaker. Hope iNO will get this fixed soon.


Conclusion – Should You Get One?

Get it or remove your old phone’s camera? Depends on the condition of your old phone.

In almost all aspects, the SGiNO 6 is just average or below average compared to regular camera smartphones, which makes it unappealing for the masses. But so are most non-camera smartphones available today, so I can’t really fault iNO for that.

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So should you get a camera phone like the SGiNO 6 or remove the camera on your old phone? It depends on what device you are planning to use: Is it still performing well? Is the battery life worsening? Is the phone physically damaged?

If your soon-to-be non-camera smartphone is a mid-range or flagship device that is not too old, remove its camera. But if it is a >3 year old budget phone though, the SGiNO 6 will probably provide better experience, so you might want to consider it.

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?

TP-Link Neffos N1 Review

What would you expect from a smartphone in 2018: An 18:9 Display? Dual cameras on the rear? Minimal bezels? USB Type-C? TP-Link’s affordable Neffos N1 has two of them, but they are probably not the two that you are expecting.

With a 16:9 display and large chins above and below the display, is the Neffos N1 one big outdated flop or is there more to this device? Most importantly, is it worth your money? Without further ado, here is my review of the Neffos N1.


Summary – An Underrated Budget Device

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Glass screen protector included
  • Volume slider for easy muting
  • Wide-angle selfie camera
  • USB Type-C
  • Fast charging
  • Beautiful themes
  • Minimal bloatware & duplicate apps
  • Affordable price tag

Cons:

  • Ugly top and bottom chin
  • Back too slippery, easy to drop
  • Stutters and heats up while playing heavy games
  • Selfie camera poor focus

Pricing & Variants – Only Black and 64GB…

Only available in black, with 64GB of storage and 4GB RAM.

In Singapore, the Neffos N1 is priced at S$368 and is only available in one color and storage configuration: Black with 64GB ROM and 4GB RAM. 64GB is the most storage you will find on a device this price in Singapore, so no complains.

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Design – Slippery

Huge top and bottom chin. Not the most original design, but still looks really good and build quality is excellent. Slippery back, so get a case.

On the front of the Neffos N1 sits a 5.5″ 16:9 display, surrounded by relatively small side bezels but thick top and bottom chin. With bezels are getting smaller and smaller on phones, it is a little disappointing to see such thick chins on the Neffos N1.

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The Neffos N1’s button layout is similar to that of the OnePlus 5. The power button is located on the right, with a hybrid SIM tray above it. On the opposite side, we have the volume buttons, as well as the life-saving textured mute switch.

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Imagine sitting in a lecture room when suddenly, you remembered that you did not mute your phone. Instead of waking the display to turn on silent mode, which may make you look disrespectful, you can use the switch to mute the device.

On the top is a microphone and below, we have a 3.5mm audio jack (yay!), USB Type-C port (another yay!) and a speaker grill.

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Moving to the rear, you may find this design a little familiar… That’s right, the Neffos N1 looks a lot like the Huawei P10, but that isn’t a bad thing. It is bold and sleek, and the rear cameras do not protrude. I would love to see a white or red N1.

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Build quality is superb, comparable to some devices that cost twice as much. The metal is cool to the touch under air-con, though it heats up quite a bit under the sun as well. With a decent heft to it, this device feels really premium in the hand.

It is a little slippery though, so you are likely to drop it if you do not use a case. Speaking of cases, the N1 doe not come with one. Considering how rare Neffos devices are in Singapore*, you may have difficulties finding a shop that sells one.

*Sorry TP-Link, but that is the truth. 😔


Display – Good Enough, Nothing More

Still 16:9, but not a bad display.

Unlike most phones coming out in 2018, the Neffos N1 still uses a 16:9 display. While 18:9 provides more display area in apps like Facebook and Chrome, there are some apps that are still screen-optimized only for 16:9, so I shall not complain.

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This 5.5″ FHD IPS LCD display offers great viewing angles, is plenty bright and pretty sharp at 403ppi, but it is a little on the cool side and blacks are not very deep.


