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Huawei Mate X2 hands-on review: an expensive foldable with an ingenious design
by João Carrasqueira
It's been over two years since the first foldable phone made its way to the market. I find that it's a little crazy to think that it's been that long, and that's because despite it being two years now, these products still feel like a complete novelty. Despite numerous concepts, Samsung and Huawei have pretty much exclusively been the only companies releasing new models, and even then, they're still ridiculously expensive. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 launched for a whopping $1,999, and even the less impressive Galaxy Z Flip 5G costs $1,200 after a big price cut earlier this year. Even as a reviewer, it's been hard to get my hands on one.
Huawei released the Mate X2 foldable in China a few months ago, and it really doesn't make things look a whole lot better in terms of making the foldable market more approachable. While international availability and pricing is still a mystery, the Chinese model starts at over $2,700.
Now, the company has sent me a unit of the Mate X2 to try out, and I got a full week with it. I had a few minutes with the original Mate X at MWC 2019, and then with the Galaxy Fold later that year, but nothing that allowed me to really appreciate the features of those phones. Still, I choose not to call this a full review because first, I don't like making assessments based on a period as short as one week; and second, I think it's pointless to try and tell you that you should buy this phone. Aside from the fact that it's availability is still extremely limited, justifying that price point was always going to be an impossible task.
I don't think the discussion around foldables as they are right now should focus on whether you should buy them, but rather on what each one brings to the table that we should hope to see in future iterations, what other companies should learn from them, and what still needs to improve. So let's take a look at what Huawei did right with the Mate X2 and what needs to be done to make future foldables better.
CPU Huawei Kirin 9000 - one Cortex-A77 at 3.14GHz, three Cortex-A77 at 2.54GHz, four Cortex-A55 at 2.05GHz GPU 24-core Mali-G78
Display Exterior: 6.45 inches, 1160x2700 (21:9), 456ppi, 90Hz refresh rate, OLED, Glass cover
Interior: 8 inches, 2480x2200 (8:7.1) , 413ppi, 90Hz refresh rate, OLED, Plastic cover
Body Unfolded dimensions: 161.8 x 145.8 x 4.4-8.2mm (6.37 x 5.74 x 0.17-0.32in)
Folded dimensions: 161.8 x 74.6 x 13.6-14.7mm (6.37 x 2.94 x 0.54-0.58in)
Weight: 295g (10.41oz)
Camera 50MP RYYB main, 16MP ultra-wide, 12MP telephoto (3x), 8MP periscope (10x)
Front: 16MP Video 4K - 60fps; Front - 4K - 60fps Aperture f/1.9 + f/2.2 + f/2.4 + f/4.4, Front - F/2.2 Storage 256GB; non-expandable RAM 8 GB Battery 4,500mAh Connectivity Wi-FI 6, Bluetooth 5.2 Color White (as reviewed), Black, Crystal Pink, Crystal Blue
OS Android 11 with EMUI 11 (without Google Play Services) Price ¥17,999 (roughly $2,779) Design
Let's start with the design, which I think is truly where the Huawei Mate X2 shines the most. Unlike the original Mate X, the company has opted for a inner folding screen paired with a flat external display, similar to Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold line. Unlike its competitor, though, the inner display is covered by plastic, but since it's protected when it's closed, I think this is much less of an issue. Plus, while it is very impressive that Samsung created its Ultra Thin Glass that's able to fold, some users have noticed micro-cracks forming along the crease, so some work may still be required on that type of harder material.
Additionally, Huawei is using a new folding mechanism that's somewhat reminiscent of the Motorola razr, where the display curves into a waterdrop shape when it folds. Huawei says this helps the crease be less noticeable since it's spread out over a wider area, and I'd say it works really well in terms of the visual effect, which is helped by the reduced reflectivity of the display cover that Huawei also touts. You need to look at the display from an unusual angle to see the crease, and even when you see it, it's not that distracting. You do feel it when you move your finger over it, though, but the rest of the display feels pretty solid considering the cover is made of plastic.
What I think makes the design truly special and unique is how Huawei tried to cram most of the components into one half of the phone. When you unfold it, it gets thicker and thicker towards the right side, and while that may seem odd, it's actually great for usability. it reminds me of Amazon's Kindle Oasis, which is purposefully designed to be thicker on one side. What that does is that it puts most of the weight of the device directly on your hand, so you don't feel like it's going to tip over on the other side, and that means you can use it with one hand more easily than other foldables without straining your fingers to hold it.
When you fold it, each half of the phone aligns in a way that makes it almost completely flat, so the odd shape isn't really noticeable when you're just using it as a normal phone. Its design also makes it noticeably thinner than Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold2, and it's actually manageable with one hand, even though it's obviously much thicker than your average smartphone. As I said above, I haven't had a ton of time with other foldables to make a direct comparison, but Huawei did some great work here.
The hinge on the Mate X2 feels pretty good, but it's also a fairly new unit, and the real question with these devices is how well they hold up over time. There is some noise from the plastic flexing when you open and close the phone - but that's to be expected, according to Huawei - and otherwise everything feels as solid as can be. The phone slams shut with very strong magnets that are actually a bit challenging to separate when you want to open it, but you can get used to that.
Just to round out some parts of the design, there are stereo speakers on the top and bottom of the phone, specifically in the thinner half, along with a SIM card slot on the top edge. The thicker portion houses everything else: a USB Type-C charging port and microphone at the bottom, another microphone at the top along with an IR blaster, and a volume rocker and power button on the right-hand side of the phone. The power button also doubles as a side-mounted fingerprint reader, so there isn't one under the display here.
