Reviews

Huawei P40 Pro+ review

Pushing the boundaries of optical zoom technology

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Huawei’s new premium flagship offers more of everything, including super fast wireless charging and 10x optical zoom. Should you spend EUR 1,400 on it even if it does not have Google Mobile Services?

Huawei announced its 2020 flagship lineup earlier this year. Just like Apple and Samsung, the Chinese giant is offering three models instead of two. Apart from the P40 and P40 Pro, there’s an even more premium Huawei P40 Pro+.

Huawei tells GadgetMatch the thinking behind this is so that it could offer their flagship at an affordable price tag, while still pushing the boundaries of tech without forcing the cost on folks who don’t need these extra features.

The question now is, are these extra features worth its 400-euro premium? How does the P40 Pro+ compare with the phone it’s designed to go head-to-head with, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra?

P40 Pro vs P40 Pro+

Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy S20+ and its big brother the S20 Ultra, the P40 Pro+ is roughly the same size as the P40 Pro. I like that they decided against making a bigger phone.

In terms of actual footprint, they’re the same size. The P40 Pro’s clear case even  fits the P40 Pro+. The P40 Pro+ is just slightly thicker and heavier, and its camera module is larger given its much more complex camera system.

On the outside the biggest difference between the two is the choice of build material. The P40 Pro+ is made of ceramic instead of glass. Ceramic does not scratch as easily. It’s available in this gorgeous white color, as well as black.

On the inside it has support for 40W wireless charging and double the storage capacity — 512GB in total.

Otherwise it’s the same phone with Huawei’s most recent Kirin 990 5G processor, 8GB of RAM, a 6.58-inch OLED display, with a 2640 x 1200 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate.

READ MORE: Huawei P40 Pro review

40W Wireless SuperCharge

While I did say I like this size better, a similar footprint as the P40 Pro means you’re not getting a bigger battery capacity on the P40 Pro+ — 4200 mAh. In my time using the phone it lasted just as long, about a day and a half of heavy use on a single charge.

The feature you’re not getting on the P40 Pro however, support for 40W Wireless SuperCharge, will deliver charging speeds that are as fast as wired charging. In my tests that’s over 50% in 30 minutes, 90% after an hour, and 100% in 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Huawei sells an optional 40W SuperCharge Wireless Charging Stand for EUR 50 so you can maximize this feature. It has two coils, which means you can charge your phone vertically or horizontally.

A light on the bottom of the charger indicates charging status — white while charging and green once completed.

Fast charging creates a substantial amount of heat so there’s a built in fan and vents on the bottom for better heat dissipation. If I didn’t look, I wouldn’t have known. The fan is that quiet.

Revolutionary camera

The Huawei P40 Pro+ has five rear cameras — 50MP wide angle camera, 40MP ultra-wide angle camera, 3D depth sensing camera, 8MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, and another 8MP SuperZoom camera with 10x optical zoom.

This is the most I’ve seen on a smartphone to date. The engineering required to pull off this feat is pretty impressive. When you look through this periscope to see what’s inside, you’ll see how the light is bounced through 5 different mirrors.

It’s amazing how they’ve been able to squeeze all of this into such a small phone. But does anyone really need that much zoom on a smartphone? Need? Maybe not.

I can definitely think of a few examples where it might come in handy, like when you’re on a holiday touring a landmark.

Where I live in Brooklyn, oftentimes I’ll take a walk to the water where it’s always beautiful. The extra 10x zoom is great for being able to snap a photo of the Empire State Building from across the river.

I would also love this much zoom at a zoo so I can get closer to the animals, but it’s useful, too even if you’re just walking down the street and you see a cool kitty cat and want to take a photo.

P40 Pro+ vs Galaxy S20 Ultra

Now if we’re comparing versus the Galaxy S20 Ultra, 10x will always deliver more detail vs 5x. What does that look like?

A perfect example would be this photo of my bookshelf that I shot from my couch.

Notice how the book titles are sharper, the details on my agate bookends are more evident.

The fibers on my Mega Yarn Yoshi Amiibo also are sharper. All of these combined make for a much better photo.