Performance – Benchmarks Actual Usage

Excels in benchmarks but struggle in actual usage.

Beneath the hood of the Neffos N1 is a MediaTek Helio P25 processor, with 4GB RAM. In AnTuTu and GeekBench 4, the N1’s score was similar to that of the Snapdragon 625 powered Redmi 5 Plus. Can we expect similar performance in real life?

Unfortunately, this is an example of how benchmarks do not always reflect the true performance of a device. Scrolling through the UI was smooth, but play some heavy games like PUBG Mobile (at low graphics), the amount of stutter is unbearable.

The device also heated up quite a bit while playing PUBG Mobile, with most of the heat concentrated at the top.


Rear Camera – 2x the Camera, 2x the Fun!

RGB + monochrome sensors, capable of great photos even at night. Bokeh is not perfect but fun.

The Neffos N1 has dual cameras on its rear: a 12MP RGB on the left, and a 12MP monochrome on the right. Neffos wasn’t specific about the other specs: we only know that at least one of them have f/2.0 aperture and at least one have 1.25µm pixel size.

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Neffos N1’s camera app has quite a bit of features for a budget phone. On the viewfinder screen, there is a HDR, beautify and bokeh mode toggle. Swipe left, you will see a list of modes, including a “PRO” manual mode. Swipe right for filters.

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Photos taken with the Neffos N1’s rear camera looks great under bright conditions, but that is to be expected from most phones today. The bokeh mode is really fun to use, but its edge detection isn’t perfect, often blurring out parts of the subject.

But where it really shines is at night. Zoom in on the red flower photo below and you can still see the water droplets on the petals. Also, colors stay very vibrant at night, though there is a little bit of a blue tint in all RGB images.

You might be wondering: turning a RGB photo monochrome versus taking a photo with the monochrome sensor, what is the difference? I took the same photo using the mono filter and the monochrome mode and here is what I got:

Both photos are taken under low lighting. As you can see, the image taken with the monochrome sensor is a lot brighter, with more details and less noise. So much nicer!

There is a long exposure “traffic flow” mode, but you can forget about taking photos with this mode. The cameras on the Neffos N1 are just not good enough under low light to be able to produce decent looking long exposure shots.

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HDR on the Neffos N1 does a great job at increasing dynamic range. It does increase the saturation a little, but not to the extent where it looks artificial, like many other phones do.

Proud of your Neffos N1? You can add the Neffos N1 watermark to all your photos. (Enable it in the settings of the camera app)

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Moving on to video recording, the Neffos N1 is capable of shooting up to 4K at 26.69fps. The video looks sharp with great colors and focusing doesn’t seem to be an issue. (Sorry for the portrait video. The device did not detect the orientation correctly)

N1 recorded the video in portrait. To avoid quality lost, I uploaded the video to Google Drive. Download to view it here.

Taking 720p slow motion videos require ample lighting, but under artificial lighting it still looks acceptable, despite losing focus sometimes. After taking a slow mo video, you have the flexibility of choosing which parts of the video to slow down.


Front Camera – Wide Angle Wefies!

Wide angle! Has difficulties with focus, but photo quality is acceptable when you consider its price.

With a 86° wide angle 8MP front-facing camera, you are going to have a lot of fun taking selfies and wefies with Neffos N1. It does have some issues focusing though, so pictures do not turn out very sharp. But for Instagram, the quality is good enough.

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Under artificial lighting, the focusing problem gets worst and colors do not look too pleasing (accidentally deleted the photo). As for low light photos, you can expect a lot of noise, but it is still alright considering the price of the device.

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Audio – Does Not Disappoint

Better than expected.

The single bottom-firing speaker on the Neffos N1 is pretty good for an under S$400 device. At max volume, it is similar in loudness as the Redmi 5 and the audio sounds richer.

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Comparing the headphone jack audio of the Neffos N1 to the Redmi 5 (using my JBL Synchos S300i), the N1 had less emphasis on trebles, producing sound that is more detailed and colorful, with a better balance. Not bad.


