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Huawei Mate 30 Pro hands-on: Bigger, faster, sleeker

Who would buy a phone without Google apps? It’s a rhetorical question that has come up time and again over the years, as Google solidified its grip of the Android ecosystem by carefully controlling who gets to use its apps. The rhetorical question is about to become very real as Huawei tests the waters with a flagship Android phone with no Google apps preinstalled — the Huawei Mate 30 Pro.

Huawei is doing the unthinkable here, but it’s not out of its own volition. Is the Mate 30 Pro good enough to tempt buyers in spite of the Google apps hassle? Here are our impressions so far.

Who would buy a phone without Google apps? Huawei is about to find out.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro waterfall display side view

Huawei P30 Pro: Chasing waterfalls

Visually, the Mate 30 Pro is a departure from both its predecessor and the newer Huawei P30 Pro. Huawei has changed things up quite a bit, even if the Mate 20 Pro’s design still looks relatively fresh.

Gone is the squarish camera module, replaced by a circular one that’s surrounded by an eye-catching ring of polished glass. The back of the Mate 30 Pro is quite glossy. Some colors come with a matte-to-glossy gradient, so as to not attract fingerprints.

Huawei has toned down the gradient effect it used on the Mate 20 Pro, probably because a lot of other manufacturers have copied it since its release. The new colors – black, lavender, purple, and teal – look classy and still have some depth that changes with the viewing angle.

There are also a couple of models made with a vegan leather back. These both look great, and the leather-backed Pro model still maintains its IP68 water and dust-resistance rating.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro camera detail in hand

Overall, the Mate 30 Pro feels similar to recent Huawei flagships in terms of size and feel. The cosmetic changes are more than enough to differentiate it, and the front and sides are brand new, thanks to the use of a so-called “waterfall” display.

The new display definitely makes the Mate 30 Pro feel awkward to hold. It just feels strange to hold a phone by its screen. I’m not sure if we’ll get used to this once we test the device as a daily driver, but anything is possible.

The waterfall display's edge curve is similar to high-end Galaxy phones, but even more dramatic.

Waterfall displays – we’ve just seen another example in the Vivo Nex 3 – are basically displays with curved screens, but more curved. The edge curvature is similar to the screens on high-end Galaxy phones, but more dramatic. On the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, the edges of the screen “flow” over the sides quite a bit.

There’s no doubt this style of display looks cool, further enhancing the illusion of a “bezel-less” display. There’s also a little functionality bonus, because the curved sides can be seen even when the phone is face down on a table. As is often the case with modern smartphone design, the downside may be in practicality: the larger the exposed glass surface, the more fragile the screen becomes.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro volume control

Because of the waterfall screen, you’ll need to slide your fingers up and down the side of the phone in order to adjust the volume. simply double-tap either side of the phone to access virtual volume rockers. In real-world use, I had a lot of trouble getting this to work. You have to tap in the exact correct spot to get it to recognize your finger, and I don’t really see extra side display as a valuable trade-off.

Huawei has put a laser-based face-unlock system in the large notch of the Mate 30 Pro display.

Outside of Apple’s walled garden, large notches have become an endangered species. Somewhat surprisingly, the Mate 30 Pro still has a fairly big one, but it’s more compact compared to the Mate 20 Pro. The reason why Huawei went this route is to have room for a laser-based face-unlock system. It wanted to have multiple methods of bio-authentication, so now you can use either face unlock or the in-display fingerprint reader.

You still get an in-display fingerprint reader, which Huawei says has the highest standard of security on the market today. It didn’t say how big the sensor is or if it is noticeably better than the ones the company has been using in the past.

Huawei Mate 30 home screen

Moar power

The Mate 30 Pro is a powerhouse, and we wouldn’t expect anything less from Huawei’s year-end flagship release. It’s the first phone with the new Kirin 990 processor, which brings improved graphics performance, an additional NPU core for low-power AI tasks like facial recognition, and, in general, moar power. You can read more about it in our deep dive here.

Dive deeper: Here’s why the Kirin 990 uses the Cortex-A76, not the newer A77

The Kirin 990’s real claim to fame is for being the first flagship SoC with an integrated 5G modem (Samsung beat Huawei to the punch by releasing a mid-range SoC with a 5G modem earlier this month). This creates a bit of fragmentation: in specific markets, Huawei will release the full-fat 5G-enabled version of the Mate 30 Pro, while in others the phone’s 5G modem will be disabled in favor of regular 4G LTE connectivity.

In our hands-on time with the Mate 30 Pro, the phone felt really fast and smooth, but we’ll put it through its paces in our full Huawei Mate 30 Pro review.

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Huawei has been pushing the envelope of battery capacities on its phones, and that continues with the Mate 30 Pro’s 4,500mAh unit. That’s up from 4,200mAh on the Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro, and higher than the Galaxy Note 10 Plus’ 4,300mAh unit.

The fast charging hasn’t got an upgrade compared to the previous generation, but we can’t really complain. 45W fast charging is still plenty fast, and it should let you top up from 0% to 70% in a little over half an hour. The phone also supports 27W wireless charging.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro camera detail 2

Goodbye periscope, hello cinema ultra-wide

The Mate series is less focused on photography compared to the P series, and that shows. Surprisingly, the Mate 30 Pro does not feature a periscope-style 5X optical zoom lens like the P30 Pro. Instead, you get 3X optical zoom and 30X hybrid zoom, just like last year, but that should be good enough for most people.

The Mate is also using the same RYYB sensor design we saw in the Huawei P30 Pro, which captures more light than traditional RGB sensors. Interestingly, the ultra-wide cinema sensor uses a 3:2 aspect ratio with a 1/1.54-inch sensor, which is bigger than almost any sensor we’ve seen on a smartphone. Because this is also a 40MP sensor, you’ll get bigger pixels than on the main camera sensor.

Surprisingly, the Mate 30 Pro does not feature a periscope-style 5X optical zoom lens, sticking with 3X instead.

The overall camera system has been updated over last year. The main one is a 40MP shooter with OIS and f/1.6 aperture, while the super-wide lens now has a 40MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture. For zoomed-in shots, you’ll use the 8MP telephoto with OIS and f/2.4 aperture. Supporting these three cameras is a 3D depth sensor that shoots out light rays and measures reflections to determine the geometry of the scene. If that all sounds like technobabble, what you need to know is that this depth sensor will help with better portraits and improved background blur.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro notch front facing camera status bar

We expect another solid performance from the Mate 30 Pro’s cameras. Its biggest strength is probably versatility, but we look forward to seeing what Huawei has done in regards to low-light performance and software optimizations.

There is also a special face and motion-tracking camera in the front notch, which has some interesting capabilities. It can do things like wake up your device when you walk by it, or even change the orientation of the screen depending on what side of the phone you’re looking at. This is likely their response to Google’s upcoming Soli radar sensor, which has similar capabilities.

The craziest feature in the Mate 30 Pro’s arsenal must be its ultra-slow motion capability: 7680fps at 720p.

The craziest feature in the Mate 30 Pro’s arsenal must be its ultra-slow motion capability. It’s a frankly unbelievable 7680fps at 720p. Huawei didn’t mention if there is some software interpolation magic going on here, and we’ll have to follow up to see exactly how this works.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro home screen in hand

Hey Google, where did you go?

We’ve kept the most contentious part of the Mate 30 Pro for last. Because Google can’t do any business with Huawei due to the US export ban, Huawei had to ship a phone without any of the familiar Google apps on board. You don’t get Gmail, or Google Maps, or even the Google Play Store, not to mention Google Play Services and other under-the-hood bits supplied by Google on top of the open-source stock Android.

We still haven’t heard any word on if or how Google Play services will land on this phone. Currently, Huawei has a temporary partial extension until November that allows it to update existing devices, but it still isn’t legally able to put Play Services on new phones like the Mate 30 series.

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Feature-rich as it may be, the lack of key Google apps leaves the Mate 30 Pro’s EMUI look rather bare. It’s still based on the just-released Android 10, making it one of the first phones with the latest version of the Google OS. For this release, Huawei has come up with a lot of visual refinements, broken down into four main categories: the new Magazine Design philosophy, a low saturation color palette, enhanced Dark Mode, and improved natural animations. Performance has been improved as well.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro notch display 2

Huawei Mate 30 Pro specs

Huawei Mate 30 Pro Huawei Mate 30
Display 6.53-inch curved OLED, Horizon Display
2,400 x 1,176 resolution
6.62-inch FHD+ OLED
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
402 ppi
18.7:9 aspect ratio
Processor Huawei Kirin 990
Octa-core CPU (2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.86GHz, 2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.36GHz, 4 Cortex-A55 @ 1.95GHz)
Dual NPU
Huawei Kirin 990
Octa-core CPU (2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.86GHz, 2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.36GHz, 4 Cortex-A55 @ 1.95GHz)
Dual NPU
GPU Mali-G76
MP16
Mali-G76
MP16
RAM 8GB 6/8GB
Storage 128/256GB
Nano-Memory slot
128GB
Nano-Memory slot
Cameras Rear:
40MP f/1.6 with OIS
40MP f/1.6 ultra-wide
8MP f/2.4 3x telephoto with OIS
3D depth sensor
Video: 4K at 30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60/960fps, 720p at 7680fps
Front:
32MP f/2.0
Rear:
40MP f/1.6 with OIS
16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide
8MP f/2.2 3x telephoto with OIS
Video: 4K at 30/60fps, 720p at 960fps
Front:
24MP f/2.0
Battery 4500mAh
Non-removable
40W wired charging
27W wireless charging
4,200mAh
Non-removable
40W wired charging
27W wireless
Audio Sound on Screen technology
USB-C
No 3.5mm port
USB-C
3.5mm port
Security 3D face unlock
In-display fingerprint
In-display fingerprint
Software EMUI 10
Android 10
EMUI 10
Android 10
Dimensions 158.1 x 73.1 x 8.8mm
198 grams
160.8 x 76.1 x 8.4mm
196 grams

Other options

Huawei’s Mate 30 will start at 799 Euros, the Mate 30 Pro will start at 1,099 Euros, the Mate 30 Pro 5G starts at 1,199 Euros. Huawei is also introducing a new Porsche Design variant of the Mate 30 Pro, called the Huawei Mate 30 RS, it will cost 2,095 Euros. Strangely, we still don’t know anything about availability for the device, or if it will even come to Europe at all.

We don’t know yet what to make of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro. On one hand, it’s a beautiful, powerful Android flagship that makes almost no compromises in terms of build quality and hardware. On the other, it’s hobbled by the absence of Google’s apps and services, which are a major part of the Android experience. This forced Android fork will live or die based on how easy it will be for the average user to get access to the Play Store, and from there to Gmail, YouTube, and the like. Experienced Android users may not be bothered by having to go through the process, but people who buy $1,000 flagship phones tend to have little patience for menial tasks. There are so many good options out there after all.

Our Mate 30 Pro review will be coming next week, and hopefully, by then, we’ll know a little better just what hoops you’ll need to jump through to bring Google back to the Mate 30 Pro.

This concludes our Mate 30 Pro hands-on coverage – keep it tuned for more!

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Reviews

Huawei Watch GT 2 hands-on: Huawei’s best watch to date?

It’s been nearly a year since we first got our hands on the Huawei Watch GT, a lifestyle-focused watch with impressive two-week battery life. Today the Huawei announced a follow up Huawei Watch GT 2, alongside the new Mate 30 lineup, once again using its proprietary Lite OS.

But can the refreshed UI and updated hardware make up for some of its predecessor’s shortcomings? Find out more in our Huawei Watch GT 2 hands-on!

A lifestyle smartwatch with fitness chops

Like the previous model, the Huawei Watch GT 2 is aimed at those who want the convenience and functionality of a smartwatch and fitness tracker, but don’t want to sacrifice style. It’s the kind of all-purpose watch you can wear to the office, then keep on for your gym routine afterwords. Huawei is also targeting this device at people who are into outdoor activities, whether it be rock climbing, hiking, and other such activities.

The watch features a huge amount of tracking capabilities, including GPS, active heart rate, and even air pressure. It’s clear Huawei is aiming to make this watch fitness-capable while still looking attractive. The box also comes with a silicone band in case you are planning on getting really sweaty.

Huawei Watch GT 2 on wrist casual 2

But the most impressive thing about the device is its battery life. You can expect a full two weeks from the larger 46mm version, and one week from the smaller version. Huawei achieves this thanks to the newly developed Kirin A1. The chip was designed specifically for wearables, and it’s the same chip found in the Huawei Freebuds 3 wireless headphones shown at IFA 2019.

An OLED display also helps the watch sip battery life. The screen is bright and punchy while it’s on, but it only needs to turn on the pixels it needs to use. This way there isn’t a constant backlight shining to illuminate the watch. The 46mm version uses a 454×454 display and the 42mm version has a resolution of 390×390. Both have a pixel density of 326 PPI.

Huawei Watch GT 2 on table at angle

Functionality away from your smartphone

The Huawei Kirin A1 chip also allows much better Bluetooth connectivity than we’ve seen in other smartwatches. Huawei says you can leave your phone charging in your bedroom while watching TV in your living room, and the watch will stay connected fine. We’ll have to test this ourselves to see if it holds up, but since Bluetooth has traditionally been pretty finicky, this is nice to see.

Both watches come with 4GB of onboard storage, meaning you can load up songs if you want to ditch your phone. You can connect Bluetooth headphones directly to your watch too. This combined with sensors like onboard GPS and a pedometer mean you should be able to run freely without the distraction of your phone. You can also listen to music through the watch’s speakers, which sound weirdly good for a smartwatch. Think mid-ranged Android phone. That’s pretty decent for the size.

Huawei Watch GT 2 contents spilled out of box

The speakers and microphone also mean you can take calls directly from your watch, though you’ll need your phone with you in order to do this. The Watch GT 2 has no built-in SIM card, so it requires a tether from your smartphone.

