Oppo Reno6 Pro: Short videos made easy

Oppo Reno6 Pro: Short videos made easy

If you’ve watched the China version of Running Man called Keep Running, Oppo is a name you’d be highly familiar with. As one of the show’s sponsors, its ads are placed throughout each episode. For that, Oppo has certainly achieved top of mind awareness with the reality game show’s audience.

Maybe that’s why I considered getting an Oppo smartphone when my Google Pixel 3’s battery began waning. And I probably would have had I not be gifted another smartphone a few months ago.

While I may not own an Oppo phone, I had the opportunity to evaluate the Oppo Reno6 Pro for a couple of weeks — thanks to the China phonemaker’s public relations agency in Singapore.

Shimmering back

Once unboxed, the flagship smartphone looks the same as most others on the front but it’s back cover is what stands out. The review unit has a Stellar Black backing which shimmers and has a nice feel — almost makes me not want to put on the clear back cover.

I’ll dispense with the specs which you can find in details here. Suffice to say, Oppo Reno6 Pro does what a smartphone should be, including all the latest camera capabilities.

Where this smartphone scores big time are its video features. Newbies and even those seasoned with taking and posting short videos would love the easy to use video tools.

Oppo has made it so convenient to edit and add elements to a video. Just click on the clip and the “Edit” button opens up to a range of editing functions. Besides cropping and rotating, it’s so easy (am I sounding repetitive?) to add a theme, filter, soundtrack, special effects, text, and watermark. And a short video can be produced and shared in seconds (of course, it depends on the network’s upload speed).

As one who is not quite video savvy but does a bit of event reporting and frequent travelling, I really appreciate these features.

Another plus point is the 4,500mAh battery which can last for about a day and the in-the-box charger which juices the phone really quickly. In an age where most smartphones come without a charging head, Oppo has nudged ahead of its competitors with this move.

Overall, Oppo Reno6 Pro is a smartphone that I don’t mind buying, if I were on the lookout for a new phone.

If there’s an area that Oppo could have done better, it’s pricing. At S$949, Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G is good but feels costly compared to its peers. Perhaps, potential buyers can wait till 12.12 to see if they can get a better deal.

Verdict

Features: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Overall: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Meatless meats, healthy alternatives

Meatless meats, healthy alternatives

Alternative meats are gaining greater visibility as more brands start rolling out their versions of the products. Besides being environmentally friendly, they are claimed to be healthier and do not compromise on taste.

Being a true carnivore, I am a little apprehensive about these as I really prefer the real bite feel, juiciness and chewiness of my meats. When Ayam Brand’s public relations agency sent the yumeat plant-based luncheon meat and minced meat with bean paste for testing, I adopted a wait-and-see approach.

Packaging wise, the two canned products look like regular items on the shelf. What stood out were the words “plant-based”.

It is understandable that these two items have been chosen as among the first to be released. Luncheon meat is popular for eating any time of the day and goes well with a variety of staples. Minced meat with bean paste is something which I have brought along on my travels, especially to Western countries where eating out can be expensive and spicy food hard to find.

The truth is in the pudding, or in this instance, eating the plant-based meats. I had them cooked for dinner, paired with white rice.

Plant-based luncheon meat: The air-fried luncheon meat looks like the real thing, except perhaps for the colour. It looked more brownish than pinkish. Smell-wise, it has the same aroma of luncheon meat. In terms of taste, the texture was softer compared to meat-based version, sort of more jelly feel.

Plant-based minced meat with bean paste: This is probably more authentic in terms of looks and taste. After all, bean paste is bean paste. This is a mite saltish so eating it with rice made it more edible. I won’t recommend having this on its own — complement with rice, bread or noodles.

While it’s hard for me to give up the original version, especially the luncheon meat because of bite feel, yumeat does have its merits.

