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To start off I would like to address a question that I’ve been asked countless times. “Does the monitor get that nasty yellow tint?” As I’ve mentioned in my first impressions, I have had no problems with any yellow tinting. My brother’s iMac has a slight yellow tint problem so no worries guys (and girls ;D ) I know what I’m talking about here. If I open a blank word document and maximize it, it looks white as snow. (Without that yellow stuff you find time to time!)
Samsung SyncMaster SA550 With brightness max
The monitor has a refresh rate of 2ms and to this day I have not noticed once any ghosting problems. But I have noticed some pixilation lag which I mentioned below in the Macbook Section; it’s more likely to be a graphics card issue rather than a monitor one though.
The LED backlit display has a crisp resolution of 1920×1080 and it is simply a pleasure to work on. ( As cliché as that sounds!) In my first impressions I said that the colors aren’t as vibrant than glossy monitors, while that may be true, I’ve noticed I’ve been watching more movies on this monitor than my glossy Macbook Pro’s. Not just because of size but I have noticed that after a long period of watching movies or shows on any glossy monitor my eyes start to hurt a bit. (My friends HP monitor) But with the Samsung, while it isn’t the most vibrant, it is a great companion monitor to watch movies on. And I do watch plenty of movies! And whether I’m watching DVDs or simply watching youtube videos the Samsung SA550 gets the job done right.
When it comes to doing work such as photo/video editing this monitor is A-MA-ZING. I can’t go back to editing on my Macbook Pro’s glossy monitor after using the Samsung for so long– again not because of size—but rather the colors aren’t as accurate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Mac guy and I love the Macbook Pro but when it comes to work the Samsung attached to it just blows it out the water. At first glance, there isn’t much about the Samsung that separates it from your typical glossy. However, I do a lot of photo editing and I’ve edited the same picture on the Samsung, the Macbook Pro, and the iMac. Once I’ve actually printed out the photo, I can easily say that the Samsung had the much more accurate colors; hence my opinion that the Samsung was the best to edit photos on.
NOTE: I am using an HDMI cable with this monitor which is NOT included in the box. Definitely get an HDMI cable if you’re planning to get this monitor for the best results.
I understand that looks don’t change but I had to bring it up again. As with a lot of new products that you buy the first impressions are always, “This machine looks incredible”. However about a few weeks later the looks seem to lose its lust. And I usually fall victim to this of course. However when it comes to this monitor I must say that it has not lost its appeal. It just sits nice and sleek next to my Macbook Pro and I CONSTANTLY get reminded by friends and family of how “Pro” it looks.
Setting up the monitor is a breeze. It has a few pieces that pop together in place. (Pieces are pretty much self-explanatory) The entire feeling hallow argument that I stated in my first impressions actually no longer bother me at all. I go to electronic stores often and I can say that as of 2011 a lot, if not all Samsung monitors, have the same hallowed feel to it.
Keep in mind that the actual display is plastic. (Including the what looks like a glass border around the display)
I stated in my first impressions that I didn’t like how the touch sensitive buttons felt unresponsive. I’ve tried tampering with it daily JUST to see if my opinions on it would change: it hasn’t. I really never need to use them but for the sake of having my final impressions of it I had to give it some time. I like physical buttons like my friends HP monitor. It feel faster to navigate through menus on my friends HP monitor with the physical buttons. On my Samsung I feel as if I have to be gentle with it to get the touch sensitive buttons to register. While not a huge deal it does slow you down. And of course I’m sure a lot of us won’t be changing the monitors’ settings hourly so it wouldn’t be a big deal regardless.
I think this monitor is a great deal. While it is a tad bit pricey at about 250 dollars, you do get what you pay for. I know you can find many monitors online for a great bargain but don’t stump this monitor out yet. It’s hard to explain but you won’t notice how nice this monitor really is until you’ve used it for a long period of time and then try out another. You not only appreciate it more but you also really get the sense just how nice and accurate colors are. Thumbs up to Samsung!
Note: When using it in mirrored mode I did notice the resolution didn’t fit the Samsung’s monitor well. So I had to use it in clamshell mode. Simply close your Macbook and use a mouse or keyboard to wake the machine up. (While the lid is still closed) And there you have it; the Macbook Pro on your Samsung SA550 with the monitors crisp maxed out resolution.
For those curious about the actual performance of this monitor being attached to the baseline 2011 Macbook Pro 13” look no further. A lot of people have asked me whether the Intel HD 3000 was capable enough to run an external monitor smoothly. And my answer? It works PERFECETLY fine when doing your basic task. No lag, no ghosting, nothing. However, I have noticed when I am doing work in Adobe Illustrator the Samsung Monitor pixelates. When I hover over the dock, a simple task such as adding a watermark to our TechShift pictures will cause the monitor to pixelate for a moment, which gets pretty annoying quickly. (ONLY THE DOCK GETS PIXELATED) And yes, without the monitor there is no lag or pixilation with any of my software.
