Every year, Samsung releases its ‘Note’ line series of phones that touts to have the best specs in its mobile phone portfolio.
The newly released Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has plenty of new features, but is it better than its predecessor? Find out in this review.
I have to say that when it comes to phone designs, Samsung always nails this one pretty well. You get an all-display screen at the front and the chassis itself looks quite stylish.
At the back, you will find its camera array with a slight (but noticeable bulge). You will also find the S-pen’s receptacle at the bottom of the device, as well as its charging port.
There is no headphone jack so people would have to invest in wireless headphones but there is a microSD card slot, so you can slap in a 2TB microSD card to store all of your photos and videos.
I do love that the Note 20 Ultra not only has premium looks but it really feels like a high-end device when you hold it. Do keep in mind that because this is a relatively large phone, utilizing it well would mean that you hold it with both of your hands.
The camera bulge may not be as noticeable when you hold the device, but it will certainly prop the phone up a little bit when you place it on top of a desk. Getting a phone case can certainly help with the issue, but for people that do not use them, this can be an issue.
Samsung has opted to put a 120Hz screen on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and this is great for most users, especially those that intend to play games on a mobile device. More on the refresh rate later.
The Samsung Galaxy Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is equipped with a 6.9-inch AMOLED Infinity-O display, with WQHD+ resolution and an aspect ratio of 19.3:9.
It is also a curved display and Samsung has pretty much mastered the art. I am not a really huge fan of such displays, however, as it is prone to accidental presses, but from a purely aesthetic standpoint, it really looks nice.
Now, I mentioned that this phone is capable of 120Hz screen refresh rate, right? Well, you will have to make a bit of a compromise if you are going to use the faster and smoother display.
You see, when you enable the 120Hz screen refresh rate option, the phone will default to just Full HD+ resolution which means that you are getting a penalty when it comes to visual fidelity.
But to be honest, it would be indiscernible to most users. I am able to spot the difference but you will have to be a keen observer to notice the difference.
Anyway, I love that Samsung’s algorithm ensures that it doesn’t eat up too much battery. That is because when you enable 120Hz, it would be set to adaptive mode which means that it will not necessarily stay at 120Hz if you are doing light tasks.
For example, if you are just browsing the internet, the screen’s refresh rate will be set anywhere between 60-90Hz which still provides you with a relatively smooth experience.
Play any game that supports a high refresh rate display and you will find that the phone can support that as well. This is a pretty good implementation that I hope other phone manufacturers follow.
If you are not playing any games and you just want to use this as a productivity device, you can just set it to just 60Hz and enjoy its WQHD+ resolution.
Lastly, the Note 20 Ultra has an in-display fingerprint sensor which is pretty accurate and fast. I think that the company has mastered this bit and that is something to be happy about if you are using such a security measure.
Just like the Samsung Galaxy 20 Ultra, the Note 20 Ultra also has a 108-megapixel wide-angle shooter with optical image stabilization. It is also equipped with a 12-megapixel telephoto lens (capable of 5x lossless zoom), and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens. You also have laser autofocus as well for clearer shots each and every time.
The phone’s telephoto lens provides you with a 5x lossless zoom, 50x hybrid zoom, and 100x digital zoom modes that you can choose from.
Personally, the phone can give you amazing images up to 10x zoom and anything higher than that is just superfluous at best. The resulting images from utilizing magnification that is higher than 10x will be grainy, so I do not recommend that you use them.
I also love the fact that the camera lenses have a higher aperture now which means that more light can come in and give you impeccable photos as a result.
You also have the option to utilize the super slow-motion mode up to 960fps, so you can really enjoy those awesome shots.
While the main sensor is capable of 8K videos, I would suggest that you tone down the quality a little bit as the resulting file will eat up your phone’s storage quite fast. Only use the lens’s full capabilities if there are any precious memories that you want to document.
The 10-megapixel selfie camera allows you to record 1080p videos and I love the fact that it has image stabilization as well. It should be adequate for your video-conferencing and selfie needs and the portrait mode allows for a good bokeh effect if you are into that sort of thing.
