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By Usama Jawad96
Discuss: Who is your favorite video game protagonist?
by Usama Jawad
One of the most important aspects of narrative-based games is the characters in it. And when it comes to characters, there is perhaps nothing more crucial than making the protagonist likable to the general audience. While some companies have been able to perfect this ingredient in their games, many others have failed.
When designing a protagonist, it is not necessary for them to be a knight in shining armor. On the contrary, the general public tends to gravitate towards anti-heroes who usually harbor dark secrets or characteristics because such characters are typically more realistic. The world can't be simply divided into black and white which is why the traditional "hero" who can do no wrong is something that most companies avoid creating - except perhaps maybe Halo's Master Chief.
This is why making an appealing protagonist requires a great deal of nuance and finesse. And it's one of the reasons why you don't see memorable characters like Assassin's Creed's Ezio Auditore, God of War's Kratos, The Witcher's Geralt, and Uncharted's Nathan Drake pop up every second day. To skip this dilemma entirely, some games like Far Cry 5, Doom, Half-Life, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim opt for mute protagonists where you either shape your protagonist yourself via branching narratives or run around as a killing machine in a linear storyline. It's relatively easier to hold the player responsible for their actions than to give them a pre-configured character who they might not like.
As such, we would like to know: Who's your favorite video game protagonist and why? Let us know in the comments section below!
By Rich Woods
Huawei Mate 40 Pro review: Another amazing camera
by Rich Woods
Huawei's Mate 40 Pro is yet another lovely device from the Shenzhen company. It has an inspired design, a beautiful 90Hz display, and one of the best cameras around. One thing it doesn't have is a surprise.
Last year's Mate 30 series was the one that ditched Google Play Services, so we've covered that. The P40 series was the one that got the big camera improvements, as the P-series does every year, so we've covered that too. Now, it's mostly about a new chipset and a refined design.
The sad part is that I couldn't run benchmarks on the new chipset. No really, I wasn't able to install any benchmarking app from any source. I couldn't even get AnTuTu from Huawei's own AppGallery. Everything said there was a parsing error.
CPU Huawei Kirin 9000, single 3.13GHz Cortex-A77, triple 2.54GHz Cortex-A77, quad 2.05GHz Cortex-A55 GPU 24-core Mali-G78 NPU Dual Big Core + Tiny Core NPUs Body 162.9x75.5x9.1mm, 212g Display 6.76 inches, 2772x1344, 90Hz, OLED, 456ppi Memory 8GB RAM + 256GB ROM Camera 50MP f/1.9 + 20MP f/1.8 Cine (ultra-wide) + 12MP f/3.4 5x Telephoto, Front - 13MP f/2.4 Video 4K - 60fps, Front - 4K - 60fps Battery 4400mAh, 66W SuperCharge, 50W Wireless SuperCharge Water resistance IP68 5G bands n1/n3/n5/n7/n8/n28/n38/n40/n41/n77/n78/n79/n80/n84 OS EMUI 11 (based on Android 10) Colors Mystic Silver, White, Black, Olive Green, Sunflower Yellow Price Starts at €1,199
For a few years now, Huawei has been innovating in design. In my opinion, it's been making some of the prettiest phones on the market. It started with the P20 Pro in 2018, which has a unique gradient color called Twilight. Since then, the company has been experimenting with all kinds of unique designs, from gradient colors to different finishes, to even different materials.
The Mate 40 Pro comes in glass, or you can get it in vegan leather. The glass one comes in Mystic Silver, White, and Black, while Vegan Leather comes in Olive Green and Sunflower Yellow. Huawei sent me the Black one, although as I said in my P40 Pro review, the Black still looks really cool. It seems to almost have a mirrored surface that I'd compare to hematite.
Last year's Mate 30 Pro introduced the circular camera housing, which was beautiful with its metallic border. This year, it's evolving a bit. This year, the border is the camera housing, with the interior showing off the Leica branding. Personally, I always think a circular camera is a nice touch because so few companies do it. It's a welcome departure from the rectangular camera with rounded corners that we've seen from everyone else, including Huawei with the P40 series.
On the bottom is the USB Type-C port for charging, just like with seemingly every one. There's also a nano-SIM card slot. It also supports expansion with Huawei's NM cards, which are the size and shape of a nano-SIM.