If you’re not on a tight budget then this monitor is definitely worth considering. There isn’t too much to complain about. It is able to connect to a computer or laptop just fine. It’s built, while it’s not the best, isn’t too far behind from what other monitors have to offer. I have enjoyed watching movies and videos on this monitor but I’ve even more so enjoyed more editing on it. And, while the touch sensitive buttons aren’t my ideal, at the end of the day I must consider that this product is a monitor and it does exactly what it needs to do without any compromise to the actual display. So if you’re in the market, check out the Samsung SyncMaster SA550. The TechShift team and I definitely recommend it.
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Samsung Gear S2 details released in full [UPDATE: more images]
Three versions of Samsung’s newest smartwatch, the Gear S2, have been revealed today. Each of the three, the Samsung Gear S2, Gear S2 classic, and Gear S2 3G will come with round faces and Tizen for their software platform. While the Gear S2 and S2 classic will come with Wi-fi connectivity, a Gear S2 3G version will also be released with the same specifications save a slot for a 3G SIM card. Each of these devices will also come with Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC, and will be released likely by the end of the year.
According to Samsung, the difference between the Gear S2 and the Gear S2 classic is design preference. The Gear S2 classic is made for users who “prefer a more timeless watch design.” This device has a black finish and a matching “genuine leather” band. The Gear S2, on the other hand, is made for “those who are on-the-go and have an admiration for minimal and modern design.”
The Gear S2 will have two different color combinations, one in Dark Gray with a Dark Gray band, the other in Silver with a White band. Again, the Gear S2 classic will be all black and black.
Samsung Gear S2 and Samsung Gear S2 classic:
• Display: 1.2″, Circular Super AMOLED, 360×360, 302ppi
• Processor: unnamed Dual core 1.0 GHz
• OS: TIZEN for wearables
• Audio: Codec: MP3/AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, Format: MP3, M4A, AAC, OGG
• RAM: 512MB
• Internal Storage: 4GB
• Dimensions: Gear S2 : 42.3×49.8×11.4mm (47g) Gear S2 classic : 39.9×43.6×11.4mm (42g)
• Battery: 250mAh wireless charging
• Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart Rate, Ambient Light, Barometer
• Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
• Special Features: IP68 dust and water resistant
Samsung Gear S2 3G:
• Display: 1.2″, Circular Super AMOLED, 360×360, 302ppi
• Processor: unnamed Dual core 1.0 GHz
• OS: TIZEN for wearables
• Audio: Codec: MP3/AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, Format: MP3, M4A, AAC, OGG
• RAM: 512MB
• Internal Storage: 4GB
• Dimensions: 44.0 x 51.8 x 13.4mm (51g)
• Battery: 250mAh wireless charging
• Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart Rate, Ambient Light, Barometer
• Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 3G
• Special Features: IP68 dust and water resistant
Samsung suggests that the Wi-fi editions of these devices will last between 2-3 days, while the 3G version will last closer to 2 days.
UPDATE: Above you’ll see a gallery with more images of the Gear S2, S2 3G, and S2 classic.UPDATE 2: The Samsung Gear S2 “both Bluetooth and 3G connected models” will be available from Verizon. So says Verizon – without availability dates or pricing – but there it is!
Samsung also mentions today that the Gear S2 with 3G will work with the first-ever e-SIM with voice capability. They say that this means that users will be able to “perform quick functions without being closely tethered to their phone,” which to us makes it seem like the SIM card is doing voice processing, which would be… very strange. It’s far more likely that the SIM would continue to provide data while the smartwatch’s processor does the heavy lifting.
Samsung’s inclusion of NFC here means users will be able to make mobile payments with their wrist. At this time we’re unaware of any currently-active apps for mobile payments on Tizen, but we’d be unsurprised if the first were Samsung Pay.
Pricing and retail release has not yet been revealed for the Gear S2, Gear S2 classic, or Gear S2 3G.
The Hoplite is an extremely powerful out of the box system, requiring very little set up before it can be used thanks to the technicians over at Overclockers. It runs games at over 120fps at 1080p and will continue to do so for the next few years, but it will struggle to reach 60+fps at a 4K resolution.
Overclockers is known for putting together powerful machines so you don’t have to, making sure they’re rigorously tested and checked before they’re sent out of the factory. The Hoplite is certainly no exception and is able to run the latest titles right out of the box striking a great balance between having enough power without over-spending on any one component.
Price & Availability
You can find the Hoplite on the Overclockers website.where it was originally £1,479.95 but is now just £1,299. The specs we have here including an AMD Ryzen 7 2700x and GeForce RTX 2060 WindForce OC 6GB).
At the bottom of the page, you’ll be able to configure the build to your liking if you’d like to alter some components. The build we’re testing is the higher end of the specifications, but if you’re looking to save some extra money you can change the CPU down to the 2600X without impacting gaming performance too much.
Make sure you take a look at our best gaming PC chart to make sure you’re getting the right machine for your needs.
Design & Build
The Hoplite comes in a black Kolink Phalanx RGB Gaming Case. This case combines the best of both worlds by both looking great and being extremely practical at the same time.
