Samsung Unveils Galaxy Note20 & Z Fold Smartphones

Elva Mankin

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Samsung unveiled two new Galaxy Note20 smartphones on Wednesday that the company promises will deliver bigger, brighter screens, a speedier processor, and faster autofocus from the camera.

The tech giant also announced an updated version of the dual-screen Galaxy Fold smartphone, featuring a redesigned hinge and a much larger front display.

Like the S20 models released by the manufacturer earlier this year, the Galaxy Note20 and Galaxy Note20 Ultra are equipped to access 5G service on carrier networks.

The Note phone’s S-Pen stylus has been outfitted with new tricks, too. To start, Samsung says it has reduced the device’s latency by 40 percent, trimming the time it takes for what you scribble to show up on the phone’s screen.

Available for preorder Thursday, the phones officially go on sale Aug. 21. The Note20—which offers 128 gigabytes of storage—will be priced at $1,000. The Note20 Ultra—offered in 128GB and 512GB versions—will start at $1,300.

In addition to the phones, Samsung rolled out two tablets, a smartwatch, and a pair of noise-canceling Galaxy Buds headphones. (More on those below.)

The company revealed few details about the Galaxy Z Fold2, except to say that it’s thinner and has a reengineered hinge that minimizes the gap between the two sides of the clamshell.

The front screen measures 6.2 inches diagonally, while the inner, flexible display stretches 7.6 inches. By comparison, the front display on the original Fold was 4.6 inches and the inner display was 7.3 inches.

Samsung didn’t provide a price for the Galaxy Z Fold2, which will come in black and bronze, or say when it will go on sale. Preorders start Sept. 1.   

We’re looking forward to testing all seven devices once they’re available for purchase. In the meantime, here’s a deeper look at Samsung’s new offerings. 

What’s New on the Note20

Bigger and brighter displays: The Note phones have always ranked among the biggest on the market, and this year’s models are no exception. The screen on the Note20 stretches 6.7 inches when measured diagonally. The one on the Note20 Ultra reaches 6.9 inches—just like the display on the S20 Ultra.

By comparison, last year’s Note10 had a 6.3-inch display, while the Note10+ showcased one that topped out at 6.8 inches.

Samsung says the peak brightness setting on the new phones’ displays will be 20 percent higher than on last year’s models, too. That should make them easier to view, if, for instance, you’re using the phone outside in bright sunlight.

New processor: Both Note phones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865+ 5G processor, which the company says is faster and better suited for online gaming, 5G connectivity, and artificial intelligence purposes.

New cameras: In terms of hardware, the camera setup on both Note phones will include wide, ultrawide, and zoom lenses. But the Note20 Ultra comes with a 5x lens, whereas the Note20 features a 3x, much like Samsung’s S20 and S20+ phones.

By comparison, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro has a 2x lens and Samsung’s S20 Ultra boasts a 10x lens.

Samsung says the cameras on the Note20 phones also have a new sensor that pairs with face-detecting software to speed up the autofocus feature. And that could prove to be very helpful because that’s the mode most people use to snap smartphone pictures.

Bigger batteries: The Note20 is powered by a 4,300-milliamp-hour battery, and the Note20 Ultra’s is 4,500 mAh.

That’s a bit bigger than the batteries found in last year’s models, 3,500 mAh for the Note10 and 4,300 mAh for the Note10+, but it’s substantially smaller than the 5,000-mAh power source in this year’s S20 Ultra.

More tools for work and play: The S-Pen stylus that comes with Samsung’s Note phones has always been handy for jotting notes and doodling. Now, thanks to software improvements, those notes and drawings can be auto-synced to the cloud, Samsung says, making them instantly accessible on your PC.

You’ll also be able to attach voice recordings to your notes, then play back sections of the audio by tapping on the related text. And, Samsung adds, further improvements will make the phones better at turning your messy scrawls into tidy handwriting.

The manufacturer has also partnered with Microsoft to bring more productivity features, as well as Xbox games, to the Note. Those with the required pass can stream more than 100 games to their phones from the cloud.

And fans of the company’s DeX system will be happy to hear that it’s going wireless. Instead of using a docking station or cable to connect your phone to your PC, you’ll be able to pair the two over the air.

Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+

Both tablets are 5G-compatible, which could be great for people who don’t always have access to WiFi or the option to tether a device to a smartphone data connection.

The Tab S7 has an 11-inch display. The one on the S7+ measures 12.4 inches. It also features OLED technology, giving you blacker blacks and almost unlimited viewing angles when watching videos.

Both tablets will be available for purchase in the U.S. this fall. The S7 with 128 gigabytes of storage starts at $650. An S7+ with the same storage costs $200 more. Each model comes in a 256GB version as well. And, thanks to the built-in microSD slot, you can quickly and inexpensively up the storage to 1 terabyte.

Galaxy Watch3

The new watch will be thinner, lighter, and more comfortable than previous versions, Samsung says. The bezels are smaller, too, so you get a slightly larger display.

What else is new? The Watch3 will give you blood oxygen levels in real time, according to the company, serving up better insights on your cardio fitness while you exercise.

It also has new sleep-tracking features that monitor you through the night and report back the next morning. While this is new for Samsung’s devices, Fitbit has been providing similar sleep tracking for a few years.

And, in a move to catch up with Apple’s watches, Samsung is adding a fall-detection feature that prompts the device to call for help if it determines that you’ve taken a hard spill.

Like the latest Apple Watches, the Watch3 will have the hardware needed to take an electrocardiogram, too. The technology has just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so it should be available in the U.S. soon.

The Watch3 also will have blood pressure monitoring capabilities, which is a first for a mainstream smartwatch sold in the U.S. Powered by a Samsung algorithm, the technology will require calibration with a blood pressure cuff before you use it.

It still needs FDA approval, as well, so it will be confined to use in South Korea, where regulators have okayed it, when the watch goes on sale Thursday.

Watch3 will be available in 41-mm and 45-mm versions. Bluetooth versions of the 41-mm watch start at $400. Add $50 more if you want to include an LTE connection. The 45-mm watch starts at $430.

Galaxy Buds Live

Like the Apple AirPods Pro, Samsung’s latest earbuds add active noise-cancellation technology that can be toggled on and off. That’s a feature the current Galaxy Buds+ lack.

You also get a claimed 8 hours of playback time, plus an additional 21 hours of power stored in the case. And for those on the go who forget to recharge, a 5-minute pit stop at an outlet will get you an hour of audio. The buds are also water-resistant, Samsung says.

Galaxy Buds Live will be available Thursday, priced at $170. The AirPods Pro cost $250.

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Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2020, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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