Back in March 2021, Redmi announced that it sold over 25 million units of the original Redmi Note 8 globally. And to celebrate the milestone, in May the company introduced a refreshed version of the Redmi Note 8, dubbed Redmi Note 8 2021.
Xiaomi clearly meant to keep this all popular device in circulation, but the reality of chipset shortages across all industries meant that the chipset had to be swapped to keep the model afloat.
The swap of the Snapdragon 665 chipset with a MediaTek Helio G85 represents a side-grade at best, since it does bump up the Bluetooth radio to Bluetooth 5.2, but at the same time limits video capture to FullHD, instead of 4K. You also get an extra splash-resistant coating compared to the original model.
The Redmi Note 8 2021 can no longer be had with 6GB of RAM either, just 3GB or 4GB, but, on the flip side, its entry-level storage has been bumped up to 64GB, instead of 32GB.
The color options are now fewer too – Moonlight White, Space Black and the Neptune Blue we have on our review unit. Nebula Purple and Cosmic Purple are no longer options.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 2021 specs at a glance:
Body: 158.3×75.3×8.4mm, 190g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass 5), glass back (Gorilla Glass 5), plastic frame.
Front camera: 13 MP, f/2.0, (wide), 1/3.1″, 1.12µm.
Video capture:Rear camera: 1080p@30/120fps; gyro-EIS; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 4000mAh; Fast charging 18W.
Misc: Fingerprint reader (rear-mounted); FM radio; Infrared port; 3.5mm jack.
Other than that, the Redmi Note 8 2021 is essentially the same as its 2019 predecessor both on the outside and in all of its other specs and hardware. The camera setup is the same, so are the display and the battery. Also identical – the price tag, which is probably the biggest bummer of all, since all of the specs changes could have been stomached alongside a nice price drop.
Even so, prices change, and the Redmi Note 8 2021 could still become a viable budget opting at the right MSRP. Let’s dive in and see how the changes have affected the new Redmi Note 8 2021.
The retail box for the Redmi Note 8 2021 unsurprisingly looks quite similar to that of the regular Redmi Note 8. A few different text placements and a different wallpaper printed on the box are pretty much the only distinguishing features. The box itself is a standard two-piece affair – nice and thick cardboard all around.
In terms of included accessories, you get a nice and thick transparent TPU case so you can confidently start using the phone straight away.
There is a notable value add-in the included 22.5W Quick Charge 3+ charger included in the box. This is an upgrade from the 10W charger that came with the original Redmi Note 8. It is still a USB Type-A unit and there is a relatively short Type-A to Type-C cable in the box as well.
Depending on your region, some units will come with a factory-applied screen protector. And while it may not be the most premium piece of shielding, it’s still very much appreciated.
Motorola’s Edge series appear to have lost some of the initial meaning behind the name – the pair of original Edge handsets from last year had curved screens, the 2021 models are all flat. But looking at the spec sheet, the Edge 20 Pro we have here is certainly well worthy of its ‘Pro’ moniker.
Flat as it may be, the 6.7-inch OLED display has all sorts of eye-grabbing features, including a 144Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ certification, and the capability to display a billion colors. But the Edge 20 non-Pro has the same one, so the Pro-ness must be elsewhere.
It’s not the main camera either – the 108MP primary unit is, too, shared with the lesser model, as is the 16MP ultrawide. Ah, but the Pro has a 5x zoom periscope tele as opposed to the vanilla phone’s conventional 3x – that’s more like it. Plus, that high-res main shooter offers some additional modes on the Pro, including 8K recording – missing on the Edge 20.
Then there’s the chipset. The Edge 20 Pro opts for an SD870 – a seasoned pro at a sensible price and a tangible step up from the Edge 20’s SD778. A staple of high-end Moto’s, the Ready For functionality for desktop PC-like experience on an external screen is present here as well, and the 800-series Snapdragon is even better suited to the task.