Battery Life – Fast Charging Makes Up for Small Battery

Lasts the whole day on moderate usage. Fast charging is quite fast as long as you do not charge to full.

Powering the Neffos N1 is a 3260mAh battery. With such a small battery, how is the endurance of the Neffos N1? How fast can the Neffos N1 charge with the included fast charging wall adapter?

As I only had 2 full days to test the Neffos N1 (before going back to camp), my battery test for the Neffos N1 will be less thorough than usual. In this moderate to heavy usage test, the N1 drained from 100% to 5% in 11h, with a screen-on time of 4h 36min.

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  • Total duration: 11h
  • Screen-on time: 4h 36min
  • PUBG Mobile: 3h 25min
  • Music: 20min
  • Some photography
  • SIM card always inserted

Considering the size of the battery, the results of the test is not unexpected. With light to moderate usage though, the Neffos N1 should get you through an entire day on a single charge.

The Neffos N1 supports fast charging, but how fast is it? Using the wall adapter and Type-C cable that came in the box, the N1 went from 3% to 46% in the first 30 minutes. After an hour, the phone was at 85%. Not too shabby.

To get the Neffos N1 to 100%, you need approximately 1h 50min. But even with an hour’s worth of charging, the 80% juice should be enough to get you through the entire day.


WiFi – Is It the Fastest? Not Really

Not as impressive as TP-Link claimed on their website.

Neffos claims that the N1 is tuned by the world’s No.1 WiFi lab, so the N1 should get better WiFi speeds than the competition right? That depends on which device you are comparing it to.

For this test, I compared the WiFi speeds of the Neffos N1 to my iPhone SE, Redmi Note 4, Redmi 5 and Lenovo A7000. The N1’s speed was much faster than the Redmi 5 and A7000, but was nowhere near as fast as the iPhone SE and Redmi Note 4.

Note that the Redmi Note 4 I have is running Lineage OS.


Software – Clean, Sleek & Easy to Use

Other than lack of app drawer, very close to stock, with minimal unnecessary apps. Easy to learn.

Neffos N1 runs NFUI 7.0 on top of Android 7.1.1 out of the box. If you are a fan of stock Android, you will love NFUI. While it may not have an app drawer, it is very close to stock Android in many aspects, including the layout of the UI.

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One thing I love about NFUI is the lack of duplicate apps: Google’s Chrome, Play Music, Photos and Calendar are the only pre-installed browser, music, gallery and calendar apps on the N1. Bloatware is also minimal or can be uninstalled.

Another thing that makes NFUI one of my favorite Android skin till date is the theme engine. While you do not get to download more themes, the 7 included ones are among the best looking themes I have ever seen. Sweet!

NFUI comes with some really nifty features and they all work really well, like split screen and screen-off gestures. While NFUI may not be as feature-packed as some Android skins like MIUI and EMUI, all of the features it has are pretty well refined.

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Overall, I can confidently say that NFUI 7.0 is one of the friendliest and easiest to learn Android skin I have ever used.


Conclusion – More Than Meets the Eye

Do not let the 16:9 display mislead you. With a respectable dual camera setup on the rear, superb build quality and a fantastic UI, the Neffos N1 is an excellent device for its price. I do wish Neffos had gone with a Snapdragon processor though.

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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%…

CountDown

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+ Review

If you are looking for a phone that cost under S$500, you have a ton of options from various manufacturers to choose from. Some come with top of the line processors, Honor 8 Pro for example, while some have ginormous displays, like the Mi Max 2.

The phone we will be taking a look at today has a whopping 24MP front facing camera, targeted at selfie lovers. This device is none other than Vivo’s V7+, available at M1 and Singtel for S$469 off contract. Is it worth your money? Let’s find out.


Summary – Great Hardware, Unrefined Software

Pros:

  • Eye-catching design
  • Case & screen protector included
  • Dedicated Micro SD slot + 2 SIM slot
  • Beautiful 5.99″ 18:9 display
  • One of the best rear cameras under S$500
  • Impressive 24MP selfie camera

Cons:

  • Still using Micro USB
  • Low screen resolution
  • FunTouch OS 3.2 feels unpolished

Others:

  • A single charge can last a full day with moderate usage
  • Headphone jack too quiet, possibly due to faulty review unit
  • Bottom firing speaker is loud but not very good sounding
  • Performance is alright for price, can be better

Pricing & Variants – Only Black and 64GB?!!!