The dimensions for the case are 210 x 510 x 445mm (WxHxD) making it a reasonably sized product. It’s not a massive case though and you shouldn’t have too much trouble fitting it into your setup, but the efficient design still means plenty of room within the case for larger graphics cards (up to 370mm) and taller CPU Cooler Heights (up to 160mm).
The front of the case features an open wire-mesh vent, so the three front fans are clearly on display. The side of the case features a tempered glass window with a hinge, providing easy access to the inner components.
This being a pre-built machine, it’s always nice to have that extra reassurance that it has been put together with care and expertise. Overclockers has an excellent reputation for this already, but with your new computer, you’ll find a checklist completed by a technician that shows the tests and procedures they followed when putting it together.
Every machine that comes out of the Overclockers warehouse has been thoroughly tested, and with the included three-year warranty, you can be sure you’re getting a well put together product.
The inside of the case is kept nice and tidy, with wires being tucked away and tied down to ensure the airflow through the case is kept as free as possible. Both hard drives are kept concealed behind a plate to help the overall aesthetic and the cooling architecture too.
The inside of the case is dominated by the two largest components, the graphics card and the CPU cooler.
The Asetek closed-loop liquid cooler is responsible for keeping the CPU nice and cool, with the dual 240mm fans attached to the radiator block at the top of the case. The Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2060 WindForce sits over the PCI-E bays comfortably, dominating the middle of the board.
When the machine is booted up the array of RGB lights make it a sight to behold, bright and cohesive enough to satisfy even the most demanding lovers of aesthetic PC design.
Specs & Performance
The Hoplite we tested features the AMD Ryzen 2700X, supported by the Gigabyte RTX 2060 WindForce OC and 16GB of the Night Hawk DDR4 memory at 3200Mhz.
The AMD Ryzen 2700x is the flagship of the second-generation Ryzen chips and shows a marked improvement year-on-year, swiftly gaining ground on Intel’s Core-i7 series. Traditionally, Intel has always been the king when it comes to single thread performance while AMD processors fare better at tasks that make use of multiple cores.
The majority of games will perform better on fewer, more powerful cores rather than many, less powerful ones. This will generally place Intel’s equivalent i7 processor above the 2700x for game performance, but it won’t be by a lot.
When it comes to tasks that can make use of several cores, such as video editing, the increased core count of the AMD processors will start to shine through and surpass Intel’s offering.
Having said all that, the 2700x will still boost up to 4.35Ghz on a single core, so it’s certainly no slouch in single core performance either – just not quite as fast as Intel.
The Gigabyte RTX 2060 WindForce is a very solid graphics unit, but it holds a bit of a strange position within the RTX line.
As the most wallet-friendly offering in Nvidia’s RTX series, it appears to be a good option for those of us that want ray tracing visuals on the cheap. However, when we put it through 3DMark’s Port Royal benchmark designed specifically to test ray tracing, we only got a score of 3909 with an average FPS of 19.
On the upside, the card will perform more than well enough at a 1080p resolution if you’re running the latest games at medium graphics level, even at ultra settings, you’ll still see above 60fps. We found the system averaged 147 FPS in Total War: Warhammer 2 on medium settings and then an average of 87 on Ultra graphics.
Bumping up to 4K will means it will struggle with some of the more strenuous titles available, and while you can get an acceptable frame rate you’re going to struggle to get above 60fps consistently. For just an extra £100, you could upgrade to the PC Specialist Vulcan S2 which has an RTX 2070.
This will also mean that in the next few years as graphics quality improves, this card will start to struggle on the larger resolutions – so if you’re looking to move into 4K in the future we’d recommend a more powerful card.
This build is all held together by the Gigabyte B450 AORUS ELITE motherboard which provides a solid foundation for the machine, with a wide array of features and a respectable amount of PCI-E slots. It also includes 4x USB 3.1 and 4x USB 2.0 ports along with support for up to four sticks of RAM.
The closed-loop Asetek 240mm AIO CPU cooler helps keep the processor cool and does so excellently with the help of the Noiseblocker BlackSilent Pro PLPS 12mm system fans.
Storage is provided by the Gigabyte 240GB 2.5 In SSD and backed up by the Seagate 2TB 7200RPM HDD.
These benchmarks were collected with the spec listed above which can be found here on the Overclockers website:
The Geekbench 4 benchmarks show the difference in single core performance between the AMD and Intel CPUs.
The Yoyotech Warbird features a Core i5-6600k and the Chillbeast Fusion Juggernaut holds an 8600k. Sadly the later model i5 doesn’t include hyper-threading which means it’s going to fall behind when it comes to multithreaded applications.
The PCMark tests across all machines are generally outstanding, although the Hoplite falls behind once again due to the majority of everyday programs only using one or two cores.
Sky Diver shows the Hoplite putting up an excellent score against the other two machines, particularly because the Warbird and Chillbeast run an RTX 2070 and 2080 respectively. This shows that at a 1080p resolution, the extra performance you’re getting from the higher end RTX cards isn’t worth the money. However, if you’re looking to game in 4k or at 200+ FPS with some specialised screens, the more powerful cards will start to make sense.
