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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 smartphone and Samsung Watch revealed

This year’s Samsung Unpacked has seen the announcement of two of the company’s most highly-anticipated gadgets for 2018: the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and the Samsung Watch. The former looks set to be its most powerful, advanced smartphone to date, while the latter is designed to bring style and smarts to your wrist. ‘Unpacked’ is the Korean firm’s answer to Apple’s WWDC and Google I/O, and is an annual event dedicated to showcasing its most exciting new developments and upcoming releases.

With the Galaxy S9[1] and S9+[2] released earlier in the year, it was no great surprise to see the Galaxy Note 9 as the star attraction. With the last Samsung smartwatch, the Gear Sport[3], launching nine months ago, a brand new wearable was always on the cards, too. Read on to find out what’s actually ‘new’ in the two new devices, as when you can expect to see them hit shelves – and for how much.

Mobile phone Best Buys[4] – browse all our highest scoring models

Samsung Galaxy Note 9GBP899 (128GB) / GBP1,099 (512GB)

With a likely release date of the last week of August, you’ve got a couple of weeks to save up for what will likely be one of the most expensive Samsung handsets of all time. It’s not so much a matter of whether or not it’s worth the money, though, as it is whether or not you really need all it has to offer. The tech specs are a predictably modest evolution of what we saw on last year’s Galaxy Note 8[5], but there are a few serious changes to sit up and pay attention to.

Here’s our top four highlights:

Samsung’s biggest ever smartphone battery

The Galaxy Note 8 had a sizeable 3,300mAh battery but with a handset this large, there’s no reason not to pack in the biggest brick possible. It features a whopping 4,000mAh battery, which is the largest to ever feature on a Samsung handset. With the Galaxy Note 9’s massive power-thirsty display this isn’t as much of a luxury as it sounds, but it should still provide more than enough juice for a full day of use.

1TB of storage (sort of)

While some brands (not naming any names[6]) are only just coming around to the notion of offering 256GB of internal storage, the Galaxy Note 9 will be one of the first on the market (and certainly the first to pass through our test lab) to offer an incredible 512GB of internal storage.

That may well sound excessive, but Samsung isn’t done yet: it will also be able to support a micro-SD card of up to 512GB, meaning it has a potential maximum storage of 1TB – a smartphone first. For perspective, that much storage is greater than the amount offered on 70% of laptops currently on test on Which.co.uk. Take a look at the chart below to see just how much that will let you store:

There is one caveat to this generous bounty of potential memory though, and it’s one that probably won’t surprise you: price. There’s currently only one make and model of 512GB micro-SD card on the market right now, and it costs an eye-watering GBP300[7]. Add that to the GBP1,099 asking price for the 512GB variant of the handset and you could spend the money on a half-decent second-hand car instead, if you felt so inclined.

If future-proofing is something that you consider when buying a new smartphone, though, the Galaxy Note 9 has you covered.

Dolby Atmos sound

Yes, Dolby Atmos is the latest and greatest standard in cinematic surround sound. And yes, the Galaxy Note 9 offers this on a smartphone – not just when hooked up to speakers or through headphones, but actually through the speakers built into it, too. It sounds fantastical, but it’s actually the real deal.

Unlike on its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 9 has stereo speakers – one on the underside next to the charging point, the other taking the place of the standard earpiece. It then uses some cutting-edge technical wizardry to simulate the effect of a full Dolby Atmos surround sound setup. The difference between Atmos and past Dolby releases is that it doesn’t just project sound in a 360-degree radius around you, it also offers height to the sound.

It’s hard to imagine, but it realistically simulates an entirely new plane of sound – aircraft seem like they’re passing overhead and water sounds like it’s rushing by underfoot. Of course it’s not as jaw-dropping coming from a smartphone as from an IMAX screening, but it’s a huge improvement on anything else out there right now.

A vastly improved S-Pen stylus

While it may be the biggest handset in Samsung’s arsenal, what really sets it apart from its siblings is its stylus. Referred to as the S-Pen, you may think that styluses went out of fashion along with the Palm Pilot and the PDA, but it’s a feature that has remained steadily popular in East Asia throughout the smartphone revolution.

With the Galaxy Note series, Samsung is determined to make you like them, too. The immediate benefits are obvious: you can sketch and create hand-written notes on the fly, and it can be used to put your signature to digital documents. It’s also handy for those with clumsy fingers who would like a more precise way to navigate the handset’s massive display.

The benefits don’t stop there, though, as it also packs in some neat extra features. There’s a small button on the side of the S-Pen that serves a variety of uses. You can use it to flip slides when presenting on the main handset, it can act as a shutter button when taking selfies, and it can even be used as a TV remote control.

Connecting to its parent smartphone via Bluetooth it has a range of up to 10 feet and has a battery life of 30 minutes. It recharges whenever you slide it back into its slot on the underside of the Galaxy Note 9, filling up to 100% in an incredible 40 seconds.

The rest of the specs

Display size: 6.4 inchesDisplay resolution: 1440 x 2960 pixelsRear camera: Dual-12MpProcessor: 10nm 64-bit Octa-coreStorage: 128GB or 512GBRam: 6GB (128GB storage variant) or 8GB (512GB storage variant)Headphone jack: Yes

Samsung Galaxy smartwatch

The new Samsung Galaxy smartwatch was given a very short slot at the Unpacked event, and that’s probably because it doesn’t have a huge number of new features to shout about. We were surprisingly underwhelmed – there was no explanation of the change from the Gear to the Galaxy moniker, suggesting it was simply to bring the wearable range in line with the smartphone line up.

