Because schools and offices are employing study and work from home schemes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, getting a smartphone is quite appealing in this day and age. That is because such portable devices are handy and you can conduct video conferences, as well as communicate with other people from across the world.
That being said, if you have only a limited budget, then I highly recommend that you look at the Xiaomi Poco X3. I am going to be reviewing it today, so sit tight and read through the rest of this content piece.
Before I begin, I just want to say that there are two versions of this phone. You might find that there is one that is called ‘Poco X3 NFC’ and the other version doesn’t have the ‘NFC’ in its moniker. This implies that one doesn’t come with the said technology, so if you are going to buy this device, make sure that you are getting the right version.
That being said, we used to think that budget smartphones do not look classy, but you have to change that mindset because phone manufacturers like Xiaomi make incredible-looking phones for a cheaper price.
The Poco X3 might have a polycarbonate body but it certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap. In fact, once you get a hold of the device, you will instantly find that it can take a beating while still having that elegant look.
At the back, you will find the ‘Poco’ branding situated a little bit near the charging port while at the top, you will find its quad-camera array. Do keep in mind that there is a noticeable camera bump, so using this flat on a desk will mean that the phone will move on every press of the display.
Since this is a budget smartphone, you will find a two sim-card tray, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. You will also find a fingerprint sensor which is added to the power button itself. In my testing, it is somewhat accurate, albeit it is not as fast as flagship devices.
You also get dual speakers that are placed at the top and the bottom of the device and I have to say that they are pretty loud. Its support for aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC codecs make it also an enticing choice if you are going to use Bluetooth speakers.
Lastly, the Poco X3 has an IP53 rating which means that it can handle dust and a couple of splashes. Just do not submerge this device or go out there in the pouring rain.
What’s interesting about the Poco X3 is that it has a 120Hz display. Here, you will get a 6.67-inch IPS display with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 and an aspect ratio of 20:9. You will also love the fact that it can support HDR10 as well, though keep in mind that this is still using an IPS panel, so its contrast is not as good as those phones with OLED displays.
Still, I find the colors to be quite punchy and vibrant, and the brightness caps at 450 nits which is quite impressive for an affordable smartphone.
Xiaomi has done a good job of making sure that the phone’s fast display won’t eat through the battery like butter by enabling a variable refresh rate. This means that if the situation doesn’t call for a fast display, the screens’ refresh rate will dial back down a little bit to save on battery. Of course, you can set it to full 120Hz all of the time, though you have to be carrying its charger with you at all times.
All in all, I am quite impressed by the Poco X3’s display. Even if it is just an IPS screen, it looks really nice and its peak brightness ensures that you can use the phone even in direct sunlight.
Normally, I do not take too much time on a budget smartphone’s camera array simply because most companies overlook this aspect anyway and would just put in some cameras and be done with it. But, the Poco X3 is different.
You see, aside from the fact that this device has four cameras at the back, they are quite respectable in terms of performance.
You get a 64-megapixel wide-angle main shooter that produces vibrant shots and perfect dynamic range. Its 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera is okay, though its performance is not on par with other ultra-wide sensors in mid-range phones.
The last two cameras are macro and depth lenses which perform admirably well, especially if you decide to use the device’s specific camera features.
You can record 4K videos at 30 frames per second but when you go for this resolution, you will not have any image stabilization at all and it would be fitting if you use a gimbal for stabilization.
If you are recording videos at HD or Full HD, then you will find that the cameras do a pretty good job in terms of performance and quality.
The 20-megapixel selfie camera is no slouch either. It can take high-quality photos of yourself or a group and its quality shines when you are using video-conferencing apps.
All in all, I am happy with the Poco X3’s cameras. The only thing that I do not like about them is that they create a bit of a bulge which is noticeable if you put the device on a desk.
Specs and Performance
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G
- GPU: Adreno 618
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 64/128GB, expandable via MicroSD
- Display: 6.67-inch IPS LCD, 2400 x 1080 resolution, 120Hz Refresh Rate, 240Hz Touch Sampling Rate, HDR10, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
- Camera: 64-megapixel Sony IMX682 main sensor (f/1.89), 13-megapixel ultra-wide (f/2.2, 119-degrees field of view), 2-megapixel macro (f/2.4), 2-megapixel depth (f/2.4); 20-megapixel (f/2.2) selfie camera
- SIM: Dual Sim or 1 SIM + microSD card
- Connectivity: WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, USB-C, 3.5mm port
- Battery: 5,160 mAh, 33-Watt Charger
- Dimensions: 165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4mm
- Weight: 215 grams
- Colors: Shadow Gray, Cobalt Blue
The Poco X3’s performance is on par with the Google Pixel 4a and other phones that come with the Snapdragon 732G chipset.
