Samsung is a popular phone manufacturer and it was bold enough to experiment with foldable smartphones. The first Samsung Galaxy Fold was okay, but it was mired with a lot of issues that were eventually fixed.
The good thing about that experience is that the company was able to gain feedback from the community. What resulted is the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 and I’d have to say that the company did really well on the second iteration.
In this article, I will review this new foldable smartphone and find out why it is a new and improved productivity workhorse by reading the rest of this piece.
The design language of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 remains similar to the original version, albeit the issues that plagued its predecessor are now fixed.
For instance, the crease on the inner display is still noticeable but it is definitely made more sturdy now and people need not worry about any debris that might get inside of it as it is pretty closed off.
The main display also doesn’t have any hideous notches and thick bezels, so you are left with a lot of screen real estate to work with for your content and productivity tasks.
The outer screen (when you fold the device) is also a bit larger now, so it is not clunky to use if you want to read your messages or your emails on the outer display, for example.
There are two color options to choose from. Personally, I like the Mystic Bronze because it looks more premium than Mystic Black, but you may have a preference for the latter and that is okay (because both of them look really nice).
I have to say that the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is indeed a step up when it comes to build quality and I have no problems using it and folding the device as often as I like. That is because the company touts this new foldable phone as able to withstand 200,000 folds in its lifetime.
Keep in mind that even though the device has received a lot of major improvements, I wouldn’t use it outside when it is raining because this thing doesn’t have an official dust and water-resistance rating.
Personally, I like the idea of a foldable smartphone because it essentially is a tablet that is made more compact that you can easily place it inside your pocket. While the 7.6-inch body of the device may protrude from your pocket a bit, it is not as cumbersome as you think it is.
Anyway, you get two main displays- one that is found on the outside and one on the inside. The outside display (or cover display if you want) is a 6.2-inch screen that has a resolution of 2260 x 816.
The inner or main display is a 7.6-inch screen that has a resolution of 2208 x 1768 and a refresh rate of 120 Hz. The good thing is that the screen is set to adaptive mode which means that the refresh rate only ramps up when it needs to. This saves you a lot of battery in the process. I would still recommend that you bring a power bank with you just in case.
I really like the outer display now compared to its predecessor. Its larger real estate makes it easier for you to use your favorite apps and you can easily read whatever is displayed on the screen.
The main display provides a lot of screen real estate thanks largely to the thinner bezels and the removal of a thick notch at the top (which was the case on the original Galaxy Fold).
Because the main display is quite smooth (and the fact that it is not protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus like on the external display), the screen can be quite a fingerprint magnet. This is just something to keep in mind, especially if you have rather sweaty hands.
One interesting feature of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the new Flex Mode. This is similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip where the device can be folded just a little bit so that you essentially have two different screens.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 also has that so you have a device that has a larger screen- making it easier for you to take photos and whatnot.
For instance, if you power up the phone’s camera app, the left (top) display acts as the real-time preview while the right (bottom) screen acts as the screen that has all of the controls.
What nifty feature of this mode is that you can use the outer display as a viewfinder, so if you intend to take pictures of a model, you need not tell them where to go since they will know exactly where they need to be just by looking at the screen.
This functionality also extends to other apps as well. If you are reading e-books or perhaps playing games, the screen will immediately tailor itself to whatever content you are consuming at the moment.
You can find a triple camera array at the back of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, but instead of having a 108-megapixel lens like in the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, you only get a bevy of 12-megapixel sensors.
The main sensor is a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera and it is coupled with a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens (with 123-degree field of view), and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom.
For a $2,000 phone, I was expecting more, but given Samsung’s track record for making their cameras work really well with its software, I am still happy nevertheless.
You can still expect amazing images, albeit the performance suffers in low-light conditions (as it to be expected with such a device).
I wouldn’t recommend that you use the 10x digital zoom though as it introduces some noise to the resulting image and the overall quality is reduced dramatically.
I do like the use of Flex Mode as you can enable the dual-preview option that I mentioned earlier so that your subject will know where to position themselves for that perfect shot.
Hopefully, Samsung implements Flex Mode and provides its future foldable devices with better cameras to make the purchase of a $2,000 device more worthwhile.
Specs and Performance
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
- RAM: 12GB
- Storage: 256GB, 512GB
- Display: (main) 7.6-inches AMOLED, 120Hz, 2208 x 1768, HDR10+; (cover) 6.2-inches, 60Hz, 2260 x 816
- Cameras: 12-megapixel wide-angle (f/1.8), 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle (123-degree field of view, f/2.2), 12-megapixel telephoto (f/2.4); 10-megapixel wide-angle selfie camera
- Connectivity: WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, 5G (mmWave compatible), NFC
- Battery: 4,500 mAh, 25W fast charger included, 11W fast wireless charging compatible, reverse wireless charging at 4.5W
- Colors: Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black
- Features: Fingerprint Sensor (side-mounted), Samsung DeX, Flex Mode (display)
- Weight: 282 grams
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2’s performance package is actually quite good. It is equipped with the latest Snapdragon 865 Plus processor, though you will receive mixed results depending on the display that you use.
For instance, if you use the GFXBench benchmarking app, you will find that you get substantially lower scores when the cover display is used instead of the main screen, though you shouldn’t worry about that too much as the chipset is truly capable of handling any task you throw at it.
I also love the fact that Samsung used the Qualcomm SoC on all of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 devices which means that you do not have to worry about the Exynos chip being used here.
As you all know, the company’s own Exynos SoC is always slower than what Qualcomm has to offer and I am happy that Samsung made it a point to use the much faster processor on this $2,000 phone.
Even though the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 only has a 4,500 battery, I am glad that software optimizations have made it possible for this thing to last a whole day without having the need to charge the device.
I would have loved it if Samsung included a 30W charger, but the 25W charger is no slouch, so I am okay with that.
You can also use your favorite Qi wireless chargers as well since it supports the medium and you can also provide some battery to other Qi-enabled devices as well since it supports reverse wireless charging at 4.5W.
I am happy with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. It now has a much bigger screen and the main display has more screen real estate than its predecessor.
The implementation of Flex Mode is really key to making this a productivity workhorse. Because you can use two different screens for different tasks, you can complete whatever it is that you need to do in a much faster time.
The said mode can also be used when you are taking pictures as well. The external display can be utilized as a viewfinder which is a pretty neat implementation indeed.
I am surprised that this thing can last an entire day without needing to reach for a charger. That is definitely a step up compared to the Samsung Galaxy Fold that was released a year ago.
All in all, I am pleased with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. It is a pretty expensive device at $2,000 but I think that Samsung has really outdone itself in creating such an amazing foldable phone.
Do I recommend it to everyone? Well, not every single one of you, but for those that have the money, you will not regret purchasing the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.
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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