If Intel’s drivers are anything to go by, we might be about to see the flagship Arc Alchemist graphics cards in the flesh soon enough — at least in their mobile versions.
Intel’s latest Arc Graphics Windows DCH driver introduces a range of optimizations, including a long-awaited setting. However, the most tantalizing bit of information found in the driver is that it also adds support for two Arc GPUs.
The latest version of Intel’s graphics driver, namely the 22.214.171.1243 Beta, seems like a bit of a spoiler — it adds support for the A770M and the A550M, both of which are laptop GPUs from the Intel Arc Alchemist lineup. This would mark a huge change, seeing as up until now, Intel has only introduced the entry-level A300 family, both in its laptop and desktop forms.
Laptops with Intel Arc have had scarce availability so far, and the desktop version was released in just one flavor — the Intel Arc A380, which also includes a custom version with slightly higher clock speeds. The desktop Arc GPU is only available in China for the time being, but Intel plans to roll it out globally. Hopefully, by the time it hits the global market, its performance might be improved — perhaps through a new driver release. Based on the benchmarks that are currently available, the card fails to impress. For that reason, it would certainly be good for Intel to roll out better versions of Intel Arc to try and win over some customers before Nvidia and AMD hit the masses with the next-gen RTX 4000 and RDNA 3 graphics cards.
While the Intel Arc desktop graphics cards are likely going to be the main event, today’s driver release pertains only to the mobile versions made for gaming laptops. The Arc A770M was recently spotted in a laptop paired with an Intel Alder Lake-H processor, adding weight to the assumption that Intel might be releasing these GPUs soon.
The Intel Arc A770M and A550M were both previously mentioned in a resource file built into an earlier Intel driver, so clearly, they must have moved up from a mere mention to an official part of the driver.
Aside from the tantalizing mention of Intel’s upcoming GPU flagship, the driver adds some much-needed optimizations. At long last, Intel introduced a settings toggle that allows users to disable the 3DMark benchmark optimizations. Referred to as Advanced Performance Optimizations, the setting ups benchmark scores by up to 15%. While this doesn’t sound like a bad thing, the setting does render the scores unusable for official benchmarks, so it’s a good idea to have the option to turn it off.
Intel also introduced various optimizations related to games, following in the footsteps of Nvidia and AMD, which both do this on a regular basis. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, F1 2022, and Arcadegeddon all received a boost from the Intel Game On Driver. However, this only applies to users with a discrete Intel Arc GPU and not one of Intel’s integrated graphics solutions. The driver also fixed a number of issues in several games, although as Tom’s Hardware notes, there are still many left unaddressed.
Although Intel hasn’t officially revealed a release date for Intel Arc flagships, it can’t come soon enough. Let’s hope that the driver is a teaser of an impending release of Intel Arc Alchemist A770M and A550M.
With the launch of Apple’s new MacBook Pros, you might be wondering how the latest from Apple compares to the most recent offering from Microsoft. Well, that’s why we put together this comparison between the MacBook Pro 14-inch and the new Surface Laptop Studio.
These two laptops are super-close in terms of price, but differ a lot when it comes to features, performance, and operating systems. Read on to learn for the true differences between these machines and which one is the best your money can buy.
As always, we start with the price. It’s here where the Surface Laptop Studio and MacBook Pro 14-inch are the closest. Both of these laptops are expensive ventures, but one has to be better valued than the other.
We start first with the MacBook Pro 14-inch. This Apple laptop starts at $2,000. That gets you an 8-core CPU, a 14-core GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. You can then push things up to a mid-range model with a 10-core CPU, a 16-core GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage. That will cost you $2,500
In the case of the MacBook Pro 14-inch, you can add a faster CPU for anywhere between $200 and $700. Another $500 will get you the base M1 Max, and $700 extra will get you the top-end M1 Max with the best specs possible. That includes the 10-core M1 Max CPU with a 32-core GPU. For more details on these configurations, we set up a direct head-to-head comparison on the M1 Max vs. M1 Pro that you’ll want to read.
The Surface Laptop Studio is a little less complicated. The base model comes with integrated Intel Iris Plus graphics and starts at $1,600. That includes a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. For an additional $200, you can swap in a 512GB SSD.
For the best possible experience — and what we think is closest to challenging the performance of the MacBook Pro 14-inch — an upgrade to the high-end model will be necessary. This Surface Laptop Studio model starts at $2,100 and includes the Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and the Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti graphics.
It’s a full $500 more than the base model. And adding 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD is also possible for $2,700. That price jumps to $3,100 for a 2TB SSD. However, do note that even with the GPU upgrade, the CPUs in the Laptop Studio are still stuck on quad-core. Similarly priced laptops like the XPS 15 have 8-core processors, so you’re paying for the Surface luxury here and sacrificing some performance.
Overall in terms of price, the starting model of the Surface Laptop Studio is cheaper than the MacBook Pro 14-inch, but you need to keep in mind that it doesn’t include a graphics card. For gaming and video and photo editing, the base model might struggle a bit, even with Intel’s advancements in integrated graphics.
