Oculus Quest 2 Really Is A Major (And Cheaper) Upgrade

The Oculus Quest 2 goes on sale October 13.

Forget about my article from last month that said — based on what I thought were reliable reports — that the new Oculus Quest would not be a major upgrade. Last week, Facebook revealed the new unit, and let’s just say that I can hardly wait to get it in my hands. Here are some of the major improvements.

Resolution

I think this is the biggest improvement on the new Oculus Quest, although they moved from an OLED panel to an inferior LCD one, probably to keep costs down. However, most won’t notice the difference, and they’ll be more happy with the screen because there is virtually no screen door effect.

The previous Oculus Quest had a pixel resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye, and the Quest 2 increases the amount to 1832 x 1920 per eye. That’s a huge difference in the real world, and those who have used the new Quest claim that the screen door effect is a thing of the past.

Refresh Rate

The previous Oculus Quest had a 72Hz refresh rate, and the new one will increase to 90Hz. This will make things operate more smoothly. Of course, what we would really love is a 120Hz refresh rate like the latest tablets and smartphones. We can look forward to that on the Oculus Quest 3. 

Weight

The Oculus Quest 2 is lighter and smaller than first one.

The Oculus Quest 2 is smaller and lighter. 2019′s Quest weighed 571 grams, and the new one will weight 501 grams. This should make wearing the Quest more comfortable, but it also depends on how equally the weight is distributed.

Processor

Unlike the Qualcomm Snapdragon 25 processor of the previous Quest, the new one will run a much improved Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor. This will enable the standalone headset to immerse the user into more powerful experiences. For the most powerful experiences, one can link the Quest 2 to a VR-capable desktop or laptop with the charger cable. (You no longer need the Oculus Link cord.)

Strong Ecosystem

When the first Oculus was released in 2019, there weren’t enough experiences or games to justify the price for those who are less than VR enthusiasts. However, there will be 200 titles by the time the Quest 2 is released. The most popular titles are Beat SaberStar Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, and The Room VR.

Price

This is, perhaps, the most important reason — at least one that will drive up sales. The 64GB Quest 2 (which is all 90 percent of people really need) will cost $299 instead of $399, and the 128GB will cost $399. Let’s hope that Facebook will have enough units available; the original Oculus Quest has been difficult to find.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2: The iPhone Of Its Time

Samsung has finally made the first solid foldable smartphone.

Yes, you may be gawking at the title of this article. After all, what could be more important (at least historically) to smartphones and technology than the iPhone. But I guarantee you — the new Fold is the smartphone other companies will be “inspired” by. As a matter of fact, Apple has even ordered multiple folding screens from Samsung.

The first thing you’ll notice when taking it out of the excellent packaging is that the Galaxy Z Fold2 feels like a very expensive futuristic item, even if it also feels a little fragile. There is a reason all screens have a plastic screen cover on them that Samsung doesn’t want you to remove. That shouldn’t be a big deal since you should have a screen protector on any smartphone you buy.

The Z Fold2 has stylish packaging and detailed care instructions.

I’ve tried the Mystic Bronze version a a few weeks back, and the version I’m reviewing now is the Mystic Black. I can’t say if I prefer one or the other. But I can say, when you turn on the phone, you’ll be very impressed. You’ll look at the front screen and think that even though it may be a little too thin, it still looks beautiful. Then, when you unfold the phone to its full screen, you’ll be completely blown away.

I wish the aspect ratio could be a little less square, but this shape makes it a little better as a tablet. I also wish that the Z Fold2 had S Pen capabilities, but it would probably scratch the screen. Perhaps the biggest thing I wish for is that the software would match the hardware.

There are some Android optimized apps that are made for tablets: Gmail; YouTube; Samsung Internet; and some others. iOS has a lot more tablet-optimized apps. Then again, perhaps it’s not fair to compare the Fold2 to the iPad since Samsung’s device is in a league of its own.

Watching Netflix is a pleasure due to a great screen and lively stereo sound.

Speaking of being in its own league, the speaker system setup on the Fold2 is fantastic. There are only two speakers, but they can really fill a small space. You can feel some bass and the separation of the sound range is noticeable. The speakers on the Samsung’s new device are to tablets what the MacBook Pro 16 speakers are to notebooks.

It’s easy to forget that the new Fold is a phone also. And it works very well on Verizon’s network, although I haven’t been able to test out 5G yet. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, most networks are far behind in rolling out their 5G networks, even though the hardware is far ahead.

Remember: The Z Fold2 is a tablet and a phone.