Only available in Black, with 64GB ROM and 4GB RAM. Case and screen protector included.

Phones these days comes in a variety of colors and storage options, but there is only one version of the Vivo V7+ you can buy, at least in Singapore: Black with 64GB storage and 4GB RAM.

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For some people, 64GB of storage is not enough, but it is the most you will find on a phone at this price point in Singapore. But for most people, it should be more than enough, especially if you store your photos and videos on Google Photos.

V7+ comes with quite a bit of accessories, including wall adapter, cable, earphones and a clear jelly case. A screen protector has also been applied, so you do not have to pay more to get the basic stuff. I wish more manufacturers would do this.


Design – Generic… But Eye-Catching!

Very familiar design, but silver accents gives it an appealing look. SIM tray has 2 nano SIM slots plus a dedicated Micro SD card slot, no need to compromise.

Looking from a distance, the Vivo V7+’s rear may remind you of the iPhone 6, OPPO R11 or even the Mi A1; it is the same old boring design used on numerous smartphones by various manufacturers in the past three years. Hmm…

But take a closer look and your will absolutely fall in love with this design. The two silver stripes forming each antenna line, as well as the silver accent line going around the sides of the phone, really stand out from the black metal housing. Beautiful!

Apart from the antenna lines, you will also find the rear camera with a single flash, Vivo’s logo and a squarish fingerprint scanner on the back. (Plus some really faint writing at the bottom) The V7+’s rear design is clean and simple.

As usual, the power and volume buttons are located on the right. To the left, we have a SIM tray. This is no regular SIM tray or hybrid SIM tray. It has two slots for nano SIM cards, plus a dedicated slot for your Micro SD card. Awesome!

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On the top sits a microphone hole. But the bottom is really packed, with a headphone jack, another microphone hole, Micro USB port and a single speaker grill. Micro USB on a device close to S$500 in 2018? A little disappointing if you ask me.

Keeping up with the latest trend, Vivo equipped the V7+ with a 5.99″ 18:9 display. Above it sits the selfie camera with a single flash, as well as the earpiece, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and a green LED notification light.

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Display – Low Resolution, Otherwise Great

Not very sharp, but good colors and viewing angles. 18:9 screen ratio allow apps to display more content.

The 5.99″ 18:9 HD+ IPS LCD display is kind of like a 5.5″ 16:9 HD display stretched vertically. The resolution is a bit low, but it isn’t very noticeable as long as you do not pixel peep, or in layman terms, look at the screen too closely.

IMG_3173-min

Otherwise, this display is not a bad one. Colors look vibrant, with fairly deep blacks and good white balance. Viewing angles are great and the display is bright enough to be seen under sunlight. The 18:9 ratio brings a couple of advantages:

In games like 王者荣耀, you get a larger field of view, allowing you to spot further enemies. But for some games, The Fishercat for example, developers cut of the top and bottom instead, so you are actually seeing less with 18:9.

For web surfing and typing of documents, the benefits of an 18:9 screen ratio are much more obvious. With a taller display, your browser and note apps are able to display more words, which makes reading and typing a lot more convenient.

L – 18:9 (Vivo V7+), R – 16:9 (Lenovo A7000)

Vivo V7+ uses on-screen navigation bar as it doesn’t have capacitive buttons below the display. On-screen navigation bar eats up a portion of your display, which makes the shift to 18:9 a little pointless, but Vivo has a solution to that: swipe gestures.

With swipe gestures, you can swipe up from the bottom left of the display to bring up control center, bottom middle to go home and bottom right to go back. To enable it and hide the navigation bar, carry out the following steps in the Settings app:

“Navigation keys” > “Hide navigation keys and use sliding gestures”


Performance – Not Fantastic, But Good Enough

Day to day tasks run smoothly, capable of playing most graphic intensive games without any major issue.