The $2,100 Surface Laptop Studio with RTX graphics could be closest in performance to the base $2,000 MacBook Pro 14-inch, but it’s also $100 more expensive than the MacBook is. For most people, though, that price might be an apples to oranges comparison since the design is so different, as we get into next.
When we reviewed it, we found that the Surface Laptop Studio was “weird and wonderful.” That was mainly thanks to the overall design and the different modes of use on the device. As for the MacBook Pro 14-inch, we haven’t reviewed one yet, but it does seem to be a little bit of rinse and repeat when it comes to the design.
Starting first with the MacBook, it again sports an all aluminum-enclosure, just as it has in the past. It looks exactly as it has in previous generations, but the machine is a bit heavier when compared to the previous 13-inch MacBook models. It’s now a bit heftier at 3.5 pounds, compared to 3.0 pounds on last year’s 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro. The thickness, meanwhile, comes in at 0.61 inches — the same as last year’s MacBook Pro.
Once you open the lid, though, things are a bit different. The MacBook’s Touch Bar is now gone. In its place is a new Magic Keyboard that’s set in a double-anodized black well to highlight the backlighting on the keys. The physical function keys are also back, including a wider escape key. Apple also changed the display to add a notch for the webcam, as we will get into in our forthcoming display section. Of course, you’ll still find the force trackpad, which has long been Apple’s signature MacBook feature.
As for the Surface Laptop Studio, it’s on an entirely different level when it comes to design as there are three ways to enjoy it. The entire laptop is crafted out of magnesium, and it weighs in at around 4 pounds. It also is a bit thicker than the MacBook, at 0.7 inches. That’s even when considering the “hump” on the bottom base of the laptop, which is a signature design feature to help with cooling when the GPU is in use.
There are also two hinges at play on the Surface Laptop Studio. One hinge allows you to open the screen and use the device as a regular laptop. But the real bonus is with the second fabric hinge that is behind the screen. This hinge is held back by magnets, but when you want to, you can use it to pull the screen toward you and out for different modes of use.
Unlike the MacBook, on a Surface Laptop Studio, you can pull the screen out into a “Stage Mode,” putting it front and center. In this mode, the screen is held down right above the trackpad with magnets. You also can pull the screen down once more for “Studio Mode,” where you can touch and draw on the screen like a tablet.
Oh, and as for the trackpad, Microsoft did borrow a feature from the MacBook. The trackpad on the Laptop Studio is haptic, just like the force trackpad on the MacBook Pro 14-inch. This means you can click anywhere on the trackpad and the computer will register your clicks. It’s a first for a Surface device, where you usually need to click in the corners of the trackpad.
The keyboard on the Laptop Studio, meanwhile, feels pretty similar to the one on the Surface Pro 8’s Type Cover. We found it enjoyable, with plenty of key travel and bottoming action.
When it comes to the display, the real difference between MacBook Pro 14-inch and Surface Laptop Studio comes down to the support for touch. Both displays are very immersive, to say the least, but only one laptop has touch support, and it’s the Surface.
Looking at just specs, the MacBook Pro 14-inch has a 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED ProMotion display. The resolution comes in at 3024 x 1964 at 254 pixels per inch (ppi). Refresh rates peak at 120Hz. There are also some really slim bezels, and an iPhone-like notch at the top, which Apple says is for the webcam and allows you to see more of your desktop. Brightness hits 1,000 nits, according to Apple, with a peak of 16,000 nits.
The use of mini-LED technology is the same as what Apple did on the iPad Pro, where the display can dim individual pixels as needed. Combined with the 120Hz refresh rate, that means things should feel vibrant and lively on your MacBook Pro 14-inch. We talked about this in a separate piece.
With the Surface, you’re getting a touch display. The screen is the same size, but is a lot less dense compared to the MacBook’s. You get 2400 x 1600 resolution at 201 pixels per inch. You also get the same 120Hz refresh rate as the MacBook Pro 14 inch. Despite the lack of pixels, we really liked this display. We found it was one of the most vibrant on a Surface ever — and matches the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The Surface Laptop Studio might sacrifice the pixels, but it does have some cool in-display tech that the MacBook lacks. There’s a special sensor built in that can track the Surface Slim Pen 2 and provide haptic feedback as you’re inking on the screen. This was something we enjoyed, finding that it simulates the feeling of friction. Oh, and the Slim Pen 2 can also charge directly on the Laptop Studio. There’s no need for a separate charger.
Again, this is an apples to oranges comparison. The MacBook Pro 14-inch lacks the touchscreen of the Surface, but it has more pixels on the display and might be a little more vibrant for some. But for creatives, who are always drawing and in need of a pen, the Surface Laptop Studio might be best.
If the display is one thing that’s different across the Laptop Studio and Surface Laptop, then performance is another. Of course, you need to consider MacOS versus Windows in your decision, too. Mac plays nice with other Apple devices, and Windows with Android phones.
Anyway, we’ve already laid down the performance benefits of Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors, but now it’s time to put that up against the Laptop Studio.
