July – The Month For Budget Phones – ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1), Huawei nova 3i, Honor Play

July in Singapore is filled with exciting launches of budget phones. Last week, ASUS and Huawei launched their ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) and Huawei nova 3i. This week, another new contender in Singapore – Honor launches Honor Play. All these products are selling competitively at the price range of $300 – $450. This post, I am doing a quick comparison of the specs of these phones and hopefully, gives some ideas in your next purchase.

 

Camera

Samsung and iPhone started the idea of Face Unlock but it is not longer a technology barrier for other smartphone markers. All 3 phones offer the face unlock features. I am not a fan for this feature but I am impressed with the technology and how front-facing camera have evolved for the past 1 years.

 

The ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) and Honor Play comes with 8MP and 16MP front-facing camera respectively whereas the Huawei nova 3i is equipped with dual 24MP and 2MP front-facing camera. Judging from the specs alone, the Huawei nova 3i seems to edge above the other 2 phones. In fact, the resolution of the front-facing camera of the nova 3i is higher than its rear camera which is packed with dual 16MP and 2MP lens. The nova 3i’s front-facing camera is also armed with the popular Huawei’s AI photography technology.

 

Model is doing a selfie with Huawei nova 3i

The Honor Play has the same dual camera specs as the Huawei nova 3i. As a separated brand owned by Huawei, the rear camera of the phone comes with Huawei’s AI photography technology. If you are a fan of Huawei’s mobile phones, I am sure this feature is something that you are seeking for.

 

In terms of rear camera specs, the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) has dual 13MP + 5MP camera lens. The secondary 5MP camera enhanced the bokeh effects of the photo. The rear camera supports 4K recording.

Processor and Memory

Kirin 970 processor made it to the world stage when Huawei introduced their

Honor Play showcased at Raduga Center

flagship Huawei Mate 10 last year. This time, the same Kirin 970 processor in Huawei Mate 10 is used to power the Honor Play. This budget phone is essentially a premium smartphone and it has a 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of ROM that could be expanded with external microSD capacity upto 256GB.

 

On the other hand, the nova 3i from the parent company is equipped with the newer Kirin 710 processor. The new processor is designed to give a better performance specifically for the mid-range phones. The nova 3i has a 4GB of RAM and 128 GB of ROM that could be expanded with external microSD capacity upto 256GB.

 

Unlike Huawei, ASUS uses older Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, one that is commonly found in mid-range smartphones, in their Zenfone Max Pro (M1). For the past 1 year, the 636 processor has proven to be reliable in terms of performance and power consumption. The Zenfone Max Pro (M1) has a 3GB RAM and 32GB of Rom but could be expanded with external microSD capacity upto 2TB.

 

Port – USB Type C, Micro USB , Audio Jack

Fortunately, budget and midrange phones do not always copy everything that a premium phone has. ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1), Huawei nova 3i and Honor Play keep the 3.5mm audio jack. You could still enjoy your music on these devices with your current headphones.

 

Among the 3 phones, the Honor Play is the only one with the USB Type C port where as the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) and the Huawei nova 3i come with the conventional micro-USB ports. Nonetheless, all 3 phones have fast charge features.

 

ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) showcased in Singapore

Battery Capacity

Battery capacity for Huawei nova 3i and Honor Play are 3,340 mAh and 3,750mAh respectively whereas the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) is packed with 5,000mAh. Judging from the pure hardware perspective, it is impressive to put such a big battery into a phone.

 

Verdict

Let’s just be practical – If you need a phone that works and nothing else, the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) seems to be a better option. The phone has bigger battery which technically speaking, could last longer eliminating the need of bringing a power bank. With external microSD storage upto 2TB, you could store all your documents and images in your phone.  Unlike the Huawei nova 3i and Honor Play, the microSD card slot is dedicated one which means that there is no need to compromise one sim card slot for external storage. You could still use the dual sim cards simultaneously. If you are one of those who is holding 2 numbers – one for personal and one for work, this is a good feature to have.

 

From 25th July to 30 July, ASUS is having a special launch promotion for Zenfone Max Pro (M1). Price will drop from SGD 348 to SGD 258. Perfect for budget-constraint freelancers who use their personal device for both work and leisure.

 

If you are looking for fun – Honor Play is the first gaming phone that is designed for young mobile users who do not have deep pocket to burn. The Kirin 970 processor has already proven its capability in Huawei Mate 10 but this time, consumers do not need to pay a premium price to get superior performance. The famous Huawei’s GPU Turbo is of course included in the phone.

 

The phone is selling at recommended retail price of SGD 429 at Qoo10 and Honor Singapore is accepting pre-order starting from today. The shipment is expected to be out from 7 Aug onwards.

 

Social Media and Lifestyle–  If you are one of those who like to share good pictures on your SNS, then the nova 3i is the clear winner. The nova 3i has 4 cameras in total! Powered by AI, the nova 3i can recognise over 200 scenarios across eight categories including Blue Sky, Plant and Beach. The AI function can optimise photos by scene to create a true-to-life effect.