The two displays
As mentioned above, the Mate X2 has two displays, one on the outside, and a foldable screen on the inside. Here, too, Huawei has outshone Samsung in a few ways. It starts with the external display, which has a much more reasonable aspect ratio of 21:9 - compared to the tall 25:9 display on the Galaxy Z Fold2 - and with a fairly high resolution, too, at 2700x1160. It's also a 90Hz display, while Samsung used a 60Hz panel for the cover display on its phone.
Once again, this means that using the Huawei Mate X2 as a normal phone is a much better experience than on the Galaxy Z Fold2. It's only slightly taller than a typical smartphone display, and given that it's 6.45 inches diagonally, you still have enough space to type comfortably on a keyboard, or to have five columns of apps on the home screen grid.
Of course, the star of the show is the inner 8-inch folding display, with its nearly square aspect ratio of 8:7.1. It, too, has a 90Hz refresh rate - which in this case is worse than the 120Hz panel used by Samsung in its foldable - and the resolution is 2480x2200, which means it has 413ppi. I've found it to be more than sharp enough, and if we're talking numbers, then it still edges out Samsung's competing device with its 373ppi.
I've found the internal screen to be fantastic for reading and watching videos, of course, thanks to its large size. The aspect ratio of the display means you'll have huge black bars on top and under the video that's playing, but you still get a much larger canvas than a typical phone. As for reading, while I don't normally read e-books, this display is great for reading on the internet, simply based on how large the display is. It's just nice to have this big canvas, and some apps even scale to have multiple panes, like Telegram lets me see my conversation list on the left and the current conversation on the right.
Games are also awesome on this big screen, and titles like PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 scale really well to the big screen, so you get a huge canvas for them while still having solid controls. However, cloud gaming services don't work as well in terms of the touch controls offered, since they'll always be blocking your view at least a bit. It's up to each service to make it possible to move the game stream to the top portion of the display, though, which would help a lot.
One thing that you might find disappointing is that you can't open the display halfway, so it's always either fully open or fully closed. As such, there's nothing that would take advantage of that ability, like being able to watch a video on one half while scrolling through comments on the other half. On the other hand, Huawei does better in terms of accessories and includes a case in the box that doubles as a kickstand, so you can watch videos on the big screen much more easily. The kickstand can be used in either portrait or landscape orientation, but when the phone is unfolded, it works better in landscape due to the weight distribution.
However, I still find the lack of dedicated features for this big display a bit disappointing. Just like any other Android phone, the Mate X2 lets you use apps in split-screen mode, but using it on the big display is hardly any different from using it on the smaller one. You can split the screen in half, but you can't resize the apps to your liking as far as I've been able to tell. It's always half the screen for each app. I also feel like we could have used the ability to split the screen into even smaller sections, like how Samsung allows for up to three apps to be open at once. You do get floating windows for additional apps, but that's not the same thing. On top of that, you can't create app pairs so that the same two apps are launched at once, you always have to set them up manually, which is a cumbersome process after a while. You can, however, use a feature called App Multiplier, which lets you run multiple instances of the same app at the same time.
The closest thing to a unique feature that you get for this dual-screen dynamic is that if you have an app open on one display, it will transition over to the other one when you fold or unfold the phone. I feel like that's the bare minimum you'd expect from this form factor, though. Even then, how well the transition goes depends on how each app scales its UI, and some apps may have to be restarted to offer the best experience on each display.
You could argue that having a big screen that fits in a normal(ish)-sized phone is a big benefit by itself, and it certainly is, but Samsung has proven that more can be done with it, and I wish Huawei had learned from that.
Cameras (and the one that's missing)
One of the criticisms that's been directed at Samsung's foldables has been the fact that they're mostly using camera setups that lag behind its traditional flagships, making it seem as though they're an afterthought. The Galaxy Z Fold2, for example, has overall lesser cameras compared to the Galaxy S20 that preceded it, and even more so compared to phones like the S20 Ultra or Note20 Ultra.
Huawei has taken a different approach, with a camera setup that doesn't seem to be lacking in any way, at least on paper. There are four sensors on the back of this phone, including the 50MP RYYB flagship sensor we've seen on other Huawei flagships. This sensor is a big deal for night time performance, and on that front, it delivers well. You also get a 16MP ultra-wide camera, a 12MP 3x zoom camera, and an 8MP periscope camera with 10x optical zoom. That combination of zoom levels is impressive and something I praised heavily in my review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and it truly makes this feel like a flagship phone in terms of cameras.
For the most part, the Huawei Mate X2 delivers in its camera performance, though I must reiterate my relatively short period for this review. The main sensor is naturally the star of the show, and low-light performance is so good it nearly makes night mode redundant. I did find some inconsistencies between the color balance across the different cameras, which I think were more noticeable than some other phones, even during the day. Even the main camera sometimes tends to oversaturate, and other times makes colors a bit too cool.
Gallery: Huawei Mate X2 camera samples
Like other phones, you'll see most of the differences between cameras at night, and that's where you'll really need night mode to help even things out. I find Huawei's night mode to be a bit more painful than other phones, since it often asked me to hold still for up to seven seconds while it took a photo, which meant I got blurry photos more often.
One issue that I found is that the camera sometimes has issues with autofocus, specifically the 3x zoom camera can look very messy in some scenarios. I also had some problems nailing the right shot when zooming in to 100x, and got overall lesser quality than from the Galaxy S21 Ultra at that zoom level.
