Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: Asus Zenfone Selfie

Oh yes, the Asus Zenfone Selfie. Some of you may be aware that I attended the event recently, and had a taste of some of its cool functions. Here’s my account. Fast forward a couple of weeks later, I finally got the phone in my hands and I’ve been playing with it for the past month. 

Fun, fun fun. I took selfies, but I think the Zenfone Selfie has made me want to take more. To the point where my kids would just look at me as I hold the phone in front of me, and sigh. They must be thinking ‘here mummy goes again’. But being the tech-savvy generation, they can’t resist taking selfies with me either. The little one keeps moving a lot though, and so far, we haven’t managed to get a proper clear shot! 

Alright, back to selfies. Yes, I hate to admit it, but now I enjoy taking selfies more and more. Usually, I look quite pale and tired, with terrible eye bags (blame it on the boy who likes to cuddle in the middle of the night), so I was not exactly a fan of selfies. Now, I’m amazed at just how good I can look, even though I only put on some foundation and blusher, with a little help from technology, specifically a photo mode called ‘beautification. So as I’m looking at myself on the phone, I can toggle with the different options to brighten or soften my skin, remove blemishes magically, say goodbye to the extra flesh around my chin, and even add more blush if I don’t look cheery enough. 

Selfie 5

See here? I was having a pimple on the right side of my cheek, but it magically disappeared! I think my skin has never looked so smooth and slim for a long time. Of course not, since I’ve never really been one to spend hours before a mirror ‘painting my face’ before venturing outside. But wow! The ‘beautification’ function really did wonders on my face. I think this is also because of the capability of the front camera itself. It is as powerful as the rear camera, an added bonus with the 13 megapixel imaging quality. In some ways, the front camera is more powerful, with a f2.2 aperture for taking photos in low light conditions, a 88-degree wide angle lens with dual-LED flash, a 140-degree Selfie Panorama for taking selfies with a scenery behind you, or just for those wefies with lots of friends. While I think the ‘beautification’ function will be the go-to mode when using the front camera, there are also 16 other camera modes such as slow motion, time lapse, low light, and GIF animation to have fun and to make photos or videos look wacky. It looks like the Zenfone Selfie is made for taking selfies and wefies with my sister. 

Selfie 1

I think I’m getting hooked on selfies. Yes, I even tried a ‘try to look sleepy in bed’ kind of selfie. That was how ‘inspired’ I was. I think I spent almost 30 minutes trying to get everything such as the pillow in the right position, while worrying that the kids will barge in and pounce on me, and look at me with wide eyes thinking ‘what weird thing is mummy up to now?’. But I did pull it off, I think. Skin quite clear hor? You can still see the little lump of a pimple there, but it sure looks less obvious than it does in reality.

Selfie 3

Now let’s talk about the rear camera. It’s just as exciting. Why? Because the 16 photo modes can also be used on the rear camera. You can really spend a long time taking photos of a single subject, and then deciding which ones are better later, which is what I did with this little yellow flower that I chanced upon one sunny day. I played around with the effect mode, which had effects such as sepia, edge detect, cartoon, pencil, hue, vintage and even LOMO. The kids? They kept themselves busy at the playground nearby.

Photo modes
Another evening, DaddySay and I brought the kids to another playground, where the playground was only lit by the park lights. I took photos using the low light and night modes. Below are the results. Not too bad for a mobile.

Playground 1

Playground 2 

And here are some photos I took during rare me-time lunch recently.