With AI machine learning, the HUAWEI nova 3i also supports 3D Qmoji, which is a social media-friendly feature that digitally transposes the face of a user onto a digital avatar.

The nova 3i is selling at SGD 398 and will be making its public debut on 28 July 2018 at Waterway Point Shopping Mall, East Wing Atrium, Basement 2. From 11am to 9pm, customers will receive a Casio G-SHOCK Analog-Digital Watch (worth $199) with every purchase of the nova 3i, while stocks last.

Joint Review of Sudio Tre by The Neo Dimension and Poisonvine

For those who are reading my blog for the first time, you may be surprised to learn that this is actually the third time that The Neo Dimension is reviewing Sudio’s personal audio products. So far, the readers’ feedback regarding the last two reviews (Sudio Vasa Bla and Sudio Regent) have been positive. Some mentioned that they really enjoyed the interview that we have done with Poisonvine.com. There’s no snobby audio jargon, just a showcase of the product from a real user’s perspective. In addition, some of our male readers expressed that they liked reading a review from a female’s perspective. (Okay, we are a male-centric blog but hey, we do have posts that are family-oriented.)

If you haven’t already read our previous reviews, here are the links:

Sudio Vasa Blahttp://theneodimension.com/review-15-discount-code-sudio-vasa-bla-classy-device-busy-professionals/

Sudio Regent http://theneodimension.com/poisonvine-coms-review-sudio-regent-wireless-headphones/

Today, we are inviting Poisonvine.com to take part in a joint review on Sudio’s latest offering – Sudio Tre, their first water-resistant wireless earpiece. This time round, we have designed a set of questions that will be posted to both Poisonvine.com (P) and owner of TheNeoDimesion (TND). The objective is to allow our readers to look at Sudio Tre from a male’s as well as from a female’s perspective.

Without further ado, below is the Q&A. Check it out!

Q1. What’s your first impression when you unboxed the Sudio Tre?

P: I have the white colour version of the Sudio Tre. The product is looks stunning. There are lovely rose tone buttons and accents at the bottom of the earpieces. It also comes with a matching pouch to carry the Sudio Tre in.

TND: Well, I got the black one. I like the fact that they keep the standard micro-USB charging port for Sudio Tre. I have several wireless earpieces and every single one of them used different charging port making it cumbersome to keep switching cables.

Q2. Sudio claims that this product is designed for an active lifestyle. Well, everyone has different ways of interpreting “active”. How did you guys use the product?

P: I use this product when I work out on my elliptical machine. Sudio Tre remains comfortable to wear even after an hour long cardio session.

TND: I bring this out for run. Similar to the Vasa Bla, the weight of Sudio Tre is very well distributed from one end to another. The addition of “wings” on the earbuds, does not impair the comfort and in fact, the wings’ reinforcement has made the earbuds harder to come off no matter how hard I shake my head.

 

Q3. Which feature of the product appeals to you most?

P: This offering is quite similar to the old Sudio Vasa Bla, but in order to make it more friendly for sports, the earbuds have a wing tip so that it doesn’t fall out easily.

TND: It is not a bad idea to make this product water-resistance. In Singapore, the weather is either rainy or sunny. You don’t want to encounter rain during your run but in the event that happens, you don’t want your device to be spoiled by rainwater.

How long do you need to plank? Simple, time for one song. #sudiotre #gym #instagym #instagood #instasport #workout

A post shared by Neo Wee Wu 梁威武 (@weewu) on

Q4. What do you hope to see in Sudio’s future products?

P: Recently “true wireless” headphones that have two separate earbuds (like the Sony WF-1000X) are increasingly popular. I hope to see Sudio come up with their own version in future.

TND: I hope their future products could add voice assistance or notification to inform the users on the bluetooth connection and battery usage status.

Availability

The Sudio Tre is retailing at SGD 139/- (after tax rebate of 20%). If you make the purchase online via Sudio’s website, shipping to Singapore entitles you to 20% tax rebate.

On top of that, readers of TheNeoDimension are entitled to an additional 15 % discount. You can use the promo code NEODIMENSION.

Poisonvine.com’s review on Sudio Regent Wireless Headphones

Sudio has released their latest product – Sudio Regent Wireless Headphones. We managed to get hold of a unit for review. Instead of writing about how we feel about the product, we’ve decided to do something different this time and get a female blogger  (poisonvine.com) to share with us her experience after using this product.

 

Q1. Have you heard of Sudio? What’s your first impression when you first got hold of the Sudio Regent?

I first got to know about Sudio until they launched the Sudio Vasa Blå. It left a very strong impression on me because the earphones looked stunning!

Sudio Regent exemplifies the Sudio’s design philosophy – minimalist, elegant and timeless. It’s definitely a beautiful headphone that you would want to show off to your friends.

Q2. Which genre do you usually listen to? And does the sound profile meet your expectations?  

I listen to a rather wide variety of genres so it’s a bit difficult to say. For instrumentals, I prefer artists like Kenny G, Keiko Matsui, Kaori Kobayashi and Jessy J. For vocals, I like Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Il Divo, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige and Toni Braxton.