  1. They are cholesterol free. Say “Hello” to guilt-free eating!
  2. They are healthier. Works great for the health-conscious who want the taste but not the cholesterol, MSG, GMO, antibiotics, sodium nitrite, and other preservatives.
  3. They are affordable. S$2.95 each for the 190g version.
  4. They are easily available. Get from more than 30 FairPrice Finest and Xtra supermarkets.

If you’ve not tried a plant-based meat product, these are great to start with. I’m thinking of getting the plant-based minced meat with bean paste for my next trip to Europe. Don’t want to risk bringing it into the US, in case it gets confiscated by customs for having the word “meat”.

Verdict

Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Bite feel: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Look: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Overall: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Xiaomi 11T: Flagship features at a sensible price

Xiaomi 11T: Flagship features at a sensible price

Let me start off with a caveat. This is my first review of a smartphone that I did not buy and use myself. Previously, I only wrote about smartphones that I paid for — which I usually after lots of deliberation as you can imagine because it’s a price I have to pay for the next two years or more.

When Xiaomi’s public relations agency reached out to review the Xiaomi 11T, I decided to give it a go because it is unlikely that I will be using another smartphone for another two years — I got my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra in July.

I have been following Xiaomi since its early days when the Redmi used to be sold out within minutes of release online. The smartphone was highly popular because of its affordability. The Chinese smartphone maker has grown in leaps and bounds since and is currently second only to Samsung in terms of market share globally. And that’s unsurprising because Xiaomi has expanded its range of offerings and added the latest features to match the best.

The Xiaomi 11T is such an example. As a review unit, it came in a nondescript black box instead of a retail box.

At first glance, it doesn’t look much different from many other smartphones. Once powered up, setting up was quick and easy without having to jump over hoops like some other customised Android OS. I must say that the OS is clean and doesn’t feel bloated — which is really important as it impacts ease of use.

Under the hood are a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-Ultra chipset, 5,000mAh battery and 128MB or 256MB of memory. Seriously though, most users are not conversant with chipsets — the most important aspect is that the chip must be fast enough to do what it needs to do. The MediaTek Dimensity 1200-Ultra does its job well whether it’s taking a video, running apps and games. It’s claimed that the battery can fully charge in 36 minutes — I cannot validate this because I did not use the phone till the battery was fully drained but charging is certainly fast.

Perhaps the main selling point of the Xiaomi 11T are its video capabilities. The video options are plentiful and a vlogger or wannabes’ dream come true. Dual video, long exposure, short video, and movie effects are just among the many choices to play around with.

As for camera, this phone comes with three at the back (108MP, ultrawide and telephoto macro) and a 16MP at the front for selfies. Honestly, the 108MP may sound impressive but the difference is not really visible to the naked eye. Having said that, I’m glad to have the ultrawide because it’s become a must-have to capture a wider area from a shorter distance.

After trying out the smartphone for a couple of weeks, my conclusion is that Xiaomi 11T is a worthwhile competitor to many flagship options and wins based on it’s price point. At a sensible price of S$629 (8GB+128GB) and S$649 (8GB+256GB), users get a smartphone with loads of camera and video capabilities . My only wish is that Xiaomi consider adding a good video editing app as the icing to the cake in movie-making. After all, the message is Cinemagic, right?

If you are thinking of getting the phone, tomorrow is 11.11 so consider checking for online deals at Lazada and Shopee or at selected Xiaomi and partner stores.

Verdict

Features: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Overall: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Not a Naiise move

Not a Naiise move

Singapore’s home-grown retailer Naiise shuttered its remaining outlet in Jewel Changi Airport last weekend, making a sad ending to a business that was a champion for locally-designed stuff.

According to reports, its founder Dennis Tay had run out of money to keep the business afloat. He is also said to have exhausted his saving, borrowed from banks and is in the process of filing for personal bankruptcy.

While his side of the story is indeed sad, one can’t help but feel for the many suppliers who are left unpaid for sales of products — sold on a consignment basis.

The sums owed are not large and are unlikely to cause any of them to fold but it is still bad business practice from Naiise.