Huawei Watch GT 2 watch in box at angle

Huawei Watch GT 2 specs

Huawei Watch GT 2
Display 46mm: 1.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen
42mm: 1.2-in AMOLED touchscreen
Resolution 46mm: 454 x 454, 326 ppi
42mm: 390 x 390, 326 ppi
Memory/storage 46mm: 4 GB ROM, 32 MB RAM
42mm: 4 GB ROM, 16 MB RAM
Battery capacity 46mm: 455 mAh (2 weeks est.)
42mm: 215 mAh (7 days est.)
Sensors and components Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Magnetometer
Heart rate sensor (PPG)
Barometer
Ambient light sensor
Capacitive sensor
GPS
Bluetooth 5.1
Microphone (46mm only)
Speaker (46mm only)
Water resistance 5 ATM
Compatibility Android and iOS
Dimensions 46mm: 45.9mm x 45.0mm x 10.7mm
42mm: 41.8mm x 41.8mm x 9.4 mm
Material Body: metal and plastic
Strap: fluoroelastomer, leather, metal

While these specs are a decent upgrade from last year, we were surprised by the amount of RAM on each device, especially the mere 16 MB on the 42mm version. While other smartwatches are starting to ship with a full 1GB of RAM, Huawei’s Lite OS doesn’t need nearly as much RAM as Google WearOS. We did see a bit of stuttering during setup, but functionality seemed smooth afterward. I honestly thought 16 MB and 32 MB were typos on the spec sheet, but here we are.

We’re excited to put the watch through our review process because Huawei seems to have made something that truly rivals both WearOS and Tizen. We don’t currently know pricing or availability for the watch, but we will update this article as soon as that information is made available.

What do you think about the Huawei Watch GT 2? Is it interesting or will you pass?

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Reviews

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro review: Is the European K20 Pro worth the purchase?

Earlier this week the Mi 9T Pro launched in Europe as Xiaomi’s latest affordable flagship. Technically this isn’t a new phone at all, as it was previously released outside of Europe as the Redmi K20 Pro. The Redmi brand doesn’t exist in Europe, so Xiaomi elected to release the phone with the Mi 9 family branding. Of course, there are a few market-specific differences like NFC, which we’ll discuss shortly.

My talented colleague Dhruv Bhutani gave the Redmi K20 Pro a thorough review in his native India where it’s being sold (alongside China). In his review, he highly recommended the phone based on its combination of great specs and cutthroat pricing.

Since the 9T Pro is basically the K20 Pro by another name, we figured it didn’t make a lot of sense to do a full review. Instead of bringing you a conventional Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro review, we’re doing something a bit different this time. In this article, we take a closer look at how the 9T Pro stacks up in real life, how capable it is in your everyday situations, and if it’s a phone you should consider picking up for yourself.

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How is the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro’s design and build quality?

The first thing I noticed about the Mi 9T Pro is it’s very much an eye-catcher. The pop-up camera is still a real novelty for most people, and the swirling glass designs on the back in red and blue are great. I even like the accent on the camera in the triple-rear setup. The display is a full-screen affair, with no notch and small bezels. The whole design stands out in a good way.

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro in display fingerprint sensor

The under the display fingerprint sensor isn’t perfect, still just a split second too slow, but it works well enough that I don’t mind its inclusion, and the small animation when tapping it is fun. Did I mention there’s a headphone jack with the device, too?

In terms of omissions, there’s no waterproofing to speak of and no wireless charging.

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro specs

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
Display 6.39-inch AMOLED
2,340 x 1,080
403 PPI
HDR
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Octa-core
7nm
GPU Adreno 640
RAM 6GB/8GB
Storage 64GB/128GB/256GB
Cameras Rear:
Main: 48MP, f/1.75, 0.8μm, Sony IMX586
Ultra-wide: 13MP, f/2.4, 1.12μm, 124.8-degree FoV
Telephoto: 8MP, f/2.4, 1.12μm, 2x optical zoom
Front:
20MP, f/2.2, 0.8μm
Audio 3.5mm port
AAC/LDAC/aptX/aptX-HD/aptX-adaptive
Battery 4,000mAh
Non-removable
27 watt fast charging
18 watt charger included
IP rating N/A
Sensors Accelerometer
Ambient Light
Camera laser focus
E-compass
Gyroscope
In-display fingerprint
Proximity
Network LTE FDD: B1/B3/B5/B7/B8
LTE TDD: B34/B38/B39/B40/B41
LTE B41 (2535 – 2655 120MHz)
WCDMA: B1/B2/B5/B8
TD-SCDMA: B34/B39
CDMA EVDO: BC0
GSM: B2/B3/B5/B8
CDMA 1X: BC0
Connectivity USB-C
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5Ghz
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
SIM Dual Nano-SIM
Software MIUI 10
Android Pie
Dimensions and weight 156.7 x 74.3 x 8.8mm
191 grams

Xiaomi Mi 9 vs 9T Pro: What’s the difference?

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro carbon black pop up camera detail

What’s the difference between the Mi 9 and this 9T Pro? While performance specs, SoC and RAM, along with the FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080) display are the same, there’s plenty to set the two models apart.

The Mi 9T Pro ditches the 9’s notch, thanks to the pop-up selfie cam. There’s also a bigger battery at 4,000mAh, vs. the 3,300mAh in the Mi 9. Finally, the Mi 9T Pro comes with a headphone jack ⁠— much to our delight. There’s also a protective case in the box, but no earbuds.

How similar are the Mi 9T Pro and the K20 Pro?

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro red blue black back panels

There are only three notable differences between the K20 Pro and the Mi 9T Pro:

NFC. The Mi 9T Pro has NFC, the K20 Pro in India does not. NFC is essential, and it’s great that Xiaomi has it in the European model.

Carrier bands. The Mi 9T Pro has one additional band, supporting Band 20. Band 20 had been missing on other Xiaomi phones reaching Europe, and this connectivity will be helpful for anyone traveling or for those that live outside of major cities.

Color choices. There’s one less color variant for the Mi 9T Pro, missing out on the K20 Pro’s Pearl White version, leaving Europeans with three choices: Carbon Black, Flame Red, and Glacier Blue. While the black is more sensible, the red and blue options have some seriously wild glass designs on the back. In full sunlight, which isn’t all that common in northern Europe admittedly, they really shine.

How is the software on the Mi 9T Pro?

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro red home screen in hand

I’m just going to get this out of the way: I’m not really a fan of MIUI 10. The best thing I can say about the Mi 9T Pro’s software is it’s ad-free, something that many Xiaomi phones can’t claim. Unfortunately, it’s still packed full of bloatware. Pretty much every Google app has a Mi equivalent and it just feels unnecessary when Google’s apps already work so well.

The entire MIUI 10 experience is a bit buggy.

The entire MIUI 10 experience is also a bit buggy. There are no showstoppers, but there’s a range of genuinely curious hiccups throughout the device that leave me wondering what a regular user will think as they try and navigate it. Many Android users will turn off animations to make their device feel snappy, and that feels almost essential here. Turning off MIUI optimizations is a further step although not one for mainstream users, given it can introduce odds bugs and drain the battery faster.

It’s not just the bugs and bloat, it’s the design too. Icons are basic and boring. It’s almost like Xiaomi expects you to put a launcher on it. Meanwhile, the FHD+ display is actually a very good display, but the default home screen doesn’t stand out. It wasn’t until I launched games like Asphalt 9 that the AMOLED’s true qualities became clear.

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro glacier blue pop up selfie camera

Probably one of the biggest issues I ran into is the Xiaomi watermark. For some reason, Xiaomi adds watermarks on all images taken with the camera. There’s no reason to interfere with people’s photos, and I guarantee people won’t realize this exists before they snap some shots, and see “SHOT ON MI 9T PRO” branded on the bottom left. Of all the things that are unnecessary and bad about the world of Mi, this needs the most attention.

A quick Google search for “xiaomi camera watermark” displays nothing but results where people are asking how to remove the watermark. Thankfully, removing the watermark isn’t that hard: open the camera, click the menu button at the top right, click settings, then turn off the “Device watermark” slider.

Our final gripe is the privacy policy. There’s some odd language in here that might turn off some folks.

I read section 1.1.2, “Information that we collect in your use of services” with some dissatisfaction. For unspecified reasons, Xiaomi collects usage information from your device, including: “CPU, storage, battery usage, screen resolution and device temperature, camera lens model.” I couldn’t find the same from the likes of Apple, Samsung, or OnePlus, for example. That kind of thing may strike you as unreasonable.

The good news is that Xiaomi semi-acknowledges its many software problems by providing bootloader access, which should make it reasonably easy to add custom ROMs if you are in love with the phone but want to ditch its default software.

What alternatives are to the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro?

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro red back camera detail 2

The Mi 9T Pro with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage retails on Amazon right now for €421.90, in black, with blue and red around €10 or €20 more expensive. At that price, this puts the Mi 9T Pro up against the Asus Zenfone 6, while the OnePlus 7 is comparable but around €100 more expensive.

Asus Zenfone 6 - closer back of device

The Zenfone offers much of what the Mi 9T Pro packs, but also delivers stereo speakers, a bigger battery, and better software experience. On the bright side, the 9T Pro packs an AMOLED while the ZenFone sticks to LCD. The Zenfone 6 is a definite top contender, and it’s much cleaner software certainly gives it a big advantage as well.

OnePlus 7 red back panel

When comparing the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro to the OnePlus 7, the first thing you’ll notice is the pricing. Direct pricing on Amazon here in Germany leaves the OnePlus 7 around €150 more expensive. Now, it does come with benefits: offering a Samsung-built AMOLED display, stereo speakers, better software with solid OnePlus support, and UFS 3.0 storage. Unfortunately, the OnePlus 7 has a smaller 3,700mAh battery.

When it comes to pure performance, our benchmark Speed Test G result shows the OnePlus 7 with a time of 1:32.5, while the K20 Pro’s best time was 1:39.1. That’s quite the performance difference. In real world use, we still found the Mi 9T Pro to work well with any game or app with threw at it. And the graphite cooling system Xiaomi is pushing did seem to keep the device at a cooler temperature than other devices I’ve used over similar stretches.

In terms of cameras, the OnePlus 7 has a single-camera with OIS and a larger aperture, compared to the Mi 9T Pro’s triple camera setup. Overall the cameras performed similarly.

Should you buy the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro?

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro red back 2

The reason I’ve gone to the trouble of finding these discouraging small problems with the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro is that it’s so close to being a wonderful device. It’s powerful, it’s flashy, it’s well-built, it runs all the apps you know and love nicely, and it has just about the latest everything. No waterproofing and no wireless charging don’t seem like big omissions at a device half the price of flagships.

The biggest problem with the phone is the interface, hands down. You will easily find a bug or two without trying. You can get by, but it will never delight you until you spend some time putting in your own customizations. Which, reasonably, may not be something you want to do. With most companies now it’s unnecessary to put personal tweaks into a phone because they’ve put effort into nice, tasteful design. But with this phone, customization and third-party launchers are absolutely a necessity if you’re going to be using this device as your everyday companion.

The Mi 9T Pro, at €430, or less, isn’t quite the absolute no-brainer that I was hoping for. If you don’t mind working around Xiaomi’s software deficiencies, there is a lot to love here. If you’d rather have a phone that just works out of the box, you may want to look at alternatives.

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Reviews

Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review: At this price it should be better

High-quality photography has become the defining feature of today’s flagship phones. Not only do companies such as Samsung and Apple have to keep up with the competition, they are expected to set the pace of innovation for the industry at large. That’s why it’s critical for phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus — a premium device if there ever was one — to have the absolute best camera possible.

The Note series this year jumps to a four-camera setup to match competing devices from Apple, Huawei, LG, Sony, and others.

Did Samsung play catch up or leap ahead? Find out in Android Authority‘s Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review. (Our full review of the phone is available here.)

About this review: We captured photo samples in New York City, Boston, and Berlin over a period of several weeks using a personally owned Note 10 Plus. The below photos have been resized for display purposes, but have not been altered in any other way. Full-resolution samples are available via Google Drive.Show More

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review: Specs

As you might expect, Samsung threw everything and the kitchen sink into the Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera hardware. It has a familiar spec sheet, practically mimicking that of the Galaxy S10 Plus in terms of components. The new tool is the depth camera, which adds, uh, an extra dimension to what the Note 10 Plus can do with portraiture. We’re pleased to see 60fps shooting in 4K, as well as the newer tool of live bokeh in video.

  • Rear
    • Ultra-wide:
      • 16MP sensor
      • ƒ/2.2 aperture
      • 123-degree field-of-view
    • Wide-angle:
      • 12MP sensor
      • Dual Pixel autofocus
      • ƒ/1.5+ƒ/2.4 apertures
      • OIS
      • 77-degree field-of-view
    • Telephoto:
      • 12MP sensor
      • ƒ/2.1 aperture
      • OIS
      • 45-degree field-of-view
    • Depth Vision camera:
      • VGA
      • ƒ/1.4 aperture
      • 72-degree field-of-view
  • Front
    • 10MP sensor
    • Dual Pixel autofocus
    • ƒ/2.2 aperture
    • 80-degree field-of-view
  • Video
    • 4K/UHD at 60fps
    • Live Focus (bokeh)
    • OIS
    • Zoom-in mic

Camera app

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review camera app main view Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review camera app filters Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review camera app video Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review camera app live focus

Samsung took steps to simplify its camera application a bit, and for this I am thankful. A double press of the power button will launch the camera in about half a second. It can also be opened via the lock screen or home screen.

As with most camera apps, simple toggle-style controls line the left edge of the screen (settings, flash, timer, aspect ratio, filters), while the shutter button, modes, and zoom controls are on the right.

With three lenses from which to choose, you now have a more advanced slider for selecting your shot. Little tabs let you quickly jump between the ultra-wide, standard, and telephoto lenses. Of course, you can always use the pinching gesture to fine-tune the exact amount of zoom you desire. The Note 10 will switch between lenses automatically.

Looking at the modes, you have photo and video, super slow-mo and slow-mo, live focus photo and live focus video (bokeh/portrait), Instagram and panorama, and night, pro, and hyperlapse. Each individual mode allows you to customize the behavior to a small degree, such as selecting bokeh styles, and controlling slow-mo/hyperlapse frame rates. The sheer number of modes makes switching between them cumbersome because so many are off screen, so to speak. Thankfully you can edit the line-up, putting your favorites closer to the center.

It's not super simple to use, but it feels more streamlined than previous generations of the Samsung camera app.

Samsung’s “scene optimizer” is on by default. This is the camera’s artificial intelligence functionality. It analyzes what you’re shooting in real time and adjusts the settings on the fly to get the best result. You’ll see scene names pop up on the screen, such as landscape, backlight, or portrait. I’m glad Samsung allows you to turn the scene optimizer off. Moreover, I’m glad the button is available directly in the viewfinder (the little blue globe).

