Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera review (Video!)

This is the one you’ve been waiting for. Today we are taking a look at the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s camera performance. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Huawei has built quite a reputation in smartphone photography, so its latest and greatest entered the market with high expectations. Its triple-camera array, Leica lenses, high-resolution sensors, and wide feature set certainly put it out to be among the best, at least on paper. We are here to find out if the amazing spec sheet translates to equally stunning shots.

I took it out for a spin across continents, taking into account different settings, scenarios, lighting situations, moods, and environments. Here’s what I found.

Photos have been resized for quicker loading times, but that is the only editing these images have undergone. If you want to pixel peep and analyze the full resolution photos, we have put them in a Google Drive folder for you.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera specs

  • Main cameras
    • Wide angle: 40MP, f/1.8
    • Ultra wide angle: 20MP, f/2.2
    • Telephoto: 8MP, f/2.4
    • Autofocus: Laser focus, phase focus, contrast focus
    • Image stabilization: AIS (Huawei AI Image Stabilization)
    • Flash: Dual LED
    • Video: 4K at 30fps, FHD+ at 30fps, FHD at 60fps, 720p at 30fps
  • Front camera
    • 24MP, f/2.0
    • Support 3D Depth Sensing Camera
    • Video: FHD+ at 30fps, FHD at 30fps, 720p at 30fps

Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera app

Fans of Huawei smartphones will feel right at home with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It uses the same interface as the P20, P20 Pro, and other popular handsets from the Chinese manufacturer.

Editor’s Pick

I happen to like the app for its abundant features and ease of use. Unlike camera applications from other manufacturers, everything is pretty straightforward here. Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, and Pro mode sit clearly between the viewfinder and the shutter button. Selecting the “More” option brings up advanced features like Watermark, Time-lapse, AR lens, Slow-mo, Document scanning, HDR, Panorama, and even Underwater (which requires a special case).

It’s all there; no feature is hiding in the settings menu or using weird secondary buttons. The only feature Huawei put in an odd location is the HiVision mode, which can scan QR codes, barcodes, texts, products, and objects. The mode can scan text to see a translation, point at a product to see shopping options, and more. It is quite fun and worked perfectly every time.

The rest of the app is pretty straightforward, but it can get a bit crowded. A lot of features have been thrown into this phone and the UI takes a hit. The few onscreen options change in every mode, and the settings can get confusing, since they also adapt to your current mode. However, the learning curve isn’t as complex as with other smartphones.

So many features have been thrown into the Huawei Mate 20 Pro that the UI takes a hit.

Edgar Cervantes

Master AI is less reliable, though. It can recognize the type of image you are shooting and automatically apply software enhancements to best fit the shot. I like what it can do when it gets things right. Shots with plenty of sky in the frame will get a more vibrant blue hue. Throw plants into the frame and the greenery will get more vibrant. You can learn more about it in our explanation post.

Regardless, I found it got things wrong about 25 percent of the time. Sometimes it thought I wanted to capture text when there was just large writing in the background. Sometimes it went into wide mode when I didn’t want it to. I decided to keep Master AI off (you can toggle it in the settings). It is a cool enhancement feature many of you will enjoy if you can get past its inconsistencies, but I prefer tweaking my images manually.

  • Ease of use: 8/10
  • Intuitiveness: 7/10
  • Features: 10/10
  • Advanced Settings: 10/10

Score: 8.8


Daylight

Daylight picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Daylight picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Daylight picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Daylight picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

Smartphone cameras get the best results in broad daylight, when the shooter doesn’t need to struggle for light. Direct sunlight can also make shots harder to judge though, as even mid-end cameras can output awesome photos with the right exposure.

More light also means stronger shadows, which usually tests the camera’s dynamic range. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro seems to have been great at recognizing differences in exposure and automatically turning HDR on. We can mostly see this in images one, three, and four.

The first image looks very uniform, equally exposed across the frame. There is plenty of detail in the clouds, as well as around the trees and grass. The third and fourth images show detail where I didn’t think they would, given the high contrast in light and direct sunlight within the frame.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is doing very well in the Daylight section, but not much better than the other great camera smartphones out there. The true differences will shine in other sections of the review.

Edgar Cervantes

My only real complaint in this section is that the second image is underexposed. It shows plenty of detail in buildings and moving cars, but it’s a bit dark. That’s disappointing, especially considering some of these images where actually taken in slightly darker environments.

Otherwise, colors are vibrant, detail is abundant, and dynamic range is quite surprising. So far the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is doing very well, but not much better than the other great camera smartphones out there. The true differences shine in other sections of the review.

Score: 9/10


Color

Color picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Color picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Color picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Color picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

Are those shrimp in the first image? Maybe mini lobsters? Whatever they are, they look appetizing, likely because their red hue really pops. The vibrant red stands out, almost to the point of looking artificial. This issue isn’t repeated in the other images, though, where bright colors pop without giving off an over-edited appearance.

The blue Porsche 911 GT3 RS is easily the best car I have driven in my life, so I am glad the picture does it justice by making it look shiny and vibrant.

Edgar Cervantes

The blue Porsche 911 GT3 RS is easily the best car I have driven in my life, so I am glad the picture does it justice by making it look shiny and vibrant. I also love how you can appreciate the water droplets and green grass. The same can be said about the fourth image, where the colors are uniformly vibrant, yet natural.

Even in foggy London, the yellow containers and bright red double deckers manage to stand out without looking out of place. Huawei seems to have found a way to make colors pop and still look natural, at least most of the time. However, even though vibrance and saturation are acceptable, these images’ contrast does lean more toward the heavier side.

I will say the second and fourth images look a tiny bit under-exposed, though. If you look at my face, you can see signs of over-softening and lack of detail. You can barely see detail in my beard. So while, colors are nice, I wish the camera got more detail.

Score: 8.5/10


Detail

Datail mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Datail mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Datail mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Datail mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

Fans of the Huawei P20 Pro will find something very important lacking in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro specs. The monochrome sensor is not in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and it’s a feature many of us will certainly miss, because it added all the detail to the legendary P20 Pro photo quality. The Monochrome mode is still there, but it no longer uses a dedicated sensor. It essentially just turns a regular photo black & white.

Where is the monochrome sensor? It’s not in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and it’s a feature many of us will miss.

Edgar Cervantes

The effects of a monochrome sensors are complex, but I will try to simplify it. Camera sensors are made of photosites, which capture light information. In color sensors, individual photosites only record one of the three specific basic colors (red, green, or blue). Meanwhile, in monochrome (black & white) sensors, photosites grab all light information they can, resulting in more minute detail.

The Huawei team swears software optimization can replicate the same level of detail as the monochrome sensor, but I disagree. I could see much more detail in Huawei P20 Pro shots.

Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back cameraIt’s not like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro can’t capture good detail, it’s just that the P20 Pro was exceptional. This one seems at least on par with the other high-end smartphones, when it comes to photo detail. Zoom into the locks, bird feathers, or wood. You will notice the image has been both over-softened and over-sharpened. This will result in a photo that looks great from afar, but all detail goes away once you look closer. I mean, just look at the 100 percent crop to the right. It is so over-softened it straight up looks like a painting.

I have to give Huawei a lower score in this section. Not exactly because it did badly, but because it took a step back by getting rid of the monochrome sensor. Replacing it with a super wide-angle lens, though, might bring some feature you will love, like macro functionality (more on that in a bit).

Score: 7/10


Landscape

Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is especially good at landscape photography. Its great dynamic range ensures a uniformly exposed frame, vibrant colors, and high contrast, and that super wide-angle lens really keeps everything is in frame.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is especially good at landscape photography.

Edgar Cervantes

The second image wouldn’t have been possible without the super wide-angle lens. There’s some distortion, but it made for the right composition. I was in a London Eye cabin, so I couldn’t really step back to get more into the frame. It was either the deformed edges or nothing!

As we mentioned in the Detail section, zooming in is where it all goes downhill. Otherwise, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro can take some great landscape shots, especially if you need to go wide and really get it all in frame.

Score: 8.5/10


Portrait mode

Potrait mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Potrait mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Potrait mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Potrait mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

Portrait mode simulates the bokeh effect (officially known as “blurry background”). We often see this effect in DSLR cameras using lenses with a wide aperture and shallow depth of field. Phones can’t do this naturally, so they use multiple lenses to figure out distance between the foreground and background in relation to the subject, and artificially add blur to things at farther distances.

The main issue with this is phones often do a bad job outlining the subject, getting confused about what is really in the distance. This results in blurring areas that shouldn’t be, or leaving background parts in focus. Sadly, this happened with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It is most obvious around the wind pipes and the glass behind David, where some spots are left in focus when they shouldn’t.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro can definitely take a nice shot in portrait mode, but it will get things wrong often. Gotta keep an eye on its mistakes!

Edgar Cervantes

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro portrait mode does a really good job when it gets things right, though. There are no significant mistakes in image one and four, and they look rather nice. The camera recognizes how far something is and blurs accordingly. In the image of me sitting in front of the ocean, you can see the beach is more blurred out than the boardwalk (which is closer to me).

In summary, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro can definitely take a nice shot in portrait mode, but it will get things wrong often. Gotta keep an eye on its mistakes!

Score: 7.5/10


HDR

HDR picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
HDR picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
HDR picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
HDR picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

High dynamic range (HDR) is used to evenly expose a frame with multiple levels of light. Traditionally it’s done by mixing photos taken at different exposure levels. The end result is an image with reduced highlights, increased shadows, and more even lighting.

In this phone HDR can be left in auto, turned off, or forced on. For this set of images we forced HDR on, just to make sure we got the best results.

When I first tried my hand at HDR on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro I was near the London Eye. I didn’t exactly walk out surprised, as plenty of detail under the tree was lost in the shadows. I was quite impressed by the high dynamic range mode once I started to play more with it, though.

I was especially impressed by the second image, which, despite having direct sunlight in the frame, managed to show quite a bit of detail around the people’s clothing, furniture, beach, and other elements. Of course, it’s all relative. We can really see it all in the image, but we were surprised to see much more than a silhouette. Given the circumstances, the phone did extremely well.

Furthermore, the picture of the stone bus decoration really showed us how much the camera can really do when you force HDR on. That dark alley was pitch black to the naked eye. Sure, the camera had some issues figuring out the white balance, but we also pushed it to its farthest limits.

Score: 8.5/10


Low-light

Night picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Night picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Night picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Night picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

In and of itself, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro does alright darker environments with its regular auto mode. You know the deal — higher ISO, wider aperture, and slower aperture can degrade the quality of the photo, affect the depth of field, and blur the image. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has a little something up its sleeve, though.

Editor’s Pick

The phone’s Night mode will take multiple shots at different exposures, then grab the best from all images and turn them into a single, improved low-light shot. It actually works wonders. Exposure itself will be similar, but in Night mode images lack motion blur, noise, and other elements often seen in low-light shots.

As you can see, outdoor low-light photos look crisp and well exposed, with plenty of detail in both the shadows and highlights. Go to extremely dark situations and you can still somewhat appreciate the subjects, like we see in image two. It’s not the best shot, by far, but it is really good considering the situation. What mostly affects it is white balance.

Score: 9/10


Macro

Macro shots sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Macro shots sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Macro shots sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Macro shots sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

That super wide-angle lens is really cool for getting more content in the frame, but I for one am more excited about its macro photography capabilities. The new super wide-angle camera makes it possible to focus on your subject even as close as 2.5cm from the camera!

A super wide-angle lens is really cool, but I am more excited about its macro photography capabilities.

Edgar Cervantes

When you want to take a macro shot, just zoom out to 0.6x and close in on your subject. I could focus in on water droplets, a decaying lock, a tree, and a stuffed animal. The amount of detail you can get from such a close distance is stunning.