At the rate that one will take photos with the Zenfone Selfie, memory is a key factor. This phone has 32MB of built-in memory, with a lifetime 5GB Asus Webstorage. It also supports up to 128GB Micro SD Card memory. One just has to remember to regularly sync and back up these photos, so memory will not run out.
IMG 7737
So, fun aside. How’s the hardware like? It’s as sweet as it looks. I got the Aqua Blue unit to play with, but the colour that tugs at my heart is Chic Pink. Plus, its sweet factor is heightened by the Lollipop. What? I meant it’s run by the Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system. So far that I’ve used been using the 170g phone, there’s been little lag, and it responds rather fast to finger touches on the scratch-resistant, anti-fingerprint Gorilla Glass 4 that, according to Asus, is 85% less likely to break. The 5.5 inch full HD display has a wide 178-degree viewing angle and I like how red and blue colours pop out vividly. The phone’s back case is thickest at the middle and tapers to a thin 3.9mm at the sides, so it’s really easy to hold. See? Even our in-house dinosaurs can’t help but climb all over it.

IMG 8122

Parents like myself will find the Kids Mode extremely useful. The mode comes with built-in parental controls and a timer to limit how much time the kiddos spend on the phone educating and entertaining themselves. There’s no need to repeatedly keep track of how long they’ve been having screen time. It may also help in cutting down the whining and begging for ‘Five more minutes please? Pretty please?’.

I definitely had an enjoyable time with the Asus ZenFone Selfie this past month. At a list price of $399 (without line contract), it’s quite friendly to the pocket. Now I’m really tempted to get one for myself, just so I can take even more selfies and photos.

Selfie 2

Disclaimer: We were provided with a unit of Asus Zenfone Selfie for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.


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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thank you

Note: This is going to be a rather long post about the wonderful people I've met in my life since October last year. If you're interested to find out more, please read on. Thank you for reading this heartfelt 'thank you' post.

I believe in angels. Everyone of us has an angel, some of whom we know, some of whom we don't, some suddenly appear in our lives during times of trouble to give us a boost.

Like those in the medical field, like doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, paramedics, anyone. In my opinion, they are angels in white. They are on call most of the time, looking after the sick and injured. In addition, they have to deal with worried family members, who can be quite nasty. Definitely, to have a loved one fall sick or get injured can be rather frustrating, emotionally, psychologically and physically, but really, there's no need to take it out on medical professionals. All they are doing is to care for their charges.

It's amazing how these angels in white do their job with a smile on their faces, all the time. It's amazing how they reach out to the people who really need their help, and give them a much needed boost, at the most unexpected times. They may be frustrated, but they try their best not to show it. And when someone shows appreciation, you can tell that they appreciate it. 

Exactly one year ago tonight, I had the most freak accident one can imagine. I could have very well lost my life, as is evidenced by a similar case in Hong Kong about 5 months later, where the victim died. I didn’t, and throughout my recovery till today, I met some awesome white angels whom I’m grateful for. From the ambulance paramedics and the doctors in the emergency room, to the doctor who operated on me and the nurses who looked after me in the ward, to the care I received from the doctors and physiotherapists after I got discharged, these medical professionals have been crucial in aiding in my recovery, physically. Psychologically, well, that is something I need to work on. But without the care and concern of the medical professionals I've met since October last year, I guess it would have been even more difficult.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank these angels in white who have helped me on my road to recovery, in one way or another.

- the paramedics, thank you for your support and reassurance while I was feeling very lost by the road and through the bumpy and painful ride. 
- the emergency room doctors, thank you for trying to relieve my pain as much as you could, as you x-rayed my thigh and tried to straighten it as much as possible. Thank you for understanding the amount of pain I was in.
- Adjunct Associate Professor Dr Ernest Kwek, Chief of Orthopaedic Trauma Surgery, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, thank you for operating on me. It was truly my lucky day, or night, when I found out that the head of the department himself would be operating on me the next day. Up from the operation till now, thank you to you and your team for ensuring that the metal rod was well-placed in my thigh bone and that the bone fracture is healing. Thank you for your encouragement and believing that getting back on my two feet would be an easy feat.
- the nurses in the ward, thank you for your care and concern during my stay. I know you had many patients to look after, and were very busy. But you tried to help make me as comfortable as possible before my operation, and after it, you helped the bedridden me and taught me how to look after myself.
- the physiotherapists at the ward and at the clinic, thank you for teaching me how to walk again, and helping me to strengthen my leg. It's still somewhat weak, depending on what I do, and I'll know it will never ever be the same as before. Still, I'm working on it, and hopefully, I'll get my injured leg back to what it was before, as much as possible.