The settings provide users with lots of latitude to adjust the app’s behavior, such as altering the resolution, adding/subtracting GPS data, using grid lines, and so on.

It’s not super simple to use, but it feels at least a little more streamlined than previous generations of the Samsung camera app.

  • Ease of use: 7
  • Intuitiveness: 7
  • Features: 10
  • Advanced settings: 10

Score: 8.5

Daylight

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review daylight IFA messe Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review daylight harbor Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review daylight white house Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review daylight bumper

Every camera should do well in full daylight thanks to the wide availability of light and the Galaxy Note 10 Plus doesn’t fall short.

What we see here are quintessential results from a Samsung device. Everything looks sharp and colors pop. Samsung is known to boost saturation levels, and it’s fairly obvious here with the bright reds and deep blues.

Shots like this are the easiest to get right, and Samsung delivers pleasing results.

The detail available in the harbor shot is quite good, particularly in the upper right corner where boats are clustered tightly. The fact that the trees in both the harbor and house shots have any color and detail at all speaks to the power of Samsung’s control over dynamic range.

Shots like this are the easiest to get right, and Samsung delivers pleasing results.

Score: 8.5/10

Color

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review color Sony Center Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review color boat Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review color truck Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review color berries

Take what I said above about oversaturated color and apply it here as well. The purple in the first shot was not that vibrant, nor that obvious in real life. The Note 10 Plus took what was there and amplified it. The picture looks great, but it’s not accurate to what I saw in Potsdammer Platz.

The boat and truck shots, on the other hand, are practically perfect in terms of color representation. These scenes look identical to what my eye saw. Perhaps some would like to see the red on the truck pop a bit more, but I like this result better. Had the camera over-saturated the reds, we’d have lost the detail in the wood slats on the building.

Many photos are oversaturated; however, people may find this is exactly what they want.

I think the berries turned out pretty well.

When I look at the wide selection of shots I’ve taken with the Note 10 Plus over the last few weeks, many show signs of over saturation. However, many people may find this is exactly what they want.

Score: 7.5/10

Zoom

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review zoom Spinnacle closeup Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review zoom fernsehturm closeup Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review zoom from far away Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review zoom balloon

Here are a variety of shots using the Note 10 Plus telephoto camera to get close to the subject. The results are uneven.

The first photo is the best of the bunch, but I think that’s because I was closer to the subject than I was in the other shots. Focus, colors, and temperature all look good in that shot. The night-time tower shot is a bit of a mess, with grain and loss of detail clouding the image and light smudging the exposure. I think the third shot looks okay at a glance, but if you zoom in on the buildings or clouds you’ll see noise and loss of detail.

If one zoomed shot did really well, it’s the balloon, which shows accurate color and a good amount of detail.

The zoom lens appears to work best when you have lots of light available.

Score: 7/10

Detail

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review detail stones Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review detail people lights Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review detail brick Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review detail cityscape

Here we see shots taken in a variety of light settings, which impacts detail to a degree.

The first shot shows a lot of the finer details in each of the individual rocks, despite the uneven lighting, but the second shot loses tons of details in the background. Zooming into that photo at all reveals a mess of pixels and grain in the crowd.

Samsung's over-processing drains detail when you get close.

The two city shots are better, clearer. The red bricks look mostly sharp and all the mortar lines between them are visible even when zoomed in closely. Similarly, you’re able to spot individual people on the sidewalk in the fourth shot and see that they are wearing different clothing.

In other words, detail will vary depending on your environment. Samsung’s over-processing drains detail when you get close, particularly in low light.

Score: 7/10

Landscape

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review landscape castle on hill Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review landscape secret garden Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review landscape outdoor wedding Samsung Galaxy Note 10 camera review landscape lawn and sea

Similar to daylight shots, in landscape photos you’re looking for sharp focus throughout, good exposure, and pleasing color. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus manages to do a good job with these images, all things considered.

To be frank, I’m surprised the first shot turned out at all. The sun was directly above my subject, albeit behind some clouds. Even so, the sky isn’t blown out and the grass looks pleasantly green.

The second and third shots show lush vegetation under a bright blue sky and wispy clouds. Each has good white balance, nice color, and detail throughout the depth of the image.

The fourth shot is a bit oversaturated as far as the color is concerned. Even so, the greens look nice, color temperature is spot on, and there is still visible detail in the park far in the background.

Score: 8/10

Portrait

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review portrait harbor Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review portrait ocean Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review portrait jetty Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review portrait statue

When taking portraits, or “Live Focus” as Samsung calls it, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus offers solid results that could still be a touch better.

Exposure, color temperature, and overall appeal of these photos is practically flawless. They mirror reality in just the right ways, while also enhancing the color just a little bit.

The first problem we see is in the level of beautification. The skin has been glossed over so much that it looks like everyone is wearing eight pounds of makeup. Here’s the worst part: The default setting for skin smoothness is two out of ten! You can ramp it up way further if you want to, though this turns your friends and family into mannequin facsimiles of themselves. Turning it off entirely delivers more natural-looking results.

Exposure, color temperature, and overall appeal of these photos is practically flawless.

Then there’s the blur. These shots all used the default blur setting, but you can ramp up not only the amount of blur, but the shape of the blur. Some of the blur shapes (radial, lines) are neat, but I found they too often interfere with the clarity of the subject.

Last, the Note 10 Plus did a good job outlining the subjects in photos one, three, and four, but the second shot reveals a poor outline around the girl’s hair. You can see how the tree next to the statue remained in focus while the rest of the shot was appropriately blurred.

Despite the inconsistencies here, I think most people are going to like what they see.

Score: 8/10

HDR

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review HDR indoors Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review HDR event space Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review HDR light and dark Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review HDR phones on display

Balancing light with the dark is no easy task. HDR on modern smartphones requires blending a handful of images that are exposed at different values to create a single shot. Not every phone can do it well. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus delivered mixed results.

The first sample was a fairly dark hallway with bright, penetrating sun beaming through the windows. The Note 10 Plus opted to prioritize the darker regions of the shot and blew out the windows. I think the balance could have been a little better.

In the second shot, the event-space shot turned out nearly perfectly. In real life, those tables were a bit shiny and the areas along the wall were dark. The Note 10 Plus pulled detail out of the shadows while preventing the tables from becoming overexposed.

The third shot was difficult. Those white chairs in the foreground were reflecting the spot lights. The Note 10 Plus really toned down the exposure, but still managed to keep detail in the ceiling.

Balancing light with the dark is no easy task. Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 Plus delivered mixed results.

The final shot was another challenge. The foreground was an illuminated table and the background was dark, moving people. I feared the entire thing would be blown out. Instead, we have decent detail in the subject (the phones) and the background. Still, there’s plenty of noise.

Score: 8.5/10

Low light

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review low light Fernsehturm Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review low light spilling out Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review low light tree Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review low light with car

If the Note 10 Plus stumbles anywhere, it’s with low-light photography. The examples above are not terrible, but each shows Samsung’s weakness in capturing the right balance of light, color, and detail.

The city shot is a bit of a mess. Light smudges are everywhere and grain besots the sky with noise. The buildings are exposed about right, but everything else is a mish-mash. The second is simply too dark and flat. Both the building and the people could be brighter and more colorful. The white car resulted in too much of the background becoming totally lost. There was far more detail visible in real life.

Samsung is far behind low-light killers such as the Google Pixel 3 and Huawei P30 Pro.

The tree is perhaps the most disappointing. It was a really neat scene that my real camera balanced perfectly. The Note 10 Plus overexposed the trunk and kept the nearby bushes too dark, negating the effect of the shot.

Samsung is far behind low-light killers such as the Google Pixel 3 and Huawei P30 Pro.

Score: 6.5/10

Selfie

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review selfie audience is listening Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review wedding selfie Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review selfie in harbor Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review indoor selfie

Here are a handful of selfie shots taken indoors, in harsh sun, and under even, cloudy lighting. For the most part, these images are totally fine. They are in focus and the color and temperature are correct, though some detail is missing here and there. The background is blown out in the first shot, but that’s not overly surprising.

As with portraits, the bigger problem is the beautification. The faces are a bit too smooth in some instances, which creates an unnatural look. I wish the Note 10 Plus defaulted to portrait mode when shooting selfies, but it does not. As with the primary camera, you can control blur and beautification before the shot if you wish.

Selfies taken in the dark aren’t at their best. The screen-based flash leads to overexposed faces more often than not.

Score: 7.5/10

Video

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus records video at a wide variety of resolutions and speeds. Topping it out will give you 4K video at 60fps, which produces sharp yet smooth results. The high resolution means lots of detail is captured, and the high frame rate means motion looks almost life-like.

Video didn't bowl me over, but it didn't disappoint me, either.

Overall I was pleased with the performance of the Note 10 Plus when recording video. The footage I captured of my sister’s wedding (in 1080p @ 30fps) had a nice look to it that leaned perhaps toward the warm side. It was also somewhat grainy. Samples I took at the highest settings were cleaner.

Shooting outdoors always gets the best results, but stuff captured in low-light scenes is good enough.

It didn’t bowl me over, but it didn’t disappoint me, either.

Score: 8/10

Final thoughtsSamsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera macro 1

Last year’s Note 9 had just two rear cameras: standard and telephoto. Samsung had to add wide-angle to the mix in order to catch up to competing flagships. Further, I think the extra depth camera helps generate the improvement in portraits that people seek from their phone.

However, Samsung appears to have bungled the low-light situation a bit. The shots taken at night simply aren’t up to par with the competition. It’s this factor alone that I think drags the whole system down a bit. My guess, however, is that most people will be willing to forgive Samsung the blunder given the camera’s other strengths.

Score: 8.5/10

Buy Note 10 Plus at Samsung

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Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review: Xiaomi’s done it again

If you’re reading this Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review, there’s a good chance you’ve either heard a lot about Xiaomi’s Mi Band line and want to know what the hype is about, or you’ve already placed your Mi Band 4 order and are awaiting its arrival.

The hype surrounding Mi Band devices — and Xiaomi devices in general — is there for a reason. Xiaomi makes really good products that don’t cost a ton of money. In the age of the $1,000-plus smartphone, it’s no wonder why people are looking for low-cost alternatives to high-end products.

The Mi Band 4 might be the product that best reflects Xiaomi’s low-cost-high-quality mantra. It starts at the low-low price of just $40 in the U.S., or about half the price of competitors’ products. Read on to find out why you’d want to choose the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 over the higher-cost competition.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review notes:

I’ve been using the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 as my main fitness tracker for roughly six days, running firmware version 1.0.5.39. The Mi Band 4 has been connected to my Google Pixel 3 running Android 9 Pie for the duration of this review.

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Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review: The big picture

The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 was one of the best value fitness trackers of 2018, and the Mi Band 4 aims to improve on it in a few key ways. It has a better display and more activity profiles, but with those things comes a slight price bump, though the Mi Band 4 is still significantly cheaper than other fitness trackers with similar feature sets.

The question is, are you really getting anything worthwhile by spending an extra $50 on a competing product, or should everyone run out and buy the Mi Band 4 right now? That’s what we’ll answer in our Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review.

Design

Let’s be honest: None of Xiaomi’s Mi Band devices have ever been the most well-designed pieces of tech, but the Mi Band 4 is an improvement. It’s still one of the more generic-looking fitness trackers out there with its simple black band and unassuming case, but the improved display saves the Mi Band 4’s design in my opinion.

It’s a 0.95-inch RGB AMOLED display this time around — a big step up from the Mi Band 3’s smaller black-and-white display. The 120 by 240 pixel density is sharp and the 400-nit brightness means it’s easy to see in direct sunlight. It’s a touchscreen display, so you’ll do most of your on-device navigation through taps and swipes. Swipe up or down to select different modes or settings, swipe left or right from the watch face to access music controls, or swipe right to go back from a different screen. You can also tap the capacitive button underneath the display to go back. Easy.

Also read: Xiaomi Mi Band 4 vs Fitbit Inspire HR: What’s the best cheap fitness tracker?

xiaomi mi band 4 review in hand watch face

xiaomi mi band 4 review with band xiaomi mi band 4 review heart rate sensor case xiaomi mi band 4 review heart rate sensor case

The fitness tracker case easily detaches from the silicone band if you’d like to swap it out for another band. And don’t worry, there are already plenty of third-party Mi Band 4 bands available on Amazon. The Mi Band 4 case is compatible with Mi Band 3 bands, too.

The band that ships with the Mi Band 4 is made of silicone and feels comfortable. It’s not the highest quality rubber you’ll find on a fitness tracker — it’s a little too rigid for my taste — but it gets the job done.

The optical heart rate sensor ever-so-slightly protrudes from the bottom of the case, but not enough to leave a mark on your wrist after wearing it for a few hours.

xiaomi mi band 4 review on charger charging cable bad not good

Throughout my testing, I didn’t notice any connectivity issues between the Mi Band 4 and my Pixel 3. Perhaps that’s due to the Mi Band 4’s updated Bluetooth 5.0 support compared to the previous generation’s Bluetooth 4.2 support.

Below the heart rate sensor sit two little pins for charging. When it’s time to charge, simply slide the Mi Band 4 case into the included charging cradle and it should be topped up in about 45 minutes. A quick note on the charging cable: I hate it. It’s about four inches long, so it’s going to dangle from any USB charging port not sitting directly on a desk.

The good news is you won’t have to charge the Mi Band 4 very often at all. With normal use, Xiaomi says the 135mAh battery will last about 20 days on a single charge. I haven’t been using mine for 20 days, but I can tell you the battery is pretty great so far. I’m currently sitting at a 70-percent charge after a full charge last Friday, and that’s after three long runs and the heart rate sensor being on in 10-minute intervals.

Fitness and health tracking

xiaomi mi band 4 review exercises running treadmill workouts

The Mi Band 4 will keep track of all the basics: steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, resting and active heart rates, and sleep. It doesn’t have a built-in GPS, so your distance metrics won’t be very accurate if you’re going out for a run with only your fitness tracker. However, it comes with a connected GPS feature, so you can track your workouts with GPS if you don’t mind bringing your phone.

Notably, the Samsung Galaxy Fit doesn’t feature connected GPS, though the Fitbit Inspire and Inspire HR both do.

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Another area where the Mi Band 4 stands out is the number of workout modes. It can track the following exercises: treadmill, outdoor running, cycling, walking, pool swimming, and the generic “exercise” workout. That may not seem like much, but its predecessor isn’t able to track pool swimming or generic exercises at launch. The Mi Band 3 can now track exercises, but still isn’t able to track swimming exercises.

