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Last year I had the opportunity to try the first iteration of the Galaxy Buds in order to compare them with the original AirPods. Today, I go hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ in order to compare them with the AirPods Pro. Watch our hands-on video walkthrough for the details.Specifications
Premium sound by AKG with woofer and tweeter inside each bud
Switch between two paired Samsung devices
Tap to control
Three adjustable ear and wing tip sizes
Available in three colors: cosmic black, white, and cloud blue
Android and iOS compatibility
11 hours of music streaming on a single charge
15 hours of talk time
22 hours of total battery life with charging case
Qi-enabled wireless charging
3-minute charge yields one hour of battery life
Ambient-aware filters in important sounds like airport announcements
Dedicated mics for phone calls in noisy places
Price: $149.99Video: Galaxy Buds+ vs Apple AirPods Pro
Subscribe to 9to5Mac on YouTube for more videosUnboxing & Design
The Galaxy Buds+ are very similar in style and design as their predecessors. The wireless charging case retains the pill-shape design, and comes in three main color options — cosmic black, white, and cloud blue.
If there’s one thing I wish Apple would learn is that people want more color choices for their devices. Apple has no problem allowing for a variety of colors with phones like the iPhone 11, but it’s never been keen on doing the same for its earbuds, wireless or not. Perhaps Apple has decided to leave all of the color options to its Beats brand, and maintain the iconic white earbud design that’s persisted since the original iPod.
Like the AirPods Pro, the Galaxy Buds+ comes bundled with multiple ear tip options, but it takes it one step further in offering different wing tip options as well. Wing tips are little accessories that put a small amount of pressure on the inner ear flap to help the buds stay secure in the ears.
Unlike the regular AirPods, the AirPods Pro provides a more secure fit in the ears thanks to the canal-sealing ear tips. This means that the value of the wing tips may be negligible depending on how well your individual ears cooperate.
Personally speaking I prefer the look of the black Galaxy Buds to the white AirPods Pro. I think the design looks sleeker from a pure aesthetics perspective, but there’s a reason why Apple designs the AirPods to look how they do, and that largely revolves around microphone, driver quality, and touch control interaction.Handling & Fit
Like the previous iteration of the Galaxy Buds, the Buds+ wireless charging case isn’t easy to operate with a single hand. What has improved, however, is the magnetic connection in the charging case, which lessens the likelihood of the buds falling out of the case while open.
Thanks to the ear tips and wingtips, the Galaxy Buds+ create a seal in the ear that does a great job of providing acoustic isolation. The Galaxy Buds+ lack the Active Noise Cancellation feature found on the more expensive AirPods Pro, which is disappointing, but the sound isolation made possible by the fit is above average.Charging & Battery Life
One of the most notable improvements to Samsung’s flagship wireless earbuds is the substantial boost to battery longevity. Each individual bud now enjoys 11 hours of battery life while listening to music, which means you can keep the buds in your ears all day without having to top them off.
Compared against the approximate 5 hours of battery life that you’ll get from each fully-charged AirPod Pro bud, and you can easily see that this is the most noteworthy difference in favor of Samsung’s offering.
The AirPods Pro enjoy better overall battery life when combined with the Wireless Charging Case (over 24 hours in total), while the Galaxy Buds + yield about 22 hours of combined battery life.
But Samsung’s charging case still comes with enviable features like USB-C connectivity and the ability to charge wirelessly directly on top of a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. At one time it was rumored that the iPhone 11 might enjoy a similar feature, but it never materialized.Pairing
The pairing process for the Galaxy Buds Plus is largely the same as its predecessor. Similar to the AirPods experience, when placing an opened Galaxy Buds+ charging case next to an eligible Samsung phone, you’ll receive a pop-up prompting you to pair with the tap of a button.
Samsung’s pairing process isn’t as polished as Apple’s, as I was inundated with all sorts of permissions pop-ups, which I found to be off-putting. Since the phone is already unlocked, and the user is initiating the pairing, I think the Galaxy Buds+ should be granted permissions without user interaction.Controls
The Galaxy Buds Plus, like the originals, feature a touch-sensitive Touch Pad on the outer area of each individual bud. The Touch Pad allows users to play, pause, skip, etc. using a series of taps to control music playback. Users are also able to customize the long-press gesture to control things like volume, ambient sound, and they even include a Spotify app-launch shortcut.
