Northern states tour 2019

Although we have traveled to Cameron Highlands back in October, I felt sorry for the kids who basically stayed at home for much of their school holiday. So in our typical last minute fashion, we booked two Airbnb rooms in Kedah and Perlis and planned our express excursion to the two northern states during the Christmas holidays.

Believe it or not, we have never properly visited Kedah before and never even set foot once in Perlis. Sure we visited Langkawi a few years ago and drove by Kulim on the way to Penang a few times but those doesn’t count. So it’s high time we give the two northern states a proper visit.

We departed quite late in the morning thanks to everybody waking up late. Traffic was alright, the road were surprisingly very clear driving up north. Maybe not many people returned home for the holidays yet or perhaps Christmas is not very big round here. My wife had been meaning to visit her old boarding school in Kulim for some time now so we took this opportunity to finally visit MRSM PDRM. It was easily two decades ago since she last set foot there so she’s quite delighted to be able to see the place again. Journey down memory lane and all that.

Anyway, we got to our Airbnb in Kuala Kedah rather late that afternoon. We only managed to catch the sunset by the Kuala Kedah seafront that day. It was a beautiful sunset though, pink and purple on the horizon. The Airbnb we stayed at was quite nice. Clean and spacious at the outskirts of Alor Setar. They had a working stove, fridge and washing machine so we can do our laundry. The only complaint I had was the air cond in the master bedroom not really working.

The next day we visited the state museum in Alor Setar. It’s the one thing we always do in new states that we visit. To be honest, this museum needs a major revamp or renovation with new, more exciting exhibits. Currently it’s just one big bungalow housing a meagre collection of the state’s rich history. I would be embarrassed to recommend this place to anybody especially foreign tourists. Sure the entrance is free but if the exhibit is really good, I’m sure people would willingly pay. And what’s with the no photography policy? You’re denying the place free marketing and publicity for goodness sake.

We had lunch at the popular Nasi Lan Peruda in downtown Alor Setar. To be honest, almost all these nasi kandar taste the same to me so I couldn’t really tell whether they’re good or not. Our next port of call is the renowned Pekan Rabu shopping arcade nearby. I didn’t get anything much but the lady of the house didn’t miss this opportunity to do some shopping.

After that we’re supposed to visit Padang Besar in Perlis but not before checking in to our second homestay of the tour. Sofikha Vacation Studio is located just outside Kangar. Like its namesake, it’s a small studio room delightfully decorated with all the amenities you usually find in a three star hotel or more. They have two queen-sized beds plus an extra mattress, Android TV with Netflix, Wi-Fi, a fridge, electric stove and also hot shower. It was such a pleasant place to stay that we decided to take an extended rest there before going to Padang Besar later. Besides, I’m already tired from all the driving and it is so hot outside that day.

Contrary to popular belief, Perlis is quite big and there's definitely more than 8 people living in the state. Kangar is not as bustling as the other state capitals but maybe it's better that way. We had a quick dinner at a tom yam restaurant in Kangar and then proceed straight to Padang Besar. Although just 31 kilometers away, the journey felt extra long. By the time we got there, it was already pitch black and much to our surprise, there was hardly any shops left open. After a quick chat with the locals, we learned that the shops close right around sundown so there goes our little shopping trip to Padang Besar. Remind me to check the operating hours of places we plan to visit next time.

Our first agenda the next morning was visiting Gua Kelam or Kelam Cave, another popular tourist attraction in the state. As usual, we woke up late and didn’t check out until 11:00 AM. We thanked our kind host profusely for her hospitality. I cannot recommend her homestay enough. I can’t recall her name but everybody calls her Bonda, a retired civil servant, probably a teacher from a school nearby.

Gua Kelam was once a tin mine back in colonial times and once they ran out of tin to mine, they turned the place into a tourist attraction. After paying a nominal entrance fee (RM2 for adults and one ringgit for children), we walked straight into the cave. They’ve built a proper wooden platform pathway right into the caves so there’s no hiking or climbing involved. It didn’t take long for us to reach one end from the other, shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes walking. There’s not much to see inside the well lit cave to be honest, no unique stalactites or stalagmites to look at, just plain old cave with running water below. Well at least the kids get to see something new instead of just shopping malls.

