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Samsung’s Galaxy S20 is official, with bigger screens, higher prices

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It’s officially Samsung launch day, so let’s meet the company’s flagship smartphone for 2020: the Galaxy S20.

This phone is the followup to the Galaxy S10, and no, you’re not missing anything—the Galaxy S line counted from 1 to 10 over the last 10 years and is now jumping to 20 for 2020. Presumably, Samsung is naming these phones like they are yearly sports video games now, and we’ll be getting Samsung Galaxy S [current year] from here on out.

Samsung has also tweaked the size variants. Last year—accounting for the “small,” “medium,” and “large” sizes—we had the Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, and Galaxy S10+. This year, the smallest phone is going away, and we have the “medium” Galaxy S20, the “large” Galaxy S20+, and the “extra-large” Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The highlight of these new devices are the 120Hz OLED displays, which now have the highest refresh rates on the market. Previously, we’ve seen phones with 120Hz LCDs like the Asus ROG II and Razer Phone 2, but now Samsung Display is bringing 120HZ OLEDs to market. No matter which Galaxy S20 you pick, you get a 3200×1440 display, with the S20 at 6.2-inches, the S20+ at 6.7-inches, and the S20 Ultra with a whopping 6.92-inch display—one of the biggest displays ever fitted to a smartphone. The prices are getting bigger, too. In the United States, the S20 is now $999, the S20+ is $1,199.99, and the S20 Ultra is $1,399.99.

In the US and some other countries, the Galaxy S20 is one of the first phones to ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 SoC, which should be a standard chip across most 2020 flagship phones. Like last year’s Snapdragon 855, this is still an eight-core, 7nm chip, though Qualcomm has upgraded to a CPU design based on the Cortex A77 instead of the Cortex A76 used for last year’s chips. Qualcomm is promising a 25 percent faster GPU and CPU compared to the Snapdragon 855.

The Snapdragon 865 doesn’t have an onboard modem and is only sold bundled with Qualcomm’s separate X55 chip. The X55 contains the LTE modem that is normally built into the SoC, and it has a 5G modem, so 5G is mandatory for Snapdragon 865 devices, even though 5G networks are not really in a useful state yet. The other option for the Galaxy S20 is Samsung’s own Exynos 990 SoC, which can support 5G, but it’s not mandatory. If Samsung sticks to its previous rollout strategy, the US, China, Latin America, and Japan will get the Snapdragon version, while Europe, Korea, and the rest of the world will get Exynos. So the Qualcomm versions will all have 5G, but internationally, there will be some 4G-only Galaxy S20s with Exynos chips.

We’re going to need bigger batteries to power the higher power draw from a separate modem, 5G, and those bigger screens, so the S20 gets a 4000mAh battery, the S20+ a 4500mAh battery, and the S20 Ultra gets a 5000mAh battery. Qualcomm’s decision to make flagship smartphones have mandatory 5G could be the reason for the lack of a smaller Galaxy S20e. Fitting all the 5G components into a phone that small, along with an appropriately sized battery, might not be possible.

The Galaxy S20 is bringing 5G into the mainstream, but as Android Police reports, 5G connectivity is not equal across all Galaxy S20s. Only the bigger Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra support both sub-6GHz 5G and the faster 5G mmWave. The smaller S20 only supports sub-6GHz 5G, and not mmWave. mmWave requires several antennas to be placed around the phone, so it looks like the S20 opted to skip the extra space and cost requirements for mmWave.

This year, Samsung is bumping things up to 12GB of RAM across the board for the US 5G version, with an option for 16GB for the S20 Ultra. Storage starts at 128GB, with 256GB an option for the S20 and S20+ while 512GB is an option for the S20 Ultra. This is UFS 3.0 storage, and everything has a MicroSD slot for even more storage.

