It hasn’t even been a year ever since Samsung launched the Galaxy S20 series but they’ve already unpacked the Galaxy S21 as early as January 2021.
I even remember we did a three-way review of the Galaxy S20 variants when it was launched. That experience serves as an eye-opener for me that I am, by all means, an “Ultra” user for the tasks I do. Multitasking, gaming, watching, shooting with great set of cameras, what more could I ask for now that I have the Galaxy S21 Ultra in my big hands?
While there are currently less newer flagships in the horizon powered by the latest Snapdragon 888 such as the China-exclusive iQOO 7 and the Xiaomi Mi 11 with its pending global release, is it enough to say that this phone is the best among all the beasts released so far? Let’s find out.
Ultra-minimal box content
The rumors are true after all. After mocking Apple for removing bundled chargers, Samsung still followed their path and ditched the usual 25W Super Fast Charger. Inside the retail box, I only got the phone itself, the usual SIM tray ejector tool, some paperwork, and a USB-C to USB-C cable.
It appears the removal of the AKG earphones in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra packaging was already an early hint.
Love it or hate it, the Galaxy S21 series has a newer design that I honestly admire. While last year’s S20 Ultra had a glossy finish, the S21 Ultra now has a matte finish like the Note 20 Ultra — which should lessen the amount of fingerprints on the device. I used the Galaxy S20+ in Cosmic Black last year and that was an ultimate fingerprint and scratch magnet.
Samsung is proud of this year’s “Phantom Black” colorway by doing several processes to achieve its true and final color. It’s a more mature look that’s bold yet clean.
The whole process reminds me of how Apple made the Jet Black iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Regardless of that tedious process, this dark color option closely resembles Apple’s Matte Black variant even more.
But unlike the iPhone’s aluminum unibody chassis, this one is made out of a tougher Gorilla Glass Victus — even tougher than last year’s Gorilla Glass 6. Albeit, there are times when fingerprint smudges still show when hit by light.
Distinct from the Galaxy S21 and S21+ is this humongous camera bump of the S21 Ultra with six holes in different sizes that house its wide array of camera components.
If you have big hands like I do, you’ll enjoy using this phone. Holding the phone feels lighter than last year’s S20 Ultra. But frankly speaking, it’s still on the hefty side — what more if you have petite hands?
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, despite its larger display and sharper edges, was still easier and more comfortable for me to hold in one hand. That’s due to the fact that it has symmetrical sides and a slimmer form factor.
Turning the phone around reveals the new “Contour Cut Camera Design” where the phone’s metal frame meets the thicc AF camera hump. Unlike most people who despise it, I just love this over last year’s rounded rectangular-cutout.
Ultra-immersive audiovisual experience
I’m always a sucker for great displays — and Samsung always exceeds my expectations. Even though it’s less curved and a tad smaller at 6.8-inches (compared to last year’s 6.9), there isn’t much of a difference. It still feels immersive with its narrow and almost-borderless viewing experience.
With its Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology, the colors pop with vibrant hues, deeper blacks and whiter whites. It’s still the ultra-crisp and vibrant display I’ve been loving ever since I had the Samsung Wave in 2010 — Samsung’s first Super AMOLED device in history (announced a month earlier than the Galaxy S).
It also has 1500 nits of max brightness, which helped me use the screen even under harsh sunlight. Paired with crisp and loud stereo speakers, it’s truly a great device for your entertainment needs.
While last year’s S20 had a progressive 120Hz refresh rate, the caveat is you only get it under Full HD+ resolution. This time, while it may be adaptive, you get to enjoy 2K+ resolution/120Hz.
It might be an ongoing discussion for most users but I prefer faster refresh rates over larger screen resolution. Enabling both options affect the battery life over time anyway.
To maximize the Samsung ecosystem, I paired the new phone with my good ol’ Galaxy Buds+. I always love how seamless the transition is from connecting all the way to listening without frills and hassle. Don’t fret! As long as your audio accessory has Bluetooth (like my AirPods 2 and Lenovo Yoga ANC headphones), you’re good to go.
Whether you choose Face Unlock or the embedded fingerprint sensor, unlocking is fast and snappy! Unlike before where I have to press more than twice just to unlock both the S20+ and Note 20 Ultra, the new ultrasonic under-display sensor unlocks even when I lightly tap the screen for around 0.5 seconds.
