Thursday, January 29, 2015

My iPhone 6 really does take better pics!

I was talking about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus a couple of months ago, wondering if I should get one, if I'd like one, etcetera. Well, who's a lucky girl??? SMART, which sponsors my parenting blog Topaz Mommy, sent me a silver iPhone 6 as a birthday present! Thanks so much, SMART!


I'm not going to talk about it from a technical level since I absolutely have no vocabulary for that. I do know that it's a pretty phone. A bit too skinny and light, and rather too big for my little hands so I have a hard time taking selfies (haha), but the iPhone 6 is my mini computer on the go, my lifeline to my kids when I'm out working, and my instant camera when taking out the real camera is inconvenient. I love my iPhone 6 (and of course my SMART plan!) for how it's made motherhood and career easier to juggle!




Speaking of cameras, I noticed a big difference in quality of images. While sharing with my Topaz Mommy readers how I made an art wall for my kids, I realized that I took this photo with my iPhone 5s:

And then I took this one with my iPhone 6:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Xiaomi Redmi 1S (a guest post!)

Today, I'm giving my readers the very first guest post on Topaz Horizon. Ever. This contributor has actually written three guest posts on Topaz Mommy so he's no stranger to my blogs. Everyone, please welcome Vince Sales. I'm okay with him writing on my blog because I have this massive crush on him. But don't tell him that! (Photo captions are mine.)


Guest post from Topaz Daddy here. Frances said she couldn’t do this review, so she pulled me out of tech journalist retirement (yeah, I used to be one) to review the Xiaomi Redmi 1S that everyone’s been talking about lately. I haven’t written a gadget review in ages, so I will keep it short and sweet. No tech jargon here, just the fun stuff!
It's a really nice phone. Simple, sleek, solid, good weight. Feels good to hold.


What’s the fuss?
If you’ve never heard of Xiaomi before, the story so far goes something like this: So, like, you know, there’s a company called Xiaomi that’s like the Apple of China. And, like, the phones they make are really really good. And dude, they’re like super cheap, like half the price of what you’d expect. There’s the Mi 3 that goes for just P10,599; so awesome. Then there’s the P5,599 Redmi 1S that’s like a mid-range phone with an entry-level price. Totally cray-cray.

So is it all too good to be true? Should you get a Redmi 1S? And what about the selfies? Scroll down to find out.


The Screen
Like most smart phones nowadays, the screen on the Redmi 1S is honking big. They squeezed a 4.7-inch screen in there, and it can go toe-to-toe with other big screens from more high-end phones, like the iPhone 6’s 4.7-inch screen (but not the 6 Plus’ 5.5-inch screen). Beside the iPhone 5’s itty bitty 4-incher, the Redmi looks like it’s from the future.

Very bright and clear screen. And it's survived falls, too. 


The Build
If you’re looking for a shiny metal obelisk, you’re looking in the wrong place. This isn’t the steel Mi 3 or an aluminum iPhone. The Redmi 1S is made of plastic. This is not an entirely bad thing. It doesn’t feel as rich as top-of-the-line Samsungs or iPhones, but the plastic doesn’t feel cheap at all while keeping the phone light and strong (and cheap). And it can do something that most other smart phones can’t: you can change the back casing. The Happy Chinese New Year red case actually looks pretty darn good.
Dahil Chinese New Year na, the red one is just perfect for the season!
Redmi vs iPhone 5s


The Battery Life
I am told that battery life that lasts for more than a day is a good thing. That would make the Redmi 1S’ battery life pretty good because I normally got through a day without charging. I am not a very heavy user of phones. Your mileage may vary.


Living with Android and MIUI
The Redmi 1S runs Android with the highly-acclaimed and controversial MIUI slapped on top of it. Everything they said about it is true. It’s brilliant. It works like a dream. It feels like iOS, and it copies features from all the right places. 

I’ve been an iOS user for most of my smart phone life and MIUI has won me over. This is mostly because (in the Philippines at least) MIUI integrates brilliantly with Google services, plus a hundred tiny little things that are too many to mention. I like how it handles notifications. I like how you can choose to prioritize Wi-Fi over cellular data. I like the different colored LEDs that tell you what kind of alert you’re getting. I like the automatic over-the-air downloads. I like that it’s dual SIM. And so on. So, yeah. I like it.


The Camera
Once you have a proper camera (like my pride and joy Olympus), camera phone pictures all look lousy to you. So I was surprised to find out that the pictures from the Redmi 1S were surprisingly good. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Some selfies from the front camera.

Macro.

You don’t get the control of an SLR, but you can select focus, which is good. And also the LED illuminator actually lights things up nicely when your subject is in range. I didn’t even notice the LED illuminator was going off most of the time, but the shots still came out looking natural and not harshly lit.