Like previous Samsung phones, these devices are glass sandwiches with a tiny sliver of the metal frame exposed around the edges. They still use Samsung’s patented “Infinity-O” display, which places the front-facing camera under the display and lasers away any blocking pixels, resulting in a display that looks like someone took a hole punch tool to the panel. This year, Samsung has decided to dump the dual front-camera setup that was on the Galaxy S10 (it had an extra wide-angle lens), opting instead for a single camera centered at the top of the display. The S20 and S20+ get a 10MP front camera, while the S20 Ultra gets a 40MP camera.

On the back, there’s now a big, tall camera block in the upper-left corner, which holds three or four cameras depending on your version. The S20 gets a 12MP main sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide, and a 3x telephoto 64MP camera. The S20+ has all of these cameras, plus a time-of-flight (ToF) camera for bokeh and other 3D sensing apps. The Galaxy S20 Ultra gets a completely different camera package: a 108MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide, a 48MP 10x telephoto, and a ToF sensor. The 10x, 48MP telephoto zoom is being branded as “100x Space Zoom” using some shady justification combining the optical zoom, digital zoom, and filling in the blanks with AI.

On the video side of things, all of these phones can record video in a whopping 8K resolution, which sounds like a great stress test for your phone’s processor, storage, and Internet connection. Not many people actually have a device appropriate for playing back 8K content—I’m sure it looks great on Samsung’s new 8K TVs—but know that YouTube will at least happily suck down and store your ridiculously resolutioned videos for future generations.

The rest of the specs and features follow closely to older versions of the Galaxy S. The phone is still IP68 water-resistant. There’s still an in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint reader. It still supports wireless charging. The one missing feature that was on previous Galaxy S phones is the headphone jack. This is the first Galaxy S without one.

The phones will ship March 6.

Listing image by Samsung

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The MacBook Pro will soon get a resolution bump, macOS beta suggests

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Enlarge / The 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Samuel Axon

The seventh beta of macOS Monterey contains what appear to be references to new screen resolutions suitable for the MacBook Pro line, as discovered by MacRumors.

In a list of supported graphics resolutions within macOS, there are two new resolutions: 3,456 by 2,234 and 3,024 by 1,964. Each carries a “Retina” marker, which Apple typically only applies to its own devices’ screens.

The aspect ratio for these new resolutions is very close to the current aspect ratios on the MacBook Pro computers sold today, but they’re lower than what we currently see in the iMac line, suggesting that they aren’t for Apple’s desktops. Further, the numbers fit nicely with a move to true 2x Retina, as opposed to the scaling approach presently used for Retina displays.

It is possible that this is a mistake, but the timing is convenient. macOS Monterey is expected to launch this fall alongside new MacBook Pro models featuring custom-designed Apple silicon that would be faster successors to Apple’s much-lauded M1 chips found in lower-end Macs and the most recent refresh of the iPad Pro.

If reports in Bloomberg and elsewhere are to be believed, the new laptops would also include Mini LED displays, which provide better contrast than the display technology currently used in Mac laptops, as well as additional ports like HDMI or an SD card slot. These devices would also drop the Touch Bar, which some users like but others hate, in favor of a return to physical function keys. The 13-inch MacBook Pro would probably see reduced bezels, making it a 14-inch MacBook Pro. (A similar change replaced the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 16-inch model a couple of years ago.)

So increased screen resolutions join a plethora of other likely changes that would make for the most significant redesign of the MacBook Pro since the first Touch Bar models in 2016.

Leaks have also pointed to an upcoming MacBook Air redesign, but that laptop is unlikely to come until later.

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The Surface Duo’s two-year-old Android OS will be updated sometime this year

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If Microsoft wants to be taken seriously as an Android manufacturer, one of the things it will need to establish is a track record of reliable, on-time software updates. But as the company launches a second generation of the Surface Duo and the company’s first Android phone turns a year old, so far Microsoft has failed to impress.

