Doogee S70 and G1 Gamepad Are the Best Way to Play Fortnite Mobile

Doogee S70 and G1 Gamepad Are the Best Way to Play Fortnite Mobile


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Our verdict of the Doogee S70:
A reasonable phone with an outstanding screen, although it could do with losing a bit of weight.
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This is the Doogee S70: a rugged gaming phone, with optional G1 gamepad. Performance is good, but paired with the matching controller will really take your game up a level.

Let’s take a look, and see if it’s any good. Don’t forget to enter our giveaway contest, where you can win a brand new S70 phone with G1 gamepad—it’s at the end of this review!

Features and Design

The S70 shares similarities with many other Chinese smartphones. It has a 5.99 inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels. It sports the eight-core Helio P23 processor with Mali-G71 MP2 GPU, 64GB of storage, 6GB of RAM, Android 8.1. The construction is a combination of metal, plastic, and leather.

Doogee S70 in hand

Visually, it’s not much to look at. The 5500 mAh battery ensures the S70 has a significant heft to it, and measuring 6.76 x 3.18 x 0.53 inches it’s not the smallest phone around either. Charged over USB Type-C with the included 12V/2A charger, it takes 1 hour 40 minutes to charge.

Doogee S70 USB input

It shares similar styling with the Blackview BV5800 Pro. By their very nature, rugged phones don’t always look very pretty. The chunky body and protected ports help the S70 achieve the IP68/IP69K rating. This means it’s dustproof and waterproof at 1.5 meters for 24 hours.

Doogee S70 left side

The rear of this phone contains the dual 12 + 5 MP cameras and the Sony sensor supports a maximum aperture of F/1.8. A maximum video resolution of 1080p at 30 FPS is underwhelming.

Doogee S70 camera

This camera module is slightly raised away from the main body of the phone, as it also houses the fingerprint sensor. As it’s such a large phone, this sensor can be slightly tough to reach, but it’s not too difficult to use.

You’ll find the usual power and volume buttons on the right, but on the left, you’ll also find a custom button. This can be configured to do anything you like (such as open the camera app), but by default, it puts the S70 into “gameboost mode”. The stops incoming calls and purges the RAM to free up space for games. It loads the gameboost menu, which lists any installed games.

Doogee S70 right side

Available in a choice of three colors, the S70 costs $299. The Doogee G1 gamepad, an optional $50 purchase, is where things get really interesting.

This gamepad is designed for the S70, although it will work with any phone. Connecting over Bluetooth, and expanding to gently cradle your device, the G1 turns the S70 into a giant controller, complete with joystick and triggers.

Doogee S70 G1 gamepad

The G1 has a built-in 400 mAh battery, and as it only draws between four and ten milliamps when in use, you can expect to achieve around 40 hours of play time. Annoyingly, the controller is charged through the included Micro-USB cable, so you’ll need to carry two cables with you, and you won’t be able to share power through the S70’s USB-C port.

How Is It as a Phone?

Before looking at gaming, let’s see how the S70 works as its primary function—a phone!

Doogee S70 bottom chin

The inclusion of Android 8.1 is an excellent choice. While Android 9 is the latest version, 8.1 is still a common operating system and offers great improvements over Android 7, which is starting to show its age.

The fingerprint sensor works almost instantly, and the interface feels fast and responsive. Web pages load at lightning speed, and everything generally feels fast and snappy.

Doogee S70 top bezel

Android runs underneath a very light Doogee skin, which adds aggressive memory monitoring, minor styling tweaks, and pre-installs several apps such as Octopus key mapping, which is essential for using the G1 gamepad.

Image Quality

Moving on to the cameras, there’s nothing much to get excited about here.

The cameras deliver average image quality. They can’t keep up with any flagship model, or even an older iPhone, but they aren’t terrible—for photos at least.

Doogee S70 Sample photo garden

Colors look great and the focus is fast with little to no hunting. While images look reasonable, they could still be improved. There’s a lack of contrast, and they can sometimes look washed out. You won’t be fooling anyone that these were taken with a DSLR.

Image quality gets even worse for video. Not only are there no options at all for 4k (and here’s why you should shoot 4k video if you’re unsure) or slow motion, but the footage is recorded into the horrible and very dated .3GP format.

Doogee S70 Sample photo chickens

Videos are even less sharp than the photos, and suffer many of the problems impacting photos, only much worse.

The dual lenses enable you to achieve a variety of portrait modes, but there’s nothing special here considering you can enable portrait mode on any Android phone


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.

How Rugged Is It?

The chunky design, thick rubber corner protectors and metal edges keep it safe from harm. Fourth generation Gorilla Glass keeps the screen safe, and the raised rubber sides help to lessen any impact on the screen itself.

There’s no need to purchase a dedicated case, as the S70 is able to keep itself safe. Heavy knocks, kicks, drops, and thumps all do little to damage this phone.

Doogee S70 underwater

The S70 is IP68 rated. It achieves this through the use of two rubber covers protecting the sim card slot and USB Type-C input. Throw it about in water without these covers in place, and you’re going to have a bad time.