Anyway, I find that the Sudio Regent generally performs well for instrumentals, there is good clarity and balance. Unfortunately, the bass is a little weaker than I would like. For vocals, I find that the sound quality tends to be a bit airy.

#sudioregent #wirelesss #headphones

A post shared by Neo Wee Wu 梁威武 (@weewu) on

Q3. What’s the best (or worst) experience you had while using this product?

I like that the Sudio Regent offers both Bluetooth and wired option, which makes it very versatile and is ideal for travelling. The headphone is light and foldable, making it very portable. In addition, you can change the caps on the headphone and match the headphones to your OOTD.

The headphones sits on the ear and is generally quite comfortable. However, after prolonged usage, the headphone will start to feel a bit too tight for my head (maybe because I have a big head?) But for commuting I would not expect to wear this continuously for over an hour so it’s not a big issue.

 

Q4. Considering all factors: Design, features, sound quality and price, how do you rate the product?

I would give it a 6.5/10. It is definitely worthy of a consideration if you are in the market for portable headphones.

Availability

The Sudio Regent is available in two colors, black and white and retails for S$229.

If you are in Singapore, you will get a 20% off that price because of tax rebates. After the 20%, it becomes S$183.20.

Using my promo code “neodimension” at their site, it will give you an additional 15% discount. So in total, you pay just S$155.72 for the Sudio Regent.

 

On top of that, you will receive a free express shipping and a phone case.

 

Who is poisonvine.com?

Typical working class Singaporean who is a caffeine addict and an aspiring home barista. Like most Singaporeans, she loves food and travel. She believes that Google will eventually rule the world (“hail Google!”) and is waiting for the day when language is no longer a barrier because Google translate attained perfection. Also a die-hard Blackberry fan.

Review of Sony Xperia XZ – A Good Camera Phone

Build of the phone

Large screen might not be always better. The New Sony Xperia XZ comes with 5.2 Inch display with Full HD resolutions. Personally, I like the screen size. It is large enough for mobile entertainment and small enough to be held with one hand.

 

Another feature that surprised me is the fingerprint sensor; which is located on the power button. That makes a lot of sense since users are so used to wake up the phone by pressing the power button. As of now, I am rather neutral to the location and accuracy of the fingerprint sensor. Nonetheless, it is generally fine provided you don’t press and release your finger too quickly.

Sony Xperia XZ
Sony Xperia XZ

Stunning camera performance
There are several attributes of the camera that excites me. First, the 23MP of the rear camera which produce sharp and clear images. Second, its proprietary RGBC-IR sensor which Sony claimed it is capable to produce rich and vibrant colour. Ok, I am sold by the camera.

Well, pictures speak a thousand words. I have uploaded some of my photos below:

Night Scene of Singapore. Source: Instagram user @weewu
Night Scene of Singapore. Source: Instagram user @weewu
Captured moving car in front of Fullerton Hotel. Source: Instagram user @weewu
Captured moving car in front of Fullerton Hotel. Source: Instagram user @weewu
Selfie with
Selfie with “Rainbow Warrior” in Taiwan. Source: Instagram user @weewu
Rays of lights at Mt Maokong, Taiwan. Source: Instagram user @weewu
Rays of lights at Mt Maokong, Taiwan. Source: Instagram user @weewu
Jiufen, Taiwan. Source: Instagram user @weewu
Jiufen, Taiwan. Source: Instagram user @weewu

Don’t believe in the photo I’ve uploaded? Check out #shotbyxperia, #shotbyxperiaxz & #sonymobilesg for more photos

The camera also starts fast and responses quickly when u press the shutter. In my opinion, *it is so much better than the older Xperia phones.

*I didn’t own the older Xperia precisely because their camera are quite laggy. But, the new Xperia XZ has changed my perception).  

Front facing camera is packed with 13MP sensor which produces nice selfie photo. To a certain extent, I feel its front facing camera could perform as well as rear camera of mid-range phones currently in the market. **The handshutter feature could accurately detect your palm. Since you do not need to touch the shutter on the camera, it greatly reduces the chance of getting blur selfie photo.

Trying
Trying “handshuttle” feature on the front-facing camera. Source: Instagram user @weewu

Another feature by Sony Xperia XZ that most phones or even some DSLRs in the market could not offer – 4K video recording. I shot a night scene of Singapore in 4K and I was impressed by the amount of details even under a low light condition. Take a look of the sample video below.

 

Sample Video of Singapore River (Night)

 

**I understand that I have mentioned on my Facebook before that the phone camera seems to be a bit laggy after playing with it for a while during its Singapore launch. I would like to take back what I’ve said. The fact is I have brought this device to Japan and Taiwan for a long holiday. The phone performs well under different environments be it up on the high mountain to wet conditions. I suspect an update was done to fix the issue.

Battery and Heat Management.

Battery capacity is only 2900 mAh which is comparatively lower than what most of the smartphones in the market offer. Well, I think it is unfair to judge the battery performance by just looking at its capacity.  Nonetheless, it will be still one of the key factors that determines the time of usage.