One benefit of foldables is that the main camera can also be your selfie camera when you unfold the phone, and the main camera on the Mate X2 makes for a stellar selfie camera compared to the one on the cover display, but that's not to say that the selfie camera is bad. You can see a comparison of the two cameras above. One thing that Samsung does and Huawei doesn't is let both displays be used at the same time. For example, if you're taking a picture of someone else with the phone unfolded, the Galaxy Z Fold2 lets the other person see themselves on the smaller screen. You can't do that here, though.
Here's a fun fact: you have to manually tap the option to switch cameras if you want to take a selfie with the main camera, and you have to tap it again to switch back. If you swipe up to go to the home screen while using the small screen to take a selfie, you can only go back to the big screen by closing and re-opening the phone, or opening the Camera app and switching the screens again. Again, I feel like some software work could be done to make this process a bit more natural.
As for the selfie camera on the inside of the phone, there isn't one, which is one of the faux pas this phone makes in my opinion. Having no camera cutout on the inner display may please some people, but it means that you can't take video calls on this phone while using the big screen. The phone just asks you to close it and look at the cover screen instead. That's a big deal because a lot of people are taking a lot of calls right now. And when you're already charging this much for a phone, it's an odd omission.
I also have to mention that I'm just not the biggest fan of Huawei's camera software. What you see in the viewfinder is sometimes radically different from the final shot, night mode takes a bit too long to process (though you get the benefits of that, too), and I would prefer if the zoom controls were closer to my thumb. Also, HDR is a whole separate mode instead of simply having a toggle for it while taking photos, which makes it more inconvenient than some other phones.
Performance and software
While I made the point earlier that there's no point debating whether you should buy this phone, I think it's still worth talking about the basics of a phone review. The Mate X2 is powered by the Kirin 9000, which is a 5nm chipset introduced last fall, but still based on older Cortex-A77 cores from Arm, opting out of both Cortex-A78 and Cortex-X1 cores that were introduced last year. It also has 8GB of RAM, which seems oddly low for a phone this premium, and up to 512GB of internal storage.
Despite that, the Huawei Mate X2 pulled slightly ahead of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and even the OnePlus 9 (though it loses to the 9 Pro) in the AnTuTu benchmark, so it looks like Huawei didn't miss out too much by using older cores. This benchmark measures various performance aspects in one test.
Usually, I'd include GeekBench results as well, but the app refuses to run on the Mate X2, so we'll have to move on to GFXBench, which tests the GPU of the phone. The results here are in line with other flagships, too, so performance isn't something you'll be missing.
Battery life on the Mate X2 is solid, often lasting me a day and a half with at least a couple hours of YouTube on the big inner display, some web browsing, and some texting. Considering the display size and the 4,500mAh battery, those are impressive numbers, but it doesn't take long to realize how that's achieved. Huawei phones are notorious for delayed notifications, and that certainly applies here. It's happened almost every day that notifications are either delayed or just not sent at all, and I've gone hours not knowing I had received messages in some of my apps. It's incredibly frustrating, and it's a long-standing issue with the brand, so if you're already a Huawei fan, it's probably not going to be worse than usual.
Also, this phone is only available in China for now, but even if it releases worldwide, it will be plagued by the same problem as every other Huawei phone nowadays, which is the lack of Google services. No matter how much you hate Google, too many apps just don't work without those services. Like I said, GeekBench 5 wouldn't run even after sharing the APK file from another phone. Pokémon GO doesn't work either, and I also lost the ability to use Microsoft Authenticator because of this.
Despite being over two years old, the foldable market still feels like it's in an embryonic state, which makes it exciting to keep an eye on but also somewhat frustrating when it comes to actually using these devices. I love a lot of what Huawei did here, especially the design. Having most of the weight of the phone directly on the user's hand is ingenious and it almost makes you question why no one else has done it yet. It's also one of the thinner foldables right now, and the cover display has one of the most natural aspect ratios we've seen on any foldable so far, so using it as a normal phone is actually a viable option.
I also appreciate that Huawei wasn't afraid of using a flagship camera setup on the back of the phone, which you can't say for Samsung's foldables. The results aren't always the best, but at least it isn't evident that Huawei was trying to cut corners in this area. And a lot about the phone is in line with flagship material - high-resolution displays, 90Hz refresh rate, and a solidly built design.
But some decisions are a bit frustrating, such as the lack of a camera on the inner portion of the phone, making video calls far less convenient. I also feel like there's plenty of room for improvement in terms of multitasking on the big screen, and some software limitations make it feel like the dual-screen dynamic could have been more thought through. Of course, that's to say nothing of Huawei's overly aggressive battery management and lack of Google services.
In the end, I don't think it would be possible to recommend any phone that costs over $2,700, no matter how much Huawei did right; I just wish I had been more blown away by it than I was. Regardless, there's a lot that other manufacturers can learn from this phone. I hope the wedge-shaped design becomes more of a trend with future foldables, and I hope more of them also have a cover display more similar to this one. I hope we'll eventually see flagship cameras on foldables like Huawei tried to do here. At the same time, I think Huawei could stand to learn from what Samsung has done, too, particularly on the software side of things.
Huawei Band 6 review: a stylish fitness band with a big display
by João Carrasqueira
A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to review the Honor Band 6, the first smart band from Honor since it officially split from Huawei a few months ago. Soon after that, Huawei reached out to me about the Huawei Band 6, and to my surprise, the smart bands are still almost identical, though I suppose that's to be expected considering how little time has passed since the split.
Regardless, I was interested in testing the Huawei Band 6 because there are some key differences that might make this a more compelling device, with the most notable one on the spec sheet being the additional sports modes available on the Huawei model, along with a higher price tag. Are the differences enough to justify the price hike? Let's find out.