The IP68 rating means it can endure harsh dusty conditions and is waterproof down to 1.5 meters. However, be aware that this rating only applies to fresh water. Any other kind of liquid may cause damage.

If you’re sensible (or even a little bit clumsy), you’ll have no problems here. The odd splash, quick dunking, or shower won’t do any harm. Go swimming, or chuck it into harsh liquids, and you will notice liquid-related problems start to happen.

Using the G1 Gamepad

Doogee S70 G1 gamepad

The G1 gamepad makes gaming far more enjoyable, and it works with any phone! Two spring-loaded grips expand to accommodate a huge variety of phones, and as the S70 is so massive, you’re unlikely to find a phone too big to fit.

Doogee S70 G1 gamepad

On the left, you’ll find a clickable joystick, d-pad and power button, along with the status light. Both the left and right feature a rear trigger, and the left side features a second “bump” trigger. None of these triggers are pressure sensitive.

Doogee S70 G1 gamepad

Once connected over Bluetooth, you can use the preinstalled Octopus app to remap any game control to the controller inputs.

Constructed from sturdy plastic, the G1 sports a QR code on the back for quick connection. While the S70 feels extremely tough, the G1 gamepad is made from plastic, is not waterproof, and certainly won’t handle a big impact like the S70.

Doogee S70 G1 gamepad

The G1 gamepad is available separately for $49, but you could just connect a PS3 controller to Android


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instead if you have one lying around.

Gaming Performance

Doogee S70

Despite having an old (but still capable) processor, the S70 can keep up with most demanding games. This is thanks in part to the Mali-G71 GPU. PUBG mobile runs very smoothly, as do older games such as Dead Trigger 2, and simpler games such as temple run.

We would have tested Fortnite, but at the time of writing it was still invite-only on Android—check out our guide to sideloading Fortnite safely


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 once it’s open to all.

The aggressive memory management helps performance, managed by the gameboost mode. You’re unlikely to find many games to really tax it though.

Despite being sold as a gaming phone, it’s not really that special. Yes, it’s good, but most high-end smartphones can run games just fine. The gameboost mode is nice, but that’s just a software tweak.

Is It Worth Your Money?

Doogee S70 in hand

It may not be the prettiest phone or even the lightest, but it’s surprisingly good! Despite having a rather average processor, the S70 has a vast amount of RAM, and an outstanding screen, a generous battery, quick charging, and a reasonably modern Android version.

The G1 gamepad is an excellent device, and as it works over Bluetooth, you don’t have to buy the S70 to use it—it will work with your existing phone.

Being a Chinese phone, there are still a few niggles you may want to consider. The minor UI changes may not be to everyone’s taste, and weird Chinese messages occasionally appeared. It’s big, and it’s heavy. It’s a bit boring design as well.

Still, if you can live with these downsides, the S70 represents an excellent alternative to the multitude of notch-sporting Android phones. A great all-rounder (but really designed for gaming), the S70 is a great phone!

Doogee S70

Thanks to Doogee, we’ve got a brand new S70 phone and G1 gamepad to giveaway! All you have to do is enter our giveaway contest below.

Enter the Competition!

Doogee S70 and G1 Gamepad Giveaway


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Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money


Our verdict of the Blackview BV5800 Pro:
Blackview’s BV5800 Pro builds on their past successes, creating a rugged phone that is both durable and desirable at an incredibly affordable price.
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Modern electronics are quite fragile; none more so than your smartphone. The irony is that we tend to have our smartphone with us in all conditions—while working, outdoors exercising, or just out in the rain. These often expensive gadgets have a habit of breaking or getting damaged in any number of situations.

We buy screen protectors and pricey cases to protect them, but even they don’t always prevent the almost inevitable cracked screen. Could a rugged device like the Blackview BV5800 Pro be the answer, achieving a balance between performance and durability?

Specifications

  • Operating System: Android 8.1
  • CPU: MT6739 Quad Core
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB internal, expandable
  • Battery: 5580mAh
  • Display: 5.5 inches, 1440×720, Gorilla Glass 3
  • Dimensions: 6.18 x 3.09 x 0.61 inches
  • Front Camera: 8 MP
  • Rear Camera: 13.3 MP
  • Network:
    • 2G: GSM – 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
    • 3G: WCDMA – 850/900/2100 MHz
    • 4G: FDD – B1/3/7/8/20/40
  • Features: NFC, Wireless Charging, IP68 Rating, Fingerprint Reader, Dual SIM support
  • Price: $149.99

Design

As the BV5800 Pro is a rugged device, it won’t come as a surprise that it is quite bulky. It weighs a fairly hefty 250g, compared to the iPhone X’s 174g. The BV5800 Pro is also twice as thick as the iPhone X—0.61 inches versus 0.3 inches.

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money Blackview BV5800 Pro 8

At first, it seemed awkwardly large, but then I’m used to the relatively svelt Google Pixel. The phone felt uncomfortable in my pocket, but the main takeaway is that it did fit. Like the Pixel, you can find the BV5800 Pro’s fingerprint reader on the rear of the device, just below the camera.