I much prefer Apple’s implementation of the solid state force sensor on the stem of the AirPods Pro. I feel more confident using Apple’s method, and have never pressed the force sensor by accident.
The Galaxy Buds+ feature a sensor on the inside of each individual bud that’s detects when they are in your ears. Although it works most of the time, occasionally it failed to properly detect when the buds were in use.
As an AirPods user since day one, I find it strange that the Galaxy Buds+ continue to play music when a single bud is removed from the ears. With the AirPods, if you remove a single bud, the music pauses and automatically restarts when the bud is placed back into the ears.
Only when you remove both buds from your ears will the Galaxy Buds+ stop music playback, and even then the reaction is a bit delayed. What’s more odd is that the music doesn’t automatically resume, which forces the user to manually restart playback.Noise Cancellation
The most important difference between these two products is the presence of noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro. The Galaxy Buds Plus, which cost $100 less, have no such feature.
The Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) on the AirPods Pro continues to impress me to this day. I’ve used noise cancelation in a variety of challenging situations, such as on and airplane or in a busy airport terminal, and I’m always surprised by how well it works.
Active Noise Cancellation goes a long way towards improving the sound quality of the AirPods Pro while in challenging environments. Even quiet areas, the noise cancellation of the AirPods Pro provides a level of acoustic isolation that Samsung’s buds can’t match.Sound & Call Quality
Outside of the individual bud battery life, the biggest improvement to the Galaxy Buds+ involves sound quality. I think Samsung fans will be quite pleased with the improvements, because they are noticeable.
The biggest difference that I noticed was with phone call quality, which is primarily owed to an improved microphone setup. As I noted in my original comparison, call quality was absolutely atrocious on the first Galaxy Buds, but it’s been improved significantly on the plus model.
Music quality is also improved, and this is largely thanks to the addition of a dual driver setup, where there is an individual woofer and individual tweeter coexisting within the same bud. Midrange sound is much improved thanks to this new design, and it comes without affecting battery life.
Yet, after comparing the AirPods Pro to the Galaxy Buds, it wasn’t even a question; the AirPods Pro sounded better. Sound is largely subjective, but in my opinion the AirPods sounded better and clearer in every frequency range.
The midrange of the Galaxy Buds+, while improved, still lacked the clarity and fidelity of the AirPods Pro. Using my go-to song Hotel California, my ears were able to pick up on nuances that were harder to discern when wearing Samsung’s buds.
That’s not to say that the AirPods Pro are anywhere near audiophile quality, as I’m not even close to an audiophile. Yet, if I can make out these subtle differences then people who take audio seriously doubtlessly will.9to5Mac’s Take
The Galaxy Buds+ provide a much-needed sound upgrade over the originals, especially when it comes to call quality. The battery life is also way better than in its predecessor, providing 11 hours of battery for the individual buds.
Although improved in sound quality, the Galaxy Buds+ remain a tier below the AirPods in sound, and that’s before factoring in Active Noise Cancellation, which by itself provides a huge incentive to spend the extra money on the the AirPods Pro.
Samsung’s setup, while significantly improved in key areas, lacks the polish of the Apple AirPods. This is seen during initial setup and pairing, when managing features like ambient/transparency mode, and while interacting with the buds via physical touch.
Obviously if you’re a Galaxy smartphone user, you’d be more inclined to go with the Galaxy Buds+ over something like the AirPods. However, this comparison shows how well Apple responded to the criticisms of the first-generation AirPods — adding wireless charging, better fitment, and better sound quality to the mix.
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⚡ Welcome to The Weekly Authority, the Android Authority newsletter that breaks down the top Android and tech news from the week. The 202nd edition here, with a first look at the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, Pixel 6 connectivity woes, the latest on Musk’s Twitter deal, and God of War: Ragnarok launch date.