In the Windows space that the Laptop Studio falls under, it’s hard to compare its performance to what Apple has done until we conduct more testing in our labs. Right now, it seems as though Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors pack lots of power and seem to be perfect for developers, video editing, and other CPU-intensive tasks. The way Apple has managed high-efficiency cores, performance cores, and unified memory makes these ARM-based CPUs very efficient with performance as well as battery life.
In terms of the Laptop Studio, it’s a traditional x86 Intel processor, tuned at 35 watts, with four CPU cores. That falls behind what Apple has done on the M1 Pro and M1 Max (eight or 10 CPU cores, 14 or 16 GPU cores) — and even the eight CPU cores you can find on other laptops — but that’s not to say things are bad.
When we encoded a video on the Surface Laptop Studio, we noticed Microsoft’s special sauce. The system can dynamically allocate both power (up to 50 watts for the RTX 3050 Ti) and fan speed, and make moment-by-moment decisions to manage both the CPU and GPU. We saw that in gaming, where we hit 105 frames per second 9fps) in Civilization VI. We also encoded a video in Handbrake, and the Laptop Studio fell behind a bit, but not by much. The Laptop Studio can do video editing and gaming just fine, but don’t push it too far.
Apple has laid down a lot of performance claims, noting that the new M1 Pro and M1 Max Macbooks are faster than anything in a Windows machine. It said the M1 Pro can deliver more performance while using up to 70 percent less power, and is also seven times faster than the integrated graphics on the latest eight-core PC laptop chip. We have to wait to see if that’s true, but it does seem like the MacBooks have the edge in terms of performance over the Surface Laptop Studio.
Portability and battery life
We’ll end with portability and battery life. It’s here where we get into ports, as well as how long the battery inside will last you. It’s not an even contest here, as the MacBook Pro-14-inch will win out.
The MacBook Pro 14-inch has a full-size SDXC card slot, an HDMI port, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack, as well as three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports and a MagSafe 3 charging port. Compare that to the Surface Laptop Studio’s two Thunderbolt 4 ports, headphone jack, and Surface Connect port. There’s much more variety on the MacBook Pro 14-inch.
As for webcams, both devices have 1080p webcams. So, you should look good on FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom or Teams calls.
Finally, with battery, the Surface Laptop Studio is rated at 18 hours of typical usage. In our tests, we get to around 10 hours, tops. Apple’s M1 MacBooks are known to be good on battery, and the M1 Pro and M1 Max 14-inch MacBook Pro should be just as good. Apple rates the 14-inch models at up to 17 hours of battery life for video playback.
It’s a draw for now
Between the MacBook Pro 14-inch and Surface Laptop Studio, it’s a draw. For creatives, the Surface Laptop Studio ‘sinking support and touch display, plus multiple modes of use, are hard to beat.
However, the MacBook Pro 14-inch does seem to have the edge when it comes to ports, raw CPU power, and battery life. We’ll need to test the 14-inch MacBook Pro, but for now, it’s as tight of a battle as it gets.
China’s regulatory war against its tech giants isn’t limited to data. After opening a front in gaming back in 2018, the government is now adding to the restraints the biggest publishers face. Tencent is first on the chopping block. The publisher has been forced to further slash playing time on Honor of Kings for those aged under 18to one hour during regular days and two hours on weekends. The rules, designed to appease the country’s all-powerful censors, come into effect today, according to state media outlet the South China Morning Post.
Previously, play time in China was capped at 90 minutes per day during the week and three hours per day at weekends and holidays as part of broader rules introduced in 2019. Additional restrictions banned younger gamers from playing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and curbed how much they could spend on downloadable content.
Honor of Kings is a hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena game developed by Tencent subsidiary TiMi Studio Group, also known for Call of Duty: Mobile and Pokémon Unite. As of November, the mobile title boasted 100 million players. But, its success has also brought with it increased scrutiny. In June, Tencent found itself at the center of a lawsuit that accused it of including “inappropriate” content in Honor of Kings, including characters with low-cut clothes and historical inaccuracies.
The latest crackdown comes amid growing fears in China over the addictive nature of video games. On Tuesday, a state-affiliated media outlet described the products produced by the gaming industry as “spiritual opium.” The article continued: “No industry or sport should develop at the price of destroying a generation.”
Therein lies the broader issue. China is currently grappling with a generational divide that has seen younger citizens reject the competitive lifestyle pressures heaped upon them. This stance is encapsulated by the “tang ping,” or “lying flat,” philosophy embraced by a growing number of Gen Z Chinese. In a nutshell, it signifies those who choose not to work hard, not to buy property and not to marry and have children.
Instead of addressing the societal complaints, China is choosing to deflect the blame onto the gaming industry.
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After making a return to the mid-range with its RX 6700 XT GPU, AMD has launched its 1080p flagship, the RX 6600 XT. A successor to the excellent and popular RX 5600 XT card, the new model has considerably more power on tap with 9.6 teraflops of RDNA 2 performance, compared to 7.19 teraflops for the last model. Not only that, but it offers 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, compared to 6GB for its predecessor.
