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Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review

A product of years of perfecting

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This year marks one decade of Samsung Galaxy. And so, coming into 2019, the expectations were very high for the next Galaxy S. But the 10th-anniversary Galaxy is a two-part, two-phone story — one that represents the future and one that represents today.

A refined masterpiece that’s a product of years of perfecting, the new Galaxy S10+ is not mind-blowing or revolutionary. Neither is it perfect, but there’s something so satisfying about a product that’s well thought out and done right, and excellent in every aspect and angle.

There much to love about the Galaxy S10+ and I’m just gonna dive straight in.

After years of trial and error that saw them go from plastic, to leather, to glass, and then many tweaks and adjustments around curved glass, this is the moment that all these years have led up to and it’s glorious.

It’s the perfect mashup between the Galaxy S9 and the Note 9. And I like it. The design ID is still clearly Samsung: curved displays, rounded corners. I can’t quite put a finger on it — maybe it’s because the trim around the phone is more rounded and not as sharp, but whatever these changes are, they’ve made the S10+ a phone that I enjoy picking up. That, for me, is always an indicator of good design.

The official color of my review unit is called Prism White, and it has this pearlescent quality to it that changes from an iridescent blue to pink depending on the light. It’s really beautiful.

Of course the other big change is in front. After avoiding the notch trend completely for a good two years, Samsung’s finally embraced the all-screen display, laser cutting a hole (or two on the S10+) for the selfie cameras. The industry calls it a hole punch; Samsung calls it Infinity-O.

After much deliberation, I think I like this better than the notch. When watching videos, I don’t mind it as much. Maybe because it’s tucked away in one corner instead of in the middle. YouTube videos are usually 16:9 so they’ll have thick black bars on both sides. But you can punch out to fill the screen with a tiny crop.

Apps like Netflix refuse to fill beyond the area where the hole punch is. If it’s really not your cup of tea, you can go into settings and tick “Hide Front Camera” that gives the display a rather large forehead.

Samsung’s default wallpapers are purposely darker in the upper-right corner to hide the hole punch as much as possible. But I say, embrace it. We have been rocking an assortment of cheeky wallpapers that really tell you it’s there. If you want to download any of these, you can check this link. Samsung also has an “Embrace The Cutout” selection of S10 wallpapers you can buy from the Galaxy Themes Store.

It’s not all aesthetics. There’s also some functionality built in too, like when you take a selfie with the timer on, a lighted timer will travel around the cameras giving you a visual countdown, and showing you where to look.

I have many thoughts about smartphone displays, but mainly two of relevance here: One, display tech has gotten so good, that comparing displays requires a lot of nitpicking; and two, tech reviewers like me are so spoiled by the best displays, that we’re sometimes harder to please. But at the end of the day, having a good or great display isn’t what defines a smartphone.

Having said that, when it comes to the creme dela creme of display tech, it really doesn’t get better than this. Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED panel is in a league of its own: color, vibrancy, highlights, shadows, crispness. View-ability outdoors under bright sunlight, gentleness to your eyes when it’s dark — you name it.

Underneath it is an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Two years ago, many had expected Samsung to be the first to introduce an under-display fingerprint scanner, but they didn’t. That honor went to Vivo, followed by the likes of Huawei and OnePlus. But if you ask me, it’s been worth the wait.

The S10’s in-display fingerprint scanner is powered by Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic technology that’s a step up from the optical scanners used in other products. Instead of using a camera under the display to take a photo and determine a match, Qualcomm’s tech uses sonic sound waves to scan your pores and make a 3D image that’s used to identify you.

With the most recent update, I’ve found this tech to be almost as fast as physical scanners, and much, much quicker than current optical type in display scanners. You just have to quickly tap and not tap and hold for a second. If that’s not your cup of tea, face unlock is very fast but it’s not as secure. In fact, I was able to unlock the phone using a video clip on my iPad. Samsung previously offered a more secure iris scan face unlock, but ditched that tech on the S10.