The Edge 20 Pro gets a battery capacity upgrade over the plain model, the 4,500mAh number looking better than the 4,000mAh of the non-Pro. The 30W charging is a bit more amateurish, and it may end up costing this Moto points when we’re tallying the results in the end. So too is the lack of stereo speakers – it raises eyebrows on the Edge 20, but is nearly unacceptable at this level in the lineup.
Motorola Edge 20 Pro specs at a glance:
Body: 163.0×76.0x8.0mm, 185g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass 5), glass back or eco leather back; Water-repellent design.
The Edge 20 Pro comes in a compact navy-blue box with shiny but small-ish branding on the sides and top. Inside, the phone is already in a soft silicone case – protected even before you take it out of the package. Underneath the phone, the 30W TurboPower adapter awaits and a USB-C cable is also included.
We received our Edge 20 Pro in a bundle with a Ready For USB-C to HDMI cable, itself in a dedicated retail box. The phone and the cable were in another shared box, retail-grade as well, suggesting some markets may get the same bundle. Our quick search on several European retailers’ websites didn’t return results for such a combo, however.
Click here for our full and extensive review of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G, which the Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE is based on.
Sooner or later, something had to give, and amid a worldwide chipset shortage, sooner or later, we were bound to see an increasing number of re-badged smartphones arriving, with the only change being their new SoC. It’s the only viable strategy available to manufacturers to keep a certain model on the shelves when the supply of the originally released chipset runs dry.
Enter the Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE (NE for New Edition).
All of the smartphone’s hardware has been ported from the original 11 Lite 5G, except for the chipset. Now running on the Snapdragon 778G instead of the Snapdragon 780G, there are several key aspects that are subject to change. Performance is the most obvious one, with the new SoC being slightly less powerful but still capable and recent enough, too. Still, we expect a minimal difference.
The second one is battery life since both chips are based on different manufacturing processes and come from different chipset fabricators. The Snapdragon 778G is based on TSMC’s 6nm N6 while the SD780G employs Samsung’s 5nm 5LPE node, yet the discrepancy in battery life will likely be hard to measure.
Lastly, and probably least likely, the SoC change could have an effect on the photo and video quality. The ISPs in both SoCs have little to no difference, but potentially, there could be a change in the way these ISPs handle HDR, noise, image stacking during Night mode, etc. And that’s why we are here, on a quest to see what has changed with the move to Snapdragon 778G.
One more change worth mentioning is the new color variants, although they aren’t exactly new. The Truffle Black, which we have with us, is the same as before, but the Bubblegum Blue, Peach Pink and Snowflake White are borrowed from the non-5G version of the Mi 11 Lite.
One thing is for sure, though, and that’s the great value proposition the new Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE has to offer. Given how positive our review of the Mi 11 Lite 5G was and that these phones are like identical twins, we have every reason to believe that the 11 Lite 5G NE is a great deal. Not to mention Xiaomi is now giving the 8GB/128GB memory option for the same €399 price tag to compensate for the lower-tier Snapdragon 778G, arguably making the handset even more desirable.
Unboxing the Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE
The retail box is no different from before, but in addition to the charger, cable and protective case, Xiaomi has added a USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack dongle to make up for the downgrade in the chipset.
Fun fact – this is the only Xiaomi phone to ship with such a dongle ever since they got rid of the 3.5mm jack in the Mi 8.
ZTE is having another shot at the whole under-display selfie camera thing, and it’s swinging way harder this time around. The Axon 30 5G takes advantage of the second-gen tech promising clearer image and less visible camera sensor because last year’s Axon 20 5G had a rather conspicuous shooter peeking behind the OLED panel. Additionally, the new camera uses twice the pixels and are considerably bigger too. Quite the leap in just one generation.
But the camera isn’t the only thing getting an upgrade. The Axon 30 doubles the ppi count from 200 to 400ppi of the display area that sits on top of the camera module, which means less distortion of the images displayed on the screen. Today’s displays usually go above 400ppi, and this one is exactly 400 ppi, which means that the camera area should be indistinguishable from the rest of the screen area.