The Hoplite from Overclockers is a powerful machine at a reasonable price. Spending under £1,500 for a computer this powerful, that is ready to go out of the box, is a solid investment for those of us that don’t want to get our hands dirty building a PC ourselves.
However, this machine does miss the mark a little when it comes to more strenuous 4K gaming. If you’re looking to purchase a rig specifically for gaming, a 7th or 8th generation Intel i5 is still the best choice, coupled with a graphics card that suits your needs.
If you want to game consistently at 4K we’d recommend an RTX 2080 at least. If you’re planning to remain at 1080 then the RTX 2060 will serve you well for the next few years.Specs Overclockers Hoplite: Specs
Case: Kolink Phalanx RGB Gaming Case – Black
Power Supply: 850W 80Plus Platinum Rated PSU
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 3.7GHz (4.3GHz Boost) Eight Core/Sixteen Thread Processor
Motherboard: Gigabyte B450 DDR4 Motherboard
Cooler: Asetek 240mm AIO liquid CPU Cooler
Memory: Up to 32GB DDR4 3200MHz Dual Channel RGB Kit
Primary Solid State Drive: Gigabyte 240GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive
Storage Hard Drive: Seagate 2TB 7200RPM Hard Drive
Graphics: Gigbyte GeForce RTX 2060 6144MB Graphics Card
Audio: 7.1 High Definition Audio
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home Advanced 64 Bit
The best Android tablets
Samsung Chromebook Pro review
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review: This is not a laptop
Samsung just recently announced its latest convertible-styled Chromebooks, which now offer support for full blown Android apps – opening a gate that was once closed to them, so it’s especially intriguing how things have turned out. Now that by itself should make anyone question Samsung’s decision to launch its new Galaxy Tab S3, which comes almost two years after its predecessor. In that time, we’ve seen a radical shift in how consumers perceive tablets.
The Tab S3 is competing against other Windows 10 tablets and convertibles in the same price bracket, as well as these cheap Chromebooks and Apple’s iPad Pro tablets. So, do we really need another high-end Android tablet? Find out in our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review!
The biggest change to the display, however, is that it now features high dynamic range – that fancy HDR tech allows it to adjust details, contrast, and color saturation to give videos more of that cinematic vividness. From what we saw in our demo time during MWC 2023, it looked really great in how the contrast in the shadows were adjusted to draw out more details in the scene. However, it’s something you’ll witness with content produced in HDR – so existing videos without HDR won’t necessarily see improvements.
The quad speakers deliver crisp-sounding audio perfect for videos
That being said, there’s no arguing that the Tab S3 is remarkable for media consumption, since it’s been bred for that purpose. In complementing the HDR-enabled display, Samsung pairs the experience with quad speakers; two sets of speakers positioned on both edges of the tablet in landscape. They’re tuned by AKG by Harman, delivering crisp-sounding audio perfect for videos – giving it the necessary stereo effect. But despite reaching a top output of 75.4 dB, it doesn’t sound more potent than the speakers in the iPad Pro.
Indeed, the Tab S3 handles most of the basic functions of a tablet, but it still stumbles when trying to juggle around more processor-intensive stuff. We see it happen when using Nougat’s baked-in side-by-side multitasking, as there are still some instances when it freezes momentarily. Most actions result in fluid movements, like surfing the web or using the S Pen in a painting app, but there are still times when hiccups do occur with the performance. It’s not frequent, thankfully, but that does make us wonder if it’s the software that’s the culprit.
The benchmark tests reveal it’s very much a powerhouse, in the elite class as you’d expect, rivaling the scores achieved by today’s top-end smartphones. One area that Samsung places a lot of emphasis on is gaming, thanks in part to the Vulkan graphics API engine – allowing it to deliver a solid gaming experience. The emphasis on gaming is especially noticeable in Samsung’s Game Launcher, which dishes up tools that allow gamers to do things like record their footage; without impacting its graphics processing performance in the process.
Aside from a few aesthetic changes to the design of the tablet, such as its quad speakers, everything else is pretty much in its usual position. Just like before, the power button and volume keys are located along the right edge of the tablet, along with the microSD card slot. Around the bottom, we have a 3.5 mm headphone jack with the newer USB Type-C connection port, which is positioned offset from the center.
Samsung has increased the battery capacity to a 6,000 mAh cell, up from its predecessor capacity of 5,870 mAh. That’s a very miniscule upgrade, which results in barely any difference with its battery life performance on a real-world basis. It’s average to say the least, which means that it’s something that would benefit from nightly charges.
Battery life on the Tab S3 is average, to say the least
In our benchmark testing, it topped out at 6 hours and 41 minutes with web surfing – while video watching lasted a minute more at 6 hours and 42 minutes. That’s really nothing worth bragging about, since they’re very average in comparison to other devices we’ve tested. However, it’s at least speedy enough with its recharging via its fast charging technology, taking only a mere 168 minutes to fully charge. That’s impressive given the capacity we’re dealing with, as most smartphones can take nearly the same time to accomplish.