The new Fold also provides a great (but not fantastic) camera that’s similar to that of 2019′s Galaxy S10+. Unlike the 5x optical zoom camera on the Galaxy Note 20+, the Z Fold2 only has 2x optical zoom. All three lenses take 12MP pictures, and they look very nice. The low-light pictures are fantastic. Perhaps, the Z Fold3 will have Samsung’s flagship camera next year.

The Z Fold2 has a 4,500mAh battery that isn’t stellar but not bad either — especially for the powerful device it’s operating. I’ve been able to get six to seven hours of screen time, but the average user will easily be able to go a full day without charging.

You may not think you have $2,000 for a smartphone. But once you try the Fold2, you’ll find yourself working extra hours or contemplating different finance options so you can own this phone. Samsung has truly revitalized the smartphone industry with the Galaxy Z Fold2.

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The Surface Duo Is A Major Strike Against The Surface Brand

The Microsoft Surface Duo is now available for purchase.

I have always been a huge fan of the Microsoft Surface brand, even when it was bashed back when it debuted in 2012. Panos Panay, the Chief Product Officer of Microsoft, even sent me an email thanking me for my support. By the middle of 2013, he didn’t need to send any emails; the Microsoft Surface brand had become widely respected.

Now, that respect is threatened with the new Surface Duo. It’s a phone that looks like it came straight out of 2012. Many technology writers have received their review units more than a week ago. Thank God I was not one of them. There is a reason why reviews have been embargoed until today, and the consensus says the Microsoft Surface Duo phone is awful.

The Surface Duo is well built, but the overall user experience is bad.

I was able to play with the Surface Duo last week, and I really dreaded writing about it. But our readers have asked me what I think, so here it goes…

I will say that Microsoft’s new device feels thin, slick and premium. I love the way it folds apart when you open it, and the OLED screen does look rather nice. It reminds me of a small book, and with the stylus, it could be used as one of those smaller notebooks that people used to take notes in. I am trying to be nice here, but these are really the only nice things I can say.

When first opening the device, I had to remind myself that it costs $1399. Certainly, even though it’s pocketable, the Surface Duo doesn’t offer anything more than the less expensive (in some cases) Surface Pro. The much cheaper Surface Go even has more of a purpose. But even after I got over the “cool” part, I asked myself how this compares to something like the Galaxy Note Ultra, which is $150 less in most places.

The software is the Duo's biggest problem.

The 11 (allegedly)MP camera is awful. The pictures reminded me of those from the Palm Treo devices straight out of 2005 in that they aren’t sharp, come out somewhat grainy, and the lighting is completely uneven. One could excuse these pictures in 2005 but not in 2020. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera could take photos better than many actual digital cameras.

But one may argue that the Surface Duo is all about productivity, and the camera really is secondary. But when i tried the Android software, it just seemed very buggy. Despite having 6GB of RAM (which is a little too low for a $1,399 device), there was a delay in launching apps. I realize the Duo has last year’s Snapdragon processor, but I don’t recall any 2019 smartphone, Snapdragon processor or not, running this slowly. And I made sure no apps were running in the background.

To sum up my initial thoughts, the Surface Duo feels like two 2011 Android devices clamped together.  And I, as most others, would certainly take a single 2020 Android device over two completely outdated ones. The monstrous bezels even look ancient. I really don’t know what Microsoft was thinking. Let’s hope the next Duo knocks it out of the park so we can forget this nightmare.

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First Impressions: The Galaxy Z Fold 2 May Be The Real ‘Jesus Phone’

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

In 2007, the first iPhone was sarcastically referred to as the “Jesus Phone” because so many of its features were so advanced from previous smartphones. Of course, the iPhone really didn’t take off until the 2008 version, the iPhone 3G.

But like the iPhone, the Galaxy Fold version is changing the conversation about smartphones. 2019′s Galaxy Fold had its issues, but 2020′s Galaxy Z Fold 2 looks to be a game changer. And I had a chance to test the new phone out for 10 minutes Wednesday. Here are my first impressions:

  • Wow!
  • The phone feels heavy, but it fits in your pocket and it feels solid in your hands.
  • The 6.2-inch front screen is very useful, although it has a very tall aspect ratio.
  • Once again, I can’t imagine getting any other version than the bronze Fold.
  • My biggest fear was that that the crease would be noticeably visible when opening up the phone. But it’s really not that bad, especially when you are looking at the screen straight on. The darker the colors on the screen, the more you see the hinge.

The crease when opening up the Z Fold 2 is not really an issue.

