Thermaltake - The Tower 900


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Noir Angel

The Tower 900 is a high end PC case, designed primarily for people building high end water cooling systems, it is a massive case designed for people with very high end cooling requirements, and can fit M-ATX, E-ATX and ATX motherboards, and has mounts for 2 water cooling reservoirs, as well the accompanying pumps.

 

SPEC:

  • Type: Full Tower
  • Dimension (HxWxD): 752mm X 423mm X 483mm
  • Total Weight: 24.5KG (minus hardware)
  • Material: SCGG (Tempered glass front and side panels)
  • Cooling: 2x 14 CM fans @ 1000 RPM
  • Drive Bays: 2x 2.5 inch, 6x 3.5 inch, 1x 5.25 inch
  • Expansion Slots: 8
  • IO Ports: 4x USB 3.0, 1x Front HD Audio
  • PSU Support: Standard PS/2 PSU
  • Fan Support: 4x 12/14 cm left/right side, 2x 12/14cm top, 2x 12/14cm rear, 1x 12/14cm HDD Cage)

Design

The tower 900 is a very visually striking case, it has 3 front panels made of tinted tempered glass, which allows for 8 180 degree view of the internal components. It actually has a cover on the top of the case (which can be clipped / unclipped), and is divided into 2 compartments. The PSU, and 4 of the hard drive trays are mounted in the rear of the case (with the other 2 mounted at the bottom). The case also contains 2 specially designed SSD trays which allows for a total of hard drives to be installed and mounted into the case. The case has a single 5.25 inch slot for an optical drive at the bottom of the case. Plenty of routing holes are provided for the routing of cables, and almost all cables can be routed through the compartment at the rear of the case, allowing the front of the case to be kept almost completely clean and uncluttered, allowing for excellent airflow. 2 powerful 14cm case fans are provided and installed on the top of the case, and can be attached to the 3/4 pin headers on your motherboard. Both are 1,000 RPM fans.

 

One striking feature of this case that makes it stand out from other cases is that the motherboard is mounted vertically rather than horizontally, placing the I/O panel on top of the case instead of at the rear. The top of the case can be unclipped if extra items need to be plugged in, and thermaltake also provide 2 USB extension cables. The clip on top of the case has cable routing holes, allowing you to connect all your peripherals then attach the top, hiding the cables from view. The fans ventilate through the top of the case. The vertical mounting of the motherboard also eliminates GPU sag, and reduces the strain on the PCI-E slot, hopefully allowing for longer GPU and motherboard life.

 

All areas where fans can be attached (including the area to which the PSU is mounted) are protected on the outside by magnetic dust catchers, which should drastically reduce the amount of dust that gets drawn into the case.

 

Connectivity

The case has 4 USB 3.0 ports on the front, next to the power button as well as a HD audio connection, allowing headphones and a microphone to be plugged into the front of the case. Unfortunately, my current motherboard only has one USB 3.0 header, meaning only 2 of the front ports are functional, however I intend to upgrade once Ryzen CPUs become available.

 

Installation

Given the size of the case, installation was for the most part easy. However the PSU slot on the case isn't that big, and my larger than usual PSU only just squeaked its way into the slot. The PSU is also mounted directly behind the 5.25 inch drive slot, however the metal housing is corrugated, meaning that the PSU should easily be able to draw in enough air.

 

All of the 3.5 inch drive bays were designed for easy tool free installation. The SSD brackets provided however need screwing in, and the 5.25 inch drive bay also needed screws. Installing my optical drive proved troublesome, as there is not enough space inside the case for a conventional length screwdriver, which required me to secure the screws by hand, before tightening them with a miniature non-magnetic screwdriver. Installation of the 3.5 inch drives was very easy, and plenty of routing holes are made available meaning that cable management was very easy. Almost all SATA signal cables, and drive power cables are routed through the compartment at the rear of the case, allowing for the main compartment containing the motherboard and hardware to be kept remarkably clean. Where cable management is concerned, this is by far the easiest and most tidy build that I have ever completed.

However the immense size of the case did cause me a problem. The 4 pin ATX connector on my PSU wasn't quite long enough, meaning I needed to buy myself an extension cable. However all of my PSU's other cables reached, quite an impressive feat given the size of the case. Installing the rest of my hardware was easy, and the case already had motherboard sink screw mounts in place for ATX and E-ATX cases, meaning I didn't have to screw a single sink into the case.

 

The case alone weighs 24.5 kilos, installation of hardware can easily bring it up to 35 kilos, and that combined with its bulk might make it difficult for some people to lift and move.