Suppliers have been unpaid from as far back as 2016 — that’s way before the opening of the spanking new outlet, with an in-shop cafe to boot, in Jewel Changi Airport. If the company was already in some form of financial distress, why did it still choose such a fanciful location? It seems that it would rather spend on a new outlet that pay its suppliers, many of which are small businesses.

Such a move could also give vendors the impression that the company is doing well, perhaps gaining a little more goodwill and tolerance when it comes to payment terms.

However, Naiise’ untimely closure plus the personal bankruptcy filed by its founder, may result in many of them remaining unpaid.

It is a fact that COVID-19 has hit retailers such as Naiise badly. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the retailer has been delinquent in paying vendors even before the pandemic.

The whole experience is part and parcel of the risk of doing business for the affected vendors. It is a painful lesson. But hopefully, it’s one that they will learn well from and that emerge stronger and succeed.

As consumers, we can support local companies by buying their products. They may not be as cheap as those bought online but treat it as our contribution to build a sustainable local market.

On the radar: Mirrorless AI camera for smartphones

On the radar: Mirrorless AI camera for smartphones

Ever wished for a better camera for the smartphone to take nicer photos? While camera capabilities are limited by the phone’s size, startup Photogram is developing an alternative that brings the benefits of the mirrorless camera to the smartphone.

Its Alice compact, mirrorless camera is sleek and sports just a shutter button, control wheel and cold-shoe adapter. After mounting the smartphone, it connects via 5Ghz wi-fi, letting users share images and stream videos easily.

Alice is built around a Sony IMX294 10.7 megapixel 4/3 sensor optimised for high-quality and full-width 4K video. The sensor is eight times bigger than that of a typical smartphone.

In front of that big sensor is a Micro Four Third lens mount. The compact interchangeable lens system gives users access to more than 100 lens options from Olympus, Panasonic, and specialty lens makers such as Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.

Users will be able to choose from 16mm-equivalent fish-eye lenses for a super-wide angle of view or 800mm-equivalent telephone zoom lenses able to get clear, undistorted pictures of objects far away, with plenty of options in between.

THE SECRET SAUCE

β€œI was thinking a lot about how data science and machine learning and AI could be applied to create video and imagery. I was using a camera all the time to create video content and becoming increasingly frustrated with operating them,” said Vishal Kumar of Photogram.

The secret sauce is an AI built using NVIDIA GPU-accelerated deep learning to help photographers wring the most out of Alice’s hardware. The AI controls and improves focusing, changes exposure, automatically adjusts white balance, and performs automatic image stabilisation.

Users will eventually make Alice better at whatever photography they do. β€œLet’s say you’re a wedding photographer, or you like to shoot cats or clothes. We want people to be able to optimise our models and retrain them so their Alice camera can be more optimised for the photography they do,” said Kumar.

Since its listing on Indigogo last September, Alice has raised US$200,000 from more than 250 backers by February. It is due for release in October for around US$760 to early backers.

Photo: Photogram

126 big pao price up, ingredients down

126 big pao price up, ingredients down

When it comes to baos (dumplings), Singapore is so blessed to have many brand names offering these treats — Ho Kee Pau, Tanjong Rhu Pau and Confectionary, Teck Kee Tanglin Pau, and Tiong Bahru to name a few.

Baos are great for all occasions — from proper meals to coffee break treat. They can be eaten to fill the stomach or just please the palette.

With increasing prices of raw materials, bao prices have been escalating. This is understandably so as the outlets need to remain profitable.

However, one price hike got us a little concerned. 126 Dim Sum 揾到食 has raised the price of its popular big pao to S$2, a price point unheard of at non-restaurant level. Plus, the outlet charges GST so the real price is S$2.14.

What we noticed also was that on top of the increase and GST, the slice of Chinese sausage and mushroom were missing. For some, it’s the lup cheong that makes the difference, letting this iteration stand out for the competition. It’s what makes one drive all the way to Geylang and risk getting a traffic ticket to buy the bao.

We couldn’t let this go without asking why. When queried over the phone, a staff said, “$2 is cheap already. Others are charging $2.20.”