For those of you who do not know, the Snapdragon 732G chipset is on the lower end of mid-range chipsets. It is not bad by any means but it certainly doesn’t come close to the 765G (which is found in phones such as the OnePlus Nord).
You can still expect relatively good performance across the board, but you will find that the phone struggles to handle graphically demanding games. For the most part, you shouldn’t worry too much about it.
The Xiaomi Poco X3 is packed with the company’s MIUI 12 operating system which is just a skin of Android 10 with Xiaomi’s spin on the said OS. It is pretty polished, though it will take some time for you to understand its features.
Now, when you are getting a budget product, you can expect some corners to be cut somewhere, right? While that is not evident in the design, it is definitely evident when it comes to the software.
You see, for Xiaomi to get some profits when selling affordable phones, they have to do something to make that a reality and in the Poco X3, it is by way of in-OS ads.
The ads aren’t there in plain sight, but it will be shown to you whenever you install something from the Google Play Store, as well as in some areas of the phone’s settings.
They are not intrusive by any means, but some people might find it annoying that you will see ads on a phone that you’ve paid for.
To be honest, this isn’t a huge deal considering that you are getting a pretty good smartphone at an affordable price. But if you are not okay with this (especially since there are some concerns about privacy), then you might want to find something else.
This device is a survivor as it can last a comfortable two days before needing a charge. The Poco X3 comes with a hefty 5,160 mAh battery with a 33-watt charger in the box.
Even if you play all day or watch content online to your heart’s content, this device can handle them without any issue.
I have to really tax this device for the battery to run out in a single day, which means that if you only use this thing moderately, you could be seeing a 2-3-day battery life.
Charging the Poco X3 is also not a problem at all. Its included 33-watt charger ensures that the device gets its battery from 0-100 in just under 2 hours.
Sadly, there is no support for wireless charging, but that is to be expected given that this is a budget device.
If you are looking for a great budget phone, the Xiaomi Poco X3 is definitely one of them. It has a fast 120Hz display, good brightness levels, great battery life, and overall good build quality.
You might have an issue with the ads that are found in some parts of the operating system, but to me, they are not obtrusive at all.
If you are interested in getting the Xiaomi Poco X3, you can get the NFC version for just $250 for the 6GB/128GB version.
Google Nest Audio vs Amazon Echo- The Battle of the New ‘Smart’ Speakers
Smart home speakers are not as popular as mobile phones, but in my opinion, it actually should be.
You see, companies are slowly rolling out smart home devices so that your life will be so much easier given the convenience of having them.
That being said, I am going to be talking about the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo speakers because they are the ones that are at the forefront when it comes to smart home speakers. Which of these should you choose? Read on to find out!
For those of you who do not know, Google Nest Audio is actually the Google Home speakers that were released just about a year ago. It seems that Google wanted to use a new moniker to denote that this particular thing can ‘nest’ your other smart home devices.
The Amazon Echo, on the other hand, refers to the medium-sized Bluetooth speaker that the largest online retailer sells. The company is set to release a new version of this device soon, so it would be interesting to see how well it performs.
Even though the new version of the Amazon Echo hasn’t arrived at our doorstep yet for an official review, this is not to say that we can somehow speculate what it can offer, especially considering that the company has provided us with some really good information about it.
With all of those out of the way, let’s talk more about the design first. The Google Nest Audio takes on a more cylindrical approach in that the speaker itself has a higher height than the Amazon Echo.
For that reason, you are getting a 75mm woofer and a single 19mm tweeter. Google touts the Google Nest Audio as a better sound solution compared to its original Google Home Speaker because of the changes.
On the other hand, the Amazon Echo, in my opinion, has better sound quality. That is thanks to its two 20mm tweeters and a huge 76.2mm woofer. Its design is more spherical but I am pleased (and surprised) that Amazon was able to include two tweeters on its Bluetooth speaker implementation.
At the base of the Amazon Echo is a blue light ring that changes the way it emits light depending on the current usage.
Both of these Bluetooth speakers are offered in various colors so you have different options to choose from.
If you look at the design of both speakers, you could make a case that the Amazon Echo wins this round when it comes to pure sound quality. Its two tweeters compared to the single tweeter on the Google Nest Audio, provides it with a much better chance of delivering mid-high sound frequencies.
This is not to discount the fact that Google has some tricks up its sleeves because its AI technology is smart enough to adjust the sound quality on the fly when needed.
Both of the speakers have an adaptive sound feature wherein if it detects that the ambient noise is loud enough, it increases the volume of whatever content you are consuming at that moment to compensate. This is using both of the speakers’ microphones. The volume should normalize to the last known level after it detects that the ambient sound has quieted down.