During my visit to Taiwan and Japan, I took hundreds of photos and videos. Battery life becomes exceptionally challenging. With lots of video and photo-taking, the phone could not last more than 10 hours.

Heat management has improved compared to the previous Xperia XZ. I have run tonnes of apps on the phone and I don’t remember experiencing any crashes or any heat issues.

The only time that I experienced heat issues is when I was doing a video recording with the device. The device gets hot and there was once, some camera functions were disabled (in-build safety feature to manage the heat and to protect the phone as well as the user)

 

Price

Price wise is competitive if you compare to other high-end smartphones in the market and it is certainly one of the models that you should be put in your radar. Recommended retail price – SGD 998/-

 

Likes And Dislikes

Likes: Camera and price (if you compare to other high-end devices in the smartphone market)

Dislikes: Heat issue

 

Who should buy?

If you are looking for a productive phone, the Sony Xperia XZ is certainly not designed for your liking. However, it is a good travel phone for people who love taking photos but do not wish to carry lots of camera equipment. The battery life issue could be solved with power bank (anybody don’t pack a power bank when out for tour? Don’t think so…)

The dual SIM cards slot also makes Xperia XZ travel-friendly. (The best part you do not need to use a pin to open the SIM card slot)

Review (With 15% Discount Code) – Sudio Vasa Blå, A Classy Device for the Busy Professionals

For those audiophile out there, Sudio is certainly not a foreign brand. Their Sudio Vasa is one of their popular range of wired earphones. Now, this premium model is available in wireless version – Sudio VASA Blå.

If you have not heard the product, I hope my review will be a good research material. If you have already decided to buy the product, you can get the earphones from their online store  at SGD 165. Point to note, shipping to Singapore is free via DHL Express and it will take about 3 to 4 days to reach you. If you need it urgently, you can top up S$7.99 for express shipping and you will get it between 2 to 3 days.

All products shipped to Singapore will get a 20% tax rebate, so essentially it is 20% off the retail price listed on the online store.

If you need an additional 15% discount for your Sudio earphones, you can use the promo code: NEODIMENSION

Appearance

sudio Vasa Bla_1

Arrived in a beautiful white box. The visually appealing design of the package gives a premium impression on the level of details that Sudio has placed in delivering supreme audio experience to the users. Looking inside, it is extremely clean and organized with clear wordings on what are included in the package. No complicated compartment in the box and that makes it easy to store your device and accessories back into the box (maybe this is relevant to some of you). See below for what’s inside the box.

  • Sudio VASA Blå.
  • Micro-USB Charging Cable
  • Leather case
  • Rose Gold-coated cable clip
  • 4 different size of earphone cushions (excluding the one on the earphones)
  • Owner’s manual/Guarantee card/Quick start

sudio Vasa Bla_2

Unable to hide my excitement, let’s take a closer look on the product. The wire connecting the ear speakers are toughened with flat thin rubber instead of the conventional rounded coated insulating wires. I suspect such design is to make it easier for the carbon clip to better secure the wire on the cloth. In addition, I feel that the length of the wire is shorter than the other Bluetooth earpieces i.e. measured approx. 52 cm.

sudio Vasa Bla_3
Battery attached on the wire

Similar to the Sudio VASA (non-wireless version), the VASA Blå is elegantly designed with Rose gold wrapped around the ear speakers.

3-buttons control
3-buttons control

On the wire, you’ll find a sweat-proof 3-button control that also serves as a microphone and a battery on the other end of the wire that is able to last for 8 hours of continuous-play.

Experience

Getting started is extremely easy. Hold the middle button on the control until the red light blinking (approx. 7 seconds). The device is now on pairing mode. Next, locate “Sudio VASA BLA” on your phone and connect. Ta-Da! You are done!

Weighting only 14g. This device is extremely light to carry around. However, what really surprise me is the weight distribution of the product. The perfect balance between the left and right makes it hassle-free when you wear it over your neck and shoulder. Although a clip is bundled for the user to secure the wire, it is really not needed. Nonetheless, the rose gold clip is indeed a pretty accessory to bring it out.

The high battery capacity of 8-hours continuous playback is a huge plus point. It is not often to find a light wireless earpiece like Sudio VASA Blå in the market that, at the same time, offers long hours of usage.

Note: I have not done a single charging on this device since unboxing but I have been bringing it out for a 20 min run daily for the past 1.5 week and it is still functioning.

Audio

Personally, I think the bass and treble are pretty balanced. As objective as I want to, I source for reviews all over the internet and the conclusion I could gather from there – People just like the bass! Likely, it is due to its powerful 10.2 mm driver. Nonetheless, audio is always subjective and it differs from person to person. To eliminate any potential biases, l will rather focus on the call quality.

As a freelancer, I am always on the move and often, I speak to clients over my mobile phone. As such, I would need to be contacted almost 24/7. I even bring my phone when I am out for a run. A good wireless earpiece that offers good call quality is very important to me. To do a proper test, I use the Sudio VASA Blå during a 30-min conference call and I must say that there isn’t much distortion and the voice is clear. The entire conference was done over Blackberry’s BBM via a home Wi-Fi network.