Coincidently while we’re leaving the cave, the solar eclipse was happening all around the world. We decided to stop a while next to a random paddy field while waiting for the eclipse to occur. We didn’t miss this chance to take some photos surrounded by the greenery. These city kids don’t often get to see these paddy fields back home. I thought the eclipse was happening so we used sunglasses and looked through the lens of our smartphone at the sky. Apparently we’re about a few minutes or perhaps an hour early. One thing for sure, even looking through dark sunglasses, my eyes hurt from looking directly at the sun. Remind me next time not to do that.

Since Perlis is so small and there’s practically nothing much else of note to do and see in the state, we head to the famous Al Hussain floating mosque near Kuala Perlis. It is situated just next to the Kuala Perlis jetty where people take boats and ferries to Langkawi. The mosque itself was quite alright. It was low tide at the time so we didn’t get to see the mosque actually float above the water. Were we tempted to go to Langkawi? Sure, but our budget were severely limited so perhaps another time.

Our original plan was a 3 days, 2 nights visit to Kedah and Perlis only. But we thought since the holidays are long and we’ve got plenty of time before going back to work the coming Monday, why not extend another day? That’s when we spontaneously booked another homestay in downtown Penang so we could visit that state as well. From Kuala Perlis, we drove straight to Batu Kawan to visit the brand new IKEA store there. From the outside, this IKEA branch looks slightly larger than the one in Cheras. The same can be said for the interior. And unlike those in KL and Selangor, this one is pretty much standalone with the exception of a few small shops and two floor of Harvey Norman store but that’s about it. Maybe it’s the weekday but the place was not so crowded compared to the other branches.

Our last Airbnb for the trip is a small flat at Desa Pinang 2 in Georgetown. From the outside, the place might look very crowded with cars double parked all around the flat. Walking up the second floor, it looked a lot like your typical low cast flat in KL but surprisingly the house itself is clean, cosy and comfortable. There’s the quintessential aircond in every room, stove (electric) and the bonus fast Wi-Fi. Linda don’t feel like cooking that night so we ordered pizza for dinner. Unlike the last time we were in Penang, I purposely didn’t visit my relatives in Gelugor. Sure we can save a few hundred by staying overnight there but I just don’t have the heart to bother them at such a short notice. Who knows they’re not at home or perhaps not free to host us.

After waking up to catch Liverpool on my tablet at 4:00 in the morning, we woke up understandably late the next morning. We had brunch at Taman Tun Sardon nearby on advice from friends. Unfortunately, it was almost midday on a Friday so most of the shops were closing or already closed in anticipation of Friday prayers so we had not much to choose from except for one solitary shop at the corner. I had a mediocre chicken rice and the rest had tomyam bihun and friend keuy teow.

Our last stop of the tour was Gunung Jerai (Jerai Hill) near Gurun in Kedah. It is located south of the state near the Perak border but only about an hour drive from Penang. One thing I noticed that there’s virtually no signboards informing visitors the direction to Gunung Jerai. The only signboard that I noticed was at the foot of the hill just before you start your ascend. 30 minutes up the narrow and winding road, we are already up near the hill top. We saw a few elderly people hiking and cyclist riding up the hill. It is after all a popular hiking trek in the state. There’s no charge for going up the hill but the parking fee at the top was 3 ringgit, unless you’re staying at the resort.

The hilltop is made up mostly of the Jerai Hill resort at 980 metres above sea level. I suspect there’s a hiking trek somewhere to the actual peak of the hill but I didn’t manage to find out. Perhaps we could come again when all the kids are grown up and we could hike to the peak together and find out. Much of the Jerai Hill is made up of the Jerai Hill Resort. Accommodation starts from RM288 per night so staying another night was out of the question. Apart from the resort and sightseeing around the hill top, there’s a few activities offered (for a price of course) to visitors like flying fox, wall climbing, archery amongst other. There’s also a little botany garden next to the resort but there’s an entry fee so we skipped that as well. The girls did try out the flying fox (8 ringgit) each.

So that concludes our inaugural northern tour to Kedah, Perlis and Penang. To be honest, we are time-pressed to cover all the places of interest that people normally go and 3 days is definitely not enough for the purpose. We had the time but not the budget to do it all. Still I hope this short visit would be memorable for the kids since this is their first time in some of these states. As for me, it’s a nice break from work and just going back to Kelantan again apart from enjoying those delicious nasi kandars. Yeah my legs and body in general are exhausted from all the driving. And have I told you I loathe driving at night because I easily get tired and sleepy? That’s the sacrifice you’ll have to make I guess.

That leaves us with Sarawak as the only state that we’ve never been to yet. Does Labuan count as a separate state? We do have plans to visit that state in the near future but now, time to save up. Those plane tickets and travelling in general are never cheap.