The Face Unlock feature is also here. While it may not be as secure as iPhone’s FaceID system, it’s still fast. Samsung has maximized the use of AI so it will be fool-proof and won’t unlock when you’re asleep.
This Galaxy S21 Ultra has 12GB of memory. Although it maxes out at 16GB RAM, my unit is enough to make the most out of the tasks I do in a day.
Whether I open social media apps such as Twitter and Facebook, it comes to no surprise that they’ll open instantly.
In my previous phone reviews, there are times where some of the apps in the background close by themselves — whether that may be Instagram, a photo-editing app, a shopping app, Apple Music, and a game in idle. The RAM capacity isn’t the issue, rather the management and lack of software optimization.
In the case of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, switching between apps is a breeze. The navigation gestures on the new One UI 3.1 based on Android 11 is more fluid and responsive. One might say these have been around in most 2020 Android smartphones, but Samsung’s implementation is as close as what I get in iOS.
I commit spelling mistakes more often when I use the keyboard, no matter what Android device I use.
Fortunately, typing has been convenient in Samsung’s native keyboard. I was able to type one-handed with little to no typos at all. This means I don’t need a third-party keyboard like Gboard nor had the need to adjust keyboard height. I don’t even need to switch to one-handed mode at this point.
Ultra woes in storage and performance
The Galaxy S21 series marks the first Samsung smartphone to ship with Snapdragon 888 in the US and China. As bad as it sounds, the rest of the world comes with Samsung’s in-house Exynos 2100 processor. These chipsets are both 5nm — which makes it smaller, faster, and more power-efficient.
There’s no problem in performance. I played Asphalt 9 as well as Call of Duty: Mobile (CoDM) and both were smooth and responsive. You can even see how I scored almost 5,000 points in a single Ranked Match game.
But Samsung’s claim wasn’t really addressed at all. During the first fifteen minutes, the phone quickly sizzled while playing. I can literally feel it especially because I used the phone without a case. To make it worse, I went out to shoot some photos around late in the afternoon, and the phone was still hot to touch.
Another rumor that was later confirmed is the removal of the microSD slot. Previously, Samsung supported up to 2TB of external storage.
This review unit comes with 256GB of internal storage. Based on my experience, I was able to maximize my iPhone’s 256GB storage for almost two years. But considering how this phone shoots 4K-8K UHD footage and high-quality stills? It might take a shorter time to completely fill this up.
Having a microSD card expansion offers the fastest and safest way to backup your files. I feel the sentiment and rage of most Samsung users especially because having no external storage in the Galaxy Note 5 made me lost a lot of unbacked files after a motherboard failure five years ago.
Ultra-heavy battery (and drain)
The equipped 5,000mAh battery might be enough for a flagship smartphone like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but my first day with it wasn’t particularly promising.
Other than those heating issues, it’s also plagued with serious battery drain. Using it continuously from 8AM to 1PM with 5G, WQHD+, and 120Hz enabled resulted to a major decrease in battery life. From 100%, it went down to 34% — that’s just five hours of moderate use of social media apps and the camera.
Disclaimer: I did the extensive gameplay and camera test around 3-4PM, just right after doing an hour of charge using my powerbank.
Third day of use, it notified me of a new software update. I’m unsure if that solved the heating and drain issues as I barely used the phone while I worked on articles and videos but the standby time since has been pretty stable. The screenshots prove that from 3PM (82%), it only had a 11% decrease after 11 hours of standby (2AM) with little to no phone activity.
While there’s no official word from Samsung if the S21 models support 45W super fast wired charging, the closest thing you can have is Samsung’s 25W Super Fast Charger.
In my case, I used a third-party 30W USB-C PD (Power Delivery) charger. Even if it only detected “Fast charging”, it was completely juiced up after an hour and a half.
If you have a fast wireless charger that supports speeds of up to 15W, charging the S21 Ultra will also work on that as well.
Ultra-speedy 5G connection
Although 5G speeds may not be blazing fast just like in South Korea and the US, the S21 Ultra was able to detect ultra-fast 5G speeds around the Metro.