 

Look & Feel

The Tower 900, despite its size is a very attractive looking tower (available in black or white). The tempered glass panels give it a very premium look, most cabling is hidden from view, and the metal grilles allow for easy escape of air. Despite the powerful case fans, the case is not overly noisy, however it is not completely quiet. No fan controller is provided, however one can be installed in the 5.25 inch drive bay. The size of the case gives it a very impressive and striking look, and no photos can really do it justice. You have to see it in person to get a feel for what an impressive piece of kit it is.

 

Cooling

With an air cooler (Dark Rock BeQuiet Pro), and running at 4.8 GHZ @ 1.4v, CPU temperature remained below 70c. The motherboard remained at 31c for most of the test, and the temperature of all components stayed within a healthy range, all in all the cooling prowess of this tower is excellent.

 

Summing Up

The Tower 900 won't be everyone's cup of tea. The immense size means that it won't fit under a lot of desks, and it will not be in everyone's price range. The fact that you have to unclip the top to get access to the IO ports might bother some users, and some people's PSUs might have cables that simply aren't long enough. However it is also a very impressive looking piece of equipment, and it has room for a vast amount of cooling fans, as well as supporting a CPU and GPU liquid cooling setup. If you're building a high end liquid cooled rig, you won't get many towers better than this, and even if, like me, you aren't water cooling, the excellent airflow as well as the superb cable management options still make this a great case.

 

Score: 9/10

 

Pro:

  • High end airflow and liquid cooling options
  • Looks fantastic
  • Easy setup and installation
  • Room for a lot of hardware (6 hard drive plus 2 SSD)
  • Vertical mounting reduces load on GPU and PCI-E slot, eliminating GPU sag
  • Excellent cable management

Con:

  • Size might make it impractical for some people, won't fit under most desks
  • Too heavy to place on a table, not easy to lift and move
  • Installation of 5.25 inch drive a bit tricky
  • The sheer size of the case means that some PSUs might not have long enough cables.

 

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Photo Gallery

 

Edited by Javik
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+Gary7

That is a very neat tower I saw some of the other ones in your link. A tad pricey but they will keep it cool..

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Noir Angel

The size means it won't be for everyone, but i'm very happy with my purchase. It's a lovely looking piece of kit, the vertical mounting makes a lot of sense and is good for your hardware. Towers like that are mostly for liquid systems but it has merits for every PC builder. It's among the best on the market in cooling performance and I think it looks truly incredible. I certainly agree about the price, but it offers a hell of a lot for the money. Size and weight are really the only reasons i'd advise anyone against getting one. I love it!

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+Gary7
8 hours ago, Javik said:

The size means it won't be for everyone, but i'm very happy with my purchase. It's a lovely looking piece of kit, the vertical mounting makes a lot of sense and is good for your hardware. Towers like that are mostly for liquid systems but it has merits for every PC builder. It's among the best on the market in cooling performance and I think it looks truly incredible. I certainly agree about the price, but it offers a hell of a lot for the money. Size and weight are really the only reasons i'd advise anyone against getting one. I love it!

The other cases that were all glass were really nice.

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Noir Angel
4 hours ago, Gary7 said:

The other cases that were all glass were really nice.

Indeed, it's nice to see cases that showcase our equipment doing its thing. Plus the Sapphire logo on my new GPU has colour changing LEDs, it would be a shame to put that to waste! In fact I've also brought myself some case fans with more LEDs, I intend to make the most of this case :D

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  • 1 year later...
wicanbrewllc

what psu do you recommend? my 8 pin connector is too dang short for the msi 970 gaming mobo

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      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.

      Conclusion
      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.

    • By indospot
      Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra review: almost everything you want, for a price you don't
      by João Carrasqueira

      Samsung has been considered one of the top Android smartphone manufacturers for some time now, and we hear about how great the Galaxy S and Note series are every year. Until now, I had never had the chance to use the company's high-end smartphones for an extended period, so I was excited to get the chance to review the Galaxy Note20 Ultra.

      Being that I live in Europe, I got stuck with the Exynos variant of the phone, and while I can't personally speak to the differences between Exynos and Snapdragon models, Samsung's chipsets definitely have a less than stellar reputation. Still, this is Samsung's "everything phone", meaning it delivers almost everything you would want a phone to do, and then some.

      It's not all amazing, though, and while it's a very capable smartphone, the exorbitant price tag of €1,339.90 is hard to swallow. In fact, I can say right now that this isn't a phone you should buy - at least not at this price.