Body 43x25.4x10.99mm, 29g with strap (18g without strap) Strap Silicone strap, swappable Display 1.47-inch AMOLED, 368x194, 282ppi Sensors Accelerometer Optical heart rate sensor (with sleep monitoring and stress monitoring) SpO2 sensor (with continuous monitoring) Battery life Up to 14 days with typical usage, 10 days with heavy usage Water resistance 5ATM OS LiteOS Colors Black frame: Graphite Black, Forest Green
Golden frame: Amber Sunrise (as reviewed), Sakura Pink
Price €59.99-€69.99 (varies by market) Design
Like I said, the Huawei Band 6 is incredibly similar to the product from its former sister company in terms of design, and that goes right down to the packaging, which uses an almost identical template. I actually kind of prefer the more colorful look of the Honor Band 6's package, but that's probably a useless point to make.
The smart bands themselves are also incredibly similar, with the same display size, the same lone button on the right-hand side, and the same strap mechanism. There are some key differences, though, and I prefer the Huawei version because of it. For starters, it's ever so slightly thinner, but the body is also slightly rounder, which I think looks more elegant. Huawei also offers more color variants of its band, with either golden or black variants of the metal frame along with four different strap colors (versus three for the Honor Band 6). Huawei also let me choose which color I'd get, and I love this orange Amber Sunrise model.
The differences continue at the edges. The left-hand side of the frame is completely clean this time around, no Huawei branding in sight.
Meanwhile, the right side has the same single button, but without any accent colors. I usually like accented power buttons, but I'm not a big fan of the red Honor typically uses, so I'm happy about this difference, too.
The back is pretty much identical, housing the body sensors and the charging pins. You can also see that it uses the same strap mechanism.
Over on the front, the 1.46-inch AMOLED display is also nearly identical to that of the Honor Band 6. It's the same size and resolution, though putting them side-by-side, the Huawei model seems to produce slightly warmer colors.
A couple of things you'll be missing here are the support for automatic brightness and always-on displays. I don't mind the latter point at all, personally, but I know some people like it. Automatic brightness can be useful, though I find the medium brightness level to mostly work well enough both indoors and outdoors.
Overall, I was already a big fan of the compact design and big display of the Honor Band 6, and it feels more refined on this watch, so it definitely gets a thumbs-up from me.
Fitness and health tracking
For general health tracking, the Huawei Band 6 covers all the basics, with 24/7 heart rate and stress monitoring, sleep tracking, and female cycle tracking (if it applies to you). One big advantage that this smart band offers versus the Honor equivalent is all-day SpO2 monitoring, and it's actually the first time I see any wearable offer this. Usually, you have to measure your SpO2 levels manually every time, but Huawei made it work throughout the day, which makes this feature much more useful. However, it still requires you to be relatively still for the measurement, so there will be some prolonged periods without measurements if you're constantly on the move.
One thing to note if you're using a non-Huawei or Honor smartphone is that the Huawei Health app on the Google Play Store hasn't been updated in months. You'll need to find the latest APK files elsewhere on the internet for this feature to light up - but phones with access to the Huawei AppGallery can just update the app through there.
There are more advantages to the Huawei Band 6, though, as it can track up to 96 exercise modes, which is a huge step up from the 10 modes supported by the Honor version. In fact, this number is the same as what's supported on the Honor Watch ES, which was much more expensive when it launched and is also significantly bigger. That model also offered guided workout routines, though, which you don't get here.
The Huawei Band 6 still doesn't have a GPS, but one thing I learned during my review period is that if you have a Huawei phone, these watches can in fact pull your location from your phone automatically. It just doesn't work with other phone brands, and in that case, the "outdoor cycle" workout mode is hidden from the watch UI, and you have to start it from the Huawei Health app on your phone. What's annoying is that this doesn't happen for other outdoor workouts, like running and walking. You can start those from the watch, but it won't register any movement, so the workout isn't saved.
In terms of health tracking, I found that the Huawei Band 6 is a bit more responsive to changes in my heart rate compared to the Honor sibling. I wasn't sure of this when I first reviewed it, but that model has a tendency to get stuck on the same value for longer, and sometimes it showed me very irregular values, like over 130bpm while I'm sitting at my desk. The Huawei version updates more quickly, both throughout the day and during workouts, and thus paints a more realistic picture.
You can also sync your health data with Google Fit, which I like to do, but only some types of exercise are registered there. When I register a Ring Fit Adventure session as cross fit, it doesn't sync to Google's service, for instance.
Software and battery life
The Huawei Band 6 runs the same OS as most other Huawei and Honor smartwatches, including the Honor Band 6. That's a big jump from previous generations of the smart bands, though, which had simpler and less animated interfaces to fit the smaller screen. There's a myriad of watch faces available for the Band 6 so you can have it suit your preference.
Swiping left or right from the watch face will show you widgets like your activity rings, heart rate monitoring, and so on, and you can customize those through the band's settings. You also get the usual slew of "apps" by pressing the side button, which are:
Workout Workout records Heart rate SpO2 Activity records Sleep Stress Breathing exercises Music Weather Notifications Stopwatch Timer Alarm Flashlight Remote shutter (requires a Huawei/Honor phone) Find phone Settings The software is very simple and somewhat limited in what it can do, but that helps it achieve incredible battery life. Something like Wear OS has many more smart features, support for apps from the Play Store, and so on, but you can pretty much only use a Wear OS watch for one day before charging again. The Huawei Band 6 promises up to 14 days on a charge for average users, and 10 days of intensive use, which is about what I got. That's with some firmware updates in there, almost daily exercise tracking, and continuous heart rate, stress, sleep, and SpO2 monitoring. It's great to not have to worry about charging nearly as often.