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money Blackview BV5800 Pro 5

The device is mostly covered in a rubberized plastic, with two metal plates along the side, and one on the rear around the camera and fingerprint reader. The two plates on the side are home to the BV5800 Pro’s hardware buttons; power on the right, volume and customizable SOS buttons on the left.

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money Blackview BV5800 Pro 12

Although the phone looks like a rugged brick, opening the charging and headphone flaps proves otherwise. Underneath the external casing, is a smartphone like any other but without the outer finish. These flaps are vital as they help the phone to achieve it’s IP68 waterproof and dust-proof rating.

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money Blackview BV5800 Pro 3

The 5.5-inch screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, which sounds exciting, but is actually rather pedestrian. Gorilla Glass 3 was first introduced at CES 2013, and Gorilla Glass products can be found on over five billion devices worldwide.

The design of the BV5800 Pro is unlikely to inspire the kind of enthusiasm often felt for Apple’s devices. However, it isn’t wholly unattractive either. The colored accents add a little flair.

Features

One of the BV5800 Pro’s most notable features is that it runs Android 8.1 Oreo. Budget smartphones often run versions of Android that are at least a year or two out of date. To find the most current iteration of Google’s operating system here is a welcome surprise.

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money Blackview BV5800 Pro 10

And it isn’t the only one. The phone comes with support for wireless charging and quick charge. It has in-built NFC which means you can use it for contactless payments. The fingerprint reader is a fairly standard feature in 2018, but its inclusion on such an affordable phone is an oddity.

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money Blackview BV5800 Pro 11

The BV5800 Pro supports 2G, 3G, and even 4G networks. There is even Dual SIM support, with the SIM tray accessible on the right-hand metal plate. The second SIM slot also doubles as the tray for expandable storage. However, this does mean that you have to choose between expandable storage and a second SIM card.

Performance & Battery Life

If you are considering purchasing a rugged phone like the BV5800 Pro, then performance is probably not high on your priority list. The $150 price-tag may also make you doubt how good the device could realistically be.

The BV5800 Pro uses an entry-level CPU and has just 2GB of RAM. Intensive tasks like photo and video editing and many games stutter and occasionally crash. It’s clear that this is not a flagship device. Given those specifications, you’d expect the phone to handle multitasking poorly, but that isn’t the case.

Android 8.1 is the best iteration of Android for multitasking performance and battery life. If the BV5800 Pro ran an older version of Android, it might have been unusable. However, it breezed through almost all day-to-day tasks like checking emails, social media, and taking photos.

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money Blackview BV5800 Pro 7 1

The sizable 5580mAh battery is a significant strength. For comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 comes equipped with a 3000mAh battery. The large capacity battery means that, depending on usage, you can expect the device to last up to a week on a single charge. Playing a YouTube video at full brightness and full volume saw the BV5800 Pro last almost nine hours.

Durability

The main selling point of the BV5800 Pro is its rugged design. While its reasonable performance as a smartphone is a bonus, the durability of the phone is what’s important. The two key features here are the phone’s IP68 rating and durable outer shell.

Water & Dust Proofing

The BV5800 Pro achieved IP68 rating


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, which means that it is completely protected against dust and is waterproof for depths of over one meter. Blackview’s specifications claim that it is waterproof at 1.5 meters for up to two hours.

Blackview BV5800 Pro Water Test

After testing the device, there was no indication that this wasn’t the case. The phone survived multiple submersions and contact with running water. There seemed to be no lasting damage or performance issues. The only observation was that under running water with the screen unlocked, the water would interact with the screen as if you were touching it.

Blackview BV5800 Pro Dust Test

Dust resistance is more of a long-term concern; however, we did subject the phone to incredibly dry soil and dirt. As promised, the device was entirely dust free after a quick wipe down.

Damage Resistance

Waterproofing is an increasingly common smartphone feature. So while its a huge benefit for the BV5800 Pro, the phone’s most distinguishing feature is its ability to withstand damage. The tough outer shell is designed to protect the delicate electronics underneath.

While reviewing the phone, I inadvertently gave it a quick test after accidentally dropping it as I carried it around the back garden. Aside from a few minor scuff marks around the corners of the case, there was no noticeable damage. Contrast this with the Google Pixel, who’s screen shattered after it fell about 20cm onto the same surface.

Knowing it could survive day-to-day accidents, it was time to move on to more challenging tests. Stationed about five meters above ground in the top floor, I dropped the phone onto the concrete in the back garden. Unfortunately, this led to the premature end of the damage testing. The phone landed on the upper right corner, and the impact sent spider cracks all across the screen.

This shouldn’t necessarily count against the BV5800 Pro. The corner of a device is naturally one of its weakest points. As the impact surface area was minimal, the force was concentrated in that area. If it had landed on its front or back, the outcome might have been different.

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money Blackview BV5800 Pro 2

The important thing to note from this test was that the phone did still work. A simple screen repair would get the phone back in action. However, as many screen repairs often cost upwards of $100, this may not be economical.

Should You Buy The Blackview BV5800 Pro?