The panel gets a bump in the refresh rate, now 120Hz, it seems like a good fit for the upgraded Snapdragon 870 chipset too. Essentially, a slightly tweaked last year’s flagship SoC paired with faster UFS 3.1 storage.
The rest of the hardware seems to be ported from the Axon 20 with the small exception of the selfie camera, but more on that later.
We are lead to believe ZTE isn’t relying solely on the Axon 30 5G’s novelty. Quite the opposite, actually. The handset has some capable hardware and even competes in the upper mid-range segment this year. You can even say it roams in the flagship killer territory with a starting price of €500.
Considerably less than the already released and reviewed Axon 30 Ultra 5G, but it’s the only one to have the UD camera serving as a tech showcase to the world. Let’s dig deeper and find out if it’s worth your hard-earned money.
Unboxing the ZTE Axon 30 5G
The device comes in a standard retail box carrying the 65W PD charger, USB-C to USB-C cable (since the USB Power Delivery protocol works with double-sided USB-C cables) and a hard plastic shell case, which is also transparent.
Since there’s no 3.5mm jack, ZTE has provided a USB-C to 3.5mm audio dongle and a wired set of earphones that look identical to the good old Apple EarPods.
The Xiaomi Pad 5 has been introduced first with the Mix 4 in China, and now, it’s getting its worldwide debut together with the Xiaomi 11T smartphone series. The Xiaomi Pad 5 (make note of the missing Mi insignia) is a sleek budget tablet with a premium Dolby Vision screen and Dolby Atmos speakers, as well as flagship-grade performance.
The Xiaomi Pad 5 is priced at €349, and yet it has so much to offer. Starting with the 11″ 120Hz IPS LCD screen with Dolby Vision and HDR10, continuing with the flagship-grade Snapdragon 860 chip, then we have four large speakers with Dolby Atmos support, one large battery and a capable rear camera. All these niceties are packed within one thin and elegant body, lightweight, too.
The Pad 5 also supports Xiaomi’s Smart Pen, sold separately for €99. It is as big as a normal pen, quite solid, and connects to the Pad via Bluetooth. The screen supports 4,096 pressure levels and reads the stylus input with 240Hz sampling. The tablet has a magnetic dock on one of its sides for the pen, which is cool. If you love writing and drawing on your tablet, the Smart Pen (really?) sounds like a must-have accessory though it is unusually expensive on its own.
The Xiaomi Pad 5 has no cellular support – it is Wi-Fi-only and has no card slot. There is no GPS either. Obviously, Xiaomi designed the Pad 5 for multimedia consumption at home and not for the road warriors. its features are perfect for that. If you want more, and you live in Asia, you can get the Pro model with 5G support, 8 speakers, and a high-end dual-camera setup on the back.
Now, before we pop the Pad 5 out of its box, let’s scroll through its specs.
Video capture:Rear camera: 4K@30fps, 1080p@30fps; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 8720mAh; Fast charging 33W, 22.5W charger in the box.
Misc: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass.
The tablet is running on Android 11 with a special tablet-oriented version of MIUI 12.5. There doesn’t seem to be tablet-exclusive features, but you can surely turn this thing into a pro-machine with the Smart Pen and the optional magnetic keyboard case.
It would have been much better if Xiaomi had decided on bundling the stylus with the tablet, like Samsung does with its S7 series. We guess the price would have been a bit higher, but we think it would have won even more users.
Another thing that caught our eye is that the Chinese model supports 33W fast charging, but it ships without cable and chargers. The global one seems to be limited to 22.5W though you get such 22.5W adapter and cable in the box. We guess no one can have it perfect, but we will do some tests to explore this charging conundrum in-depth.
Unboxing the Xiaomi Pad 5
Xiaomi Pad 5 ships within a thick white box containing the tablet itself, a 22.5W charger, and a USB cable. There is no stylus or 3.5mm adapter inside.
The Chinese model has no accessories but a tiny USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. Go figure!
The Mi is dead, long live Xiaomi. The company is dropping the Mi insignia from its high-end phones, and the 11T series are spearheading this rebranding. Today we are going to explore the flagship of the refreshed lineup – the Xiaomi 11T Pro.