🎮 I’ve been making the most of my new PS Plus subscription: So far I’ve finished Spider-Man: Miles Morales and am now working my way through Wytchwood, which is a strangely satisfying little game.
Popular news this weekOnePlus:
OnePlus could take the POCO approach, make Nord an independent brand, which could mean a bigger offline presence and more ecosystem products.Nothing:
Nothing’s announced an NFT giveaway but fans aren’t happy.
The world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator is the size of a city, measuring 17 miles long (27km).
It’s located at CERN near Geneva in Switzerland, buried 300 feet below ground.
Over 12,000 scientists are involved in research there.What does the LHC do, and why?
In simple terms, without getting too physics-y, CERN says:
“The LHC boosts particles, such as protons, which form all the matter we know. Accelerated to a speed close to that of light, they collide with other protons. These collisions produce massive particles, such as the Higgs boson or the top quark.”
The LHC has had two previous runs, from 2009-2013 and 2023-2023.
During those initial runs, particles collided at around one to two trillion electronvolts.
This time around, upgrades mean increased compactness, so particle beams are denser with particles, plus energy range is spiked, which increases the probability of a collision, providing the potential for more particle interaction.
Scientists want to smash protons together at up to 13.6 trillion volts on this run (record-breaking levels), in the hopes of producing particles we’ve not yet observed.
This run is expected to last for four years, after which the LHC will again go offline for upgrades, with the next cycle beginning in 2029.What have we discovered so far?
The LHC has led to the discovery of over 50 new subatomic particles.
Most famously, on the last run in 2012, scientists discovered the Higgs Boson particle, also known as the “God particle,” which gives all other particles their mass. At the time of its discovery, the name “God particle” led to some conspiracy theorists believing the LHC could rip a hole in the fabric of the universe, create alternative realities, or even end the world. And that’s still the belief of many people today.
On this run, we’ve already discovered three new exotic particles: a pentaquark and two tetraquarks.
These are ultralight particles that are so far thought to be what provides dark matter, a substance that makes up around 27% of our universe, but which has never been seen by scientists.
Astrophysicist Dr. Katie Mack calmed fears online that we could be heading for an Upside Down-style scenario: “Allow me to reassure you: even though the LHC is the most powerful particle collider on Earth, it is barely a game of marbles on the cosmic scale.”
But the conspiracy theorists persist, and here are just a few examples:
Stranger Things Season 4 Part 2: 😝
On July 5 at CERN “The large Hadron Collider will be colliding particles at the highest energy we have ever done before” chúng tôi
— Danielle Elwood (@Danielle_Elwood) June 28, 2023
Me waking up in 2065 in a different dimension because I drank on the 4th of July after y’all told me not to because of CERN. chúng tôi
— virginia finkle (@finKlEiNhoRN22) July 3, 2023
Some folks over on Reddit are also getting quite stressed that we’re going to see more Mandela Effect scenarios.Tech Calendar
July 12: Nothing Phone 1 launch @ 4 PM BST (11 AM ET)
July 12-13: Amazon Prime Day
July 13: Samsung Galaxy XCover 6 Pro and Galaxy Tab Active 4 Pro launch
July 19: Stray lands on PS5, PS4, PC
July 28: Pixel 6a launch
August 10 (TBC): Samsung Unpacked? (new Galaxy foldables, Galaxy Watch 5 series?)
September 10 @ 9 PM CEST: Ubisoft Forward showcase
November 8: Skull and Bones release date on Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia, and Luna
November 9: God of War: Ragnarok launches on PlayStation 4 and 5
Tech Tweet of the Week
Something extra: Check out the scariest near-crash on Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta yet.
Have a sunny week!
Paula Beaton, Copy Editor.
About this Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review: I tested the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro over a period of seven days. It was running R92023XXU1AVG6. The unit was connected to a Samsung Galaxy A51 throughout the testing period. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro was provided to Android Authority by Samsung for this review.
Update, July 2023: We’ve updated our Galaxy Watch 5 Pro with details on the upcoming One UI 5 Watch, as well as new market competition.