READ: 40MP shootout: Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Nokia Lumia 1020

It sure is a fun feature to have! Detail is nice, but this gives you a level of functionality you won’t really find in other smartphone cameras. That is why it gets a perfect score.

Score: 10/10


Selfie

Selfie with Huawei Mate 20 Pro front camera
Selfie sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro front camera
Selfie sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro front camera
Selfie sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro front camera in low light

To some of you, selfies are what smartphone cameras are all about. If you really care for selfie quality, you should probably look elsewhere. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s front-facing camera gets the job done, but it is far from being a main contender in the selfie department.

Editor’s Pick

With enough light you get nice results, like in image one and three. My skin is detailed, you can see much of my beard’s hair strands, and colors are nice.

Things stop looking so nice once the sun goes down, though. Just look at the last photo. There is no detail in the hair and the shot is very softened. The second shot even shows signs of motion blur.

Selfies will come out alright if you put enough effort into them, but we expected more from what Huawei claims to be the best camera smartphone in the industry.

Score: 7.5/10


Video

A beautiful sunset is a great test subject for a camera. There is usually plenty of detail to see in the sand and water. Not to mention the contrasting brightness does a great job at testing dynamic range in video. As you can see in the video below, people quickly turned into silhouettes when pointing the camera at the sunset.

Turn around to take a look at the boardwalk and it all changes, though. There is plenty of detail in the people, wood, and shrubbery. Colors are vibrant, yet well balanced (unlike the Huawei P20, which saturated colors to hell). Image stabilization isn’t exactly the best we have seen, but it is pretty good considering I am not the smoothest walker out there.

Score: 8.5/10


Conclusion


Huawei Mate 20 Pro rear triple camera setup

Overall score: 8.4

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a great camera and it might deserve a higher score, but I came into this review with high expectations. The Huawei P20 Pro had great detail and stunning colors — it was overall an amazing camera.

I am disappointed by the fact that I actually believe the Huawei Mate 20 Pro to be a step down in terms of camera quality.

Edgar Cervantes

I actually believe the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a step down in terms of camera quality, mostly thanks to the absence of the monochrome sensor (which brought more detail to images) — that’s disappointing. I for one would give up the macro capabilities and the wider angle lens for more detail in general images. Those features are really cool, but I think they’re fads many will forget about after the hype dies down.

Regardless, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is still among the best cameras out there, and we know some of you will believe it to be the king of smartphone cameras. You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong — it’s a seriously good performer. Dynamic range (and HDR) is up to par with the latest and greatest. It seems Huawei finally found a way to make colors vibrant without giving them an over-saturated, fake look. You can get stunning results in low-light with Night mode. If you are into macro photography, you can get some amazing results I never thought possible on a smartphone.

It’s not a bad investment, but I’m going back to the Huawei P20 Pro right after I am done with this review (which is now).

JLab Epic Air Elite review: True-wireless earbuds with few compromises

JLab Epic Air Elite: The earbuds surrounded by water on a black table.

The IP55 JLab Epic Air Elite earbuds can withstand both dust and water.

There are few places more appropriate for truly wireless earbuds than a gym, which is exactly where the JLab Epic Air Elite feel most at home. The ear hook design is similar to that of the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100, but these sport a more svelte build. While $150 is substantial, the Epic Air Elite remains more affordable than its comparable competitors.

The full review is available at our sister site, SoundGuys.com.

What is JLab Epic Air Elite like?

JLab Epic Air Elite: The case open with the earbuds placed inside. The removable micro-USB to USB-A cable is detached from the case on a white table.

The charging cable is integrated into the case and is easy to remove for on-the-go charging.

Based on appearance alone, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish the Epic Air Elite from its predecessor the Epic Air. Both feature glossy touch-capacitive panels, a rubberized ear hook shape, and ergonomically angled nozzles. Where the Elite iteration diverges is with its reliable connectivity, a feat for true wireless technology.

The earbuds remain connected without signal skips within the listed 10-meter range, which can be attributed to the Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 support. While there aren’t many shortcomings of these earbuds, you could cite the lack of high-quality Bluetooth codec support as an issue. In all fairness, these are workout earbuds, not studio headphones, so audio streaming quality likely takes a backseat to bass emphasis, connectivity, and a stable fit.

Due to the malleable ear hooks, stability is excellent. The IP55 earbuds stay secure while running, jumping rope, and during calisthenic exercises. To get the best fit, take a moment to experiment with the array of included earbuds. JLab provides eight pairs, and the wrong size can negatively impact sound quality and fit.

To get the best possible fit and sound quality, take a moment to test out which of the provided ear tips best suit you.

Battery life with these earbuds is excellent as the 2,600mAh charging case provides an additional 32 hours of playback. Standalone playback time for the earbuds is also exceptional at 5.16 hours according to SoundGuys’ objective testing. While the charging case takes up a bit of room compared to others, it can charge your smartphone, justifying the large size. Similar to the JLab JBuds Air, the microUSB charging cable is integrated into the case and wraps around the edge.

Related: Why true wireless connectivity is so bad

How do the earbuds sound?

JLab Epic Air Elite: A woman wearing the earbuds against a black background.

The JLab Epic Air Elite provide a bass-heavy sound, which is often preferred for exercise.

The JLab Epic Air Elite earbuds are as you’d expect workout earbuds to sound: bass-heavy. JLab provides listeners with three EQ options: JLab signature, balanced, and bass boost. Even with the balanced mode activated, which is the default preset, the low-end is audibly exaggerated.

That said, even with the emphatic bass emphasis, mid-range frequencies remain distinguished. There’s a bit of auditory masking as clarity isn’t the greatest, but again, this is forgivable since most listeners are using these earbuds to stay pumped during a workout, not to appreciate the nuances of a classical piece.

Perhaps the only disappointment regarding audio reproduction has to do with the treble response. If your music library contains a lot of cymbal crashes and violin solos, you may be surprised by how difficult it is to perceive treble frequencies with these earbuds.

Should you buy the JLab Epic Air Elite?

JLab Epic Air Elite: Top-down image of the earbuds with a Nintendo Switch controller in the bottom right corner of the image.

Listeners benefit from Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0, facilitating a 30-meter connectivity range.

Those interested in spending a bit more on workout earbuds but feel intimidated by the Bose SoundSport Free’s $200 price tag will enjoy these. Battery life and connectivity are stellar, and while the physical appearance may not be eye-catching, it’s discreet and sophisticated for the workout variety. If you’re enticed by these but feel it’s not worth spending $100-plus on exercise ‘buds, then the company’s Fit 2.0 may be more financially viable. Ultimately, though, the JLab Epic Air Elite is a great compromise with few compromises.

Next: Best workout earbuds 2019

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Fitbit Charge 3 review: Fitbit is getting really good at this (Update: On sale!)

Update, February 5, 2019 at 4:39 p.m. ET: The Fitbit Charge 3 is on sale through Valentine’s Day 2019! Right now you can buy the standard Fitbit Charge 3 for just $129.95, while the special edition Charge 3 with Fitbit Pay support costs just $149.95 ($20 off). Just use the offer code CUPID at checkout.


Fitbit is synonymous with the term “fitness tracker,” and the Charge line has a lot to do with that. Fitbit Charge devices are some of the most popular fitness trackers in the world, likely because they strike a good balance between features and price.

Let’s find out if this new entry keeps that up in our Fitbit Charge 3 review.

Fitbit Charge 3 review notes: This review was originally published October 17, 2018.

I’ve used the Fitbit Charge 3 as my main fitness tracker for two weeks. The Google Pixel 2 XL was my smartphone companion of choice for the duration of this review.

Show More

Design

fitbit charge 3 review design display

My favorite part of the Charge 3’s design is its versatility. It doesn’t look too sporty or classy, and the standard silicone band strikes a good balance between the two.

It also feels much nicer than any other Fitbit I’ve used. It almost seems cliche to describe a device as “premium” anymore, but that’s really how the Charge 3 feels. All the bands are really nice, the quick release latches are much less finicky than the Fitbit Versa’s, and the tracker itself is like a hybrid of the Fitbit Ionic and Charge 2. It takes the Ionic’s build quality and mashes it up with the Charge 2’s aesthetic.

Nothing about the Fitbit Charge 3 feels cheap.

The Charge 3 looks and feels much nicer for two reasons: the new display and the lack of a physical button.

Gone is the tap-based navigation from the Charge 2. The Fitbit Charge 3 now has a full touchscreen OLED display, so it feels more like a smartwatch than any other Charge device. It’s still a monochrome display, but the resolution has been improved so text and animations look crisp and readable. I’ve had no issues with outdoor visibility either. In fact, keeping it on auto-brightness is a one-way ticket to getting blinded if you move your arm in the middle of the night. This screen can get bright.

fitbit charge 3 review design watch straps

fitbit charge 3 review button
fitbit charge 3 review strap band
fitbit charge 3 review bands

In place of a physical button, there’s a new inductive button on the left side of the case. It’s a pressure-sensitive area on the case that reminds me a lot of the “buttons” on the HTC U12 Plus, but way less horrible. This acts as the back button, and how you turn off the display. Most of the time, I press it too hard and the screen just comes right back on. I still haven’t really gotten the hang of it, even after a few weeks of using it.

If we’ve learned one thing from HTC, it’s that button substitutes don’t make for a good user experience.

On a positive note, the lack of a physical button means it was easier for Fitbit to make the device water resistant. The Charge 3 is resistant to depths of 50 meters (5ATM), which is on par with fitness trackers from Garmin, Misfit, and others. This is a big step up from the Charge 2’s “splash resistance.”

Fitness and health tracking

fitbit charge 3 review exercise relax apps oled display

Just like we have mid-range smartphones, we also have mid-range fitness trackers. Fitbit’s Charge 3 falls right in between cheap, bare bones trackers and high-end, expensive wearables. It may not have things like built-in GPS (more on this later), but you still get things like 24/7 heart rate monitoring.

Also read: Fitbit Ionic review | Fitbit Versa review

The Charge 3 can track 20 different exercise modes, such as running, biking, pool swimming, weight lifting, interval workouts, hiking, and more. The full list can be found here. If you find yourself taking part in an impromptu workout, Fitbit’s SmartTrack will kick in and start recording the exercise after about 10 minutes. The feature works just fine for me, but it’s worth mentioning Valentina Palladino of Ars Technica had some issues with SmartTrack not kicking in.

It’ll also keep track of your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, heart rate, and sleep — par for the course with most fitness trackers these days. Most of these tracked metrics — including steps, calories, and active minutes — are very much on par with other competing fitness trackers like the Garmin vivosmart 4 and vivosport. However, distance tracking won’t be all that accurate since there’s no built-in GPS module.

fitbit charge 3 review run tracking excercises

You can connect the Charge 3 to your smartphone’s GPS — via Fitbit’s Connected GPS feature — if you don’t mind taking your phone with you on a run. If you want to run phone-less, you won’t get detailed or accurate distance or pace metrics

I can’t help but think including GPS wouldn’t be a big deal for Fitbit. It’s not like it would make the Charge 3 overly bulky (Garmin’s vivosport has a GPS and it’s even thinner!), and, come on — this is Fitbit. It’s going to sell a ton of Charge 3s. I really don’t think a slight price increase would stop people from buying it.

With all that said, saying your product costs less than $150 is much nicer than saying it costs less than $200. You have to exclude GPS to hit that price. I guess I’m just the type of person that would pay more for it.

fitbit charge 3 review heart rate monitor sensor purepulse

Fitbit claimed the PurePulse heart rate sensor on the Charge 3 has been “enhanced” for better accuracy when measuring things like calorie burn and resting heart rate. I originally thought this was sort of a throwaway line during the Charge 3 announcement, but I think the heart rate sensor has actually been improved this time around.