Of course, this is only my opinion after looking at the spec sheet because I will have to get my hands on these things before I can give my honest opinion. But, my initial assessment would be that the Amazon Echo delivers better sound compared to the Google Nest Audio.
To be able to provide you with ‘smart’ features, both the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo are equipped with processors that can handle just that.
The Google Nest Audio comes with the company’s TeraOPS A53 processor which is a quad-core chip that boasts of better performance compared to the company’s previous Bluetooth speakers.
On the other hand, Amazon’s own speaker is equipped with the AZ1 Neural Edge processor that, according to the company, should be more responsive to voice commands compared to previous versions.
It is hard to say who wins this round. You see, Amazon has Zigbee hub integration which means that your connected smart home devices have better compatibility with the said speaker because of this.
However, we all know that Google’s AI technology is so advanced (and even more accurate) than Alexa, so it could potentially provide you with better features overall compared to Amazon’s Bluetooth speaker.
Of course, I cannot truly say which one wins this round until I get to review these wireless audio solutions. In that case, stay tuned for more.
The Google Nest Audio will be available on October 5, while the Amazon Echo will not be released until later this month (October 22). That being said, both of these speakers will retail for $99.99, so stay tuned for our official product reviews to help you know which one you should ultimately choose for yourself.
Apple iPad 8th Generation Review- An Iterative Upgrade
When it comes to ease of use and convenience, people like getting Apple’s products because of its more streamlined approach to everything. Sure, there is a lot to tinker on Android but that is also precisely the reason why the user experience, at least for the layman, is not as great.
There is this saying that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, although I would have liked to say that here, I just don’t think that that approach applies here.
You see, the design of the 8th generation iPad is identical to its predecessor. As in everything about its aesthetics are similar which means that if you want to imagine what the new iPad looks like, all you have to do is look at the 7th gen variant.
Like all things, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is a good thing because that familiar design should feel right at home, especially for people that already own an iPad. It is bad because, in this day and age, more and more mobile devices have slimmer bezels and the new iPad still has those atrociously huge ones.
Don’t get me wrong, there are practical uses to having large bezels as it allows you to hold the tablet better when using it in landscape mode, but if you are watching online content, you can’t help but be bothered by the huge sides.
There are two versions of the 8th generation iPad and that is one with WiFi only and the other one having LTE. Its dimensions are 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29. The only difference between the WiFi and the LTE versions is that the latter is a bit heavier at 495 grams compared to the 490 grams of the former.
Thankfully, Apple didn’t remove the headphone jack but if you are going to utilize its built-in speakers, you are better off using a good Bluetooth speaker instead.
The 8th generation iPad has a 10.2-inch Retina Display with a resolution of 2160 x 1620 and 264 pixels per inch or PPI. It has a good peak brightness at 500 nits, though you can still experience some problems when you are outside and the sun is shining brightly.
You can utilize the Apple Pencil on this device and it is also quite accurate as well (just keep in mind that it is sold separately).
What I love about iPads, in general, is that their displays provide you with crisp and clear details. Whether you are working on your documents or perhaps watching your favorite movies and TV shows, they do not disappoint.
Specs and Performance
- CPU: A12 Bionic
- GPU: Apple GPU (4-core graphics)
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 32GB/128GB
- Display: 10.2-inch Retina IPS LCD Display, 2160 x 1620, 4:3 aspect ratio, 500 nits brightness, 264 PPI
- OS: iPadOS 14
- Cameras: 8-megapixel (back), 1.2-megapixel (front)
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 AC, Bluetooth 4.2
- Battery: 32.4 Wh
So, if the 8th generation iPad has an identical design to its predecessor, what has changed here? Well, I am glad you asked. The only notable difference here is that the new model comes with the A12 Bionic chip and that’s pretty much it.
While you could be unhappy with the change, the new CPU actually beats its predecessor by a lot. By using Geekbench 5, single-core scores are about 60% higher than the 7th gen iPad and about 100% better in multi-core tasks than the previous model.
Granted that the said benchmark is relatively old, you couldn’t argue that the new processor is indeed way better than its predecessor.
Even when you are just using the tablet the way it should be used, you can really tell the difference. This is more evident if you are going to play some games.
Now, do not worry about the 3GB of RAM because the iOS ecosystem is quite streamlined and efficient that you normally wouldn’t need more than that.
It should also go without saying that the included cameras are just there for show and they do not really do anything special, so I don’t think that covering them is warranted here.
Sure, the new 8th generation iPad doesn’t bring a lot to the table, but its new processor is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. Does that justify buying the new one? Probably not, especially if you already own the 7th generation model.
However, if you own an older iPad and you want better performance across the board, then you could probably spend your money to get one.
My gripe here is that there are only two storage options to choose from. You can get the 32GB variant for only $329 but in this day and age, 32GB is not a lot of storage space.