As part of a wider rebranding strategy, the Redmi phones use Xiaomi no more, Poco-phones never did, and now only the more expensive offers, previously known as Mi, will be bearing just the Xiaomi name.
The Xiaomi 11T Pro builds on top of the Mi 11i, not the most popular among the 11th series. It has an improved 120Hz OLED screen with Dolby Vision support, the same top-notch Snapdragon 888 5G chipset, premium harman/kardon-tuned speakers, and incredibly fast 120W charging for the larger 5,000mAh battery.
The triple camera stays the same – there is a 108MP primary camera with 8K video capturing, an 8MP ultrawide shooter and a 5MP telemacro snapper with AF. That’s also identical to the original Mi 11, excluding the resolution of the ultrawide camera sensor.
And speaking of the Mi 11 – there is something that its 11T sibling did not inherit – the larger 6.81″ QHD AMOLED screen is exclusive to the Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra. It would have been nice to have it on the 11T Pro, but it seems QHD screens are becoming less and less popular, contrary to what we expected to happen.
Some other tweaks include the IP53 splash resistance, the most recent Gorilla Glass Victus protection, but the highlight of the new package should be the 120W Xiaomi HyperCharge possible thanks to a dual-cell battery design.
Xiaomi 11T Pro specs at a glance:
Body: 164.1×76.9×8.8mm, 204g; Gorilla Glass Victus front, aluminum frame, glass back; IP53, dust and splash protection.
We would have liked to see full waterproofing like on the Mi 11 Ultra, OIS on the main camera, too, or at least some improved selfie snapper, but none of this happened. Oh well, we guess we’ll adjust our expectations for the Xiaomi 12 and keep our fingers crossed, again.
Unboxing the Xiaomi 11T Pro
The Xiaomi 11T Pro is packed within a white paper box that has the new Xiaomi logo imprinted all over it. Inside you will find a heavy 120W power brick and a 6A-rated USB-C cable.
It’s a tradition for Xiaomi to ship its phones well protected, and the 11T Pro is no exception. The retail box contains a transparent silicone case, while the screen has a thin anti-scratch film applied in the factory.
We won’t pretend we have an intricate understanding of Realme’s naming and marketing strategies, but we’ll admit the GT Explorer Master we have for you today has quite the ring to its name. Promised for a European release, this particular member of the GT series comes with an unorthodox design, a great primary camera, and a nearly flagship-grade chipset.
A few things out of the way first. We’re reviewing a Chinese version of the GT Explorer Master – it came without Google Play Services pre-installed, but works just fine with Google’s suite sideloaded. A proper International version will probably follow at some point.
Additionally, you may find the phone called Explorer Master Edition or Master Explorer, or something of the sort – it should be the same phone. In any case, don’t confuse it with the GT Master (non-Explorer) we reviewed recently.
Another point worth having in mind is that the Explorer Master will not be available in India, at least for the time being.
That lengthy preamble now behind us, let’s go over the key bits. The GT Explorer Master features the standout Suitcase design we saw on the GT Master, and we’re already off to a good start.
The curved-edge display scores it some additional points for style, but there’s also plenty of substance in it – 120Hz of bright AMOLED substance.
On the inside, there’s the Snapdragon 870 ticking, Qualcomm’s second-best currently on offer behind the 888.
But it’s in the camera department that the Explorer Master has one of its key selling points. The 50MP primary unit is all kinds of great, boasting a big 1/1.56″ sensor, omnidirectional AF and OIS. The 16MP ultrawide is also one better than the basic 8MP ultrawides on them other GTs, while the 32MP is shared with the GT Master, where we did like it a lot.
Here’s a recap of the most important specs of the Realme GT Explorer Master.
The GT Explorer Master arrives in the same overly large box that we received the GT Master in. Since both our review units are the Chinese version, their boxes have plenty of Chinese script on them, but regardless of region, there will be a lot of bold letters on the GT EM’s box.