Speaking of pool swimming, the Mi Band 4 can recognize five different swimming styles and record 12 different data sets, like swimming pace and stroke count. It also carries a water resistance rating of 5ATM.

xiaomi mi band 4 review status steps daily activity

I wouldn’t normally mention that you can start an activity from the Mi Band 4 itself (instead of pressing “start” from the app), but you can! At launch, the Mi Band 3 wasn’t able to start exercises from the band itself, but it gained this functionality at a later date.

I took the Mi Band 4 on multiple outdoor runs and compared it with my Garmin Forerunner 245 Music and Wahoo Tickr X heart rate strap. Though it doesn’t have as many sensors as the Forerunner, the Mi Band 4 was actually quite accurate. Step counting and calories burned metrics from the Mi Band 4 were very close to the Forerunner 245 Music’s metrics. The only major outliers during my testing were distance and pace metrics, but that’s because the Mi Band 4 doesn’t have GPS and I didn’t test the connected GPS feature during those runs.

Also read: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Striking the right balance

Heart rate recordings — both resting and active — with the Mi Band 4 are decent. I’ve attached a few comparison screenshots on a run I took with the Forerunner 245 Music and Wahoo Tickr X.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review garmin forerunner 245 heart rate readings

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music heart rate readings

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review wahoo tickr x heart rate readings xiaomi mi band 4 heart rate readings test

It’s a bit hard to tell from the screenshots (the Mi Fit app doesn’t display heart rate recordings very well) so I’ll walk you through it.

  • Max heart rate:
    • Wahoo Tickr X (control): 170bpm
    • Xiaomi Mi Band 4: 173bpm
    • Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: 176bpm
  • Average heart rate:
    • Wahoo Tickr X (control): 142bpm
    • Xiaomi Mi Band 4: 155bpm
    • Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: 145bpm

The Forerunner and Mi Band 4 stayed quite close to the Tickr X chest strap throughout the workout. All three devices had a similar max heart rate, though the Mi Band 4 was on the high side in terms of averages. The Mi Band 4 actually did a better job of catching the slight dip at the ~10-minute mark, though it didn’t go nearly as low as it needed to: The Tickr X got all the way down to ~55bpm while the Mi Band only dipped down to ~150bpm.

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Both the Forerunner and Mi Band also caught the dip at the ~16-minute mark, but the Mi Band 4 clearly glitched at that point. It flatlined for a few minutes, jumped back up at ~18 minutes, only to flatline again until ~21 minutes.

We see these things happen with wrist-based heart rate sensors quite often, so it’s not surprising to see it happen to the Mi Band 4. Overall, it will give you a good idea as to where your heart rate generally is, but don’t rely on it fully for higher-intensity workouts.

Sleep tracking is another one of the Mi Band 4’s strongest areas. It’ll track your deep/light sleep and time awake, and it’ll give you a sleep score from 1-100 by comparing your data to other Mi Fit users’ data.

xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app sleep screenshots xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app sleep screenshots xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app sleep screenshots

Throughout my time with the device, I haven’t noticed any major issues with sleep tracking — the Mi Band 4 always seems to report my time asleep and time awake pretty accurately.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4
Display .95-inch RGB AMOLED touchscreen
120 x 240 resolution
282ppi
Up to 400 nits
2.5D tempered glass with anti-fingerprint coating
Materials Case: polycarbonate
Band: thermoplastic polyurethane
RAM 512KB
Storage 16MB
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0
Sensors 3-axis accelerometer
3-axis gyroscope
PPG heart rate sensor
Capacitive proximity sensor
Battery 135mAh
Lithium-polymer
Two-pin POGO pin charging
Charging time: ≤ two hours
Durability 5ATM water resistance
Compatibility Android 4.4 or above
iOS 9.0 or above
Dimensions and weight Band width: 18mm
Band length: 155-216mm
22.1g

Smartwatch features

xiaomi mi band 4 review weather

For a device this small and cheap, Xiaomi was able to pack quite a lot of smart features into the Mi Band 4.

Before we get too far into it, I’m using the Mi Band 4 meant for regions outside of China, so my review unit does not support contactless payments with Alipay, nor public transportation payments. It also lacks Xiaomi’s Xiao AI assistant. For more information on the Chinese model, head here.

Related: The best smartwatches you can buy | The best Wear OS watches you can buy

The Mi Band 4 can relay call, text, email, and just about any other notification you receive on your smartphone. Notifications come through to the Mi Band 4 right away. You can’t reply to any of them, and due to the little display some messages can be hard to read, but it’s still a nice feature to have.

xiaomi mi band 4 review notifications text message sms

I’m surprised at how many customization options Xiaomi included in the Mi Fit app. You can’t find some of these little conveniences in every fitness tracker:

  • Vibration pattern: Each notification type can be programmed with a custom vibration pattern so you can tell the difference without even looking at the screen.
  • Schedule for auto screen wake up: You can set the Mi Band 4’s display to activate when you lift your wrist at certain hours of the day. That means the device won’t burn your eyes by accident when you’re trying to fall asleep.
  • Night mode: After sunset (or at your preferred time), your Mi Band 4’s screen brightness will be lowered.
  • Do not disturb: Many fitness trackers have built-in DND modes, but the Mi Band 4’s can be turned on even without your phone nearby. If you’re getting bombarded with notifications and need them to stop, switching to DND mode can be done in only a few taps.

The Mi Band 4 also supports different watch faces. There are a fair amount of watch face options available in the Mi Fit app. Roughly half of them are colorful digital faces, while the other half feature cute, big-eyed cartoon animals. To each their own.

xiaomi mi band 4 review xiaomi mi fit app google pixel 3 watch faces

There are also built-in vibration alarms, a “find my Mi Band” feature if you misplace it, on-device weather, and the ability to control your smartphones music from your wrist. I’ve found music controls to be particularly handy when walking around the house and listening to podcasts.

The Xiaomi Mi Fit app

xiaomi mi fit app google pixel 3

Xiaomi’s Mi Fit app is what you’ll use to pair the Mi Band 4 to your phone and view all your activity stats, unlike the Galaxy Fit which uses multiple apps for device settings and health tracking.

There are three sections of the Mi Fit app — workout, friends, and profile — which are all pretty straightforward. Friends is where you can connect with other Mi Fit users to see their activity and health info, and the profile section contains all your personal info, goals, and settings.

The workout section contains four sub-sections: status, walking, running, and swimming. Walking, running, and swimming are only used for manually starting those types of activities from your phone. The status section is where you’ll find the current day’s activities and goals.

mi fit app screenshots home screen mi fit app screenshots running mi band 4 mi fit app screenshots history mi band 4 mi fit app screenshots sleep mi fit app screenshots mi fit app screenshots my device settings Further reading

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I don’t like how difficult it is to check into your workout or activity history. There’s no button for it, so you may find yourself tapping around until you stumble across it. You can access your history by tapping the activity card in the status tab, swiping over to my workouts, tapping steps today, then history on the bottom of the screen. As someone who constantly checks into workout progression over time, this is a little cumbersome.

Once you’re there, the Mi Fit app will display tons of information, even down to the small five-minute activities it records throughout the day.

mi fit app history mi fit app history mi fit app history

If you’re a diehard Google Fit user and can’t give up the app for anything, good news: You can sync your Mi Fit data with Google Fit. Once you connect your accounts in the Mi Fit settings menu, all activities recorded by the Mi Band 4 will be sent over to Google Fit. Personally, I haven’t experienced any of the recent Google Fit issues others have, so just know that your experience with syncing Mi Band 4 data to Google Fit might vary.

Don’t miss: Google Fit guide: Everything you need to know about Google’s fitness platform

Mi Fit is also compatible with WeChat for those who want to sync their fitness data with WeRun.

For the most part, the Mi Fit app is a well-rounded, easy-to-use fitness platform (aside from the ease of checking workout history). The app could benefit from even more social features and compatibility with other fitness applications, and I did notice a few bugs in the app throughout my time using it. Overall though, it’s perfectly serviceable in its current form.

Value for the money & the competition

Here’s where the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 really shines. It’s available in the U.S. for just $40, less than half the price of the Fitbit Inspire HR and Samsung Galaxy Fit, which are the Mi Band 4’s main competitors. This is an incredible asking price for what you get, and I have no problem recommending the Mi Band 4 to anyone looking for a basic activity tracker.

Xiaomi also launched the Mi Band 4 in India on September 17, and it’s available via Mi.com and Amazon India. The fitness tracker’s Indian price is set at 2,299 rupees (~$32), making it slightly cheaper than the U.K. and U.S. pricing.

Buy from Amazon (U.S.) Buy from Amazon (U.K.) Buy from Mi.com (U.K.)

If you’re not a fan of the Mi Fit app, maybe keep an eye on the Inspire HR instead. The Fitbit app is one of the best out there and provides a more refined experience overall. Also, the Inspire HR’s feature set is comparable to the Mi Band 4’s, so it really depends on which brand and ecosystem you’d like to buy into.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review: The verdict

xiaomi mi band 4 review watch face clock google home mini

Each year, Xiaomi adds more features to its Mi Band lineup and keeps the price hikes to a minimum. With an improved display, more exercise profiles, and a rock-bottom price, the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 squares itself away as one of the best cheap fitness trackers of 2019. If you called it the best cheap fitness tracker, I don’t know if I’d argue with you.

If you need a cheap fitness tracker or simply want to upgrade from a previous Mi Band device, you should seriously consider the Xiaomi Mi Band 4. What do you have to lose?

Next: Best Fitbit alternatives: Garmin, Misfit, Samsung, and more

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Reviews

Vivo Nex 3 5G hands-on: Waterfall screen, Snapdragon 855 Plus, and a dash of 5G

The Vivo Nex series has emerged as the company’s cutting-edge range, ever since the Vivo Nex S offered a pop-up selfie camera and in-display fingerprint sensor last year.

Now, the company has launched the Vivo Nex 3 5G, which seems to adopt a similar cutting-edge approach as previous models. Vivo’s latest model, as the name implies, is a 5G device, packing a Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset along with Qualcomm’s X50 modem, and brings a lot of quirks adopted from previous Vivo concepts.

Vivo Nex 3 5G specs

Vivo Nex 3 5G
Display 6.89-inch Super AMOLED, waterfall
2,256 x 1,080 resolution
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus
GPU Adreno 640
RAM 8/12GB
Storage 256GB fixed storage
UFS 3.0
Cameras Front camera:
16MP, f/2.0, with LED flash
Rear camera:
64MP, f/1.8 aperture
13MP, f/2.2 ultrawide
13MP, f/2.4 telephoto
Battery 4,500mAh
44W fast charging
USB-C
Headphone port Yes
Software Android 9.0 Pie with Funtouch OS 9.1
Dimensions and weight 167.4 x 76.14 x 9.4mm
218.5g

Vivo’s Nex 3 5G packs six 5G antennas for optimal connectivity, so hopefully that means you can hold the device however you like and still receive a great 5G signal.

Currently, the device is only compatible with sub-6GHz 5G networks. In China and many European regions, mmWave isn’t yet being adopted, since nodes only work well in cities and cost a lot to install. Vivo did state that it intends to be one of the first with mmWave in China once the technology is adopted, so look for mmWave-compatible Vivo phones in the future.

More than just a 5G-focused update?

The Vivo Nex 3 5G also stands out in the photography field, serving up a 64MP triple rear camera setup (64MP main, 13MP telephoto, 13MP ultra-wide). The physical camera sensor has been scaled up to compensate for the higher resolution, sporting a sensor size of 1/1.171-inches versus the more standard 1/2.55-inch sensor you’ll find in most phones. You’re still looking at the same 0.8 micron pixels you’ll find on 48MP camera sensors though.

Vivo NEX 3 5G ff cameras macro

The Nex S delivered a pop-up selfie camera last year, and we see a similar setup this time, featuring a 16MP sensor and LED flash. The selfie camera isn’t as ultra-wide as the shooter on the Pixel 3, but Vivo says it should be wide enough to get you and your friends comfortably in a shot. The phone also makes a cool robotic sound when the selfie camera emerges from the housing, but this can be disabled if you don’t like it.

Editor's Pick

Who needs Android Beam? Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo join forces for file-sharing

Weibo/MIUI Google is working on a Fast Share local file-sharing feature for Android Q, meant to replace its Android Beam functionality. But Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo have plans of their own, jointly announcing a …

This pop-up housing enables a full-screen display as you’d expect, but the Vivo Nex 3 5G is one of the first phones with a so-called waterfall display, featuring a 6.89-inch curved OLED (2,256 x 1,080, and a claimed 99.6% screen/body ratio) that drops off in a far more radical manner than other phones with curved screens.

Vivo says this special display can be used for things like notifications while the phone is face down, similar to how edge lighting works on the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10 series.

Vivo NEX 3 5G capacative power button macro

The waterfall display means side-mounted buttons are rather difficult to implement, so Vivo has opted for capacitive buttons akin to the Vivo Apex device. Otherwise, Vivo has slapped a tiny physical power button at the top of the phone. Don’t want to reach for that? Then you can also use the in-display fingerprint sensor, which Vivo says is now faster and 25% larger than previous generations.

Vivo NEX 3 5G ports macro

Vivo’s latest phone shouldn’t leave you wanting for power though, as it packs 8GB or 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage (in addition to the flagship silicon).

The Chinese brand is also serving up a 4,500mAh battery with 44W Super FlashCharge tech. The company didn’t have charging times on hand but, if the Huawei P30 Pro is anything to go by, you can likely expect to be fully charged in just over an hour.

Vivo NEX 3 5G screen

Disappointingly, the Vivo Nex 3 5G ships with Android 9.0 rather than Android 10, along with Vivo’s FunTouch 9.1 skin. We’re in this weird limbo where the latest update has only just launched, so it’s not unexpected to see Android 9.0 on a new device. But hopefully Vivo brings a brisk update to Android 10.

Vivo says the Nex 3 5G will be available “in the coming months” in the Asia-Pacific region, South East Asia, and “other” markets. Unfortunately, the firm hasn’t revealed a price just yet.

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What do you think of Vivo’s latest? Is the waterfall display a gimmick or great?

Let us know your thoughts below!

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Reviews

Coolpad Dyno smartwatch review: Parents will love it!

The Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch must convince a demanding audience. Parents want to make sure kids can’t access the dark corners of the internet or contact strangers, so giving them a smartphone is not always the best bet. At the same time, keeping in touch with children is critical as they grow and become more independent. This is what the Coolpad Dyno is all about, and we are ready to tell you if it’s worth your trust.