So, if not display, what makes or breaks a smartphone? For me, the two most important things are battery life and camera performance. In these fronts, the S10+ is a big improvement from its predecessor.

I’ve used the S10+ as my daily driver for a couple of weeks now. My use is probably heavier than the average user. I’m always on my phone, watching YouTube videos, scrolling through social media, and taking photos. And because I review other phones, oftentimes when I’m out, it’s also a portable hotspot.

That said, battery life on the S10+ has been impressive. Based on my real world use, most users will get a whole day with more than average use. It’s not as long-lasting as say the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, but it’s noticeably longer-lasting than previous Samsung phones I’ve used.

The S10+ comes with a fast charger that can get you from zero to 100 percent in just over an hour and 40 minutes. There’s also reverse wireless charging, a feature we first saw on the Mate 20 Pro last year. While it’s cool to be able to charge another phone on the back of yours, charging is a slow trickle at best and is really just designed to charge smaller accessories, like Samsung’s new wireless buds or a Qi-compatible smartwatch.

Those who’ve watched my videos over the years know I prefer a zoom lens to wide-angle, but three weeks traveling with the S10+ have changed that. This phone has three rear cameras, featuring both an ultra-wide angle and zoom lens. I love that I don’t have to pick between the two, and to be honest, when you’re traveling, nothing beats an ultra-wide.

Whether you’re shooting outdoors or indoors, the S10+ shoots beautiful photos. But it isn’t the low-light champ it used to be. If I were to nitpick, the phone has the tendency to favor highlights, so photos are sometimes unnecessarily brighter than they need to be — sometimes almost overexposed.

There’s a new AI-based Scene Optimizer that can can adjust settings based on what it thinks is best for a shot. I leave it off because the phone does a good job otherwise. But it needs to be turned on for Night Mode to work. You know the long exposure night shot that we’ve seen on many phones recently? It’s on the S10, too. But, there’s a catch.

The phone has to think the scene needs night mode and it chooses to turn on. But oftentimes, it doesn’t think night mode is warranted. It can be frustrating, and would have been nice to get a button to turn it on when you need it. Maybe Samsung can fix this in an upcoming update.

My review unit is the S10+ which means instead of one front camera, there are two. The other is mainly for measuring depth. Even though there’s a toggle that makes it seem like there’s a second wide-angle camera, this is not the case. The other just crops in closer. I don’t like selfies taken with the S10+. I think they are too soft. I don’t mind a good skin softening filter that I can turn on or off. On the S10+, it doesn’t even look like that. It looks too soft, almost blurry.

Where the S10’s cameras do a great job at is shooting video. It is the first of its kind to support HDR10+ video capture. Of course, you need a display that supports it, and that does not include the S10. Video stabilization is great, however.

There’s plenty else to like about the S10+. I really like the changes they’ve made to their UI. One UI is cleaner, simpler, and well thought-out. Dark Mode is great and it helps save battery, too. My only peeve is the way the app drawer works. You swipe up to reveal it, but have to swipe to the left to see your second page of apps.

It’s backed up with the highest of specs. Including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chip here in the US and Samsung’s Exynos 9820 elsewhere in Asia. There’s still a headphone jack, support for up to 1TB of external storage, and water and dust resistance. Of course it’s all not sugar plums and unicorns.

Apart my from camera complaints, I’m not a fan of the power button being so high up. And speaking of buttons, the dedicated Bixby button can finally be reassigned to something else — except Google Assistant, which is a bummer. Bixby is a con in and of itself. I’ll leave it at that.

Is the Samsung Galaxy S10+ your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for one of the best Android phones that you can get almost regardless of where you live, the Galaxy S10 is on top of our list. Some might argue that many of its new features have been seen before on other smartphones; that’s true, and that doesn’t look good on Samsung’s report card as an innovator.

However, in some cases, while late, Samsung has gone out and done it better. And while objectively, the Galaxy S10+ isn’t the best at anything, it’s so well balanced a smartphone, that it’s hard not to recommend. It does things right, and does things good. From where it stands at this point in the year, it’s set a high bar for the rest of the industry to follow.

