Two of the year’s most anticipated phones are out, and they’re not from Apple. What do we think of the new Galaxy Note and Pixel devices? Plus what’s happening in WiFi, webcams, and more. All in five.
It’s nearly the end of August 2020, and you’re listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and it’s about this time of the year we’d normally be off to IFA in Germany to check out what’s happening for the world of gadgets ahead of the holiday season. But not this year, because so much has happened.
We’re currently in a new normal where travel is a touch restricted, and that means no one in Australia is flying to tech conferences for some pretty obvious reasons. Flying is clearly not on the cards for most of us, but even if it was, those tech conferences aren’t really happening, either.
CES was on earlier in the year in January, but since then, everything has either been cancelled or moved to online only. Mobile World Congress. South by Southwest. E3. Facebook F8. Google I/O. Apple WWDC. Strangely, IFA is still going ahead, but for most, it will be online only, which basically means online announcements for what’s new in tech, all coming up in the next couple of weeks.
IFA may well be going ahead, but Adobe’s Max conference will be digital only, but also free, and that’s a nice twist on the usual $600 US dollar price that it comes with, meaning any creative around the world can attend.
And that’s one of the things the work from home world has given us, with the ability to attend more things without actually leaving the home.
Of course, working from home comes with other issues, such as wanting a better web cam for all of those meetings — the endless Zooms and WebExes — plus needing better WiFi to deal with how much bandwidth you and your partner plus kids are potentially churning through, and all of those saw news recently.
This week, Sony joined the likes of Canon and Nikon with software that turned its cameras into webcams with a proper lens. If you have a Sony A-mount camera, or even one of its larger advanced point and shoots, and you have a Windows PC, you may be able to turn it into a better webcam than the one your laptop comes with. But it’s Windows only for the moment, with no ETA on the Mac version. The Windows limitation is the same with the Nikon equivalent, while Canon appears to have both Mac and Windows sorted already.
Better imagery for your picture is only one part of the news, with new WiFi goods this week from D-Link, able to boost the bandwidth your home has. D-Link has two new WiFi 6 mesh gadgets, devices that can work with other compatible mesh routers to basically provide a Venn diagram of WiFi range for a home, but with a lot more bandwidth. Also known as 802.11ax, WiFi 6 can deliver a lot more range and speed than its predecessors, though you’ll want WiFi 6 compatible devices to get the most benefit.
That typically means new computers, new tablets, and new phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which is available this week, and we’re ready with our review of.
And as expected, it’s a big phone that feels like a tablet, delivering one of the biggest screens you can find. At 6.9 inches, it’s just a staggeringly big phone made of metal and glass, complete with some high-end hardware and three cameras on the back, cameras you can feel thanks to a thick and noticeable bump.
It’s definitely a phone that stands out, thanks in part to that enormous screen, and it’s a phone that does the job of a tablet thanks to the S-Pen, Samsung’s stylus. It comes packing with features beyond the S-Pen, such as that WiFi 6 support, 5G, a fast 120Hz screen that makes writing with the pen more fluid, and just about anything and everything a phone would want these days.
Except for maybe decent battery life. You’ll get at most a workday if you leave everything switched on, and when you turn all those cool features off, you can hit over 24 hours, which is a little crazy.
The camera can be a little hit and miss, too. While it’s good, we found some softness and overly granular imagery from the selfie camera, while the rear camera was similar to the S20 Ultra, but not really any better or faster than the problems that phone had.
And that leads us to the other problem with the Note 20 Ultra: it lacks imagination. The Note range has long had imagination, but this year, the Note 20 Ultra is basically an S20 Ultra with a pen, and for the two grand price, it should be better.
Not like the Google Pixel 4a, which at a hair under $600 is stellar value. It may well be the year’s best phone so far. Made of plastic and missing wireless charging and water resistance, they’re really the only negatives. Otherwise, you get decent performance, a solid day of battery life, and the excellent single camera from last year’s flagship Google phone, the Pixel 4. For the price, it’s hard to beat, and really just nails it.
It’s like this year’s iPhone SE, which stands out for Apple, too, delivering value in spades. Both are the phones to beat, it seems, with the mid-range where all the action is.
At least until every other phone company shows what’s coming for the end of the year, happening in the next few weeks.
Stay tuned. For now, that’s this week’s episode of The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. We’ll be back next week for more tech in five, but until then, have a great one, and we’ll see you next time. Stay safe, stay sane, and take care.