Rugged devices aren’t for everyone. They trade modern design for practicality and function. For the most part, they are niche devices for those of us with a higher risk of damaging our gadgets.

The Blackview BV5800 Pro, however, makes a compelling case that rugged phones could be mainstream devices. Mediocre internal specifications aside, the phone checks almost every desirable box.

The phone has 4G and Dual SIM support alongside wireless and quick charging. There is a 13.3 MP camera and fingerprint reader on the rear of the device. It runs the latest version of Android and isn’t crammed full of bloatware. The gigantic 5580 mAh battery means the phone will last for days. It’s even water and dust proof.

To get all of that for just $150 is, frankly, incredible.

Enter the Competition!

Blackview BV5800 Pro Rugged Smartphone Giveaway


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Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better


Our verdict of the Yi Smartphone Gimbal:
Makes silky smooth smartphone video accessible to all, but the offering is a bit barebones with no case included. If you can find it on sale for under $100, it’s a good entry point, but spend a little more and there are more feature packed devices on offer.
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The quality of smartphone videography has exploded in recent years, with the latest handsets able to record 4K video, in HDR or 60 frames per second. Unfortunately, our pathetic shakey human hands haven’t improved at nearly the same pace. While smartphones make some attempt at stabilizing your footage in software, nothing beats a hardware gimbal.

Yi Technology–reknowned for their Yi4K+ GoPro killer


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and superb quality budget dash cams


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–have turned their attention to the gimbal market. Today we’re taking a look at the Yi 3-axis Smartphone Gimbal, available now. And at the end of this review, we’re giving one away to one lucky reader. Read on to find out how to enter the competition.

What is a Gimbal?

Looking a little like a selfie stick, a handheld gimbal is actually a complex bit of machinery with fast acting motors and a gyroscope sensor. When you move the gimbal, the gyroscope senses the movement, and the motors move to cancel out the motion by moving in the opposite direction. In this way, the camera appears to remain static.

That’s the gist of it anyway, but there’s also different modes of operation that we’ll talk about later. It’s important to remember that a basic 3-axis gimbal can only stabilize rotational movement around an axis (twisting and spinning motions), not positional movement. So if you jump up and down, you’ll still see that reflected in the video. There are limits to how much a gimbal can stabilize for you, but essentially it’s going to somewhat improve everything you shoot.

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better yi gimbal stabilizer 670x335

Design and Specs of The Yi 3-Axis Gimbal



YI Phone Gimbal 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer with APP Control, Smart Track, 360 Degree Pan for iPhone, Android Smartphones – Black


YI Phone Gimbal 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer with APP Control, Smart Track, 360 Degree Pan for iPhone, Android Smartphones – Black

Buy Now At Amazon

In the box you’ll find:

  • The gimbal itself
  • Micro-USB cable for charging

Hardly worth formatting that as a list, was it? Notably, there’s no case included. Although the box it comes in has some nice foam padding you could carry it around it, once you’ve fitted the device to your phone, it won’t fit back into the box. You can find a generic gimbal case on Amazon for around $15, but it’s an added expense.

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better yi gimbal overview 1 670x347

Here’s some other big number you might be interested in:

  • 360° pan (5-120°/s), 320° tilt (3-70°/s), and 320° roll
  • 1,700mAh total battery for around 8 hours usage (claimed)
  • Standard tripod mount
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • Micro-USB port

Once paired with your smartphone, you’ll be able to use the shutter button to start/stop recording or take a photo in any camera app.

There are three buttons on the device, for Power, Mode, and Shutter; plus a flat joystick to manually control angle.

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better yi gimbal joystick 670x377

The 3.5cm diameter, 18cm long stick makes up the grip of the device, though it’s a basic matt black ABS plastic with no particular grip texture. It does the job but in the most barebones way. On top sits the 3-axis stabilizer structure, housing three motors and a phone cradle. In total, it weighs 420g, or just under 15oz. The cradle should accommodate any phone from 54-86mm (2.1-3.4″) in width, which includes the “plus” size models (though you may need to remove a chunky case for those).

That said, a good fit depends a lot on your phone model. While my iPhone X worked great, the Sony Xperia XZ2


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fared less well. With the power button situated just where the cradle clamps down on the phone, it was unusable when pushed flush to the end. I had to shift it a little more off-balance than it should be. On top of that, the camera sensor is closer to the center of the device, and would often capture the gimbal in the frame. So, it fits some phones better than others, and your experience may vary.

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better yi gimbal overview 670x377

Yi claims 8 hours of battery life, but in my testing I only got about half of that. It’s not bad, but you’ll get longer life with smaller phones due to less weight needing to be counteracted.

Stabilizer Modes

The Yi Gimbal has three modes, accessed by a single tap on the mode button.

The first is Pan mode. Here, both the tilt and roll are locked in place, while the pan (left and right) smoothly follows the motion of the stick. This is the easiest to get your head around if you’ve not used a gimbal before, and that’s probably why it’s the default when you turn the device on. It’s great for filming things that remain at a relatively static height to the camera, like people. The joystick controls the tilt in this mode, so you can set the angle if your subject is higher or lower.