Vivo V7+ is powered by the Snapdragon 450 processor, the same one found in the Redmi 5, with 4GB of RAM. How does it perform? I carried out a couple of benchmarks and played a couple of graphic intensive games to find out.

In Geekbench 4, V7+ scored 765 for single core and 3910 for multi-core. In AnTuTu, the V7+ also did pretty well with a score of 75047. These results are better than the Redmi 5’s, but you can find something a lot more powerful at a similar price.

But Benchmarks do not necessarily reflect real world use. How is it like to use the V7+ for day-to-day tasks and gaming? V7+’s UI was butter smooth and most games ran without any major issue. If you do not play a lot of games, this should be good enough.


Rear Camera – Full of Surprises

Produces great photos and excellent videos for its price. Has numerous useful modes, including one that interpolates 64GB photos. HDR not working properly.

V7+’s rear camera is a 16MP shooter with f/2.0 aperture. It doesn’t sound very impressive on paper, but pictures taken with it have plenty of details and true-to-life colors. For portraits, there is a beautify mode which works pretty well.

Click on image to view in full resolution

Photos tend to turn out brighter than it is in real life. The second row of photos above were shot when the sky was turning dark, but they looks as if they were taken half an hour earlier. You can see that these photos aren’t as sharp though.

Video recording max out at 1080p on the V7+, the highest resolution for the Snapdragon 450 processor. Videos are not very stable, but their quality is excellent, without over-sharpening like on other mid-range phones in this price range.

There is a HDR mode on the V7+, but I found photos without it to have a lot more accurate colors and overall, better looking. Take a look below. If not for the labeling below, most people would have guessed that the ones on the left are HDR.

L – HDR disabled, R – HDR enabled

Strangely, images taken with HDR also seem to have smaller file size every single time, unlike what we normally see on other phones. (I tested it multiple times) I have a suspicion that Vivo accidentally mixed up HDR on and off.

A really cool feature in the V7+’s camera app is “Ultra HD”, which combines multiple shots into a 64MP photo. It really works! While it is not as sharp as an actual 64MP camera, it definitely is a lot more detailed than the normal 16MP photos.

L – Ultra HD (click on image to view in full res), R – Cropped

My mind was blown by the results. With regular 16MP photos, you will never be able to crop in so much and still be able to read the words. Note that you will have to hold very still when taking 64MP photos and file size for 64MP photos is much larger.

At night, photos turn out noisy and blurry, expected, but colors are preserved really well. On a large display, these photos look kind of bad, but if you are only going to use them for Instagram, half of the low-light photos should turn out good enough.

Click on image to view in full res

I was really surprised by the quality of V7+’s videos at night, especially slow-mo videos, which even costlier phones struggle with. The V7+’s video may not be very sharp, but colors of the lights are accurate and the amount of noise is acceptable.


Front Camera – Great Selfies Even at Night?

Capable of Instagram-worthy selfies, even at night.

Under well-lit conditions, the Vivo V7+’s 24MP front facing camera can take excellent selfies, as long as you lower the exposure. The camera app loves to overexpose selfies, which helps a lot at night, but you will want to tone it down in the day.

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And of course, since this is a selfie-focused phone, you do get some really cool features on the selfie camera. There is a bokeh mode, Face Beauty 7.0 aka beautify and even HDR. The selfie below was taken with bokeh mode and beautify on.

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At night, the Vivo V7+’s camera struggles a little with blur. But somehow the V7+ manages to make selfies really bright without introducing too much noise and beautify still works well.

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Audio – Did I Get a Faulty Review Unit?

Headphone jack a little too quiet, might be due to faulty device. Bottom speaker loud but meh sounding. Microphone and earpiece works well.

Vivo boasts that the V7+ is equipped with the AK4376A Hi-Fi audio chip which is suppose to be pretty good, but I was very disappointed at the results I got. The level of detail is pretty good, but at its max volume, it is just 50-70% as loud as other phones.