I've said a few times already that I still prefer having the smart features of Wear OS at the expense of battery life, but I'm starting to change my tune a bit. Wear OS has become incredibly frustrating for me because it requires me to reset my watch every time I need to use a different phone for a review, and whenever I reset it, it's a gamble what kind of experience I'll get. It may work flawlessly or it may have some weird bug that can only be fixed by resetting again. I appreciate how easy it is to pair the Huawei Band 6 (and other Huawei/Honor wearables) with a different phone without losing anything.
At first glance, the Huawei Band 6 doesn't seem to stand out that much from the device I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, but once you dive into it, there are a few advantages that make this easily a better device. The design overall is better and you get more color options to boot, it offers far more exercise modes if you need more advanced tracking, and it adds all-day SpO2 monitoring, which is completely new for a Huawei/Honor wearable. On top of that, heart rate monitoring just seems slightly more accurate here.
At €59.99 in most European markets, the official price of the Huawei Band 6 is €10 above that of its Honor equivalent, but I'd say the advantages it has easily justify the price increase if you're in the market for a somewhat affordable wearable. Feature-wise, there's no disadvantage for the Huawei version, and even if you're only looking for the basics right now, a small step up in price can help you future-proof yourself if you want to get more serious about fitness later.
You can buy the Huawei Band 6 from Huawei's website, though prices vary by country. In most European countries, it costs around €59, while others go up to €69.99. In the UK, it can be had for £59.99. You can also check out our review of the Honor Band 6 if you'd like to compare them,
LG posts highest quarterly revenue and profit ever in the first quarter
by João Carrasqueira
Like many other companies, LG has posted its earnings results for the first three months of calendar year 2021 this week, which in LG's case is also the first quarter of its fiscal year. Even though this is the quarter after the holiday season, LG managed to increase both its revenue and profit from the previous quarter, to 18.81 trillion won ($16.90 billion) and 1.52 trillion won ($1.36 billion), respectively. Not only is that an increase from the last quarter, but those are the highest quarterly results LG has ever posted.
As to what contributed to those numbers, the LG Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company continues to be its biggest division, posting 6.71 trillion won ($6.03 billion) in revenue, up 23.8% from the same period last year. Operating profit was 919.90 billion won ($826.39 million), which is 22.1% higher compared to last year.
The LG Home Entertainment Company - responsible for LG TVs and soundbars - was its second-biggest division, with 4.01 trillion won ($3.60 billion) in revenue and 403.80 billion won ($362.75 million) in operating profit. Those numbers are up 34.9% and 23.9%, respectively, from the previous year.
The last division to post a profit was the LG Business Solutions Company, which saw a 9.1% increase in revenue year-on-year to 1.86 trillion won ($1.67 billion). Profits, however, went down to 134 billion won ($120.38 million) due to increasing costs of LCD panels and semiconductors.
The LG Vehicle Component Solutions Company saw a whopping 43.5% increase in revenue from the past year, reaching 1.89 trillion won ($1.7 billion). The division still didn't turn a profit, however, and lost 700 million won ($629,000), though it did lower its losses.
And finally, we have the soon-to-be-defunct LG Mobile Communications Company. With LG preparing to shut down its mobile division - a move announced shortly after the fiscal quarter ended - it didn't release any new products in this time. It posted 998.70 billion won ($897.18 million) in revenue in this quarter, and operating loss dropped 28% to 280.10 billion won ($251.63 million) thanks to its decreased investment. LG says it will include profits and losses for its discontinued operations in its second-quarter results.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: A mobile powerhouse
by João Carrasqueira
Samsung introduced three new phones in its Galaxy S family this year, and if you've been following us, you probably already know that two of them are pretty great additions to its portfolio. So, of course, I was very interested to see what the company could deliver with its top-of-the-line offering, the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The S21 Ultra is not only the range-topper for this year, it's easily the most distinct of the three phones. It's the only one with a Quad HD display (which is also the most power-efficient of the family), it's the one with the biggest camera setup, the biggest battery, and most notably, the only one with support for the S Pen, a long-standing trademark of the Galaxy Note series. Indeed, using the S Pen on a Galaxy S phone would have been really cool, except Samsung didn't send me one. There are other things that are worth talking about, though.
Samsung sent me the base configuration for the S21 Ultra, with 12GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, but you can configure that up to 16GB and 512GB, respectively. As usual, it's the Exynos-powered model, and Samsung sent me the Phantom Black color.
CPU Exynos 2100 (Octa-core) - one Cortex-X1 at 2.9GHz, three Cortex-A78 at 2.8GHz, four Cortex-A55 at 2.2GHz GPU Mali-G78 MP14 Display 6.8 inches, 1440x3200, 515ppi, 10Hz-120Hz, Dynamic AMOLED 2X Body 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm (6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35in), 229g (8.08oz) (mmWave)/227g (8.01oz) (sub6) Camera 108MP main with nine-pixel binning + 12MP ultra-wide + 10MP telephoto (3x optical zoom) + 10MP periscope telephoto (10x optical zoom) + ToF sensor, Front - 40MP Video 8K - 24fps or 4K - 60fps, HDR10+, Front - 4K - 60fps Aperture f/1.8 + f/2.2 + f/2.4 + f/4.9, Front - F/2.2 Storage 128GB UFS 3.1; non-expandable RAM 12GB Battery 5,000mAh Connectivity Wi-FI 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, UWB Color Available at retailers: Phantom Black (as reviewed), Phantom White
Samsung.com exclusive: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, Phantom Brown
OS Android 11 with OneUI 3.1 Price €1,249-€1,279/$1,199 First impressions
Let's be realistic here: the way Samsung presented the Phantom Black model during its unveiling of the Galaxy S21 Ultra sounded absolutely bogus. Samsung called it its "boldest color yet", which is ridiculous considering it's black. However, I have to admit the color has won me over. It's an incredibly smooth-looking black, and so little light reflects off of it that it always looks uniform. The camera module seems to use a similar finish, so the whole phone ends up looking almost completely flat.