      CPU Exynos 990 (Octa-core) - two 2.73GHz custom cores, two 2.5GHz Cortex-A76, four 2.0GHz Cortex-A55 GPU Mali-G77 MP11 Display 6.9 inches, 1440x3088, 525ppi, 120Hz FHD or 60Hz QHD, Dynamic AMOLED 2X Body 161.9x73.7x7.8mm (6.37x2.90x0.31in), 186g (6.56oz) Camera 108MP main + 12MP ultra-wide + 12MP telephoto, Front - 10MP Video 8K - 24fps, 4K - 60fps, HDR10+, Front - 4K - 60fps Aperture f/1.8 + f/2.0 + f/3.0, Front - F/2.2 Storage 256GB UFS 3.0 RAM 12GB Battery 4,500mAh, 25W fast charging 5G Sub6 + mmWave Color Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic White OS Android 10 with OneUI 2.5 Price €1309 - €1,339.90; £1,179 Day one
      Design
      Samsung's Galaxy Note series is typically responsible for the company's largest phones, and that certainly holds true here. The Note20 Ultra feels massive, and almost to a fault. I like being able to use phones with one hand, but this phone makes me constantly feel like I don't have a good enough grasp on it. The phone's backplate has a satin-like finish that feels nice to the touch, but it adds to the feeling that this phone can slip out of my hand at any time. Altogether, this has made it so that I don't want to use the phone a lot of the time. I do like the Mystic Bronze color, though.



      The camera bump on this phone is absolutely massive, too, and while that's not something you'll feel all the time, it's noticeable. Laying it down on a table, the phone will rock much more than any other phone I've tested, but again, that shouldn't be something that affects the way you use the phone.



      One thing I find interesting about the Galaxy Note20 Ultra's design is that the top and bottom sides of the phone are completely flat. It makes the phone feel more substantial, but it also makes it more comfortable in a way, since I almost always hold my phones so that the bottom edge is resting on my little finger. Speaking of which, the bottom edge houses the bottom-firing speaker, a USB Type-C port, a microphone, and of course, the S Pen that makes this phone unique.



      The top edge is a lot cleaner, with another microphone and the SIM card slot.



      Over on the right side, there's the power button that can also be used to summon Bixby, along with the volume rocker.



      The left side of the phone is completely clean, which is probably helped by the fact that that's where the S Pen is stored.



      Display, S Pen, and sound
      The Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra packs a huge 6.9-inch display, and to be absolutely clear, this is the best-looking phone display I've ever used. Everything here is just stellar, with beautiful and vivid colors, pure blacks, smooth animations thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, and no color distortions or issues I could complain about. The punch-hole for the selfie camera is also the smallest I've seen yet, or at least it feels that way because of the sheer size of the display. I'd say, as far as visuals go, this display is pretty much perfect. The only potential downside is that you can't use QHD+ and 120Hz at the same time. There's also an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the display, which works fine, though it's not as fast as the optical sensors most other phones use.



      Using it, though, can be a different story. My complaints about the phone's size are exacerbated by the huge display and the curved edges at the sides. Not only is the phone somewhat hard to hold, typing with a single hand can be torture, not because I can't reach both sides of the screen, but because whenever I reach over to the A key, my hand touches the delete button, so words keep disappearing from my texts. I thought this was a bug with Samsung's keyboard for a while until I realized I was deleting words by accident. It's become more and more common to hear arguments against the use of curved edges, and it becomes an even bigger problem at this size.

      Of course, what makes the Note series special is the S Pen, and that definitely holds true here in my opinion. When you pop the S Pen out of its slot, you get a list of shortcuts to common S Pen actions and apps, like drawing on a screenshot, taking notes, or open apps like PENUP, where you can get more creative and color some images to share with the community. Some of the S Pen's features can be considered gimmicks and novelties, but they can be quite fun to use.



      Beyond being fun, though, the S Pen is just a very useful tool in my opinion. Samsung's handwriting keyboard works really well, and when I'm standing or sitting still, it's my favorite way to type on this phone. It feels natural and it's almost never annoying, which I can't say for some other handwriting experiences like my laptop (a late 2017 HP Envy x360, for reference). One of the features that's been added in recent iterations of the S Pen is the ability to convert handwritten notes in the Samsung Notes app to plain text, and it's also great to have. Even better, you don't even need to convert it for the text to be searchable, you can just search for the words you want, and if you wrote them with the pen, they will still show up.



      Recent iterations of the S Pen have also added support for Air Gestures, which are quick shortcuts to a number of actions, which can change based on the app you're using if developers want to hook into the feature. One gesture I personally find useful is shaking the S Pen to start drawing on a screenshot of the current screen. You can also use the S Pen as a remote shutter button for the Camera app, which is another great use case for it.