The box contents include a 65W SuperDart fast charger and a proprietary USB-A-to-C cable to facilitate that fast charging. Also bundled is a gray soft silicone cover case. The Suitcase versions get one that mimics the striped back of the phone, the plain ones get a plainer one.
Back in July, Motorola unveiled an exciting trio of Edge 20 smartphones with a few shared key features – HRR OLED screens, 108MP primary shooters, 5G connectivity, and 30W fast charging.
Today, we will be exploring the Motorola Edge 20. With a powerful Snapdragon 778 chipset and a 3x tele camera, the regular Edge 20 model is the most balanced one of the trio. There is a Pro model with a flagship Snapdragon 870 SoC and 5x periscope camera, while the Lite model runs on the basic Dimensity 720 platform and has no zoom camera.
Before we continue, we want to warn you not to confuse this Motorola Edge 20 with the US-exclusive Motorola Edge (2021) that is a reworked Edge 20 version, or the India-exclusive Motorola Edge 20 Fusion, which is based on the international Edge 20 Lite model.
So, the first thing you will immediately notice about this new Motorola Edge 20 is that it is not a curved smartphone like the original Edge, just on the contrary. It has lovely flat sides, screen and rear panel and is incredibly thin at 7mm. As usual, the Edge 20 is splash-proof thanks to its water-repellent build.
The Motorola Edge most impressive feature is the 6.7″ OLED screen with 10-bit colors and 144Hz refresh rate. It supports a dynamic refresh rate too, but we will talk more about this in our display section. For now, let’s say it sure looks great on paper.
This Edge 20 model is based on the Snapdragon 778G 5G chipset, which offers a powerful processor and GPU. It should be enough for smooth HRR gaming, and there is 5G connectivity, too. The Edge 20 Pro is the one with the flagship-grade Snapdragon 870 SoC, but it sure sounds like a bit overkill for a 1080p screen, don’t you think?
Anyway, the rear camera of the Edge 20 is thoroughly interesting. It has a 108MP primary snapper with Samsung’s ISOCELL HM3 sensor, followed by an 8MP camera with 3x optical zoom and a 16MP ultrawide shooter with autofocus for cool macro photos. The selfies are handled by a front 32MP camera. The Pro model offers 5x zoom instead of 3x, while the Lite model has no tele camera.
The Motorola Edge 20 also shines with 30W fast charging and clean-ish Android 11 with some cool Moto tricks.
Video capture:Rear camera: 4K@30fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, 720p@960fps, gyro-EIS; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 4000mAh; Fast charging 30W.
Misc: Fingerprint reader (side-mounted); NFC.
Looking at the specs of the Motorola Edge 20, we can think of only two possible issues – the omission of stereo speakers and the battery capacity. Other mid-range smartphones are offering dual speakers and 4,500mAh or more capacity, especially larger phones like the Edge 20.
Without further ado, here is the Motorola Edge 20.
Unboxing the Motorola Edge 20
Motorola Edge 20 ships within a thin blue box, which contains a 30W power adapter with a USB-C port and a USB-C cable.
The phone also arrives with a transparent silicone case, and it’s already put on for your convenience.
Samsung made a huge shift in its wearable direction with the Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic this year. Already one of the biggest rivals to Apple’s dominating Watch series, Samsung’s Tizen watches have consistently ranked third behind Xiaomi’s wearables. Tizen was steadily becoming a hallmark of smart wearables, and the Galaxy Watch is a name associated with elegance and rich capabilities.
So when Samsung diverted from its own Tizen OS and took its talents to Google’s fledgling Wear OS, it took a huge leap of faith. What it got in return is access to Wear OS’ list of apps, which is superior to that of Tizen. And of course, it also got the green light from Google to have the watch UI customized to Samsung’s liking.
This puts Samsung in a somewhat exclusive place among Wear OS makers with a custom software branch, aptly named Wear OS Powered by Samsung. It’s got a non-stock UI and Samsung’s exclusive suite of apps – Samsung Pay, Samsung Health, Bixby and a deeper connection between Galaxy phones and the new watches.