Best TV Series of 2019

Without further ado, my list of the best TV series of 2019, in no particular order.

Carmen Sandiego
Based on the 1985 computer game Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego, this Netflix adaptation follows the same spirit as the original storyline but with expanded universe. We learn about Carmen’s childhood and her training to become a VILE agent until her discovery of the truth and her escape from the island. I love Carmen Sandiego’s clean minimalist animation style and I love geography and travel the world things.

In this Netflix thriller drama, Dan Humphrey of Gossip Girl fame stars as the seemingly perfect, hopeless romantic boyfriend who is actually a psycho control freak cum killer, preying on innocent girls. Love him or hate him, You is one of the best series to come out of Netflix this year.

The Umbrella Academy
If you love My Chemical Romance you should know that the lead singer Gerard Way is also the creator of this superhero comic book called The Umbrella Academy. You didn’t know? Well so did I. A dysfunctional superhero family stumbling their way to save the world from surprise-surprise their very own misunderstood sister Vanya.

Formula 1: Drive to survive
If you would like to know the behind the scenes and drama behind Formula 1 teams in a typical racing season than this series is the one for you. It’s an eye-opener for Formula 1 fans and TV viewers in general. Too bad they didn’t get to get much screen time around the Ferrari and Mercedes teams.

Our Planet
If you like documentaries about nature and wildlife narrated by the legendary David Attenborough then Netflix’s Our Planet is perfect for you.

This year the HBO Go app is in many countries around Asia including Malaysia. If you subscribe to a full complete Astro package, you get complimentary access to this HBO Go app which features a lot of popular movies and HBO tv series. One particular series that caught my attention is Barry. If you mistakenly thought Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is Michael C. Hall, you are not alone. The similarity is uncanny. Just like Dexter, Barry is your favourite friendly neighbourhood serial killer. But unlike Dexter, Barry is a contract killer/hired assassin using his military skills to terminate targets, usually members of a mob or some big shot of the criminal underworld.

I only know vaguely the details of the infamous Chernobyl disaster. This excellent HBO dramatization of the tragedy will blow you out of the water. They did a brilliant job in retelling the events before, during and after the accident in amazing detail.

High Maintenance
Who know the life of a drug (weed) pusher in downtown New York could be so exciting. If you’re wondering what’s the name of the main character in this series, you’re not alone. There isn’t any. We just refer to him as The Guy. When I grow up I wanna be just as chill as The Guy.

Peaky Blinders
I’ve heard people talk about and post countless memes about this series before, it is only now that I have the urge to watch this series. Set in pre World War I England, Peaky Blinders centres around the life of the Peaky Blinder gang. Quite interesting if you’re into British TV series.

Living with yourself
Who doesn’t love the affable Paul Rudd right? What’s better than Paul Rudd? Two Paul Rudds of course. In this series, Paul accidentally (or did he?) cloned himself in a strip mall. Now he has to live with himself while navigating his married life, work and friends. The ending could be anti-climatic but it's still mildly entertaining nevertheless.

The Boys
One of the more interesting TV series on offer from Amazon Prime, The Boys is adapted from a superhero comic book which is not set in either Marvel or DC universe. When superheroes rule the world, what could go wrong right? Well a lot according to this series. For once they could get super corrupt and willing to do just about anything to cover their shenanigans including murder. It’s a nice change from the usual traditional superheroes trope.

Greatest events of WWII in colour
Have I told you I’m a history buff? Well now you know. I thought I’ve read and watched a lot of history from books, TV and movies but this one from Netflix showcased a few more things that I never thought I knew and even better, in full restored colour.

For All Mankind
Another new kids on the block in the streaming industry is Apple TV+ and they’re offering free 1 year subscription to customers who bought a brand new hardware since September this year. Apple TV+ doesn’t offer as numerous TV series or movies compared to the juggernauts of streaming like Netflix and HBO but what they lack in quantity, they make up in quality. For All Mankind.

See is another interesting offering from Apple TV+. It tells the story in a post-apocalyptic where population (or is it war?) caused mankind to be born blind for generation after generation. Until the twins were born of course who could finally see. Starring Jason Momoa, this series is good enough to watch till the end of season 1.

The Mandalorian
Debuting on an even newer streaming platform Disney+, The Mandalorian is the much-awaited made for TV Star Wars prequel series. Featuring Pedro Pascal of the Narcos fame, The Mandalorian some say is even better than the last Star Wars trilogy. Co-starring baby Yoda also helps to fuel its fame. A must watch for Star Wars fans.