Specs and Performance
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
- Display: 6-9-inch AMOLED Infinity-O, WQHD+ resolution, 19.3:9 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh rate (Full HD+ only)
- RAM: 12GB LPDDR5
- Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB Internal; MicroSD Card support up to 2TB
- Battery: 4,500 mAh, 25W charger included in the box, 15W wireless charging, 4.5 watts reverse wireless charging
- Cameras: 108-megapixel wide-angle (f/1.8) w/ OIS, 12-megapixel telephoto (f/3.0, 5x lossless zoom), 12-megapixel ultra-wide (f/2.2); 10-megapixel front camera (f/2.2)
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1, 5G, WiFi 6
- IP Rating: IP68
As is customary with other Samsung devices, you will have two configurations here. The US version will be running Qualcomm’s latest flagship processor in the form of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus chip, while the global version will be running the Exynos 990 chipset.
In most tests, the Qualcomm version always beats the Exynos version in all aspects. I do not know why the company is still releasing an Exynos version because it feels that all of the users (that are not in the US) are feeling left out in terms of raw performance.
I’ve talked to some of my colleagues in the UK who received the Exynos version for testing and they did notice the slight performance disparity with the Qualcomm version. I hope that Samsung will not force the Exynos variant on people, especially since they are paying a premium to get this phone.
Anyway, there are some things to love about the phone other than the chipset though. You get 12GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage for the most modest configuration, but you can get a version with 512GB if you want.
The phone also has 2TB MicroSD card support so if you intend to use the device as a dedicated camera phone, storing your photos and videos shouldn’t be a problem.
I do have the point out that if you are going to stress the phone, you will feel that it can get warm. It is not too hot to the touch, but the warmth is definitely noticeable. I guess this is to be expected given that it is a flagship chip.
You also get WiFi 6 compatibility, as well as Bluetooth 5.1 and 5G support.
Since the Note 20 Ultra is the company’s best smartphone in 2020, I am assuming that it will have a pretty good battery life. Well, if you are a regular user that doesn’t stress the device too much, then I guess it can last for more than a day.
But, if you rely so much on your phone for everyday tasks, you will find that you will be reaching for the charger after 6 hours of screen on time. This can be an issue for some, so do bear this in mind.
The 4,500 mAh, again, should be adequate for most users, but I feel that the company could have beefed it up a little bit.
You also get a 25-watt charger included in the box which is still quite fast, albeit not as fast as OnePlus’ 30-watt warp charger. It does support wireless charging up to 15 watts, though, which is quite convenient.
Reviewing a ‘Note’ device will not be complete without talking about the S-Pen. The pen that comes with the Note 20 Ultra is the best implementation of the accessory yet. It is quite accurate and you can expect a slew of features as well.
One of the best things that you can do with the S-Pen is the ‘Air Actions’. Basically, you draw a letter V that is orientated differently anywhere and it will reflect some actions on the phone.
For instance, if you draw the letter ‘V’ and it faces to the left, it will signify the ‘back’ gesture on the phone. Its implementation is still clunky, but I expect that it will get improved over time.
You also have the ability to use Samsung Notes that allows for auto-saving and syncing of all of your recorded documents.
What’s interesting here is that you have the ability to attach a voice recording to help you understand the notes that you have jotted down using the device.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is indeed the company’s best phone in 2020. It is equipped with flagship specs, a reliable and accurate S-Pen, and its battery should last more than a day with moderate use.
I also love the fact that the company equipped the phone with a 120Hz display, though to utilize that, your phone’s resolution will default to Full HD+. There is no perceivable difference in quality, though, so this is a fair compromise. I hope that the company will be able to marry the higher resolution and fast refresh rate in its phone displays later down the road.
You can get one starting at $1,199 so it is definitely a flagship phone. But, what you are getting is a device that can handle all tasks you throw at it and then some.