Take a look at my recent treadmill run. I wore my trusty Polar H10 heart rate strap, Garmin Fenix 5, and the Fitbit Charge 3.


Fitbit Charge 3

Surprisingly, all three devices reported the same max heart rate, ~162bpm, at about the same time in the workout. All three devices also caught most every major dip or rise in the workout. Wrist-based heart rate sensors are often slow to catch up to chest straps, but the Charge 3 performed wonderfully. Of course, you’ll want to buy a heart rate chest strap if you want the most accurate readings.

I also compared calorie details for a few workouts with all three of these devices, and I have no problem saying the Charge 3 is a good calorie counter, too. It’s consistently within 10 calories burned of the Fenix 5 and H10. Not bad.

If you ask me to recommend a good sleep tracker, I’ll pretty much recommend a Fitbit every time. Fitbit’s app is just so good at clearly laying out your total time awake and time in REM, light, and deep sleep. It also gives you a 30-day sleep average and a benchmark to compare against other people your age and gender. As for the accuracy of the Charge 3’s sleep tracking, I’m pretty sure it’s accurate (I am asleep during this time, after all), and haven’t noticed any big outliers.

fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages
fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages
fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages

A Sleep Score feature is coming soon to the Fitbit Charge 3. I haven’t had the chance to try it out (the beta launched in November), but the idea sounds pretty cool. Basically, your Fitbit will give you a nightly score based on your sleep quality and how much sleep you’re getting. It’s a small feature, but it could make understanding your sleep habits over time easier.

With the launch of the Sleep Score beta, Fitbit will also activate the Charge 3, Versa, and Ionic’s relative SpO2 sensors. When activated, these sensors will monitor for disruptions in your breathing and include that information in your Sleep Score. They also have the long-term potential to help discover early signs of sleep apnea, but that won’t happen for a while.

Editor’s Pick

This contrasts with Garmin’s vivosmart 4, which uses its pulse ox sensor to give users real-time estimates of blood oxygen levels, as well as tracking it during sleep.

Female Fitbit users will be happy to hear, just like on the Versa and Ionic, female health tracking is available on the Charge 3. This lets you track your menstrual cycles and understand how it affects your health. I haven’t been able to test this out on the Charge 3, but you can read all about it right here.

With the announcement of the Charge 3, Fitbit also said it would introduce new dynamic health insights to the Fitbit app “soon.” That feature still isn’t available, but when it rolls out, the app will give you personalized tips and tricks to improve your activity, heart rate, and sleep.

fitbit charge 3 review charger battery life

Fitbit claims the Charge 3 can last up to seven days on a single charge. In my experience, it’s only lasted six days, but that’s with it monitoring heart rate 24/7, wearing it every night to sleep, and tracking four to five exercises a week.

Fitbit Charge 3 specs

  Fitbit Charge 3
Display Touchscreen OLED
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Battery 7 days
Lithium-polymer
Memory Saves seven days of motion data, daily totals for past 30 days, heart rate data at one-second intervals during exercise tracking and at five-second intervals all other times
Sensors 3-axis accelerometer
Optical heart rate monitor
Altimeter
Vibration motor
Relative SpO2 sensor
NFC for Fitbit Pay (special edition only)
IP rating 5ATM
Smart features Call, text, calendar, email, music control, and much more
Quick replies (Android only)
Compatibility Android, iOS, Windows
Dimensions Small: 139.7 – 180.3mm
Large: 180.3 – 220.99mm
Colors Black / graphite aluminum, blue gray / rose gold aluminum, lavender woven / rose gold aluminum, frost white sport / graphite aluminum

Smartwatch features

fitbit charge 3 review notifications smart features

With the arrival of the Ionic and Versa, it’s clear Fitbit is now focused on competing in the smartwatch game. Luckily for us, the focus on smartwatches is bleeding over to its other fitness trackers.

The Fitbit Charge 3 is like a fitness tracker-smartwatch hybrid. It can receive all your smartphone notifications, and the company has now rolled out its quick reply feature to the tracker. Do note that this is only available on Android smartphones though.

Fitbit’s focus on smartwatches is great news for people who are only interested in fitness trackers.

Also, notifications are much easier to read on the Charge 3 than devices with narrower screens like the vivosmart 4.

fitbit charge 3 review notifications smart features
garmin vivosmart 4 review app notifications

The software on the Fitbit Charge 3 is wonderful. It’s not the same version of Fitbit OS as the Versa or Ionic, but it’s similar. You still swipe down to get notifications, swipe up to access the Dashboard, and swipe left to select the Exercise, Relax (on-device breathing guidance), Timer, Alarm, Weather or Settings apps. In a future update, Fitbit will bring Calendar and Leaderboard apps to the tracker as well.

It feels weird to geek out about fitness tracker software, but I don’t care. The Charge 2’s UI was a huge headache, and the Charge 3 is much more intuitive. The new touchscreen display makes it much easier to sort through menus and select different options, too.

fitbit charge 3 review timers alarms apps

Fitbit is also working with a handful of companies to bring third-party apps to the Charge 3, similar to the apps available for the Versa and Ionic. Don’t expect a full-fledged app store on the Charge 3, but a few of Fitbit’s major app partners will likely release Charge 3 apps sometime soon.

You can even pay for things with the Charge 3. That’s right, Fitbit Pay support is here. Unfortunately, it’s not available on every model.

This is something I just don’t understand. Fitbit is trying to get people to use its contactless payment service, so only including it in the special edition model and charging $20 more for it is strange.

The Fitbit app

fitbit charge 3 review fitbit app google pixel 2 xl

The Fitbit app is fantastic. It’s designed intuitively, looks great, and it’s super easy to find what you’re looking for.

The app’s home screen, or Dashboard, consists of a snapshot of the current day’s activity, complete with shortcuts to see things like steps taken, calories burned, and intensity minutes. Below that, you’ll see a shortcut to view any activity recorded that day, as well as the previous night’s sleep, your current heart rate,  and weight, water, and food logs.

fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots

My biggest gripe with the Fitbit app is the lack of a proper calendar view. In Garmin’s app, you can easily see all your activities/health stats in a month-view calendar, so it’s easy to see how many days you’ve exercised in a certain week and so on. With Fitbit’s app, you can only scroll through your history day by day. It’s not very helpful. Now, you can see a month view calendar from the Exercises screen, but you can’t actually click on any of those days to get more information.

If anything, the Fitbit app emphasizes simplicity and social features at the expense of hardcore fitness data.

One other complaint — pretty much my only other complaint — is that the data screens for each of your tracked metrics (heart rate and calorie burn data) are very hard to read in the app. You can’t click to expand any of your stats, and the Fitbit app doesn’t use landscape mode. You have to go to the Fitbit Dashboard website to get in-depth details.

Fitbit’s app is one of the more social fitness apps out there. The Challenges section lets you compete with friends at certain locations, or participate in challenges alone. There’s also a Community tab in the app that’s basically a mini social network. You can join groups, share photos, comment of people’s posts, and more. It’s also a great way to stay motivated if you’re struggling to get up and go to the gym.

Related: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?

The Fitbit app also plays nicely with dozens of third-party fitness apps. That means if you’d like to keep using your favorite workout app — like MyFitnessPal or MapMyRun — all your fitness data recorded with your Fitbit will automatically sync with your health and fitness app.

Gallery

Price and availability

The Fitbit Charge 3 is available now from Fitbit.com, Amazon, and many other retailers for $149.95. The model with Fitbit Pay is $20 more at $169.95.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely.

Fitbit knocked it out of the park with the Charge 3. At under $150, you’re getting an attractive, accurate, and feature-packed fitness tracker. The display is awesome too, and it’s water resistant. This is also one of the more accurate fitness trackers I’ve used in recent months.

This is one of the most polished devices Fitbit has ever made.

There are only a few things missing.

A lot of people (including myself) aren’t thrilled with the lack of GPS, but it helps bring down the cost at least. If you absolutely need GPS, you should check out the Garmin vivosport — it’s just $20 more and sports a thinner profile. Additionally, with all the features that still haven’t launched yet (third-party applications, Sleep Score, and dynamic health insights), the Charge 3 almost feels like a beta product. Don’t get me wrong, the features that are here are great, but this is one of those “fine wine” devices. It’ll get better with age.

If you’re looking for one of the best activity trackers in this price range, look no further than the Fitbit Charge 3.

Next: Best Fitbit alternatives: Garmin, Misfit, Samsung and more

Huawei MateBook 13 review: A beautiful, premium laptop targeting Apple’s MacBook Air

Right now, Huawei’s biggest hurdle is public perception — the news is hard to avoid. However, the bottom line is Huawei also makes great products. The Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro are great examples, but there’s more to the company than mere phones.

It also offers Windows-based laptops like the new MateBook 13, something you need right now. Why? Keep reading our Huawei MateBook 13 review to find out.

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

The model supplied for this Matebook 13 review includes Intel’s Core i7-8565U processor, though the company sells a second version with the Core i5-8265U chip. Complementing the Core i7 is Nvidia’s GeForce MX 150 discrete graphics chip, which isn’t in the Core i5 version. Rounding out the Huawei Matebook 13 review unit is 8GB of LPDDR3 memory at 2,133MHz, 512GB on a NVMe PCIe stick-shaped SSD, and a one-touch power button with a built-in fingerprint reader located in the top right corner of the keyboard area.

Available now through Amazon and Newegg, the MateBook 13 packing Intel’s Core i7 retails for a decent $1,299, while the Core i5 model is a lower $999. You can also purchase both versions through Microsoft’s online and brick-and-mortar stores within the next few weeks.

Let’s dig into our Huawei MateBook 13 review!

A beautiful display powering a beautiful design

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

The Huawei MateBook 13’s super-slim display measures 13 inches diagonally, with a native 2,160 x 1,440 resolution and a pixel density of 195ppi. That’s a 3:2 aspect ratio, meaning videos and games formatted for the typical 16:9 widescreen will render with black borders along the top and bottom edges.

The screen itself relies on a touch-enabled IPS panel offering 178-degree viewing angles and 100 percent of the sRGB color space. It also has a 1,000:1 contrast ratio and a maximum brightness of 300 nits, which is decent enough for working outside on an overcast day. The colors remain beautiful and vivid even at the laptop’s peak brightness setting.

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Surrounding the screen are 4.4mm black bezels on the left and right along with a slightly wider black bezel along the top hiding the 1MP camera. According to Huawei, the new laptop boasts an 88-percent screen-to-body ratio — you’ll hardly ever notice the frame — which provide a clean, nearly edge-to-edge viewing experience. Wide frames are so 2000-late.

You won’t find legacy ports here

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

Connecting the screen to the base is a black hinge consuming most of the rear workspace, which actually looks nice. When you lift the laptop to view the hinge straight-on, you’ll barely see a sliver of space separating the hinge from the base frame. The screen’s bottom bezel even extends down beyond the keyboard area’s viewing surface, so you won’t see any visual “disconnection” between the screen and base.

Huawei MateBook 13 review

It’s a little worrisome that the screen’s bottom bezel and hinge cover the cooling system’s vents. There’s definitely enough room for hot air to escape, but when the fans are full throttle and pushing hot air from the CPU and GPU, is that narrow space wide enough to properly vent all the heat? Does this design affect performance when using the MateBook on your lap?

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

On the laptop’s left side, you’ll find one 3.5mm audio jack and one USB-C port capable of data transfers at 5Gbps and charging the MateBook. On the right you’ll find a single USB-C port at 5Gbps capable of data transfers and DisplayPort output. That’s right, even though this laptop provides two USB-C ports, you can only charge it using the the left one.