Apart from the highlighted series above, a notable mention to a few other interesting TV series that is worth watching:

  • Love Death + Robots (Netflix)
  • The disappearance of Madeline McCann (Netflix)
  • Z Nation (Netflix)
  • The Twilight Zone (HBO)

On boycotts and BMF

When you’re in need of blood because of an injury or treatment, you don’t get to ask ‘I want blood from muslims first’. Same goes when you need help from doctors, nurses, police or complete strangers. That’s when you realize how silly this buy muslim first thing is. Most of our fellow countryman was born and grown up in this country. They have called this blessed land home all their lives. They don’t have anywhere else to go to if you ask send to go back to where their great grandparent came from.

Imagine if your family moves to a foreign country, say like Australia. They opened up a business and they worked hard to give you and your family a good life. And then for some reason, the locals there launched a campaign to buy locals or christian first. How would you feel? Not nice isn’t it? Like the wise rapper Tupac Shakur once said: do not do unto others what you don't want done unto you. That’s pretty much how our fellow Malaysians would feel when you do this buy muslim first thing. No matter how good your intention is, discrimination along racial and religious lines will only sow discord, generate hate, mistrust and ill feeling among each other.

Do not let politicians with agendas use you as their tool to achieve their political ambitions. Creating a bogeyman or common enemy especially from outside their race and religion is a tried and tested method to gain political support. These people don’t really care about helping fellow muslims or the unity of the people. They’re just doing whatever it takes to control you and gain political power. Never let yourself become their pawns in achieving their end goal of getting into office.

As for me personally, I don’t really care whether the business I buy from is muslim owned or not. The first thing I always look at is the price and if all is equal, quality and good customer service. Frankly I believe this bmf thing is not sustainable in the long run. Living in a multiracial country, how long before you run out of muslim business to go to every time? How about non-muslim bumiputra business owners, do you boycott them too? Already there’s anecdotal evidence of muslim business owners taking advantage of this uncalled for campaign to raise the price of their products. How messed up is that? Buy muslim first so that the owner can buy a brand new Mercedes? I don’t think so.

Hazy days

Millions of dollars lost every year directly and indirectly from the Indonesian haze not to mention the health cost amongst their own citizen and neighbouring countries. Yet here we are suffering from another bout of hazy season. Who are to blame for this ecological disaster? Some say it’s the big palm oil estate owners whose to blame. Truth is, subsistence farming is the main culprit. Big plantation companies do not slash and burn. Problems are with the enclaves. It is tough to control them from burning during dry seasons. A palm oil tree takes 7 years to grow and could be productive for 15 to 20 years. It make no sense for these plantation owners to burn down the trees every 2 or 3 years.

It is a complicated combination of need (of the small time farmers) and tradition. Perhaps the authority should take a more proactive role? To those irresponsible farmers burning their crops every other year, is it worth it with the damage that you have done to millions of lives? I’m pretty sure they know and are aware of the calamity their action brought but they did it anyway. The haze reached it’s peak worst today with hundreds of schools closed across the country, my kids and the school that I worked at included. You can smell the acrid burning odour outside the house. While the kids and teachers didn’t have to go to school at all, the rest of the non-teaching staff have to work as usual, haze or not. Yes, they gave us an option to work from home if we have significant health problems or unexpected parental obligation. Many still come to work anyway because they have tonnes of work to do.

You can see in the media pictures of Indonesian’s President Jokowi walking around ground zero, witnessing first hand the devastation that the fire and haze brought and how he laments about the folks who caused it. I believe those were merely lip service. I can almost guarantee you we’ll be suffering from the same hazy predicament next year. It will take a paradigm shift and significant education to make those farmers stop burning their land.

Eid and Terengganu tour

Unlike Eid ul-Fitr, we don’t usually go back for Eid ul-Adha celebrations firstly because it is usually only one day off and secondly I won’t be bothered to do the 24 hours, 1,000 kilometers round trip back home including the notorious traffic jams along the way. This year however, the Eid falls on a Sunday meaning holiday in lieu plus we’ve planned an aqiqah do for one of our kid hence we had to go back. After the customary morning prayers, I‌ went along to the aqiqah ceremony, watch the distressed cow being slaughtered and help to take the cut up meat back home. It was kind of last minute but I managed to secure a room, make that two rooms at Hotel Seri Malaysia in Kuala Terengganu for a quick getaway this short holiday.