      As for sound, The Galaxy Note20 Ultra has a bottom-firing speaker and an amplified earpiece for stereo sound, and it's pretty good. It gets fairly loud and the audio comes out clean without any distortion that I can detect. I don't think it's the loudest I've heard, but it doesn't leave much to be desired.

      Camera
      The Galaxy Note20 Ultra packs a triple-camera setup on the back, comprised of a 108MP primary camera, a 12MP wide-angle, and another 12MP periscope camera for telephoto shots with 5x optical zoom and up to 50x digital zoom. As I've mentioned in other reviews, this kind of setup is my favorite, with the ability to zoom in and out at a wide range of levels. All of these cameras produce 12MP shots by default, since the main sensor uses Samsung's "Nonacell" technology, combining nine pixels into one, though you can switch to 108MP mode if you want to.

      Results from these cameras are generally good, but I'm not completely sold on them. I'd heard a few times about Samsung phones' tendency to oversaturate shots, and I can definitely see that happening here. Some shots crank up the saturation much more than they should, and while it can look pretty, I try to judge cameras on how accurately they represent what I'm seeing, so I don't let personal preference play as much of a role. In many situations, especially during the day, the Note20 Ultra doesn't do that very well.

      Gallery: Galaxy Note20 Ultra samples
      One thing I have to give Samsung credit for is the consistency of the images from all three of the cameras. It's really easy with three different sensors for shots to change significantly depending on whether you're using the main camera or the telephoto, but the cameras here are fairly consistent, though it depends on the situation.

      Samsung packed a lot of camera features into this phone, and the company has most often highlighted Single Take, a feature that captures a series of photos and videos over a few seconds and save what it considers the best ones. This can be useful if you're taking pictures of moving subjects, for example. It must be noted, however, that Single Take is not exclusive to the Note20 Ultra. There's also a Pro Video mode, which I personally find more interesting. It gives you a handful of manual controls for focus, white balance, directional audio recording, and more, so you can adjust it all on the fly while recording.



      There are some omissions that I find weird, though, like the fact that the ultra-wide angle camera can't double as a macro camera, like many other high-end phones do. For a phone that's about being able to do everything, that's something I would have liked to have.

      Performance and battery life
      As I noted at the start, I have the European variant of the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, which means it's powered by the Exynos 990 chipset, developed by Samsung itself. It's still a flagship processor, and you won't really see much in the way of slowdowns or anything like that, but I have had some problems with this phone.

      For example, while using it for navigation with the HERE WeGo app, if I turn off the screen, it simply stops giving me directions, and I need to turn it on for the phone to locate me again. I don't currently have a way to hold the phone where I can see the screen while I'm driving, so it's not uncommon for me to rely on just voice directions, but I can't do that with this phone. Of course, I can't say for sure that has to do with the chipset being used here, but it's the first time I notice this issue with one of my phones. And yes, the app is allowed to run and get location access in the background.

      Setting that aside, let's take a look at benchmarks to see how the Note20 Ultra measures against other flagships. First, we have AnTuTu, which is a general benchmark:



      Right away, you can see a notable difference between this and the Snapdragon variant of the phone, but it's no slouch either. Next up is Geekbench 5, a CPU test:



      In terms of single-core performance, the Exynos 990 seems to outperform the Snapdragon 865 in the OnePlus 8 family, but it gets handily beaten in multi-core performance. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU:



      Moving on to battery life, I was again disappointed by this phone. In the first couple of days, I was having to charge the phone long before I went to bed, even after trying to moderate my usage more than usual. At one point I was at 7% battery by 7PM, after unplugging the phone at around 9:15AM, and without anything that could be considered heavy usage. It turns out that one of my apps had been draining more battery than usual in the background, and after disabling background activity for it, the Galaxy Note20 Ultra usually got me through the day, but it's still not amazing.

      With a sizable 4,500mAh battery, I really expected a lot more, but this is worse than something like the OPPO Find X2 Pro with its smaller 4,050mAh battery. Samsung offers Wireless PowerShare so you can wirelessly charge other devices off of this phone, but I never want to do that because the phone itself is more likely to be dead by the end of the day than my watch or earbuds are. I can't speak to whether this also applies to Snapdragon variants of this phone, but this is what you're getting if you buy it in Europe, and it's not great. The phone also supports 25W charging, which is fine, but pales in comparison to the aforementioned Find X2 Pro.

      Software and Microsoft integrations
      The Galaxy Note20 Ultra is running Android 10 and OneUI 2.5, though Android 11 should be on the way soon. As I mentioned in my review of the Galaxy A51 back in March, Samsung's OneUI is one of the most complex skins in the Android universe, and I don't really love it. It constantly gives me a feeling that there's something I might be supposed to try out, but I just don't know how to find it. With this being my second Samsung phone review, I'm a bit more comfortable with it by now, but I still get that feeling sometimes. One thing Samsung fixed, though, is that the Android 10 navigation gestures now work with third-party launchers.