There isn’t a standard or microSD card slot for extra storage, which can be problematic for photographers and video editors on-the go. There also isn’t any USB-A connectivity, forcing you to purchase a USB-C to USB-A adapter or USB-C hub to support your peripherals and external devices. Leaving out USB-A connectivity to keep the laptop at 0.59 inches thin is understandable, but we’re definitely surprised by the lack of a card reader.

There isn’t a standard or microSD card slot for extra storage, which can be problematic for photographers and video editors on-the go.

The Core i7 model ships in a space gray finish, while the Core i5 model arrives in mystic silver. The space gray exterior on our Huawei Matebook 13 review unit is simply beautiful and complements the black screen bezels and keyboard keys. There’s nothing “cheap” about its appearance. It’s a sleek and sexy premium design pulled from Huawei’s flagship MateBook X Pro family. Consider the MateBook 13 a half-step down.

You’ll love the edge-to-edge keyboard

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

The MateBook’s keyboard mostly stretches edge to edge across the base, save for an eighth of an inch on each side. The keys are pleasantly large with a travel distance of 1.2mm, providing a great typing experience. White backlighting provides two brightness levels to illuminate each letter, number, and symbol with white light. It doesn’t include a number pad, but you’ll find controls for brightness, backlighting, media, and more tied to the function keys.

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

Meanwhile, the MateBook provides a rectangular precision touchpad, a rising standard for Windows-based laptops. Unlike the touchpads of old, which relied on hardware drivers, Windows now does the heavy lifting when manufacturers install specific touchpads. Ultimately, this means Microsoft will continue to improve support long after hardware vendors would have stopped issuing driver updates.

In our testing, the MateBook 13 touchpad was smooth and highly responsive. The wide, smartphone-like surface is ideal because there’s more room to completely push the cursor across the screen without lifting a finger. It also supports two methods of selection: Double-tap on a shortcut / link or push down on the touchpad twice for a tactile-based approach. Left- and right-click inputs are unmarked in their typical designated corners.

Decent audio despite speaker placement

Huawei MateBook 13 review

This laptop relies on a pair of two-watt speakers on the bottom, projecting sound away from your ears. The ideal scenario is having speakers mounted in the keyboard area, but since the design includes a discrete graphics chip, a two-chip cooling system, a 0.59-inch form factor, and an edge to edge keyboard, the bottom was likely the only place engineers could mount the speakers. Had Huawei taken the MacBook Air route and shortened the keyboard width, facing speakers may have been possible.

Still, the sound isn’t bad. Audio not only bounces off your lap or desktop surface but pushes through the keyboard area with surprisingly very little metallic interference. In other words, what you hear isn’t full like speakers blasting audio into your face, but it isn’t horribly muffled either. Even at full blast, audio is stable, rich, and untouched by vibrating components and metal.

Processor performance rivaling the Road Runner

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Intel’s Core i7-8565U is an eighth-generation “Whiskey Lake” four-core chip that launched during the third quarter of 2018. Its base speed cruises at 1.8GHz  and tops out at 4.6GHz. Drawing an average 15 watts of power, this chip targets thin and light notebook designs providing loads of performance without generating loads of heat.

Intel’s latest Core i7 CPU scored a 5120 in the Geekbench single-core test and a 16983 in the multi-core test, higher scores than most tests performed on this chip. It clearly beats the Core i5-8250U processor in Acer’s recent Chromebooks, and even surpasses the Core i7-6820HK processor in our Alienware 17 R4, indicating we might need to refresh and re-test the gaming laptop in the near future.

Another benchmarking method is using Handbrake to convert video. Here the Core i7-8565U fell behind our Alienware’s sixth-generation Core i7 processor, converting video in 248.87 seconds versus the Alienware at 231.09 seconds. Just for giggles, we ran the same conversion on a 2017 HP Notebook 15 with a Pentium N3540 chip. It converted the same video in 1,383.72 seconds. Ouch.

Backing the CPU is crazy-fast storage provided by a Samsung NVMe PCIe SSD. It has an average sequential read speed of 3,521MB per second and an average sequential write speed of 1,884MB per second, faster than the stick-shaped SSD installed in our Alienware laptop, and both Acer’s Chromebook Spin 13 and clamshell Chromebook 13.

The combined CPU and SSD enable programs and apps to load near-instantly.

The combined CPU and SSD enable programs and apps to load near-instantly. The laptop itself reaches the Windows 10 login screen in just over five seconds after powering on. Touch the power button and Windows Hello logs you in just under another second.

Overall, if you want a zippy Windows 10 laptop, the MateBook 13 is the perfect solution. If you want a thin and light notebook capable of playing games at 1440p, you’ll need to look elsewhere, despite this laptop’s standalone GeForce graphics chip.

Take a break from work with the MX 150

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Nvidia’s discrete GeForce MX 150 graphics chip includes 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 video memory. It’s the mobile version of Nvidia’s budget-oriented GT 1030 graphics card for desktops. The chip is definitely good to have for video and photo editing, along with 3D animation. You can play games too, just don’t expect high resolutions and details.

The MX 150 generates high framerates in Rocket League. With a 1080p resolution, we experienced an average of 61.18fps using the “performance” preset, and a slightly lower 57.68fps using the “high” preset. Increase the resolution to the laptop’s native 1440p resolution, and the average dips down to 49.88fps using the “performance” setting and 40fps using the “high” setting.

For something new like Far Cry 5, the best you’ll see is a 23fps average running at 1080p on the “low” graphics preset. Crank that resolution up to 1440p and the average framerate drops to 13fps. In comparison, the GTX 1080 in our Alienware laptop manages a 76fps average at 1080p and a 71fps average at 1440p using the “low” setting.

Huawei doesn’t pitch the MateBook 13 as a gaming laptop, but Rocket League is a good example of what this device can do.

The Windows Edition of Final Fantasy XV is just as brutal on the MX 150. Using the “lite” setting at 1080p, the laptop managed framerates between 18fps to 30fps. Increase the details to “standard” and you’ll see the framerate drops between 13 and 21fps. Don’t even attempt to run the game on “high” or crank the resolution to 1440p.

Of course, Huawei doesn’t pitch the MateBook 13 as a gaming laptop, but Rocket League is a good example of what this device can do if you need a break from work. Lightweight games are fine but heavy-hitters like Far Cry 5, Deus Ex Mankind Divided, and Destiny 2 won’t run very well. Get a notebook from MSI or Alienware if that’s what you want.

Battery life could be better

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Rounding out the Huawei MateBook 13 review is its 41WHr battery. Huawei says you can get up to 9.6 hours on a single charge while playing local 1080p video. We tested that claim and looped the recent Aquaman 1080p trailer until the laptop switched off. With the display set at 50 percent brightness, we hit nine hours and 19 minutes, nearly reaching Huawei’s reported duration. When we cranked the brightness up to 100 percent, the battery lasted seven hours and 20 minutes.

With the display set at 50 percent brightness, we hit nine hours and 19 minutes, nearly reaching Huawei’s reported duration.

However, our web browser test — we put a web browser in a page loading loop until the battery died —revealed slightly lower numbers. With the screen brightness set to 50 percent, you can search the web up to four hours and 41 minutes. Increase the brightness to 100 percent and battery longevity falls back to three hours and 44 minutes.

We saw better numbers with the Lenovo Chromebook C330 and the Acer Chromebook 13 across both tests, though they have slightly bigger batteries. Given you’ll do more than binge-watch local video all day, mixed usage could land you six hours or more on a single charge at 50 percent brightness. To get the best battery life, make sure Windows automatically changes screen brightness once you unplug the laptop.

Huawei MateBook 13 review

The battery life could have everything to do with the laptop’s overall portability. It’s extremely thin, after all, and weighs a mere 2.86 pounds. It’s the ideal solution for on-the-go workers. It’s not horribly bulky and doesn’t weigh your shoulders down in a backpack during long treks through airports and convention halls. The only drawback is you’ll need to carry that extra USB-C hub or adapter if you have peripherals.

A surprisingly clean Windows 10

Huawei MateBook 13 review

The Huawei MateBook 13 review unit shipped to us with the Signature Edition of Windows 10 Home Build 17134. That means Huawei provides a “clean” Windows 10 installation, unlike other well-known PC manufacturers. The only out-of-the-box “bloatware” we found were the typical junk apps pre-installed in Windows 10 like Candy Crush Saga, Cooking Fever, Royal Revolt 2: Tower Defense, and a few others. We didn’t even find McAfee’s dreaded “trial” present gobbling up system memory.

However, the MateBook 13 isn’t without proprietary software. Huawei supplies its own PC Manager tool for checking the laptop’s overall health. With the click of a button, you can test the hardware for any issues and update any out-of-date driver. PC Manager also provides the user manual and a link to Huawei’s online troubleshooting database.

Huawei MateBook 13 review: Final thoughts

Huawei MateBook 13 review

The MateBook 13 has nothing to do with with what you’ve heard about Huawei in the news. It’s a great thin and light Windows 10 notebook packed with loads of power, making it a great on-the-go solution for professionals and media editors. It’s decent for gamers, though playing the latest titles like Far Cry 5 and Final Fantasy XV — even at 1080p — isn’t ideal.

The two real big complaints about this laptop relate to connectivity. The MateBook 13 really needed at least a microSD card so photo and video editors don’t need to juggle hubs and adapters. A full USB-A port for standard mice and keyboards would be ideal too, though given the slim form factor, that’s not physically possible. In both cases, customers will need to purchase and carry adapters and hubs to support their external devices.

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Outside those two gripes, we love this notebook. Just like Huawei’s two Mate 20 phones, it’s sexy and powerful. You’ll fall in love at first sight and want hold it close and feel its cold metal against your cheeks.

Okay, maybe not.

Regardless, you simply can’t go wrong with Huawei’s MateBook 13. It’s definitely a great Windows-based alternative to the latest MacBook Air.

See also:

Best portable battery chargers (January 2019)

Smartphone technology has come a long way in the past few years, but there is a lingering issue that is taking time to evolve — battery life. Sure, batteries are getting bigger and phones more resourceful, but many of us still have a problem keeping our devices alive. One solution is to charge your phone throughout the day, something that proves to be an issue when there is no outlet around. The next best solution is to buy yourself a battery pack or one of the many portable chargers to charge on-the-go.

With so many options around, we know it’s hard to find the best units on the market. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the best portable chargers! While many use these devices to charge their phones, many modern electronic devices can be charged up including select laptops, tablets, and game systems like the Nintendo Switch.

Let’s get started and show you our picks for the best portable battery chargers you can buy right now. 


