Honor 90 Review: Nostalgic Midrange Smartphone

Some smartphone brands leave good impressions on me with their smooth performance at affordable prices. Unfortunately, most of them could not sustain the quality for more than a couple of generations. It seems like a tech-curse. I loved the ASUS Zenfone series (running on Intel chipset) between 2014 and 2016. I also enjoyed using Honor 8 Pro and even bought for myself after I reviewed one (it still works albeit no software updates). The performance and image quality convinced me to switch to Huawei P20 and P30 series before they fell out with the US sanctions resulting in the removal of Google products. Honor, being the sub-brand of Huawei, was also affected by the market restrictions.


I am generally very pleased with the review experience of Honor 90, partly because it inherits a lot of Huawei’s features. While the overall performance is not as snappy as flagship models, I believe less impatient users will find it a non-issue. Camera features are good enough to deliver impressive shots of every day life, with enough modes to allow the user to easily tweak and achieve the desired result. The lack of external microSD card slot is addressed with a built-in 512GB storage, and the dual 5G nanoSIM slot with eSIM covers all mobile network scenarios.

Honor 90 5G (12/512GB) retails in Singapore at S$619 and comes with a free Honor Earbuds X5 worth S$70. It is at the top of my buy list once my Dad’s Huawei Mate 10 Pro shows any sign of retirement. For warranty service support, visit 54 Genting Lane Unit 04-01 Block II, Ruby Land Complex, Singapore 349562. For detailed product information, visit the official Honor 90 product site.


Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: Inching for Total Noise Cancellation

With every new generation of the 1000XM series true wireless ANC earbuds, Sony is inching towards creating a perfect earbuds for music lovers and noise haters to enjoy. When the first WF-1000X was announced in 2017, it was the most underwhelming model of the 1000X series (headphones, neckband). Then came WF-1000XM3 in 2019 (they skipped M2 to align the number with the headphone series), delivering competitive noise cancelling but the earbud design is arguably a turn-off. Fortunately, when WF-1000XM4 launched in 2021, the design went through a transformation to look more compact and conventional, in line with the competitors. This made the M4 the most desirable and easily the best true-wireless noise-killer earbuds that kills competition. Hats off to Sony who took over the ANC crown from long-time incumbent Bose in a short span of 5 years. It certainly helps when the previous models maintain price points below S$380.


With the retail price exceeding S$400, Sony’s WF-1000XM5 faces stiff competition with other strong challengers. Undoubtedly the ANC attenuation for the upper frequencies remain its forte, but other premium brands are no slouch, and based on real life usage, ANC is not everything. With music playing, the difference in high-frequency noise cancellation is not that critical. But I quite like the new drivers and its default tuning, which delivers detailed treble and balanced clarity across the frequencies without sounding too aggressive.

You can’t go wrong getting the Sony WF-1000XM5.


Honor Magic5 Pro Review: Flagship Smartphone at Value Price

The HONOR Magic5 Pro 5G is the brand’s premium flagship series model for 2023. After a sell-off by Huawei, Honor no longer bears the burden of the parent company’s trade restrictions and is able to license Google apps in its smartphones. It retails in Singapore at S$1249 with 512GB storage and 12GB RAM powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Here’s a list of the other specs that are truly flagship grade:

  • Triple 50MP rear cameras – Ultra-Wide f/2/0, Wide f/1.6, Telephoto f/3.0 up to 100x zoom
  • 12MP front camera and 2MP 3D depth camera
  • 5100 mAh battery supporting 66W Wired SuperCharge, 50W Wireless SuperCharge
  • 6.8-inch LTPO OLED 120 Hz refresh with 2160 Hz PWM Dimming and peak 1800 nits brightness
  • Dual nano SIM with eSIM, supports 5G NR
  • Infrared Sensor (old school but useful!)
  • IP68 Water Resistant
  • Bluetooth 5.2, supports SBC, AAC, AptX, AptX HD, LDAC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax/be, 2×2 MIMO
  • NFC (works with Singapore contactless payment systems)
  • 219 grams
Camera Quality
Shot at 1x zoom.

With 3.5x telephoto mode, even without digital zoom, I find the images appearing somewhat digital. The “High-Res” 50MP version appears less processed but still exhibits digital edges. Shooting with digital zoom offers slightly better sharpening and contrast, but if you prefer to capture the full resolution, the 50MP definitely delivers the raw pixel output. The file save is much faster than Honor 90.