In fact, the RX 6600 XT seems to deliver about the same amount of performance as the RX 5700 XT (9.75 teraflops) and just slightly less than the GPU in the PS5, at least on paper. Since the RX 5700 XT was offered as a 1440p-capable card (and the PS5 can handle 4K), it doesn’t seem a stretch to say that the new model will at least be decent at 1440p gaming.
However, AMD is marketing this card as a “new standard for 1080p,” saying that it has up to a 1.7 times uplift over the last generation for games like Doom Eternal for 1080p gaming. AMD noted that around two-third of monitors shipped are still 1080p, so that’s still the norm for PC gaming.
Other specs include 32 compute units (compared to 40 on the RX 6700 XT), a 2359 MHz game clock and 160W power consumption with a single 8 pin power connector. AMD also touts custom features like Radeon Boost for higher frame rates and Radeon Anti-Lag for improved latency.
The main new feature with the 6000-series GPUs, however, is ray-tracing. That feature allows for higher resolutions (1440p and 4K) while still maintaining decent frame rates and allowing for more realistic images. Don’t expect too much from the RX 6600 XT, however, as the RX 6700 XT struggled in ray-tracing tests compared to NVIDIA rivals in our review — and the RX 6600 XT has lower specs all around.
Still, it looks pretty impressive otherwise for a budget-level 1080p card. We’ll soon see a raft of RX 6600 XT models from ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI (above), ASRock and others, with MSRP starting at $379 and shipping set for August 11th. Take it as a miracle if you get one at that price, though — the RX 5600 XT had a suggested retail of $300, but street prices were often double that and more thanks to the cryptomining and the global GPU shortage.
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The Nokia brand has survived the test of time and multiple generations of mobile devices, though it has had some help from HMD Global. The Finland-based company revived the Nokia name with dozens of smartphones and feature phones. Although it has quite a number of devices under its care, HMD still has to make a new Nokia flagship worthy to stand with other premium phones in the market today. That might still be coming later this year, but it’s becoming a guessing game what that 5G phone will actually bring to the table.
It’s not that HMD Global hasn’t made a Nokia flagship yet. That was the Nokia 9 PureView pictured above with its eccentric five 12MP cameras, among other high-end components. That phone, however, launched back in 2019, and the mobile world has moved on to newer hardware and newer designs.
According to a now-deleted Weibo post from HMD China Project Manager Zhang Yucheng, the wait is going to be a bit longer than some might have wished. The company exec says that HMD will hold a special event on China’s “Single’s Day”, a.k.a. November 11 (11.11), where it will debut a new Nokia 5G phone. Admittedly, he doesn’t actually say it will be a flagship 5G phone, but it doesn’t usually schedule a big event for new mid-range or entry-level devices.
That has understandably sent the Internet into a flurry of speculation on what that 5G phone might be. HMD Global has launched a new Nokia X series recently, but the first devices are more on the budget side of the fence. A Nokia X50 has been making rounds on the Web, but that might only get a Snapdragon 775 5G processor.
And then there’s the recent rumor of a Nokia X60 that might run Huawei’s HarmonyOS instead of Android. Considering the timing and location of the announcement, this 5G phone could indeed be HMD Global’s first device aimed specifically at the Chinese market. That, unfortunately, could disappoint fans of the Nokia brand from international markets who are still hoping for a new premium Nokia phone.
Intel has added two new 11th Gen Core processors for thin and light Windows notebooks, along with is first 5G modem for PCs as high-speed embedded cellular connectivity gains traction. The Intel Core i7-1195G7 and Core i5-1155G7 will both offer Iris Xe graphics along with up to 5 GHz clock speeds.
That, Intel says, is a first in the industry for high-volume thin and light laptops, not to mention a claimed 25-percent performance bump for the new Core i7 over AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800U. It’s not just raw power, either; Intel says its new chip can handle up to 8x faster transcoding and up to double the video editing speed with AI acceleration, compared to AMD’s processor.
Power, of course, is only part of what most laptop buyers are looking for these days. Connectivity is equally important, and Intel will be including WiFi 6E (Gig+) as a result. That supports routers using the 6 GHz band. There’ll also be Intel Optane memory H20 – with solid-state storage – support.
The Intel Core i7-1195G7 has four cores and eight threads, plus 96 graphics CUs and 12MB of cache. It supports DDR4-3200 and LPDDR4x-4266 memory, and has a 12-28W operating range. The base frequency is 2.9 GHz, or up to 5.0 GHz under single core Turbo (or 4.6 GHz for all-core Turbo).
As for the Intel Core i5-1155G7, that too has four cores and eight threads, plus 80 graphics EUs. It has 8MB of cache and supports the same memory types as the Core i7, plus the same 12-28W operating range. Base frequency is 2.5 GHz, or up to 4.5 GHz in single core Turbo; all-core Turbo is 4.3 GHz.
Intel says that we can expect more than 60 designs based on the Core i7-1195G7 and Core i5-1155G7 by the holidays. Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, and MSI will have models on sale this summer.