  • Going from single-screen mode to folded mode is snappy and fluid.
  • This feels like an iPad Mini, but even better.
  • The stereo speakers on this thing are quite good — almost as good as they are on an iPad Pro. However, the iPad Pro has four speakers, while the Z Fold 2 has two.
  • The inside screen looks beautiful but is covered with a screen protector that Samsung suggests you don’t take off. I was afraid I would scratch the screen with my fingernail.
  • The camera is good in low-light situations. However, the camera specs fail when compared to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
  • The Z Fold 2 is a multitasking dream come true.
  • Hoping the next version of this is compatible with the S Pen.

You can actually operate the Z Fold 2 with one hand .

  • The 120Hz refresh rate works on the folded screen, not the front.
  • I would hate to drop this phone into the water — there is no waterproof rating.
I can hardly wait to do a full review of the Z Fold 2. For now, I can say that Samsung’s latest foldable smartphone has me more impressed than any smartphone I’ve seen in years. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Z Fold 2 becomes the “iPod” of smartphones, especially when the price is reduced.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Is Amazing But Not For Everyone

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is beautiful....and very big.

I have been using the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra for 10 days now, and I am in love. I’m not so much in love that I’ll miss the phone when I have to send it back in another week, but this phone (or mini-tablet in reality) shows just how far smartphones have come.

First, I’ll get to what I love most about this phone — the camera.  It’s the best camera phone on any Android or iPhone smartphone thanks to its 5x optical zoom, 50x digital zoom, fun portrait filters and easy-to-use camera app interface. Samsung’s S Pen stylus once again enables you to remotely snap photos, and it really helps when you want to take great selfies.

The Note 20 Ultra has an incredible camera.

Then, there is the overall aesthetic of the Note 20 Ultra, especially the Mystic Bronze version. Although it is big, it just feels so premium in your hands. At first, the camera bump on the rear bothered me a little bit, but I soon embraced it. I have it in a clear case that minimizes the bump a little, so that helps.

This is the everything phone — it has a 6.9-inch 120Hz display that moves fluidly, a very fast Snapdragon chipset, 12GB of RAM (not sure you’ll ever need 12GB RAM on a smartphone though), 5G speeds (in some places), and the new S Pen included is the best stylus I’ve ever used on a digital device. Yes, it’s even better than the Apple Pencil.

So far, the only slightly disappointing thing has been the battery life. It’s good but not great. The 4,500mAh battery is excellent on the Galaxy S20+, but not as good on the Note 20 Ultra, which requires more power. As a power user, I’ve only been able to get through a full day’s use about half of the time. Regular users won’t have a problem, but it’s best to keep some kind of charger with you.

Overall, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the best smartphone on the market. But this $1,300 phone may not be for most people who don’t need all the extra capabilities the 20 Ultra offers. It’s also important to note that those who don’t mind paying so much for a smartphone may want to just spend $500 more on the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 2.

Samsung has really outdone itself with the Note 20 Ultra. But will their efforts pay off during a pandemic? Stay tuned.

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The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 Official Announcement Is Coming

Samsung's new foldable smartphone appears to be the most innovative tech device in years.

September 1 may be a historical day in the tech world. That’s when Samsung is set to officially unveil the Galaxy Z Fold 2, which they briefly touched upon earlier this month when announcing the new Galaxy Note 20 Series.

It’s also possible that the tech world will remember the event as a flop. After all, last year’s Galaxy Fold is largely seen as the most botched smartphone launch since Samsung itself launched the Galaxy Note 7. Reviewers noticed that the screen scratched easily, the hinge broke, and that the Fold would completely shut off for no reason. Samsung is really taking a risk here.

It’s hard to deny that the teaser for the Z Fold 2 looks very dreamy.

Click to play in YouTube.

One big change is that the front screen is actually a full 6.2-inch screen now rather than 4.8 inches. The original fold required users to unfold the device in order to be able to do most tasks. Another big change is the screen inside “folds” out to a 7.6-inch screen rather than the 7.2-inch screen on the original Fold.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 has small bezels.

The cameras are improved as well on the new Galaxy Z Fold 2. According to most sources, the new Fold will employ three 12MP lenses on the back: one wide-angle, one ultra-wide, and one telephoto, at f/1.8, 2.2 and 2.4 apertures, respectively. Both outside as well as in, you’ll find the same 10MP front-facing shooter. Camera tests should start appearing next week.

There’s one aspect of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 that worries me — the crease when you unfold the screen. In some of the online videos, you can clearly see the crease when the screen is opened. However, the same was true of the first Galaxy Fold, which didn’t look as bad when you saw it in person.

Let’s face it — the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is really two phones attached together to make one. And the glass is too flimsy to allow for S Pen input. However, it is widely believed that Samsung is ditching the Galaxy Note series since the next iteration of the Z Fold will allow for S Pen input.