Here’s another one of a gothic church shot from a block away. From the modlings, to the textures of the chipped paint, to the green wire, the P40 Pro+ is able to capture more detail than the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

When shooting conditions are ideal, it’s not gonna matter as much especially if you’re just going to post on social media.

There are other times, like in my kitty cat example, that you will benefit from that extra detail the zoom provides.

Huawei phones are best known for their excellent low light performance. But it’s worth pointing out that both telephoto lenses on the P40 Pro+ don’t have large sensors and wide apertures like you’ll find on both the ultra-wide and wide angle lenses. This means low-light performance using the zoom lenses is not going to be as good .

See this shot of the empire state building after dark side by side with one taken with the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Extra zoom

This is the first time I’ve seen two different zoom lenses on a smartphone. I think it’s a good idea if Huawei wants to keep pushing the boundaries of optical zoom. I will argue though that 2x is still the sweet spot.

When we couldn’t go to restaurants yet, we pretended my living room was a cafe. If you’re like me you might find yourself wanting to snap a photo of your iced coffee for the gram.

In this scenario, 2x makes sense both in terms of the perfect distance and what you’re able to fit into the shot. 3x isn’t so bad; it’s a little bit tighter, but it still works. Meanwhile, 5x on the Galaxy S20 Ultra is too close for it to work.

Both the P40 Pro+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra allow you to digitally zoom up to 100x in photo mode. Huawei is wise to not talk up this feature like Samsung does by branding it Space Zoom and plastering on the back of the phone.

Let’s face it: Images shot at 100x are never gonna be good enough to post online, unless you somehow manage to capture a viral moment or if you use your phones to spy on your neighbors, something none of us should be doing in the first place.

All of that said, those who like to take a lot of photos on their phone will enjoy the flexibility the P40 Pro+ offers especially when it comes to zoom.

My one wish is that they improve the camera interface by making it easier to select among different zoom options the same way Samsung does.

Is this the best camera system on a smartphone?

We’re not going to spend as much time talking about the P40 Pro+’s other cameras since they are the same as those found on the P40 Pro. You can read our review on that here.

Here are more sample photos we took.

What I will say is that I would prefer a wider field of view on the ultra-wide angle lens.

Take a look at these photos when I took the subway for the first time in a long time.  The wider field of view on the Galaxy S20 Ultra delivers a more dramatic image.

This photo of this KAWS sculpture is great, but the photos taken on the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the Galaxy S20 Ultra look more impressive.

Of course, it goes without saying that low light photo performance on the P40 Pro+ is top-notch. Even without night mode, the P40 Pro+ delivers excellent photos at night.

I just wish AI would kick in sometimes when a scene doesn’t need to be so bright.

Finally, like the P40 Pro, the P40 Pro+ has dual selfie cameras. The second one is used to measure depth for better background blur. It’s currently my favorite selfie phone because I like the way it makes me look. I think that’s because of the focal range, and the way it doesn’t aggressively highlight all my imperfections.

Is the P40 Pro+ your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for the best camera on a smartphone today the P40 Pro+ is an outstanding option.

From awesome selfies, to solid day time images, to unmatched low light performance, to being able to zoom in the furthest — the P40 Pro+ is an all-around champ.

Ask yourself, too, if you are willing to live with the inconvenience of not having Google Mobile Services.

Is paying an extra EUR 400 worth it? I personally think the P40 Pro is a better value, even if in Apple land a 512GB iPhone 11 Pro Max will cost you about the same.

The 10X optical zoom is something you can’t find anywhere else, and super fast wireless charging is an offering only a handful of phones can manage. Those are what this phone is about.

Like Huawei’s foldable Mate XS, it’s a showcase of all the amazing tech the company is capable of; a foretaste of what will eventually trickle down to other models in six months to a year, and a slice of what Americans are missing out on because of a silly trade war.

Computers

MSI Summit E16 Flip review: Creator on the go

A plethora of ways to be as productive and creative as possible

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We all love a good 2-in-1 device that gives us everything we need all in one go. From portability to productivity, devices like these truly bring out the best in everyone no matter what kind of use case you throw at it. Such is the case for MSI, a brand notably known for gaming hardware but has their fair share of productivity-focused laptops, as well.