The glass on the back isn't like any other matte finish phone I've tried, either. It's so smooth to the touch that I sometimes find myself just gliding my finger across the back just for fun. The only part of it that stands out is the Samsung logo, which is etched to remove the haze effect and looks more glossy. Regardless, it's an extremely classy-looking phone.
Samsung seems to take pride in the huge camera bumps on the S21 Ultra series, and that stays true here. The four cameras (plus a time-of-flight sensor) make for a very thick protrusion. However, I think it's balanced out by the new Contour Cut design that Samsung is using across the entire line, where the camera module melts into the frame of the phone. I loved it on the standard Galaxy S21, and I love it here.
Looking around the sides of the phone, it's all pretty much business as usual. On the left side of the frame, there's nothing to be found save for a couple of antenna bands.
On the right, you'll find the power/Bixby button and the volume rocker, both of which feel nice and clicky, but not too harsh.
The top edge is also unexciting, featuring two microphone holes and another antenna band.
And the bottom edge houses most of what you'd expect to find on the frame - a bottom-firing speaker, a USB Type-C port, a SIM card slot, and another microphone.
Overall, if it's not obvious already, I love the look of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and I think a lot of that does come from the Phantom Black color. I haven't seen any of the other colors in person, but this is one is an easy recommendation.
Display and sound
On the front of the phone is, of course, the massive 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, only interrupted by the punch-hole cutout for the front-facing camera. You probably don't need me to tell you that Samsung makes great displays, but it holds true here. Colors are punchy with a very satisfying contrast, it gets very bright, and of course, it's super smooth thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate. There are phones with higher refresh rates now, but I'd say you probably won't notice much of a difference in day-to-day use. It's also the only phone in the Galaxy S21 family to have a Quad HD display, so if you feel you need the extra sharpness, this is the one for you.
As far as the quality of the screen goes, little more can be said, but one thing that's worth mentioning is that the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a wider range of adaptable refresh rates compared to its smaller siblings. It can go as low as 10Hz, so if you want to use an always-on display, the phone can save some battery by only refreshing the screen 10 times per second, while the other two can only go down to 48Hz. I would be remiss to ignore that phones such as the OnePlus 9 Pro go a bit further and can go as low as 1Hz, though.
Of course, you can also use the S Pen with this display, but it's not included in the box, and for some reason Samsung didn't think it was worth it to send it out to reviewers. It's a shame because it would have been one of the biggest distinctive elements of the Ultra, and you'd think Samsung would want to highlight that, but it seems that's not the case. Either way, you can buy the S Pen separately by itself or with a dedicated case, which gives you a storage space for it. I'd definitely recommend the latter option if you don't want to risk losing your S Pen within two days of buying it.
As for sound, the S21 Ultra offers a stereo pair of speakers, comprised of the bottom-firing unit and an amplified earpiece above the display, which you can barely see. Sound quality is great both from the speakers and the microphones based on my testing. The speakers get fairly loud and have a good range, but I do feel like it's outdone by some of its competitors in terms of volume. My OPPO Find X2 Pro seems to do a bit of a better job rising above surrounding noise, but that's not to say the S21 Ultra is really lacking in any way.
Just like with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Samsung went all-out with the numbers on the camera setup in this phone. On the back, four cameras plus a time-of-flight sensor make for a gigantic camera module, and it's probably one of the best combinations of sensor I've had the chance to try. The main sensor here is Samsung's latest 108MP sensor with nine-pixel binning, resulting in 12MP shots. You also get a 12MP ultra-wide camera, and my favorite part, two whole telephoto cameras, both with 10MP resolution, but one capable of 3x optical zoom and the other going up to 10x. Even the selfie camera is something else, with a 40MP sensor using quad-pixel binning and phase detection autofocus.
The most noticeable difference from its predecessor is the addition of the 3x optical zoom lens, and it's bigger than you may think at first. I've made it clear in the past that I love it when I can take out my phone and go from an ultra-wide shot all the way to a photo that looks to be very up-close to the subject even though I'm far away. I love periscope lenses for that very reason, but with a setup that only includes a periscope lens, you have a big range of zoom where the primary camera is still being used for digital zoom. With this 3x lens in-between, you can easily zoom into an object as much as you need to and get clear, sharp pictures at every level - until you start getting too close to the 100x digital zoom, that is.
Gallery: Galaxy S21 Ultra daytime samples
Now, that isn't to say that shots from this camera setup are perfect, but let's start with the positives. In daytime, the Galaxy S21 produces bright and vivid colors with sharp and detailed images across all of its cameras. I always love how sharp images are coming from Samsung cameras, as it makes each object pop, in my opinion. Even images from the selfie camera look super sharp, and Samsung phones consistently take some of the best pictures from the front-facing camera, in my experience.
The color balance isn't perfect across all four cameras, but it's not too noticeable and the image processing helps even things out. I do find that there's a tendency to oversaturate, and greens especially seem to suffer from a noticeable case of yellowing. That does help plants and trees pop a bit more, but it's definitely not a color-accurate representation of them a lot of the time.
