Features

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: GadgetMatch for the Multimedia Creative

There’s more than just the S-Pen

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra represents the current pinnacle of the Galaxy Note line. That’s why it’s not far fetched to think that it can seamlessly add value to people from different walks of life.

In this first of a three-part feature, we’ll explore how the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra can be reliable partner for three specific people:

  1. The Manager
  2. The Casual User
  3. The Multimedia Creative

The One That Got Away

Let me start this piece by reminiscing the old times first. If you’ve read some of the articles I’ve written not so long ago (see here and here), I stated how I’ve been switching to Android smartphones every now and then because of some features that I simply don’t get in an iPhone.

Owning the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 four years ago was both a blessing and a curse. It was the perfect phone for someone like me who was still an undergraduate of Multimedia Arts.

The S-Pen did its magic and I loved how its single camera performed. But to simply end this melancholy, it didn’t last that long — like a fleeting relationship of sorts.

Old Habits Die Hard

By old habits, I mean the good ones. Of course, I was one among tens and thousands of Note users before — and I’m still fond of using the S-Pen even after those years.

The moment I heard that I’ll be doing a review of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, I was trying not to be ecstatic. Suppressing emotions isn’t healthy but being able to do so is a testament that most artists love keeping what they feel inside rather than being blatant about it 😂.

As an old Galaxy Note user, I was able to restore some of those files four years ago. I’m lucky that Samsung Cloud already existed before. Though not every file was backed up, I’m still glad it restored some of my drawings and notes in the Samsung Notes app (formerly S-Note). Even hideous notes made by my college batchmates were still there. Oh such nostalgia.

A True Work of Art

To be very perfectly honest, I’m amazed by how the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra improved over its predecessor last year. While everyone was complaining about the large camera bump, I was instantly hypnotized — especially with the fact that there are large sensors beneath that glass casing.

Again, for someone who has big hands, it honestly feels just right. It’s a true gem especially if you rock the Mystic Bronze colorway. It looks elegant and classy wherever you place it — even beside a messy paint palette.

When I had that free time, I brought out my canvas and painted just to release my inner artistic demons. It wasn’t in this shot but some of that white acrylic paint splattered onto its back. Luckily, it was easy to clean and didn’t leave any mark especially because of its matte glass back coating.

Getting Out of the Comfort Zone

The new Samsung One UI isn’t really new to me. In fact, I’ve used the Galaxy S20+ just months ago. Although Apple’s iOS simply does most of my work faster and snappier because of the simpler User Interface (UI), I easily got used to Samsung’s user experience again. In fact, I replaced the built-in launcher with a custom one called Lawnchair 2 just to show my inner artistic side through the phone I use — which I wasn’t able to do last time.

If you’re like me who uses Facial Recognition (like Apple’s Face ID) a lot, this smartphone feels insecure because of the lackluster Face Unlock feature. But in times like this when we’re always required to wear a mask, the in-display fingerprint scanner, is once again, handy. Though not the fastest, it still gets the job done and something you’ll get used to eventually.

Work Hard

Something to consider when using this phone (especially for work) is its form factor. Most of you don’t want a large (some say monstrous and gigantic) smartphone like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but for me, it felt so good especially because it’s slim and light enough even for an almost 7-inch smartphone. I even managed to type one-handed while replying to our group chat in Telegram.

During my time with the phone, I was able to use Samsung Notes more than ever. I don’t want to get too specific but the new latency rate of 9ms (milliseconds) feels like you’re really writing on a paper. Jotting down notes was smooth enough for my liking.

With the gesture navigations, switching between apps is easy too! I love how I can switch between one app to another without a background app refresh. You can even resize the Notes window if ever you need to scroll through another app while writing on the other. I love this feature!

The ability to have 5G connectivity in the Metro was a total breeze. I was able to upload a 2GB file in just minutes. Even downloading a 1GB file took less than two to three seconds! This is totally helpful for me as a video editor who sometimes steps outside for errands while waiting for work updates on Slack.

Play Harder

Back then, stylus in phones were only meant for business-centric users. It may still be the thing today but Samsung’s revolutionary S-Pen and Note line serve more than work-minded individuals. As artists, our creativity doesn’t stop just in the work we do. In fact, we get even more creative in our spare time with passion projects or whatever tickles our fancy.