I would also like to thank those at the scene of the accident. Thank you for calling the ambulance, thank you for looking out for me, and offering me water and tissue. Thanks for making sure the truck driver stopped and alighted. Simple gestures like these, and your reassurances made those few agonizing long minutes easier to bear.

I must not forget my family who have supported me with their love and concern. To my mum, dad, bro, sis and the rest of the family, thank you. During our trips to Hong Kong to visit our then critically ill grandmummy, thank you for looking out for me, while I was 'bai ka' and using crutches. 

Thanks to my wonderful helper. With me injured and unable to walk properly, she not only had to help look after the kids, but me as well. She even made sure I avoided certain foods like crabs and so on, which apparently, are not good for bone healing, or something like that. Thank you also to my parents-in-law. Thank you for keeping the kids entertained and bringing them out, since I couldn't do it at all.

And most of all, I want to thank DaddySay. During my recovery, you took over the parenting of EV and AA, so that I could recover well. You ensured that the kids understood I was injured and therefore they needed to be extra careful around me. You brought me for my medical appointments, especially in the first few months. You pushed me in my wheelchair, you stood by me when I walked with crutches, you were my pillar of support during the difficult time. You are and always will be my pillar of strength, my BFF. Without you, I think I would have faced even more difficulties. 

To my little kids EV and AA, thank you both for your understanding and love, for understanding that mummy couldn't bring you out even though I really wanted to, for willingly joining mummy on the bed and play. EV, thank you for understanding mummy's fear of bus stops and big trucks, and thank you for holding my hand last Saturday, assuring me that you will hold my hand tight and be by my side while you led me to walk past the bus stop. I still don't dare walk past the whole bus stop, but I managed a bit. It's a start, and I couldn't have done it without you.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who have helped me in my ongoing recovery. I assure you that I will stay strong. Thank you.

Thank you


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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Media Invite: Asus ZenFestival

I’m selective when it comes to attending events I get invited to. But when it comes to anything related to tech and gadgets, I get itchy, naturally, since I was a former tech journalist.  There was absolutely no way I could say no to an invite to the Asus ZenFestival.

Zenfone 1

Held on Wednesday evening at Chijmes Hall, the event saw the unveiling of the brand's four latest ZenFones. Though Asus is mainly known for their laptops, they might just make some headway with the ZenFones. The model which attracted the most attention has to be the Zenfone Selfie. It’s got a great Beautification function that automatically adjusts selfies taken, whether it is to smoothen the skin tone, or even to make the eyes look a little larger. This function means that selfies will always look their best, and there’s no need to use any other applications to edit.

Zenfone 2

Zenfone 3

And while I was there, I also played briefly with the ZenFone Selfie’s macro, time lapse and slow motion video recording functions. It definitely seems quite a promising mobile.

Zenfone 4
Various camera functions on the ZenFone Selfie.
Zenfone 6
Trying out the macro function.

Zenfone 5
Having fun with the slow motion function.

Zenfone 7
The low light mode that can adjust shadows.

While at the ZenFestival, I also checked out the ZenFone 2, ZenFone 2 Laser and ZenFone Go, but I still prefer the ZenFone Selfie. I can’t wait to get my hands on a review set. Stay tuned for that.

Zenfone 8

Zenfone 9

Michelle Chong is the brand ambassador and here she is on stage.

I’m doubly glad I attended the event as I also met an old friend, who was the former editor of Straits Times’ digital edition. We had a great time catching up. It’s events like these that give me fond memories of the good old days. Thanks Asus!

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Asus ZenFestival event. No compensation was received. All opinions and images are my own.