Shot at 3.5x zoom

When shooting in aperture or portrait mode, the camera will artificially process the bokeh to create depth of field. It seems that the final result is different from the live preview, and unlike the Honor 90, I was unable to achieve the narrow depth-of-field of f/0.95. And like the Honor 90, I am unable to adjust the bokeh post-processing.

Audio Quality

Perhaps the one feature that I don’t quite like is the headphone audio. There is the DTS:X Ultra audio processor that without a doubt improves the audio amplification and delivery. But as an audiophile enthusiast myself, I prefer my audio to be unprocessed so that I can listen to the original source. With the Magic5 Pro, after disabling the effect, the audio quality is less precise. Putting that aside, the various effects are rather useful for casual listeners to make the music sound more immersive.

Battery Life and Background Notifications

With a 5100 mAh battery capacity, the Magic5 Pro delivers a full solid day usage, far better than what I have experienced with my Google Pixel 7 Pro. However, I also noticed that I did not get the usual notifications from some of my background apps, despite enabling background permissions.


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DreameBot L20 Ultra Review: A New Benchmark for Robot Vacuum, Mop and Home Surveillance

Dreame Technology has launched a new flagship robotic vacuum with mop system. This is my hands-on review of the DreameBot L20 Ultra, distributed in Singapore by Dasher SG. It will be available from 31 Aug 2023 at a launch price of S$1499 at COMEX 2023 and comes with 2-year warranty.

My Past Experiences with Robot Vacuum Cleaners

I’ve used robot vacuums for years and most of the standalone models have limitations that I have learned to compromise. Here’s some of my pain points:

  • Cables get entangled by stray objects which disrupted automated cleaning
  • Robot cleaner keeps bumping on furniture to detect obstacles and walls
  • Hassle to clear the dust tray regularly
  • Hassle to remove trapped hair and dirt in the rollers

As for the mop function, it’s something that I rarely use, because:

  • Tank size is insufficient for whole house mopping
  • Hassle to top up water manually on the robot cleaner itself
  • Needs to clean mop pad manually after each cleaning task
  • Cannot use detergent

I quite like the DreameBot L10 Ultra that I reviewed as it comes with a base station to hold water tank and can empty the dust box, but it lacks some premium features found on the L10S Ultra which are as follows:

  • Able to dispense detergent for mopping
  • Built-in AI camera that is better at detecting obstacles and supports surveillance features

In that respect, I would have loved the L10S Ultra if I have that as my robot vacuum. But now that I have reviewed this DreameBot L20 Ultra, this latest model clearly takes the cake as the ultimate hands-free robot vacuum and mop system.

My New Experience with DreameBot L20 Ultra

The DreameBot L20 Ultra is a self-sustaining home cleaning system that can vacuum and mop your house maintenance-free for months. The base stations stands at 60.7cm tall, 50cm wide. Using LDS technology, it creates a floor map of your house and with that you can define a cleaning pattern for each area, or leave it to the new L20 Ultra with its CleanGenius(TM) mode that will clean high-dirt area repeatedly. You do not even need to change water! How is it possible?

Auto Empty Dust Box

The dust box inside the robot vacuum gets auto-emptied into the 3.2L dust bag in the base station. The bag can last for months depending on your usage. The retail package comes with an additional dust bag.

Auto Refill and Discharge Water Tank (with Optional Water Hookup Kit)

The L20 Ultra (as well as the new L10S Ultra SE) supports the water hookup kit, which connects the base station directly to your tap (inlet) and drain (outlet) so that it can auto refill the water tank and discharge soiled water – just like a washing machine! The most troublesome thing about mopping is rinsing with fresh water, so with the water hookup kit, you can mop the house without ever touching the water tank!

Extendable Mop Pad (World-first)

Dreame Technology is the first to design extendable mop pads on the robot vacuum that can now reach the floor corners and edges. When mopping the corners, the right mop pad extends outwards so that even the corners can get cleaned by the robot vacuum.

Auto-Detachable Mop Pads

If you are doing vacuum-only tasks, the mop pads will be detached and left at the base station. This is one of my favourite features because I do not have to manually remove the pads when doing vacuum to minimise getting the pads dirty during the course of vacuuming.

Auto-Wash and Air Dry Mop Pads

The DreameBot L20 Ultra system will also wash the mop pads and dried by hot air to get rid of bacteria and odour. In short, you do not need to remove the pads and wash separately – the L20 Ultra is self-sustaining.

Camera Monitoring with Auto Light

This is another favourite feature that I feel makes it worth paying. The built-in camera definitely improves the robot vacuum obstacle detection so that it can intelligently avoid them. But it also functions as a home surveillance camera on wheels which you can remotely navigate from the app.