Sadly, this year heralds the return of the volume rocker, which you'll find on the right side of the device along with the power button. You might recall that the Mate 30 Pro actually didn't have a power button; instead, the user would double-tap on the side of the screen to activate a volume slider. The natural downside to this was that it didn't work when the screen was asleep.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is a lovely device that will get noticed, and if that's what you're going for, then look no further. In fact, the round camera housing is always a nice touch, because it's a way to make the device look stylish when it even has a case on it.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro has a 6.76-inch 2772x1344 display, which Huawei is calling FHD+ for some reason. It's actually closer to QHD+, but since it's not quite there, I suppose it still qualifies as FHD. The screen is another one of Huawei's beautiful OLED displays, and it has a 90Hz refresh rate.
The curves on the screen are only on the left and right sides, and they're not as pronounced as they were on the Mate 30 Pro. The Mate 30 Pro has full-on waterfall edges, although the Mate 40 Pro still has the effect of appearing to have no bezel, with the screen just fading away at the sides. Note that the P40 Pro had curves on all sides of the screen; this device is flat on the top and bottom.
The screen has a hole-punch cut-out for the 13MP front facing camera, and it also has a 3D Depth Sensing Camera. Yes, you can keep that in mind the next time that you hear that Apple's massive notch is necessary.
The 90Hz refresh rate makes for a smooth experience, which is always nice. I'd just like to have seen a 120Hz refresh rate like OnePlus and Samsung are offering. Huawei would point out that the higher refresh rate would chew up additional battery life, and you won't notice as much of a difference between 90Hz and 120Hz as you would between 60Hz and 90Hz.
The main sensor on the Mate 40 Pro is a 50MP RYYB sensor, just like you'll find on the P40 Pro. If you're unfamiliar with RYYB, it's something that Huawei started using with the P30 series. It removed green subpixels and replaced them with yellow, finding that that allowed in 40% more light. In fact, it's safe to say that these phones can see better than your actual eyes can at night.
Along with that, there's a 20MP ultra-wide sensor and a 12MP 5x zoom lens. That makes for some serious lossless zoom, something that Huawei has definitely been focusing on over the last few years.
It has the modes that we're used to, such as portrait and aperture, the latter of which is like a portrait mode for objects. There's also night mode, which I don't even use anymore because the main sensor is just so good. Huawei was actually the first to do night mode, before Google ever shipped Night Sight in Pixels.
Gallery: Huawei Mate 40 Pro samples
The last phone that I reviewed was the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and while these both have amazing cameras, they're both very different. Apple doesn't really focus on lossless zoom in any meaningful way. It offers a 2.5x zoom lens, but that's it. Huawei has a 5x zoom lens, plus a high-resolution main sensor.
The way that digital zoom works is that it just sort of crops the image. If you have a 40MP image and zoom it 2x, you now have a 20MP image. High-resolution images work for that because even a 4K display is just 8.3MP, and a FHD display is just 2.1MP.
A telephoto lens on a smartphone works by just making a lens that's still high-resolution, but can see less. This can run into trouble at night with smaller apertures and smaller pixels. But combine a good telephoto lens with the high-resolution main sensor that's needed for lossless digital zoom, and you can do some solid hybrid zoom.
I took those pictures in a variety of lighting conditions, and they all came out pretty good. It goes from pitch black near the woods to indoors at night with dim lighting to daylight. It's impressive.
Performance, battery life, and Huawei services
Huawei's Mate 40 Pro includes the first 5nm 5G chipset. Apple's A14 Bionic is actually the first 5nm chipset, but unlike its competitors, Apple doesn't have a cellular modem to integrate into it. Sadly, as I pointed out in the beginning of this review, I wasn't able to run any benchmarks on it.
I tried installing the suite of AnTuTu apps from the Huawei AppGallery, but they say that those apps don't support Android 10. This is, of course, untrue, as I've ran AnTuTu on plenty of Android 10 devices. I used Petal Search to try and get Geekbench and GFXBench, but no luck there either. They didn't even come over through Phone Clone when I set up my apps.
Performance with the Kirin 9000 is fine, as it is with all flagship chipsets. It's just frustrating that benchmarks are blocked.