Undeniably, the Galaxy S10+ deserves the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval. If you’re in the market for a new Android smartphone and are willing to shell out the US$ 1,000 asking price, then we give you our blessing.

For Samsung fans wanting to save a few hundred bucks, I’d consider the more affordable Galaxy S10e which we’ll review separately. You can also avail of a trade-in offer from your carrier. T-Mobile, for example, is offering up to US$ 390 off for qualifying phones including the Galaxy S8 and S9. That brings the price down to a more reasonable US$ 605.

If that’s still a lot to pay, check out the OnePlus 6T if you’re in the US. And if you’re elsewhere in the world, I’m also a big fan of the new Xiaomi Mi 9.

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adidas Ultraboost 20 review: Great just got better

The ISS National Lab collab is straight 🔥

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It’s almost a new year, and here’s the Ultraboost 20 — the latest version of my favorite sneakers.

Ever since they were announced in 2015, the Ultraboost has always been my go-to everyday sneaker. They’re just so comfortable to wear and they look so darn good as well.

Adidas has been making small changes to the shoe every year but they were mostly just changing the pattern of the upper which wasn’t really that big of a deal.

A sudden design shift

It wasn’t until 2019 when Adidas redesigned the Ultraboost to create the Ultraboost 19 (UB19) which was a huge change in the line.

Initially, the Ultraboost was more of a casual lifestyle pair first then a performance running sneaker second. This changed with the UB19 when Adidas decided to focus on making a performance running sneaker.

It was a controversial change at the time since the aesthetics of the shoe really changed. Some fans of the line didn’t receive the news well.

UB19 (left) and UB20 (right)

Admittedly, I was one of those people. But then the reviews started coming in and everyone kept talking about how comfortable they were — much more comfortable than they have ever been which makes them a better performance sneaker overall.

Design-wise, I still prefer the Ultraboost 1.0 more than the 4.0 but the new ones are definitely way more comfortable — an all-out performance running sneaker.

With the 2020 version, Adidas decided to make a few more tweaks. Somehow they took something already great and made it even better. As an aside, I’m happy these were minor tweaks because I don’t think we would have survived another dramatic overhaul.

One of the best things about Ultraboost back in the day were the collaborations, so I’m happy to see Adidas trying that out again.

Ultraboost X ISS National Lab

I got the ISS National Lab collaboration to check out, which is the official collaboration to launch the Ultraboost 20.

First thing you’ll see is the Light grey Primeknit upper. This is usual with Ultraboost and it does get small tweaks every year. This time it feels like there’s more give in this version vs the UB19.

One major difference in the upper this year is the addition of the Tailored Fiber Placement technology or TFP. It’s the thick embroidered looking details around the edges of the toe box area which gives you more stability and durability.

These areas aren’t as flexible and stretchy as before but they do a better job at containing your toes. So the upper is still stretchy and soft, but holds your foot in place better.

There’s still a sock-like fit but it’s slightly thicker and less flexible than the older ultraboost 1.0 to 4.0 uppers. I really like the arrow shaped ventilation pattern in the toe-box area which is a very subtle throwback to the ‘ol Ultraboost 1.0.

There’s the white or light grey Ultraboost laces going through an updated midfoot cage. I definitely like the new midfoot cage, I think it’s better looking than the UB19 cage. It’s a cleaner, better look vs the mesh used on the 19. This also has some TFP detailing as well to help contain your foot better.

At the top of the tongue is the ISS National Lab collab tags which says ISS National Lab Adidas CRS Boost in Space. ISS stands for the International Space Station and this is a collab with their National Lab. Adidas is apparently going to send some Boost up to the National Lab in space — which is crazy but hey maybe those hypebeast astronauts will appreciate it.

In the ankle area of the shoe you see another big difference vs the UB19. There’s still a prime kit tongue, but in the back you have a padded neoprene material which is really appreciated because it really adds to the comfort.