My daughter wore the Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch for 2 weeks, using the GSM carrier Coolpad has partnered with for service in the U.S. and Canada. The device was running software version 7.1.279.V2.190430.CP301A. Coolpad provided the unit to Android Authority.Show More

Coolpad Dyno review: The big picture

The Coolpad Dyno is a smartwatch with a purpose. It aims to bridge the gap between kids and tech in a safe and fun manner. The smartwatch is independent and runs on its own 4G LTE connection, allowing it to make calls, send messages, and transmit location. Step tracking and alarms are also added to its functionality.

The Coolpad Dyno aims to bridge the gap between kids and tech in a safe and fun manner.

Edgar Cervantes

The price is set at $149 straight from the manufacturer. The $9.99 monthly service fee covers unlimited calls, data, and all included features in the U.S. and Canada.

What’s in the box?

Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch box and accessories

  • Coolpad Dyno smartwatch with SIM
  • USB charging cable
  • Blue strap
  • Pink strap

It’s great to see Coolpad didn’t try to get extra cash by trying to sell you straps separately. Both blue and pink straps are included. Everything comes neatly packed in a small square box. A couple inside boxes store the cable and extra strap. You need nothing more than what comes in the box to get the Coolpad Dyno up and running.

Design

Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch next to pouch

  • 47 x 14.99mm, 54g
  • 1.22-inch circular display
  • Dragontrail X Glass
  • Bottom notch

A kids watch needs to survive playgrounds, trips, falls, jumps, dirt, sand, liquids, and all the other dangers that come with a being a kid. The Coolpad Dyno has an IP65 rating, which makes it dust-proof and water resistant. To better understand check out our dedicated IP ratings guide.

Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch right side Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch left side

While ratings state the Coolpad Dyno is a resilient smartwatch, its build quality doesn’t exactly show it. Buttons are solid, but don’t offer much feedback. The unit is made of cheap-feeling plastic. The straps are rubber. At least it is all held in place firmly. Once in a kid’s wrist, the watch doesn’t feel like it will easily come off.

While ratings state the Coolpad Dyno is a resilient smartwatch, its build quality doesn't exactly show it.

Edgar Cervantes

The bulkiness doesn’t help. At nearly 15mm thick, this watch is thicker than many adult smartwatches. It looks very large in a kid’s wrist, and it didn’t take long before my daughter complained about the size.

Kid using Coolpad Dyno smartwatch 2

We would love some refinements in the design department, but this is a $149.99 device for kids. Maybe nicer materials will do nothing but raise the price and, perhaps, come out worse for wear once it has gone through your child’s torture.

Display

Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch screen closeup

  • 1.22 inches
  • 240 x 204p, circular display
  • IPS LCD
  • Dragontrail X Glass

The UI’s vibrant colors are beautiful on the IPS display, and viewing angles are great. Brightness is also superb, and the device can be viewed comfortably in direct sunlight. This is important to kids, who are easily distracted and need something that can keep their attention.

The resolution is low, and you can definitely notice pixels. The “flat tire” notch is annoying, especially considering this is no small device. The company can’t exactly argue they had no space for internals.

Performance

Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch with screen on

  • Qualcomm SDW2100 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • WiFi b/g/n
  • 4GB of internal storage
  • IP65 rating
  • Bluetooth 4.1

The Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch is by no means fast.

Edgar Cervantes

The Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch is by no means fast. There is a slight lag when swiping through the interface, and entering any menu takes about a second. With that said, my kid never complained about speed, likely because the watch wasn’t designed to do much. The UI is well organized, so any task is a few swipes or taps away. There were also no complaints about heat issues. Then again, she wasn’t doing much to overwork the hardware.

I’d argue the Coolpad Dyno is as fast as it needs to be. Regardless, it would be nice to see a faster experience in a 2019 device. Even low-end smartphones perform smoothly under casual usage.

Battery

Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch charging

  • 605mAh battery
  • Micro-USB charging
  • Up to 2.5 days of battery life

The Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch isn’t very resource intensive, thanks to its humble Qualcomm SDW2100 processor, low-resolution display, and 512MB of RAM. The device is purely functional too. It has no games or fancy features for kids to spend hours playing. This result? The battery lasts more than most other smartwatches out there.

My daughter wasn’t able to get the two and a half days of battery life Coolpad promises, but she got very close to two full days most times. She had the device screen at full brightness all the time, which didn’t help. Thankfully, the Coolpad Dyno charges in no more than a couple hours, likely because the small battery.

Software

  • Proprietary OS
  • Parental app available for Android and iOS

Smartwatch software

Coolpad Dyno UI screens

The Coolpad Dyno has a very simple UI (user interface). The home page shows the watch face. You can easily swipe down to display additional watch faces. Swipe left and right to pick your favorite and then tap on it to select.

Swiping to the left will show the step tracker, alarm, and settings. Swiping to the right will show options for calling, sending messages, and adding friends. The user can tap on any option to access it, then swipe from left to right at any point to exit. Kids can handle it no problem.

Smartphone app

Coolpad Dyno app screenshots 1 Coolpad Dyno app screenshots 2 Coolpad Dyno app screenshots 3 Coolpad Dyno app screenshots 4

Most of the Coolpad Dyno’s functionality is managed through the smartphone app, making it the control center for the whole experience. Kids can’t even set alarms on their own!

The smartphone app’s UI is more traditional. The main screen shows a map with the location of the Coolpad Dyno (or Dynos, if you have multiple kids wearing them). A three-line menu button in the top-left corner gives you access to all features, and you can tune each device by accessing them in the My Family section.

All features explained

  • GPS location tracking: The Coolpad Dyno app has a location map on which you can check where your kids are at any given time.
  • Safe zones: You can set “safe zones” (geofencing) on the map to make sure your kids are where they should be. The app will notify the parent should the smartwatch leave the safe zone.
  • Location history: Missed the safe zone notifications? You can manually check where your kid has gone using the location history.
  • Calls and contacts: Kids can only call or receive calls from registered contacts, which are added through the app. There is also a call history section.
  • Messages: Likewise, messages are only allowed with permitted contacts, but not through SMS. The smartwatch uses a dedicated messaging service that only works through the smartphone app. To allow messages between your kid and others you will need to add the contact as a “trusted member”. These members will need to download the app if they want to message the kid.
  • Preset messages: The smartwatch has no keyboard for typing in messages, which is a bit of an annoyance. You can create preset messages through the app, and these will be pushed to the device. Luckily, the kid can send voice notes when needed.
  • Alarms: The alarms option in the app allows you to remotely add or remove alarms for your kid. Kids can’t choose to modify these from the smartwatch directly.
  • Step tracker: The smartwatch can show your kid how many steps the Coolpad Dyno has registered the same day.
  • Leaderboard: The parent app includes a leaderboard with daily, weekly, and monthly step count reports. If you have multiple kids using Dynos, you will be able to see who has been more active at a glance.
  • Adding friends: If your kid is lucky enough to have friends or siblings with Coolpad Dyno watches, they can add them as friends. This is done by going to the Add Friend section, putting the devices close to each other, and tapping a green button.
  • Notifications: You will be notified when the Coolpad Dyno is turned on/off, needs a charge, or leaves/enters safe zones.

Audio

Kid using Coolpad Dyno smartwatch 1

  • Speakerphone
  • Microphone

The microphone works well and I was able to hear my kid loud and clear, but she couldn’t claim the same. The speakerphone isn’t loud enough to be used in a crowded playground or any noisy place. She claims to have had to seek solitude in the bathroom just to hear me well. This is a problem, considering it’s not always easy to find a quiet place when reaching out to parents is critical.

I was disappointed by the fact that, despite having Bluetooth 4.1, there is no way to pair the device with external audio accessories. Kids are forced to use the speakerphone, which is rarely ideal.

Coolpad Dyno Specs

Coolpad Dyno
Display 1.22-inch IPS LCD
240 x 204 circular display
SoC Qualcomm SDW2100
GPU Qualcomm Adreno 304
RAM 512MB
Storage 4GB
Cameras N/A
Audio Speakerphone
Microphone
Battery 605mAh
IP rating IP65
Sensors N/A
Network LTE: 2/4
UMTS: 2/4/5
GSM: 850/1900
Connectivity WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.1
SIM Micro SIM
Software Proprietary
Dimensions and weight 47 x 14.99mm
54g
Colors Body: Gray/green
Straps: Blue or pink

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Value for the money

Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch next to pouch

  • $149.99 plus $9.99 monthly service fee
  • Available in U.S. and Canada

As parents we can't put a price on peace of mind.

Edgar Cervantes

$149.99 for a smartwatch doesn’t sound like a bad deal, but once you look deeper into what the Coolpad Dyno can do you will realize it isn’t really so inexpensive. It requires an additional $9.99 monthly service fee, for which they have partnered with Airfi Networks. This company lists AT&T and Rogers as a couple of their partners, so it’s safe to assume the Coolpad Dyno will have coverage anywhere these networks do. The device is essentially worthless without this subscription. You won’t be able to get past the setup process without it, as you need to activate the service through the Coolpad Dyno app to get started with the smartwatch.

Financially you might be better off buying a cheap feature phone with a basic plan. This is not to say the Coolpad Dyno doesn’t have a market. Those who want to make sure their kids are safe will love the level of control and safety the Coolpad Dyno offers. As parents we can’t put a price on peace of mind. And though we can also grab any smartphone and throw parental controls at it, the process can be annoying. The Dyno’s security is baked into the product and requires little effort from parents.

Should the Coolpad Dyno join your family?

Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch on school desk

My daughter was ecstatic when I first showed her the Coolpad Dyno. How exciting it must be for an eight year old to have her very own smartwatch. It can even make calls and send messages! It wasn’t long before she asked where the games are. Failing to find any, she said it would at least be good to order pizza with. She realized I wouldn’t let her just call anyone she wanted. “Then what’s the point?” she said.

The Coolpad Dyno has no party tricks. It failed to give kids any real incentive to use it, so she often forgot to wear it.

Edgar Cervantes

This is when I realized the Coolpad Dyno is made for parents, not kids. It has no party tricks and Coolpad failed to give kids any real incentive to use it. My daughter often forgot to wear it. I had to keep bugging her about always having it on her. Then she had to deal with things like the speakerphone volume, which wasn’t optimal. The only time she genuinely wanted to use it was when she asked me to set an alarm to wake her up early so she could watch some TV before going to school.

Kid using Coolpad Dyno smartwatch 3

I pretty much had to bribe my daughter into using the Coolpad Dyno. After the convincing was over, the experience was glorious … for me. I set safe zones around her school and our home, so I always knew where she was. I once tried to contact her during lunch to ask her what she wanted for dinner. Since she was busy playing with her friends she declined my call, but then used messages and voice notes to ask what I needed. She completely ignored the step tracker, but it was a relief for me to see that she was getting her fair share of playground action.

The Coolpad Dyno is definitely a good buy if you can convince your kid to wear it. It offers peace of mind for worried parents, especially when kids begin to gain more independence.

Buy Coolpad Dyno

read more
Reviews

Vivo Z1x review: Attractive design and good-enough specs

The pace of smartphone innovation is such that we’re seeing apparent successors to newly launched devices within a matter of weeks, rather than months. The Vivo Z1 Pro launched in July and we praised it for having a laser focus on good design, photography chops, and long battery life. The Vivo Z1x builds on the strengths of its predecessor and ups the ante on almost all fronts.

About this review: I wrote this Vivo Z1x review after using the phone for a week. Vivo India supplied the review unit, which was running Android Pie with Funtouch OS. The software version at the time of testing was PD121F_EX_A_1.5.5 and the phone had the July security patch installed. Show More

Vivo Z1x Pro review: The big picture

The Vivo Z1x takes aim at devices like the Realme X, the Redmi Note 7 Pro, and a myriad of mid-range competitors from Samsung and others. It carries over the core experience of the Vivo Z1 Pro and punches up the appeal by making improvements to the camera, display, and general feature set. Is that enough to make a good phone great?

We find out in the Android Authority review of the Vivo Z1x.

What’s in the box

  • Vivo Z1x
  • Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Warranty info
  • Quick start guide
  • Case
  • Earphones
  • SIM eject tool

The Vivo Z1x ships with just about everything you could possibly need. This includes a clear case, earphones, and a pre-installed screen guard. You also get the staples like a SIM eject tool as well as warranty and quick start guides.

Design

  • Waterdrop notch
  • Polycarbonate build
  • 159.5 x 75.2 x 8.1mm
  • 190g

The Vivo Z1x takes a step back from the punch-hole design of the Vivo Z1 Pro. While it is a cool feature to have, the tiny waterdrop notch on the Z1x is just as inoffensive. Instead of the industry-standard Gorilla Glass protection, the Z1x ships with Schott Xensation 3D glass that Vivo claims to have equivalent, if not better, standards of protection. Unsurprisingly, there’s no IP certification. The entire construction is polycarbonate with glass only at the front of the phone.

I like the changes Vivo made to the construction of the Z1x. The phone doesn’t bulge out as much, and offers very good grip in the hand. The tactile feedback from the buttons is top-notch and the phone feels very well put together. The volume rocker and power button, both, are easy to reach. Meanwhile, the dedicated Google Assistant button on the left falls right under your thumb.

The biggest quality improvement, however, has to be the shift to a USB-C port. It is a small change, but there’s no legit reason why any 2019 mid-range phone should ship with a Micro-USB port. There continues to be a headphone jack, as well as a single loudspeaker on the bottom edge.

Vivo Z1x showing in display fingerprint sensor

Vivo made another change, as the Z1x sports an in-display fingerprint sensor. I found this to be just as fast as any other premium mid-range offering. That said, the position of the touch point was just a bit too low keeping in mind the size of the phone.

Vivo Z1x profile shot showing gradient and camera

Vivo, like most other smartphone manufacturers, has been toying with gradients for a while now. The jewel-like blue on the Z1 Pro was an absolute stunner. This time around, the company opted for a just-as-pretty Phantom Purple. The back of the phone shimmers from a deep blue to a gorgeous shade of purple. It looks absolutely smashing. I’m personally not too big on gradients, but this is one phone I wouldn’t mind flaunting when out and about.

Display

  • 6.38-inches
  • Super AMOLED
  • Schott Xensation 3D Glass
  • 2,340 x 1,080
  • 19.5:9
  • 404 ppi

The display on the Vivo Z1x is a marked improvement over the one we saw on the Z1 Pro. Much of this comes down to the change in display type. Vivo’s switch to a Super AMOLED panel means saturation levels are on-point. (This was our biggest complaint with Vivo’s other mid-range phone.)