About the missing ingredients, she said, “Some customers told us that the lup cheong is smelly so we decided to remove it,”

Dah? That slice of lup cheong has been an essential part of the setup for many years. So why now?

Truth be told, I was so disappointed by the price hike and the missing ingredient that I refused to take a photo of the bao.

Like I said at the start, Singapore has lots of great bao outlets. Time to pick another one.

Photo: Gabby KΒ fromΒ Pexels

Popiah skin 24/7

Popiah skin 24/7

New York is known as the city that never sleeps, Neither does Citibank, according to its tagline. If you’re a popiah lover, you’d be glad to know that Fortune Food also operates 24/7.

My family loves to make our own popiah, especially for Chinese New Year. This year, I left it a little late — the day before CNY Eve to get the ingredients.

As usual, I headed to Ng Kian Seng Confectionery, my favourtite popiah skin store at Bedok South Block 17. To my horror, all the skin were sold out (guess others had the same idea).

I put on my best smile. OK, my mask was on but my eyes were sparkling. All in the hope of convincing the lady boss to somehow sell one of her reserved stash to me.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Instead she asked if I drove. It sounded like such a strange question but I said “yes”.

She went to rip a piece of receipt off her book and told me to head to that address to buy directly from her factory.

“What time does your factory open till today,” I asked.

She told me nonchalantly that it is open 24 hours a day.

Less than 10 minutes later, I arrived at Fortune Food at Gourmet East Kitchen in Bedok North.

As I walked towards the unit, a man asked me through the metal gate what I wanted. Just as I was preparing to take out my phone to snap a couple of shots of the place, he came out and handed me my order.

That was really fast — I was in and out within five minutes.

The 1kg of popiah skin was warm — a testament that it was freshly baked.

Next comes the taste test. While shaped and priced the same as the Bedok South shop, the skin was a little too refined and much chewier compared to what we were used to.

Overall, it’s good and most wouldn’t have noticed the difference. But, I was more used to having my popiah skin pockmarked with tiny air bubbles and a little thinner.

The plus point for this popiah skin is its constant availability. I paid S$20 per kg (think it’s the festive season surcharge) because its website pricing was S$18 per kg.

So, if you need popiah skin anytime, check out Fortune Food is at 3017 Bedok North Street 5 #01-13,Β Gourmet East Kitchen, Singapore 486121.

Verdict

Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Texture: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Price: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Bak kwa: Buy or bake?

Bak kwa: Buy or bake?
Marinated meat ready to hit the oven

Bak kwa or pork jerky is a staple for Chinese New Year. And without fail, the price of this yummy honey-glazed grilled meat will increase as the festive season approaches.

The reason given by the sellers is that ingredients and manpower costs escalate during this period. Point taken but the increase can make the product prohibitively expensive at S$68 per kg from my favourite store. This high price is especially more of a concern in such turbulent times.

With that in mind and inspired by some posts on home-made bak kwa, I decided to check out some recipes on YouTube to explore the possibility of making my own.

After watching a few videos, the process looks surprisingly easy. My mind was made up as the risk seems low. After all, if the end product is not nice, it won’t cost me much either.

Virgin attempt

My attempt is based on this clip, which is really easy to follow. Plus, I’ve got all the ingredients listed in that clip at home, except for the minced pork.

All that’s needed to bake your own bak kwa

Having read in another recipe that they added five spice powder, I opted to include that too. Another online recipe suggested adding fermented tofu, which I didn’t because there’s none in my kitchen.

Once all of the above has been mixed together, it’s a matter of letting the marinated meat set for four hours. I left it overnight as I didn’t want to cook past midnight.

The baking process was relatively straightforward. Pop the meat into the oven, take it out to slather a layer of honey water, then baste both sides. You can find the process in the YouTube link mentioned above or any other clip online.

Looks like the real thing

Then comes the most important part — taste test. The entire family loves it! OK, there’s definitely room for improvement in terms of thickness and texture but the taste is just right. I had cut down on the sugar after sizing up the recommended sugar amount and the honey water coating.