If the Z Fold 2 doesn’t quite work out, there will always be the Z Fold 3. And if that doesn’t work out, Apple will, like usual, save the foldable smartphone industry by releasing their own version, which will be late but refined.

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First Impressions: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Is Your Do-It-All Smartphone

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is priced at $1,299.

I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy 20 Note Ultra for the past couple of days. I will post my full review soon, but here are my first impressions for now:

  • This Mystic Bronze color is beautiful.
  • The matte coating really does help keep away fingerprints.
  • This smartphone screams, “Get me a case!”
  • The screen cover that comes with the new Note is very weak, and it wasn’t even put on evenly.
  • I wish the screen wasn’t curved. The edges really reflect sunlight. I like the flatness of the Galaxy S20 series better.
  • However, the screen is just beautiful. I don’t leave it on the full 3088 x 1440 pixel resolution. Using the 2316 x 1080 resolution enables me to use the 120Hz screen, and the smoothness really comes alive.
  • Watching movies on the edge-to-edge display (there is barely any bezel) is like watching a floating screen.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is beautiful....and very big.

  • The stereo speakers are good, but not spectacular. Even when set with Dolby Atmos, you still don’t get the full stereo effect of the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
  • The camera, which sticks out a little too much, is incredible. Here is a photo taken at 50X zoom”

At 50x Zoom, the Note 20 Ultra Camera can still take viewable pics.

  • The video camera is also fantastic. I’ll post a sample when I do my full review.
  • Everything operates so smoothly, even with all the unnecessary bloatware installed.
  • The Note 20 Ultra takes the S-Pen to the next level. The writing experience is the best it has ever been a digital device.
  • However, putting the S-Pen slot on the left — instead of the right, where it’s been for years — is a confusing move. I still can’t get used to this.
  • Like the last flagship Note, the 20 Ultra is a little too big. But I really don’t mind since it looks and feels so good.
  • The battery life isn’t as long-lasting as it was on the previous Note. It’s good, but not great. Perhaps Samsung needed to make some compromises.
  • Samsung needs to get rid of Bixby, like, now!
  • I’ve gotten more looks from others with the Note 20 Ultra than I have with any other device in the past two years.
So, it appears that the Note 20 Ultra is possibly the best smartphone on the market right now. But is it worth the $1,299 price tag? Stay tuned to my full review in a couple of days. 
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Samsung Galaxy Watch3 Is Illustrious But Overpriced

This is the Galaxy Watch3 (and there is no spacing mistake between h and 3).

Besides the Apple Watch, the most successful smartwatch has been Samsung’s Galaxy Watch series. Every year, Samsung has made improvements while keeping the price the same. However, the Galaxy Watch3 costs $399 (41mm) and $429 (44mm) — a $60 price increase from previous versions.

The Smartwatch3 is a stainless steel beauty that has a premium circular design with a leather band. It is somewhat chunky, but Samsung has taken off some of the bulk from previous smartwatches.

Samsung took off the distinctive physical rotating bezel on the Galaxy Watch Active2 in order to provide a touch bezel that mostly worked. However, it feels great to have the smooth rotating physical bezel put back on Samsung’s new smartwatch. And the bezel is thinner and more subtle than it was before.

The 360 x 360 pixel resolution display looks perfect, even at lower brightness levels. As someone with slight vision problems, I can easily say that the display on Samsung’s watch is better than that of the Apple Watch 5, but both are fine.

The Watch3 has a crisp display.

After using the Watch3 for a day, it was shocking to find out that it uses the same Exynos 9110 chip as the 2018 Galaxy Watch, along with 1GB of RAM. Perhaps the software has improved because the Watch3 seems faster and more fluid. It also offers slightly more battery life, although two days of average to heavy use is all you are going to get.

Samsung doesn’t have the same variety of apps that the Apple Watch 5 has, but it has everything 95 percent of smartwatch users need. The exercise app has become more accurate and offers tracking for a variety of exercises — swimming, jogging, weightlifting, etc. I found that it counts my swimming yards better than the Apple Watch does.

The Galaxy Watch3 is very useful in tracking various types of exercises.

And speaking of the Apple Watch (again….I can’t help myself), I sometimes have problems getting notifications on both the iPhone and Watch at the same time. This was also an issue with previous Galaxy Watches, but the Watch3, when used with the Samsung Galaxy S20+, has never let me down. And I love how firm the vibration of the watch feels when a notification comes through.