This extra padding around the heel feels great against your foot but also makes your foot feel more secure in the sneaker as it pushes it forward. Apart from that, your foot is up against primeknit for a very sock-like fit.

It does feel a little bit more snug than the UB19. This helps make it more performance oriented than before which is definitely helpful for runs.

If you’re going to want this for lifestyle wear as a shoe sneaker I’d advise going up a size. Same is true if you have wide feet like I do. It’s always best to try the shoe on in a store first to make sure you get the best fit possible.

The insole comes in black with Adidas and ISS National Lab branding in white and orange. Each insole is different which is a nice touch.

Coming to the heel counter, it seems to be just an outline just like the UB19. Adidas calls it their “3D Heel Frame” which cradles the heel and holds it in place. I like that the heel counter spills over onto the boost midsole and gives you more stability because it really keeps the boost in place.

At the back of the shoe you have a nice padded neoprene material instead of primeknit. I definitely like the way it feels against my foot vs just primeknit in this area.

Another new addition is the bright orange accent. It definitely stands out but ties in nicely with the ISS collab.

Speaking of eye-catching — moving downwards, you have the good ol’ white Boost mid-sole. The ISS collab Ultraboost 20 actually comes in seven colorways, four of which have an iridescent boost midsole which looks pretty neat.

It’s really flashy, and you’ll either love it or hate it but I actually like the implementation here on my Dash Grey colorway.

UB20 iridescent midsoles

Instead of the iridescent boost midsole, this colorway has an iridescent heel frame and midfoot cage, which I think looks much nicer. It’s minimalist and more my style.

Either way it definitely looks very space-like. I guess it’s meant to make you think of outer space and it definitely does that. If you’re wearing them out, people are definitely going to ask you about your sneakers.

Coming to the outsole, it is the usual Stretchweb outsoles with Continental rubber for multi-surface traction and the usual lightweight Torsion Spring construction for support when the foot lands to propel runners forward.

Still a top-tier midsole cushioning

Boost is still boost — it is still the best midsole cushioning tech that I love. There’s 20 percent more boost in this shoe than the older UB 1-4, just like the UB19.

The Boost feels the same, but that’s okay. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right?

In case you haven’t tried out a sneaker with Boost yet, I encourage you to go on over to an Adidas store and try one out as soon as possible.

The big deal here is the cushioning and energy return. You can feel it absorb the impact as you run, and then spring back to return some of that energy to help you take off.

It’s this reason why Boost and the Ultraboost series in particular are so popular amongst runners and gym goers. They’re not only some of the most comfortable shoes around but it also really helps with running and aerobics. I even wear Ultraboost for my dance fitness and boxing classes. I totally recommend it.

Is the Ultraboost 20 your Sneaker Match?

The UB20 is an iterative but meaningful improvement to the Ultraboost line in comparison to the UB19.

It is even more performance oriented, and even more comfortable at the same time. Honestly just go into an Adidas store and try them on — I’m pretty sure you’ll walk away impressed.

The ISS Collab is really exciting, and while it may or may not all just be marketing hype, it is definitely an exciting way for Adidas to launch the UB20.

While I’m always going to be a fan of the aesthetic of the older Ultraboost 1-4 more, you have to admit the new Ultraboost 20 definitely looks crazy futuristic. It’s the best performance sneaker out there, and I can’t recommend it enough.

SEE ALSO: Asics Gel Cumulus 21: Your everyday training sneaker

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Huawei Freebuds 3 review: Best value wireless earbuds

Everything works as advertised

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True wireless earbuds with noise-cancellation sprouted like crazy in 2019. Not to be outdone, Huawei, along with a few other wearables, launched the Freebuds 3. And these earbuds are actually pretty darn good.

Comfy fit, on the fence about the look

Let’s get it out of the way before anything else. The Huawei Freebuds 3 looks a lot like Apple’s Airpods. In fact, the entire Freebuds line has looked like this since it’s first iteration.

But is it fair to reduce it as simply an AirPods knockoff? Not quite.