Intel 5G Solution 5000
Intel’s first 5G M.2 modem doesn’t exactly have a snappy brand, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something Windows PC-makers – and buyers – haven’t been calling out for. The new embedded modem offers almost five-times the speed of a Gigabit LTE connection, the comply says.
It relies on Intel’s partnership with MediaTek and Fibocom: MediaTek provides the modem firmware, and Fibocom the module itself. There’s eSIM for easier provisioning, and support for sub-6 5G though not mmWave.
Still, you’re looking at up to 4.7 Gbps downloads or 1.25 Gbps uploads, network depending, and the ability to fall back onto LTE Cat 19 when outside of 5G networks. It’ll work with Windows, Chrome, and Linux machines.
ASUS has revealed its latest Android smartphone, with the Zenfone 8 promising 5G and a 120Hz display in a smaller package. The Snapdragon 888-powered handset comes in smaller than rivals, thanks to a 5.9-inch AMOLED screen supplied by Samsung.
It’s a QHD panel, with 120Hz refresh and 1ms response time. ASUS says it boasts 112-percent DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, and it’s HDR10+ certified too. On top is a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus.
Although not exactly small, it definitely leaves the Zenfone 8 smaller than many rivals. At 148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm it’s shorter than a Galaxy S21, for example, which should make reaching the top of the display when using the phone one-handed a little easier. There’s also an in-display fingerprint sensor.
On the back there’s a 64-megapixel camera, using Sony’s IMX686 sensor with OIS and an f1/.8 lens. It has PDAF and a dual-LED flash, and supports up to 8K video recording with electronic stabilization. It’s alongside a 12-megapixel ultra-wide, using a Sony IMX363 sensor, with a 113-degree field of view and Dual PDAF autofocus. That can record up to 4K/60fps or 1080p/60fps video.
Finally, there’s a 12-megapixel front camera, using Sony’s IMX663 – a first, ASUS says. That has a 76.5-degree FOV and f/2.45 lens, with Dual PDAF and support for up to 4K/60fps or 1080p/60fps video. ASUS has fitted three microphones, with digital wind filter, mic focus, and acoustic focus settings for emphasizing the audio from different subjects.
Inside, along with the Snapdragon 888 there’s Dual SIM with dual-standby support, up to 8GB of LPDDR5 memory, and up to 256GB of storage. WiFI 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 are standard, too, and ASUS adds a 4,000 mAh battery which charges via USB-C.
As for the design, it’s a fairly sober handset with a frosted-finish antiglare glass rear. It’s IP68 water and dust resistant, but there’ll only be one color: Obsidian Black.
All in all, ASUS says, this is the most powerful Zenfone in the company’s series of Android handsets, and like predecessors it’ll run the ZenUI 8 UI interface along with some enhancements for single-hand operation. No word on pricing at this stage, beyond the expectation that it’ll be under $800 or thereabouts, but ASUS says we can expect the Zenfone 8 to go on sale from late Q2 in North America.
Samsung has made its flagship foldable cheaper, slicing pricing for the Galaxy Z Fold 2 as part of its 2021 push to make the new form-factor more affordable. The starting price for the cheapest Galaxy Z Fold 2 is now $200 less, though it’s still among the most expensive options on the smartphone market today.
Launched in mid-September 2020, the phone slipped in just under the $2,000 mark – albeit only by a single cent. Now, Samsung is trimming that to $1,799.99, both direct and via retailers such as Amazon.
Your money gets you the 256GB model, with a 7.6-inch foldable display inside and a second touchscreen on the front for interacting with Android while the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is closed. There’s a primary 12-megapixel camera on the back, and a 10-megapixel sensor camera. You get 5G support too, with compatibility with both Sub-6 GHz and mmWave types.
Two color options are available, Mystic Black and Mystic Bronze. It’s also worth noting that Samsung offers a 100 day return policy on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, so you can try out the foldable lifestyle and then return it if you discover the phone simply isn’t for you.
That might be because it’s still fairly thick and heavy, given the moving parts involved in making a screen hinge. All the same, the functionality on offer is fairly compelling: being able to get a tablet-esque display in a relatively pocketable handset can be a real boon to productivity. Tweaks to Android allow for split-screen and multi-app use, though not all third-party software plays entirely nicely with the system.
2021 is the year for foldable technology being pushed into the mainstream, or at least further that way, Samsung has argued. While its earliest Fold family devices had premium price tags, the goal is to drive down the sticker and hopefully coax users into upgrading for the new form-factor. To do that, we’re expecting to see a number of new models launching over the course of this year.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is expected to remain at the flagship end, as Samsung tests out its most ambitious features. However the co-existence of the Galaxy Z Flip series – smaller clamshells with horizontal hinges rather than vertical – suggests a cheaper option there could make the range a little more attainable.
Of course, Samsung isn’t alone in trying to cash in on the interest in foldable devices. Huawei and Xiaomi have recently announced models of their own, though limited availability – at least officially – in the US may make them less relevant to consumers here. Meanwhile, LG’s planned rollable phone is looking increasingly unlikely to launch, as the company reportedly prepares to shutter its whole mobile business.