Obviously, there are still no Google services on Huawei devices, at least for now. That means that for most of the apps that you want to use, you need to find workarounds, which Huawei is pretty dedicated to helping you find. First of all, Phone Clone brings everything over from your old phone except for Google apps. That makes things nice and easy.
If you need more apps, you can check AppGallery, but Huawei also has something called Petal Search. Petal Search checks trusted APK sites (it is definitely not perfect) and finds the app you're looking for. It even downloads and installs it for you. Unfortunately, it will not keep it updated for you.
Living life without Google isn't very hard, at least in my experience. Obviously, I'm more of a Microsoft guy anyway, and Microsoft's apps are pretty standalone. For notes, I use OneNote, for cloud storage I use OneDrive, and so on. If you're glued to using Google, then you should already know that this isn't the phone for you.
Battery life on the Mate 40 Pro is excellent, and I had no trouble getting through the day. The 4,400mAh battery gets the job done, but even if it doesn't, Huawei fast charging is just out of control. This thing supports 66W wired charging and 50W wireless charging. Even with the old 40W wired charging and 27W wireless charging, I was happy. At this point, you can get a lot of juice on just a little time charging.
Once again, Huawei has produced a winner in the Mate 40 Pro. However, it's a rare time that it doesn't have a key feature that would have me tell you to upgrade from its predecessor. The 90Hz display is new compared to the Mate 30 Pro, but the Mate 30 Pro had those beautiful waterfall edges. And besides, I'd like to see a 120Hz refresh rate in something this premium.
It's also a real shame that benchmarking apps were blocked. One of the key features of the Mate 40 Pro, or any Mate series device for that matter, is that it has the latest Kirin processor and we get to see how it measures up against what Apple and Qualcomm have to offer. Sadly, we don't get to see how it measures up this time. Obviously, Google services would offer an easier experience, although that's not a deal-breaker for me.
But overall, like I said, it's a winner. Benchmarking apps aren't what make a phone great. This thing has a beautiful 90Hz OLED display, even if I want 120Hz. It's also got a unique and bold design, something that Huawei is second to none at providing. And finally, it's got one of the best cameras on the market.
If you want to check it out, you can find it here.
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By Usama Jawad96
How to refund games on Steam
by Usama Jawad
Holiday sales across gaming platforms on PC and consoles are in full swing and many gamers are using their savings to capitalize on this by buying their favorite titles at discounted prices. While you would hope that once you purchase a game, you can quickly download it, fire it up, and play it without any issues, but sometimes things can go a bit awry.
The game might not be in a playable state, have too many bugs, or simply might not be as fun as you expected it to be. There's also the chance that when buying dozens of games during the sale, you skimmed over the technical requirements section and didn't notice that your rig isn't powerful enough to run the game optimally. In cases like these, the easiest way out is to quickly get a refund. In this piece, I will walk you through the refund process on Steam.
Step 1: Navigate the Steam client
Valve's own FAQ for the refund process requires you to login to their support webpage but quite frankly, I find that method cumbersome. Why not use the Steam client itself when you have it installed on your PC? Of course, if you don't have it installed, then it's understandable to visit the website. However, for the purpose of this article, I will assume that you do have it installed to make the process more streamlined.
Now that you have fired up the Steam client, find the game you want to refund in the left panel and click on it. This will open a dedicated section for the problematic game on your screen. Click the "Support" button on the main options bar for the title. This will take you to a new support page and the second step of this process.
Step 2: Filling in the details
On the Support page, the Steam client will show you a list of options that you can choose from to indicate what kind of problem you are having with the game in question, as shown above. With respect to requesting refunds, only the following options are valid:
It's now available cheaper Gameplay or technical issue It's not what I expected For other options, Steam informs you that it can't help out and requests you to get in touch with relevant parties such as key sellers and developers.
Clicking on any of the three valid options mentioned earlier takes you to a submenu asking you further questions. For the purpose of this guide, I clicked on "Gameplay or technical issue", which took me to the submenu shown above. Here I clicked on "The game runs poorly".
This took to me to another page providing me a couple of options as can be seen above. Depending upon the prior options you selected, you might see different alternatives on this page. Here, Valve typically recommends you some options to resolve problems with your game such as getting in touch with the game's developer. However, you can choose to forego all the other options and directly click on "I'd like to request a refund".