One such 2-in-1 device under MSI’s portfolio is the MSI Summit E16 Flip, complete with hardware and features for the more well-rounded user out there. With a rather slim form factor, the device would ideally mix both portability and productivity in one. Also, it comes with some external hardware that elevates the productivity just a bit further, as well.

With all these in mind, is the MSI Summit E16 Flip a worthy option for all your productivity needs?

Performing above expectations

The MSI Summit E16 Flip performs rather fantastically for any given situation; whether you’re working or watching, it has the hardware to keep up. Inside this machine is a 12th generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM — a standard for most productivity-laden devices. Most applications run smoothly on this device, which is expected as a daily driver for most tasks.

It also comes with a 16:10, QHD+ anti-glare display, which does provide a bigger canvas for multitasking with multiple windows open. This IPS touch display is quite bright and color-accurate, especially at peak brightness and in broad daylight. Whether you’re working during the day or watching movies at night, this device is perfect for these activities.

Gaming and creating on the go

Much like all other MSI laptops, the MSI Summit E16 Flip comes with a dedicated NVIDIA RTX 3050Ti GPU inside. Although not as powerful as oher mobile GPUs, this one packs a punch for a good balance of gaming performance with high quality graphics. When throwing in Esports titles, the device poured in high frame rates suited for competitive play.

Of course, a powerful GPU also enables greater performance when editing photos and videos in high quality, as well. This is also helped out by the display having a 165Hz refresh rate with a 1ms response rate, so you don’t miss out on any out of place pixels. From our tests, render times for HD videos were decent enough — about 2 minutes for a 15-second video with many visual elements.

A pen and large display for your notes

Part of the package for the MSI Summit E16 Flip is the addition of the MSI Pen for those who prefer a pen over a mouse/trackpad. This additional accessory links up quite quickly, and lasts for more than a day on a full charge. Also, it comes with a few magnetized areas so it sticks to the side of the laptop or the top of the display for ease of access.

Ideally, you’d need something like the MSI Pen if you’re more into drawing illustrations or taking down handwritten notes — and it shows. From legible handwriting to brush strokes, the device was able to pick up on these inputs well. It even supports other Windows gestures like zoom, drag, and multi-select — essentially replicating the wide trackpad.

Although, from our usage of the device, the display has this slight problem with rejecting palms on top of it. While writing with the MSI Pen, it is natural to rest your palm somewhere on the display yet even inputs from that get picked up. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be wary of.

Lasts decently long for consistent productivity

Longevity is another thing the MSI Summit E16 Flip provides, specifically on the battery side of things. Throughout our usage of the device, on normal usage, it lasts around 10-11 hours which is pretty decent for the hardware. Accounting for higher quality videos playing, the device lasted for 9-10 hours on average.

When gaming full time or even rendering higher quality videos, the battery does take a hit, as expected. For full time video rendering, it drained its battery after three and a half hours on average, while gaming cut it down to around two to three hours.

Although, if you need to get back into your productivity workflow, the MSI Summit E16 Flip restores its battery quickly with the charger it comes with. On average, charging the device took around two hours from nothing to full, which should put you back in action.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Starting PhP 130,999, the MSI Summit E16 Flip has everything you need in a 2-in-1 device when you’re on the move. From the hardware to the accessories, it’s a well-rounded machine designed for the multihyphenated or those who work and play hard. Also, its overall design makes it a bit easier to bring around.

If money isn’t entirely an issue, this laptop is one great upgrade option out there both as a work machine and a creator hub. Accessory-wise, the MSI Pen should be on your list of must-haves when purchasing this device, in case a mouse doesn’t suit your liking.

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Gaming

Serial Cleaners review: Stealth in the mafia

Outrunning the police, but you can’t outrun the truth

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Serial Cleaners

As seen in most crime movies, clean up duty is one of the hardest things to do. Basically, every little detail must be accounted for when you’re protecting people in high places. As they say, “leave no stone unturned” when hiding the truth of the crime. The moment the clean up guy messes up, normally everything bad happens after that.