AI Cleaning Features

The DreameBot L20 Ultra also adds some smart features that further differentiates from the competitors. For instance, it can detect the level of dirt and will attempt to perform a second round of cleaning. Similarly, it will also wash the mod pad again if it detects the pad is still dirty.


After trying several types of robot vacuum products, I have concluded that if you want a hands-free robot, you have to get the full-featured model that can clean your house, wash the pads and replenish the water automatically. A basic robot vacuum could make your cleaning tasks less thorough.

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Hands-On Experience: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5

Samsung launched the first foldable smartphone in September 2019, and received a lot of flak for its durability issues. The units require so much care that media review units were extremely limited. But with each year, the folding mechanism and the flexible display get better, and by the third generation, the Z Flip3 and the Z Fold3 are in such good shape that you can use them without special care – except for the soft screen surface of course, you don’t want to apply too much sharp pressure and leave permanent marks.

Gardens By The Bay short on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 3x optical zoom F/2.4 ISO25

For that, Samsung has turned up the saturation and the sharpness that borders on appearing too artificial, yet it creates an appealing quality for day-to-day shots for personal memory or flaunting the moments on social media.

The entire zoom range from 0.6x to 30x delivers rather consistent tonality and offers shooting versatility.

Comparing Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 zoom quality from 0.6x to 30x

Naturally, the 30x zoom end exhibits digital artifacts, but 10x zoom is impressive as the below image shows that it is capable of capturing the ants harvesting the flower.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 captures details up close at 10x zoom

The portrait mode blurs the background to create bokeh that may not be as authentic compared to DSLR, but it isolates subjects and makes the image attain another level of impression. One that that annoys me when I use Google Pixel 7 Pro is that it does not apply background blur if face is not detected, because, well “portraits” are about people.

Portrait mode shot on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5

Having said that, there will be scenes that the blur might not yield convincing result, but I would try to frame the image so that the bokeh works. But for the standard close-up shots, the Z Fold5 makes me want to shoot more photos and post them.

Compare Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 and Google Pixel 7 Pro

Under the unfold mode, the camera app offers a few nifty features to improve shooting experience. For instance, you can display the live preview image at the cover display so that the other party can see his or her own preview when shooting, or you can use this for selfie shot. You can also turn on photo history on the left so you can review the recently shot photos.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 camera app displays photos just captured on the left


The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is a very well-built foldable smartphone that I enjoy using it. The major compromise I have to accept is the different aspect ratios that result in the content displaying either too small fonts or in layouts that do not fill the screen optimally. The text displayed on the cover screen is small, while the text on the main screen cannot fill more content due to the square ratio.

I also noticed people using the Z Fold series on public transport but none of them is seen using it with the main screen unfolded,. Perhaps the unfolded screen is too big to be seen using in crowded spaces, as it lacks the privacy. Between this and the Z Flip series, I prefer the Z Fold series because I can use the device fully without the extra step of unfolding, but the Z Flip5 offers a glimpse of a larger cover screen that can interact with selected apps. Given the ability for all Samsung Galaxy devices to work with one another seamlessly through the Multi control platform, I wonder if it would be better to get a smartphone and tablet separately instead of a single foldable device that has yet to achieve the best of both worlds.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 retails in Singapore from S$2398 (256GB), visit the official website here for more info.

Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Mini Review

The Sennheiser AMBEO series are one of the most highly-regarded soundbars in the market. It delivers multi-channel surround sound with just a single soundbar unit through clever projection of the speaker drivers and self-calibration feature. Last year, I reviewed the AMBEO Plus with the optional AMBEO Sub for NXT Magazine, and in this review, I received an early commercial unit of the latest AMBEO Mini, the smallest soundbar in the family. It retails in Singapore at S$1299.


Launching a smallest model of the AMBEO soundbar series is definitely going to invite heavy comparison, and it is hard to beat or even match the quality of its bigger siblings. Nevertheless, the AMBEO Soundbar Mini offers a flavour of the AMBEO audio technology to produce quite an impressive wall of sound for the smaller rooms. If you have a larger room and can afford the AMBEO Plus, I highly recommend that over the Mini. Choose the Mini only if your TV supports HDMI Out (ARC/eARC) and you listen to the soundbar at rather close proximity.

The AMBEO Soundbard Mini retail for S$1299 in Singapore and is available now. Visit the product page for more information.