Sudio Vasa Bla and BlackBerry Classic
Sudio Vasa Bla and Blackberry Classic

Verdict

A perfect blend between fashion and technology. The VASA Blå is designed for the busy professionals. Lightweight and elegantly-designed but do not be deceived by the look, the device is also constructed with powerful audio technology for greater music experience. Entertainment aside, this product still delivers commercial-grade call quality for the busy professionals who need to be on-the-call anytime of the day.

 

My Trip to Hokkaido – Review of Yokoso Sim

These days, 4G has become an inseparable part of our lives. Even when we go overseas, we will buy a pre-paid local sim card so that we can surf while sightseeing. In most countries, getting a pre-paid sim is easy. However, in Japan, as most of you know, it could be kind of tricky. If I didn’t remember wrongly, you can’t even get a call-only sim card in Japan under the country’s telco regulation.

Fortunately, there are many 3rd party distributors that sell pre-paid data-only sim outside Japan and Yokoso Sim is one of them.

Why did I choose Yokoso Sim in the first place?

Frankly, this was the first time I am trying out Japan’s 4G network and I chose Yokoso Sim based on my friend’s recommendations:

  • Yokoso Sim uses NTT Docomo ‘s network. (NTT is an incumbent telephone service provider in Japan just like Singtel is in Singapore.) Judging from the scale of the company, its coverage should quite extensive.
  • Local representatives in Singapore. I am not a patient shopper where I can wait for days for my item to arrive after I have made the purchase. On top of that, I prefer to speak to a person directly so that I could get my queries answered fast. So, having a local representative always appeal to me.
  • Unlimited usage. Fast 4G browsing is limited to the first 135MB per day. Once breached, the service continues but at a reduced speed of 200kps.
  • Reasonable pricing. The 7-day 4G card is selling at SGD35 which is very competitive among other distributors.

If you want to find out more about Yokoso Sim card, you may wish to drop a mail to Mr Shinji Matsudaira at  shinji.matsudaira@yokososim.com or visit the facebook page here

Experience with Yokoso Sim Activation

Unlike other pre-paid sim you get from some countries; you could do the activation yourself as long as you know the APN settings. I have listed it down below for your reference.

  • APN:             so-net.jp
  • Username:        nuro
  • Password:        nuro
  • Authentication:     PAP or CHAP

Note: If you are using Android phone, you would need to give a name for the APN. In this case, just give any name of your preference

I have been researching quite a bit on the phone compatibility with Japan networks. Generally, iPhone/iPad are not a problem. I have read on a Chinese site the limitations on activating on some phones. Basically, most smartphones are compatible except for HTC, Xiaomi, Mainland China-branded Phones, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

I guess for most people, this will not be a problem. If you are carrying your spare Chinese brand phones for your Japan trip which is not compatible with the NTT Docomo network, you might wish to try the following:

First, activate the sim card on a Apple device (refer to the manual that comes along with the sim card). During this trip, we brought an iPad Mini, Blackberry Passport, Blackberry Classic and OPPO Find 7. Yes, you are right! Most of our devices are not compatible according to the website. So what’s next for us? Since we have no choice (trust me! We tried to activate the service using non-Apple mobile devices. It does not work!), we activate the service using our iPad Mini (I believe any other Apple mobile devices could do) It does not come to us as a surprise that it works.

Next, take out the activated sim card and insert into your phone. You should have 4G connection**

**During our trip, we tried the same method for our OPPO Find 7 (a Chinese phone) and Blackberry phones. It works well.

Mobile Hotspot and Converge

Creating mobile hotspot is common when you are traveling in groups. However, this isn’t the case for our Hokkaido trip. We rely a lot on Google map for navigation and having a device with a bigger screen makes a lot of sense. As such, we dedicated the sim card to our iPad Mini. Then came another problem. We could not tether to our iPad Mini as NTT Docomo does not allow the creation of mobile hotspot. However, this restriction only seems to apply to Apple products. We tried tethering on our Blackberry and OPPO phones successfully. Point to note – don’t rely your iPad and iPhone for tethering.

According to NTT, below shows the coverage of 4G network in Hokkaido. Orange and Red refers to the coverage


If you understand Japanese, you may get more information from the website https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/support/area/hokkaido/index.html

Based on the above, most of the places I went to are covered. Google map worked extremely well when we were doing our nature tour. The signal strength and speed are generally good even at nature parks and mountains. In the cities, speed and accessibility are definitely better. However, I didn’t experience blazing fast 4G speed when comes to uploading and posting on Instagram and Facebook. Maybe I am a pampered Singaporean that has a certain expectation of what an actual 4G speed like. So far, Hoheikyo Dam is the only place that I did not have any signal.

Verdict

Activation process is straight forward if you are using an iPhone or iPad. If you are using other phones, you may run a risk of not able to activate the service. Although there is a work-around (which I have shared earlier), it makes the process less seamless and user-friendly.