That’s not a bad start if you own one of the billion active Galaxy phones out there and you are in the market for a smartwatch. But there’s more that makes Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch the best for an Android user. Samsung’s newly-developed BioActive Sensor, which is built into the watch, can measure body composition and perform an electrocardiogram and blood pressure reading, which can be very enticing for those who want to keep a better track of their health and progress. Sleep tracking has gotten better as well.
Misc: Accelerometer, gyro, heart rate, barometer; NFC; Natural language commands and dictation, Samsung Pay and Google Pay.
Wear OS has also opened a few avenues for the Galaxy Watch family that Tizen never couldn’t. You get access to Google’s native suite of apps like Maps, Messages, YouTube Music, and you can pay contactless by tapping just your watch with Google Pay.
This year’s Galaxy Watch is powered by a new and improved Exynos W920 chipset that ensures faster performance and better efficiency. It’s a 5nm chip replacing the 10nm Exynos 9110 of the older generation.
As for the look, Samsung put the bezel-less Active and the conventional watch with a rotating physical bezel under the same roof as this year’s Galaxy Watch4. The bezel-free Watch4 comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes, while the Watch4 Classic with a rotating bezel comes in slightly bigger 42mm and 46mm. All four models can be configured with LTE courtesy of an eSIM or Bluetooth to keep things more reasonably priced.
The Galaxy Watch4 comes in a simple box with a wireless charging puck that ends on a USB-A port, and the watch itself. You have a generous choice of additional bands for the Galaxy Watch4 series – from the €39.90 Extreme Sport and Ridge Sport silicone straps, to the €49.90 Hybrid Leather straps, all in multiple colors.
A word on pricing, the Galaxy Watch4 is €269 and €299 for the Bluetooth-only model, 40mm and 44mm, respectively. A move to the LTE is €319 and €349 per size. The Galaxy Watch4 Classic comes in 42mm and 46mm, priced €369 and €399 each. A move to the LTE models is €419 and €449.
The Google Pixel 5a is the third iteration of Google’s Pixel “a” Series: smartphones based on the Google Pixel experience made with lower-cost entry points in mind. There’s also now more emphasis on battery life and water resistance. The latter is a welcome feature to the “a” Pixel family. The phone Is very similar to the Pixel 4a 5G in size, appearance, and specs. They aren’t identical, but pretty darn close.
Although it has the same chipset, RAM, and layout, the dimensions are slightly different, less than a millimeter difference in each dimension. The battery capacity is significantly better: about 15% more capacity than the Pixel 4a 5G. The phone’s construction is now made of a sturdier aluminum and resin unibody construction like the Pixel 5. The new build is also IP67 water resistant.
Google Pixel 5a 5G specs at a glance:
Body: 154.9×73.7×7.6mm, 183g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass 3), aluminum/plastic unibody; IP67 dust/water resistant (up to 1m for 30 mins).
The Google Pixel’s cameras are of the biggest selling points for the Pixel phones, but you’ll soon learn that its hardware is exactly the same as the 4a 5G and the Pixel 5’s, verbatim. We don’t anticipate there to be any significant difference in camera quality. Performance is also predictably decent on the Snapdragon 765G paired with 6GB of RAM.
These changes do come with a price hike. The Pixel 5a is the most expensive “a” series ever at $449, but will the improvements to the hardware retain their value in the long term? Is the Pixel 5a a solid entry into the Pixel family?
Let’s start answering that by opening the box first and see what’s inside.
The packaging is similar to what we’ve seen from Google for years. The box shows a photo of the Pixel 5a to actual size and the phone lays face down when you pull the lid off.
Under the plastic-wrapped Pixel 5a you’ll find a USB-C to C charging cable, an 18W USB-C charger, and a USB-C to USB-A adapter which Google calls its “Quick Switch Adapter”. This lets you transfer data from another phone to the Pixel 5a.
Next up, we’ll take a closer look at the new Pixel’s hardware.