FiiO FT3 Headphones Review

I have been reviewing the FiiO FT3 for nearly two months, and this review article is long overdue, but for good reasons. Once I finish a product review, I would have to return the product. So what does it say about the product what I do not want to publish the article? Yes, the FT3 is quite an enjoyable wired headphones to use. It retails at S$479 in Singapore and is distributed by AV One.

Unboxing and Accessories

The FT3 is FiiO’s maiden attempt at designing over-ear wired open-back headphones, so clearly they are going to great lengths to make it an impressive product. Holistically, this headphones could easily please a large group of users, from the audiophiles to the gamers, from the bargain hunters to the premium goers. The retail box is packed in a separate generic cardboard box protected with plastic corner inserts and a sticker of authenticity. Check out the unboxing video:

It is impressive that FiiO includes the accessories that are not common. First of all, you will find a luxurious brown leather hard case further protected with a cloth bag. The colour doesn’t quite correlate to the headphones style, but nevertheless, I appreciate the inclusion of a storage case which is better than not having one, as it helps to keep the headphones safe when not in use.


The headphones are designed with a stretchable headband that supports the fit. The clamping force is not too tight while keeping the headphones secured on my head. The outer headband is wrapped with full grain leather material which appears unlikely to flake compared to the software pleather. The design reminds me of the Philips Fidelio X2 I owned many years back, but the FiiO FT3 is much more comfortable, lighter, while fitting larger 60mm diaphragm drivers.

Sound Quality

Remember that the FT3 comes with two pairs of earpads. As stated in the product website, the suede earpads produces “balanced sound, enhanced ambiance, majestic experience”, while the protein leather offers “clear sound, large soundscape, highly detailed”. It is largely aligned with what I hear. Bass frequency lingers around more on the suede pads, it fills the ears with the low rumbles better. When switching to the pleather, the bass is less plump but sounds clean and articulated. Conversely, the treble sounds more airy, spatial, more precise on the pleather pads. Midrange also benefits from the pleather’s cleaner presentation and sounds less veiled.

Personally, I prefer the suede earpads because of its more prominent bass, which is not too overpowering yet its presence provides an overall warmer tonality. I believe that its larger diaphragm contributed to the greater bass intensity yet leaving room for the midrange and upper frequencies to showcase the details. At the same time, the treble is not too pushy on the suede pads so that listening gets less fatiguing. Having said that, I am quite happy to swap the pads if I listen to albums that I want the vocals to shine and give me the chills. For acoustic piano tracks, I am able to pick up the key-striking movements amidst the loitering sustain notes that suspend yet dissipates across the wide stage.

How does the FiiO FT3 compare to my other wired headphones? First, I want to compare it with my old headphones that I have sold off, but I have to disclaim that my impressions on these old headphones may not be accurate. The Philips Fidelio X2 rests heavier on my head, its sound is brighter and more brittle, bass is less oomph compared to the FT3. The Sennheiser HD650 is warmer, treble is less bright, while bass is less boomy.

The Hifiman HE400se has a narrower sound stage, so instruments sound closer, more direct. Bass is leaner with less low energy. Dishing out my Sennheiser HD 800 S, I can appreciate why I pay so much for it. The HD800S sounds much more engaging, immersive, yet presenting in a wider space. Treble is not as sparkling and prominent mix as the FT3, yet it remains highly detailed. Instruments have better balance among one another, less crowded, you can hear the separation.

After putting all the good words, that is not to say the FT3 is lacking. I feel that the HD800S offers me an ultimate reference-grade listening experience when I’m in the mood. This master headphones present music in a different plane that is certainly in a league of its own.

What I enjoy on the FT3 is the ability to present instrumental performance with a relatively prominent bass impression while showcasing the rest of the musical details without sounding too sterile. Its high sensitivity and resistance mean that it will convert the amplifier’s characteristics to the FT3, letting you appreciate the quality (or lack of) of your amp. I enjoy driving the FT3 with the Burson Playmate digital headphone amp with V6 Opamps which I have kept in storage for a while. Using a Ugreen USB-audio adapter on my Pixel 7 Pro, the FT3 still manages to deliver articulated sounds with a good feel of the sound stage where the mid and upper instrumentations are spaced for comfortable refined listen aided with firm filling lows.


The FiiO FT3 is my new favourite value-for-money every-day headphones with audiophile-grade versatility that I can use both as a high-quality casual headphones and a reliable reference cans. At a retail price of S$479, it trumps many headphones at the price range for its impressive audio performance and generous accessories. More importantly, its design ensures that the headphones will last for decades without any surface deterioration.