Step 3: Requesting a refund
Selecting "I'd like to request a refund" will take you to the final page which will require input from your side. Knowing the details of this step is important. Valve typically issues refunds only for games that have less than two hours of playtime and have been purchased less than 14 days ago. If you do not fulfill these qualifications, Valve may still offer you a refund, but the chances of that happening are very slim. Personally, I have tried this a couple of times with detailed reasoning, but Valve has never issued a refund to me on games that have more than two hours of play time or were purchased more than 14 days ago.
Speaking of "detailed reasoning", the "Notes" section is where you can fill that in. However, I've found that a one-line explainer like "it's not that good" works as well. Furthermore, you can choose where the refund amount will go: it can either go to the original payment method or your Steam Wallet. If you plan to spend it on Steam again, I highly recommend going for the second option since it doesn't involve other parties and is much quicker.
Furthermore, another thing to remember is that games you got via promotional keys - such as those offered by the developer - cannot be refunded. The refund amount depends upon the price you purchased a title at, not it's current value. Lastly, you can refund games that you received as a gift but the monetary value will be returned to the person who gifted you those titles, not to your account. If you're fine with all of these things, click on "Submit request".
Step 4: The wait
Now all you have to do is wait for Valve to approve your refund request. Provided that you fulfill all of their requirements related to playtime and ownership, refunds are usually granted by the company. In my case, I've noticed that these requests are generally approved within a couple of hours.
Valve says that it may take up to seven days for funds to appear on your account, but for Steam Wallet funds, it only takes a couple of days at maximum in my personal experience. For international payment methods which involve your bank, this process may take more than seven days. In case it does, Valve recommends that you reach out to your bank and inquire details from them.
Provided that everything goes smoothly, your refund request will be approved and completed within a couple of days. However, if for someone reason, your request gets declined and you want to contest that decision, Valve suggests that you issue a new request so another agent can have a look at it.
Last but not the least, Valve does not limit the number of refund requests you make but if it thinks that you're abusing the option, it may place restrictions on your account. In my case, I once bought nearly 15 games and then had a few of them refunded as I played them one by one and realized that I didn't enjoy all of them. At that time, Valve did caution me via email to use the refund option carefully based on the high number of requests coming from my account.
With that said, use this option wisely and happy gaming!
By Abhay V
PC Build Guide: Budget gaming for around $1,000
by Abhay Venkatesh
With the holiday season now here, various e-commerce and retail shops are offering a bunch of discounts on electronics. While this makes it the best time to purchase gifts for loved ones, it also makes it the best time to configure and build a custom PC for yourself if you are looking to upgrade your aging machine or want to enhance your gaming experience with better specs.
And for those users that are willing to build a custom gaming rig but on a budget, we’ve put together a guide to help you through what components might be the best and where to find it at a discount. It must be noted, however, that discounts change constantly, and components could run out of stock at any time. Additionally, the guide lists the component just for a budget PC and does not include peripherals such gaming keyboard and mouse, and a gaming monitor.
The aim is to build a PC for around $1000 powered by an AMD processor, considering the advantages of better price to performance at a budget and the upgradability. Here are our recommendations:
Motherboard: GIGABYTE B550 AORUS PRO AC
Image credit: Amazon For the motherboard, we suggest going for the B550 AORUS PRO option. While there are a few B450 motherboards that could be had for less, this board provides the flexibility to easily upgrade to a new chip in the future – like the Zen3-based Ryzen 5000 series chips – without the fear of being locked out of PCIe 4.0 on older boards.
Other benefits include support for dual-band Wifi, 2.5G LAN, USB 3.2 Gen2 ports – including one Type-C port, and support for RGB Fusion 2.0. The board also comes with dual M.2 slots.
You can find the AORUS B550 Pro motherboard on Amazon here for $169.
Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT
Image credit: AMD While the Ryzen 5 3600XT is not from the latest batch of Zen3 line up of chips, it was unveiled only earlier this year and offers slightly higher boost clock speeds than the Ryzen 5 3600. Considering that the successor to this chip could be at least a few months away, and the Ryzen 5000 series more expensive and harder to find, the 3600XT offers a great middle-ground for a budget gaming experience.