In essence, that’s what Serial Cleaners is all about: the life of a person doing clean up duties for murders that take place anywhere. Although, the murders you’re cleaning up is from the mafia you work for. And it’s not just one person handling the cleaning process. As the cleaners gather for maybe one last time before Y2K, they reminisce on the life of crime they chose to protect.

Is Serial Cleaners a game to try and experience in full? Honestly, the work speaks for itself.

Four different characters with a unique take on stealth

Serial Cleaners is the rather riveting sequel to the 2017 game called (wait for it), Serial Cleaner. Bob returns from the prequel and brings together a group of his cleaners for one last night before Y2K. To start off, you get to know just a little bit more about each of the characters. You also find out how Bob recruited them into the business of cleaning up murders.

Each character comes in with their own unique take on how to either successfully hack into systems or hide/dispose of corpses just scattered around as evidence. The key to this game is literal stealth and precise planning of your next move in order to avoid capture, so understanding how they work is key.

Honestly, I felt this was a rather unique way to introduce character stages while staying true to the main idea of the gameplay. Obviously, it’s a step in the right direction to simply let the characters be their own thing, instead of forcing the same gameplay style across all of them. You get to experience everyone in their own way, which makes the gameplay totally varied.

Game controls that could be improved

Overall, the controls of this game feels quite easy to work around, especially during the early stages. It’s even a lot more interesting knowing that you have different play styles to work with, which further deepens the experience. Also, there’s no kind of linear progression in play, so you can proceed however you want.

In most cases with the games I play, I normally adjust controls according to my default keybinds that are comfortable. This was something I applied to most of the actions, like using Bob’s vacuum or running/scaling fences with Dati. Gameplay and progression feel a bit better when you customize your keybinds in that way, but the default ones aren’t bad either. 

Serial Cleaners

If you’re playing this on PC, though, you might have to get used to just using your keyboards mostly. I genuinely found it a bit jarring at first. There are certain actions in the game that fit better with mouse controls, but still solely relied on the keyboard. In any case, there are possible solutions around it. But it would have been nice if the mouse was part of it.

Fantastic art design through and through

Serial Cleaners

What drew me to the game as I progressed through most of the main storyline was how the visuals looked. From the loading screens to all the different places in New York that each level is staged in, a full 90s backdrop works just well with this game. Also, the fact that it’s done in a 2D space instead of 3D is well-suited.

Serial Cleaners

I even felt it when halfway through the game, the mood within the group starts to sour rather quickly. Subtle lighting changes, along with some blood, body-hiding stories, allowed the whole plot to progress in the fashion that it did. Of course, with all the twists and turns along the way, the story ends in any way you decide.

Not much of a bloody mess to clean up

Overall, Serial Cleaners was a fun time to get through for the most part. Although I am in the process of uncovering every possible story ending, I have no problem going through every chapter. With variety in gameplay styles plus a rather DIY-style of storytelling, this game provided an experience that is unique.

The biggest thing with this game is that on PC, you’re limited to just the keyboard for full control. You literally navigate through menus with the mouse anyway, so it made sense to use it beyond just menu navigation. Although, you have the option to use a controller for a better experience. Still, I felt this was a miss in the gameplay style.

Even with the mass amount of murders you have to clean up, Serial Cleaners gave me a glimpse of how a group of misfits managed to keep things bottled up for so long. It’s a story of friendship, cold-blood murders, and doing what you gotta do to not get caught with your hands dirty — a thrill we can all appreciate.

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Watch5 review: Best Android smartwatch yet?

Training for a half-marathon race made easy with this trinket

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The biggest plot twist I had this year was turning into an athlete in the most unexpected way.

I never thought that the fitness journey I started three years ago, which was even amplified last year when I had the Galaxy Watch4 Classic, would propel me to a path that tests my limits.

Back then, I only had regular gym sessions, trying out calisthenic exercises, alternating between boxing and Muay Thai lessons, and running occasionally. I was late to realize that presently, I’m already a full-fledged runner and obstacle course racer.

Upgrading my watch

I’ve been spending the last three months collecting mileage, building my strength, and pushing my endurance — hopping off between obstacle training and running long distances in flat and elevated terrains.