Audio-Technica NARUKAMI: A Private Listening Session in Singapore

In 2016, I was invited to listen to the Sennheiser HE 1 when it landed in Singapore for the first time. Dubbed the most expensive headphones at about 60,000 Euros, the entire system comes with its own marble-body amplifier and tubes that rise up when powered. It was an unforgettable experience.

When the Audio-Technica NARUKAMI Series first system of the line, HPA-KG NARU Headphone/Pre-Amplifier and AW-KG NARU Headphone arrived in Singapore one week before the HiEnd Asia Singapore 2023 (6-8 Oct), the A-T team called me up and asked if I want to listen to this extravagant audio equipment at their office. This headphones amplifier was first unveiled at the Hong Kong High-End Audio Visual Show by the A-T President himself Kazuo Matsushita on 11 Aug 2023, and the kagami-biraki ceremony took place in front of invited guests. The official model name is HPA-KG NARU and the companion headphones is AW-KG NARU, with a list price for Singapore of S$113,888.

The First Encounter

Even after doing some online research on this product, it still could not prepare me for the moment when I met the amplifier for the first time. Seated firmly on a wooden-grained table in the A-T audio room, the NARUKAMI system radiates an imposing presence with its outlandish yet harmonious element. It looks better than the press images, appearing more muted and less red. The metal mesh cover feels thick, dense, and not cold. Neither do I notice any heat radiating on the amplifier surface when I was touching all over it just to appreciate the attention to details.

My Listening Equipment

To help me evaluate the NARUKAMI, I brought my best headphone equipment so that I can do some listening comparison.

HPA-KG NARU: Effortlessly Detailed, Outclassed Amp

The job of an amplifier is to amplify recorded sound while being able to bring out all musical data to the driver without sounding overloaded or tired. Powerful amplifiers like the NARUKAMI is certainly able to deliver more impactful sound compared to smaller amps. Compared with my Burson Playmate, the NARUKAMI lets me hear music details better as I turn up the volume without any hint of struggle or veil in expressing the content. The amp translates the source with amazing sensitivity and musicality. The music does not sound processed or digital. There is an air of realism and analogue even when listening to digital tracks.

AW-KG NARU Headphones: Impression

The NARUKAMI package includes the headphones, whose design largely derives from the ATH-AWKT wooden headphones. It will come with a 2-metre gold-plated balanced XLR-M 4-pin cable and a 3-metre balanced XLR-M cable. The headphones follow an Audio-Technica signature tuning, which is elevated upper midrange which emphasizes vocals. Among the three headphones I compared during the listening session, the AW-KG headphones attain the widest sound stage with most expressive vocal transparency. Any vocal music lover will find joy with this headphones. However, it lacks the meat in the bass section, and instrumental arrangements sound recessed, so the headphones do not provide a full warm cosy sound. For orchestral tracks, the AW-KG presents great imaging and open stage even with its closed-back design.

Difference between Balanced and Single-Ended Output

Technically, there is electrical signal difference between a single-ended (unbalanced) and a balanced circuit. On the NARUKAMI, this difference is very audible. When listened to an unbalanced signal, I felt a lack of space and dynamics. Once I switch over to balanced cable, the audio sounds more resolving and sensitive to dynamic expressions. It makes perfect sense to make full use of all the audio components by channeling the signal through the balanced circuits.

Supports Pre-Amplifier Balanced and Line-Out

The HPA-KG amplifier also serves as a pre-amplifier with preamp output functionality, driving using the TA-300B vacuum tubes to your next audio chain before hitting the speakers. I didn’t test the pre-amp function due to limited time, but it is good that owners can make use of the supreme all-tube preamp circuitry to connect to audiophile speakers.

Final Words

Music is art, and art is subjective. Each individual experiences audio differently. It is for this reason that the audio market has such wide variety of products, accessories, designs, features, and prices. It is one of the few consumer categories that offer products with price ranging from a single-digit price to six-figure value. There will be an audio product that you can afford.

Is the NARUKAMI extravagant? No doubt about it. Does it sound like it is worth S$113,888? I would probably say, it all depends on whether you feel the listening experience is worth that value. So, yes, the value is subjective. However, I know that the NARUKAMI is loaded with some of the best audio components in the industry, and from how it sounds, the sound quality is at its pinnacle.

The Goods
  • Outstanding musical performance
  • Precise, detailed, clean
  • Analogue quality without too brittle or excessive treble brightness
  • Elevates headphones quality
The Bads
  • Expensive
  • Design that may not blend with existing home audio components
  • Headphones tuning does not really showcase the amplifier full range