Things get a bit iffier at night time, which really reveals the differences in the sensors used for each of the cameras. You can use night mode across all four of them, and the image processing there definitely helps. Without it, comparing the ultra-wide and main cameras, it's hard to believe it's even the same phone. Otherwise, though, I'd say night mode does a fairly good job at making night shots more visible and consistent across the cameras, and the overall results are solid, though not spectacular. You can see a full comparison between all the camera with and without night mode at the end of these samples:
Gallery: Galaxy S21 Ultra night time samples
As for video, you can record at up to 8K resolution and 24 frames per second from the main camera, 4K60fps from any of the others, including the front-facing camera. That isn't to say the quality is the same across all the cameras, though, and naturally, the main camera will offer the best quality in general.
Samsung also offers a ton of modes for both photos and videos. Single Take takes a series of photos over 10 seconds and saves the best ones, which might be useful for capturing the perfect moment when a subject is moving. You also have things like Pro video recording and Director's View, if you want a bit more flexibility with recording videos.
Performance and battery life
Performance is the most boring part of most reviews, especially when you review a lot of flagships, because all of them nowadays are expected to run nearly flawlessly. That applies to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, too, which comes with an Exynos 2100 chipset, 12GB of RAM, and 128GB of internal storage, all of which keep things running smooth as butter in day-to-day use. If you're in North America, you'll get the Snapdragon 888 chip instead, which is arguably even better, but Samsung did a pretty good job with the Exynos 2100 and it's a huge leap forward compared to last year's Exynos 990.
Looking at the benchmarks, the Galaxy S21 Ultra certainly holds its own. First off, there's AnTuTu, a general-purpose benchmark that measures almost every aspect of the experience:
Because AnTuTu got updated with an all-new scoring system recently, we can't compare this directly to a ton of past phones, but you can see that the S21 Ultra is trailing behind Snapdragon 888 devices like the OnePlus 9. Looking at each section, you can also tell that the biggest reason for that difference is the CPU and GPU, both integral parts of the chipset. If you're in the U.S., there's a good chance the score will be higher here, since that version also has a Snapdragon 888.
Moving on to GeekBench 5, which is a CPU-focused test:
My particular Galaxy S21 Ultra actually holds its own very well against Snapdragon 888 devices, though it does trail them slightly. GeekBench also apparently added a new feature recently that highlights the average scores for your device, so you can have a better idea of what to expect. I personally run benchmarks off of a fresh reboot, which might explain the above-average scores.
Finally, there's GFXBench, which is a very intensive test focused on the GPU:
These scores are also very much in line with what we've seen from other flagships, even Snapdragon-powered ones. It's nothing too surprising, but Exynos gets the job done pretty well this year.
Performance-wise, the biggest problem I've noticed with this phone is that the Wi-Fi reception is worse than most other flagship phones I review. I've seen worse, but the signal definitely gets blocked far more easily than other phones that command such a high price.
As for battery life, with a massive 5,000mAh, you can only expect it to be great, and it is, showing once again how much Exynos has improved over the last generation. It's always lasted me easily through a day, and usually it goes about a day and a half without charging for me. I always had the phone set to Quad HD+ resolution and adaptive refresh rate enabled, so you can get even more out of it if you leave it at Full HD+ or 60Hz (or both). In fact, the display resolution is set to Full HD+ out of the box, and frankly, you probably won't see a difference in image quality.
The big thing to note with the S21 Ultra is that it doesn't come with a charging brick, which makes fast charging a bit trickier. If the charger you have right now doesn't support the fastest charging speeds - which I don't - it can take well over an hour to charge this phone's battery. That's a downside of the "environmentally-friendly" approach that Samsung is taking with its phones' packaging. By the way, the phone does support wireless charging and reverse wireless charging.
On the software side, it's all the same as I explained in the Galaxy S21 review, so I won't repeat myself too much. It's running Android 11 with OneUI 3.1 on top, and it's pretty nice, even if the overflow of settings and apps can make it a bit hard to adapt to the phone at first. Samsung has some cool exclusive features like DeX, which lets you connect to an external screen and use your phone like a PC, and it also offers the best integration with the Windows 10 Your Phone app.
After what I considered to be a year of disappointing phones for Samsung in 2020, the company seems to have redeemed itself with its first flagships of 2021. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, much like its smaller siblings, is $200 cheaper than its predecessor, and it hardly makes any compromises to get there - of course, barring the removal of the charging brick in the box.
It has the same high-resolution, high-quality panel, the design is arguably way better than what we got with the S20 series, and the camera setup is just a wonderful combination of sensors that makes this a very versatile phone for taking all kinds of pictures. On top of that, non-American users can rejoice in the fact that Exynos processors are much better in terms of performance and battery life this year. As a bonus, you can even get an S Pen for this phone now, even if you have to pay extra to buy it separately.
It's not a perfect phone, and I found the below-average Wi-Fi reception to be especially disappointing considering it's still a phone that starts at $1,199, or €1,249 in Europe. There are also some inconsistencies between the rear cameras that are especially noticeable at night, and even though night mode helps alleviate them, it's certainly jarring when you see it for the first time.
All things considered, though, those are relatively small parts of the experience on what's otherwise a stellar phone. The asking price is nothing to brush off to the side, but you get a whole lot of phone for your money.