Joining AIA Vitality Sports allowed me to meet like-minded people who accompanied me on my new journey. As I prepare for the last race I’m participating in for the year, I got a chance to upgrade my Galaxy Watch4 Classic to the Galaxy Watch5 series.

Originally, it should’ve been the Galaxy Watch5 Pro that’s apt for my activities. It’s made for the outdoors; rugged, durable. However, the size — similar to the Apple Watch Ultra — proved to be overwhelming for my small wrist. I took the 40mm Galaxy Watch5 instead, and boy, it worked wonders.

Barely feeling it

The first thing I noticed when I wore the Galaxy Watch5 is its featherweight. Its heft is barely noticeable on your wrist, especially for someone with frail forearms. Unlike other sports-centric smartwatches I’ve tested before, it simply doesn’t feel any weight especially when running. It’s extremely comfortable that I only removed it when it’s time to charge or take a bath.

My unit came in Graphite. Normally, I would’ve preferred a lighter colorway, but I realized later on that a neutral smartwatch works well if you tend to put on eccentric sportswear. I’ve been wearing bold, vivid colors when it comes to my performance wear along with my sneakers, and it feels nice that people notice you instead of the trinkets you’re holding.

In a way, the Galaxy Watch5 completed my athletic look inconspicuously. You’ll know it’s there, without taking away the attention from you.

Like muscle memory

I’ve worn Galaxy watches for a few years now. I still remember trying them out at Pretty Huge Obstacles when Samsung hosted an obstacle course race for technology and lifestyle journalists. That experience kickstarted my journey to becoming an athlete.

Tinkering with a Galaxy Watch seems like muscle memory now. I’ve been accustomed to its experience that it’s easy to figure out. Even for non-Galaxy Watch users, the interface is straightforward and simple.

The functions are similar to an Android smartphone. They’re easily accessible, customizable, and of course, understandable.

When health and technology go hand-in-hand

To fully maximize the Galaxy Watch5, ideally, you’ll use a Samsung smartphone and install the plug-in for Galaxy wearables and the Samsung Health app.

All collected data can be accessed inside the Samsung Health app, which includes sleep, workout, ECG, blood pressure, body composition, and more. It’s a holistic app that has everything you’ll need to get an overview of your health and fitness level.

For beginners, the sports and workout modes usually have built-in coaches inside the program. For instance, the running coach instructs you on what to do when running. The more advanced users can take advantage of using just the workout modes to enable them to study their activities.

In my case, I’ve been using Running mode to track my time, distance, and pace I’m in. It also showcases my heart rate which helps me during my zone training. The watch also exhibited the average speed, cadence, and average pace — essential information that can be used to analyze and improve your runs and/or activities.

I used to be scared of numbers, but knowing the importance of health and fitness data helped me improve my body and performance. Now, numbers are my friend.

Full-day training companion

One thing I like about the Galaxy Watch5 is how seamless the experience is. It’s truly a smartwatch, you’ll barely use your brain cells since every feature is intuitive and easy to use.

It’s taken the best from the Galaxy Watch4 series and improved it with a more durable screen, a better design to accurately monitor your health, and longer battery life.

I still remember how the Galaxy Watch4 Classic kept up with my training when I was just a fitness enthusiast. I didn’t complain much about its battery, not until I joined a sports team and I had to train from morning to evening. The Galaxy Watch4 Classic couldn’t keep up and I had to charge it every now and then.

I didn’t feel the same about the Galaxy Watch5. It truly has a longer battery life that I can last a full day of training without worrying about my battery dying when I’m recording my runs.

Preparing for my first half-marathon race

As of writing, I’ve been using the Galaxy Watch5 to prepare for my first half-marathon race. I only started running this year, and I feel like I’m moving too fast.

The smartwatch helps me ground myself when I feel the jitters, knowing that I put in my best effort even if I got sick after pushing my body’s limits. I kept reminding myself that the numbers I put into my smartwatch for the past five weeks is enough to make me trust in my physical and mental strength.

On days that I only have 40 percent, I still gave my 100 percent and I’m proud of myself for giving my best. That alone is already a win.