Google Nest Audio vs Amazon Echo- The Battle of the New ‘Smart’ Speakers
Smart home speakers are not as popular as mobile phones, but in my opinion, it actually should be.
You see, companies are slowly rolling out smart home devices so that your life will be so much easier given the convenience of having them.
That being said, I am going to be talking about the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo speakers because they are the ones that are at the forefront when it comes to smart home speakers. Which of these should you choose? Read on to find out!
For those of you who do not know, Google Nest Audio is actually the Google Home speakers that were released just about a year ago. It seems that Google wanted to use a new moniker to denote that this particular thing can ‘nest’ your other smart home devices.
The Amazon Echo, on the other hand, refers to the medium-sized Bluetooth speaker that the largest online retailer sells. The company is set to release a new version of this device soon, so it would be interesting to see how well it performs.
Even though the new version of the Amazon Echo hasn’t arrived at our doorstep yet for an official review, this is not to say that we can somehow speculate what it can offer, especially considering that the company has provided us with some really good information about it.
With all of those out of the way, let’s talk more about the design first. The Google Nest Audio takes on a more cylindrical approach in that the speaker itself has a higher height than the Amazon Echo.
For that reason, you are getting a 75mm woofer and a single 19mm tweeter. Google touts the Google Nest Audio as a better sound solution compared to its original Google Home Speaker because of the changes.
On the other hand, the Amazon Echo, in my opinion, has better sound quality. That is thanks to its two 20mm tweeters and a huge 76.2mm woofer. Its design is more spherical but I am pleased (and surprised) that Amazon was able to include two tweeters on its Bluetooth speaker implementation.
At the base of the Amazon Echo is a blue light ring that changes the way it emits light depending on the current usage.
Both of these Bluetooth speakers are offered in various colors so you have different options to choose from.
If you look at the design of both speakers, you could make a case that the Amazon Echo wins this round when it comes to pure sound quality. Its two tweeters compared to the single tweeter on the Google Nest Audio, provides it with a much better chance of delivering mid-high sound frequencies.
This is not to discount the fact that Google has some tricks up its sleeves because its AI technology is smart enough to adjust the sound quality on the fly when needed.
Both of the speakers have an adaptive sound feature wherein if it detects that the ambient noise is loud enough, it increases the volume of whatever content you are consuming at that moment to compensate. This is using both of the speakers’ microphones. The volume should normalize to the last known level after it detects that the ambient sound has quieted down.
Of course, this is only my opinion after looking at the spec sheet because I will have to get my hands on these things before I can give my honest opinion. But, my initial assessment would be that the Amazon Echo delivers better sound compared to the Google Nest Audio.
To be able to provide you with ‘smart’ features, both the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo are equipped with processors that can handle just that.
The Google Nest Audio comes with the company’s TeraOPS A53 processor which is a quad-core chip that boasts of better performance compared to the company’s previous Bluetooth speakers.
On the other hand, Amazon’s own speaker is equipped with the AZ1 Neural Edge processor that, according to the company, should be more responsive to voice commands compared to previous versions.
It is hard to say who wins this round. You see, Amazon has Zigbee hub integration which means that your connected smart home devices have better compatibility with the said speaker because of this.
However, we all know that Google’s AI technology is so advanced (and even more accurate) than Alexa, so it could potentially provide you with better features overall compared to Amazon’s Bluetooth speaker.
Of course, I cannot truly say which one wins this round until I get to review these wireless audio solutions. In that case, stay tuned for more.
The Google Nest Audio will be available on October 5, while the Amazon Echo will not be released until later this month (October 22). That being said, both of these speakers will retail for $99.99, so stay tuned for our official product reviews to help you know which one you should ultimately choose for yourself.
Apple iPad 8th Generation Review- An Iterative Upgrade
When it comes to ease of use and convenience, people like getting Apple’s products because of its more streamlined approach to everything. Sure, there is a lot to tinker on Android but that is also precisely the reason why the user experience, at least for the layman, is not as great.
There is this saying that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, although I would have liked to say that here, I just don’t think that that approach applies here.