Redmi for you? For me?
I found a lot to like with the Redmi and precious little to dislike. Big screen, great camera, MIUI, and that price (PHP5,599)! Be still my heart. It’s hard to find a better deal than that. 

For that price though, you should know that you don’t get LTE nonsense or metal construction, and you don’t get a bleeding edge processor. But if you’re looking for something more fancy, you’ll probably want to trade up to the Mi 3 (or the Mi 4 if you can find one). For most people, there’s plenty of smart phone right here for an outrageous price.


Specs Highlights

Xiaomi Redmi 1S
PHP5,599

Screen: 4.7-inch, 720x1280, 16M colors, 312 pixels per inch
Processor: 1.6GHz Quad Core
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 8GB (expandable up to 64GB via microSD)
Camera: 8 megapixels (rear), 1.6 megapixels (front)

OS: Android 4.3, MIUI version 5 skin 

*A unit was lent to us generously for review, but all opinions are honest and unbiased.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese in Manila!

Well, technically, in City of Dreams.



May budget!!! Vanity Fair says each actor was paid $13 million for this series of Scorsese-directed ads for the spankin' brand new casino by the bay. Wow. I did not know First World levels na pala ang Pinas! I'm thrilled and flabbergasted and shocked and in disbelief and wowed and amazed and horrified all at the same time!

But DiCaprio and de Niro and Scorsese! What. The. What! I'm suddenly wanting to go to City of Dreams!

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Game of Thrones on the cello

I cried. It's so good! And I miss #GoT.

Put your volume on full blast and take a listen.



My brother, Theodore, who is the cellist (and big boss) of Manila String Machine (the hottest string quartet in the country!!!), also have #GoT on their repertoire but they should totally do a video like this!

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Yellow love at the Golden Globes

My favorite look at the Golden Globes 2015 red carpet was Emma Stone's Lanvin jumpsuit.

Absolutely stunning that girl is. Just breathtaking, I also loved the looks of Diane Kruger, Ellie Kemper and Felicity Jones. But my favorite look, right after Emma's, is Naomi Watts in her yellow Gucci dress, Bulgari snake neckpiece, and red lip.
I love yellow on the red carpet. Anyone who wears yellow just pops out of that ruby floor. But yellow is tricky to wear because if you choose the wrong shade, your skin will look sallow or the yellow won't photograph well.

That problem is not a problem with these beauties:
In 2007, new mom (well, birth mom) Angelina Jolie took a break from her black wardrobe to surprise everyone at Cannes in this uncharacteristically sunny Ungaro.

Emma again standing out on the red carpet and so perfect in last year's Amazing Spider-Man promo tour. Soooo in love with this Atelier Versace dress with a million tiny pleats.
 
In 2006, Michelle Williams looked so delicate and feminine in Vera Wang. This dress was supposed to be a canary yellow but in photos, it always looks orange!

My favorite yellow look of all time is Reese Witherspoon's yellow Nina Ricci cocktail dress which she wore in 2007 while in the midst of divorcing Ryan Phillippe. You'd never think she was going through a tough time looking at how perfect she was here!

In fact, I loved Reese's look soooo much, she was my peg for this dress and photo!
Walang aangal. Walang kokontra! Pagbigyan niyo 'ko!

Yes, as in pagkakita ko kay Reese, I went out and asked my mother-in-law's kusturera to make a version of that dress (with Vince's design input since back then, childless me had the flattest chest so the sweetheart neckline won't work)!

Yellow is so unexpected, that's why it gets attention. Sigh. Must bring the sunshine back to my dreary mommy wardrobe of grays and blacks!

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Social media stars and their 2015 REsolutions

This post is brought to you by SwitchRightOn.

First day of the year! Everyone's social media accounts are full of thoughts that look back at 2014 and wishes and plans for 2015. Two resolution hashtags I noticed were #REnew2015 and #SwitchRightOn. I saw it on Bianca Gonzalez-Intal's IG account (@iamsuperbianca). I follow her since I like her and I kinda know her because when she was just starting out in showbiz a decade ago, I was with PR and I would accompany her on media tours to TV shows on MTV and Studio 23, and various radio stations, plus I also featured her on Preview magazine. So while I wouldn't say we're friends, we do know each other.

Anyway, this is what she and her new husband promised to do this 2015:



So I checked out her hashtags and saw these other celebs' REsolutions:


















With a little research, I found out that these and other celebs (na hindi ko na sinama ang IG posts nila here) are part of the Switch Right On campaign, a renewable energy awareness campaign which has the participation of the government and many industries, and influential personalities.