What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
Galaxy Watch 5 Pro 45mm (Bluetooth): $449 / £429 / €429 / Rs. 45,000
Galaxy Watch 5 Pro 45mm (LTE): $499 / £479 / €519 / Rs. 50,000
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is stronger and more action-packed than ever, but it loses some ‘classic’ features.
As for the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, it has a titanium case and a stronger Sapphire glass over the display. It also sneaks in a significantly larger battery, with Samsung promising up to 20 hours of battery life in GPS mode, plus a charging cable that can juice the watch up from zero to 45% in just 30 minutes. It also comes with Samsung’s D-buckle band as standard. What shoppers will notice right off the bat is the absence of a physical bezel. For better or worse, the series drops this popular feature.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro comes in just one 45mm case size and two color options: Gray Titanium and Black Titanium. The device’s straps also only come in two colors: Black and Gray. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is available now listed at $499.99 but can often be found on sale. If you trade in older eligible Samsung wearables you can further reduce the cost of the newer watch.
The Bluetooth-only models are available to buy direct from Samsung, as well as major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and more. The pricier LTE-compatible watch variants are sold by major carriers in the US, such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
Battery: More time on the wrist and less time on the charger
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
Arguably the biggest upgrade Samsung brought to the table with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a bigger battery. The flagship model features a 590mAh cell which Samsung claims will translate to 80 hours of regular use or 20 hours with continuous GPS usage. As always, battery life varies based on device use and enabled features. Unsurprisingly, I was not able to hit Samsung’s benchmarks. However, the company has made some progress on battery endurance with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.
During this review, the watch lasted about two full days, including two nights of sleep tracking, two GPS workouts, two indoor workouts, and plenty of putzing around menus and apps. I started with the watch at 100% around 8 PM and had to top off two evenings later to track my third sleep. I also kept the always-on display enabled. Disabling the always-on display is an easy way to stretch the battery life further if needed.
Another major drain is GPS. I found that outdoor runs for just under an hour consistently drained about 10% of my battery. Longer walks and rides ate up even more. On days I took long hikes to test out the navigation features, the larger battery was a welcome improvement, but it wouldn’t hold up for a multi-day trek. The extended life is certainly a commendable improvement over the last generation’s Watch 4 Classic.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s improved battery life and faster charging means more time tracking key health and fitness stats.
Sadly, while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro enjoys longer battery life from generation to generation, reports suggest the smaller base Galaxy Watch 5 does not fare so well. That’s not unexpected considering it has a much smaller 276mAh cell as standard. We tested the 44mm version with its 397mAh battery and were able to eke out about two days between charges.
For an everyday smartwatch, the added battery life on the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a step in the right direction, even if there’s clearly more work to be done with battery optimization within Wear OS compared to devices from Fitbit or Garmin (though the Pro model is certainly within Apple Watch endurance territory). Thankfully, Samsung didn’t stop there, as the entire Galaxy Watch 5 series also now charges faster — 10W wireless charging up from a maximum of 5W on the Galaxy Watch 4.
According to the company, the Pro will charge from zero to 45% in 30 minutes. I tested this claim, throwing the watch on its included proprietary USB-C charger when it was completely dead. After 30 minutes, it fell just short at a still respectable 44%. A full charge took about 90 minutes — a full half an hour less than the Galaxy Watch 4.
Health and fitness tracking: Samsung wants you to take a hike
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
All the health and fitness features you expect make a return appearance on the Galaxy Watch 5 series as it looks to join the very best fitness trackers you can buy.
Like the Galaxy Watch 4 lineup, this generation offers Samsung’s “BioActive” sensor trio for monitoring heart rate, electrical heart signal, and body composition, plus blood oxygen monitoring via an SpO2 sensor. According to Samsung, this is an updated package offering greater accuracy and a few new tricks. The watch also measures stress, sleep, monitors your activities, and offers female health tracking through the Samsung Health app.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
Before we get into the weeds though, only select users can access the lineup’s complete health-tracking toolkit. The electrocardiogram (ECG) remains a key instrument accessible only when the watch is paired with a Samsung phone. Blood pressure monitoring is limited to Samsung phone users as well, as both require the Samsung Galaxy-only Health Monitor app. If you live in the US, you won’t be able to use blood pressure monitoring even with a Samsung phone as the feature is not available in the region.