If you want more storage, you will need to spend an additional $100 premium just to get the 128GB model. In fact, I would go on to say that you should be buying this particular model compared to the 32GB variant. I just don’t like that the company is gouging you another $100 ($429 in total) just to get one.
The 8th generation iPad is disappointing in a lot of ways and its only redeeming quality is its new processor. It would have been nice if there is a redesign or that the lightning cable is changed to USB-C, but there is just not a lot of things to talk about here.
Therefore, I should say that the 8th generation iPad is just an iterative upgrade. Whether you want to buy it or not is entirely up to you.
Amazon Echo Studio Review- The Bigger ‘Echo’ Speaker That Competes
Amazon, the biggest online retailer in the world, has created its own AI implementation in the form of the Amazon Alexa.
It is actually quite polished and it can go against Apple’s Siri and Google’s own AI. That being said, the company has released some ‘Echo’ speakers that not only act as Bluetooth audio devices but as smart devices as well.
Today, I am going to be reviewing the Amazon Echo Studio. Does this thing really have what it takes to compete with the others?
One of the biggest criticisms of Amazon’s Echo speakers of the past is that although its smart features are okay, their sound output leaves much to be desired. As a way of addressing the issue, Amazon has built the Echo Studio.
The Amazon Echo Studio is pretty big. It is 8 inches in height and 7 inches wide so this is indeed a pretty hefty audio solution. In fact, I would go on to say that this is one of the biggest Bluetooth speakers on the market.
Its design is pretty much akin to the Amazon Echo speakers of old. You get a fabric mesh design that encapsulates the speaker itself with all of its button controls situated at the top of the device.
You also get a blue ring light that will pretty much add to the aesthetic appeal of the unit. The microphone is also placed at the top and it is always on ‘listening mode’ so that whenever you want to interact with Alexa, it can do so at a moment’s notice.
Although you cannot see it, the Amazon Echo Studio is actually powered by a subwoofer, a tweeter, and four mid-range speakers that are mounted at the top and the sides. This thing is a beast as it can output 330 watts of power when needed, which is ample enough even for home cinema setups.
The Amazon Echo Studio is quite a powerful Bluetooth speaker. No matter what genre of content you’d like to consume, this thing can output the necessary sound to make your viewing experience more immersive.
I am usually keen on an audio solution’s performance when it comes to playing music and I am happy with the Echo Studio’s prowess.
Although it favors the lower frequencies more than the mids and the highs, it does so without drowning the latter two, which is something that you normally do not see on large Bluetooth speakers.
An interesting feature that the Amazon Echo Studio has is its support for 3D Audio. You will need to sign in to your Amazon Music HD account before you can get a hold of this feature and it is the only platform that supports the Echo Studio’s 3D Audio. Amazon did mention that it will hand out support for other streaming platforms at a later date though.
So, how is the speaker’s performance on that front? Well, I am not really sure what to think about it as I have mixed feelings about the said feature.
3D audio is meant to provide a more immersive listening experience but I can hardly tell the difference between traditional Hi-Res audio and this one.
I guess you could say that for tracks that have a more melodic tone that you can discern a 3D audio-enabled track from a regular track, but other than that, non-audiophiles can hardly tell the difference.
To be fair, the said feature is still not polished yet, so expect it to improve in the years to come.
The Amazon Echo Studio also has seamless integration with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, though it does support all other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu as well.
You are also given the option to link up another Amazon Echo Studio speaker so that you can have them work in tandem to provide you with even better sound. I do not have a second unit though, so I cannot really tell anything about this. But, the feature is there if you want to get another unit.
Aside from 3D audio, the Echo Studio also acts as a control hub for your smart devices. You can use Alexa to turn off your lights at a specific time of the night or you can have it play your favorite track if you want. The possibilities are endless.
Do keep in mind that while it should support most of the smart home devices that you can buy on the market, there are some products that do not play ball.
For instance, some smart locks can only be supported using Apple’s Siri, so you cannot control that using this device.
You can also link up a second Echo Studio speaker if you have one and you can use both of them to provide you with an even more powerful and more immersive listening experience.
You can control the speaker’s features by manually tapping on the buttons at the top of the device or by downloading its companion app.
Amazon has finally solved the issue of the Amazon Echo speakers of the past by giving you a relatively large speaker that can do a lot of things.
The Amazon Echo Studio has support for 3D audio, but you will need to have an Amazon Music HD account to get a hold of the said feature.
You can also use the speaker to control your smart home devices which is pretty nice. The microphone is always on listening mode so that you can call Alexa’s attention at a moment’s notice.
Normally, I would expect a product like this to cost more than $300, but the Amazon Echo Studio actually costs just $199. I guess getting another one is not too far out of the equation, eh?
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