I’m not a die-hard mobile gamer but I need to say this part. Though this isn’t the Snapdragon 865-version, Samsung’s Exynos 990 was able to deliver that needed power when I played Asphalt 9 and Call of Duty Mobile (CoDM). During my gameplay, I never experienced casual lags and stutters. Albeit, the phone ran a little hot especially if there’s not enough air supply and ventilation around you.

Some of you may know that I’m a die-hard Orbit. Although I haven’t published it yet, I edited my unboxing video of LOONA’s crown lightstick using Adobe’s Premiere Rush. Again, editing using the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was smooth AF even if the video is in 4K (UHD) resolution.

Spoiler alert: Focus was crazy fast even in Manual Video Mode thanks to the inclusion of the Laser AF (Autofocus)

I captured the whole setup using this phone and I’m amazed with how the cameras performed in video. (Photo samples come at the latter part of this article)

The photo above is, again, a proof of how great its cameras are. It managed to capture the real colors of the painting I did. Letting the paint splatter onto the canvas is a great way to release those bad energy that’s been stuck in your head for a while.

Using the Unfold app is better with the stylus — which I can’t do on my iPhone

There’s no problem running creative apps in this smartphone especially because we know how power-packed it is. If you’ve been looking where I layout my shots for IG stories, here’s the listicle to help you out.

Even when you use post-processing apps like Adobe Lightroom Mobile, VSCO, and Snapseed, you’ll simply get stunning results. The S-Pen stylus would help you adjust curves with ease while its vibrant display is helpful enough because of its color accuracy.

The Fear of Missing Out

Just like any other artist, we get exhausted so we rest to recharge our creative juice. Of course, I wouldn’t miss the chance of doing the things I love with this smartphone.

LOONA’s Voice — simply angelic and jaw-dropping

With my pair of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+, I was able to enjoy LOONA’s new Extended Play (EP) titled ‘12:00‘. The song I played above makes me forget my problems somehow. Try listening to this magical album if you have time.

My Bae.. Suzy… I mean Seo Dalmi lookin’ slick in that CEO getup

Of course, it wouldn’t be a great experience without having to try its glorious 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED display. Though in this particular scenario, I was able to watch my favorite K-Drama ‘Start-Up’ (스타트업) while jotting down the characters and some jargons the characters use in the series. And yes, I know how to write in Korean (한글). Just don’t judge my writing style.

PEN UP + START-UP = LEVEL-UP

After binging five episodes of the series for over three hours, I was able to get my much needed recharge that I decided to sketch a young girl on a swing using Samsung’s built-in PEN UP app — just like how the company’s logo looked like in the drama. Though this isn’t a 1:1 ratio, being able to sketch as easy as sliding the S-Pen out is really a nice feature to have in a smartphone that you can’t simply do elsewhere.

Of course, there are more sketching apps in the Play Store you can try such as ibis Paint X, SketchBook, Infinite Painter, among others.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

People who know me are aware that I’m very nit-picky when it comes to cameras — let alone smartphone cameras. In this section, I’ll discuss what makes and breaks the cameras of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

With no surprise, photos taken with the 108-megapixel Main Sensor (Wide-Angle) deliver stunning results. The colors pop and there’s enough bokeh when doing close-ups. With the added inclusion of the Laser AF (that was absent in the Galaxy S20 Ultra), it helps the main sensor shoot moving objects without blurring out the main subject.

Even the Laser AF works well with optically-zoomed shots.

ICYMI: The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s optical zoom maxes out at 5x (and up to 50x Hybrid Zoom — more on that later).

Speaking of zoom, this smartphone has three sensors (including the 12-megapixel Ultra-Wide and Telephoto lenses) that handle the job very well especially with the presence of natural light.

Wide | 5x Zoom

Just like how I stated earlier, the cameras are superb! This is actually how the painting looks like in real life. The colors look vibrant just like the variations of acrylic paint I threw onto the canvas.