For the basics, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro delivers. Step count is right on par with comparable wearables. The watch features also over 90 sport modes for dipping into a more specific activity. Users can enable auto-detection which, for walking, is one of the best in the game. I have never been so consistently notified I’ve taken a walk, a habit that, until this review, I didn’t realize that I frequently miss on tracking devices. If you tend to pace when on the phone with relatives, just know you’ll be prompted to record that carpet burning as a walk as well.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
One headlining feature for hikers is Track Back. If you are on an out-and-back trail or if you are mid-hike but want to return the way you came, Track Back will lead you back to the start on the same path you took to your current location. I tested this feature on a local hike and it worked as expected. However, when I opted for a slight variation, the watch didn’t pick up I was off the path.
In my case, this wasn’t a problem, I could see the trail from where I was choosing to walk. However, this could be more concerning if you unknowingly join a parallel trail and can’t reconnect to your intended route. In an area like a state park with multiple trails, for example, you may not want to rely on your Galaxy Watch 5 Pro exclusively, but it’s still a nice addition.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
Another useful feature is the ability to load a GPX file to navigate a route. The first time you use this feature, you’ll see a Route tile on your watch. One bummer off the bat is that you can only utilize this feature for cycling or hiking and not running, walking, or any other sport mode.
If you happen to be an avid hiker or cyclist though, this is a great tool. You can repeat saved routes or share routes with friends. Once you upload a GPX file to your phone you can import it to Samsung Health, which will in turn sync the route to your watch.
In addition to an animal sleep symbol, you will also be presented with a four-week sleep coaching schedule. These programs aim to educate users about important sleep factors and help each user build healthy sleep patterns. Again, the specifics of each program are tailored to users based on their sleep analysis and sleep profile.
Compared to my Fitbit Versa 3, sleep tracking accuracy on the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro fared just fine. The watch correctly recorded my total sleep time. It accurately tracked when I fell asleep and when I woke each session. Sleep stages, which are hard to verify in general, were slightly off compared to my Fitbit. Every tracker tells me I don’t snore so there wasn’t any data to analyze there. My sleep score was consistently below 70, which lines up with how tired I felt during the review period (read: very). All and all, sleep tracking is similar to that of the Galaxy Watch 4 but with some promise on the horizon.
Smartwatch features: Wear OS is still a winner and a Samsung phone is still one of the best picks
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
The Galaxy Watch 5 series joins its predecessor among the watches running on Wear OS 3. Fortunately, this is still a powerful platform. Apps load quickly and menus are responsive to swipes and taps. The extensive Play Store’s app library is far ahead of any competition not made by Apple. With access to everything from Google Wallet to Spotify, I was able to quickly add the tools I use daily. I also tapped into fitness platforms and other apps with more specific features than Samsung Health offers. Generally speaking, Google’s tools and Samsung’s user experience remain the formula that makes this a powerful smartwatch.
However, all that was true of the Galaxy Watch 4 as well. Both sets of watches even share the same in-house Exynos W920 chipset, so performance is just as solid too. Simply put, there isn’t much different to note about the Wear OS platform experience on Samsung’s latest wearables. The biggest difference is that Google Assistant is baked into the Galaxy Watch 5 series right out of the box. You can even set it as your staple assistant and essentially shun Samsung’s oft-maligned Bixby assistant altogether.
Since the series’ launch, Samsung has released a number of security patches and updates to keep the platform running smoothly. Using the Samsung Members app, you can also run diagnostics on the device to check on the health of your wearable.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
Additionally, Samsung’s skin also comes with more accessibility features. These include high-contrast fonts, filters, color correction, and the ability to customize other visuals — a great step forward. For those in the Samsung ecosystem, SmartThings integration also lets users control smart devices. Likewise, only Samsung phone owners can utilize remote smartphone camera control and Samsung’s AR emoji watch faces.