Why two rooms you ask? Well, my family has grown as such that a single room just couldn’t fit all 6 of us anymore. So my wife, the infant and I got one room and the 3 others had one of their own. Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuala Terengganu was situated along the Terengganu river near the estuary and right smack in the middle of the city centre. There’s no white sandy beaches for us to stroll along but we are close to a few other tourist attractions in the state capital. We got pretty basic rooms with basic amenities but it was good enough for all of us.

In the evening we went for a stroll along the popular Batu Burok beach. The kids took horse rides for 10 ringgit a pop while we watch the sun set. Later we had some seafood dinner at a restaurant nearby. I’m not really a big fan of seafood but my wife loves them so once in a while I gave them a treat. The next day we wanted to go to the famous Pasar Payang market. It was quite late in the morning so parking was practically impossible to find. The one that we did found was quite far away and then Hana had one of her little tantrums so in the end we skipped the place altogether.

We did went to the state museum later in the afternoon. It was a huge sprawling complex made in the form of kampong house. The entry fee was minimal and there’s plenty of interesting exhibit to look at. Compared to the national museum in KL however, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the rooms were not air-conditioned and hot, the whole place looks poorly lit and gloomy at a glance. What it needs is a major revamp or renovation to make it on par with other world-class museums. That is easier said than done of course since we clearly lack the leadership and budget of those museums. Still for educational purposes, it is still a nice museum to visit.

After that we leave for home but not before buying a few bags of the delicious Terengganu keropoks. Actually, we didn’t go straight home but stopped by my brother in law’s place near Kertih. He just got a job at a factory there and this is our maiden visit to his new house. We managed to visit a beach nearby and then had dinner at his place before leaving for KL later that night. Have I told you I hate driving at night? My eyes get tired and sleepy, especially from the glare of oncoming traffic. I had to take turn driving with the wife to get to KL safely.

And that concludes our short getaway to Kuala Terengganu (and Kertih). Obviously, 2 days and one night is never enough to explore to explore the area. 3 days is minimum and 4 is ideal. That said, we can’t afford to go holiday more than 2 days 1 night anywhere for that matter. Perhaps some day.

Anne Pro II keyboard review

A good keyboard could make or break my writing enjoyment. Whether it's writing for my blog or typing for work, a boring, standard issue keyboard would make me lose interest or quickly get tired of the task at hand. If it’s a laptop, my favourite type of keyboard is the membrane-based chiclet-type keys found in MacBooks. If it’s a desktop, an Apple Magic Keyboard is the minimum requirement or a mechanical keyboard with a blue switch. I already own a standard Magic Keyboard without a numeric keypad and it's a fine keyboard on its own but if I’m typing a blog or playing games, a mechanical would be more fitting because first, I love the tactile feedback that it makes and also the nice clickety sound they make. Plus I worry that playing games especially intensive first person shooter on the Magic Keyboard would ruin the keys sooner rather than later hence the need for a mechanical keyboard.

Now mechanical keyboards come in all shapes and sizes and cost these days. For a sub 100 ringgit ones to thousands of ringgit. I’ve bought an Armageddon gateron blue mechanical keyboard before but I find it to be a bit big and the black chassis doesn’t really fit with my iMac or MacBook. My next keyboard of choice would be a 60% type, smaller and much compact than a standard 101 key full-sized keyboard. I saw a sweet IKBC Poker II keyboard at Low Yat once but it cost nearly 400 ringgit then which is way out of my budget. There’s no way I’m spending that much money on a stupid keyboard.

The next best thing I could find is this Anne Pro II 60% mechanical keyboard with gateron blue switch online. It cost just over 200 ringgit which is not too expensive but look a lot like the Poker II except that the body is plastic instead of metal. In the box, I get a nice key cap remover and USB-C charging cable which are pretty cool compared to micro USB. They keys are all white but they do provide 7 colourful key caps as an extra. Apart from USB-C charging the Anne Pro II is also Bluetooth enabled which is one of their main selling point. Perfect for laptops or iMacs.

The keyboard is lit by an RGB colour scheme and you can programme the colours using the Obinskit software available for download on their website. You could do a lot more with the keyboard, create a custom colour schemes, customize it for Windows, Mac or Linux or re-assign the keys to suit your fancy ie hot keys for games.

The battery last about a 2-3 weeks in my experience, using it sparingly for 1-2 hours per day. As a mechanical keyboard, I couldn’t be more happy with the Anne Pro II and I would highly recommend it if you’re into small, compact Bluetooth enabled mechanical keyboard that won’t burst your budget.