You see, the design of the 8th generation iPad is identical to its predecessor. As in everything about its aesthetics are similar which means that if you want to imagine what the new iPad looks like, all you have to do is look at the 7th gen variant.
Like all things, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is a good thing because that familiar design should feel right at home, especially for people that already own an iPad. It is bad because, in this day and age, more and more mobile devices have slimmer bezels and the new iPad still has those atrociously huge ones.
Don’t get me wrong, there are practical uses to having large bezels as it allows you to hold the tablet better when using it in landscape mode, but if you are watching online content, you can’t help but be bothered by the huge sides.
There are two versions of the 8th generation iPad and that is one with WiFi only and the other one having LTE. Its dimensions are 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29. The only difference between the WiFi and the LTE versions is that the latter is a bit heavier at 495 grams compared to the 490 grams of the former.
Thankfully, Apple didn’t remove the headphone jack but if you are going to utilize its built-in speakers, you are better off using a good Bluetooth speaker instead.
The 8th generation iPad has a 10.2-inch Retina Display with a resolution of 2160 x 1620 and 264 pixels per inch or PPI. It has a good peak brightness at 500 nits, though you can still experience some problems when you are outside and the sun is shining brightly.
You can utilize the Apple Pencil on this device and it is also quite accurate as well (just keep in mind that it is sold separately).
What I love about iPads, in general, is that their displays provide you with crisp and clear details. Whether you are working on your documents or perhaps watching your favorite movies and TV shows, they do not disappoint.
Specs and Performance
- CPU: A12 Bionic
- GPU: Apple GPU (4-core graphics)
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 32GB/128GB
- Display: 10.2-inch Retina IPS LCD Display, 2160 x 1620, 4:3 aspect ratio, 500 nits brightness, 264 PPI
- OS: iPadOS 14
- Cameras: 8-megapixel (back), 1.2-megapixel (front)
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 AC, Bluetooth 4.2
- Battery: 32.4 Wh
So, if the 8th generation iPad has an identical design to its predecessor, what has changed here? Well, I am glad you asked. The only notable difference here is that the new model comes with the A12 Bionic chip and that’s pretty much it.
While you could be unhappy with the change, the new CPU actually beats its predecessor by a lot. By using Geekbench 5, single-core scores are about 60% higher than the 7th gen iPad and about 100% better in multi-core tasks than the previous model.
Granted that the said benchmark is relatively old, you couldn’t argue that the new processor is indeed way better than its predecessor.
Even when you are just using the tablet the way it should be used, you can really tell the difference. This is more evident if you are going to play some games.
Now, do not worry about the 3GB of RAM because the iOS ecosystem is quite streamlined and efficient that you normally wouldn’t need more than that.
It should also go without saying that the included cameras are just there for show and they do not really do anything special, so I don’t think that covering them is warranted here.
Sure, the new 8th generation iPad doesn’t bring a lot to the table, but its new processor is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. Does that justify buying the new one? Probably not, especially if you already own the 7th generation model.
However, if you own an older iPad and you want better performance across the board, then you could probably spend your money to get one.
My gripe here is that there are only two storage options to choose from. You can get the 32GB variant for only $329 but in this day and age, 32GB is not a lot of storage space.
If you want more storage, you will need to spend an additional $100 premium just to get the 128GB model. In fact, I would go on to say that you should be buying this particular model compared to the 32GB variant. I just don’t like that the company is gouging you another $100 ($429 in total) just to get one.
The 8th generation iPad is disappointing in a lot of ways and its only redeeming quality is its new processor. It would have been nice if there is a redesign or that the lightning cable is changed to USB-C, but there is just not a lot of things to talk about here.
Therefore, I should say that the 8th generation iPad is just an iterative upgrade. Whether you want to buy it or not is entirely up to you.
Amazon Echo Studio Review- The Bigger ‘Echo’ Speaker That Competes
Amazon, the biggest online retailer in the world, has created its own AI implementation in the form of the Amazon Alexa.