Wide | Ultra-wide

For the most part, it’s also able to capture HDR-rich photos whether you use the ultra-wide or wide lens. In this particular example, both lenses were able to capture the subtle rays of a rainbow with a close consistency in WB (White Balance).

But this isn’t a perfect camera after all

One minor thing I noticed (that I don’t like) is when I shoot food. There’s a weird radial blur-situation going on in these two photos. The first one is a 짜파게티 (jjapagetti) while the other is a spaghetti and chicken combo. Just look at the outer field of focus and you’d see that circular motion blur coming out.

Another problem I encountered is the inconsistency in AF (autofocus) and AWB (Auto White Balance). These photos were taken seconds apart — same focal length, same lighting condition, same position. You can see how details in the bag, shirt, and even the wall got blurred out in the second photo. The first photo is closer to reality with its warmer tone while the second photo got bluish in tint.

Not that it’s a big deal but this is a reminder for future buyers that the telephoto sensor takes blurry photos — though there’s a camera reminder whenever it detects if a photo was blurred. Again, not a big fuss for something that will be posted on social media. It’s just something worth pointing out that can be fixed via software updates or maybe in the next Galaxy Note (and even the upcoming S) series.

50x Zoom | 15x Zoom

Finally, here are shots of the moon and two birds on an electric wire. They honestly look commendable but what breaks this category for me is the fact that Samsung’s camera software processing in ultimately-zoomed shots look so smeared that details are barely visible.

I get that they’re still trying to develop this technology and I know this is a good thing for smartphones. Still, it’s something worth to consider especially with how they hyped up “Space Zoom” during the launch of the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

For artists who also want great selfies, here’s how that single punch-hole camera performed.

Portait OFF | Portrait ON

The beauty filter is turned off in both of these shots but I guess there’s still some smearing going on after you hit the shutter button.

Is the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra fit for a Multimedia Creative?

If you’ve reached this part, you would already know if its meant for you. Of all the apps I’ve used for sketching, editing, and even processing my photos, this is obviously the ultimate smartphone for a Multimedia Creative.

If you like scribbling and sketching, the S-Pen does the job in which other phones can’t. Other than that, if you’re someone like me who uses the rear cameras often, it’s also a great companion for taking great snaps without ever worrying about the quality.

Considering this as your new smartphone this 2020 wouldn’t be a problem if you have the purchasing power. But if you’re hesitating because of its hefty price tag, the Galaxy Note 20 would be a better substitute minus the elegance and other nifty features. If you’re an Illustrator or a Graphic Artist who’s looking for a bigger device plus the glory of the S-Pen, I’d recommend the Galaxy Tab S7+ instead.

Overall, its blazing-fast performance paired with a lot of creative and productivity apps, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is simply one of the best (if not the best) smartphones out there that creatives would love and enjoy using in the next few years — especially that Samsung has promised software updates of up to three years with this smartphone.

SEE ALSO: Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: GadgetMatch For The Manager | Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: GadgetMatch for The Casual User

Features

5 features to look for before buying wireless earbuds for your workouts

The needs are different for your athletic activities

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True Wireless Flash X

Not all wireless earbuds are created equal. While there are plenty of options to choose from, most wireless earbuds serve a particular user.

For instance, there’s the everyday listener that requires the basic (or sometimes the best) wireless earbuds experience. Some are audiophiles who are specific about sound quality.

Also, there are fashionistas who care more about how a device looks and how it will fit their ensemble. Then, there are athletes and fitness enthusiasts, whose needs are a little bit different than the average consumer.

If you’re a casual or serious athlete, a sports and fitness enthusiast, or just someone who’s serious about a fitness journey, here are some of the features to look for before buying a pair of wireless earbuds.

IP Rating

IP rating, or ingress protection rating, determines the level of protection that any electrical device has against elements, like dust and water. It’s often overlooked by most consumers, working out with whatever wireless earbuds they have claiming it can handle their sweat.

I did this before with my Galaxy Buds, with an IPX2 rating, and it can only handle a little sweat. It started to malfunction a few months after use on heavy workouts, and I regret not taking care of it.

As a fitness enthusiast, I’m usually insanely drenched, heavily sweating over the course of an hour’s workout. If you’re in for intense, heavy workouts, look for wireless earbuds that have IPX7 ratings.