The phone is generally bright enough, but a bit of legroom would've been great to have.

Peak brightness levels on the display fall just short of 400 nits which is good, but definitely not great. I had no issues with viewing the display outdoors, but having a bit more legroom to punch up the brightness would’ve been very handy.

Vivo Z1x in hand showing app drawer

Color tuning out of the box is less than ideal and skews towards cooler blue tones. Switching to the natural tuning setting corrects this to a large degree. There is no noticeable color shift except at extreme angles, and the display on the Vivo Z1x is able to keep up with phones like the Realme 5 Pro and Galaxy M30, both of which sport AMOLED panels.

Performance

  • Snapdragon 712
  • 2 x 2.3GHz Kryo 360 Gold
  • 6 x 1.7GHz Kryo 360 Silver
  • Adreno 616
  • 4/6GB RAM
  • 64/128GB ROM
  • MicroSD expansion

The Snapdragon 700 series of chipsets have fast become the darling of mid-range smartphone manufacturers. The 712 debuted in India with the Vivo Z1 Pro and the Z1x also relies on the chipset. To give you a recap, the Snapdragon 712 provides a modest bump in CPU performance over the Snapdragon 710 via higher clock speeds. There is no difference in graphics performance.

Performance is right in line with other competing mid-rangers.

Mid-range hardware generally delivers excellent results these days, and the Z1x is no different. The software and hardware work in tandem to deliver a software experience that is smooth without noticeable frame drops. If you’re not a heavy gamer, there is enough grunt under the hood here to run anything you throw at it. The phone didn’t break a sweat when jumping between apps and easily held up.

PUBG remains one of the most popular games on the platform and the Vivo Z1x maintained a solid frame rate. I didn’t notice any serious pop-ins or lags. If you plan to do a bit of gaming on your phone, the Vivo Z1x will present no issues at all.

Vivo Z1x AnTuTu Vivo Z1x 3D Mark Vivo Z1x Basemark

Benchmark scores are within spitting distance of competing Snapdragon 712 equipped phones. The phone managed 185123 points in the AnTuTu benchmark, which is almost 3000 points more than what the Realme 5 Pro managed. Similarly, in the GPU-focused 3DMark benchmark, the score was pretty much what most other Snapdragon 712-equipped devices have managed in our tests. Finally, the Vivo Z1x managed 2967 points in our Basemark test.

Battery

  • 4,500mAh
  • 22.5W fast charging

Battery life was reasonably good but fell short of best in class, despite the large 4,500mAh battery. In our testing, the phone managed over 16 hours of video playback, but fell short of the 18/19 hours achieved by Xiaomi’s hardware with smaller batteries. The same was true of our web browsing test, where the phone managed to push through 15 hours of battery life. This was pretty good, but again, not quite as good as what some competing phones with smaller batteries are able to achieve.

Software

  • Android 9 Pie
  • Funtouch OS

The Vivo Z1x, like other Vivo phones, includes Funtouch OS with Android Pie onboard. I’m not a fan of Vivo’s skin because of how far it is from the standard interface paradigm of Android.

Vivo Z1x shortcut drawer Vivo Z1x shortcut center Vivo Z1x homescreen

There’s no app drawer here, but what really caught me off guard was how the notification drawer has been split up with the quick access toggles placed in a swipe up drawer at the bottom of the phone. This took a while to get used and is a bit too cluttered. Similarly, the phone is plagued by way too many pre-installed apps. This includes both third-party applications as well as redundant first-party applications. Not all of these can be removed.

The ability to set the volume key as a shortcut and the one-handed mode are handy to have.

Vivo added in a few functions that power users might find handy. I particularly liked the ability to set the volume down button as a shortcut key for any application, flashlight, or the camera. Similarly, the one-handed mode works well in those instances when you need to type out a message with a single hand.

Camera

  • Rear camera:
    • 48MP IMX582 wide-angle, f/1.8
    • 8MP ultra-wide
    • 5MP depth sensor
  • Front camera:
    • 32MP f/2.0
  • 4K/30fps video
  • No EIS

As is the case with most mid-rangers, the Vivo Z1x sports the 48MP IMX582 sensor that pixel-bins down to 12MP. It looks like Vivo worked on tweaking the camera tuning, but it falls just short of nailing it — especially in less-than-great light.

Ultra-wide angle Standard Ultra-wide angle Standard

Images generally look good enough, but close examination reveals an emphasis on boosting saturation. The dynamic range is not particularly impressive either, with the shadowy areas missing detail. Wide-angle shots displayed slightly boosted exposure levels. They were not bad looking images at all, but could do with slight tweaks.

Vivo Z1x close up

As mentioned earlier, the saturation has been boosted, but images still look visually appealing. The phone does a good job keeping noise levels in check without creating digital artifacts.

Vivo Z1x indoor flower vase camera sample

Indoor and low-light conditions pose a problem for the phone and the noise levels definitely ramp up. I expected the phone to perform better, given the boosted sensitivity from pixel binning.

Vivo Z1x close up

Video recording tops off at 4K at 30fps thanks to the IMX582 sensor. Video footage looks a bit too over-sharpened for my liking, with some visible compression artifacts. These become more evident as the ambient light drops and noise levels go up. Daylight footage is about par for mid-range smartphones, with punchy colors. It isn’t quite the best video capturing experience, but most users should find it good enough.

You can head on to the link to take a look at full resolution image samples.

Audio

  • Headphone jack
  • Single downward-firing speaker

The Vivo Z1x sports a headphone jack and delivers clean, neutral-sounding audio. Wired headphones sound pretty good and there’s no hiss or aberrant noise that we’ve noticed on some mid-rangers.

The speaker keeps pace with the competition and we measured peak loudness levels of over 83 decibels. This isn’t as loud as Xiaomi’s phones, but keeps up with Realme devices. Regardless, it is loud enough for alarms and even for listening to Youtube videos while out and about. Not that we recommend doing that!

Specifications

Vivo Z1x
Display 6.38-inch Super AMOLED
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9
~404 ppi
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 712
2×2.3GHz Kryo 360 Gold
6×1.7GHz Kryo 360 Silver
GPU Adreno 616
RAM 6GB
Storage 64/128GB
Expandable with microSD card up to 256GB
Cameras Front camera:
32MP, f/2.0
Rear camera:
48MP, f/1.8 aperture
8MP, f/2.2 16mm ultrawide
5MP depth sensor
4K@30fps video recording,
Dual-LED flash
Battery 4,500mAh
22.5W fast charging
USB-C
Headphone port Yes
Software Android 9.0 Pie with Funtouch OS
Dimensions and weight 159.5 x 75.2 x 8.1mm
190g
Price 16,990 rupees (6GB + 64GB)
18,990 rupees (6GB + 128GB)

Value for the money

  • Vivo Z1x: 6GB RAM, 64GB storage — 16,999 (~$237)
  • Vivo Z1x: 6GB RAM, 128GB storage – Rs. 18,999 (~$265)

Vivo’s done a great job with the Z1x. By making improvements in all the right places, it has elevated the Z1 Pro’s experience to a level that can handily hold its own against other mid-rangers. I like the display, the performance is competitive, the camera is much improved, and the design looks splendid.

Buy Vivo Z1x (64GB) on Flipkart Buy Vivo Z1x (128GB) on Flipkart

Priced at Rs. 16,999 and 18,999 for the 64GB and 128GB variants, the Vivo Z1x is in the same pricing ballpark as the competition. The phone goes up against devices like the Realme X and Redmi Note 7 Pro. Both competing phones deliver great performance and imaging, but the Z1x’s design pulls ahead just a bit. However, Vivo’s software experience is a definite step down that takes away from the user experience. Low light imaging too, leaves a lot to be desired.

Vivo Z1x review: The verdict

Vivo Z1x with focus on vivo logo

If design is a big consideration for you, the Vivo Z1x is an excellent mid-range option. It doesn’t necessarily break new ground, but for fans of Vivo’s take on Android and the gorgeous purple finish, the Z1x is a very good phone without any major drawbacks. What are your thoughts on the Vivo Z1x? Does it bring enough to the table to stand up against the excellent mid-range options available? Let us know in the comments.

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Reviews

Android 10 review: The most personal Android yet

Android 10 brings a lot of changes to the Android ecosystem. The re-branding ends the era of dessert names and Google has officially gone all-in on gesture controls. However, despite these new directions, Android remains the same OS we all know and love.

Google’s big themes for Android 10 were gesture controls, additional security, and enhancing existing features. The update as a whole feels a lot like a continuation of Android Pie. However, there is still a marked difference between Android Pie and Android 10, compared to Android Marshmallow and Android Oreo.

These are the top Android 10 features you should know

We’ve already gone over the entire OS in our Android 10 overview video (above) and all of our articles (just below). We recommend reading and viewing those so we don’t have to rewrite the wheel here. You can also check out the Easter egg instructions here, and Google has its own Android 10 features page as well. If you’re interested in the big rebranding that came with the launch of Android 10, David Imel took a trip to Google to learn all about it and you can read it here.

Finally, this Android 10 review is based off the software update that landed on the Pixel 3a. Your Android 10 experience may differ from device to device.

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Android 10 visual changes: Gestures and more

Android 10 Gesture Navigation

On a broad scale, most of Android 10’s visual elements remain unchanged from last year. You won’t find any massive updates to things like the Settings menu or Quick Settings. However, this year Google introduced more visual changes than we’ve seen over the past few years.

We’ll start with the highlight, the gesture controls. The new gesture controls mimic competitors like iOS and third-party Android takes like MIUI and EMUI, but still work relatively well. Here’s a quick rundown of the controls. Check the video at the top to see how it looks.

  • Swipe up from bottom – Return to home screen. On the home screen, this opens the app drawer.
  • Swipe in from the left or right edge – Engages the back button functionality. This is usable on either side for left- and right-handed folks.
  • Swipe up from bottom and hold – Opens the Recent Apps menu.
  • Swipe to center from the bottom left and right corner – Opens Google Assistant. This is not remappable to our knowledge.
  • Swipe horizontally across the bottom – Switches recently opened apps. It’s similar to the double tapping of the Recent Apps button on soft keys.

The gestures work well, but there are some pain points that still need a bit of polish.

For the most part, the gestures are comfortable enough. There is definitely more refinement here than in Android Pie’s gestures and it’s consistent across all apps and games. Thus, once you do learn this new interaction method, you won’t have to change behaviors for different apps.

However, the gesture system isn’t without its problems. Websites that trap you and usually require hammering the soft key back button are a nightmare with the new back gesture. Additionally, while switching between apps, some will stop your progress so they can reload. We noticed this behavior primarily with Google Assistant and Facebook.

The little bumps in the gesture controls are very noticeable in an otherwise smooth experience. For most users, most of the time, none of these things should be an issue. However, in the two or three instances per week I run into a website with insanely bad ads that keep you on the page, I find that I often just resort to closing the Chrome tab or using the address bar to navigate to a different website.

Because gestures are obviously the future, I plan on continuing to use them on my Pixel 3a. I do appreciate Google letting us use the old reliable nav bar for a bit longer, especially for older folks who may not have the finger dexterity they once had. However, with soft keys being relegated as a background option, we assume they’ll go the way of the headphone jack eventually. You might as well start getting used to gestures now.

You can toggle gesture controls by navigating into Settings, then System, then Gestures. The options include old-fashioned soft keys, Android Pie’s gesture navigation, or Android 10’s gesture navigation.

Android 10 brings us one step closer to native theming with dark mode and accent colors.

Moving along with our Android 10 review, the new OS is also one of the most customizable versions of Android we’ve ever had. There is an AMOLED-friendly dark mode with toggles in the Quick Settings, Display settings, and the Accessibility settings. Additionally, you can change your device’s accent colors in the developer options for a bit more customization. Between these two options and the three options for navigation, there are a lot more ways to change your experience without third-party apps than any prior year.

Most of the rest of the UI changes are things like icon changes and color changes. It’s hardly noticeable unless you’re looking for them directly. Some of the changes include a new battery icon, a new profile picture in Settings as a shortcut to account settings, and various other iconography changes. Most of them don’t carry any extra functionality, but they do look nice.

Filling in the functionality gaps

Android 10 Silent Alerting Notifications

Android 10 has plenty of new features to talk about, though few of them are headline-grabbing new additions. This is par for the course for modern Android, as the operating system has reached a plateau phase in its growth. These days, we see one or two huge features and a bunch of smaller one that fill in previous gaps.

Perhaps the biggest functional changes to Android 10 come with accessibility. The accessibility settings now contain shortcuts for Live Transcribe (real-time transcription of speech) and Sound Amplifier (sound enhancement for the hard of hearing) along with gestures that work for both. Hit the links to check them out on the Play Store. They are both excellent for the hard of hearing.

However, the hallmark new accessibility feature, is by far, Live Caption. When it becomes available this fall, Live Caption will “listen” to any audio the phone outputs, whether it be a video, podcast, video chat, phone call, etc., and caption what it hears in real time. Initially, it will only be available on select devices including the Google Pixel 4, but it will arguably be the most important accessibility feature we’ve ever seen in Android.

Live Caption, Live Transcribe, and Sound Amplifier give disabled folks vastly more options.

Obviously, we’d like to see Live Caption eventually make its way to lower-end devices. After all, more inclusion is always a good idea. However, the phone has to listen for the audio and then transcribe it on screen. We’re guessing that’s just a bit too intense for lower end specs. However, we’re going to briefly talk about Adiantum later, an encryption specifically developed for low-end devices; maybe there will be a low-end Live Caption someday.

Android 10 has a variety of other, smaller features as well, including a minor revamp to Digital Wellbeing. There is a new Focus Mode that silences apps you consider to be distracting. You can set that up in the Settings menu under the Digital Wellbeing option. Additionally, Google’s Family Link app is directly integrated into Digital Wellbeing. Much like Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, you can use Family Link without Android 10 by downloading it from the Google Play Store.

The other big new feature of Android 10 is the inclusion of Bubbles. Bubbles is similar to Facebook’s Chat Heads, except it works for all messaging apps and is supported natively by the OS. Unfortunately, no apps were available with it at the time of launch, but you can try out a very buggy version if you force it with ADB commands. We don’t recommend that method, though, and app developers should start including support for it sooner or later.