These are somewhat minor nuances but each serves as a reminder that this is a device designed for Samsung users first and foremost. If you happen to forget that fact, a long press of the Back button will refresh your memory. As of now, Samsung Pay is hardcoded as a shortcut with no reprogramming available for those who favor Google Pay. This is particularly odd considering you can customize the Home button shortcuts.
Wear OS 3 has matured for all Android users on the Watch 5 Pro, but Galaxy phone users get the best experience.
Other smartwatch features can still be accessed when paired with any Android phone running Android 8.0 or later, though you’ll need to download extra background apps like the Samsung Accessory Service to get everything going. Non-Samsung phones get full use of notifications, on-wrist phone call support, digital payment support (including Samsung Pay), and onboard music storage. Calendar events and basic tools like alarms are also still present and accounted for, and all of these features work as flawlessly as they have in the past. The watch also automatically installs apps you have on your phone so you don’t need to search for them through the Play Store. Like the Galaxy Watch 4, the Watch 5 also mirrors phone settings such as do not disturb.
Finally, the Galaxy Watch 5 series features plenty of ways to input text. You can choose between voice input, handwriting, or a keyboard. Since I don’t typically want to broadcast what I am texting my partner by using voice input, I mostly utilized the keyboard. At this display size, any of these options are manageable.
Galaxy Wearable app and Samsung Health
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 series still relies heavily on the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app for everything from pairing your device to organizing your apps. Fortunately, the app is very straightforward. The layout, offerings, and general experience are all the same as the one found when the Galaxy Watch 4 launched. With a closer look though, you’ll see a variety of added watch faces and accessibility options in the settings menu.
Tap into the Wearables app to customize your settings and tiles or to reorder your app screen or quick panel. This is also where you can access Find My Watch, check for software updates, or peruse the Google Play Store. If you’re new to Samsung wearables, review user tips and find out what’s new on the latest model. For anyone with more than one Galaxy Watch, the app also features Auto Switch. This allows you to automatically sync with whichever device you’re currently wearing.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is worth buying if you want the very best Wear OS watch. For Android phone users who don’t mind losing the hiking features and dealing with worse battery life, the Galaxy Watch 5 offers similar specs at a cheaper price. On the other hand, the Galaxy Watch 6 is likely right around the corner and may be worth holding out for if your budget allows.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro can make and receive calls without a phone, but only if you buy the LTE version sold through carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile in the US.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro uses 20mm watch bands.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a water resistance rating of IP68 and 5ATM water pressure.
Technically after setting it up there are some Galaxy Watch 5 Pro features that will work without a phone, such as built-in GPS. However, there are many features that won’t work if you don’t have a phone on hand for companion apps.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro features an infrared skin temperature sensor to monitor users’ temperature fluctuations overnight. Samsung also plans to utilize the sensor for female health tracking.
Yes, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro uses bioelectrical impedance analysis technology to measure your body composition. These estimates are based on your weight, body fat, BMI, skeletal muscle, body water, and BMR measurements.
No, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is only compatible with Android phones. The best user experience is achieved when pairing a Galaxy Watch 5 series device to a Samsung phone.
No, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro does not come in 5G models, only LTE.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro does not have a camera. However, Galaxy smartphone users can control their phone’s camera from the watch.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro can measure blood pressure. To do so, it must be paired with a Samsung Galaxy phone running Android Nougat or higher and synced with the Samsung Health Monitor app. However, the feature is not available at all in the US.
Yes and likely soon. Keep an eye on our Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 rumor hub to find out everything we know and what we hope to see.
The best Android phone to date, the Galaxy Nexus dazzles with its curved display, sleek design, fast performance, and, of course, the Ice Cream Sandwich update.
If you’ve been holding out for the next great Android superphone, your time has come: The Galaxy Nexus has arrived on U.S. shores. We’re lucky enough to have one in the PCWorld offices, and so far the Galaxy Nexus looks to be worth the wait. We’ll be posting our full rated review of the Galaxy Nexus tomorrow morning, after we conduct performance tests in the PCWorld Labs.
Taking a cue from Apple products, the Galaxy Nexus comes in attractive, minimalist packaging. Other than an embossed Verizon logo, the white box is completely plain. Opening the box reveals a red interior with a USB cable, a wall charger, headphones, and the Galaxy Nexus itself.
