Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review – Suavely Shooting for the Moon

Galaxy S20 Ultra front

As the pinnacle of Samsung’s technological prowess for 2020, the Galaxy S20 Ultra packs the very best hardware that the brand has to offer with the phone being a veritable technophile’s wish list crammed into a posh looking glass-shod chassis that is 8.8mm thin.

Galaxy S20 Ultra front
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Specifications

For the lofty price of RM4,999, the Galaxy S20 Ultra packs a humongous 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O touchscreen with a crisp 1,440 x 3,200 pixel resolution, a 20:9 aspect ratio and 511ppi along with the obligatory under-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader at the bottom section of the display. What elevates it from middling to marvellous is that the display has a 120Hz refresh rate, ensuring silky smooth animations onscreen at the tradeoff of increased battery drain.

Here’s a recap of its specifications:

Specifications
Price RM4,999
Display 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O, 1,440 x 3,200 pixels, 511ppi
Processor Exynos 990 octacore
OS Android 10.0 w One UI 2
Memory 12GB RAM/128GB+microSD card
Camera 108-MP F/1.8 w/ PDAF + OIS 48-MP w/ 4x optical zoom + 100x Space Zoom, 12-MP F/2.2 ultrawide, 0.3-MP TOF camera [rear] / 40-MP [front]
Battery 5,000mAh w/ 45W fast charging
Size/Weight 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm / 220g


Your substantial investment also gets you the latest Exynos 990 octacore processor paired with a massive 12GB RAM and 128GB UFS3.0 storage that can be further augmented via a microSD card slot.

You’re also getting 5G connectivity in the 3.5GHz and 3.7GHz band though it lacks support for the lower, and slightly slower 700MHz band. Power users will also appreciate that it has Full DeX support, allowing your phone to be used as an ad hoc PC by hooking it up via a HDMI cable to a monitor.

The main centerpiece of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, on top of its impressive screen and hardware, is its rear quad camera array that is several orders of magnitude more powerful than its siblings the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+.

Galaxy S20 Ultra rear camera

Housed in the chunky rectangular camera bump on the rear is a humongous 108-MP F/1.8 OIS-stabilised camera, a secondary 48-MP telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom and 10x hybrid zoom, a 12-MP F/2.2 ultrawide angle camera and a fourth TOF camera for Live Focus stills and video.

This setup enables the S20 Ultra to be one of, if not the first smartphone in Malaysia to capture 8K resolution video on top of packing an incredible 100x Space Zoom hybrid zoom feature to peep at paparazzi-pleasing distances.

Keeping it powered is an impressive 5,000mAh battery complemented by 45W fast charging as well as the option for wireless charging and reverse wireless charging for other kit like the Galaxy Buds+ wireless earbuds.

Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t bundle the associated fast charger with the phone and you’re relegated to a stock 25W charger out of the box though they do bundle a USB Type-C AKG pair of earbuds, a casing and a Type-C charging cable to go with the whole affair.

Galaxy S20 Ultra rear

In keeping with Samsung’s traditional attention to their flagships, the Galaxy 20 Ultra exudes quality in every aspect of its design and has a premium finish from stem to stern. It’s on the heavy side on account of its large battery but it has an even heft and is still very wieldable one handed on account of the almost non existent side, top and bottom bezels. The left side is unadorned though the right has a power button and volume rocker while the top itself hosts a hybrid SIM card tray. 

The rear camera bump is the largest and chunkiest we’ve seen in ages and you’ll need a casing – which they provide straight of the box – to mitigate any potential nicks and scratches.

The Gorilla Glass 6 glass-shod backplate looks classy in keeping with an S-series phone but it’s also a fingerprint magnet. The available colour choices – a dark gray or black – are safe but are hardly exciting to look at while the cheaper Galaxy S20 has more eye-catching colours to choose from including a shade pastel blue or pink.

On the bright side, the unique design of the camera bump makes the Galaxy S20 Ultra a very distinctive phone indeed if you’re one to flaunt your taste in mobile devices and seeing what the Galaxy S20 Ultra has to offer, it’s something well worth showing off.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Performance and Benchmarks

In synthetic benchmarks, the Galaxy S20 Ultra performed in an impressive fashion with scores that are among the best in its class. In PCMark’s Work 2.0 performance test, it scored a whopping 11,925 points. In Antutu benchmark, it got a score of 511,713 points. In 3DMark’s SlingShot Extreme Open GL ES 3.1 test, it scored 6,663 points, one of the highest scores currently on test while in Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan it got 6,363 points. In Geekbench 5.0, it got a single core score of 916 and a multi-core score of 2,581 points. 

Under live field tests, the Galaxy S20 Ultra performed like a champ, adroitly tackling everything thrown at it from gaming to hefty 4K video editing. It handled Call of Duty Mobile on the highest settings, tackled 4K video editing on the built-in video editor with videos rendered in mere minutes and managed to undertake a host of more mundane tasks in a swift fashion from word processing, emails to web browsing. As the very embodiment of cutting edge smartphone tech at this moment in time, there’s nothing it can’t handle.