Wireless earbuds with this protection aren’t just water-resistant anymore — they’re waterproof. You can submerge them up to a meter for up to 30 minutes, or get drenched in sweat when you’re working out.

Some examples would be the Galaxy Buds Pro, Jabra’s Elite Active 75t, Jaybird Vista, and my trusty companion — the JBL Under Armour True Wireless Flash X, which I’ll be using as a point of comparison for the rest of the list.

Style, size, and fit

Physical activities require a lot of movements, so some of the things to consider are your wireless earbuds’ style, size, and fit. The style and size will depend on your preferences and how you feel about it.

Meanwhile, the fit needs to be secure and comfortable. Finding the right tip can help to ensure the earbuds won’t fall off your ears. That is if you like working out with in-ear earbuds like me.

True Wireless Flash X

My JBL UA True Wireless Flash X is quite bulky for an in-ear, but I enjoy having it plugged in so I don’t have to worry about touching it on some of my workouts. It also has a wingtip to keep it in place! On another note, my friend uses PowerBeats Pro for his workouts, since he feels safe when an earbud is hooked in his ear.

Gesture controls and navigation

What I love about wireless earbuds — whether they’re for everyday use or for my workouts — is the vibe it gives whenever I use its gesture controls. I feel like a secret agent from a sci-fi movie.

Anyhoo, accessibility is important when you’re working out to keep you focused and of course, to make your life easy. It’s an inconvenience if you have to pick up your phone every now and then just for music playback, right?

For every brand, the gesture controls are different. My everyday pair of wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live, is sensitive enough that even a light tap can pause the music, except I can’t touch it when I’m drenched in sweat.

Meanwhile, my JBL UA True Wireless Flash X requires pressing the button on the right earbud to play and pause my music. On the left earbud, it adjusts the isolation of background noise, which I’ll be talking about later.

Nonetheless, when looking for your pair of wireless earbuds, make sure you check its gesture controls and navigation, and how easy it is for you to adapt. Your lifestyle and behavior will also be a factor here!

Battery life and charging case

Another thing to consider is the wireless earbuds’ battery life and their charging cases. Can it last for a day? How many times can you charge your wireless earbuds in the charging case? And does it charge fast? These are the questions you need to ask when you’re out for a pair of wireless earbuds to accompany you in your workouts.

True Wireless Flash X

The JBL UA True Wireless Flash X lasts for nine hours — enough to last you one day at work if you use it for that purpose. But if you’re using it specifically for workouts. If you work out one hour every day, this can last for a week. Which happened in my case, since I have a different pair of wireless earbuds for my calls and listening sessions.

The case, on the other hand, lets you charge the earbuds up to four times. It doesn’t support fast charging though, so it will take at least two hours to fully charge the aluminum case.

Active noise cancellation

A pair of wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC), or at least the ability to isolate background noise like the JBL UA True Wireless Flash X, is extremely helpful during workouts.

It helps you keep your focus on what you’re doing. Sometimes, it feels like I’m lost in my own world — lifting weights while listening to Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” or “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark”.

Some may argue that you don’t really need ANC, but I beg to differ. Some people can easily get distracted and lose their focus, and the amount of mental bandwidth needed to perform a workout requires intense concentration. ANC can help you focus on reaching your fitness goals.

Other things to consider, depending on your needs

Sound quality and connectivity aren’t the top-of-mind features people look for when buying a pair of wireless earbuds for their workouts. After all, most wireless earbuds nowadays focus on that — but don’t have the necessary features I mentioned above that are essential for physical activities.

True Wireless Flash X

If you’re a bit of an audiophile or you’re someone who’s connected 24/7, you might want to check several alternatives like the Jabra Elite 75t, Jaybird Vista, and the Powerbeats Pro.

True Wireless Flash X

The JBL Under Armour True Wireless Flash X retails for PhP 9,999. In the Philippines, it’s available for purchase at Onward PH.


For more great products and accessories like the JBL UA True Wireless Flash X, visit OnWardPH or follow them through their Facebook and Instagram accounts (@OnWardPH) for you to keep posted.