When I picked up the Galaxy Nexus, my first thought was, “This looks like a Samsung phone, but it doesn’t feel like a Samsung phone.” The glossy display, piano-black bezel, and textured back are all characteristic of Samsung design. But unlike other Galaxy phones I’ve reviewed, the Galaxy Nexus feels high quality. At 5.1 ounces, it has a nice substantial weight to it without being too heavy. As you can see from the photos, the Galaxy Nexus has a subtle curve, which nicely contours to the hand. If you have small hands like me, however, you might find the Galaxy Nexus a bit large (it measures 5.33 by 2.67 by 0.37 inches).
The display is a roomy 4.65 inches, but really only 4 inches of that real estate is usable. The remaining 0.65-inch space is occupied by a customizable shortcut bar that appears at the bottom of the home screens as well as some other internal screens. Even so, the screen feels plenty spacious for all of your gaming, video, and other multimedia desires.
The Galaxy Nexus sports an HD Super AMOLED display. Colors pop from the display and blacks look deep, while fonts and details appear sharp. My only complaint is that whites aren’t as bright as they could be. One of my colleagues remarked that the screen had a slight yellowish tint. Still, I was pleased overall with the quality of the display.
Ice Cream Sandwich is everything I’ve wanted Android to be: intuitive and attractive, while maintaining a high level of customization and performance. Ice Cream Sandwich truly has mass appeal. Icons are sharper, menus are easier to navigate, and performing basic tasks is more efficient than in previous versions.
The photos I shot with the Galaxy Nexus’s 5-megapixel camera looked a bit flat. Colors seemed a bit washed out, and details were a little fuzzy. But even if your photos don’t come out perfect, Ice Cream Sandwich has your back with its suite of photo-editing tools. You get an array of filters (like your very own Hipstamatic app), the capability to adjust the image angle, red-eye removal, cropping capabilities, and more.
Verizon’s 4G LTE network, of course, plays a huge role in the speediness of the Galaxy Nexus. In my tests using the FCC-approved Ookla Speedtest app, the Galaxy Nexus achieved download speeds ranging from 6.69 to 12.11 megabits per second and upload speeds of 21.18 mbps. In other words, the Galaxy Nexus is blazingly fast.
Stay tuned for our full rated review of the Galaxy Nexus for Verizon, as well as further coverage of Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
Which I guess brings me to my first point: The Valve Index uses base stations.
I’m torn. PC-based virtual reality is in a weird spot right now, I think. On the one hand, writing about the Oculus Rift S a few weeks ago, I said the following:
“If you’re hardcore enough about VR that you prefer to hook up to an expensive gaming PC (and deal with the accompanying cable) rather than opt for the less powerful (but self-contained and wireless) Oculus Quest, you’re also more likely to care about flawed controller tracking—and less likely to care about mounting base stations to your wall to ensure peak performance.”
I stand by that statement. And as far as tracking goes, the Vive/Index base stations are the gold standard. The original generation was near-flawless. The second generation might actually be flawless, with a wider field of view both horizontally and vertically. They cover an enormous area, and they do it well. There’s not much else to say.
Base stations are cumbersome though, no doubt about it. Mounting them on the wall is a commitment. Choosing not to mount them usually proves annoying sooner or later, as they either end up in the way or get bumped and need adjusting. I’d also nearly forgotten about the high-pitched whine the base stations emit, having unplugged my Vive a few months ago for Rift S testing. That’s back now as well.
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Oculus Rift S
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That said, there are benefits to being plugged in. Keep in mind, these are just our early impressions, but my early impression was “Holy [Redacted].”
The Valve Index jumps from 110 degrees to 130ish degrees and it is (heh) eye-opening. I didn’t notice the difference so much horizontally, but vertically it was like removing blinders. Did you know you can usually see the ceiling and floor while staring straight ahead? Subconsciously, I’d gotten used to not being able to in VR, grown accustomed to moving my entire head to look up or down. The Valve Index makes that unnecessary.