      All the features I mentioned in my previous review are still here, but one of the things that makes Samsung phones stand out these days is the deep link between Samsung apps and services and Microsoft's equivalent services, as well as specific features of the Your Phone app for Windows 10.

      In terms of integration between specific apps, we have OneDrive replacing Samsung Cloud in the My Files app and as the sync service for photos on the Gallery app; Samsung Notes syncing with the OneNote Feed, which you can access in Outlook on the web or the OneNote app for Windows 10; and Samsung Reminders syncing with Microsoft To Do.



      These things work fine, and they can make it simpler to have these items sync across your phone and PC, but I have a hard time seeing them as a big selling point considering you can just install those Microsoft apps on your phone. Sure, it's easier to keep using the same apps, but most of these links aren't linked by default or prompted to you visibly, so it's not that much easier to set up than just installing the Microsoft apps you want. However, the Samsung Reminders integration is pretty cool, since you can make it work with Bixby, which makes it easier to create reminders with your voice. Of course, that comes with the downside of using Bixby.

      As for Your Phone, the capabilities of the app have grown, and they're actually very nice to have. Now, not only can you see your phone's screen on your PC, you can open individual apps from your phone, and even pin them to the taskbar as if they were PC apps, and run them simultaneously. There are quite a few times when I want to check something out on my phone quickly and I don't want to have to shift my attention away from my PC screen, so this is awesome. You can even drag and drop files between your phone and PC this way, it's really cool. What's more, you can also enable clipboard sync, so copied items on the PC show up on your phone and vice versa.



      Galaxy Buds Live
      In addition to the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, Samsung also sent me the Galaxy Buds Live, and while I'm not exactly an audio expert, it's worth talking about the overall experience. I quite like the aesthetic of the Buds Live, and Mystic Bronze is probably the best color to get here, just because it sticks out a lot less from most skin tones and makes them pretty subtle. I find them comfortable enough, but every now and then I get this feeling that they're not secure enough and they might fall off. They have never fallen off accidentally, even when riding my bike at high speeds, but the in-ear tip design of other earbuds feels a bit safer to me.



      Setting up the Galaxy Buds Live is especially easy with a Samsung phone like the Note20 Ultra, and as you pop the case open, they show up on your phone, ready to connect. In fact, the Buds Live are even supported by Windows 10's Swift Pair feature, so they also show up on your PC if they're not paired with another device yet. The process of connecting to other phones is like any other pair of true wireless earbuds.

      It's also pretty easy to switch between devices with the Buds Live, though it's not as seamless as what Apple touts with its AirPods, for example, where it automatically switches to wherever you have media playing if you have a bunch of Apple devices. Here, you can just head into the Bluetooth settings on a paired device and connect to the earbuds, even if they're currently connected and playing media somewhere else. It requires more action from the user, but it's a seamless process and it works well.



      The big selling point of the Buds Live compared to Samsung's other earbuds is the active noise cancellation, but if that's the reason you're considering them, I can tell you it's not worth it. At first, I had to repeatedly turn ANC on and off because I was never sure if it was enabled or not. The only situation where I could notice a real difference was when I was sitting in my car with the AC on, and the earbuds did make the noise slightly quieter, but not by much. A better test might be with plane engine rumble on a flight, but that's not something I can do right now.

      The Galaxy Buds Live have touch controls, but I was somewhat disappointed that there aren't swipe gestures like some other premium earbuds have. Because of this, volume controls have to come at the cost of some other features, like activating my voice assistant or enabling active noise cancellation. This isn't a huge problem because I usually have a smartwatch connected as well, but having to pull out my phone for these actions would be annoying.



      As for sound, the Galaxy Buds Live are alright, but as I've stated before, I'm not an audio expert. Switching from my PC speakers to the Buds Live, I do feel like the sound is a little less clean with the earbuds, but that could just be because they're earbuds instead of the large drivers you can get with PCs or even phones.

      It's also worth noting that the Galaxy Buds Live charge in the case, and the case itself charges via USB Type-C, as it should. It also supports wireless charging, and you can charge off the back of the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, as I mentioned above. I haven't had to do this, though, because the battery life on the earbuds has been solid and I've never had to charge them beyond the first charge when I got them.



      Conclusion
      As far as its role of being Samsung's "everything phone" goes, the Note20 Ultra does a good enough job. It has a huge, gorgeous display, the S Pen, solid stereo speakers, premium design, and some cool exclusive features to boot, like the links with Windows 10 and other Microsoft apps and services. It does a lot of things well enough, and is even the best at some of them, like the amazing display and the S Pen features.