The Galaxy Smartwatch will be available to buy imminently, with a 4G version launched later this year. At the time of writing, we had no information on prices, but we’ll update this story once we do. In the meantime, read on for our first impression of the features and how the Galaxy Watch compares to it’s Gear S3[8] and Gear Sport[9] siblings.

Samsung Galaxy smartwatch design

It’s designed to look like a traditional watch, but with 360×360 pixel AMOLED display and the rotating bezel that’s now a familiar feature of the Samsung smartwatch range.

It’s still a large smartwatch, but it’s lost the controversial rounded square bezel of the Gear Sport. It will be available in two sizes – 42mm and 46mm – and three colours; rose gold and midnight black for the 42mm version, and silver for the 46mm watch. It’s good to see a choice of screen sizes, and it could make these Samsung smartwatches more accessible to those with smaller wrists that would’ve found the size of the Gear S3 prohibitive.

Having said that, it’s still pretty large. Let’s just hope it’s lightweight enough to stay comfortable – we look forward to trying one on.

Operating system

After much hype, there was no big Samsung Wear OS smartwatch announcement. In fact, the operating system wasn’t even mentioned.

It will run on Samsung’s own Tizen Based Wearable OS 4.0. We’re glad – there are plenty of Wear OS smartwatches to choose from, and the Tizen platform has been well integrated on previous Samsung smartwatches. Hopefully this will mean increased commitment to developing the number of compatible apps for the Tizen platform too.

Features

The features announced at the Unpacked event seem pretty familiar, mainly because we’ve seen most of them on previous Samsung products.

There’s a range of health tracking features, including a heart-rate monitor and GPS, but nothing remarkable at first glance. The Galaxy Smartwatch can monitor your stress levels, based on the variability of your heart rate, which is a feature we’ve seen on activity trackers by Fitbit and Garmin. It’s waterproof to 5ATM so you’ll be able to swim with it.

We’ll put the fitness tracking capabilities to the test in our lab soon. There will be a 4G version launched later this year, with EE the first UK network to support it, meaning you can use your smartwatch to make and receive calls without your smartphone nearby. We’ve already seen this on the Gear S3 and Apple Watch Series 3 GPS+4G though.

It has Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby, and Samsung Pay too.

Battery life claims

Samsung was very vague on the battery life claims of the Galaxy Watch on stage, stating that the battery was designed specifically for smartwatches and that it would last ‘several days’ per charge. In a press release, Samsung revealed that exact battery life claims differ depending on the size you opt for and that these are based on ‘light usage’ – 80 hours for the 46mm version, and 120 hours for the 42mm one. It’s difficult to see how four millimetres can have a day and half impact on battery life, but we’ll put this to the test in our lab soon.

It’s fairly similar to the Gear Sport and Gear S3, which were both claimed to last between three and four days per charge.

It’s longer than smartwatch rivals, such as the Apple Watch Series 3, but it’s still not particularly impressive.

To find out how previous smartwatches have performed in our tough tests, head over to our Samsung smartwatch reviews[10].

References

  1. ^ Galaxy S9 (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ S9+ (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Gear Sport (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Mobile phone Best Buys (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Galaxy Note 8 (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ not naming any names (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ GBP300 (www.mymemory.co.uk)
  8. ^ Gear S3 (www.which.co.uk)
  9. ^ Gear Sport (www.which.co.uk)
  10. ^ Samsung smartwatch reviews (www.which.co.uk)

Zotac Launches Honeycomb-Inspired Core i7 Fanless Mini PC

Zotac is well-known for its tiny desktop PCs[1], with the smallest so far being the Zbox PI225. It’s smaller than an SSD[2], but performance is quite limited because of it. This week, however, Zotac is offering us a larger, yet still small fanless PC that manages to keep an 8th generation Core i7 cool.

Zotac decided to refresh its Zbox C Series Mini PCs[3] with a brand new design that offers much improved cooling allowing for up to 25W processors. Compared to the previous C Series design, Zotac is claiming 66 percent more cooling power thanks to 90 percent of the casing being open using a honeycomb-inspired design. What this means is, Zotac was able to place an 8th generation Core i7 processor in the C Series without fear of it overheating.

The chip used is a quad-core, eight thread Core i7-8550U running at 1.8GHz with a Turbo Frequency of 4GHz complete with Intel UHD graphics 620 capable of outputting 4K. When compared to the previous generation of C Series, Zotac says you’ll enjoy 20 percent faster processing performance. The new C-Series measures just 204-by-129-by-68mm, and because it is fanless has no moving parts and therefore will make no noise.

That is, unless you add a standard hard drive for storage. Zotac is offering a range of configurations using the model numbers CI660, CI640, and CI620. Depending on which you choose, you’ll get an 8th gen Core i7 (8550U), i5 (8250U), or i3 (8130U) processor.

PLUS models come pre-configured with RAM, but the non-PLUS allow you to add up to 32GB of DDR4 memory and a 2.5-inch SATA SSD or hard drive. As well as a 3-in-1 SD/SDHC/SDXC card reader, the new C Series offers eight channel audio, two SM© USB 3.1 Type-C ports and a standard SM© USB 3.0 port on the front, while round the back you’ll find four more SM© USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, WiFi is 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, two 10/100/1000Mbps LAN ports, a microphone in, and an external antenna to ensure a healthy wireless signal. Zotac also includes a VESA mount so you can hide the tiny PC on the back of a display.

There’s no word on availability or pricing yet, but to give you some idea on price, the last gen Core i5 series had a list price of £550, but could be found for £400[4].

The new Core i7 models will probably add a couple of hundred dollars to that price at least.

References

  1. ^ tiny desktop PCs (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ smaller than an SSD (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ refresh its Zbox C Series Mini PCs (www.zotac.com)
  4. ^ could be found for £400 (r.zdbb.net)

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