Owners of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones will be able to continue having access to certain things on their phones while using the Tab S3, thanks in part to Samsung Flow, which allows us to share files wirelessly with the phone – and even respond to message and view notifications. We actually prefer using the old SideSync app, which essentially virtualizes the phone in all of its glory on the tablet. You basically have a window that displays the contents of the phone, so you can do things like send text messages, receive phone calls, and much more!
There still aren’t enough tablet-optimized apps on Android yet
The biggest flaw with the software in our opinion, which is a big deal breaker when you think about it, is how the platform lacks optimized apps meant to be used on tablets. We’re not even talking about third party apps here, just because some of the native apps still don’t support landscape orientation – so it’s an annoyance that forces us to place it in portrait.
Going back to third party apps, this is the disparity that allows the iPad Pro to expose Android’s weakness. There are a handful of popular apps that still don’t properly adjust dynamically in landscape, like Instagram for example. Due to this lack of tablet optimized apps, it really doesn’t help out the tablet’s cause – making it feel like we’re dealing with a very huge phone, as opposed to a tablet. And when you consider that some Chromebooks now offer support for Android apps, it lessens the value of owning an Android tablet nowadays.
Another quarter, another superphone. This time it’s the Google Samsung Galaxy Nexus, with its pimped out 4.6” 1280×720 Super AMOLED display and the tasty Ice Cream Sandwich update to Android. How does it stack up to the recent competition, you might wonder, read on to find out!
I’ve had this shiny device in my hands for a little over a week now and find myself somewhat disappointed. To give you context, I had been the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy S2 up until Wednesday last week and passed that down my family tree. I’m kind of regretting that decision.The Hardware
There is no question that the Galaxy Nexus possesses what can only be described as an amazing screen. It’s bright, vivid, and sharp as they come. However, for those of us who are highly aware of the pentile layout’s shortcomings, it is not perfect. If you have no idea what pentile is, the image below might help clear things up. Essentially, the pentile matrix is a different way of arranging the sub-pixel types and is easier to mass produce. Unfortunately, a downside is that it can create visual artifacts that are unpleasant. The resolution is so high on the Nexus that it is hard to see these artifacts, but they do nevertheless exist if you look close enough.
The speed of the Nexus is one of my main gripes. It sports a 1.2GHz TI OMAP processor along with a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. These are both sub-par when compared to the specs of the Samsung Galaxy S2. As a result one might expect a minor speed decrease. However, the higher resolution of the Nexus actually means that the GPU needs to drive more than twice as many pixels. Let me be clear – the Samsung Galaxy S2 is butter smooth. The Galaxy Nexus is NOT. It stutters and it lags, it takes too long to load contacts and web browsing can be slow if the page is large.
The camera is also not that great. The zero shutter lag is a nice touch, but it’s hard to take a sharp photo – you need to hold it perfectly still. The flash also produces unnatural colors – every person I’ve photographed in low light ended up looking a sickly alien green! Comparing this camera to the SGS2, there is no contest. The SGS2 produces beautiful images, sharp, colorful, and the flash does a good job. Keep the S2 if you have one!
The loudspeaker is too soft, but otherwise sounds good. Call quality has been just fine, and I feel like I’ve been experiencing less missed calls than with my S2.
Battery life has been decent – better than my SGS2, but not amazing. Basically, I need to have it plugged into the car charger when I drive around during the working week otherwise it might not make it to the end of the day. However, I make close to 2 hours of calls daily, use the navigation constantly, have it syncing to 5 email accounts and browse the web on it in the morning. All things considered, even when I don’t have access to a charger during the day it usually holds up pretty well.The Software
The Ice Cream Sandwich update has been a long time coming. It brings together many of the new features Google developed for their tablet OS, Honeycomb, and unifies the OS under one banner. Ice Cream Sandwich is the best part of the Galaxy Nexus. It’s pretty, it works well, and it makes the whole experience feel far more polished. It’s the little things, like an old-school television CRT switch-off animation when you power off the phone. Or the full-screen high resolution image of a person when you make or receive a call from them.
From a functionality perspective, it sometimes seems a case of two steps forward, one step back. Certain useful features that should be there are not there. For example, something simple like a number auto-complete when you type a number into the keypad is missing (this could have been a vanilla Android thing, correct me if I’m wrong).
A few little bits under the hood:
– The battery app within settings gives you a good idea as to what’s causing battery drain. Unsurprisingly the bulk is eaten up by that enormous screen, followed by voice calls.
– There’s a cool data usage management app within settings that lets you set a warning limit and a hard limit on data usage for your mobile. A great feature for those of us who don’t have unlimited data.Conclusion
If you have the Samsung Galaxy S2 and have been thinking about “upgrading”, don’t. If you have anything else, you could do worse than to consider an upgrade. However, my feeling is that the next wave of smartphones is only just around the corner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an SGS3 or a newer, better HTC phone near the end of Q1 next year. If you can’t wait, however, this is definitely not a bad phone. It has its shortcomings, but it’s built well, looks good, and if you’re a little patient it should do you just fine!