Best high-capacity options

Anker PowerCore+ 26,800mAh portable battery charger

Anker is a trusted name when it comes to portable battery chargers, and this particular option offers it all. To start with, you get the massive capacity of 26,800mAh, which is more than enough to fully recharge your smartphone multiple times. The power bank comes with three USB ports, including a USB-C port with 30W output to let you charge a MacBook and the Nintendo Switch. Like every portable charger on this list, you get protection from short circuits, overcharging, and current and voltage surge. The portable charger also comes with a 30W USB-C wall charger.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 26,800mAh
  • Output: 2 x USB ports 5V/3A max, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A or 9V~15V/2A or 20V/1.5A (30W max)
  • Dimensions: 166.1 x 80 x 23.1mm, 576grams
  • Current price: $129.99

RAVPower 20,100mAh portable charger

This RAVPower portable charger offers features that are similar to the Anker charger above, with a few key differences. The capacity is slightly lower at 20,100mAh, but the USB-C port offers a 45W output. The capacity is still more than enough to recharge a smartphone multiple times and the device can be used to charge laptops like Macbooks and the Dell XPS 13 or 15 as well. 4 LED indicators let you know how much charge the power bank has remaining. You also get a standard USB-A port that will let you charge a second device simultaneously.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,100mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB ports 5V/2.4A max, 1 x USB-C port 5V~15V/3A or 20V/2.25A (45W max)
  • Dimensions: 160 x 78.5 x 23mm, 400grams
  • Current price: $59.99

AUKEY 20,000mAh portable charger

Portable battery charger - Aukey

AUKEY is a pretty well-known name in the phone accessories industry. Its product lineup includes this 20,000mAh external battery that features a thin and slim design compared to the more bulky devices on this list. Even with its thin casing, it has four power output ports for charging up to four devices at once, including three standard USB ports plus one USB Type-C port to charge the latest smartphones.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A max, 3 x USB ports 5V/2A
  • Dimensions: 200 x 96 x 14mm, 435grams
  • Current price: $39.99
 

MAXOAK 50,000mAh portable charger

If you want to get a portable battery charger that can charge all of your smartphones, laptops, and tablets at once, then the MAXOAK charger may be for you. It not only has a massive 50,000mAh capacity, but it has no less than six charging ports. One of the ports has a 20V/5A charging capacity for laptops. Another port has a 12V/2.5A charger, while two others have a 5V/2.1A capacity. The final two ports have a 5V/1A capacity. It may not be the most portable power bank on this best portable chargers list, but it should be more than enough to cover all your charging needs.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 50,000mAh
  • Output: 6 ports (1 x 20V/5A, 1 x 12V/2.5Am 2 x 5V/2.1A, 2 x 5V/1A)
  • Dimensions: 205.7 x 134.6 x 33mm, 1.25kgs
  • Current price: $135.99
 
Looking for more high-capacity power bank option? check out our guide to the best ultra-high capacity portable chargers (26,800 mAh and above).

Best smaller capacity option: Anker PowerCore Slim 5,000mAh portable charger

Anker PowerCore Slim

The Anker PowerCore Slim, as the name suggests, is a thin, sleek, and ultra portable battery charger. The device comes with a 5,000mAh capacity, which should be enough to fully charge or get close to a full charge with most current smartphones. It comes with a single USB port that takes advantage of PowerIQ technology to allow for the fastest charge possible. While the PowerCore Slim may not be as feature packed as the other ones on this best portable chargers list, its portability is the biggest selling point.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 5,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x PowerIQ port 5V/2A
  • Dimensions: 124.5 x 63.5 x 10.2mm, 126grams
  • Current price: $29.99

Be sure to check out our guide for more portable chargers with a capacity of 10,000mAh or less.


Best for wireless charging power bank: AideaZ 20,000mAh portable battery charger

Portable battery charger - AideaZ

The Aidez portable charger not only has a battery with a big 20,000mAh capacity but also offers wireless charging. Owners can place compatible phones on top of the battery and charge them cable free. It also has two USB Type-C ports with Quick Charge support for a more conventional, and faster, phone charging experience. That means this portable battery can charge two wired phones and one wireless phone at the same time. The battery also has an LED indicator to let you know the exact charge percentage left in the battery.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Output: 2 x USB-C output ports (5~6V/3A, 6~9V/2A, 9~12V//1.5A), wireless charging
  • Dimensions: 170.2 x 61 x 22.9mm, 377grams
  • Current price: $44.99
 
 

Jump start capable battery pack: Beatit 500A 10,800mAh portable charger

The Beatit portable jump starter is ideal for anyone looking to address all their emergency power needs with a single device. This portable charger will jump-start a 3.0L gas or 2.5L diesel engine up to 20 times on a single charge. It also comes with three USB ports, including one with support for Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 and a USB-C port, to keep your devices charged on the go. There is also a flashlight with three modes — normal, SOS, and strobe. Considering all its features and its affordable price, this is one of the best portable battery chargers for anyone who is on the road a lot.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 10,800mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB port 5V/2A, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A, 1 x QC 3.0 port 5V/2A or 6.5V~9V/1.5A or 9V~12V/1A
  • Current: Start current 250A, Peak current 500A
  • Dimensions: 145 x 84 x 25.4mm, 454grams
  • Current price: $39.99

Best for solar battery chargers: RAVPower 25,000mAh solar charger

If you’re the outdoorsy type, this is the best portable charger to get. It offers a large 25,000mAh capacity and features a solar panel on top for charging the device while you’re out and about. It’s also waterproof and there’s a flashlight on board that can be used in case you run into trouble on your adventure. The power bank has three USB ports, including a quick charge port and a USB-C port. All of these features make it a great option for those who love to hike, camp, and do similar outdoor activities.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 25,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB port 5V/2.4A, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A, 1 x QC port 5V/3A or 6.5V~9V/2A or 9V~12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions: 233.7 x 99 x 38.1mm, 550grams
  • Current price: $52.99
For more solar battery chargers, be sure to check out our extended guide.
 

There you have it. These are our picks for the best portable chargers currently available! Now hit the comments and let us know which portable battery charger would you consider getting. Are there any other portable battery packs you think your fellow Android fans would like?

Related

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 review: What’s old is new again

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is the clear successor to last year’s Mi Mix 2 and Mi Mix 2S, now redesigned to compete head-to-head with the Honor Magic 2. It offers very similar specifications and features, and it also utilizes the same unique slider design as the Magic 2. Only time will tell if the slider form factor of yesteryear is truly making a comeback, but the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is one of two smartphones in recent months to reintroduce this design. This is our full review of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3.

Design

The combination of ceramic and aluminum provides for excellent build quality and at 218g the phone feels very substantial.

The overall design of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is nothing short of what you would expect from Xiaomi. The Mi Mix 3 utilizes Xiaomi’s signature ceramic backing and a 7-series aluminum frame along the perimeter. The combination of ceramic and aluminum provides excellent build quality and at 218g the phone feels very substantial. Some may not like the weight, as it is one of the heaviest phones on the market, but I personally didn’t mind the heft. The phone makes good use of rounded corners, curved sides, and tapered edges for better comfort and a stylish appearance.

The ceramic backing is reflective and glossy, making it tough to keep fingerprint-free. It’s definitely a beautiful device if you can manage to keep your paws from greasing up its backside.

The slider mechanism satisfyingly clicks into place when open or shut and even has a spring back effect that’s reminiscent of slider phones of old.

The slider mechanism is fully manual and works just like the Honor Magic 2. Sliding the screen down opens up the phone, revealing the front-facing cameras. Xiaomi also included sound effects to make sliding the phone open and closed a little bit more fun. The slider mechanism satisfyingly clicks into place when open or shut and even has a spring back effect that’s reminiscent of slider phones of old. The slider feels sturdy overall and Xiaomi rates it at 300,000 cycles, but the front half has a slight wiggle. It’s probably not something to worry about, but I didn’t notice a wiggle with the Honor Magic 2’s slider.

Display

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 continues the trend set by previous Mi Mix devices with a full-screen experience and minimal bezels. The slider makes shrinking the bezels easier, since the front-facing cameras are hidden inside of the phone. This means Xiaomi didn’t have to use a notch or put the front-facing camera on the bottom of the phone as in previous iterations.

A 6.39-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display fills the front of the phone with an impressive 93.4 percent screen-to-body ratio. Corning Gorilla Glass 5 is used to protect the screen from scratches. The display is vibrant, colorful, and exhibits the excellent contrast we’ve come to expect from AMOLED displays. At 600 nits of brightness, the screen is easily visible in direct sunlight.

The nearly bezel-less display is a joy to use on a daily basis. Content like movies and YouTube videos look fantastic. It almost feels like you’re just holding a display in your hands. It may not be as high resolution as some of the competing flagships on the market, but you most likely won’t notice. It’s a quality panel and that’s all that matters.

Performance

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 comes with the usual internals that we’ve seen in flagship Android smartphones all year. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor runs the show with either 6, 8, or 10GB of RAM. I used the 6GB variant with 128GB of storage.

As expected, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 performs swimmingly. Whether you’re casually swiping through the interface, launching apps, playing games, browsing the web, or multitasking, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is smooth and responsive. The abundance of RAM allows the Mi Mix 3 to keep tons of apps open without ever slowing down. High-end games run with consistent frame rates and the phone never got alarmingly hot or warm during gaming sessions.






The Mi Mix 3 is fast to charge with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ and wireless charging is available as an added convenience.

Battery life performance on the Mi Mix 3 is merely average. With a 3,200mAh battery that’s smaller than many competing smartphones, this wasn’t too surprising. Screen-on time averaged around four hours, which is good for a full day’s worth of use, but only if you’re using the phone casually. More intense use such as gaming and extended camera usage will drain the battery quickly. Thankfully, the Mi Mix 3 is fast to charge with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ and wireless charging is available as an added convenience.




Hardware

Aside from wireless charging, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 doesn’t offer too many extra bells and whistles. There’s no IP certification against water and dust due to the phone’s slider design and you won’t find a headphone jack either. There’s also no microSD card slot for expandable storage, but the 128 and 256GB storage options should be more than enough for most people.

Face unlock can be used as an alternate method of security but this feature won’t be enabled until a future OTA update and will only come to select markets.

The most notable piece of hardware is a dedicated AI button on the left side of the phone. This is similar to the Bixby button on Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, but it’s much more useful since it ties to Google Assistant.

Unlike the Honor Magic 2, the Mi Mix 3 has a physical fingerprint sensor on the rear panel, not an in-screen sensor. The sensor is fast and accurate. Considering in-screen fingerprint sensors aren’t quite as reliable in their current state, Xiaomi’s decision to go with a physical sensor was a smart one. Face unlock will work as an alternate method of security, but not until a future OTA update and only in select markets.

Camera

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 comes with a total of four cameras. The rear is equipped with two 12MP sensors. The primary camera features a f/1.8 aperture lens, dual-pixel autofocus, and optical image stabilization. The secondary sensor is a telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture and provides 2X optical zoom.

The main front-facing camera comes in at a whopping 24MP and is paired with a 2MP sensor. Only the 24MP sensor takes photos while the 2MP sensor is designed to assist with portrait mode, studio lighting effects, and AI scene detection. Portrait mode, studio lighting, and AI scene detection are also available on the rear cameras.

Portrait mode on the Mi Mix 3 works very well with clean cutouts of subjects and a convincing background blur. Very rarely did the Mi Mix 3 struggle with separating the foreground from the background. The bokeh can also be adjusted after the fact to increase or decrease separation between the subject and background. The studio lighting effects are fun if you want to make your selfies look a little more interesting but it doesn’t always do a perfect job cropping you from the original background, as you can see with my right ear in the images below.



Many smartphone cameras now include AI scene detection and they all work more or less the same. The Mi Mix 3 can detect scenes like food, plants, text, landscapes, and more. If the phone detects a scene you’ll see a visual indicator within the camera’s viewfinder and the camera will adjust the image accordingly in an attempt to provide a better-looking image.

I noticed that the AI scene recognition mostly just ups the saturation, contrast, and the overall brightness of the image. If you don’t dig the extra color and contrast, you can disable the AI. I personally didn’t mind the results it gave me as they’re not as heavy-handed as those found on some other phones.



The camera’s excellent dynamic range kept highlights from overexposing which provided more detail in these areas.

Whether or not you decide to use the AI, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is an excellent smartphone camera for photography. Images are crisp and full of detail and color reproduction is very pleasant with good white balance. The phone handled all sorts of situations extremely well, and night time shots were impressive. Details are very crisp and sharp, and noise is minimal. Many smartphone cameras tend to struggle with highlights in low light photography but such is not the case with the Mi Mix 3. The camera’s excellent dynamic range kept highlights from overexposing which provided more detail in these areas.

We’ve included a full gallery of samples below for easy viewing but you can see the full-res images by clicking here.