If you plan to travel in large group, I will suggest that you obtain 4G router directly from the distributer. Price might be higher but it saves the hassle of having to activate the sim card and having to swap the sim card between devices.

Coverage wise, I think that Japan 4G coverage is far much better than most countries I’ve been to.

Review: Blackberry Leap – A Productive Phone

The Blackberry Leap is obviously not the only phone that Blackberry ditched their iconic physical keypad. Previously, they have launched a whole Z series of touchscreen-only smartphone to compete with the big boys like the iPhones and Android-powered devices. However, the sales fell short of expectation. Could the Blackberry Leap make a comeback for Blackberry?

3-IMG_4171

Let’s take a look.

 

Appearance

When I receive the unit from Blackberry, my first impression on the phone is that it is plain and simple. It is not light compared to most smartphones. It weighs 170g but it does not seem bulky. In fact, it feels solid. Because of its simplicity, it gives a “professional” and “I-am-here-for-business” feel. Sort of.

 

The front has a 5-inch screen display with the Blackberry brand at the bottom. Nothing fanciful and the front just looks like other smartphones (Erm…Aren’t all touchscreen phones look similar from the front?)

 

The premium-looking textured pattern design at the back stands out from other smartphones. The dimpled and slight curvy back also keep the phone “grippy” making it easy to hold.

 

On the right-hand side is where the volume control. On the other side, it houses the SD card and SIM card slot. Same for most of the Blackberry phones, the power button and 3.5mm audio jack are located on top of the phone.

 

9-IMG_4569Hardware 

The Blackberry Leap, in many ways, similar to its predecessor Blackberry Z10. I will highlight some of the key difference seen in the Blackberry Leap.

 

First, the Blackberry Leap has a non-removable battery with a capacity of 2800mAh which is a huge improvement from the Z10’s 1800maH battery capacity. The battery life of the Blackberry Leap is amazingly good. I stressed the phone with lots of web-surfing and sharing of photos over social networking apps and surprisingly, the phone can last me about 2 days. I ditched my Android phone and power bank and brought the Blackberry Leap out for my business trip abroad.

 

Second, call me old-fashion. The best feature of the Blackberry Leap is FM radio. All you need is to connect your headphones (The headphone serves as an antenna) This feature is missing in the Blackberry Z10. In fact, most smartphones these days have replaced this feature with internet radio app (for obvious commercial reasons). Unless you have unlimited data usage for your mobile plan, I will still opt for the free FM radio.

 

Third, both Blackberry Leap and z10 have expandable storage capacity. I have tried using the Leap to reply all my business emails for a period of 2 weeks, I manage to survive with its 16G internal storage. Nonetheless, the Blackberry Leap is able to support up to 128G MicroSD which is an improvement from z10’s 64G.

 

Forththe Blackberry Leap does not come with NFC function. Does it matter? Do you still remember when is your last time you use the NFC function on your phone? I know some people might disagree with me on this. Since nobody is using the NFC function, why even include this function in the phone? The strategy of removing this function in the Blackberry Leap does make some sense here. Even that’s the case, I still think that the removal of NFC function does place Blackberry Leap at a disadvantage ground in the market space. It is really hard to find a smartphone without NFC these days.

 

Fifth, the display resolution for Blackberry Leap is 720 X 1280 pixels which is inferior to many smartphones in the current market.  (Even the older Z10 gives 768 X 1280 pixels resolutions). The image is modestly sharp but there are many other smartphones at the similar price range out there that could deliver better image quality.

 

8-IMG_4554

Sixth, the Blackberry Leap is equipped with 8 mega pixels back-camera. Under optimal light conditions, it takes very decent-quality photos. The night shot is blurry. However, we need to emphasize that the Blackberry Leap is designed for business productivity. Phone camera should not be  Blackberry’s priority .

Photo shot with Blackberry Leap under optimal light.
HDR photo shot with Blackberry Leap under optimal light.

 

See more photo shot with Blackberry Leap 

[tribulant_slideshow gallery_id=”7″]

 

User’s Experience on BB10 

Blackberry understands that the BB10 OS requires some learning and has prepared a quick tutorial when you first start up your device.  Once you are familiar with the OS, you will be amazed on how well you could multi-task on this device.

 

The most “organized” feature is the Blackberry Hub where it combines all the emails and message notification from various supported apps such as Facebook and Whatsapp into a single list. The Blackberry Hub makes it easier to have a quick glance on the current and past notifications. The Priority Hub, as the name suggests, filtered out all the messages that deemed to be “priority”. You can also manually add rules under Priority setting to filter out the important email that you would want to attend first.

 

7-IMG_4551The feature of the Blackberry Hub I like most is the Attachment Hub. I believe many people have faced problem in searching for a particular attachment in your inbox. Under Attachment Hub, you will find all the attachments in the inbox and it saves you the hassle of finding the relevant email message where the attachment located.