JJ runs a company that specialises in IT Support and cloud IT Solutions in Australia. He also moonlights as a tech blogger.
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The Samsung Galaxy Gear is an interesting device, but it works with only three smartphones – yet won’t act as a true replacement for any of them – and is expensive at £299. There are some gimmicky features, such as the Camera and Music Controller apps, while S Voice and Voice Memo are in their element here (even though talking into a smartwatch feels weird). The Pedometer, Walk Workout and S Trainer apps will appeal to fitness fans, getting them up on their feet even if the number of steps taken and calories burned is overestimated. Proper email support is a glaring ommission, it shouldn’t be so difficult to set an alarm, and the device is far too bulky and heavy to be comfortable – at least in this reviewer’s opinion. But as an early device and an example of what’s to come, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is a good first attempt for Samsung.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is a smartwatch compatible with only the Galaxy Note 3, S4 and S4 Mini. These are all are popular smartphones, but does the £299you have to shell out for the Galaxy gear smartwatch improve your experience of using a Samsung smartphone? We find out. (Also see: Best smartwatches.)
When many people consider the concept of a smartwatch, they think of it as a tiny smartphone that you wear on your arm. That’s not entirely true. While the Galaxy Gear does indeed let you conduct telephone calls and use its S Voice voice assistant to send text messages, it can handle few of the internet-connected tasks for which we routinely use our smartphones. You can’t browse the web and, although you can download apps, software designed for the Galaxy Gear is limited both in number and functionality. And while Mail/Gmail and social-media alerts are supported to the extent that the Galaxy Gear can let you know you have a new message or notification but not who it is from, read or reply to it, these are switched off by default. Our review unit was loaned by eBuyer.
See also: Samsung Gear 2 review: Classy Tizen smartwatch is too expensive.
So what can you do on the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch? You can initiate and answer telephone calls, regardless of how bizarre you look speaking into a watch; send and receive complete texts without relying on predefined templates; take still images and 720p video from the awkwardly placed 1.9Mp camera; create voice memos up to five minutes in length; make use of a Pedometer, Samsung’s Walk Workout and S Trainer apps to help you get into shape; play music stored on your paired smartphone; check the weather forecast and your calendar appointments for the day; and download certain apps.
You can also see at a glance the time and date – let’s not forget a smartwatch is a wristwatch first, and clever second.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Design and build
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is very big and heavy, at 56.6×36.8×11.1mm and 73.8g, and not particularly well suited to a female arm. But its bulk isn’t necessarily a bad thing: there’s no chance you’ll forget it’s there and not use it, and you’ll know the second you lose the device.
The Galaxy Gear is well made, with a sturdy stainless steel body, rigid (non-replaceable) rubber strap and metal clasp. You wouldn’t expect anything less at this price. It has a stylish design, with smooth, rounded edges, and four tiny screws at each corner of the screen. There’s no Samsung logo on display, although a camera jutting out the side of the strap is a wart-like blemish on the overall effect.
The Galaxy Gear gets extra points in the weightlifting department. Okay, so it’s only 73.8g, but this thing feels heavy on your arm. Its presence is always felt, and that isn’t something you get used to over time.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Setup and battery life
Setting up the Galaxy Gear is pretty straightforward. Embedded in its charging cradle is an NFC chip that allows you to download to your handset (we used the Samsung Galaxy S4) the Gear Manager app. We had to detach our Mophie battery case to make the connection, but pairing is thereafter conducted over Bluetooth 4.0.
Bluetooth was once considered a chief culprit of battery drain, but the latest specification is optimised for energy efficiency and range. While the Galaxy Gear dropped the connection to our smartphone when we popped it into our bag and walked into another room, this wasn’t a frequent occurence during our testing. It was also able to automatically reconnect to the handset when back in range, unless we had specifically prevented this in the settings.
We didn’t see a significant decrease in the battery life of our Samsung Galaxy S4 courtesy of this always-on Bluetooth connection, although the Galaxy Gear has itself been criticised for its short runtime. Samsung claims it will last 150 hours on standby, or 25 hours with ‘typical’ use. That sounds very much on the low side in our experience, given that we had 50 percent of the battery remaining after 24 hours of reasonably heavy use. So just as you might charge your smartphone every night, you’ll need to get used to taking off and charging your smartwatch at least every other day, or daily if you don’t want to risk getting caught out. A Micro-USB mains charger is supplied in the box.
Having paired the smartwatch and smartphone we waited a few minutes for the Galaxy Gear to download an update; it was then ready to go.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Gestures and navigation
It took only a short while to get used to navigating the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The screen isn’t as responsive as those found on Samsung’s smartphones, but the longer you spend playing with the device the easier it becomes.