Gallery

Software

The Mi Mix 3 ships with the latest Android 9 Pie and version 10 of Xiaomi’s popular MIUI software. Although I prefer my Android software as stock as possible, MIUI is pleasant to use and easy on the eyes. The UI is very minimalist and doesn’t overwhelm you with bright colors, opting for a more pastel color palette. The UI is highly customizable with a big library of wallpapers and MIUI offers a great selection of themes for changing the UI’s aesthetics.

MIUI comes with many other useful features such as a one-handed mode, gesture-controlled shortcuts, and dual app support. The software also leverages the slider mechanism as a shortcut for taking a selfie or automatically launching into a specific application when sliding the phone open. Although MIUI has a lot of features and software tricks, none of them feel intrusive and many are quite useful. The experience is also free of third-party bloatware, which keeps the software clean. There is a lot of Mi branded software preinstalled, but that’s par for the course.






Specifications

  Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
Display 6.39-inch AMOLED
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 screen ratio
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Octa-core, up to 2.8Ghz
GPU Adreno 630
RAM 6GB/8GB/10GB
LPDDR4x
Storage 128GB/256GB
UFS 2.1
Cameras Rear cameras
Main: 12MP with 1.4 micron pixels, 4-axis OIS, f/1.8 aperture (IMX363)
Secondary: 12MP 2x telephoto with 1.0 micron pixels, f/2.4 aperture (S5K3M3+)
Video: 4K at 60/30fps, 1080p at 960/240/120/60/30fps, 720p at 960/240/120/30fps

Front cameras
Main: 24MP with 1.8 micron “super pixels”, f/2.2 aperture (IMX576)
Secondary: 2MP sensor for depth effects (OV02A10)

Audio USB Type-C
No headphone jack
Battery 3,200mAh battery
Quick Charge 4+
10 watt wireless charging
IP rating N/A
Sensors Rear fingerprint
Hall
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Proximity
Ambient Light
Electronic Compass
Barometer
Network GSM: B2, B3, B5, B8 CDMA 1X, EVDO: BC0, BC6, BC10
WCDMA: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B8, B9, B10
TDD-LTE: B34, B38, B39, B40, B41(2496-2690)
FDD-LTE: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B8, B12, B13, B17, B18, B19,B20, B25, B26, B28, B29, B30, B66
Connectivity Wi-Fi: 2×2 MIMO, MU-MIMO, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G
Bluetooth 5.0
AptX/AptX-HD support
NFC
Dual frequency GPS (GPS L1+L5, Galileo E1+E5a, QZSS L1+L5, GLONASS L1, Beidou B1)
SIM Dual nano-SIM
Dual 4G standby
Software MIUI 10
Android 9.0 Pie
Dimensions and weight 157.9 x 74.7 x 8.5mm
218g
Colors Jade Green
Onyx Black
Sapphire Blue

Pricing & Final Thoughts

Pricing for the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is as follows: 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage for 3,299 yuan (~$475); 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage for 3,599 yuan (~$520); 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage for 3,999 yuan (~$575); and a 10GB RAM and 256GB of storage special edition for 4,999 yuan (~$720).

Aside from China, the Mi Mix 3 has also been confirmed for a U.K. release. Its wider availability will make this sliding phone much easier to obtain than the China-exclusive Honor Magic 2. That alone will make it a much more appealing option for those who want a phone in this form factor.

The Mi Mix 3 doesn’t disappoint as a flagship smartphone. It offers fantastic specs with great performance, great design, a near bezel-less screen, and a fantastic camera that takes excellent photos in all conditions. It lacks battery capacity and isn’t water resistant, but that’s a sacrifice you’ll have to make if you want to experience a new take on an old design.

Unihertz Atom review: You won’t want to use it, and that’s the point

The Unihertz Atom is a tiny phone with a 2.45-inch display. It comes with decent specs, but the phone’s design is what’s really going to spark conversations. About 80 percent of the people I showed this phone to told me they totally wanted one.

Should they want one enough to fork out $260? That’s what we are here to find out.

Manufacturers have been making our phones bigger and faster for years. Now a new breed of smartphones is trying to satisfy the needs of minimalists, aimed avoiding virtual distractions and keeping people in touch with reality.

It makes sense! Phones can get addictive. It’s the same reason devices like the Palm Phone and connected smartwatches even exist. However, those still need to pair with a more capable device. The Unihertz Atom is an Android handset that can operate as your primary smartphone. With dual-SIM capabilities, it could even replace a couple handsets.

The real question is whether people will make a bit of room for this phone in their pockets, or if it’s just a cool novelty we only want at first.


Unihertz Atom review: Design & build quality

Unihertz Atom

The design of the Unihertz Atom is its biggest selling point. The idea is simple: take the power and functionality of the Android OS and compress it into a tiny package. Unihertz did this with the Jelly phone, but things are quite different this time around.

Design is the biggest selling point for the Unihertz Atom.

Edgar Cervantes

The mini smartphone now has a rugged design that should make it more resistant to the daily beating some of us give our handsets. The Unihertz Atom feels sturdier and more solid than its predecessor, but it is also thicker and bulkier at 96 x 45 x 18mm. I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a problem — the phone still feels tiny.

Unihertz Atom

Unihertz Atom next to iPhone XS Max

There is a 3.5mm headphone jack on top, which makes us wonder why manufacturers keep saying size is an important factor for removing these. The volume buttons along the left side are accompanied by a dual-SIM card slot, while the right side houses a power button, a PTT (push to talk) button, and a USB Type-C port. You will find a 16MP camera in the back. The front features a 2.45-inch display, dual front-facing speakers, an 8MP shooter, a fingerprint reader/home button, and two capacitive buttons.

Though it looks kind of like a toy, the Unihertz Atom certainly doesn’t feel like one.

Edgar Cervantes

It looks kind of like a toy, but it doesn’t feel like one. The rubberized plastic, textured back, and shock-absorbing corners are comfortable to hold and feel secure. It isn’t even a bit slippery! I wasn’t as worried about dropping it (never did), and its IP68 certification means exposing it to the elements shouldn’t be an issue either.

Unihertz Atom
Unihertz Atom
Unihertz Atom
Unihertz Atom

We wish the bezels were thinner (or the screen bigger), as the screen-to-body ratio is abysmal, but a smaller profile is something we really shouldn’t be complaining about. For what it’s worth, the Unihertz Atom seems to have it all, which surprised me and every other person I have shown it to.

Unihertz didn’t settle for the basics, it even threw in elements we never expected to see in a minimalist phone like this one. These include the fingerprint sensor, a 3.5mm headset jack, and even an additional button dedicated to PTT communications.

Unihertz Atom


Unihertz Atom review: Display

You would be right to assume a phone like this doesn’t get to tout an amazing screen. This tiny panel sports a 240 x 432 resolution, which translates to a 201.7ppi density. Compare that to the over-400 pixel density of current high-end phones and things start to look a bit blurry. You can definitely see the pixels in this screen, especially when reading tiny words.

You would be right to assume a phone like this doesn’t get to tout an amazing screen.

Edgar Cervantes

Colors are vibrant, but also seem very inaccurate. Not to mention weird color elements are usually present in most images and video.

Overall, it is not a screen you will enjoy looking at for long periods of time, but we suppose that is fine given the nature of the device. The Unihertz Atom doesn’t need a good screen, it just needs to be usable — and this one certainly is (even if just barely). Not to mention those who buy this phone aren’t exactly looking for a media-consumption device.

Unihertz Atom

I absolutely hated seeing my product photos in this screen. I also tried watching Netflix and YouTube. It was OK, but I never really got immersed in the experience. I was easily distracted by things around me and often pocketed the device, figuring I could just watch my videos when I got home.

In a way, this means the tiny display accomplished its mission to unglue from your phone.


Unihertz Atom review: Sound quality

Again, nothing to write home about here. The phone’s sound is passable, but ordinary. Call audio seems fine. I could hear people well, and they could hear me (or so my friends said).

I had a hard time understanding the loudspeaker when calling or listening to media in loud places, though. Don’t even try playing music with it while driving. It simply won’t work. Things sounded just fine when at home, in my quiet room, but compared to other phones audio was a bit tiny.


Unihertz Atom review: Performance & hardware

In terms of performance, the Unihertz Atom is an affordable mid-range handset. It costs $259.99 and operates just like a phone at that price range should. Its octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM keep it running smoothly as long as you don’t go nuts with it.

The unihertz Atom costs $259.99 and operates just like a phone at that price range should.

Edgar Cervantes

Don’t expect it to handle many games or intensive apps well. It can play Flappy Bird like a champ, so some casual gamers will be happy with it. I tried to run Asphalt 9: Legends for kicks, and it actually worked! I could race with it, but loading took forever, it crashed a few times, and there was obvious lag in button pressing. Not to mention the tiny screen and bad resolution made it really hard to do well in races.

Editor’s Pick

Normal processes like checking email, going through social media, messaging, and requesting an Uber ride showed no issues. Of course, you won’t get the smoothness of a Snapdragon 845 when scrolling and opening apps, but the Unihertz Atom takes on every casual task with no hiccups. Once again, it’s usable. You wouldn’t expect much else from any device at this price point.

I also love how it has 64GB of internal storage, which is plenty to store your music, apps, and other content.


Unihertz Atom review: Specs

  Unihertz Atom
Display 2.45-inch LCD
240 x 432 resolution
201.7ppi
Processor 2GHz octa-core processor
RAM 4GB
Storage 64GB
MicroSD No
Camera Rear: 16MP AF
Front: 8MP FF
Battery 2,000mAh
Fingerprint scanner Yes
Headphone jack Yes
Software Android 8.1 Oreo
Dimensions 96 x 45 x 18mm
Weight 108 grams


Unihertz Atom review: Software

Fans of the stock Android experience will be happy with the Unihertz Atom. This is as close to pure Oreo as it can be. There are no apparent modifications in the UI, but Unihertz threw in some enhancements. The most obvious one is that PTT physical button, which can be used with Zello to talk to people Nextel style.

I have no need for PTT communications, so it’s good the phone has an option for changing the button’s functionality. You can choose to launch any app with the PTT button. I picked the camera, but any app of your choice will work the same. The one downside to switching the button’s functionality is that it won’t launch any other app with the screen off (it does with Zello).

Otherwise, there is not much to see here in terms of software, it’s just Android 8.1 Oreo. We would usually say this is a good idea, but with such a small screen we think the UI should have optimized, which is something Palm did with its companion phone. As it is, the Unihertz Atom feels unintuitive and cramped.

In addition, plenty of apps are not optimized for such a tiny display, which often an issue. Some elements will be too large. One clear example is the time stamp on Facebook Messenger. This is an issue you will encounter often, and it’s not exactly Unihertz’ fault. Developers should fix this, and unless these tiny phones become a trend, they likely won’t.

Another huge issue Unihertz should have given more thought to is typing. Oh my god… typing!

Edgar Cervantes

Another huge issue Unihertz should have given more thought to is typing. Even a seven-year old with skinny fingers had a hard time typing on this phone!

With my chubby fingers, I had to heavily rely on predictions, so I am glad I am a SwiftKey user. Typing was still hard, but using Flow (swiping) at least quickened my messaging. You could also go with voice typing and handwriting apps. Regardless, an official solution is needed to ensure a smooth experience.


Unihertz Atom review: Camera

Unihertz Atom

The Unihertz Atom camera is horrible.

Edgar Cervantes

I tend to dive deeper into the camera section of review, but there is no need here — this camera is horrible!

I wasn’t expecting much, but the Unihertz Atom camera went even lower than my underestimations. Images seem washed off, colors are dull, exposure is always off, there is often weird artifacting in direct light, and detail is lacking.




I am not saying Unihertz should throw a state of the art camera on a $259.99 phone, but this device is meant for adventures. More attention should have been paid to the camera.