Downloading and uploading shouldn’t be a problem at all. I’ve managed to download the first three episodes of the K-Drama ‘Uncanny Counter’ under a minute. Even uploading a 30-second 8K video took a minute — which isn’t possible in 4G LTE and regular Wi-Fi hotspots.
While my unit doesn’t come with the new S-Pen, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first S-series smartphone that’s capable of supporting it.
As a creative who’s been fond of the Note series, the S-Pen is, no doubt, a greater way to interact with your phone — regardless if it’s scribbling, digital painting, or even as simple as decorating your Instagram story.
The longer and thicker S-Pen might just be comfortable enough — which was something I wasn’t used to with the Note 20 Ultra’s shorter and slender S-Pen. To make it better, it also has a 9-millisecond (9ms) latency that will feel like you’re writing on a paper.
There’s also the latest Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) support. Lost your Galaxy Buds? It’ll be easier to locate with the SmartThings app. There’s also the Samsung Galaxy SmartTags which you can attach on bags, luggages, and even car keys so you can track them wherever, whenever.
Ultra-Grade Cameras and Features
On paper, the S21 Ultra has some beefy camera sensors: a 108-megapixel f/1.8 wide (main) camera with Phase-Detection AF and OIS, as well as a 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide sensor with a 120º FoV (Field of View) that’s also found on other S21 smartphones.
What makes it stand out than the rest of the S21 line are the two 10-megapixel telephoto cameras: one that’s capable of 3x optical zoom, and another that reaches up to 10x optical zoom, both with Dual Pixel technology and OIS for clearer zoomed shots.
The problem with last year’s S20 Ultra is how wobbly it is when using the zoom function. But because of better sensors and stabilization, the S21 Ultra now has a zoom lock feature where it focuses on a subject from a distance without the camera preview getting distorted.
Other than the 8K UHD/24fps support, 4K/60fps comes standard regardless of what lens you use for video recording. Even the front camera supports it so vloggers can edit and upload videos in 4K.
While the dual shot mode has been around since the Galaxy Note 3 where it simultaneously takes a photo/video both from the front and rear cameras, Director’s View is more of an improvement with better configurations to choose from.
Other than the single view, you also get the classic split mode, and even a PiP (Picture-in-Picture). But the biggest addition is the ability to effortlessly switch between the wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses.
Ultra-mazing 108MP camera
The ultimate star of the show is the wide camera that’s capable of shooting 108-megapixel photos. If we’re going a bit technical, the S21 Ultra packs the latest ISOCELL HM3 sensor by Samsung with a larger sensor and improvements in dynamic range, autofocus, and low-light. It’s an update from the HM2 and last year’s HM1 of the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra.
With the presence of natural light, one would always expect that the latest smartphones will take great photos. It’s always the software processing techniques that differentiate the camera quality of one smartphone to another.
Over the years, Samsung is known for boosting the saturation of the photos it takes — and the S21 Ultra does the same. While it may look good on the eyes of many, it sometimes goes overboard with all the camera processing and algorithm just to make a natural, “bland” scene into something lively and vivid that looks artificial.
For most users, this isn’t a bad thing. If the camera software does all of the job, it means less time for them to process it. But for a serious shooter like me, I’d prefer flatter shots and adjust what’s needed after the shots were taken.
Other than the color test, I also tested how the camera performs when it comes to food. Most Android smartphones I’ve tried tend to over saturate and over sharpen food shots. Fortunately, the images above look more natural.
Even my issue with Note 20 Ultra’s weird radial blur on close-ups are gone. But if you want that extra-dramatic blur effect, Food Mode will help.
I also tried using the main sensor with manual mode. The shots above clearly show that the S21 Ultra is capable of producing top-notch, DSLR-like bokeh.
From the perspective of my friend who uses an iPhone Xs Max, she was astounded with how the S21 Ultra performed using the Portrait Mode.
Other than the wider view, background on both shots look creamy with a clean segmentation between our hair strands — something most Android phones and older iPhones can’t do properly.
Just like on the Galaxy S21 and S21+, the S21 Ultra features the similar 12-megapixel Ultra-wide camera. It’s capable of shooting wider shot perspectives just like the building I captured above.
The ultra-wide sensor also helps capture more elements and details in outdoor shots like these.
