Samsung announced a handful of new products at its virtual Unpacked livestream, starting with the Galaxy Note20, Galaxy Watch3 and Galaxy Buds Live. This batch of products also includes the new Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7+ tablets. All told, the group of devices is a considerable launch for Samsung because it updates several lines all at once. The Note20 is the standout of the bunch, but if you’ve been waiting for a new smartwatch or true wireless earbuds, you have something to look forward to as well.
Given this was all presented virtually, I never got the chance to get any hands-on time with the devices, but did get some insight into them apart from the event.
Looking at the Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra
Starting with the Galaxy Note20, there are two versions of the phone, both of which are 5G-capable. The Note20 has a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x, while the Note20 Ultra has a 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x. One notable difference between these two is that the Note20’s screen is flat, whereas the Note20+ uses curved screen edges.
The screens are said to be 25% brighter in bright sunlight, and offer 120Hz refresh rates for smoother navigation. This won’t work with the highest screen resolution, however, but there is a fix for it. Samsung is including an adaptive refresh rate that will automatically switch it based on the content you’re watching.
The phones will run on the Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and start at 128GB of internal storage with 8GB-12GB of RAM, depending on the phone and configuration. There are also three colours: Mystic black, mystic green and mystic bronze.
The S Pen
The vaunted S Pen returns, and rather than showcase totally new impressions, Samsung is expanding its gesture controls with five Air Actions. You will be able to do more with it based on how you draw in mid-air in front of the screen. More importantly, the pen will now see reduced latency of 9 milliseconds, meaning there will be less lag between actually touching the screen with the pen and seeing the line appear as you draw it. This move should put the S Pen closer to what a physical pen and paper might feel like.
The camera array is basically carried over from the Galaxy S20, so there aren’t too many dramatic changes. However, there are a few tweaks to point out. Rather than go with a 48-megapixel telephoto lens, the Note20 phones have a 12-megapixel one instead. The laser autofocus should fix the latency that occurred with the Galaxy S20 camera autofocus, but that remains to be seen.
A newer 8K Pro video mode gives users the chance to shoot at the higher resolution with greater control over composition. You can also hone in on voices by audibly zooming in on a person talking, so it may be possible to capture video in a louder environment, yet still hear the subject’s dialogue.
Gaming on the Note20
This is an interesting partnership, as it aims to make the Note20 phones mobile gaming devices. The idea is to play over 100 games through an Xbox Game Pass membership and a cloud-based infrastructure. Rather than download the games, you would be streaming them instead. The titles include popular titles, like Minecraft, Forza and Gears of War, among others.
There is a clamp that connects to an Xbox controller to place the phone in. When paired, you can play the supported games using the controller’s buttons. Samsung says it will offer a gaming
Checking out the Galaxy Watch3
After focusing on the Galaxy Watch Active smartwatches the last 18 months, Samsung is back with a more elegant design. The Galaxy Watch3 is thinner, lighter and smaller than the original Galaxy Watch, and comes in both 41mm and 45mm sizes. It sports a stainless steel body, along with the physical rotating bezel that was a staple of previous models. A genuine leather band with a nice stitching pattern accentuates the look the company is going for.
There is an integrated heart rate sensor, but it’s the other sensors that may not be available. The blood pressure monitor and electrocardiogram (ECG) are dependent on regulations, so I will need to confirm Canadian availability.
The “full-service fitness studio” with Samsung Health has over 120 different video workouts. However, it’s an integrative approach in that you select a workout routine on a Galaxy smartphone or cast over to a compatible Samsung smart TV. Then the Galaxy Watch3 automatically tracks the workout. Samsung claims improved sleep tracking and more
When paired with a Galaxy phone, you can set automatic replies for both messages and images. What’s cool is that the chat history will appear when responding to a message. I will have to test it to see how seamless music playback will be, which has been a mixed bag in the past. Samsung says you can clench your fist to receive a call, or rotate your wrist to mute an incoming call or alarm.
The 45mm Galaxy Watch3 will come in mystic black and mystic silver. The 41mm Galaxy Watch3 will come in mystic bronze and mystic silver.
Hearing about the Galaxy Buds Live
Samsung has come back with another pair of true wireless earbuds, and these ones are different. Unlike the Galaxy Buds+ launched earlier this year, the Buds Live sport a unique design that doesn’t nestle into your ear canal. Instead, it rests along the inner ear, covering the canal with the speaker driver.
They are 12mm drivers, so there is some power pumping out of them. What’s so unusual is that there are no eartips protruding into the canal, so the audio comes in almost like a concave. I haven’t listened to them yet, but I’m curious to see what the sound effect is like. To block out ambient noise, there is active noise cancellation (ANC), which Samsung says can reduce up to 97 percent of background sounds. ANC works best with consistent sounds, like buses, trains, planes, air conditioners — basically anything that has a monotonous tone to it.
Air vents and a bass duct can let some ambient sound in, yet keep bass from sounding distant. I’ll have to see this for myself when I test them out. Battery life is rated at six hours per charge, with 24 hours total on the case.
Samsung says it made the earpieces and case out of recycled materials, which is a nice touch. It’s just not clear how much recycled material was used to make them. Sticking with the theme this summer, they will come in mystic black, mystic white and mystic bronze.
Viewing the Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7+
As a follow up to the Tab S6, the Galaxy Tab S7 tablets are supposed to be “the ultimate productivity device.” The Tab S7 has an 11-inch LCD, while the Tab S7+ has a 12.4-inch Super AMOLED. The same S Pen performance makes its way over to these devices, too. Reduced latency and the ability to sync voice recording to notetaking are key upgrades.
NoteShelf, Canva and Clip Studio all come preloaded on the tablets, adding to Samsung’s focus on the productivity angle. They will run Samsung DeX when you want a desktop experience on the software side. There are a number of features Samsung noted in its keynote, but look for a review on the blog to drop soon. In keeping with the colour theme, the tablets will be available in mystic black, mystic white and mystic bronze.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2
Body is thinner at 6mm, and minimized the gap between the screens to reduce the ‘squishy’ effect of the previous model. It has a 6.2-inch display at the front. Once opened, it has a 7.6-inch Infinity-O Display with a 120Hz refresh rate and front-facing cameras on the outside and inside. It uses what’s called “Ultra Thin Glass” (UTG) that is thinner than human hair to make up the display. That results in a flatter fold and a better hinge that should keep out debris because of the bristles underneath.
More details will be coming in a future announcement for this phone. All we know right now are the basics, including that it will come in mystic black and mystic bronze.
Expect to see reviews for these devices on the blog to gauge just how much Samsung delivers on its promises. Pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy Note20 and Galaxy Note20 Ultra are available now, with the phones officially coming to market on August 21.