As for specifications, the chip comes with six cores and 12 threads at a 95W TDP – higher than the 65W TDP of the Ryzen 5 3600. Of course, the processor can be overclocked depending on users’ needs. It also offers a 35MB “GameCache” with support for up to 3200Mhz memory.
You can find the AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT on Amazon here for $264.
Alternatively, a more affordable offering would be the Ryzen 3 3100, a four-core, eight-thread CPU that brings with it lower clocks, while not sacrificing the flexibility of overclocking. The chip supports PCIe Gen 4 on B550 motherboards.
The Ryzen 3 3100 can be found on Amazon here for about $185. However, at the time of writing, Best Buy has it listed for as low as $99, which is a stellar deal.
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB)
Image credit: Corsair The two Corsair 8GB modules bring the benefits of dual-channel memory and a high 3200Mhz speed that can be leveraged by AMD processors. The CL16 kit, however, does not come with RGB goodness, so if you’re looking to add some bling, you might want to opt for the slightly more expensive RGB Pro version, found here on Amazon.
You can find the Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB RAM on Amazon here for $63.99.
Storage: Samsung 970 EVO NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD
Image credit: Samsung The Samsung 970 EVO M.2 SSD promises excellent read and write speeds of 3,500MB/s and 2,500MB/s, respectively, and is currently discounted by $40 to $59, pricing it close to the Crucial P2 M.2 SSD that serves as a budget option with lower speeds. 500 gigs should be a good place to start on a budget. Since the AORUS B550 motherboard features two M.2 slots, upgrading later should not be a problem.
For those that store a lot of data or play many games, a secondary storage option like the Samsung 860 EVO 2.5-inch internal SSD – which tends to retail lower than an M.2 NVMe SSD – will be handy.
You can find the 500GB Samsung 970 EVO NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD on Amazon here for $59.99.
Alternatively, if the promos on the Samsung SSD run out, you can find the 500GB Crucial P2 M.2 NVMe SSD on Amazon here for $50.99.
GPU: EVGA RTX 2060 KO ULTRA (6GB DDR6)
Image credit: Best Buy The GPU is one area where shelling out a bit more makes a difference when it comes to gaming. While there are a lot of lower-tier options like ASUS’ GTX 1660 Super, or even similarly priced RX 5600 XT offering from Gigabyte, the Turing-based RTX 2060 offering brings ray tracing and DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling), slightly enhancing the overall gaming experience.
You can find the EVGA - KO ULTRA RTX 2060 GPU on Best Buy here for $329.99.
Alternatively, if you wish to save close to $100 and go for a lower-tier GPU, you can opt for the GTX 1660 Super OC from ASUS on Best Buy here for $229.99.
Power supply: Corsair CX650 (650W)
Image credit: Amazon As the name suggests, the Corsair CX650 is a 650W PSU that is 80+ bronze certified, which should be more than sufficient to power the custom build, even if configured with the RTX 2060. The component is the non-modular type but comes with black cable sleeves for better aesthetics.
You can find the Corsair CX650 80+ Bronze on Amazon here for $79.99.
PC cabinet: Cooler Master MasterBox MB511 ARGB ATX Mid-Tower
Image credit: Cooler Master A gaming PC cannot go without RGB lighting and some bling. Cooler Master’s offering brings an open mesh design in the front that supports most fan sizes. The cabinet also comes with three ARGB 120mm fans, a controller, and allows for up to three 120mm fans or two 140mm fans on the top. A tempered glass side panel allows a complete view of the internals for when you would want to add more RGB components inside the PC.
You can find the Cooler Master MasterBox MB511 ARGB ATX Mid-Tower on Amazon here for $76.49.
Alternatively, those who want to go for a more traditional, subdued PC cabinet without an open design can opt for the Corsair Carbide Series 175R Mid-Tower case here on Amazon for a price of $74.99.
And that should do it for the components needed to build a gaming PC for around a thousand bucks.
Total cost: $1,043.45
Of course, if your budget allows you to splurge on any of the components, you could opt for higher specs in the processor, RAM, or GPU space. However, considering that many of the offerings are seeing discounts this week thanks to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, it is best to act fast if you have an upgrade on the cards.