 

The Blackberry’s predictive text is good and my previous blog post has briefly mentioned on that before (review on the Blackberry Passport. My co-writer’s post is written entirely using Blackberry Passport). Once you got used to its predictive text, typing on Blackberry Leap is extremely fast and easy.

 

The most commonly used app such as Facebook and Linkedin are already pre-installed in the system. If you need more interesting apps that you can’t find in the Blackberry World, you could try Snap to install Android apps on to your Blackberry Leap. (See link here for details of Snap; though I don’t really see the need in doing so if I am able to download all the common social networks and communication apps such as Whatsapp and Weibo from Blackberry World)

 

Verdicts 

Good: Solid and stylish-looking design suit the young executive’s image. Blackberry Leap  is a serious phone that could potentially help you clinch a multi-million dollar deal. Excellent battery life. From that perspective, this below-$400 phone is a steal.

 

Bad: On the flip side, this is the last phone that I hope to receive from my boss. Although the Blackberry Leap is a business phone that focuses on productivity, the 5-inch display and camera are under-performing.

 

Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Review of Lumia 640 XL – A Good “TravelPhone”

Ever since the renewal of leadership, Microsoft has adopted a different approach in capturing the smartphone market which are pretty much dominated by Android and iOS. In doing so, it is logical for Microsoft to focus more on the developing market. In November 2014, Microsoft announced the first Microsoft (non-Nokia) branded Lumia device, the Microsoft Lumia 535. The device was first released in India and soon followed by other countries in late 2014 and early 2015

 

The Lumia 640 series is the first Microsoft-branded LTE smartphones ever since the acquisition of Nokia Mobile. By the look of its price and hardware specification, the Lumia 640 series exhibits almost identical performance to MotoG. Now, let’s take a closer look at the Lumia 640 XL, the phalet version of the Lumia 640.

 

(Picture above) Front of Lumia 640 XL  
(Picture above) Front of Lumia 640 XL

 

Design and Build

The Lumia 640 XL measured 157.9 X 81.5 X 9.0MM and weighs 171g. It is bigger and heavier but slightly thinner than its predecessor Lumia 630 and Lumia 635.

The volume control and power button are all at the right side of the phone and are distinctively placed apart with the power button at the lower but there is no shutter button for the camera.

At the back , there is a camera hump. The bright plastic back cover case (mine was white) is pleasing to the touch, and the workmanship is solid, but it does not give a premium feel.

Bend any corner of the plastic cover to open so you can replace the battery, add the SIM and slot in a microSD if you want to. The plastic cover and there is no need to buy a cover to protect the phone.

 

(Picture above) Internal, removable battery and back cover  
(Picture above) Internal, removable battery and back cover

 

 

 

Performance 

The Lumia 640 XL does not offer top notch hardware performance as what you have seen with other Android or iOS devices. Powered only by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2 GHz quad-core processor with 1GB RAM, the device packs a pathetic 8GB internal storage (but expandable up to 128 GB via a micro SD card). However, the Windows experience, is surprisingly smooth and pleasing. Switching between apps, multi-tasking and web browsing do not exhibit any lag or memory overload on the device.

 

The 5.7-inch HD display has the 1280 X 720 resolution. However due to the larger size, the PPI count is at 259 PPI lower than Lumia 640’s i.e a Lumia 640 definitely looks sharper than Lumia 640 XL. Despite the fact, the colors on Lumia 640 XL are bright and sharp, and the viewing angles are pretty good. The Corning Gorilla Glass 3 screen is also equipped with Microsoft’s sunlight readability enhancements.

 

Unlike other of the Android phones I used before, I don’t frequently check on the battery status on this phone simply because there is no need to! Packed with removable 3000 mAh battery, A fully-charged Lumia 640 XL survives through 2 days of heavy web browsing, conference call and “youtubing” before putting it back on charge.

 

 

(Picture above) Power button and volume control at the right side of the phone  
(Picture above) Power button and volume control at the right side of the phone

 

Camera

A 13 megapixel rear snapper rounds off a strong set of specs and I’m seriously impressed by the quality of the Lumia 640XL’s optics.

On auto mode, the phone captures sharp and natural shots that easily rival against other similar-range phone, including  OPPO Find 7. Up-close shots are particularly impressive, with the lens picking up almost every last shred of detail especially under outdoor conditions. The camera also produces reasonable-good quality night shot.

 

Picture shot with Lumia 640 XL 

Other Plus Point – Office 365

The Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL will also come with a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, which includes the latest Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote) on the Lumia as well as on one PC or Mac and one tablet.

 

With the Office 365 Personal installed, users will receive an additional 1TB of OneDrive storage, and 60 Skype world minutes

 

Keeping all your works in the cloud, Office 365 helps in your productivity by offering the ability to work on-the-go. Once you are connected into the internet, all you need is a browser to view and edit your documents. Currently, it supports all commonly-used browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome and of course Window’s IE.

 

Limited App in Microsoft’s Ecosystem

App is a main hurdle for mobile phone users to switch from Android or iOS to Windows. For the past 3 weeks, I hardly find any app or game in the app store that interests me. The ecosystem is still pretty limited even the popular instagram app is still running Beta on Windows.