The second is Lock mode. In this mode, everything is locked forward (or wherever you set it with the joystick). I found this to be the most difficult to use effectively.

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better gimbal stablizer lock mode 670x377
It’s a bit difficult to convey the effect of a gimbal stablizer in words. If you haven’t already, watch the review video at the top of the article for a sample of shots and mode explanations.

The last mode is Pan and Tilt (often called Follow mode by other manufacturers). In this mode, roll is locked (although you can still roll your phone with the joystick if you want), but both pan and tilt motions follow your movement in a smooth manner. This mode gives you the most creative control over the shot, so you can perform smooth sweeping dynamic shots.

Yi Gimbal App

Though not strictly necessary to use the stabilizer, you probably want to download the Yi Gimbal app. This pairs with the device and unlocks a couple of additional features, the most significant of which is SmartTrack mode.

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better object tracking on yi gimbal app 670x377

SmartTrack allows you to choose a subject, then have the gimbal attempt to keep that subject roughly in the center of the shot. You can use this when it’s mounted on a tripod, or handheld.

It works reasonably well for clearly defined objects, but on iOS I found the object selection to be buggy. I tried capturing my dog doing zoomies around the garden, and it just couldn’t keep up. Even with a slow moving subject like a person, if they turn around the tracking is often lost. It could be useful to follow the action of a moving subject like a skateboarder or car chase, but I’m not sure it’s reliable enough for that. Rather than risk it losing the object, it might be best to just use standard modes and rely on your own abilities.

The most frustrating thing about the app (at least on iOS) is that all the shots are saved to a separate library, and you need to individual save each one to the Camera Roll if you want to keep it. If you’ve taken a number of clips, this is frustratingly tedious to say the least. It would be tolerable if the app allowed you to use a Select All feature, but no, that’s only for deleting them.

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better yi gimbal app save individual videos 670x377
To save a video, you need to navigate to the app library, find the clip, click on it, click export, confirm, then go back to the list and pick another clip.

Then there’s the disparity with native phone recording capabilities. The iPhone X can record 4K at 60FPS, while the app only offers a cropped 4K at 30FPS. On the Sony Xperia XZ2


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, which can record superb 4K HDR videos, there isn’t the option of 4K resolution at all.

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better yi gimbal app menu system 670x377

You could of course get around this by using the native smartphone Camera app to record all your clips, but then you lose on the fly access to gimbal settings and the ability to track objects. Since it’s almost always a good idea to record in the highest resolution and frame rate possible–even if your final project output is going to be of lower quality–I found myself using the native Camera outside of testing specific features.

Should You Buy the Yi Gimbal?

Yi has a habit of entering a market and undercutting all their competitors with a product that doesn’t compromise on quality. In this case, they’ve missed the mark a little on both accounts. The Yi Smartphone Gimbal is not particularly cheaper than other products on the market, yet offers less features and accessories. The buggy Yi Gimbal app isn’t helping, either.

It’s not a terrible device by any means: it works, and you can get beautifully smooth footage. But it’s difficult to recommend when there are just better products out there, for the same price or not much more. The Zhiyun Smooth 4, for instance, features a focus pull dial as well as a carry case and mini tripod. The DJI Osmo Mobile 2, similarly specced, at around $20 more.

If you find the Yi Smartphone Gimbal on sale for $80-90 and you’re on a particular tight budget, pick it up. At that price, it’s a great entry point. A gimbal stabilizer is something anyone who takes smartphone videos will benefit from immensely, regardless of what their skill level is. It’s a cheat code to cinematic smooth video.


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Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power


Our verdict of the Google Home Max:
While the Google Home Max is probably too expensive for most, it’s the most powerful smart speaker out there and it’s definitely worth getting if you want Google Assistant in a speaker with some serious bump.
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The one big issue with most of the popular smart speakers on the market is a serious lack of power. Google is aiming to pummel that issue with a sledgehammer in the form of the Google Home Max. It takes all the smart features of the Google Home combines them with massive power that’ll make your neighbors hate you.

Google isn’t offering this thumping bass and piercing treble out of the kindness of its heart though: the Max comes with a $399 price tag. That’s more than double the cost of the standard Google Home


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(which goes for $129).

In terms of other options on the market, the first name most people will think of is Amazon, but there is no Echo model that is comparable. The top-of-the-line speaker from Amazon’s line is the standard Echo, and that comes with a $99 price tag (and is far less powerful). Instead, we need to look to Sonos to find the closest comparison in the Sonos One. Even that comes with a $199 price tag and less power than the Max.

So it seems that if you want a smart speaker from a major brand with huge power, the Google Home Max is your only option (unless you want to add an Echo Dot


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to one of the higher-end Sonos speakers to get voice control). Is a $400 voice-controlled speaker a niche that actually needs to be filled? We’re going to dig into what the Google Home Max can do and figure out whether it’s worth owning. Then at the end of this review, we’re giving ours away to one lucky reader!