Our conclusion is that we will skip buying and bake our own this year. With all the ingredients already available at home, I only had to buy the minced pork, which cost S$12 per kg. The total cost, minus labour, was about S$15.

Weighing this cost against the hefy price from the traditional shops, we will experiment with other ingredients and cooking processes further so that our family and friends can taste something different this Chinese New Year.

Verdict

Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Texture: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Changi Airport: A tourist attraction

Changi Airport: A tourist attraction

Singaporeans normally view Changi Airport as a place to board a plane for exotic tourist destinations. But, with travel curbs in place, the airport has itself become a tourist attraction.

Kudos to the folks running the airport for the immense efforts to draw people to the airport for reasons other than travelling. Well, if you stay at the other end of the island, it may feel like you’re heading to another town, another place.

Opened slightly more than a year ago, Jewel is a delightful mall to spend time a day in. It’s got everything — from food to shops, and hairstyling saloons to hotel. For this season, the gardens around the centrepiece Rain Vortex has been decked in Christmas glory, making for great sight seeing and photo opportunities.

Families who want something a little different can consider spending a night glamping at Cloud9 Piazza at Level 5.

While Terminal 3 may not be as crowded as before, it has also been given a Christmas makeover with dinosaurs, in line with the theme of Jurassic Mile. The fact that there’s less of a crowd is great because you can take your time to delight in the exhibits and take photos without having loads of photo bombers.

For the F1 wannabes, a go kart circuit — with separate tracks for children and adults — has been set up at the taxi rank outside Terminal 4.

A little round the corner is Jurassic Mile, which has also been decorated with lights to make it a sight to behold at night. Whether you’re a cyclist, walker or jogger, this stretch is worth exploring. But do note that you need to book a slot if you’re planning to be there on Fridays to Sundays.

So, if you’re looking for a place to go to during the holiday, consider Changi Airport — and you don’t have to worry about forgetting to bring your passport.

Google Nest: Good sound, great price

Google Nest: Good sound, great price

When Google announced the Google Home speaker in 2016, I was excited and wanted to get one. Unfortunately, the product wasn’t available in Singapore then.

During my next trip to the US in 2017, I stayed in San Jose and scouted for the nearest outlet selling the device. I was so delighted to find it at a nearby Walmart and bought two — one to give as a gift.

From then on, it’s a love affair that has expanded to the Google Home Mini, which I installed in another room. The smart speakers produce acceptable sound quality (for my ears) and are so easy to set up.

The introduction of Google Nest Audio this year got me all worked up again. But, this time, I need not (and could not anyway) fly to the US to get my fix. My discerning daughter gifted me one as soon as it was available.

It doesn’t look like the first two iterations but everything else was so intuitive.

After more than a month with the Google Nest, here are my thoughts:

  1. Easy setup. One of the biggest frustrations of getting a new device is the setting up. But, Google has made it so easy that my Nest was up and running in a minute.
  2. Good sound. Under its larger form factor are a pair of speakers that produce good sounds. The Google Nest Audio sports a 75mm woofer and a 19mm tweeter, which delivers more oomph compared to the sole 50mm speaker on the first Home.
  3. Inconspicuous look. Some may say that the design looks too simple but I feel that it is just what a speaker should look like. Speakers are meant to be heard, not seen, so the simple look can fit in anywhere without drawing attention.
  4. Privacy mode. With so much concern over whether wireless speakers are recording conversations, Google has added a microphone switch to turn it off when greater privacy is desired.
  5. Great price. At S$139, the price in Singapore is similar to the US pricing. Plus, local shipping is free so there’s no need to pay for overseas shipping and that long wait.

The Google Nest Audio can be paired with another to provide a stereo effect. I only have one so cannot comment on how good that would be. But my imagination tells me that if one is already good, two would make the audio experience much better. If you like, you can get the Google Nest Audio from Google Singapore.

Verdict

Price: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Performance: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