Unihertz Atom review: Battery life

If the thought is to take you away from the distractions of the internet, battery life should be an important factor. You don’t want to be out camping and worry about charging your phone. While the Unihertz Atom doesn’t do too badly in this department, it is also no battery champion.

Unihertz Atom

Its 2,000mAh battery is small for today’s standards. The phone also isn’t as resource intensive, though. They small screen, lackluster definition, and modest specs should keep it alive for longer. That’s all theory, and I wasn’t exactly impressed with this phone’s battery life.

Editor’s Pick

I averaged about three hours of screen-on time. Overall the phone would last me all day on a single charge. By the time I went to sleep the phone was under the 20 percent mark, and I wasn’t even using it that much. Battery life is generally OK, but I expected more.


Unihertz Atom review: Final thoughts

Smartphones are addictive machines meant to keep you looking at a screen as much as possible. They are very immersive. The minimalists among us may want to live with no digital distractions, but they also need smartphones to go about their lives. Those are the users Unihertz is trying to cater to.

The Unihertz Atom is not a bad deal at $259.99. For people who want less, some of the Unihertz Atom’s shortcomings can be seen as advantages, and not in the silly way other manufacturers disguise mistakes as features.

Unihertz Atom

When you check your email on a regular smartphone, you are bombarded with information and distractions. What you mean to be a quick look can easily turn into a multi-hour hole filled with games and cat videos. With the Unihertz Atom you do what you have to do and get on with your life. The price and purpose make its shortcomings more bearable.

With the Unihertz Atom you do what you have to do and get on with your life.

Edgar Cervantes

Should I get the Palm Phone instead?

You could… but only if you can. It happens to be a Verizon exclusive, so there’s that bottleneck. And the fact that mostly makes the Palm Phone a waste is that it can’t be used as a standalone device; it needs to be linked to another line with a compatible smartphone. So technically, Palm and Verizon want you to own (and pay for) two phones.

Those willing to overlook said issues will get a more refined design, thinner profile, and what feels like a speedier experience, as the UI is actually optimized for the smaller screen. By the way, the screen is also better, and has a 1280 x 720 resolution.

That’s about where benefits end, though. Typing is also cumbersome with the Palm companion, even if not as much, thanks to the extra finger room you get from the 3.3-inch display. The battery is a joke at 800mAh. The camera is also bad.

In short: the Palm Phone is better, mostly because of design and the much better screen. I would gladly pay the extra $90 (plus $10 extra monthly fee) for it if I wanted a secondary phone and was with Verizon.  Those that don’t fit the requirements can go with the next best thing in tiny smartphones: the Unihertz Atom.

Xiaomi Black Shark review: A blast for your buck

Gaming smartphones had a breakthrough in 2018, with multiple renowned companies in the field launching their super-powered handsets. These include the Asus ROG Phone, Razer Phone 2, and today’s review subject, the Xiaomi Black Shark.

Check out the Asus ROG Phone vs. Razer Phone 2 vs. Xiaomi Black Shark to see how the three phones differ. Today we’re focusing on the Xiaomi Black Shark.

This is the most affordable gaming handset of the three, starting at 2,999 yuan (~$434). Xiaomi’s tendency is to bust through industry doors with no regards of the competition, offering top-notch specs, great design, and plenty of features, while undercutting prices by far. Let’s see how well the Xiaomi Black Shark follows this trend.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Design & build quality

back of xiaomi black shark with retail box

Like any gaming product worth its salt, the Xiaomi Black Shark design is bold and shameless. You will know it the minute you lay eyes on it. The device is black with green metal accents, and glass parts along the back. Housed in the rear you can also find the dual cameras (12MP and 20MP), LED flash, Black Shark branding, and a light-up logo surrounded by a textured design.

Around the edges there is another green metal outline, as well as the power and volume buttons along the right, the Shark Space toggle in the left (more on this in the software section), a USB Type-C port towards the lower edge, and the bottom speaker grills.






The front of the device takes a more traditional black slab approach, though. It has a notification light, a 20MP front-facing camera, and a fingerprint reader in the bottom bezel. The reader also works as a home button, and though you can’t see them, two capacitive buttons to its left and right work as the back and overview buttons, accordingly.

The Xiaomi Black Shark will turn heads and satisfy that gamer need to own flashy tech.

Edgar Cervantes

This device will turn heads and satisfy that gamer need to own flashy tech. The logo in the back lights up with notifications, which I find pretty darn awesome. Though it is made mostly of plastic and glass, it is the best-built device of the big three gaming handsets.

The Black Shark’s sturdy grippy surface and back recessions will give you a secure grip while gaming. I wish Xiaomi had followed the norm with thinner bezels along the front, but this is a gaming handset. You don’t necessarily expect it to be small or thin. Instead, the Xiaomi Black Shark is solid, unique, and comfortable to hold (at least as much as a rectangular smartphone can be).


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Display

The Xiaomi Black Shark sports a 5.99-inch IPS LCD panel with a 2,160 x 1,080 resolution and an 18:9 screen ratio. IPS LCD displays are known for great color accuracy, but the same can’t be said about the Xiaomi Black Shark’s screen. It is very saturated and the blacks are super deep, making the experience seem more like an AMOLED one.

xiaomi black shark display

You should look elsewhere if you prioritize accuracy.

Edgar Cervantes

In our testing we found even the “Natural Mode” calibration’s color temperature goes up to 8778k, while the ideal one is 6500k. Average color error is also sky high at 7.1 Delta E 2000. This would make it the screen with the second highest average color error we have tested. You should look elsewhere if you prioritize accuracy.

The screen gets pretty bright at almost 560 nits, though. While colors are not that accurate, the image looks good for gaming, with exaggerated colors and deep blacks. The display pops, which further immerses you into the game.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Performance & hardware

Gaming products are all about performance. The Xiaomi Black Shark certainly doesn’t disappoint on paper. Its specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB of RAM (6GB if you go for the 64GB storage version), and an Adreno 630 GPU.

The Xiaomi Black Shark is fast, smooth, and will present very few hiccups. The same can be said about any high-end device, though.

Edgar Cervantes

This is a powerful device. It is fast, smooth, and had very few hiccups. The same can be said about many high-end devices, though. The Xiaomi Black Shark has other elements to entice gamers.

For starters, an “Extreme Mode” can be turned on while gaming to bring the processor to higher speeds and take better advantage of the phone’s resources. In addition, you can easily clean the RAM to liberate memory. There is a difference when turning it on, but it is minimal. Loading times shorten by like a second or two. Smoothness seems basically equal, at least to the naked eye.

Needless to say Xiaomi’s liquid cooling didn’t seem to work wonders.

Edgar Cervantes

Gaming can make a device really hot, which in turn affects performance. The Xiaomi Black Shark uses a unique liquid cooling system the company claims will reduce temperature by 8 degrees Celsius when compared to traditional all-copper.

This cooling system might get you all hyped up because liquid cooling is the fanciest method for PCs, but it doesn’t quite work the same in this smartphone. The small amount of liquid will start evaporating as its chamber gets hotter, travel to cooler areas, and turn into liquid again.

xiaomi black shark cooling system

This allows for better cooling at first, but eventually the chamber will get too hot for the system to work. I managed to cross that point often and the phone got uncomfortably hot. Needless to say it didn’t seem to work wonders.

Those looking for accessories can also enjoy the included gamepad, but it only attaches to one side and has a joystick, as well as two shoulder buttons. It is a nice addition, but I don’t like that it is single-sided. Those looking for something better now have another option.

xiaomi black shark gamepad

The company recently announced the Xiaomi Gamepad 2.0, which has extensions to both sides of the phone. The Gamepad 2.0 features a joystick and D-pad on the left side and a touchpad and ABXY buttons on the right side. Both sides feature a trigger button and a triangle-shaped button near the bottom.

All of the buttons are mappable too, giving you a little more flexibility in various games.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Specs

Display 5.99-inch IPS-LCD
2160×1080 resolution
403 PPI
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
GPU Adreno 630
RAM 6GB / 8GB
Storage 64GB / 128GB
MicroSD No
Camera Rear: Dual 12MP / 20MP cameras

Front: 20MP camera

Battery 4000 mAh
Fingerprint scanner Yes
Headphone jack No
Software Android 8.1.0 Oreo
Dimensions 161.6 x 75.4 x 9.3mm
Weight 190 grams
Colors Black, gray, and royal blue


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Camera

xiaomi black shark camera

All photos shown in this review are compressed and reduced. Pixel peepers can always check out this Google Drive folder to see the full, uncompressed photos. 

For some, a camera can make or break a phone. Many deem it the most important factor in a smartphone. The Xiaomi Black Shark is not for the mobile photographers among you. That is not to say it can’t take some great photos, though. It is a high-end 2018 phone, after all.

Let me tell you right off the bat the Xiaomi Black Shark is not for the mobile photographers among you.

Edgar Cervantes

Daylight




In daylight we get pretty good detail, exposure, and contrast, but the camera fails in some ways. That lame watermark is on by default, so if you are not careful you might end up with some unwanted publicity in your otherwise beautiful shots. I always leave stock settings alone for testing purposes, so I didn’t turn it off — make sure you do!

The dynamic range is also lackluster. Highlights are fine, but a tremendous amount of light is lost in the shadows. Look under the bushes, and you will see a deep darkness. The clock also looks way too under-exposed, even though I set the exposure and focus point to it.

HDR


HDR brings out the shadows more, but the results are still underwhelming compared to HDR in the best smartphone cameras. At least there is a way to improve dynamic range, though!

Color


Colors are bright and vibrant as long as they catch the right light. The Coronado sign looked much more saturated in real life, but the environment was a bit darker, as the sun began to set on the other side of the building. Turn to a well-lit store with crocheted dolls and things look much more lively. We do still wish contrast was on the higher side, though.

Lowlight


The shots are well exposed, but we can’t say the Xiaomi Black Shark is great at taking photos in the dark. In both images you can easily tell the shots have been over-softened too much, which results in loss of detail. Not to mention the phone struggles to get white balance right, especially in the first picture.

Portrait mode


Portrait mode shots suffer from the same shortcomings as other shots, but I was impressed at how well the camera outlines us to create the bokeh effect. This is something most smartphone cameras miss.

We were both outlined as close to perfect as these phones get, and I happen to like how gradual the bokeh is. This means closer objects look clearer than the farther ones. You can better appreciate this in the second image, where the cannon starts to blur out slowly, as well as the grass.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Software

Fans of the pure Google experience will love this phone. The UI looks just like that of a Pixel smartphone. Xiaomi didn’t even add its own apps. All its customization options are in the Settings app. The phone’s software really is as clean as it gets.



There are gaming options to be had, though. When in a game you can slide down on the fingerprint reader (in landscape mode) and the Game Dock will slide down from the top, overlaying the game interface. From here you can change gamepad settings, turn Wi-Fi on or off, activate the NoIncall mode, turn NightMode on, and disable the keypad. Hit the more button to turn off notifications, toggle ExtremeMode, clean the RAM, hang up a call, or access more settings.

xiaomi black shark game mode

In addition to the dock, Xiaomi created Shark Space. This mode can be turned on using the physical toggle on the left side of the phone. When activated, the phone will automatically clean the RAM and disable all notifications, calls, and messages, effectively killing all distractions. In addition, the phone will display a clean UI with a list of your games, gamepad settings, gaming stats, and more.

xiaomi black shark shark space

I believe the Xiaomi Black Shark is too simple to be a true gamer’s machine

Edgar Cervantes

Aside from these discrete additions, Xiaomi did a great job keeping this phone as clean as possible. It is a joy to use, but I would also argue a gaming phone needs more gaming features. The Asus ROG Phone, for example, lets you manage device temperature, CPU and RAM usage, light color modifications, cooling modes, presets, and more.