It is actually quite polished and it can go against Apple’s Siri and Google’s own AI. That being said, the company has released some ‘Echo’ speakers that not only act as Bluetooth audio devices but as smart devices as well.
Today, I am going to be reviewing the Amazon Echo Studio. Does this thing really have what it takes to compete with the others?
One of the biggest criticisms of Amazon’s Echo speakers of the past is that although its smart features are okay, their sound output leaves much to be desired. As a way of addressing the issue, Amazon has built the Echo Studio.
The Amazon Echo Studio is pretty big. It is 8 inches in height and 7 inches wide so this is indeed a pretty hefty audio solution. In fact, I would go on to say that this is one of the biggest Bluetooth speakers on the market.
Its design is pretty much akin to the Amazon Echo speakers of old. You get a fabric mesh design that encapsulates the speaker itself with all of its button controls situated at the top of the device.
You also get a blue ring light that will pretty much add to the aesthetic appeal of the unit. The microphone is also placed at the top and it is always on ‘listening mode’ so that whenever you want to interact with Alexa, it can do so at a moment’s notice.
Although you cannot see it, the Amazon Echo Studio is actually powered by a subwoofer, a tweeter, and four mid-range speakers that are mounted at the top and the sides. This thing is a beast as it can output 330 watts of power when needed, which is ample enough even for home cinema setups.
The Amazon Echo Studio is quite a powerful Bluetooth speaker. No matter what genre of content you’d like to consume, this thing can output the necessary sound to make your viewing experience more immersive.
I am usually keen on an audio solution’s performance when it comes to playing music and I am happy with the Echo Studio’s prowess.
Although it favors the lower frequencies more than the mids and the highs, it does so without drowning the latter two, which is something that you normally do not see on large Bluetooth speakers.
An interesting feature that the Amazon Echo Studio has is its support for 3D Audio. You will need to sign in to your Amazon Music HD account before you can get a hold of this feature and it is the only platform that supports the Echo Studio’s 3D Audio. Amazon did mention that it will hand out support for other streaming platforms at a later date though.
So, how is the speaker’s performance on that front? Well, I am not really sure what to think about it as I have mixed feelings about the said feature.
3D audio is meant to provide a more immersive listening experience but I can hardly tell the difference between traditional Hi-Res audio and this one.
I guess you could say that for tracks that have a more melodic tone that you can discern a 3D audio-enabled track from a regular track, but other than that, non-audiophiles can hardly tell the difference.
To be fair, the said feature is still not polished yet, so expect it to improve in the years to come.
The Amazon Echo Studio also has seamless integration with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, though it does support all other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu as well.
You are also given the option to link up another Amazon Echo Studio speaker so that you can have them work in tandem to provide you with even better sound. I do not have a second unit though, so I cannot really tell anything about this. But, the feature is there if you want to get another unit.
Aside from 3D audio, the Echo Studio also acts as a control hub for your smart devices. You can use Alexa to turn off your lights at a specific time of the night or you can have it play your favorite track if you want. The possibilities are endless.
Do keep in mind that while it should support most of the smart home devices that you can buy on the market, there are some products that do not play ball.
For instance, some smart locks can only be supported using Apple’s Siri, so you cannot control that using this device.
You can also link up a second Echo Studio speaker if you have one and you can use both of them to provide you with an even more powerful and more immersive listening experience.
You can control the speaker’s features by manually tapping on the buttons at the top of the device or by downloading its companion app.
Amazon has finally solved the issue of the Amazon Echo speakers of the past by giving you a relatively large speaker that can do a lot of things.
The Amazon Echo Studio has support for 3D audio, but you will need to have an Amazon Music HD account to get a hold of the said feature.
You can also use the speaker to control your smart home devices which is pretty nice. The microphone is always on listening mode so that you can call Alexa’s attention at a moment’s notice.
Normally, I would expect a product like this to cost more than $300, but the Amazon Echo Studio actually costs just $199. I guess getting another one is not too far out of the equation, eh?
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