So, as you can see, everything about the new Galaxy Watch is great. The only problem with the Watch3 is the price tag. If your pockets are full of the good stuff and you have to own every new product that Samsung comes out with, you’ll be completely happy with the Galaxy Watch3. However, the cheaper Active2 and the much cheaper Galaxy Watch may be a more valuable option for the rest of us.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: First Impressions

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

I have been able to play with the Note 20 Ultra for about 10 minutes. When I say “play with,” I mean it. There was no way I had enough time to really interact with it the way I wanted to. Anyhow, here are my first impressions:

  • Just like the Note 10+, this new high-end model may be a little too big for the pockets.
  • The bezels have decreased to the point of almost not existing. And the screen looks beautiful. It looks like the contrast ratio and color saturation have been improved.
  • The 120Hz screen really is a plus. You’ll especially notice the improvement when you use the new S Pen, which is the slickest stylus yet from Samsung.
  • There isn’t any noticeable delay when you put the S Pen to the screen and ink appearing. Its latency rate is as good as the Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro.

The Note 20 Ultra is huge but thin.

  • The Samsung Notes app appears to digitally improve curvy or messy handwriting.
  • The bronze model is absolutely beautiful, and I’m sure this is the color that everybody is going to want. I love how the matte finish prevents visible fingerprints.
  • The screen isn’t perfectly flat, but it is more flat than any previous smartphone Samsung has released in the past several years.

The Note 20 Ultra has a huge but impressive camera bump.

  • The camera bump is huge. I would be afraid to put this thing down with the screen facing up. It might be easy to scratch one of the three lenses.
  • The pictures and videos I took looked very nice, but I need more time to use the camera. If it’s anything like the S20+ camera, then it’s a winner.
  • The buttons are on the right side of the new Note, and the S Pen is on the left. It definitely takes a little bit to get used to.
  • The new S Pen air gestures feel like a gimmick.
  • Despite my heavy use of the new Note for 10 minutes, the battery only depleted eight percent. There is no reason to fear the 4,500mAh battery, which is smaller than the 5,000mAh battery from the Note 10+.
This phone is definitely the Mercedes of smartphones. However, it may not be as exciting as the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 2. Still, even the latter doesn’t allow you to instantly write digital notes and save them. Samsung may be playing safe with the Note 20 Ultra, but the device will likely be a huge seller. 
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Review: Sony SRS-XB43 Proves Bluetooth Speakers Are Still Relevant

About two-and-a-half years ago, I reviewed the Sony SRS-XB41 Bluetooth speaker and loved it. At that time, I thought Bluetooth portable speakers were becoming extinct due to portable WiFi speakers that have better sound quality. But the portable WiFi speaker market is still limited. And there are workarounds to better sound (3.5mm input).

Sony has just released the follow-up to the SRS-XB41, the SRS-XB43, and it is one of the most exciting audio products I’ve reviewed this year. The speaker improves on the already great SRS-XB41 in almost every way. It’s the perfect portable party speaker, although it is a little heavy at 6.5 pounds. Part of the weight is due to the casing, which provides protections from falls, dust, and water.

The SRS-XB43 control buttons are simple.

It’s built with a top panel that contains the buttons for power, Bluetooth, call management, and a “Live” button that gives your music a concert effect. Both sides of the speakers contain large passive radiators, which helps the sound come to life. There are also LED  party lights on both sides, and don’t say you don’t care until you see them operate in action.

As for sound, it’s right up there with the best Bluetooth audio available. The speakers spread stereo sound throughout a whole room, and the bass only decreases slightly at higher volumes. That said, to get the best out of this speaker, attach your phone or computer to the Aux port and the experience turns from great to fantastic. You can still operate the device connected to the speaker remotely if you use apps such as Spotify or Apple Music.

Besides dance music, ambient slow music is where the SRS-XB43 really shines. If you listen to “Sunset Beach” by Sun & Moon or “Fly Away” by Almadrava, the sub-bass sounds hypnotic. However, if you are into classic rock, Sony’s new Bluetooth speaker is great for that as well.

The input ports are located on the rear of the speaker.

While 2018′s SRS-XB41 had a speakerphone, it wasn’t one that you could rely on. However, the new model can be used reliably for this, and it somehow picks up your voice, even with some ambient noise. I had no problem talking 12 feet away from the speaker, and the listener on the other end never had to remind me to “speak up.”

In terms of battery life, this Sony speaker is a monster. Sony claims about 24 hours of battery life, and two of my tests (in which the volume was above average) came close. The SRS-XB43 has a USB-C charging port where you can use almost any USB-C charging source. But the battery life is so good that you won’t think about charging too much.

The portable stereo speaker genre has been boring the past two years or so, but Sony has just added new life. The SRS-XB43 is easily worth its $249 price tag.

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