Bubbles come at a time when Android is drawing over the screen more and more often, so it comes as no surprise that Google would eventually stash notifications in something like this. I used a Pixel 3a for this Android 10 review and that has no problems with one-handed use. However, I can definitely see something Bubbles being helpful for large phone owners in the future.

The rest of the new features feel mostly like continuations of existing ones. For instance, Smart Reply isn’t a new feature, but it now works for all messaging apps by default and it may even suggest actions for you under certain circumstances. You may, for instance, see a Google Maps prompt if someone asks where you want to go for dinner. Additionally, the share menu was revamped to be quicker and more accurate to your needs while sharing. It worked much faster on our tester Pixel 3a than the old sharing menu.

Bubbles are cool, but we need to see them in action without ADB commands to know how they work.

There were a couple of updates to Settings. Apps can now pull up a sort-of Quick Settings menu under various circumstances. For instance, if Chrome sees you’re offline, it’ll pull up a tab to let you turn on WiFi or mobile data. You can also share your WiFi connection via QR code, a popular feature in Xiaomi and Huawei phones. Oh, and Android 10 ships with Emoji 12.0 with 230 new emoji.

These new functions both add new things to the mix and complete older features in a positive way. Bubbles and Live Caption are the two hallmark new functions in this year’s Android, but we think people will actually use the smaller things like Smart Reply and the revamped sharing menu more often. Since Bubbles isn’t really available at launch, the OS comes off as being a smaller update than it really is, but we’ll see these new features more and more as time goes. As Android Authority’s podcast producer is wont to say, we can’t wait to see what the developers do with it.

Android 10: Under the hood

Android 10 Focus Mode

As usual, there are more changes under the hood of Android 10 than any other part of the OS. Google introduced a number of new APIs for developers and we’ve already talked a bit about Bubbles above. However, there are more exciting things going on under the surface.

By far, the biggest under-the-hood change is Project Mainline. Project Mainline aims to update various OS elements through the Google Play Store, just like an app update. For instance, instead of receiving security updates over the air as a whole OS update, you’ll be able to get them through the Play Store. This is super helpful because it would end the debate on which OEMs offer security updates the fastest because everybody would get it at the same time. Project Mainline would also work for other things like media codecs. This is all done through a new low-level system component called APEX. You can read more about APEX here.

Project Mainline is a huge deal. Period.

The release also includes the return of an audio recording API for developers. The new API lets apps record device audio. This has a ton of use cases, including streaming mobile games to platforms like Twitch, recording phone calls (where legal), and other such tasks. It may also be the same API that Live Caption uses. The early Android 10 beta releases also had a native screen recorder but it didn’t make it into the final release as far as we could tell.

Another big change under the hood is a standardized API for depth-sensing with cameras. This will allow third-party apps to feature better bokeh and blur effects. This should also help OEMs make more consistent portrait modes in the future. There is also native support for monochrome sensors, like on the Huawei P20 Pro.

Android 10 introduced features that help the phone take care of itself.

Another, rather large change is the ability for the OS to determine when your device is in trouble. One new API lets apps notice if your phone is overheating and turn themselves down to prevent any damage. Games can do things like lower graphical settings, while other apps can do things like lower the speaker volume. Additionally, Android 10 now alerts people if their charging port is wet or overheating, a feature we’ve previously seen Samsung and other OEMs.

There were some other changes and the list is way too long for this article. Check out the Android 10 developer page for a full list of internal upgrades and additions to accommodate things like multi-camera setups and foldable phones.

Android 10 Permissions

Security and privacy

Arguably the biggest and most important changes were to security. Google has been big on security and privacy the last few years and there were tons of changes in Android Pie and Android Oreo before Android 10. Some of the changes are rather large while others are under the hood. However, they are all appreciated.

The biggest change to Android 10’s security is the permissions overhaul. You no longer have to give an app full permission to things like your location, microphone, or other sensitive permissions. Instead, you can give the app permission to use that stuff only while the app is active. This mimics iOS, but I don’t think anybody will care because it’s a good feature to have. Facebook can’t see your location when you’re not using it and your voice recorder app can’t voice record unless it’s open, as long as you set the permission that way. The settings menu is also revamped to reflect these new changes.

Android 10's permissions overhaul, including Scoped Storage, is a move in the right direction.

An extension of the new permissions is a new permission called Scoped Storage. Those with Android 10 can already try this out if they download and use Solid Explorer. All file browser apps must use Scoped Storage by the release of Android 11. Basically, users now have to manually give the app permission to view the internal storage much like how previous versions of Android made you manually give permissions for SD cards.

Android’s inability to micromanage permissions was one of its weak points. It started back in the old days when apps and games would ask for a laundry list of permissions and you had to grant them all at once. Since then, Google has restricted apps to only asking for specific permissions when needed, and now we have the ability to only allow permissions while the app is running. I would prefer something closer to the app Bouncer that let us temporarily enable permissions that are eventually disabled automatically. Maybe we’ll see something like that in Android 11.

Android 10 adds a bunch of other restrictions as well, including limiting access to things like the phone’s IMEI number and MAC address, as well as camera and connection access without user permission. Background activities are also policed a little better by Android 10, for added security. Rest assured, there should be nothing still on while your screen is off unless you have an always-on display active.

Finally, we’ll talk briefly about Adiantum, one of Android 10’s less-known security features. Most Android devices have encryption by default. However, there are a lot of low-end devices that simply lack the hardware required for advanced encryption. Adiantum is a new method of encryption that works on the most budget of budget phones (including Android Go phones) and can even work on things like smartwatches or smart TVs. You can read more about it here!

Android 10 review: What do we think?

Android 10 is a surprisingly large update compared to the last few years. However, because the changes to the UI are minimal, it doesn’t feel as big of an update as it actually is. The new gesture controls continue the pivot Google started in Android Pie in a big way. We can change our phones to dark mode and change the accent colors now. With all of that and the Pixel Themes app, we inch ever closer to native theming, one of the biggest features Android still lacks.

The security changes are also much larger than expected. Adiantum is a bit of a sleeper hit here, especially for wearables and super cheap, low-end devices. After all, owning a cheap smartphone doesn’t mean you should have less protection, right? The permission overhaul finally starts giving users the kind of control we think consumers should have over their smartphones. We still think Bouncer is a little better for more granular controls, but Android itself is getting there.

With its customization, permissions overhaul, and Mainline, Android 10 is the best Android yet.

Finally, Project Mainline is probably the most important thing from all of Android 10. By continuing to make the OS more modular, Google gives itself greater ability to update the OS without needing cooperation from OEMs or phone carriers, OTAs, or other things that get in the way of speedy security updates and other improvements.

We saw this with APIs when Google Play Services came out years ago. It’s a trick we definitely don’t mind Google using again for security updates, media codecs, and other small things that, frankly, shouldn’t need a full OS update to implement.

Considering the new customization options and the more granular control over permissions, Android 10 is probably the most personal version yet.

As for the OS itself, I tested it with a Pixel 3a and had no problems in terms of performance. Our Gary Sims ran a Speed Test G on a Pixel XL running Android 10 and the preceding three versions of Android. You can watch that above and, spoiler alert, Android 10 is definitely faster than Android Pie. We don’t think anyone will complain about performance.

The gestures are better than before, but I'm still glad I can use soft keys.

That said, there are still some things that need polish. We think Smart Reply can do better, for starters. Additionally, the gesture controls, while greatly improved over Android Pie, still have clunky moments that make me want to run for the Settings to put my soft keys back.

Android 10 seems to finish what Android Pie started in a good way. However, Google still has a long way to go with a lot of these feature and we’re excited to see what happens in Android 11.

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Tell us what you think of Android 10 in the comments!

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Finding the middle ground is hard

The Samsung Galaxy S10, the middle child of the company’s flagship series, is a fantastic phone that might easily be lost in the shuffle. Where the Galaxy S10 Plus has been lauded for its large screen and capable battery, and the Galaxy S10e for its compact form and ease-of-use, the S10 is challenged to strike the proper balance in between.

Samsung is in an enviable position. With three phones to choose from, it’s more likely to capture a purchase by those seeking an Android over iPhone. Find out what — if anything — sets the S10 apart.

Here is Android Authority‘s Samsung Galaxy S10 review.

About our Samsung Galaxy S10 review: We tested the Samsung Galaxy S10 on T-Mobile’s network in New Jersey, New York City, San Diego, and Los Angeles over the course of 10 days. It ran Android 9 Pie with Samsung’s OneUI v1.1. The review unit was provided to Android Authority by T-Mobile.Show More Check it out on Samsung.com

Samsung Galaxy S10 review: The big picture

The equation for calculating which device is best for any given person is a complicated one at best. In simplest terms, it requires finding the right set of features at a price the person is willing to pay.

In its 2019 Galaxy S lineup, Samsung mirrored the strategy unveiled by Apple late last year. Where Apple offers iPhones for $749, $999 and $1,099, Samsung now, too, offers high-end phones for $749, $899, and $999. By covering a wider range of price points, Samsung has given itself a better chance of resolving the equation for a greater number of people.

At $899 (or more, if you upgrade the storage), the Galaxy S10 has a lot of competition from its own siblings, let alone the market as a whole. Did Samsung tweak the S10 in just the right ways to score with consumers? We’re here to tell you.

Design

  • Aluminum chassis
  • Gorilla Glass 6
  • Nano SIM / MicroSD memory card
  • 150 x 70 x 7.8 mm
  • 157g
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Fingerprint reader (under display)
  • Black, Blue, Pink, White
  • IP68
  • USB-C

Samsung is the class leader when it comes to hardware. It improves its phones every year, at least incrementally, and this year sees a pleasing evolution in design when compared to last year’s Galaxy S9. The S10 is still metal and glass, and yet it feels more approachable to me.

Frontside of the Samsung Galaxy S10 with the display turned on.

The curves of the front and back glass surfaces are spot on and merge with the metal frame flawlessly. Samsung smoothed over the feel of the side edges, which came across as somewhat sharp on the S8 and S9. The frame swells a bit in thickness on the top and bottom edges, lending strength to the phone. Since the S10 is one of the first phones to ship with Gorilla Glass 6, we don’t yet have real-world data on just how shatterproof it is. Like all glass phones, I felt nervous using the S10 when walking down city streets or standing over tile or cement floors. Gorilla Glass is still glass after all.

Outdoor photo of the back side of a Samsung Galaxy S10 in white prism color, standing upright on grass.

The most important “feature” of the S10 is its size. It’s a bit bigger than the S10e and a bit smaller than the S10 Plus. It’s also a smidge smaller than competing devices such as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, LG G8, and OnePlus 6T. In other words, if you shy away from mega-huge handsets, but still want all of the best specs, the S10 fits that mix. This goes double for folks who have smaller hands.

I used the phone without a case and came away pleased by the form factor. It disappeared comfortably in my pocket and was a breeze to use one-handed. I generally prefer phones with larger screens, but the punch hole display has allowed Samsung to put ever-bigger screens on ever-smaller devices.

Samsung Galaxy S10 left profile

All the buttons and ports do their job. I’m happy to see the 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the phone, where it is easier to access. The controversial Bixby button on the left edge can, for the first time, be rerouted to other apps (except Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.) That’s a major improvement — and a tacit admission from Samsung that its original thinking was not in line with consumer preferences. The buttons themselves deliver perfect, crisp action.

The camera array is gigantic. It stretches 1.75 inches across the back glass in a raised rectangular module. The module is black no matter the color of the rest of the handset. In addition to the three cameras and flash, the module also contains the heart rate sensor.

Side view of the Samsung Galaxy S10 focusing on the bixby button

I checked to make sure the phone is waterproof, and the IP68 rating holds up. The S10 shook off a shower like a wet dog.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 may not necessarily be perfect for me, but it is perfect for someone.

Display

  • 6.1-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED
  • 3,040 by 1,440 pixels with 551ppi
  • 19:9 aspect ratio
  • Single selfie cutout

When Samsung first introduced the S10, it said three core pillars drove it forward: display, camera, and performance. Samsung’s focus has paid off.

Simply put, the S10 has one of the best displays I’ve ever seen. It’s a stunner top to bottom. Samsung’s Super AMOLED tech has always been impressive and the latest iteration thereof is simply fantastic.

Front side of the Samsung Galaxy S10 held in hand with the display turned on.

Samsung says the S10’s screen makes use of Dynamic OLED technology. It combines blue light reduction and brightness control in a way that reduces eye strain by 42%. The HDR10+ offers lots of brightness and contrast. This means everything looks amazing. Colors are more accurate and viewing high-definition content from Netflix and other providers impresses.

The S10 does allow for alternative viewing experiences. For example, it ships set to natural color, but users can opt for vivid if they wish. The vivid setting makes colors stand out just a bit more. If you select vivid, you’ll also be allowed to tweak the white balance, and even the levels of red, green, blue saturation. The S10 includes night mode for those who prefer darker backgrounds. As always, you can adjust the resolution (high, medium, low), the size of icons, and the size of text to suit your needs.

The screen has a hole in it.

The screen has a hole in it. Samsung calls this the Inifinty-O Display. The cut out is a small circle positioned in the upper right corner of the glass. The ambient light and proximity sensors are buried under the display. This allowed Samsung to extend the screen up toward the top edge of the phone and achieve a display ratio of 93.1%. In other words, the S10 offers as close to an “all-screen” experience as we’ve seen. I haven’t decided if I like the notch or the hole more. The only time I really notice the hole is when viewing full-screen video, and then it is grating.

The fingerprint reader, which is buried under the display, is not so great. In-screen readers are the latest trend among flagship phones. We’ve seen them on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the OnePlus 6T, and more recently the Nokia 9. None of these implementations has been up to par, in my book, but the S10’s is more usable than the Nokia 9 or Mate 20 Pro’s.

Front side of the Samsung Galaxy S10 against a brick wall.

To start, it’s an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Rather than take a picture of your print, it makes a 3D scan of the contours on your finger. This protects against spoofing. Samsung says the fingerprint data is stored in the Knox Trust Zone on the device, making it safe from hackers. I have no misgivings about the security. It’s the performance that’s the problem.

Like most others, the under-the-glass reader is easy to train. No issues there. It’s mostly about speed. The reader is just not fast enough. You need to place your thumb just right and hold it for a second. The process of finding the right place, touching/holding, etc., lasts only a few seconds, but feels like an eternity when you have to quickly answer an urgent message. By way of comparison, the traditional fingerprint reader on the rear of the Galaxy Note 9 is easy to find by feel and unlocks the phone in an instant.