      But as a phone with a standard form factor that costs €1,339, there are a bit too many shortcomings to overlook. The camera is good, but not amazing, and the consistent oversaturation can get annoying. The huge display is good for media consumption, but the curved edges are prone to accidental touches, and the overall size of the phone makes it hard to use with one hand. And while performance in general terms is good, battery life on this Exynos model is far from what you'd expect of a 4,500mAh battery. I'm also just not a big fan of OneUI, but that's less of a problem.



      Most of those things aren't necessarily huge problems. But what is huge is the price tag for this phone, at €1,339.90. I think the Galaxy Note20 Ultra is a really good phone. It's just not a phone that should ever cost as much as it does, even in the context of other incredibly expensive phones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max or - a personal favorite of mine - the OPPO Find X2 Pro.

      That said, if you're interested, you can find it on Amazon UK, where it's currently discounted to £929, a much better deal. That price only applies to the Mystic White version, though, and it goes up from there. Over in the U.S., you can get the Snapdragon variant with 128GB of internal storage, which is discounted to $1,049.99. The Galaxy Buds Live can be had for $139.99 (currently $30 off) in the U.S., and in the UK starting at £103.16.

    • By Namerah S
      Sennheiser CX 400BT True Wireless review: A battery that just doesn't give in
      by Namerah Saud Fatmi

      With the rise in popularity of truly wireless earphones, hundreds of brands and companies have come up with their take on the audio device concept. Today's review will take a look at Sennheiser's latest creation: the CX 400BT TW earbuds. Sitting a tier below the premium MOMENTUM True Wireless 2, the CX 400 BT buds were designed to deliver superior sound quality with everyday usage in mind.

      The real question is whether the CX 400BT can stand their ground against alternatives with similar price points from competitors like Jabra or Sony. At an asking price of $199.95, no ANC and a lack of an IP rating, will the world-renown German engineering fail to deliver? Let's find out.

      Specs
      Weight 49 grams (6g each earbud + 37g charging case) Design In-ear, closed acoustics Connectivity Bluetooth 5.1 | USB Type-C Battery 5V, 600 mA | Up to 7 hrs, 20 hrs with charging case Speaker Sennheiser 7mm dynamic driver Frequency response 5Hz to 21,000Hz Frequency response (microphone) 100Hz to 10kHz Total harmonic distortion <0,08% (1kHz / 94dB) Codecs SBC, AAC, aptX Supported Profiles A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP



      Design


      Right off the bat, the CX 400BT TW earbuds have a nice premium feel to them. The truly wireless earphones come in a matte silicone case with glossy highlights here and there which accent the finishing of the product. As it has a matte coat, the charging case does not track any fingerprints. It also has a nice weight to it, neither too light nor too heavy.

      Turn the case around and you will find a USB-C charging slot (a compatible cable comes in the box), a small LED light and a button - the only physical button on the entire device. You can press the button to learn the battery status of the earbuds. If the battery is high, the light flashes green, if it's been used about midway, it blinks yellow, and if the charge is low, it turns red.



      Moving on to the stars of the show, the earbuds that are housed inside the silicone case are small, sleek and ergonomic. Each individual earbud has a touch panel on its exterior to navigate controls. The right earbud has three tiny little holes in a corner which are barely visible. These serve as the microphone. You can tap each bud once, twice or hold down to trigger different controls such as pause, play, volume controls, voice assistant, and answering or declining calls.

      Owing to the small size and squarish design of the earbuds, they fit in nice and snug when worn. I found no issues while wearing and using them for long periods of time. Rather, I would often forget that they were on in the first place. Contrary to my fears, the buds are not prone to falling out either. Overall, it was a very comfortable wear experience.



      One of the biggest disappointments for me was the lack of an IP rating on this thing. Although it also lacks active noise cancellation, the water and dust resistance certification is a bigger priority for me personally. Through an unfortunate incident, I was able to discover that despite the missing IP rating, the CX 400BT earphones are considerably durable.

      While walking to work one unlucky morning, I happened to drop the case in a nearby pool of drain water. My immediate reaction was to pick it up and douse clean water all over it. After several hours of sanitization and intense cleaning up with tissues at my workplace, I was amazed to find out that the earbuds were working just as good as before! Following this incident, I think from a durability standpoint, the CX 400BT are pretty good despite not having any sort of resistance certification.

      Performance


      Speaking of the actual performance of the Sennheiser TW earbuds, the sound quality is simply excellent. Music and calls sound very crisp and clear, and the bass and treble also sound great. Though it doesn't have ANC, the in-ear closed acoustic technology manages to shut out outside noise very well. The only time when I could hear external sounds with the CX 400BT on was in the midst of heavy traffic and even that was reduced to a low, barely audible hum.