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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Media Invite: Times new concept store @ Marina Square - 5 things you want to know

Times The Bookstore. For some of you, you may remember how this iconic bookstore looked like in the past. I still vaguely remember the blue logo of the past, and these are sweet memories. Sweet because Times was where I discovered the beautiful world of books. Times was where I discovered classics like Little Women and Jane Eyre (abridged versions) during my Primary school days. Thanks to a certain tuition teacher who went to the extent of bringing my mum and I to Times to recommend books for me to read, because my mum was Chinese educated and had no idea where to start when it came to improving my English. This tuition teacher was a retired teacher from the older generation, who spoke perfectly articulated English and had such beautiful cursive writing. I will never forget her and her cat, and of course, our trips to Times to discover books.

Times has definitely come a long way since then. I admit, I’ve not been to Times for years. I don’t know why, I guess I grew out of it, and I was attracted to more independent bookstores and online bookstores. Times, to me, was an experience from the past. I knew they had a revamp, but it still wasn’t enough to entice me to walk into the store.

So when I was invited to check out the new concept store at Marina Square last week, I decided to experience it again. A key question I asked Anna Leong, marketing manager of Times was: what’s the new concept about? Because, as you can see from this photo, Times at Marina Square doesn’t look all that different from its other outlets from the outside.

Photo: Times

Here are 5 things I gathered from my conversation with Anna and my two hours of discovery around the store.

1. There is a good selection of children’s books such as picture books and early readers. I was glad to discover a whole shelf of Shel Silverstein books, and even numerous titles by Leo Lionni. 

Times picture books

There are also several shelves devoted to picture books by local authors. About 30% of the store is dedicated to children’s books and other merchandise.

Times 12

2. The new Times doesn’t just sell books any more. There is a good selection of educational toys and games. Think board games and even Lego. 

Times 11

There are also word card games, games like ‘Vowel Owels’, Play Doh and also science kits. There are even plant pot kits to let kids develop a love for nature.

Times 10

Times 8

3. I think adults, especially Star Wars and Star Trek fans, will be attracted to Times not just for the books. They can also feast their eyes on memorabilia from Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones and even The Walking Dead. I even saw a little Alien on the shelf, just next to Batman. The folks at the store put these items right at the front of the shop. Smart move I say. Get the adults in, and the kids will follow.

Times 1

Times 5

Times 4

4. I also saw quite a number of other items that are related to books, such as poetry magnets, adult colouring books and even these tempting tote bags that feature classic children’s and adults’ titles. I really love these tote bags, but they’re a tad too expensive for my taste, at $69.90 each. 

Times 2

Times 3

However, I found an alternative - these four tote bags featuring Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Picture of Dorian Gray and Sherlock Holmes, at $12.90 each.

Times 9

5. The 2,800 square feet store is extremely bright and cheerful, and the children’s section has pastel ‘clouds’ on the ceiling. The kids might not immediately notice these ‘clouds’, because they are just so focused on the books in that area, so it’s good that the decorative details are subtle. I like the even brightness of the store - it makes reading more conducive and is better for kids’ eyes. The alleys between shelves and displays are quite wide, so kids can sit and read, and store patrons, as well as prams, can still move around comfortably.

Photo: Times

I like the new Times bookstore, I’m sure I’ll be back really soon. Yet, I fear stepping into the store. Why? It means I’ll most probably, most certainly, buy even more books, even though I don’t read them fast enough. Yes, I buy books faster than I read them, but hey! I do need books all around me for those sneaky me-times that I can steal.

There’s another reason why I dread walking into Times at Marina Square.

Times 7

A whole section devoted to Disney! Eh…. I’m not sure whether I should let EV see this…..

Can’t wait for the biggest, 7,300 square feet Times bookstore to open at Waterway Point in Punggol in January 2016. The only thing that might keep me away? Distance. I got to stay far far away.

Disclaimer: We were invited to the launch of the Times Bookstore at Marina Square. We received a complimentary card and a $50 voucher. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and images are our own, unless otherwise stated.


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