The touchscreen is activated either by a single press of the solitary power button on the device’s side (a double-press by default invokes S Voice, but can be customised to launch your choice of app) or, when the Galaxy Gear feels like playing along, lifting your arm (you can specify which is your preferred arm for wearing the watch). Besides the time and date this home screen can also offer the temperature and weather; quick-access links to the Camera-, S Voice- and Settings apps; the number of steps you’ve taken that day; or your next Calendar appointment. Alternatively, you can display only the time, or opt for either of two styles of analogue clocks.
You can swipe down from the top of the home screen to access the camera, swipe up from the bottom to access the Dialler, and right or left to get to Notifications, S Voice, Voice Memo, Gallery, Media Controller, Pedometer, Settings, Apps, Logs and Contacts. Within each menu item you can tap on actions to select them, and use the drop-down menu at the top right of certain screens to access further options. Dragging down from the top of the screen returns you to the previous one.
A double-tap brings up brightness and volume settings and the battery status, while a double-tap and hold invokes the Recent Apps menu.
Pleasingly, with all this touching and swiping going on, the Galaxy Gear smartwatch is very good at repelling greasy fingerprints.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: A proper watch
The Samsung Galaxy Gear almost gets top marks for its watch-like capabilities. It tells you at a glance the time and date, and its use of a 1.63in (320×320) Super AMOLED touchscreen display with customisable background colours means you have this information at arm’s length whether it’s pitch-black or you’re squinting to see with that overbearing sunshine we so rarely get in England. Note that you can also invoke an Outdoor mode (accessible from the power-off menu), that temporarily increases the screen’s brightness.
There are also Timer and Stopwatch apps, a nod to this smartwatch’s secondary function as a fitness tracker. Had Samsung made it a little easier to find the Alarm app (you have to call up S Voice and say “Show alarm”) we might have got somewhere on the exercise front, rather than snoozing in bed. Annoyingly, when you set an alarm on your smartphone you don’t also get the wake-up call on your smartwatch.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Texts, calls and email
The Galaxy Gear instantly alerts you to new text messages, provided you aren’t using your smartphone when they arrive, and you can use S Voice rather than a templated message to quickly send a reply. It would be virtually impossible to type in a message on such a small screen, although this option may still be preferable in certain situations if it were available. Received messages are then archived within the Notifications app, although it isn’t possible to check your sent messages from the smartwatch.
Conducting a phone call over the Galaxy Gear is a bizarre experience. When you receive an incoming call both your smartphone and smartwatch will ring, and it’s up to you to choose on which device you answer it. If you like you can answer it on your smartwatch and then divert the call to your smartphone – perhaps you might demand some privacy, given that the recipient will in essence be on speakerphone – but it’s fiddly to do so while holding a conversation. You can also put the caller on mute or bring up the keypad, as you would on a smartphone.
Talking into a smartwatch both looks and feels odd and, although the Galaxy Gear’s sound quality is adequate (with dual mics for noise cancellation), there was a noticeable lag between what was said to the Galaxy Gear and those words being heard on the other end of the line.
The Contacts app within the Galaxy Gear’s smartwatch makes it easy to quickly contact anyone stored in your Google contacts, but with a smartphone within Bluetooth range it’s difficult to imagine why you might instead use the Galaxy Gear. Missed-call alerts can also be offered by the device.
Email is a sore point for this smartwatch: it is able to inform you of a new Gmail message on your smartphone, but you can’t see who it’s from, read its contents or send a reply. Email notifcations are also switched off by default, and to turn them on you’ll need to launch the Gear Manager app on your smartphone rather than tweak this setting on the smartwatch itself.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: S Voice
S Voice is Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Siri, a voice-activated assistant that can do such things as search online to find answers to your questions, text or call a friend, and add appointments to your calendar. It’s used to great effect on the Samsung Galaxy Gear, allowing you to speak aloud replies to messages without needing to pick up your phone or send a preset message. Its use is slightly more limited on the Galaxy Gear than it is the S4, given the lack of a web browser, but it can still send text messages, make calls, add events and tasks, set up to three alarms, open the Camera app and reveal the weather in a particular city.
The Voice Memo app also makes use of the Galaxy Gear’s built-in mic, letting you make notes of up to five minutes in duration, which is a better solution than trying to accurately type on a tiny screen.
The Galaxy Gear had no problem understanding our voice, and the amount of lag as it tried to work out what to do with our audible instructions was bearable.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: A fitness tracker
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is not only a smartwatch but a fitness tracker. Its Pedometer app works in conjunction with the S Health app on the Samsung Galaxy S4 to count your steps and track your health. Its accuracy is questionable, given that we managed to walk nine steps sitting at our desk, but that’s neither here nor there if it motivates you to get off your bum and do some exercise.