Fortunately, popular apps such as Facebook and Whatsapp are available.

 

 

Verdicts

The Lumia 640 XL is not positioned as a high-end phalet but offers an value-for-money alternative in the competitive smartphone market. The good-enough hardware performance and decent good quality back-facing camera makes the Windows Phone experience on Lumia 640 XL an excellent one.

 

Judging from a price-wise, the performance of Lumia 640 XL has exceeded my expectation. Without a doubt,  this is a phone that worth considering if you are looking for not-so-expensive phone that can help you get your work done well at the same time keeps you entertained.

 

Now, should you ditch your Android or iPhone for this? I would not recommend to. Android and iOS still give a more comprehensive app ecosystem where it gets updated frequently with latest apps and games. Furthermore, there is still a certain degree of learning hurdles to overcome before you could get used to the Windows Phone interface.

 

Frequent travelers who do not want to run the risk of losing their expensive iPhone may consider getting the Lumia 640 XL as their “TravelPhone”. After all, it is still a smartphone that can deliver pretty much what an iPhone could but costs so much lesser.

 

 

Availability and Price in Singapore

Both the Lumia 640 (SGD 299) and 640 XL (SGD429) will be available in Singapore at Microsoft Authorized Mobile Reseller in Funan DigitaLife Mall and GadgetWorld, 3Mobile and Handphoneshop outlets.

 

All 3 local operators and A-Mobile will also be retailing the device with bundled data plans.

 

 

**Thanks to tech4tea.com for loaning the review unit!

Review: Logitech Z213 Sound System

Follow up from my previous post.

Logitech Z213 is a 2.1 sound system which includes 2 satellites speakers and a subwoofer. This is an entry-level system that delivers quality sound across different usage be it music, movie and gaming.

1-L1020392

Back of the subwoofer

Considering the price tag of only SGD39.90, I was very impressed by the rich bass that the subwoofer has delivered while watching music video on YouTube. Unlike other active subwoofer, the sound don’t seem to be too boomy. I guess the down-firing driver has certainly helped in spreading the bass across the room.

1-L1020394

Bottom of the subwoofer

The compact size fits nicely on my study table. I can free up more space if I put the subwoofer on the floor but it took me a while to tidy up the wiring behind the table.

 

Although I like the rich bass that it delivers, the low power output has its limitation and this is more evident while watching your Hollywood action-packed movies. The diffused bass is pretty bad while you turn up the volume.

1-L1020398

Wired volume controller

These days we have many entertainment contents stored in our phone. Having Bluetooth in the sound system will a big plus as it saves the hassle of plugging in and out of the 3.5mm plug. You can solve this problem by getting additional Bluetooth adaptor.  Still, I believe consumer is very willing to pay additional 10 to 20 bucks just to have Bluetooth integrated with the system.

1-L1020402Speaker

Likes:

Cheap and reasonable sound quality that will be best use in room. It is hard to find system with such quality at that kind of price range

 

Dislikes:

Bad bass for movie and gaming given the low power output. No bluetooth and it is cumbersome to plug in and out from the 3.5mm jack if I would like to listen music stored in my phone.

 

Recommendation:

As an entry level system, it is a buy for people who is looking for simplicity that compliment with their home computer.

 

A quick summary on the specs.

Satellites (per speaker)
  • 2 x 1.5W (RMS) (into 4 ohms, @1kHz, @10% THD)
  • 2-inch concave dome driver
Subwoofer Driver
  • 4W (RMS) (into 4 ohms, @100Hz, @10% THD)
  • 4-inch down-firing dome driver
  • Integrated bass control
Frequency Response 65Hz~20kHz
Power Output 7W (RMS) / 14W (peak)
Inputs / Outputs 3.5mm auxiliary input, 3.5mm headphone jack
Dimensions
  • Satellite: 142 x 79 x 76mm
  • Subwoofer: 183 x 130 x 193mm
  • 1.76kg

 

 

 

Logitech Mulitmedia Speaker Z50 Review

Thanks to SPRG for sending in the review unit. Z50 is a light and compact mini speaker that measured 106.5mm (H) X 98.6mm (W) X 98.6mm(D) in dimension and weighs only 260g.

Unlike most other mini speakers, the flowerpot-shaped device has a sound driver facing upwards instead of facing directly to the users. Surprise from this small device, this speaker can deliver loud sound output of upto 10W.

Pros

– Compact and portable –  Light to carry around and Small enough to put into any bag.

– Attractive price point – Only SGD 24/-

– Quality sound compared to speakers from the similar price range.

– Minimalistic design with 3 different vibrant colours choices – Pink, Grey and Blue (Personally, I like the blue colour)

 

Cons

– Only 3.5mm jack – No other connectivity option.

– Limited power option – only AC power

 

Buy or not?

For mini speaker designed to be light and affordable, it is not physically possible to have “all the good stuffs”. If you are looking for a speaker that works well with your tablets and laptop in an indoor environment, this is certainly one of the choices that you can consider.