The vibrant display comes with a compromise: smudge city

As I wait for race day, I put my focus on the underrated part of training: Nutrition and recovery. The Galaxy Watch5 offers one of the best tracking features that most people take for granted. There’s sleep tracking that’s much better now, thanks to the added skin temperature sensor (which, by the way, doesn’t measure your body’s temperature).

The body composition tool, which was seen from the Galaxy Watch4 series, helps me check my body’s mass and allowed me to track my weight as well, which I need to maintain until race day. Food and water intake can also be logged easily, by customizing the tiles for easy access.

Everything I need to prepare for my first half-marathon race is already in this little trinket. No need for notebooks and pens, everything is accessible by swiping on my wrist.

An Android smartwatch through and through

The smartwatch accompanied me every step of the way, even if I had multiple apps running. It’s an Android smartwatch through and through. I had it connected to the Galaxy Z Flip4 and the Galaxy Buds2 Pro, and I get to access apps such as Strava, Calm, MyFitnessPal, Google Fit, and the like from my smartphone that are also compatible with my smartwatch.

I get to control my music playback so I don’t have to take out the Flip from my armband, and I get to respond to urgent messages that need replies — even if I’m just using my watch.

Of course, these are nothing new. For the past few years, smartwatches — not just the Galaxy Watch lineup — have enabled these features. But the best implementation has been by Samsung — so smooth and flawless. Samsung has been consistent with creating an allure that you can only experience when you’ve touched and tried their technology.

That je ne sais quoi can’t be merely captured through words, photos, and any video. If you have access to a Galaxy store or you know a friend who uses a Galaxy Watch, it’s time to pique that curiosity and try it out.

Could’ve been the best smartwatch for everyone

Samsung set out to have the best Android smartwatch in 2021 with the Galaxy Watch4. Somehow, it continued its legacy through the Galaxy Watch5. The upgrade is incremental, which is why it doesn’t make sense for Galaxy Watch4 users to make the jump unless they’re in it for better battery life, or a chance to try the Pro variant.

What I couldn’t wrap my head around is how it isn’t the best smartwatch for everyone. Past the Galaxy Watch3 series, the Galaxy Watch syncs well inside the Samsung ecosystem. It struggles a bit when connecting with other Android smartphones. Using an iPhone, on the other hand, is completely inaccessible.

I’m disappointed with how this smart, fabulous piece of technology is limited to a set of users. That walled ecosystem that Apple started trickled down to other smartphone brands like Samsung. Now, it’s difficult to enjoy different gadgets because you’re forced to use all devices in one ecosystem.

It’s either you use the Galaxy Watch5 and use a Samsung smartphone to fully maximize it, or use an Android smartphone to still connect to it somehow. That, or you use an iPhone and ditch the watch and move to an Apple Watch or an ecosystem-free smartwatch such as Garmin or Fitbit.

Price and availability

The Galaxy Watch5 comes in different sizes, colors, and prices. For the 40mm, it’s available in Graphite, Pink Gold, and Silver. The LTE variant costs PhP 19,990 while the Bluetooth variant retails for PhP 16,990.

Meanwhile, the 44mm Galaxy Watch5 comes in Graphite, Sapphire, and Silver. Its LTE variant retails for PhP 21,990 while the Bluetooth variant costs PhP 18,990.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Galaxy Watch5 proves to be the best Android smartwatch yet. It has a better battery life that accompanies athletes, and even fitness enthusiasts, in their quest to improve their bodies and performance. Add to that is holistic health and fitness features that sync exceptionally within the Samsung ecosystem.

If you’re knee-deep in the Samsung ecosystem, the Galaxy Watch5 is a must-have. If you’re using a different Android smartphone, the Galaxy Watch5 is nice to have — if you only need the essential features for performance tracking.

However, iPhone users better steer clear of the Galaxy Watch5, no matter how lightweight and demure the device is. It won’t work. You’re better off with Garmin, Fitbit, or an Apple Watch.

The asking price for the base Galaxy Watch5 is higher than the Galaxy Watch4 during its launch, but the incremental upgrades match the value of the current price tag.

With that, the Samsung Galaxy Watch5 deserves the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval.

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