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First Look

ASUS Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

It comes with a special case!

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Zenfone 8 Flip

“Oooh what’s in the box?” is what I imagine most of you say whenever a new device comes out. So, for the Zenfone 8 Flip, we’ll show you what you can expect should you decide to cop the latest from ASUS.

This is the box. Pretty standard, with the 8 on top.

Zenfone 8 Flip

The inside follows the same color and brushed-cement looking finish. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

I totally just made-up “brushed-cement” but it’s the only thing I can think of to describe the look.

First thing in the packaging is a packet with the SIM tray ejector tool.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Inside it are the user guide and the special case.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Underneath the packet is the Zenfone 8 Flip itself. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

We’re gonna dive straight into the phone. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It has quite a glossy glass finish. That means smudges. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

That’s icky

The power button has a bright blue tint that stands out from the rest of the device. 

Zenfone 8 FlipSitting right on top of it are the volume rockers.

The bottom has the usual USB-C port and speaker grille.

Zenfone 8 Flip

While the left side has the SIM tray. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

Here’s a closer look at the Flip camera module. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

And here it is actually flipped. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

What’s cool is you control the angle of flipping.
Zenfone 8 Flip

Here it is with the case on. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It has a stopper to keep the module from flipping.

Zenfone 8 Flip

And the phone knows when it’s on. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It’ll give you this prompt if you switch to ‘selfie’ on the camera app with the stopper equipped. 

Zenfone 8 FlipPretty cool, yeah?

This is what the home screen looks like. That wallpaper is actually animated. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

You also have the a USB-C cable

And a power adapter.

That’s everything inside the box!

Zenfone 8 Flip

First Impressions 

The ASUS Zenfone Flip 8 has some heft to it. Perhaps that’s to be expected given the Flip camera module. Speaking of, that camera module has a way of making you want to use it. I’m not one for selfies but I took a few for a quick test run along with some other quick snaps.

Selfies

Main camera, HDR off

Ultra-wide, HDR off 

Ultra-wide, auto HDR

Main camera, auto HDR 

Ultra-wide, auto HDR 

Indoors, Main camera 

Indoors, Portrait 

Bright light indoors

Some observations: The post-processing after you take photos does A LOT of work whether or not you have HDR turned on or off. This results in high contrast and sharpened images. On the contrary, using the same camera but with portrait mode, the resulting image looks softer.

This isn’t a good look for the image processing and I can see people opting to use Google Camera instead of the stock one on the phone.

Performance-wise, we haven’t spent a significant amount of time with the device but the whole thing feels snappy and buttery-smooth. So, it’s par for the course for something flagship. The display does look sharp and pleasing to the eyes. It is, after all, Samsung AMOLED.

That’s all we have on the Zenfone 8 Flip for now. Stay tuned for the review.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Here’s a quick look at the specs of the Zenfone 8 and Zenfone 8 Flip side by side.

Zenfone 8 Zenfone Flip 8
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Display 5.9” Samsung AMOLED, 120Hz 6.67” Samsung AMOLED, 90Hz
OS Android 11, Zen UI 8 Android 11, Zen UI 8
Configuration 6GB + 128GB

8GB +128GB

8GB + 256GB

16GB + 256GB

*No storage expansion

8GB +256GB

*Up to 2TB storage expansion via MicroSD

Battery 4,000mAh 5,000mAh
Cameras 64MP Sony IMX686

12MP Ultra-wide

12MP front-facing

64MP Sony IMX686

12MP Ultra-wide

8MP telephoto

*Flip camera module

Pricing and availability details to follow.


Watch our Zenfone 8 review

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Reviews

ASUS Zenfone 8 Review: Tiny but Mighty

The compact flagship

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Zenfone 8

In a sea full of big smartphones, ASUS made a detour with the Zenfone 8 by making it smaller than its previous Zenfone 7 predecessor.

Packed with flagship specs such as Snapdragon 888, 16GB of RAM and a 120Hz display, it’s simply their best and most compact phone to date.

But how did ASUS managed to fit in all these powerful internals in such a compact body? Watch our full review video of the ASUS Zenfone 8 to know more.

SEE ALSO: Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

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