I believe the Xiaomi Black Shark is too simple to be a true gaming machine. Gamers tend to demand more customization and control over their machines.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Sound quality

The Xiaomi Black Shark sounds good, but it won’t be winning any audio awards. It sounds loud enough to be immersive.

I have to complain about how the phone offers dual speakers but one of them is not front-facing. This is mostly a problem because it’s easy to cover when playing in landscape mode, an orientation nearly every game uses. This results in random muffled sound.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Battery life

xiaomi black shark speakers and charging port

The Xiaomi Black Shark actually did quite well against our battery tests. When playing video continuously at 200 nits, the device was able to last for 735 minutes (12 hours and 15 minutes) before dying. When continuously loading websites, it went for 820 minutes (13 hours and 40 minutes), which is significantly higher than the average 675 (11 hours and 15 minutes).

It starts to die faster when playing, but I never played enough to really see it go from 100 percent to zer0 percent. I’d say it should average at about four to five hours of straight gaming.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Price and conclusion

Two versions of the Xiaomi Black Shark are available. It starts at just 2,999 yuan (about $434) for the version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. You can upgrade to the iteration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage for 3,499 yuan (about $508).

back of xiaomi black shark on retail box

Gamers looking for the most bang for their buck need look nowhere else. Hell, even non-gamers will probably find this phone an amazing deal considering the specs. However, there is one huge caveat — Xiaomi devices aren’t exactly easy to come by for most of us.

Sure, it isn’t exactly the best gaming phone out there, but…

Edgar Cervantes

For starters, it is not available in the U.S. Only select markets can get Xiaomi devices directly. The rest of us need to import them. The value Xiaomi offers makes it hard for supply to keep up, too. If you can get your hands on one, the performance and capabilities make the Xiaomi Black Shark a steal.

It has the specs to handle all the games you need, and Extreme Mode offers that boost many of you will enjoy. Sure, it isn’t exactly the best gaming phone out there, but it is plenty capable and carries a significantly lower price tag than its direct competitors.

This is also a pretty cool device to use as a daily driver for the times you don’t want to game — if there are any.

Running Samsung Dex and EMUI on a 49-inch ultrawide monitor? Sure, why not

Samsung CJ89 Monitor Wide Angle Picture

Chrome OS and Android offer portable alternatives to your traditional Mac and Windows desktop environments and some big phone names have been working to improve the Android experience further. It’s been a while since we played around with some of the most well-known options, so we thought it was time we caught up. While not as fully featured as a traditional OS, Samsung Dex and Huawei EMUI offer functional desktop environments bringing mobile apps to big screens.

There are few bigger screens than the ultra-wide-screen 49-inch Samsung CJ89 monitor. The monitor supports display inputs over USB Type-C, making it an ideal testbed for running smartphone desktops. Before we dive into a bit more about the mobile-come-desktop experience, here’s an overview of the Samsung CJ89 monitor.

Meet the Samsung CJ89

At 49 inches, the Samsung CJ89 is a monster. It completely fills your peripheral vision, which is arguably a tad impractical. It’s basically impossible to take everything in at once. I’m used to a dual monitor setup, but the CJ89 really is something else. “Super ultra-wide screen,” as Samsung describes it, probably doesn’t go far enough. You can easily fit three or four windows side by side.

  Samsung J89 specs
Display Size 48.9-inches
Aspect Ratio 32:9
Screen Curvature & Viewing Angle 1800Rm, 178°(H) / 178°(V)
Resolution 3,840 x 1,080
or 2x 1,920 x 1,080
Response Time 5ms (gray-to-gray)
Refresh Rate 144Hz
Contrast Radio 3000:1 (Typical),
2400:1 (Min)
Brightness 300cd/m2 (Typical),
250cd/m2 (Min)
HDR? No
Ports 1x HDMI (v2.0)
1x Display Port (v1.2)
2x USB Type-C
3x USB Type-A
1x 3.5mm headphones

Quality wise, the display hits the right notes. It could probably do with a little more vertical resolution than just 1,080, but that would bump up the graphics requirements to power this beast. At 300 nits, it’s retina-scorchingly bright when cranked up up all the way in my dingy office. Meanwhile, the contrast and color balance are perfectly fine for my eye, though the display is more about its crazy width rather than groundbreaking specs. There’s no HDR support here, for example, and the 7W built-in speakers are no match for a dedicated external pair.

The monitor features a ton of ports on the back, though just one HDMI 2.0 and one DisplayPort 1.2 for PC connections. The rest are USB ports to connect up peripherals, two of which are USB Type-C supporting high wattage Power Delivery to charge up phones and tablets. The USB Type-C ports also support display signals, meaning you can mirror your laptop, tablet, or phone’s display.

Samsung CJ89 Monitor Ports

I hope you like USB ports because the CJ89 has plenty of them, but only one HDMI and one DP.

Single monitor, dual inputs

One of the Samsung CJ89’s more unique features is its Picture-by-Picture mode. This takes inputs from two of the port inputs, which it can mix and match, and displays them simultaneously. Supported secondary inputs include another PC, a laptop, or a mobile device.

Furthermore, these secondary devices can connect using a range of inputs. The two USB Type-C ports on the back support Android screen cloning, EMUI Desktop, and Samsung Dex. They are also powered at up to 15W and 95W, so they can charge up your phone and power the Samsung Dex Station while running the display.

Picture-by-Picture mode allows you to run two devices on the display side by side

Samsung CJ89 Monitor DEX

The feature isn’t seamless when using a Dex Station. This slightly older Samsung product doesn’t support video over a USB Type-C connection, so you need to connect using the HDMI port on the back of the Dex Station to the monitor. There’s only one HDMI connector, so you’ll have to mess around with adaptors to keep your primary PC connected too.

This isn’t a problem with the latest Samsung devices. Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and  Galaxy Tab S4 support Dex over just a USB Type-C cable. These models remove the need for a dock altogether, matching Huawei’s EMUI Desktop. When connecting via USB-C, you can use your PC keyboard and monitor by flicking a simple switch.

Why use Android desktop environments?

The persistent question about Samsung’s Dex and Huawei’s EMUI is why? Why use a slightly sluggish, less comprehensive operating system for PC work when you probably have a perfectly functioning desktop or laptop at hand?

There’s something rather helpful about having the same apps you regularly use on your phone on your desktop side-by-side. Ensuring the morning’s emails are answered and properly synced, without having to rely on Outlook or various web tabs, is great. It’s also rather neat for apps with notifications, like Slack or WhatsApp, so your phone and PC app don’t duplicate the notifications. Having one app at your desk for each feature is less hectic and there’s plenty of room on this monitor for that type of multitasking.

Samsung CJ89 Monitor EMUI

Handling the work day’s usual phone notifications in a desktop environment is a pleasant change

That you can also use a single keyboard and mouse setup for both operating systems with this monitor makes this actually practical. That said, you have to fiddle with the Switch USB button to swap the peripherals over. It’s a necessary feature, but it prevents this from being a seamless experience. Especially as there’s a slight delay during the changeover, as it’s basically unplugging and plugging your keyboard back into Windows.

This side-by-side feature definitely won’t be a major selling point for many consumers. Those dipping their toes into Dex or EMUI might actually get some good use out of a dual monitor type setup like this though. Of course, if you’re simply planning to plug your computer into this monitor, you’ll avoid most of the pain points I’ve mentioned here.

Samsung CJ89 Super Wide Screen Monitor

Final thoughts

If you’re wanting to use a monitor like this as I have, the Samsung CJ89 is definitely built for modern devices that support monitors over USB Type-C. Laptop class power over USB Type-C also makes the monitor a power hub for your portable gadgets. However, the single HDMI input makes it difficult to use the multi-display mode with older devices. You can always use cable adapters, but I wouldn’t recommend it. While mobile desktop options have improved in recent years, they’re still no match for a dedicated desktop.

Editor’s Pick

As an ultra-wide-screen monitor, the Samsung CJ89 is pretty great. With a 32:9 aspect ratio, the 49-inch monitor has plenty of space for multiple applications. Once you get used to the monitor’s humongous size, it’s a multitaskers dream. The biggest drawback is its 7W speakers, which are passable for voice but frankly terrible for music and film sound effects.

At 899 pounds and 1,409 euros (around $1,140) this is an expensive monitor I personally can’t quite justify. At this price point, the monitor should offer HDR, a higher resolution, and support for FreeSync to make the most of its 144Hz refresh rate. Dex certainly works, but I’m not switching over to a mobile OS for work anytime soon. The idea is undeniably enticing though: as phone desktop modes improve, you could save so much money on a computer you could (maybe) justify spending at least some of it on a crazy ultra-wide monitor like this.

Honor 10 Lite hands-on: The budget selfie king?

Last month, we reviewed the Honor 10. The device was admirable for something that only costs 399 euros (~$453), bringing last year’s flagship Kirin 970 processor, plenty of RAM and storage, and a high resolution camera.

The phone brought quite a lot of value to the mid-range market, but Honor is looking to introduce an option for those on an even tighter budget.

We just got our hands on the Honor 10 Lite, and here are our first impressions.

Honor 10 lite rear

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The Honor 10 Lite is definitely a flashy device. While it comes in standard black and silver colors that shimmer in Honor’s classic “Aurora” pattern, there’s also now a sky blue option which transitions from a light baby blue at the bottom to silver at the top. I think it looks quite good.

However, it’s proven to be a fingerprint magnet during the time I’ve had with it.

Honor 10 lite standing back

There is a fingerprint reader nested in the top third of the device with a 13MP and 2MP dual-camera setup sitting to the top left. These sensors have apertures of f/1.8 and f/2.4 respectively. The 13MP sensor is the primary camera while the second is primarily used for depth sensing.

The glass on the back feels fairly premium, but the aluminum sides feel a bit cheap. It’s also fairly light at 162 grams.

Honor 10 lite screen notch
Honor 10 lite chin

The Honor 10 Lite has a 6.21-inch 1080p LCD display with a small waterdrop-style notch design. This notch houses a 24MP selfie camera with an f/2.0 aperture. It can recognize up to eight different selfie scenarios and react appropriately, adding things like color adjustments and skin smoothing. It also offers multiple different studio lighting modes.

The screen isn’t incredibly disappointing, but it does make it clear that this isn’t a flagship device. There is a noticeable difference in quality between this panel and the Honor 10. Even though the colors are quite deep and punchy, the display feels almost matte, and could definitely be sharper.

Honor 10 lite micro usb
Honor 10 lite headphone jack
Honor 10 lite bottom

The clear sign this is a budget device comes in the form of a MicroUSB port on the bottom of the phone. A single bottom-firing speaker and a headphone jack sit on either side of the port. The headphone jack seems to have become a budget feature, but I’m very glad to see it included nonetheless.

The other budget giveaway is the phone’s specs. The Honor 10 Lite is powered by Huawei’s Kirin 710 mobile chipset, 3GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. This won’t come close to competing with Huawei’s flagship Kirin 980 or even last year’s Kirin 970, though the octa-core processor should perform decently for everyday tasks. However, we’ll have to wait to review the device in full before we can make a final verdict. There is a microSD card slot in the device, which can expand the total storage capacity up to 512GB.

Honor 10 lite screen

The Honor 10 Lite runs on EMUI 9.1, based on Android 9 Pie. EMUI has quite a controversial user interface — most people either love it or hate it. The phone comes with standard Android soft keys and no app drawer, but users can toggle on gesture navigation and even enable the app drawer if they want.

We won’t have official European pricing for the device until it officially launches in the U.K., but the phone costs 799 dirham in the United Arab Emirates, about 192 euros or $217. That’s about half the cost of the Honor 10, so this could be a great option for fans of the company with a bit tighter budget.

What are your thoughts on the Honor 10 Lite? Is it the budget device you’ve been waiting for?

Let us know!