In tight situations, there’s got to be a use for telephoto zoom lenses. If one isn’t enough, Samsung doubled it for better and clearer shots from afar.
In the first set, the HDR (High Dynamic Range) and AWB (Auto White Balance) were both consistent throughout the lenses — something most Android manufacturers fail to do. I tested the superiority of the S21 Ultra’s cameras up to its maximum focal length.
Since I’m an architecture dilettante, I tried zooming in close to the building. At my surprise, the window looked sharp and clear enough after the preview.
In the second set, I saw these playful Chow Chows roaming around the grasses with their hoomans.
Zooming in as close as 30x digital zoom helped me capture one while his/her tongue is sticking out. But if we’ll look closely, the shot has a weird noise reduction that sits between camera grain and software smoothening.
Let’s move straight ahead to the third set, I tried using both the 3x and 10x telephoto lenses.
The HDR was pretty dull in the wide shot and it’s less green in the first three modes. Meanwhile, zooming in to 10x looked more lively because of the saturation boost.
Finally, this last set was taken in my favorite park. Again, the wide angle lens had an inconsistency, this time in exposure. Unlike the HDR problem from the last photo, that can be corrected through post-process.
Zooming in as close as 10x gives us clear details of the metallic tree. Zooming in further at 30x is acceptable. 100x zoom is barely usable.
As bonuses, these macro shots were taken in a windy environment. While it may not be as clear as what you get from a DSLR, Galaxy S21 Ultra’s long zoom capabilities are clearly commendable for producing the right amount of exposure, contrast, dynamic range, even if it displayed some hints of over-sharpening.
Ultra-clear night shots
It wouldn’t be a camera test without testing how it performs under low-light scenarios.
Regardless of what camera lens you’re using, Night Mode works on both the Ultra-wide, wide, and telephoto lenses.
Of course, without Night Mode, shots look blotchy, smudgy, with a lot of dark shadows and blown-out highlights. But with Samsung’s Night Mode, it fixes not only the Dynamic Range, but also the exposure and contrast of the image — especially in situations where there are less night light available.
With night mode turned off, the convenience store sign was barely recognizable. But with the magic of Samsung’s image processing, it was able to fix all the colors and details in the image.
But unlike the previous Huawei flagships, the S21 Ultra maxes out night zoom at only 10x. The Mate 30 Pro I used in 2019 was capable of zooming in on the moon as close as 30x.
Unlike its younger siblings, the Galaxy S21 Ultra packs a larger 40-megapixel front shooter with a dedicated ultra-wide view. Other than the less-smeared faces with retained face artifacts, the front camera can also shoot in Portrait Mode that works just like how the rear cameras perform.
As another bonus, here’s how the Galaxy S21 Ultra Phantom Black will look like if you’re planning to flex it in your future mirror selfies 😂
Is the Galaxy S21 Ultra your Ultimate GadgetMatch?
Priced at PhP 69,990 for the 12GB/256GB model, the Galaxy S21 Ultra simply isn’t for everyone. If you’re the type of user who has the purchasing power and clearly knows that you want the best of everything in a smartphone, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the ultimate smartphone you can buy right now.
You might be considering to buy the iPhone 12 Pro Max instead. That’s a fine option if you’re the type of user who’s locked in Apple’s ecosystem. But if it doesn’t bother you to try something new in the Android world, the S21 Ultra might just be a better option.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s still the existing S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra that both cost a little less. They still have a great set of display, specs, and cameras at a lower price. But if owning what’s new in the market today is an important buying factor for you, look no further and pick the S21 Ultra — unless you want to wait for a quirkier follow-up of the Galaxy Z Fold2 and the Z Flip.
Consider the Galaxy S21+ if you wanna keep the same material and specs minus the cameras and curved 2K display. If you want the less fancy stuff, go for the Galaxy S21, Note 20, or even last year’s Galaxy S20 FE (unless you can wait for the S21 FE successor).
MSI Summit E16 Flip review: Creator on the go
A plethora of ways to be as productive and creative as possible
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.
Serial Cleaners review: Stealth in the mafia
Outrunning the police, but you can’t outrun the truth
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.
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
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.
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.
Samsung Galaxy Watch5 review: Best Android smartwatch yet?
Training for a half-marathon race made easy with this trinket
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.
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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