You can swipe right or left within the Pedometer app to access the Walk Workout, which Samsung claims helps you to walk at a pace that more effectively burns calories, and the S Trainer, which offers 30-minute sessions that combine walking, fast walking and running to help improve your fitness, with haptic feedback used to set the pace.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Camera
An interesting feature is the 1.9Mp camera side-mounted on the Galaxy Gear’s strap; mostly because there is no good reason for its inclusion other than it sounds like a neat idea. You can switch between stills and video-recording (15 seconds at 720p, 30fps) modes, and make use of the Sound & Shot app to capture still images that include sound. The camera, fitted with a BSI sensor, lets you switch between Auto and Macro focus, and choose either a 1:1 (1392×1392) or 4:3 (1280×960) aspect ratio for your shots. A Signature option can flag those shots as captured by the Galaxy Gear, which you may find useful when they are automatically added to your paired smartphone’s Gallery. If you really wanted to you could then edit those shots on your smartphone.
The camera on this device was never intended to produce top-quality stills and video, although the quality is acceptable on such a small screen. However, it’s the odd placement of the camera on the side of your arm that makes this feature near-useless, and holding up your arm to take shots is a practice that’s prone to both camera wobble and making you look stupid. Trying to compose the shot onscreen is also very difficult unless you capture every image at an upward angle.
One thing this camera placement is good for is spying. You’d be surprised what you can get away with recording with your arm placed unassumingly on a desk, although the angle issue means you’ll mostly be looking at a collection of people’s bottoms.
There’s 4GB of flash storage inside the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which should hold a decent amount of low-resolution photos and video. A Gallery app also lets you view any footage or stills captured by the watch, but not items stored on your paired device.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Music Controller
Another intriguing but pretty much useless feature is the ability to remotely play songs stored on a paired smartphone. You’ll note that we said ‘stored’: the Galaxy Gear can’t access our extensive collection of audio stored in the cloud and accessed via Play Music (even when you tap the pin icon to download them to your phone), so instead we have access to all six tracks sideloaded on to the device.
We can see why this might be useful if you’re, say, lying in bed and want to play a track on your smartphone that’s on the table on the other side of the room, but remember that you need to be close enough to that device to not only be within Bluetooth range, but to hear the music playing. (You can adjust the smartphone’s media-playback volume from the Galaxy Gear itself.)
You can also see album art and skip between tracks, but if you have a lot of music stored on your smartphone there’s no menu from which you can quickly pick out a specific track.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Apps
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking smartwatch apps are the same as those designed for smartphones. For a start, there is no shortcut to the Google Play store – or any other content store – on the Galaxy Gear itself. To install apps on your smartwatch you will have to bring up the Gear Manager app on your smartphone, tap on Samsung Apps, and then choose from the limited number of available apps.
At the time of writing there were no more than 100 apps available for the Galaxy Gear, very few of which took our fancy. We tried the eBay app, but were disappointed to find all it could do was display notifications on the smartwatch – to make a bid or shop online you need to pick up your phone. Meanwhile, the Social Networking category lacks apps for the three big ones – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and the Finance category had just one app.
Of the other apps that could be of interest there’s Feedly, Camera360, Evernote, Runtastic Pro, RunKeeper and RadiON, but also plenty of rubbish apps that let you, for example, shake a pair of dice or spin a virtual bottle.
As with an Android smartphone you can install apps from unknown services (disabled by default), but you’ll first need to check they are compatible with the Galaxy Gear.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Settings and customisation
There isn’t as much in the way of customisation as some Android users might expect. As we mentioned earlier, you can change the screen’s background colour and what’s displayed on the home screen. You can also specify the font size and whether the smartwatch should by default show the home- or last-viewed screen when the display is activated folllowing sleep. Following notification on the Galaxy Gear a Smart Relay feature can automatically open a text message when you pick up your handset. You can also choose between three ringtones and three notification tones, turn off touch sounds, and adjust the device’s volume, brightness, screen timeout and the intensity of its vibrations, but that’s about it.Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Security
The Galaxy Gear might be large and heavy enough that losing it would be something of a challenge, but even the most careful owner can occasionally be parted from their belongings. Samsung has included two features that address this concern, with one locking down the smartwatch should it go out of Bluetooth range of your phone, and the other aiming to reunite you with your paired handset should the other device in this relationship be misplaced.
An option within the Galaxy Gear’s Settings menu allows you to set up a pattern lock for the smartwatch. Rather than requiring you to tediously input your password each time you want to know the time, this security measure is activated only after your Galaxy Gear loses Bluetooth contact with its paired handset. Should someone attempt to pair it with another Galaxy device this patten lock aims to thwart their success.
Find My Phone is present within the Apps menu, which is handy if you put down and later can’t find your paired handset, provided it remains within Bluetooth range of the Galaxy Gear. Activating this app causes your smartphone to ring, even when it’s in silent mode.
There is also a Safety Assistance feature, which must be switched on and configured within the Gear Manager app. Once activated, three presses of the power button causes the Galaxy Gear to send a photo and your location to your emergency contact.Specs Samsung Galaxy Gear: Specs
1.63in Super AMOLED (320×320) touchscreen
4GB flash storage
1.9Mp camera with BSI sensor, autofocus and Sound & Shot
720p video recording at 30fps
two mics with noise cancellation
claimed battery life: 150 hours (standby), 25 hours (with typical use)
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