But checking with Chester from Music Photo Life, it seems that I may have received a faulty review unit. The headphone jack of his could produce audio that is quite loud when Hi-Fi mode is enabled. I might have to retest this in the future.

The bottom firing speaker is slightly louder than the Redmi 5’s, but the sound distorts quite a bit at max volume, resulting in sound that is thrash like the Redmi Note 4’s. It is good enough for watching videos, but I would not use it for music.

Thankfully, the microphone and earpiece both do a good job, so you can enjoy your phone calls on the V7+. Voice recordings done with the V7+’s microphone sound natural with good enough volume. The earpiece is loud and clear.


Battery Life – Small Battery, Acceptable Endurance

Easily lasts through a day with moderate usage. Heavy usage will drain its battery to zero by late afternoon.

Vivo V7+ is powered by a 3225mAh battery, which isn’t a lot for a phone this size, but it keeps the device light. How is battery life on the V7+? To find out, I conducted two tests: one with moderate usage and another under more intensive workload.

Brightness is set to auto and SIM card was inserted in the phone throughout the entire test duration. There is no screen-on time indicator on the Vivo V7+, but we can subtract the phone idle duration from the “time on” of RF service to estimate SOT.

Under regular usage involving some light gaming, web and social media surfing plus some YouTube watching, the V7+ had 20% battery remaining by 10PM. Screen-on time was approximately 6h 21min, which is not bad for a 3225mAh battery.

  • Total duration 16h 19min
  • Screen-on time 6h 21min
  • 3h light gaming (The Fishercat, Royal Blade and Big Hunter)
  • 54min browser
  • 30min Facebook
  • 30min YouTube

Playing graphic-intensive games, watching some videos and leaving WiFi on the entire time, the V7+ got drained to 5% battery after 10h 11min of use, with a screen-on time of 4h 44min. The phone was down to all the way to 1% battery before 6PM.

  • Total duration 10h 11min
  • Screen-on time 4h 44min
  • 2h 21min PUBG Mobile
  • 40min OPUS: Rocket of Whispers
  • 25min YouTube

Under regular usage, the V7+ should get you through a day with a little bit of juice left. But with heavy gaming, it will struggle to last through the entire day. If that happens and you only have an hour to charge your phone, how much juice can you get?

Using the wall adapter that came in the box, which is regular 5V 2A, the V7+ charged from 1% to 52% in an hour, which should be enough to get you through the rest of the day.


Software – Feature Packed But Unrefined

Feature packed, but some features not properly implemented and the Settings app is really confusing.

Vivo V7+ runs Vivo’s own FunTouch OS 3.2, based on Android 7.1 Nougat. FunTouch is drastically different from stock android, with a ton of added features and a redesigned UI, similar to other Android skins from China, like MIUI and ColorOS.

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The default look for FunTouch OS 3.2 is colorful and fun, but if you do not like it, you can always change customize it in the i Theme app, from app icons and fonts. Bloatware is minimal and some of the pre-installed apps can be uninstalled.

Unlike stock Android, quick toggles are not found in the notification shade. Instead, they are located in the control center, similar to iOS, which appears when you swipe up from the bottom of the display. From here, you can also control recent apps.

FunTouch comes with a handful of cool and useful features, like facial recognition, the most versatile one-handed mode I have ever seen and also the S-capture feature, which lets you take screenshots of various shapes and sizes.

But after using V7+ as my daily driver for a few days, all I can say is that FunTouch is still very unrefined; many features are not well thought out and executed. Also, the Settings app is probably the most unorganized one I have ever seen.

While I love the one-handed mode, the gesture to access it is very bad. It requires swiping from one edge to the middle, and then back to the edge. The phone would register it as a regular swipe in the process and that is very annoying.

Split screen works with a very limited number of apps. Ironically, most of Vivo’s own apps do not support it – not even basic apps which you would expect it to work with, like Notes and Email. This is almost as good as not having split screen at all.

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Next, the naming of some features and phrasing of instructions can get really confusing. In FunTouch, battery usage is known as “Rank”, beautify is known as “Face Beauty” and for no reason, Vivo named some of their apps with an “i” in front.