Image credit: Amazon Lastly, though this is not part of the recommendation list for the sub-$1000 build, there is one good deal on gaming monitors for those of you interested. The 24-inch FullHD AOC 24G2 IPS gaming monitor is currently being offered for $237.49 on Amazon. The monitor is a great choice for 1080p gaming thanks to its 144Hz refresh rate, AMD FreeSync (G-SYNC works but non validated) support, and 1ms response time.
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Samsung Galaxy Watch3 review: Stellar hardware, but I don't love Tizen
by João Carrasqueira
Samsung's summer Unpacked event brought with it quite a few new devices, including the Galaxy Note20 Ultra - which I just reviewed earlier this week - and the Galaxy Watch3. Samsung actually hadn't released a new standard Galaxy Watch since 2018, and in 2019 we only got the Galaxy Watch Active2.
The biggest difference between the standard Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch Active is that the latter is more so designed for a sportier lifestyle, while the former has more of a business look to it. Samsung's smartwatches are often seen as some of the best options available for Android smartphones, so I was excited to try out the Galaxy Watch3.
The most notable features added with this model are blood pressure monitoring and electrocardiograms (ECG), but these are only available in select markets, and that doesn't include Portugal - where I live. There are also things like blood oxygen monitoring and fall detection, and those do work regardless of region.
Chipset Exynos 9110 (dual-core 1.15GHz) Case 45mm x 46.11mm x 11.1mm, 53.8g, stainless steel case Display 1.4-inch Circular Super AMOLED, 360x360, Gorilla Glass DX Battery 340mAh
RAM 1GB Storage 8GB Strap 22mm, black leather Connectivity Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Durability Water resistance up to 5ATM, IP68, MIL-STD-810G OS Tizen-based Wearable OS 5.5; OneUI Watch 2.0 Price $429.99/€447-€469.90/£419 Day one
Design and display
The Galaxy Watch3 is 14% thinner, 8% smaller, and 15% lighter than the previous generation of the Galaxy Watch, and I'm glad that's the case. Even with those reductions, the Galaxy Watch3 is significantly thicker than the OPPO Watch I reviewed in the summer, and I'd say that's a noticeable difference. It's not necessarily uncomfortable, though, and there are definitely bigger watches out there.
Out of the box, my review unit came with a black leather strap, but I exercise with my smartwatches, and I couldn't bear the guilt of ruining the leather with sweat, so I ended up buying a cheap rubber strap at a local watch seller. That's the big advantage of watches that use standard strap fittings, you can easily find a replacement strap and you're not stuck in an ecosystem of potentially more expensive straps.
Easily the thing that makes this watch stand out the most is the design of the case, particularly the bezel. Samsung uses a rotating bezel on its watches, which serves as a navigation method, and it's just so good. The precision of the clicks as you rotate the bezel make navigation feel natural, which is helped by the UI Samsung uses, and you don't have to smudge up your screen to do it. This is my favorite thing about this watch, it's just so cool to use this bezel and it has a premium feeling to it that's just great. I generally prefer rectangular displays, but this is the right way to do a circular one.
The right side of the watch has two buttons - one to go back and one to go to the home screen. You can also hold the Home button to summon Bixby, or double-press it to see your recent apps. Between the two buttons is a microphone which you'll use when taking calls.
On the left side, there's a tiny speaker grill, which you might think results in less than stellar sound, but it works just fine for calls, I had no issues whatsoever. The watch also has a feature to eject water out of the speaker if you take it swimming or something, which is cool.
On the back, you'll notice that there are no charging pins, and that's because the watch charges wirelessly, a very welcome addition for anyone who's had chargers malfunction because of sweat building up in the connectors. You can charge the watch off the back of the Galaxy Note20 Ultra too, though I explained in that review why that might not be a good idea.
The main attraction is, of course, the display, and as you'd expect from Samsung, it's pretty great. The 45mm variant of the Galaxy Watch3 has a 1.4-inch Super AMOLED display, though there's a 41mm variant with a 1.2-inch display. Both have the same resolution, so the pixel density is actually a bit higher on the smaller model. Like all AMOLED displays, blacks are truly black and colors look vibrant, everything is great here. The watch supports automatic brightness, so there's never any issues when I'm outside or anything. There's also an option for an always-on display, but I personally don't care about it.