      The microphone works pleasingly well, despite the petite nature of the buds and their distance from the mouth. As for the touch panels, they are also great and respond perfectly without any accidental touches. All controls are completely customisable and can be changed via Sennheiser's mobile phone app. It is called Smart Control and is available for Android and iOS. It also has an equalizer, allowing users to adjust the sound preferences to their liking.

      Battery life


      On paper, the battery specifications state that the earbuds can stay alive for up to seven hours with continuous playback. When factoring in the silicone case, the battery life is further extended to a cap of 20 hours of back-to-back playback. I decided to put this to the test and my results were well above satisfactory.

      After fully charging up the CX 400BT, I was able to use the TW earphones (including the case) for 14 days straight. I tend to listen to music while working, so the actual playback time according to my estimates would be about 21 hours of real-world usage. Once drained, it took me 1hr 6m to charge the case back up fully, as opposed to the 1hr 30m official charge time. The results speak for themselves, the battery life deserves applause.

      Conclusion


      In the end, I would say that if you're an average Joe living the nine to five corporate life but have a penchant for music on the go (coupled with a tendency to be clumsy like me), these earbuds will work as a fabulous fit. The sound quality is wonderful, they look really stylish and are very comfortable to wear.

      Some other plus points that make up for the lack of ANC and IP rating are the unexpectedly good durability and the easy-to-use controls. Add to that the brilliant battery life and you have an absolute winner on your hands.

      If you're looking to buy a pair of Sennheiser's CX 400BT TW earbuds, you can purchase them for a temporarily discounted price of $129.98 from Amazon.

      As an Amazon Associate, Neowin may earn commission from qualifying purchases.

    • By Rich Woods
      Acer Enduro N3 review: Acer's first rugged laptop
      by Rich Woods

      Back in June at its next@acer event, Acer announced its new Enduro brand. For the first time, it was planning to compete in the rugged PC market, which is largely dominated by Panasonic. Along with a few tablets, the two laptops it introduced were the Enduro N3 and Enduro N7.

      While the N7 is a fully rugged device, the Enduro N3 is more of a semi-rugged PC that's meant to be more thin and light. Of course, you wouldn't call it thin and light by any other standard. It weighs in at 4.37 pounds, and it's nearly an inch thick. But it'll sure take a beating.

      It also has sealed ports for its IP53 water resistance rating. There are some key things that it doesn't have though, such as a hot-swappable battery and 4G LTE connectivity.

      Specs
      CPU Intel Core i5‐10210U processor GPU Intel UHD Graphics Body 351x247x24.85mm, 1.985kg Display 14 inches, 1920x1080 TFT IPS, Acer ComfyView RAM 8GB DDR4 SDRAM Storage 256GB SSD Ports (2) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
      (1) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C
      HDMI
      Ethernet
      Smart Card
      SD card
      VGA

      Connectivity Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201 Audio Two built-in stero speakers
      Built-in digital microphone OS Windows 10 Pro Price $1,099.99
      Day one
      Design
      Like I said, you wouldn't call the Acer Enduro N3 thin and light by any other standard, except the rugged market. Indeed, when it comes to semi-rugged PCs, this is about as thin and light as it gets. To be clear, semi-rugged doesn't just mean MIL-STD-810G tested, because all of Lenovo's ThinkPads pass over a dozen of those tests, and they can be much thinner and lighter.



      But this thing can take more of a beating. It can also go underwater with its IP53 water resistance rating. All of the ports are sealed, in fact. You have to flip open a lid to gain access to the ports. This is a common method of water-proofing a device.



      The color is black, and frankly, there's nothing sexy about the device. It's not like the Enduro N7 that looks more like a Panasonic Toughbook. Even the Acer branding on the textured lid is just a dull silver. If you're looking for something flashy, this really isn't that kind of device.

      You'll notice that there are gray accents on the sides, such as the flaps the labels on the flaps that cover the ports. There are also gray bumpers on the corners of the PC, which help to protect it from drops.



      As you can see, it has plenty of ports, as a device like this should. It supports wired Ethernet, HDMI, and has three USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports for 5Gbps speeds. Two of them are Type-A and one is Type-C. By the way, I got those specs from an Amazon listing, since Acer actually didn't provide much in the way of specs for this machine.



      Note that while there's a barrel charging port and it comes with a barrel charger, you can charge via USB Type-C. It also charges a lot faster than most PCs, from my experience, and the battery life is pretty great, but we'll get to more of that later.