Looks-wise, I kind of get why they went with this design. Not everyone’s a fan of in-ear earbuds. Some feel they are too invasive.

I can definitely say that the in-ear ones feel more secure but the Freebuds can cling onto your ear just fine. The only time I saw one fall off was during a Huawei demo but that was only because a dancer wore it and she was moving pretty intensely.

Also, perhaps the only way to put all the tech that Huawei managed to pack in the Freebuds 3 is to have them look the way they do now. I’m personally not too wild about it, but that’s just me.

Noise-cancelling all star 

Speaking of “all the tech” in these earbuds, at the heart of it is the Kirin A1 chip. Made specifically for wearables, this is what enables a lot of what makes these earbuds great.

Chief of those features is the intelligent noise cancellation. I’m quite skeptical about noise cancellation claims especially on wireless earbuds, but the Freebuds 3 performs just about as good as advertised.

It doesn’t quite shut you out of your environment the way noise-cancelling headphones do. However, it does it well enough that your attention won’t easily be taken away when you have these on even when you’re in a crowded area.

The noise cancellation is still a tier and a half below the Sony WF-1000XM3 which I consider to be a superstar in that department. That said, the Freebuds 3 still does an awesome job and should be more than enough for most users.

Surprising bass, fantastic sound quality

The default bass setting on the Freebuds 3 is such a pleasant surprise. Coupled with the noise cancellation, it gives you such a full sound that if you close your eyes you’d almost feel like you’re surrounded by the music you’re listening to.

I wasn’t even playing bass heavy tracks when I noticed this. I was in a bit of a slow jams mood while trying these earbuds out and listened to tracks like Nice and Slow by Usher and I Wanna Know by Joe and man, the bass was really banging in a really good way.

This level of bass can be achieved in other true wireless earbuds but they’re usually not turned on by default. On the Freebuds 3, there isn’t any option to tweak the sound quality but I don’t imagine anyone needing to do this.

There is significant leak out of the audio though when you turn the volume to maximum. But I never felt the need to do this. Only tried it for the heck of it.

Easy pairing and controls

Pairing these are pretty straightforward, you only need to hold the button on the case for about two to five seconds to enter pairing mode. Make sure the case’s lid is open.

It’s even easier when your using a device that already has EMUI10. It’ll automatically find the Freebuds 3 once you pop the lid open. Similar to how Samsung Galaxy phones quickly detect the Galaxy Buds.

Controls are straightforward. Double tap on the left to turn on/off noise cancelling, tap on the right to play or pause, and double tap to skip to the next track. You can switch this up on the Huawei AI Life but that’s about the level of tweaking you can do on these.

I paired our review unit with both the iPhone 11 Pro and the Huawei P30 Pro. It’s worth noting that at the moment, you won’t be able to make these control changes on the Huawei AI Life/Smart Home app on iOS. Then again, if you’re using an iPhone, you’ll probably just get an AirPods or AirPods Pro anyway.

Is the Freebuds 3 your GadgetMatch? 

There’s a lot to love with the Freebuds 3. The noise cancellation is pretty good, sound quality is superb, and the carrying case is small enough to be pocketable but not too small that they’re easy to misplace.

The battery is also pretty darn good. I’ve only had to charge it once in my week with the device. Speaking of charging, you can do so through a USB-C cable which comes with the device on the box or through wireless charging.

My only real gripe is how it looks. I’m still not a fan of how Apple has normalized wireless earbuds with stems sticking out. I find it frustrating that it’s now somehow considered trendy and fashionable.

That said, if you like rocking these types of earbuds, that’s completely fine. Live and let live, right? But part of me is hoping the next version has a different look. These do come in two colors: Ceramic Black and Carbon White so you can at least go with the black one if you think the white looks too much like a knockoff.

The Freebuds 3 is priced as follows: UK (GBP 147), Singapore (SG$ 238), Philippines (PhP 8,990), Malaysia (MY R679). That’s very competitive considering everything you get. These might just be the value upper tier true wireless earbuds with noise cancellation. Everything works as advertised and that is truly satisfying.