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It’s barely February and Samsung has a brand-new phone to sell–three, actually. The Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra hit shelves on January 29, and they are Samsung’s cheapest 5G flagship phones in years. But before you jump into a long-term commitment, check out our recommendations and advice.
Galaxy S21 review
The Galaxy S21 is a fantastic phone at a fantastic price. Unless you absolutely want the best of the best—in which case you’ll want to get the S21 Ultra—you’re getting everything you need in a 2021 smartphone. Read our full review.
The Galaxy S21 and the iPhone 12 both cost $800, so how do they stack up? Here’s our in-depth comparison.
Galaxy S21 Processor Tests: Snapdragon 888 vs Exynos 2100
The Galaxy S21 in the U.S. ships with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, but the international models use Samsung’s own Exynos 2100 chip. Here’s how they stack up.
Other stories you need to read
Galaxy S21 FAQ
What do the three phones cost?
The Galaxy S21 costs $800, the S21+ costs $1,000, and the S21 Ultra costs $1,200.
What am I getting with each phone?
Before we get into what’s different, let’s talk about what the three phones have in common. For one, they all have the latest Snapdragon 888 processor as well as 128GB of base storage. They also all have a 120Hz refresh rate for super-fast scrolling and come equipped with One UI 3.1 based on Android 11.
What are the differences between the Galaxy S21 and S21+?
On a simple level, the Galaxy S21 has a 6.2-inch screen and the Galaxy 21+ has a 6.7-inch screen. But there are a few deeper differences. Most notably, the S21 has a plastic back and the S21+ is made of glass. You’ll also get an ultrawide-band chip with the S21+ for precise location mapping, and a larger 4,800mAh battery compared to a 4,000mAh battery in the S21.
What about the S21 Ultra?
The Ultra has an even bigger screen than the S21+ at 6.8 inches, but the differences go deeper than that. The S21 Ultra packs way more features, including more RAM (12GB vs 8GB), a bigger 5,000mAh battery, 1440p display (versus 1080p), more cameras), and S Pen support, along with Wi-Fi 6E.
Can you tell me more about the cameras?
The Galaxy S21 and S21+ have triple-camera systems, while the S21 Ultra has four cameras:
Camera 1: Wide 12MP, f/1.8
Camera 2: Ultra wide 12MP, f/2.2
Camera 3: Telephoto 64MP, f/2.0
Galaxy S21 Ultra
Camera 1: Wide 108MP, f/1.8
Camera 2: 3X Telephoto 10MP, f/2.4
Camera 3: 10X Telephoto 10MP, f/4.9
Camera 4: Ultra-Wide 12MP, f/2.2
As you can see, the S21 Ultra’s camera array is superior to those on the S21 and S21+, with a pair of telephoto lenses to aid with portraits and zooming (which can go up to 100X), as well as a 108MP main lens. It also has a better selfie camera, with a 40MP resolution versus 10MP on the other two models.
Is it true that there’s no longer a microSD card slot?
Unfortunately yes. Samsung decided to remove the microSD card slot from the entire S21 line, so you’ll need to decide how much storage you want when you purchase it.
What colors do they come in?
The S21 phones come in a variety of colors, depending on which model you buy:
S21: Gray, White, Violet, Pink
S21+: Violet, Black, Silver, Gold (Samsung.com exclusive), Red (Samsung.com exclusive)
S21 Ultra: Black, Silver, Titanium (Samsung.com exclusive), Navy (Samsung.com exclusive), Brown (Samsung.com exclusive)
When can I buy one?
The Galaxy S21 phones hit shelves on January 29. You can find them wherever smartphones are sold, including Amazon.comRemove non-product link, Best BuyRemove non-product link, and carrier stores.
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Update 10:00 PM ET: The unlocked OnePlus 7 Pro in Mirror Gray and Nebula is now available for purchase in all configurations through the OnePlus siteRemove non-product link.
The OnePlus 7 Pro is everything a OnePlus phone isn’t supposed to be. It has a better screen than the Galaxy S10+. It has a nicer design than the iPhone XR. And its front camera puts the Pixel 3 XL’s notch to utter shame.
You might notice that those three phones all cost upwards of a thousand dollars, a stark contrast to the $669 7 Pro. But beyond the tremendous value, it’s the first OnePlus phone I’ve used that truly feels like a flagship and not just a premium alternative. The previous OnePlus models all had attractive price tags while still packing top-of-the-line specs, but they never quite measured up to the phones they were challenging. The 6 and 6T were the phones to buy instead of a flagship. With the 7 Pro, OnePlus has made a phone that Samsung and Apple should fear.
It’s so good, in fact, that its deficiencies—namely the lack of wireless charging and IP-rated water resistance, and a camera that doesn’t quite measure up to the Pixel 3 XL’s—seem that much more glaring than they did on previous handsets. But even with those missing features and a few imperfections here and there, the OnePlus 7 is still a worthy entry to premium space. And we may never look at OnePlus the same way again.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best Android phones. Go there for information on competing models and how we tested them.