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It looks crisp, too. On paper the Vive Pro and Index have the same 1440×1600 resolution per eye, for a total of 2880×1600. The Index’s RGB LCD display has more subpixels than the Vive Pro’s AMOLED display though. For the layperson: We think of the pixel as being the base unit for displays, but like an atom it can be subdivided into smaller components, or subpixels. These are the actual colored bands of light that, in combination, allow a pixel to reproduce the full spectrum.
Note that the Oculus Rift S also pivoted to RGB LCD and thus looks similarly crisp, but the Index’s higher resolution and larger FOV take it a step further.
It makes minimal impact on how games are played, but the subconscious difference is enormous—or at least it was in my case. When I first donned the Valve Index I noticed how smooth and snappy the hand-tracking felt, only to realize it was due to the increased frame rate. The difference was especially noticeable because I was coming from the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest, which run at 80Hz and 72Hz respectively, but even compared to the 90Hz Vive Pro the Index feels fluid.
I am admittedly sensitive to frame rate and use a 144Hz monitor at home, so your mileage may vary. I was impressed though.Knuckle up
You’re going to spend a lot of time staring at your hands too. A lot. As I said, the Index also ushers in the official release of Valve’s old “Knuckles” prototype controllers, which we first saw back in the halcyon days of 2023, back before Oculus had even released its first-gen Touch controllers.
Anyway, the “Knuckles” controllers have been redubbed the “Valve Index Controllers,” which is way less fun. Regardless, this is the hardware I was most excited to get my hands on (literally), because it’s so different.
I’m going to simplify a bit here, but the HTC Vive Wands essentially track three different parts of your hand: Thumb, pointer finger, and three-finger grip. Of those, the thumb is the only one with fine movement reproduction, thanks to the capacitive touchpad. The other fingers were basically “On” or “Off,” though the pointer finger at least had an analog trigger.
Oculus’s Touch controllers improved on this by making all buttons capacitive, and both the trigger and grips analog. Suddenly you could have a hand that was half-open!
IDG / Hayden Dingman
This allows for more realistic item manipulation. To pick up an item, you “grab” the Index controller. To drop it, you open your hand and “let go.” There are also sensors built into basically the entire chassis, so you can close your hand halfway, or point, or ball up just your ring and pinky fingers or whatever and in theory the Index controllers know what you’re doing. (Check out this Valve blog post for some nifty GIFs.)
There’s very little software support for the Index controllers so far, and I’ll need a lot more time with them before we do a proper review. That said, it’s…interesting. When it works it’s incredible, but I’ve had plenty of moments where it doesn’t quite understand what my hand’s doing and it’s taken me out of the experience.
I also find myself fighting my instincts. “Open your hand” to drop an item sound intuitive enough, and yet I keep not doing it. I think it’s the weight of the Index controllers that throws me, because of course when you let go of a virtual item the Index controllers stay put. It makes it hard to “drop” them, even knowing they’re firmly fastened to my hands.
IDG / Hayden Dingman
Still, I love certain features, like the variable grip strength—used to great effect in Valve and Cloudhead’s Aperture Hand Labs, when you grasp a robot with a handshake so firm its arm rips off. That’s cute.
And I’m hoping more time is the answer to the rest. That means more time on Valve’s end to iron out the software kinks, and more time on mine to get used to the whole idea. Part of me wonders whether Valve sent out review units this early for that express purpose, because honestly the Index controllers require a shift in thought that’s comparable in some respects to the ill-fated Steam Controller, a novelty that seemingly everyone bought but…well, let’s just say I don’t know anyone who uses one regularly. It doesn’t mean nobody is, but we didn’t suddenly give up analog sticks industry-wide.
IDG / Hayden Dingman
You can make a peace sign, or (more likely) ruder gestures.
People don’t have two decades of VR instinct ingrained in them, but the Index controllers are going to take an adjustment period nevertheless. I’m looking forward to digging into Vacation Simulator, Arizona Sunshine, and the rest of the early proofs-of-concept to see if I can make the switch in style.Bottom line
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While you’re at it, be sure to check out our Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest reviews. Valve’s not shipping the first Index units until June, but the second generation of VR’s already started—especially if you hate wires.
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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