These issues do not sound very significant, but FunTouch OS will be a lot more enjoyable to use once they are fixed. But even in its current state, FunTouch OS is not a bad Android skin, so I will not let it stop me from recommending the V7+.

Note: To use USB OTG, you have to enable it in Settings. It will disable after a short while of non-usage. It is a little troublesome, but it keeps the information in your phone safe.


Conclusion – Perfect Shot Indeed!

When discussing about how “worth it” a phone is, people often only look at specs, but specs do not always reflect how good a product is. Software, battery life and camera – all of these require real life testing before you know how good they are.

The Vivo V7+ isn’t very attractive on paper, but after using it for a couple of days, I have come to really appreciate it. It may not have the most powerful processor nor the best battery life, but its cameras are among the best in its price range.

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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.

Duck Warfare Mobile Game Review

Usually S$1.48 on Google Play Store, Duck Warfare is now free to install for a limited time. (Also available on iOS for S$1.48) It may be free, but is it worth your time? If you are reading this when the deal is already over, should you pay for it?

Get it here: Android / iOS


Game Mechanics – The Basics

Duck Warfare is similar in concept to games like Cartoon Wars and Garfield’s Defense, where you use money to summon troops to attack the enemy’s base, while protecting your base. In that case, why pay for it when the other 2 games are free?

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Unlike the other 2 games series mentioned above, Duck Warfare has no in-game purchases nor ads, but it doesn’t stop there. This game is designed in a way that it is cute yet challenging, though with careful strategising, they can definitely be completed.

The in-game currency is called duck bucks*, which can be earned in two ways: obtain them from killing enemy troops or completing the stage. As mentioned earlier, there are no in-game purchases, so you cannot pay your way through the game.

*Not to be confused with money

With the duck bucks that you earn, you can spend them on new troop in the store. Each troop has a unique ability, like being able to teleport or having a lot of health points. Completing stages will unlock more ducks that you can buy in the shop.

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Alternatively, you can use duck bucks to upgrade your four buffs, from maximum health to troop production speed. Some of the ducks are a waste of duck bucks, so it would be wise to skip them and spend the duck bucks on buff upgrades instead.

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Stages are split into five per set, with the 5th always containing a boss. Completing each stage without losing health will earn you a star for that stage and getting all 5 stars in a set, all your new troops unlocked from that set will get buffed.

There are two type of troops: air and land. Unless stated in their abilities, they only attack troops/bases of the same type. You will have to plan carefully how you want to split your money between the two, which increases the difficulty of the game.

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Game Mechanics – Enemy Troops & Bosses

Just like you, the enemy’s troops have different abilities. Each troop has a weakness, so study the behavior of each enemy troop to determine what troops you should summon to kill it. Using a combination of troops might be required in some cases.

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Bosses in this game are really interesting. Each have a different ability, some I would never have thought of, and to defeat them, you will need a strategy. The strategy will be different for each boss, so the game stays fresh even at late stages.

For example, the first boss at stage 5 is the enemy base itself (a crane) and it will move towards you and throw your troops away once attacked. To defeat it, ensure that your money production speed is maxed out before your troops touch the crane.


8K Guy’s Review

The difficulty of this game gets progressively harder as you get further down the stages, but they are manageable, as long as you plan carefully. As mentioned earlier, Duck Warfare is not a game that you can pay to win; there is no shortcut in this game.

The things that really makes Duck Warfare different from similar games are the silly references and jokes laid out throughout the game, as well as the playful, cartoonish design. This is a challenging game designed with light-hearted elements.

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As a bonus, the developers included a Flappy Bird mini-game, which you can access by tapping on Quacky Duck in the welcome menu. It is all of these small little details added together that make this game special and worthy of its S$1.48 usual price.

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Conclusion – Worth Your Time and/or Money?

Should you install Duck Warfare on your phone? If you are looking for a game that will help you burn time, without you getting sick of it quickly, hell yeah! Even at its usual price on Play Store and App Store, I will highly recommend it to anyone.