Christmas-bonus-friendly smartphones


WITH less than a month to go before Christmas, many of you are probably expecting your 13th month pay and bonuses in the next few days, so you better get that nice list ready and check it twice.

Smartphones have always been part of everyone’s wishlist especially after the pandemic made them a work-from-home or distance learning essential.  This week, we feature two entry-level smartphones that would make your loved one feel extra special—and maybe even restore their faith in Santa.


FIRST is the realme 8i. The realme 8 series has been one of the best offerings this year, and I personally have been using the realme 8 Pro as my daily driver since it launched in May.

The realme 8i is the latest and most afffordable of the realme 8 family. With a starting price of P9,990, you get a device with 6.6-inch FHD+ display with 120hz refresh rate, a MediaTek Helio G96 processor, a 50MP main camera, and a 5,000mAh battery with 18W fast charging.

In terms of looks, the phone shares a similarity with the realme 8 5G edition, flaunting either a Stellar Black or Stellar Purple glossy mirror-like finish. It also doesn’t have that divisive “Dare To Leap” branding. The Stellar Purple we have for review looks really cool as you can get different shades depending on how the light shines on it. The downside? It can be quite slippery to hold and is a smudge magnet, so better slap that jelly case on for protection.

Realme 8 5G edition

The main selling point of the realme 8i is its display. You get a pretty spacious 6.6-inch IPS LCD screen with a 2412 x 1080px HD+ resolution and a 400ppi density. Text and photos look sharp and detailed onscreen and the 600 nits of max brightness helps visibility during outdoor use. It is also one of the few in its price range that features a 120Hz refresh rate, allowing you to experience smoother gaming action and reduces motion blur on video. Another benefit of a high refresh rate is that it can make navigating the interface of your phone also feel more responsive. If you love playing those fast-paced action games, the realme 8i delivers on its promise of making your games look less choppy. When watching those fast-paced sports videos, the action will also apper smoother with less screen stutter. You can always turn auto-switch on to revert back to the standard 60hz to save on battery.

Now, if you love watching videos, the realme 8i has Widevine L1 DRM support so you can stream videos at the highest resolution. I didn’t expect too much from its single loudspeaker, so I wasnt disappointed. At this price point you know something has to give and audio quality is probably the easiest to sacrfice. Volume does get quite loud but the sound quality is average at best.  It’s good enough for watching TikTok videos or Reels or some casual gaming, but you can easily plug in wired headphones for better audio output.

Its cameras, however, was a pleasant surprise and the realme 8i performed much better—especially for food shots during my tests. You get a main 50MP camera, 2MP macro and another 2MP for depth. If you are like me who like more boosted (saturated) colors, I suggest turning on AI mode—except when taking photos with text as it often converts it to a document and crops the rest of the image out. There’s some depth effect when using the standard mode and when focused correctly, you can get even better subject background separation in portrait mode. I also got some pretty detailed photos using night mode, though I still wish there was a timer to let you know how long you have to hold it very still to avoid blur.

 For selfies, there’s a 16MP front camera that has all the facial editing tools you might want to make you look flawless.  It works best under natural lighting, but if you are indoors or in darker places, you can get better photos either by using fill light or switching to nightmode—both of which I noticed takes about the same amount of time processing. Take a couple of safety shots just to be sure.

To keep things running smoothly, realme opted to use a MediaTek Helio G96 chipset with a Mali-G57 MC2 GPU, plus either 4GB or 6GB of RAM. The 4GB variant was the one we used for this review and it performed acceptably for casual day-to-day use. You won’t have a problem using it for calls, messaging, browsing through your social-media feeds, watching online videos and taking photos.

If you opt to go for the 6GB RAM variant, you can make use of realme’s Virtual RAM feature. This uses the phone’s internal storage as makeshift RAM and increases the total amount of RAM on your smartphone and improve the phone’s overall smoothness.

The realme 8i is equipped with a 5000mAh battery and this easily lasted us more than a day before we needed to recharge. According to tests done by realme Lab, you can use the realme 8i for 47 hours on calls, 40 hours on music, 11 hours on YouTube or eight hours playing Mobile Legends.


ANOTHER brand that is making a name for itself in the budget-phone segment is newcomer Infinix. Its latest offering, the Hot 11S gets some key spec upgrades in terms of the display, processor and cameras, making it another good choice for budget hunters.  To start off, let me just say that I love the new neon/electric green packaging of the Hot 11S. The brand also included everything you need in the package including a plastic case, a SIM ejector tool, 18w charger, USB-C cable, and a pre-installed screen protector.

As with all other smartphones in this price range, you get a polycarbonate build with a glossy back that’s made to look like glass. The HOT 11S has a glitter-like 2.5D plastic back design with a geometric pattern of wavy lines that gives off a gradient effect.

The Hot 11S has a 6.78-inch Full HD display with a 399 pixel per inch density. It also has a 90hz refresh rate and 180hz touch response rate. Aside from the display, the phone also comes with stereo speakers, with the earpiece acting as the second speaker—something most of its competitors lack. The stereo speakers are not that loud but the quality is noticeably better.

For its cameras, the Hot 11S has a triple camera setup with a 50-megapixel f/1.6 main sensor, plus an AI lens and depth sensor that help improve photo quality. For a budget device, the phone’s cameras are no slouch and are capable of getting photos with lots of details and accurate color. For videos, I think it is the only smartphone in this segment that can shoot 2K video for both rear and front cameras—a feature that aspiring content creators and vloggers would find very useful.

The Hot 11S likewise receives an updated processor in the Helio G88 with either a 4GB+64GB config or 6GB+ 128GB option that you can get for just P1,000 more—which I think would be the better option in the long run. Since this is a phone that targets gamers, another noteworthy feature is its Dar-Link Ultimate Game Boost. This adjusts the system to keep games running smoothly. Game Zone, on the other hand, brings all your favorite games in one place, and allows you to play with other friends in the WeZone App even without an Internet connection if they are also using an Infinix smartphone even.

As for the battery, the Hot 11s has a 5000mAh battery capacity but unlike its predecessor, it now has USB-type C and a faster 18w charging support.

For me, it’s one of the best bang for your christmas bonus smartphones below the P8K range.

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