Tizen and its problems
Like most of Samsung's smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch3 runs on Tizen, Samsung's own operating system designed primarily for wearables. What I hear most often is that people prefer Tizen over Google's Wear OS, but I have to be controversial here and say I prefer Google's offering.
Tizen has a lot of great things to it, though. The amount of options for watch faces on this watch is incredible, and not only were there some faces I really like out of the box, there are even more great ones you can get from the Galaxy Store. I love informational and colorful watch faces, and I could find a few without too much trouble.
Gallery: Galaxy Watch3 screenshots
Samsung has also made it very intuitive to navigate the UI with its rotating bezel, making everything work together perfectly. You rotate the bezel to the left to see your notifications, or to the right to go through your widgets, which can be for weather, exercise shortcuts, sleep information, and more. Opening the app menu, you also see the circular layout for how apps are presented, and this too feels natural with the rotating bezel of the Galaxy Watch3. Every time I get to use that bezel, using this watch is a joy.
Tizen offers some smart features I appreciate, like music playback controls (from your phone or the watch itself), and the ability to respond to notifications from the watch. I don't love the typing experience on the Galaxy Watch3, but it's nice to be able to do it if I want to, and not every smartwatch has that option. It also works especially well with Samsung phones, since apps like Reminder sync between the two devices, and you get access to Bixby just like on your phone. In fact, I'd say Bixby on Tizen works better than Google Assistant on Wear OS, in my experience.
Samsung also has its own Health app, which is responsible for tracking workouts, monitoring your heart rate, stress levels, blood oxygen, and so on. Exercise tracking is pretty good here, with detailed insights into your performance and all the information I could want. There's also a running coach exercise option, which lets you set a specific level of exercise and guides you to achieve it, including the ability to detect asymmetry in your running patterns. On top of that, Samsung provides a ton of health tracking features, like stress monitoring, blood oxygen measurements, fall detection, and, in some markets, blood pressure monitoring and ECG.
But there are some things about Tizen that just don't feel right to me for multiple reasons. Let's start with Samsung Health. Yes, it can track plenty of workouts, but one thing I was used to tracking with Google Fit or Huawei's LiteOS was my time playing Ring Fit Adventure. Since this goes over plenty of exercise types, I usually began tracking it as CrossFit, which both of those systems offer as an option. Tizen doesn't, and the only way I could track that kind of exercise would be if it individually recognized each type of workout, and even then I'd have to be switching between workout types constantly. There's also no high-intensity interval training (HIIT) option.
Another thing Samsung Health does is automatically track workouts, something I first experienced on the Honor Watch GS Pro. It's usually a cool feature, but here, not only does it sometimes detect workouts when I'm not doing anything, automatic workouts don't work like regular workouts. Once the watch starts detecting a workout, you can't pause or cancel it yourself like you would with a workout you start manually. At that point, I'd rather just disable automatic workouts. Also, as you'll see in the screenshot below, some of these workouts were recorded in the future.
But it gets even more annoying. Like most watches, this can track your heart rate, and like the aforementioned Honor Watch GS Pro, it can monitor your stress levels. Cool, right? Except that, out of the box, the watch measures your heart rate every 10 minutes, and for some reason, that doesn't allow it to measure your stress level automatically. To do that, you have to measure your heart rate continuously, which kills the battery in less than a day. You either have to constantly charge the watch or be limited to monitoring your stress levels manually. Coming from the no-frills stress monitoring of Honor watches, this just feels pointless.
There's also sleep tracking here, which is cool since not every Wear OS watch offers it, and it's more detailed than what I tried with the OPPO Watch. But for some reason, I've had multiple instances where the watch asks me to confirm if I slept at the times it thinks I did, which was odd. But not as odd as the fact that it just didn't record any sleep at all over the weekend, even though I always wear the watch to sleep. There's no clear indication as to why this happens.
Outside of Samsung Health, there are more things that bother me. One thing I've noticed is that sometimes the raise-to-wake gesture just stops working for no apparent reason. Disabling and re-enabling the gesture in the settings fixes it, so I don't think it's a hardware problem.
