Recently Browsing 0 members
No registered users viewing this page.
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.
As an Amazon Associate, Neowin may earn commission from qualifying purchases.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
As an Amazon Associate, Neowin may earn commission from qualifying purchases.