Stunning curves and smooth edges
OnePlus introduces a completely new design for the 7 Pro that’s clearly inspired by the Galaxy S10+ and Huawei P30 Pro. Fans of those phones will note the obvious similarities with the “infinity” look, but the curved screen model here doesn’t feel like a mere imitation.
We hear the term “all-screen” a lot, but the OnePlus 7 nearly lives up to it. The chin and forehead on the 7 Pro are barely-there slivers of black that give the 7 Pro a balanced and luxurious feel, though it bothers my eyes that they’re not quite symmetrical. The aggressively rounded corners of the screen match the body of the phone perfectly. Compared to the 6T’s flat-screen design, the 7 has a luxuriousness that rivals that of the Galaxy S10+ and iPhone XS. Once you run you fingers along its sloped edges, you won’t want to put it down.
The cherry on top: There’s no notch or hole to be found. OnePlus pulls off the 7 Pro’s greatest trick with a pop-up selfie camera that magically rises from the top edge when summoned. The mechanism is smooth, fast, and whisper-quiet, and it gives the phone a real futuristic feel. You probably shouldn’t overdo it, due to the natural tendency for moving parts to break, but you’ll certainly be tempted to.
The rear camera isn’t quite as inventive, but there are three of them this time around. As with the 6T, they’re mounted vertically with a slight bump, and set against a back panel that’s clad in a gorgeous matte-blue-, gray-, or almond-colored glass.
The button and port layout is also the same as the 6T’s, which has its pros and cons: You get the awesome alert slider, but unfortunately that also means the headphone jack is missing. Theoretically, OnePlus could have used the 7 Pro’s extra thickness (8.8mm, versus 8.2mm on the 6T) to bring back the audio jack. Alas, you’ll need to use Bluetooth headphones or buy an adapter—OnePlus isn’t supplying one in the box anymore.
Amazing screen, so-so fingerprint scanner
One aspect of the OnePlus 7 Pro that might be a deal-breaker for some: It’s big and heavy. With a whopping 6.67-inch display and a 162.6 × 75.9mm frame weighing 206 grams, it’s easily a contender for biggest smartphone of the year, topping the iPhone XS Max and just a hair smaller than the 6.7-inch Galaxy S10 5G (which starts at $1,299, but who’s counting).
Assuming you don’t mind the size, you’ll have a hard time finding a better display. OnePlus calls it Fluid AMOLED, and it’s just as dazzling as Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED. It offers a crisp QHD+ (3120×1440) resolution at 516ppi, remarkable brightness, and a 90Hz refresh rate for impeccable animations and gestures. In lay terms, it’s an absolute joy to use. The only thing I missed was an always-on option, but the tapping and raising-to-wake are plenty effective.
OnePlus has stuck with its in-display optical fingerprint sensor. While it’s less finicky than we experienced on the 6T, it still feels like a step backwards. It’s incredibly fast when it works, but on a whole it’s way less accurate than a standard hardware sensor. I’d much rather OnePlus either returned to the rear fingerprint sensor or adopted a time-of-flight sensor for 3D facial recognition on the next OnePlus phone.
Tremendous speed inside and out
Once you unlock the OnePlus 7, however, you won’t have any complaints. The model I tested had a whopping 12GB of RAM, but even if you opted for a more reasonable 6GB or 8GB, the Snapdragon 855 processor will absolutely shred anything you throw at it. To say I didn’t experience any lag is to understate just how fast this phone is, thanks in large part to the evolution of Oxygen OS, which has become one of the fastest and cleanest custom Android skins this side of the Pixel.
Oxygen OS 9.5 even has some personality of its own. All of the Android Pie features are here—Digital Wellbeing, gesture navigation, streamlined notification shade—but OnePlus has considered how the user and the features coexist before making any changes. For example, there’s a new Zen Mode that goes beyond app timers to force you to take a 20-minute break from using your phone. And when you open the notification shade, a “clear all” icon appears at the bottom of the screen so you can easily reach it.
Gesture navigation is the same as it is on the 6T, which is to say it’s not always as intuitive as it could be. Quibbles aside, it’s almost as if gestures were specifically designed for the 7 Pro’s 90Hz screen. Icons and app screens follow your finger as if you’re physically moving them and flicking them away, giving the whole system a fresh, modern feel.
At some point Android OEMs are going to have to get on the same page with gesture navigation—even more so now that Google introduced another new gesture method in Android Q—but the 7 Pro is easily the best gesture phone, even if it doesn’t have the smartest implementation. For example, without a virtual home button, Oxygen OS leaves no on-screen method for summoning Google Assistant. OnePlus has built a shortcut into the power button, but you need to know where to find it, because oddly it’s turned off by default.
OnePlus also promises that the 7 Pro won’t become obsolete when the 8 Pro makes its appearance. Like a Pixel or Android One phone, OnePlus guarantees two years of version upgrades and three years of security updates. (As such, the 6T is already one of the devices on board with the Android Q beta.) Unfortunately, OnePlus phones are on a bi-monthly cycle rather than a monthly one, but six updates a year is still better than what many of its competitors offer.