I had also hoped that connecting all-Samsung devices would enable some useful features, specifically using my Galaxy Buds Live to start a workout on my watch through the Galaxy Note20 Ultra. It doesn't work, and Bixby says that's due to privacy reasons, so maybe I can't blame that on Samsung. Also, as I mentioned above, Samsung Reminder can sync with your Samsung phone. But as I mentioned in my review of the Note20 Ultra, creating a reminder with the phone syncs it with Microsoft To-Do. If you use the Galaxy Watch3, it will sync to your phone, but not to Microsoft's service.
It's also worth mentioning that yes, connecting to a Samsung phone is required to enable Samsung Messages, which gives you the most complete SMS experience on your watch. But in reality, this just makes me feel like using a Wear OS watch would be much less limiting, since I can get a proper SMS experience on most Android phones. Samsung also says that you can see photos and emoji directly on the watch when using a Samsung phone, but using Telegram for instance, I could see images in my notifications when I connected the Honor 10X Lite. Weirdly enough, that doesn't work the same way when connected to the Galaxy Note20 Ultra.
This may not be the fault of Samsung necessarily, but I'll just lay out all my frustrations with this watch. I was really happy to see that my preferred maps app, HERE WeGo, is available on Tizen, and when I set it up, I got this notification on my phone saying that the apps were linked between the two devices. But when I actually tried to use it a few days later, I couldn't get the connection to happen again, and the watch told me that using navigation without connecting to my phone would use more battery. But the watch was connected to the phone, the app just wasn't recognizing it anymore, and there's no way to force it to connect between devices.
You may say that some of these things also can't be done on Wear OS, but I personally prefer it because it knows its limits. The OPPO Watch can only track sleep between 8PM and 10AM, so when I go to sleep at 5AM on the weekend, I know why the watch says I only slept 5 hours that night. On the Galaxy Watch3, I have no idea why no sleep was recorded at all. At the end of the day, these quirks just made me not enjoy using the watch, and it's heavily impacted my perception of it, even when it has some solid qualities.
Performance and battery life
Battery life on the Galaxy Watch3 is one of its notable upsides compared to Wear OS. Even with a relatively small 340mAh battery, the watch always lasts me two days comfortably, sometimes three days. That's not incredibly long, but it's much better than my experience with Wear OS, which only lasts me one day. Of course, that figure doesn't include using an always-on display and is based on heart rate monitoring once every 10 minutes instead of continuously. And because there's no great way to track CrossFit-like training, it's also not tracking exercise as often as other watches I've tried.
Like I mentioned at the start, the watch charges wirelessly, which is great, though it doesn't charge as quickly as I'd like. Placing it on the charger at around 10% battery means I'll be waiting almost two hours for it to charge completely, which is a bit longer than I'd like.
In terms of performance, there isn't much to say with smartwatches. For the most part, it works just fine, though I do find it a little strange that sometimes I'll raise my wrist and it takes a couple of seconds for the time to update from the last time I looked at the watch. Sometimes the watch will be quite a few minutes behind for a brief moment. It can also happen that some animations are laggy immediately after waking the watch, but that's not exclusive to this particular device.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 has some great qualities. The premium design is great and I absolutely adore the rotating bezel, it's easily the most unique thing about this watch, and also the best control interface for a smartwatch. It feels natural and prevents your screen from getting too dirty. It has a beautiful AMOLED display and solid audio for calls as well.
And Tizen isn't a bad platform necessarily. It has all the smart features I love to have on a smartwatch, like notification replies, music playback, tons of watch faces to choose from, and solid exercise tracking with cool features like the running coach. But there are many quirks to the software and decisions or errors that I just don't understand. I know Tizen is one of the older wearable platforms, but as someone who experiences Google's Wear OS and Huawei's LiteOS first, it feels like Tizen tries to take bits from one and add it to the other, but most of it ends up feeling undercooked.
With the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 being one of the most expensive smartwatches you can get, and with it requiring a Samsung phone to make full use of its features, it's hard to wholeheartedly recommend it. But it does have a stellar design, and while there are a few flaws, Tizen still offers a lot of what you'd expect and want in a smartwatch. It's still a fine choice if you're okay with its limitations.
If you're interested, you can find it on Amazon UK, where it's currently starting at £339 instead of £399 for the 41mm size. The 45mm variant in this review is going for £349 instead of £419. In the U.S., the 41mm variant is discounted to $339 instead of $399.99, and the 45mm version is $369, down from $429.99. Those prices are for Bluetooth versions, and can go up from there.