The Surface Duo 1 shipped in September 2020 with Android 10, which was a full year old at the time, and Android 11 had already launched. The hope was that Microsoft would quickly update the Duo to the latest version of Android, but that never happened. Today the device is still running Android 10, which is now two years old, and Android 12 is about to ship. Microsoft has finally broken its silence about Surface Duo 1 updates, and the company tells The Verge it plans to update the device to Android 11 “before the end of this year.”

Assuming Microsoft follows through on its promise, the company’s $1,400 flagship device will be updated from a two-year-old operating system to a one-year-old operating system. Microsoft committed to three years of updates, and it has been delivering monthly security updates. But this is still worst-in-class update support, especially for the price. Samsung usually rolls out Android to its latest flagship three months after Google’s release, while OnePlus usually takes around a month—Microsoft’s one-year timeframe is really bad.

Microsoft is, at least, communicating. Before, it never really let its customers know when Android 11 would be arriving on the Surface Duo until this latest report, leaving the rumor mill to fill in the gaps. It would be nice to get a timeframe for Android 12 releases, given the latest update will be out any day now. Perhaps Microsoft’s lack of communication was due to the company just not knowing when Android 11 would be done. The Android 10 build that shipped on the original Duo had all sorts of bugs, and the company is clearly having a hard time transitioning to Android.

Perhaps some of Microsoft’s update problems were caused by the Duo 1 originally being designed for a now-canceled mobile resurrection of Windows; Microsoft was essentially forced to switch to Android later in that product’s development life. Unsurprisingly, the Windows-maker didn’t have a lot of Android OS engineers on staff at the time, and Microsoft ended up outsourcing the Duo’s OS development to a company called “Movial.” Microsoft ended up acquiring Movial just two months before the Duo’s release date, which doesn’t sound like ideal timing.

The Duo 1’s Windows DNA resulted in a device with very different underpinnings from a normal Android phone, like a “custom engineered” Microsoft UEFI instead of the normal Qualcomm one. The Duo 2 should have been designed from the start with Android as the target, so maybe things will be better for the sequel?

Listing image by Ron Amadeo

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Windows 11 hits the Release Preview Insider channel as official release nears

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Enlarge / The “official” Windows 11 update, complete with the UI that regular people will see, is now available in the Release Preview channel for Windows Insiders.

Andrew Cunningham

Yesterday, Microsoft released a near-final build of Windows 11 to Windows Insiders in the Release Preview channel, which (as the name implies) is generally the last stop for a major new Windows version ahead of its release to the general public. The official release date for Windows 11 is October 5, but Microsoft is planning to roll it out gradually over the next few months to prevent widespread problems.

The build number in the Release Preview channel is 22000.194, the same version released to the Beta channel on September 16.

While Beta- and Dev-channel builds of Windows 11 are simply downloaded and installed like regular Windows Updates, the version in the Release Preview channel gives you the same upgrade message that will be offered to the public when Microsoft offers the Windows 11 upgrade for their PCs. This includes a system notification that users can click through to learn more about Windows 11’s new features and a special update message in Windows Update that will give you the opportunity to waive the Windows 11 upgrade and stay on Windows 10 (seen above).

Windows 10 can run on pretty much any PC that could run Windows 7 or Windows 8, but Windows 11 comes with stringent new processor and security hardware requirements that severely limit its compatibility. The most important is the CPU requirement, which generally mandates an 8th-generation Intel Core processor (introduced in late 2017) or newer or a 2nd-generation AMD Ryzen processor (introduced in mid 2018) or newer. There are only a handful of exceptions for older processors, including for Microsoft’s own Surface Studio desktop—Microsoft has the full list of Intel and AMD processors available on its documentation site.

If your PC can run it, Windows 11 includes a refreshed user interface, rescued from Microsoft’s failed “Windows 10X” project. The redesign overhauls the taskbar, Start menu, system tray, the Settings app, and Windows Explorer, as well as right-click menus and built-in apps throughout the OS. It also adds some gaming features and improvements to the Windows Subsystem for Linux, though some of these will be backported to Windows 10.

Listing image by Microsoft

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