Missing features aren’t a deal-breaker
A lot will be written about the OnePlus 7 Pro’s lack of wireless charging, and there’s no denying that it’s a glaring spec sheet omission. Any 2019 phone with a ‘pro’ surname needs to have wireless charging, especially when even the affordable flagships from Apple and Samsung have it on board.
However, while the lack of Qi charging might be an issue before you buy the OnePlus 7 Pro, it won’t be such a big deal afterwards. That’s because you won’t really need to charge it much at all. The 7 Pro comes with a 4,000mAh battery on board. While that’s somewhat small when compared to the Galaxy S10 5G’s 4,500mAh and the Huawei P30 Pro’s 4,200mAh batteries, benchmarks showed 10-11 hours of screen-on time. In my real-world use I never ended the day with less than 30 percent battery life remaining.
That’s because the OnePlus 7 Pro makes the most of every ounce of juice. It’s not just how long it can last—though advanced battery-saving features such as sleep standby optimization go beyond what’s offered on other phones—but also how long you’ll need to keep it plugged it in. Warp Charge 30, which was previously limited to the McLaren edition of the 6T, can take the 7 Pro from inside the red to more than half full in less than 20 minutes (though you’ll have to use the somewhat bulky bundled charger to reach top speed).
Also missing from the OnePlus 7 Pro is IP-rated water resistance. I make that distinction because there’s some confusion over how wet you can get the phone. OnePlus’s founder Carl Pei posted a video of the 7 Pro being dropped in a bucket of water to demonstrate that it is water resistant to some degree, but also warned against trying the “bucket challenge” at home. You won’t find any mention of water resistance on the OnePlus site. So, you probably shouldn’t take your 7 Pro into a pool.
While many fans will shrug at the lack of wireless charging and water resistance, it’s frustrating that OnePlus is being so stubborn, especially when the rest of the phone is so damn good. Yes, it costs hundreds of dollars less than the iPhone XS Max and Galaxy S10, but a ‘pro’ phone comes with certain expectations, and the OnePlus 7 Pro comes up a bit short.
Three cameras make a difference
The OnePlus 7 Pro introduces an entirely new camera system that adds a third ultra-wide-angle lens to the dual-camera array introduced with the OnePlus 5. However, it’s not just the third lens that’s new, if you look at the camera specs:
Main: 48MP, f/1.6, 1.6 μm, OIS/EIS
Telephoto: 8MP, f/2.4, 1.0 μm, OIS
Ultra wide: 16MP, f/2.2, 117 degree FOV
That’s a major bump over the 16MP + 20MP setup in the 6T, and you can see the differences before you even snap your first photo. When you launch the Camera app, you’ll see two options to the left and right of the “1x” indicator for easy 3x optical zoom and 0.6x ultra-wide shots. That makes it easy to switch quickly among the three lenses without pinching or diving into menus, and if you want more granular control, you need only tap again. It’s a fantastic interface and easily one of my favorite camera apps on Android.
The OnePlus 7 Pro definitely takes better pics than the 6T. In all kinds of light, I captured richer colors, more details, and crisper edges than on any other OnePlus phone. Low-light photos also improved noticeably. Autofocus was super fast and there was very little post-shutter lag, even when using the “nightscape” optimization. In a nutshell: The 6T took mainly OK pics, but the 7 Pro’s shots were good and sometimes great.
Funky mechanism aside, the pop-up front camera is basically the same as it is on the 6T, which is to say portraits have blurry edges and some elements are lost to the bokeh effect. But like the rear camera, it takes solid selfies.
However, when compared to the Pixel 3, the deficiencies in the OnePlus 7 Pro are stark. Even though the Pixel phones have inferior hardware compared to the OnePlus 7 Pro, Google’s post-processing still achieves superior results. For the 8 Pro or whatever comes next, I’d like to see OnePlus work on the computational side of things, because that’s where it seems to be falling short.
Should you buy a OnePlus 7 Pro?
Ask yourself these three questions before buying a OnePlus 7 Pro: Do you hate plugging in your phone in to charge it? Do you want to take your phone swimming? Does a top-notch camera matter more than anything else? If you answer yes to any of them, then the OnePlus 7 Pro probably isn’t right for you.
Otherwise, it’s hard to recommend any other phone. Even if you buy the top-of-the-line 7 Pro with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, it’ll only cost you $750, the same price as the iPhone XR and the Galaxy S10e. The OnePlus 7 Pro is superior to those phones in just about every way. The display is remarkable, the design is nearly perfect, and the speed is simply mind-blowing. The camera, while not among the best, is definitely solid.
T-Mobile is again the exclusive U.S. carrier for the OnePlus 7 Pro, but it’ll work with any network. I’m a Verizon subscriber and for the first time, I was able to pop in my SIM into a OnePlus phone and immediately start using it without any hiccups or workarounds. That’s something that can’t be said for most international phones: Anyone can buy an unlocked OnePlus 7 Pro without worrying whether it’ll work with their network. And unless they either hate wires or love water, I suspect a lot of would-be Pixel 3 XL and Galaxy S10+ buyers are going to do just that.
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