Specifications

If you’re spending $400 on a speaker, you probably want to make sure all the right numbers are really large. Let’s take a quick look at the specifications of the Google Home Max:

  • Two 4.5-in high-excursion dual voice-coil woofers (for the lows)
  • Two 0.7 in custom tweeters (for the highs)
  • 1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor
  • Far-field voice recognition from six microphones
  • 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz) Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Google Chromecast support
  • AC Power 100-240 V, 50/60 Hz
  • USB-C and 3.5mm inputs

So now you know exactly what your big money is going towards. Those two woofers and two custom tweeters are what’s pushing the loud, high-quality sound. That processor lets the Google Assistant


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do its thing, and the far-field microphone allows Google hear you from across the room (though that’s not always a perfect experience when music is loud, as we’ll get to later).

Initial Impressions

The Google Home Max offers a very strong first impression. It comes in a nice box with a top that slides off. Once you dig in and check out the speaker itself, you can’t help but be impressed by its minimalist design. Just like the original Google Home speaker, there aren’t buttons and controls cluttering up the look of the device.

Instead, there’s a simple slider that lets you manually adjust the volume or press play. On the back, there’s a small switch that lets you mute the microphone (for those times you’d prefer the omnipresent Google not keep an ear on everything you’re saying). You probably won’t find yourself using the slider to control things very often, as the real star of the Max is voice control, a feature we’ll dig into in a bit.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax1

Otherwise, it’s just the sleek lines of the speaker itself that carry the Max.

For our testing, we went with the Charcoal model, but Google also offers it in the far lighter Chalk color. Both feature a slightly darker front, though the contrast is far more noticeable on the Chalk model than the Charcoal one.

The other thing you can’t help but notice about the Max is the size. It’s a hefty speaker both in terms of size and weight. With those fairly large woofers inside, it makes sense that there’d be some serious mass. We’ll talk about the specific dimensions soon, but just be prepared to make space for this speaker as it’s not going to fit just anywhere like the original Google Home.

Also included in the box is a 6.56-foot (2-meter) power cable, a little rubber base for the speaker, and some basic documentation to help you get up and running with the Max and Google Assistant.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax2

Out of the gate, the Max impresses in all the ways you’d expect such an expensive, high-end speaker to. It looks good, feels solid and well-built, and comes with everything you need in the box.

Design

Let’s talk about the actual design of the speaker itself before we dig into the sound quality. The Max is 13.2-inches long, 7.4-inches tall, and 6-inches deep. It pretty heavy, tipping the scales at 11.7 pounds. It dwarfs the original Google Home in all ways. While speaker technology has improved a great deal allowing smaller speakers to offer more power, if you want truly bumping bass, you need large woofers, and the Max delivers those in a form factor that’s as small as it can be.

Google calls the material on the front of the Home Max “Acoustically transparent fabric.” That means that fabric on the speakers won’t alter the sound. You’re getting the most pure sound possible. Sound aside, the fabric has a nice look and feel, which is always a nice bonus.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax4

Google enclosed the rest of the speaker in a rigid plastic that controls the audio and keeps it composed. It feels quite durable (not that we’d recommend dropping your $400 speaker on the floor).

Under the Acoustically transparent fabric are four lights that indicate that the device is listening, show the volume level, and so on. Using this design instead of larger lights on the top keeps the minimal aesthetic going.

The Home will work on its side or vertically. A small rubber base moves depending on which direction your orient the speaker. I preferred the vertical look, but that’s just a matter of preference. If you put the speaker the wrong way, Google Assistant will let you know that it’s upside down. It will continue to work if it’s flipped over, but you won’t be able to access the touch panel and some of the mics will be blocked. Basically, you’re definitely better off flipping it over and using it the right way.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax5

When it comes to design, so much of it is subjective. If you like a busier speaker with brighter colors and designs, you won’t love the look of the Home Max. Personally, I really like the look. It’s simple and not at all flashy. The two colors offered won’t stand out and will blend with almost any decor.

Sound Quality

Audio quality is where the Max truly stands out. In the smart speaker space, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find another speaker that offers the same quality and volume that the Google Home Max offers. As we mentioned in the intro, the Max blows away any of its competition in the smart speaker space, and its real competition comes from non-voice-controlled speakers like the $499 Sonos Play:5 or the $499 Bose SoundTouch 30, which offer similar power and quality.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax9

In terms of quality, the Max is definitely on par with the more expensive traditional speakers, though it does fall short in small but notable ways. Some of the highs can be a little too high when played at max volume. They’ll actually pierce through the mix a little too much.

Small negatives aside, I have to admit that I’m not what you’d consider an audiophile, and for my needs, the Max is easily one of the better sounding speakers I’ve ever used. Highs are crisp, mids sit comfortably in the middle of the mix, and lows certainly bump in the way you’d expect (though not with the same force as a dedicated subwoofer). Regardless of music genre, I always felt like I was getting a beautiful experience from the Max.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax8

The issue with Google Home Max, from a sound perspective, is that it’s a solution in search of a problem. True audiophiles are going to want a full range of speakers to deliver the sound they want, and casual music listeners aren’t going to feel comfortable spending $400 on a single speaker. Still, it’s hard to find anything wrong with the sound quality, and if you’re willing to drop the money, you’ll be quite happy with what you hear from the Max.