      The design of this PC is purely functional, as there really isn't anything that's meant to make it pretty. It's meant to handle harsh conditions with its bumpers on the corners and closed-off ports. Unfortunately, there's no hot swappable battery, something that would definitely come in handy in the field.

      Display and audio
      The Acer Enduro N3 has a 14-inch FHD display that does not support touch, and this is another area where I feel like it falls behind Panasonic. Sure, touch is terrible if you're trying to use this thing in a sandstorm. No one wants false touches. But what could have been done here is Acer could have built software to turn the touchscreen on or off. I guess I'm just used to rugged PCs being made for a broader range of use cases.



      The display isn't particularly bright, a surprise for something where users might be using it outdoors. Acer says that it's aimed at architects, project inspectors, event managers, scientists, adventure sport lovers, and outdoor activists, so that's a pretty broad range of groups right there. You'd think they'd want a brighter screen, and I'm sure a hot swappable battery would help too. The screen is fine for regular indoor use though.

      One thing you'll also notice about the screen is that it really has large bezels. That's no surprise given the form factor, but they really feel like they stand out. Every part of this machine seems to be function over form, which is a good thing.



      Audio quality is no different. Listening to music or watching movies doesn't sound particularly great, but it does get loud enough. In other words, if you're using it for calls, especially if you've got a loud background wherever you are, this gets the job done.

      Keyboard and trackpad
      The keyboard is backlit, and it's pretty standard. There's nothing about it that really stands out, and it feels good to type on. It's comfortable, and it's accurate. I'm using it to type this review right now.



      The trackpad is not clickable, something that I'm not personally a fan of but I understand why it's like that. It has two physical buttons instead, which are placed below it. I'm a big fan of physical buttons with trackpads. It just makes dragging and dropping easier. Unfortunately, it also means that we get a smaller trackpad.



      There's also a fingerprint sensor next to the trackpad, and it's the only method of biometric authentication that you're getting here. There's no IR camera for Windows Hello, but that's fine. At least there's something.

      Performance and battery life
      The Enduro N3 that Acer sent me comes with an Intel Core i5-10210U, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD. There are, of course, a ton of configuration options. You can get it with a Core i7-10510U, which is still quad-core, 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD, a secondary HDD that's up to 2TB, dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX230 graphics, and more. I believe that the model sent to me is the base model.

      One thing that isn't an option is 4G LTE, which is really a shame. Again, when you start looking at the rugged category, a lot of outdoor use cases come into play. Along with the brighter screen and the hot-swappable battery, cellular connectivity could definitely be useful. These are Acer's first PCs in the rugged space though, of course.



      Performance in general is just fine, and it's about what you'd expect from a Core i5 and 8GB of RAM. Unfortunately, based on the spec sheet that Acer sent me, there's no option for a vPro variant, such as the Core i5-10310U or the Core i7-10610U. All CPUs are from the Comet Lake family though, a decision that usually gets made because Comet Lake has a vPro variant, so it wouldn't surprise me if that gets released at some point.

      Battery life is actually better than I expected. I was able to get a solid nine hours of real-world work out of it. Acer didn't tell me how big the battery is, but the battery report says it's 48WHr, which isn't particularly large. I guess with the FHD resolution and the somewhat dim display brightness, long battery life was doable. Whatever the cause, it's a great quality in a semi-rugged laptop.

      For benchmarks, I used the usual PCMark 8 and PCMark 10.

      PCMark 8: Home PCMark 8: Creative







      PCMark 8: Work PCMark 10








      None of the scores are surprising. It's a fairly standard configuration, which is a Core i5 and 8GB RAM.

      Conclusion
      Acer's Enduro N3 is a solid semi-rugged laptop, and it's an excellent first try from the company. Honestly, there really isn't anything that stands out about it, hence the relatively short review. I think I made my point best when I said it's function over form. It seems to have been designed with purpose, and that purpose is being semi-rugged while being thin and light, relative to the rugged market.



      But I do think that the Enduro N3 is missing a few key features, considering the potential use cases. I'd like to have seen a brighter display for outdoor use, and of course, cellular connectivity. 4G LTE would open this up to first responders and more. I'd also like to have seen a hot-swappable battery, although I kind of understand why that gets taken out in favor of being thin and light. You'd need two batteries, easy access, and so on.

      There's a lot of good here though. The display is a good one despite brightness issues in direct sunlight, and the overall package is pretty great. You get a lot of value for the starting price of $1,099. The IP53 water resistance rating means that it's dust-resistant and can handle jets of water. You can also drop it without worrying about it breaking, of course. In fact, I did that on video.

      If you want to check it out, you can find it on Amazon here.

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