Nokia 8110 4G review

A feature phone is always an attractive prospect for me to have, at least as a backup phone. They are small, the battery last forever and they’re relatively cheap too. The one setback of a feature phone is that most of them don’t support 4G SIM cards anymore. At least for smaller telcos such as Unifi and Umobile that offer the cheapest plan with the longest network validity. It makes no sense for me to pay more expensive telcos like Celcom or Maxis just for my backup phone.

Hence why I decided against a feature phone. At least until a 4G feature phone like this Nokia 8110 4G comes along. A second hand unit goes for under 300 ringgit so it’s still relatively affordable for me. The most important thing is this phone finally support 4G SIM cards and consequently 4G connectivity. Spec-wise, it’s really modest - Qualcomm 205 mobile platform, 4GB internals and 2MP rear camera. The chassis of this 8110 is fully plastic with a curved banana-like design earning its glorious nickname, you guess it - the banana phone.

This phone is powered by Kai OS instead of the outdated Symbian OS. The best thing about Kai OS is that it is supported by many popular developers hence why they can offer some of the more mainstream apps like WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, Google Map and Facebook just to name a few. While the apps are interesting, the 8110 has no touchscreen so for all your input operation, you have to painstakingly type on the keypad numerous times to navigate and also spell out words. Just like the good old days eh? Not really. After years of comfortably typing on a glass screen, going back to keypad typing is nothing short of torture.

That aside, the addition of popular modern apps is a welcome feature of this phone. If you really need to check your social media accounts or checkout messages on WhatsApp, you can do all those readily on this phone, typing-torture regardless. Naturally, using those apps plus 4G or Wi-Fi connectivity drains the battery much faster compared to being just on standby.

I originally planned to give this phone to my son so he can use it at his dormitory and leave his iPhone at home. You know how’s hostels like, people lose or get their smartphone confiscated all the time. At least with this cheap Nokia, you don’t feel the pain too much if something untoward happen to it. Alas, like I’ve explained before, typing on this phone is a pain in the ass, so much so that he’d rather risk using his iPhone at school than use this abomination. I can’t blame him for that.

So would I recommend Nokia 8110 4G or similar 4G feature phones? As a backup phone sure but never as your daily driver.

Samsung Galaxy A30 review

Apart from Google phones, Samsung phones are the next make of phones that I keep on buying. The new Galaxy A series are a midrange phone with decent specs and reasonable price point. At launch they offered three models, the entry level A10, the middle spec A30 and the higher spec A50. Not encouraged by the low specs of A10, I decided to go with the mid specced A30.

The main difference between the A30 and the A50 is the on screen fingerprint scanner on the latter apart from the modest spec bump. I though I wouldn’t miss that feature much hence why I decided on the A30. On paper, this phone has a massive 6.4” screen but since it’s built longer in length than width, it doesn’t look that big in person.Powering the phone is Samsung’s proprietary Exynos 7904 processor. The phone that I got had 32GB of ROM and 3GB of RAM. You can further expand the storage with the dedicated microSDXC slot but it won’t count against the basic ROM because no adoptable storage.

The front screen sports a nice Super AMOLED screen. As with other AMOLED Samsung screens, this one also features always on display which I love on smartphones. The entire chassis is unmistakably plastic to save cost. I can’t bring myself to get the black version because it was not really black but shiny dark grey. The white version is slightly more bearable. Still so shiny and plasticky but not bad. The new Samsung One UI interface is a refreshing change from the god-awful TouchWiz interface of yore. Nothing as sleek as a stock Android OS but acceptable. Though I’d rather have a full metal or glass sandwich chassis, the full plastic body does make the entire phone pretty lightweight.

The A30 comes with two cameras, one wide and another ultra wide camera. Inspire of those, the photo quality is quite average, nothing iPhone or Pixel-like. The 4,000mAh battery could easily last a whole day on normal use. If I charge overnight, the battery would still have 30% left at 10:00PM. Performance of this midrange smartphone is nothing to shout about. I can see noticeable dropped frames while playing graphic-intensive games like PUBG. Also, the speaker was not so loud even when you cranked it to maximum.

For under 700 ringgit at the time of writing, the A30 is a decent midrange phone from Samsung. Don’t expect any heavy-duty gaming on this though and the camera quality is just below average. You know what they say, you pay peanuts, you get this Samsung.