Voice Control

If you want an in-depth look at the voice features of Google Assistant


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, have a look at our review of the original Google Home speaker


Google Home Review




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Google Home is a personal assistant smart speaker, and comes from a company that literally knows everything. The $130 Google device answers questions, controls your smart home, and plays music. Should you buy one?
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.

To keep it simple, I found that Google Assistant worked extremely well in my testing. It worked with my rather minuscule smart home setup for controlling my lights just as well as the original Google Home, and controlling music worked like a dream.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax3

Everything starts with “Ok Google” or “Hey Google,” and from there you can do all kinds of stuff. “Hey Google, play Daily Mix 1 on Spotify” launches the playlist based on the music you already like. “Hey Google, turn off the lights,” will cause your connected smart lights to turn off.

Like any smart home device, there’s a bit of setup involved, as you’ll have to sync your Google Home with all of your different apps to get voice commands up and running, but that’s something you’ll only need to do once. Google does a great job of making the process as painless as possible.

The only issue I had with the Max was having it hear me at loud volumes. Because it packs much more punch than smaller speakers, I definitely had to yell at the Max to get it to hear me over loud music. I didn’t have that problem with the original Home, as it didn’t have enough volume to create that situation.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax7

Not much has changed since our first Google Home review. Google added some new features, but at its core, it still functions in much the same way. And thankfully, it’s quite good once you get used to the idea of telling your speaker what to do.

Other Features

If you’re serious about sound (and spending large sums of money), you can actually link two Home Max speakers together for a true stereo experience. On its own the speaker bumps nicely, but as you can imagine, two offers a ridiculous experience that’ll be overkill for most people.

While linking two Google Home Max speakers is a little excessive, the feature I did find quite useful was the ability to create a HomeLink where music is played across more than one Google Home speaker (I own an original Google Home). This lets you create a Sonos-like system where music is played in all different rooms in your home.

Google Home Max Review: The Smart Speaker That Brings The Power GoogleHomeMax6

One feature that was sorely missing when the Google Home first launched was the ability to use it as a standard Bluetooth speaker for playing music and podcasts through apps that don’t offer support for Google Cast. For example, my podcast player on iOS of choice is iCatcher!, and it only supports Bluetooth. Instead of having to seek out a new podcast app, Google Home now lets you connect through Bluetooth without worrying about it. Sure, you’re limited on voice commands, but that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make for Bluetooth support.

Should You Buy The Google Home Max

So we come to the big question: should you buy the Max? At the end of the day, it’s a little too expensive to recommend it for most people. It’s just hard to find a real use case for Max. Are you going to have a loud party where controlling a speaker with your voice is preferable over just using your phone? Are you going to sit around your house blasting music at full volume? If you answered yes to those, than maybe the Google Home Max is for you, but for most people, it just doesn’t make sense.

If you’re looking to spend $400, you can get two Sonos Play:One speakers for the same amount, and when combined, they’ll offer better sound than the Max. And if you’re a true audiophile, chances are that you’re going to want to invest in a full sound system compared to a single speaker.

With that being said the Max still gets a high score because it delivers on all of its promises. It sounds great, looks gorgeous, and delivers intelligent features that work perfectly. It’s just hard to imagine exactly who it’s for.

Enter the Competition!

Google Home Max Giveaway

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Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway)

Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway)


Our verdict of the Yi Discovery Action Cam:
The Yi Discovery is not without it’s trade-offs, but the price tag makes it a great choice for beginners.
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The action cam market was at one stage dominated by GoPro


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. However, if you’re looking to buy your first action cam, the GoPro price tag may deter you. The Yi Discovery is a budget-friendly action cam that may be what you’re looking for. Let’s take a closer look – and at the end of this review, we’re giving one away!

Specifications

  • Sensor: SONY IMX179
  • Lens: 150 degrees wide-angle
  • Screen: Yes / 2″ LCD touchscreen
  • WiFi-enabled: Yes / 2.4Ghz
  • Processor: Allwinner V3
  • Waterproof: Optional case required
  • Remote Operation: Yes / iOS or Android
  • Maximum Photo Resolution: 16MP
  • Maximum Video Frame Rates: 4K@20fps, 1440p@25fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@90fps
  • Aperture: f2.4
  • Removable Battery: Yes / 900mAh
  • Storage: microSD up to 128GB
  • Dimensions: 65 x 30 x 42 mm
  • Recording Format: H264 / MP4

The Price Point



YI Discovery 4K Action Camera 16MP WiFi 2.0” LCD Touchscreen with 150° Wide Angle Sports Cam Sony Image Sensor


YI Discovery 4K Action Camera 16MP WiFi 2.0” LCD Touchscreen with 150° Wide Angle Sports Cam Sony Image Sensor

Buy Now At Amazon
$59.99

The Yi Discovery will leave you with a big chunk of change from $100. The cheapest GoPro you will come across is the HERO5 Session at nearly four times the price. While the Session does shoot faster frame rates and has native waterproofing, it doesn’t have a touchscreen or a removable battery.

Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway) yi discovery form factor 670x374

Landing a camera at this price point means there will be some trade-offs. For example, the Yi Discovery doesn’t have image stabilization; the 4K resolution is capped at 20fps; and there is no tripod mount on the bottom. These may or may not affect your buying decision, but they are all relative to the competitive price bracket in which the Discovery lies.

What’s in The Box & Accessories

Included in the box are a device itself, a micro USB cable and the battery. That’s it. I recommend picking up an accessory set from Amazon which has a GoPro compatible attachment for just about any application.

Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway) yi discovery accessories 670x447

The set costs around $20 and includes a waterproof case, suction mount, chest strap and more. Be sure to watch our video on the Yi Discovery for a montage we made using some of these attachments. It’s great that Yi uses the same dimensions in their other cameras which means all these attachments will work if you decide to upgrade your camera at a later stage.

One thing to note is that the placement of the USB port and SD card slot are positioned differently relative to other Yi action cameras. So if you’ve purchased a skeletal case to get access to any of these ports for other Yi cameras, it may not work with the Yi Discovery. The batteries used in other models such as the Yi 4K and 4K+ differs slightly to that of the Yi Discovery, too. Therefore you won’t be able to use the batteries interchangeably.

Connectivity

As mentioned, the microSD slot is now no hidden alongside the battery compartment. Instead, it’s a slot on the side of the device. This is really useful for getting quick access to the microSD card. The device supports up to 128GB


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, and class 10 is required.

Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway) yi discovery ports 670x447

If you’re trying to format a microSD card that has been previously used the Yi Discovery may have some issues formatting it. The simplest workaround would be to use a desktop computer with a microSD card reader and format the card to FAT32. Now plug the card into the Yi Discovery, and when prompted, format it again and you should be golden.

Yi advertises 90 minutes of battery life from the 900mAh battery, which might be true if recording in 720p. Recording at 1080p / 60fps gave me around 60 minutes of use. One of my favorite features is being able to power the device directly from a wall socket or power bank, which is handy if you’re planning on doing some time-lapse shots.

The Interface

The 2″ touchscreen on the rear of the camera helps to frame your shots and choose your settings. The touch sensitivity can be a little frustrating at times and takes a little getting used to. The camera also features built-in Wi-Fi which makes it much easier to configure the camera.

The interface is very similar to the Discovery’s bigger brothers


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which means there isn’t a learning curve when switching between different models. There are also some handy gestures which makes switching between modes or getting at some quick actions.

Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway) yi discovery shooting modes 670x289

The Yi Action app is very well designed and makes setting up your Yi Discovery a cinch. Once you connect to your camera’s hotspot, fire up the app and enter the camera. From there you can toggle every single setting on the camera. Not to mention framing your shots while inside a case for that perfect angle.

Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway) yi discovery smartphone 670x377

The Footage

The Sony IMX179 sensor has a max resolution of 8MP with the camera, allowing for 16MP stills. The sensor doesn’t record 4K natively either. Since the Yi Discovery allows 4K video footage, there is some interpolation happening to get to those higher resolutions.

Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway) yi discovery 4k footage 2 670x377

 

Paying attention to some of the 4K footage there are some video artifacts in certain parts of the frame. This could be due to the video interpolation. The 20 fps also leads to the footage seeming a little jagged at times. For these reasons, I’d probably stay away from 4K and stick to shooting in 1080p.

1080p footage on the camera is actually quite good. The image is sharp, and colors are great. Dynamic range could be a little better, and there is some noise in darker scenes. When there is sufficient lighting, the footage is very pleasing when shot at 1080p.

Vloggers may have some issues with the lack of tripod mount, and there are syncing issues between audio and video. This will be a problem if trying to record yourself while speaking, but shouldn’t be an issue if you’re using the action cam purely for the video.

Yi Discovery: The Best Budget Action Cam for Beginners (& Giveaway) yi discovery 1080 footage 670x376

As mentioned the Yi Discovery fits within a price bracket that doesn’t include cameras with image stabilization. The only way to remedy this would be to fix any shaky footage with a gimbal, or use software in post-processing.

Who is The Discovery For?

For beginners or someone looking to start getting into action cams, the Yi Discovery is probably the best place to start. It does have some downsides, but some of those are relative to cameras that are in a much higher price bracket. The price point of the Discovery simply cannot be ignored.



YI Discovery 4K Action Camera 16MP WiFi 2.0” LCD Touchscreen with 150° Wide Angle Sports Cam Sony Image Sensor


YI Discovery 4K Action Camera 16MP WiFi 2.0” LCD Touchscreen with 150° Wide Angle Sports Cam Sony Image Sensor

Buy Now At Amazon
$59.99

When shooting 1080p, you can be confident that you’re getting great value for your hard earned $60. Even if you’re looking for footage so supplement your main camera the Yi Discovery will ensure you don’t break the bank. Bundled with such a well designed app it’s going to be difficult to find better value for money.

Enter the Competition!

Yi Discovery Action Cam Giveaway

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