Photo of the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus focusing on the in-display Fingerprint reader

Equally frustrating, Samsung says the fingerprint scanner is not compatible with all third-party screen protectors. It is working with accessory makers to ensure that compatible screen protectors are certified and clearly labeled as such. Thankfully, the phone ships with a screen protector pre-applied.

Performance

  • Snapdragon 855
  • 2.8GHz octa-core, 7nm process
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB storage

The S10 is among the first to ship with the Snapdragon 855, the top-of-the-line chip from Qualcomm. All the base Galaxy S10 devices include a minimum 8GB of RAM, which is stellar.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Benchmark 3DMark 2 Samsung Galaxy S10 Benchmark Geekbench Samsung Galaxy S10 Benchmark Geekbench 4

It should come as no surprise that the S10 crushed the usual trio of benchmarks. It scored 5,641/4,831 on the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme for OpenGL ES and Vulkan, respectively. That’s better than 90 percent of competing devices. Similarly, it amassed an impressive 354718 in GeekBench. This score bested 90 percent of other phones, as well. Last, for AnTuTu the S10 churned out 3,423 / 10,340 for single- and multi-core tests, respectively.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Benchmark 3DMark Samsung Galaxy S10 Benchmark AnTuTu Benchmark 2 Samsung Galaxy S10 Benchmark AnTuTu Benchmark 1

After an initial hiccup that necessitated a factory reset, we’ve seen nothing but excellent performance from the Galaxy S10.

Battery

  • 3,400mAh Lithium ion
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0
  • Qi wireless charging
  • Wireless PowerShare

After using our Samsung Galaxy S10 review unit, we’re confident most people should find that the phone delivers a full day of battery life with some room to spare.

I took the phone on a road trip and didn’t once run into an issue with battery life, despite lots of photography, tethering, and other battery-intensive tasks. On days that I used the phone from 8am to 11pm or later, it typically had between 15 percent and 20 percent remaining at the end of the day. That’s not a lot, but it is just enough.

Wireless PowerShare is more gimmick than gimme.

Samsung provides plenty of control over how the phone draws power. The easiest way will be to select the power mode that best matches your needs at the time. The phone ships in optimized mode, which balances performance and battery life. You can jump to high performance for gaming, or dial back to medium power saving mode or maximum power saving mode when you need to conserve power.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Device care Samsung Galaxy S10 Device care 1 Samsung Galaxy S10 Device care 2

All of these modes do impact battery life. When I switched to medium power savings mode, for example, I noticed the phone had more like 35 percent left at the end of the day rather than 15 percent. That’s hours of additional usage and the difference between being able to hail an Uber late at night or walking home.

Photo of the Samsung Galaxy S10 focusing on the USB Type-C and headphone jack.

The S10 charges rapidly. Whether used with the included charger or a high-wattage wireless charger, the S10 gulps in power.

The Wireless PowerShare feature, wherein the S10 can charge another device, is more gimmick than gimme. I tried to charge a Samsung Galaxy Galaxy S9 on the S10. While the S10 did transfer power to the phone, it did so so slowly that the effort just wasn’t worth it. Of course, PowerShare is really meant for charging accessories more than other handsets, but even then our charging tests indicate it’s not the best experience.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and Galaxy Buds

Camera

  • Rear cameras:
    • 12MP 2x telephoto sensor, autofocus, OIS, 45-degree FoV, ƒ/2.4 aperture
    • 12MP wide-angle sensor, autofocus, OIS, 77-degree FoV, dual ƒ/1.5 and ƒ/2.4 apertures
    • 16MP ultra-wide sensor, 123-degree FoV, ƒ/2.2 aperture
  • Front camera:
    • 10MP sensor, autofocus, 80-degree FoV, ƒ/1.9 aperture

Imaging is another major pillar upon which Samsung rests the success of the Galaxy S10 range. Each of the three devices has a slightly different set of cameras. The S10 has three rear cameras and a single front camera. Comparatively, the S10e has two rear cameras and a single front camera, and the S10 Plus has three rear cameras and two front cameras. Confused? Yeah, Samsung didn’t necessarily make this easy to grok at a glance.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Camera UI

The camera app is more usable than those of previous Galaxy S phones thanks to the OneUI refresh. The controls are laid out in a fashion that makes sense. Buttons line the left edge of the viewfinder and simplify the process of switching aspect ratios, controlling the flash, setting the timer, and accessing the full settings menu. A large shutter button is affixed to the right side.

I’m very happy that Samsung has moved to the three-camera system that LG and Huawei have already adopted. It gives you so many more options when taking pics. There’s a standard angle lens for regular stuff, a wide-angle lens for that really big picture, and a 2x optical zoom lens for sharper telephoto shots. This is exactly the creative freedom that I want when shooting pictures (and not necessarily the innovative, but ultimately flawed Nokia 9.) Perhaps most importantly, Samsung has made it dead simple to flip between the three lenses thanks to a simple switch parked next to the shutter button.

Pictures look good — for the most part.

Core shooting modes include photo, video, live focus, super slow-mo, pro, panorama, food, instagram, slow-mo, and hyperlapse. Switching between modes requires you to swipe the viewfinder in one direction or another. The S10 is able to zoom through the camera app quickly, particularly when jumping between shooting modes. Thank goodness.

I found the modes each worked well. The pro mode lets you adjust a wide number of settings, such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, brightness, and focus. Photographers who know what they’re doing can put these to creative use.

Backside of the Samsung galaxy S10 held in hand.

The live focus mode is your bokeh/portrait tool. There are four quick options for selecting the degree of background blur and vignetting that’s applied. This sort of mimics the studio lighting effect available on iPhones, but Samsung didn’t name the options. Alternately, you can use a slider to manually adjust the blur’s intensity. It’s easy enough to use, but I think it could be more obvious to people that this mode is for portraits.

The remaining shooting modes each requires a few minutes to learn properly. Once mastered, they can deliver some fun results.

How do the photos look? Good, for the most part, with some exceptions clouding up the picture.

I was generally happy with exposure and white/color balance. Photos appeared to be balanced properly with respect to bright and dark regions. I saw very little grain in dark shots. Look at the night scenes I captured in LA. They are incredibly clean. White balance is accurate, but color was pushed a bit much for my tastes. This is signature Samsung. I was particularly impressed with the group shot I took at twilight. Look how balanced that exposure is.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Photo Sample cityscape

Focus is where things start to get fuzzy. Literally. The S10 often delivered soft images, particularly those captured in low-light environments. The worst come from the ultra wide-angle lens. I expected some distortion, and sure enough I noticed bent lines in the corners. We saw similar results from other wide-angle lenses on phones such as the V30 from LG.

The 10MP selfie camera works great when you ignore the portrait tool. Pictures are sharp and well exposed. Switching to the live focus effect gives you all sorts of weird results. You’ll note how inaccurate the border around my head is in the samples below, and how jarring the effect is behind me.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Selfie spin Samsung Galaxy S10 Selfie zoom Samsung Galaxy S10 Selfie pop

Last up, video. The Galaxy S10 can shoot video up to 4K at various frame rates. I was pleased with the results, which were more consistently good than results from the still camera. Sound captured along with the video is also quite good.

Full-resolution photo samples from the Samsung Galaxy S10 are available here.

Audio

  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Bluetooth 5 with aptX HD
  • Stereo speakers
  • FM radio

Samsung knows that people are ticked with Apple, Google, and Huawei for removing the headphone jacks from their flagship phones. That’s why Samsung made sure the Galaxy S10 has a 3.5mm jack on the bottom edge. You can plug your favorite headphones in, sit back, and enjoy your tunes. The S10 ships with a basic pair of wired earbuds from AKG. They sound decent, but I’d only use them in a pinch.

Stereo speakers should be on every flagship phone, particularly one that’s serious about video. The S10 includes two speakers that provide stereo sound when the phone is tipped on its side. A standard earpiece speaker is at the top of the screen, and a louder speaker graces the bottom edge. This combo delivers a nice sonic punch, whether you’re letting the phone play some music in the background, or watching the latest episode of your favorite show. The sound is loud enough to fill a single room.

Samsung Galaxy S10 USB C port

I was impressed with the Bluetooth experience, too. Using my favorite pair of wireless headphones, the aptX HD software delivers clean sound over a stable connection.

Phone calls over T-Mobile’s network sounded excellent.

Software

  • Android 9 Pie
  • Samsung OneUI v1.1

Samsung’s software experience has been up and down over the years. Late last year it began testing refreshed software called OneUI. The Galaxy S10 family is the first to ship with OneUI, though Samsung has made the software available to older devices such as the S9 and Note 9. It’s a big step up for Samsung.

For one, Samsung tweaked the icons, fonts, and colors just enough so the experience feels different and fresh. The settings menu has been reordered and looks cleaner. I like how the various sections are arranged under fewer subheads. I think I still prefer the look of raw Android, but Samsung’s OneUI is superior to Huawei’s EMUI.

Samsung Galaxy S10 One UI Home 4 Samsung Galaxy S10 One UI Home 3 Samsung Galaxy S10 One UI Home

The mechanics of the underlying Android 9 Pie operating system are intact. You can opt from several home screen styles, easily access the Quick Settings/notification shade, and control nearly every facet of the theme. (Yes, you can download wallpapers that highlight and/or hide the punch hole.) It’s mostly fluid as you move through the menus. Samsung kept its Edge Screen tool, which acts like a quick-access panel for certain apps and contacts.

Samsung Galaxy S10 One UI Home 1 Samsung Galaxy S10 Device care 2 Samsung Galaxy S10 Settings

Samsung still insists on foisting Bixby on everyone. A dedicated Bixby button appears on the left edge of the phone and consumes the left-most home screen panel. Samsung has refreshed the look of Bixby and I think it’s better, but the voice assistant’s functionality is still not where it needs to be. Samsung added Bixby Routines, which let you combine certain actions in a manner similar to IFTTT and Siri Shortcuts. The good news is that Samsung is finally allowing people to remap the dedicated button to other apps (with the exception of voice assistants.)

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S10e Samsung Galaxy S10 Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Display 5.8-inch AMOLED panel
2,280 x 1,080 resolution
435ppi
19:9 aspect ratio
6.1-inch AMOLED panel
3,040 x 1,440 resolution
551ppi
19:9 aspect ratio
6.4-inch AMOLED panel
3,040 x 1,440 resolution
525ppi
19:9 aspect ratio
Processor 8nm octa-core Exynos 9820 / 7nm octa-core Snapdragon 855 8nm octa-core Exynos 9820 / 7nm octa-core Snapdragon 855 8nm octa-core Exynos 9820 / 7nm octa-core Snapdragon 855
RAM 6/8GB 8GB 8/12GB
Storage 128/256GB 128/512GB 128/512GB / 1TB
MicroSD Yes, up to 512GB Yes, up to 512GB Yes, up to 512GB
Cameras Rear:
16MP f/2.2 ultrawide +
12MP f/1.5 and f/2.4 dual pixel with OIS
Front:
10MP f/1.9 dual pixel
Rear:
16MP f/2.2 ultrawide +
12MP f/1.5 and f/2.4 dual pixel with OIS +
12MP OIS telephoto f/2.4
Front:
10MP f/1.9 dual pixel
Rear:
16MP f/2.2 ultrawide +
12MP f/1.5 and f/2.4 dual pixel with OIS +
12MP OIS telephoto f/2.4
Front:
10MP f/1.9 dual pixel +
8MP depth sensor f/2.2
Battery 3,100mAh
Non-removable
3,400mAh
Non-removable
4,100mAh
Non-removable
Wireless charging Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless PowerShare
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless PowerShare
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless PowerShare
Water resistance IP68 IP68 IP68
Security Capacitive fingerprint scanner. 2D face unlock. Embedded Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. 2D face unlock. Embedded Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. 2D face unlock.
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5
Cat20 LTE, 7CA, 4×4 MIMO
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5
Cat20 LTE, 7CA, 4×4 MIMO
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5
Cat20 LTE, 7CA, 4×4 MIMO
SIM Nano SIM Nano SIM Nano SIM
Software Android 9 Pie Android 9 Pie Android 9 Pie
Dimensions and weight 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
150g
149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm
157g
157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8mm
175g
Colors blue, yellow, black, white, pink blue, green, black, white, pink blue, green, black, white, pink, black (ceramic), white (ceramic)

Value for the money

  • Samsung Galaxy S10e: $749.99 (128GB), $849.99 (256GB)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10: $899.99 (128GB), $1,149.99 (512GB)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: $999.99 (128GB), $1,249.99 (512GB), $1,599.99 (1TB and 12GB of RAM)

Update September 9: Now that we’re six months out from launch deals for the phone are more scares. Best Buy will drop the price of the phone by up to $200, but only if you activate the phone with service from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless. Best Buy is offering the unlocked Galaxy S10 for $849, which is $50 off. Amazon is selling the phone for full price, so no deals there.

The best place to buy the S10 is from Samsung directly. If you have a trade, you can score up to $450 off the S10. That’s the best deal out there right now.

More recently, Samsung released the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and Note 10. These phones are definitely bigger than the S10, but include an S Pen. Samsung is running several good promotions on them.

Fron side of the Samsung Glaxy S10 standing upright in a field.

Samsung Galaxy S10 review: The verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is hard to put my finger on. I can imagine people at a carrier store hemming and hawing over the price and feature list when compared to the S10e and the S10 Plus. The good news is that you can’t go wrong with any of the new Samsung phones. All three perform at an exceptional level when compared to competing phones in the market.

The S10’s screen is gorgeous, the battery is sufficient, the hardware is top notch, and the software is the best yet from Samsung. Other pros include the headphone jack, expandable storage, wireless charging, fast radios, and waterproof chassis. As for detractors, I’d list the fingerprint reader, fragile materials, and the high price.

From my viewpoint, the most critical factor in picking the S10 over either of its brothers is the size. This means you’ll be best served going to a carrier store and holding each of the three in your hand. If you’re the goldilocks type, then perhaps the S10, which is the middle child in this story, is the phone for you.

The Galaxy S10 is available now from Samsung.com, Amazon, B&H, Best Buy, and other retailers. You can see the full list here. The phone is available in Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Blue, or Flamingo Pink.

Check it out on Samsung.com Check it out on Amazon Buy Galaxy S10 at Best Buy

And that wraps up our Samsung Galaxy S10 review. Will you buy this phone?

Samsung Galaxy S10 in the news

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