If you're interested, you can buy the U.S. version of the Galaxy S21 Ultra from Amazon, where it's currently going for $1,186.14 for the Phantom Black variant. Over in the UK, while official pricing starts at £1,149 with 128GB of storage, you can actually get the 256GB model for £1,114.79 in Phantom White as of the time of writing.
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By Namerah S
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: The perfect earbuds for business use
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
Anker-owned audio brand Soundcore unveiled the Liberty Air 2 Pro true wireless earbuds at a virtual event in mid-January. The earbuds are equipped with features like targeted ANC, numerous mics, and wireless charging. Taking the charging case into account, Soundcore states that the buds can provide up to 26 hours of playback.
Successors to the Liberty Air 2 and Liberty 2 Pro, the Liberty Air 2 Pro offers completely customizable audio. Users get the opportunity to personalize their earbuds to their own personal sound preferences through the companion app. Priced at $129.99, the earbuds are a good bargain on paper. Today's review will assess whether the touted specs translate well in real life.
Weight 2.4 ounces Dimensions 4.61 x 2.4 x 6.73 inches Design In-ear Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.0 | USB Type-C | Qi wireless charging Battery 5V, 55mAh per earbud, 500mAh charging case| Up to 7 hrs, 26 hrs with charging case Speaker 11mm PureNote drivers Frequency response 20Hz to 20,000Hz Codecs SBC, AAC Supported profiles AVRCP, A2DP, HFP Colour Crystal Pink Price $129.99 Design
Soundcore's Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds have a stylish design and come in four shades: Onyx Black, Titanium White, Sapphire Blue, and Crystal Pink. For this review, Anker sent me the Crystal Pink option which has a lovely rose gold colouring. The case and buds are made of similar material, they are very smooth and feel nice to the touch.
I quite like the way the lid of the case opens, it slides upwards instead of swivelling open. Each earbud has touch panels on the top, where the small brand logo is located. The touch controls on them are pretty standard but can be changed completely with the companion mobile app. Soundcore really focused on customizability with this product and I'm very happy with that. However, I did find that the panels were not as responsive as some of the other earbuds that I've used.
The charging case has three LED lights to indicate the battery status of the earbuds on one side. There is also a power button on the opposite side, next to the USB Type-C charging port. The case supports Qi wireless charging which adds functionality.
There are nine ear tip sizes included in the box which is pretty generous. Users can choose between XXXS, XXS, XS, S, M, M+, L, L+ and XL size variants. Changing the ear tips to match your preference is very important as it can transform your entire user experience, especially for truly wireless earbuds.
Unfortunately, no matter what size ear tips you choose, the wear experience with the Soundcore buds is very unpleasant. The shape of the earbuds' heads was very uncomfortable after a while and I had to remove them periodically to relieve my ears. It was almost like having strange bulbous hooks lodged into my ears.
If the ear tips aren't changed, users may have issues with the earbuds falling out or being too tight. In my case, both issues occurred. When I didn't push them is in as much as they're supposed to go, they fell out. But when I pushed them further in, the buds were quite painful. I think it depends on the size of your ears so for the sake of completion I had my husband use the Liberty Air 2 Pro as well. He has large ears and most earphones tend to fall out. In his case, they fell off a couple of times even with the correct ear tip size but when he pushed them deeper to make them stay put, it hurt.
The problem lies with the design of the heads of the buds I would say. They are quite chunky and don't sit nicely when worn. People who feel uncomfortable wearing such audio devices usually don't push them in as much as it is painful, therefore they fall out. Either way, the experience is pretty bad and not suitable for long-term use.
The Liberty Air 2 Pro has targeted active noise cancellation, 6 microphones, HearID for personalized sound, and a companion app that lets you customize almost everything. There are several presets for users to choose from in the app. These presets allow them to let certain sounds pass through, such as voices, or no sound at all.
Along with targeted ANC, the multitude of mics make the experience of online meetings and conference calls much better than usual. I did not have to worry about stray background noises such as my cats meowing or the loud whirring of the ceiling fan. The Liberty Air 2 Pro made for an excellent work-from-home companion.
Aside from office use, the Soundcore true wireless earbuds were pretty average. Don't get me wrong, the sound quality is pretty decent. Highs and lows sound good, and bass is okay. The audio quality is like a staple food that does the job, like rice. It isn't bad and you can mess around with the different equalizer and HearID settings to alter it to your liking, but it just doesn't excel.
On paper, the wireless audio device has a 500mAh battery which supposedly lasts for up to 26 hours overall. Soundcore claims that the earbuds and the case altogether can be charged back up to full power in two hours.
In my testing period, the Liberty Air 2 Pro lasted for five days with moderate usage. This included attending several long calls and meetings each day, a few hours of music, watching a whole two-hour movie, and consumption of other audio-visual media. I was satisfied with the battery life as this matched the audio brand's claims more or less.
Once completely drained of power, the entire charging case inclusive of the dead earbuds took me a few minutes shy of two hours to charge. In terms of charge time, I found that the Liberty Air 2 Pro to be consistent with its spec sheet.
On its website, Soundcore recommends the Liberty Air 2 Pro for 'commute, travel, workout and business calls'. After weeks of usage, I think these earbuds fit the official description to a T. They're great for calls and virtual meetings where crystal clear audio is nearly essential.
Outside of a professional work setting, the earbuds get the job done in a neat and tidy manner. But for me, I think the Liberty Air 2 Pro lack pizzazz. There's nothing spectacular about the audio quality, it's best described as just plain decent.
For an asking price of $129.99, I think the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro provide good value for money. Users can expect a nice and simple experience with plenty of options to tailor the sound quality to their liking. It won't blow anyone's socks off, but it will not disappoint either.
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