If you’re looking to splurge a little for a better audio experience, either for you or as a gift for someone else, then it’s hard not to recommend the Freebuds 3.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Freebuds 3: Give the gift of freedom this holiday season

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Huawei Watch GT 2: Two-week battery life is real

You’ll forget that you need to charge it

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Having a smartwatch that shows you notifications and tracks your activities are all well and useful, although the fact that you need to charge them daily could be tedious for some. This is because most models only have batteries that are good for a day’s work.

Sure, you have hybrid watches that last longer but with limited features. What Huawei did with the first Watch GT was to offer a smartwatch but with a battery life that can last you two weeks. They intend to keep this up with this new model but with more useful features. Let’s take a look at what it now offers.

It comes in either 42mm or 46mm variants

Bigger model has more features and longer battery life

Has a double crown design…

Sports an AMOLED touchscreen

And a number of available straps

No extra tools needed to change straps

Watch faces are available for personalization

Feel like going digital or analog for the day?

For the design department, the Watch GT has a sporty look going on but is also sleek enough to be worn during meetings and even semi-formal gatherings. In addition to the different watch faces you can select, its interchangeable strap makes it even easier to complement your look so you can mix and match depending on the occasion.

If you’re looking at the Watch GT 2 to help track your activities, then you’d want to go for the bigger 46mm model since it’s loaded with more sensors than the 42mm variant.

Your personal workout tracker

Detects your workout and logs your personal records

Real-time heart rate monitor

Know when your workout is effectively burning calories

Scientific coaching for running courses

No need for a personal coach!

Sleep tracker identifies common sleep-related issues

Huawei Health even provides suggestions to help you sleep better

Stress/pressure monitoring

Maintain a balanced lifestyle to keep stress levels on the down-low

Take it out, get it wet

Water-resistant up to 50 meters for 10 minutes

Multiple sport modes

Since you can take it for swimming, it has its own multi-sport modes that come in handy for serious athletes. It has Triathlon mode that records data from swimming, cycling, and running. It even calculates your personal transition time from one activity to the next.

If you’re into hiking, you’d be glad to know that the Watch GT 2 has a barometer to measure your altitude and a built-in compass to help you navigate your way and conquer the summit.

And for the cyclists out there, the watch provides an assessment of your trip — including calories burned, speed, and accumulative climbing and falling during the ride.

Whether running a course, hiking up a mountain, or setting a personal record on your bicycle, this smartwatch can track your location and route with GPS. This way, you have precise positioning anywhere you go to give you better feedback about your activities.

Battery life

Just like its previous model, the Watch GT 2 claims a 2-week battery life even with heart rate monitor running 24/7. And just like the first iteration, it still delivers the same performance and that alone is a feat not commonly seen on other smartwatches.

Charging is done through a proprietary magnetic dock and it takes about an hour to hour and a half to completely charge the watch. Although because of its lengthy life, I sometimes forget that I need to charge it and I get surprised when I see the battery warning. It’s a good problem to have, really.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

In terms of features, I wouldn’t disagree that the Huawei Watch GT 2 is armed to the teeth. You have all your trackers that know exactly what you do, where you are, and even how long your nap was. But then again, just like in our previous review, we feel like it’s more of a fitness or activity tracker than a smartwatch.

One of the main reasons we say this is that it still has the same issue as before about pairing with a smartphone. Sometimes it gets disconnected so notifications don’t push through the watch so you miss certain messages or calls. It’s supposed to notify the user of phone calls and alarms, and it wasn’t always the case during our time with it.

So ask yourself: Do you need a helpful tracker so you have a full overview of your performance in one glance? Because this watch certainly delivers in that aspect. Whether you’re a casual runner or a dedicated athlete, you’ll have access to your records complete with sound advice and tips to ultimately meet your goals.

Plus, it wins in the design aspect — being able to live two lives as a sporty companion and a compatible pair for your formal events. Just change the watch face, swap in some alternative straps, and you’re good to go!

 

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