The Super AMOLED display of the Galaxy S20 Ultra is impressive indeed with sufficient clarity to make it easy to see even under broad daylight in either 120Hz FHD+ or at its native 60Hz WQHD+ resolution, serving up exquisite colours and pin-sharp detail. 

Galaxy S20 Ultra angled

Why not both WQHD+ and 120Hz, you ask? Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a catch with the Galaxy S20 Ultra. If you’re enabling the 120Hz refresh rate, you’re relegated to FHD+ resolution only. If you want to take advantage of the phone’s native WQHD+ resolution you have to reduce it to 60Hz.

Both features would have been nice in tandem though this would presumably represent a significant drain on the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s battery. 

Galaxy S20 Ultra refresh rate

Even at FHD+ resolution, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is capable of displaying lusciously vibrant and crisp footage; no surprise there as it’s HDR and HDR10+ ready. With the 120Hz refresh rate turned up, menus and web browsing feel incredibly smooth though not all apps and not all games are optimised for this high refresh rate. The 240Hz touch sampling rate also means that it ought to give you a slight edge in competitive games like Call of Duty Mobile; Once you’re accustomed to the silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate, you’ll be dismayed to downgrade back to a conventional 60Hz panel. 

Movies and games are a real treat to watch on the S20 Ultra’s display, more so for the fact that it’s pair of stereo speakers are competent performers, with excellent sound staging and clarity for their size.

There’s still a few quibbles though. For the price of entry, the onboard 128GB of storage is a bit on the low side though that can still be addressed with a microSD card. The other pickle is that it lacks an audio jack though seeing the wide availability of quality wireless earbuds these days, it’s becoming less of a deal breaker.

Galaxy S20 Ultra angled

We weren’t able to test 5G connectivity with the phone seeing as it’s not deployed in any widespread fashion in Malaysia but field tests with 4G LTE proved to be very satisfactory around town and in a few rural areas outside of town around Kuala Lumpur and Melaka with minimal signal dropout with test accounts from several major telcos. On the bright side, owning the S20 Ultra means that you’re all set when 5G does roll out in Malaysia.

Galaxy S20 Ultra Camera Performance

The Galaxy S20 Ultra packs an impressive camera array centered around a 108-MP F/1.8 camera with a 12-MP ultra-wide angle camera as well as a 48-MP camera with a periscope style-telephoto lens riding shotgun.

Galaxy S20 ultra rear

Both the primary 108-MP and 48-MP camera have optical image stabilisation. Perched in the corner is a DepthVision camera for LiveFocus videos and stills. This combination of hardware allows the phone to capture up to 8K@24fps video and the ability to use a combination of optical and digital zoom to achieve 100x hybrid zoom.

Galaxy S20 Ultra front

At up to 4x zoom, the phone relies on a periscope-style optical zoom lens. Beyond 4x zoom and below 10x, the phone relies on what Samsung calls ‘lossless hybrid optic’ zoom,  a combination of sensor cropping as well as both optical and digital zoom with no discernible losses in image quality.

Galaxy S20 Ultra zoom

Beyond that all the way to 100x, the phone uses purely digital zoom though it’s a challenge as even the slightest hand movements will create significant shake in the camera at that zoom distance.

Galaxy S20 Ultra camera UI
The camera user interface is a familiar affair for any Samsung phone user with a fully-featured Pro mode that lets you tweak white balance, ISO, shutter speed and more. This time around, the camera offers a new Single Take mode.

Galay S20 Ultra single take mode

Essentially an AI-infused burst mode on steroids, a single press of a button takes a slew of shots and video clips up to 10-seconds in length combined with a variety of filters to yield a selection of shots that you can pick and choose from. If there’s one killer feature with the S20 Ultra’s camera user interface, One Take mode is it and I hope that this feature gets trickled to other Samsung phones later on down the line.

When capturing snaps, the primary 108-MP sensor does most of the grunt work with snaps pixel-binned to 12-MP resolution embellished with image stabilisation and a bunch of other tricks to yield sharp, judder-free shots. You can optionally shoot at full 108-MP resolution and yield up shots that you can crop later at your leisure.

galaxy S20 ultra wide angle
Primary 108MP rear camera for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Note the clocktower just above the train station in the distance.
galaxy S20 ultra 100x zoom
100x Space Zoom with the Galaxy S20 Ultra with a tripod – we can actually read the time on the clock!

Image quality was superb with beautiful hues and excellent detail. At up to 30x zoom, shots are good enough that you can pick out fine details like car plate numbers and the like. Past sundown, you’re able to yield equally good shots with the provision of Samsung’s Night mode though you need a 4-second delay to snap an image.

galaxy S20 ultra ultrawide mode
Ultrawide rear camera at night for the Galaxy S20 Ultra
galaxy S20 ultra
Primary 108MP camera for the Galaxy S20 Ultra
Galaxy S20 Ultra
100x Space Zoom under low light conditions with the rear camera
10z lossless zoom on the Galaxy S20 Ultra rear camera at dusk. Excellent colour rendition on the mural and levels of detail.

In theory, the 100x Space Zoom sounds amazing but in practice it’s more of a novelty at this point in time. Up to 10x zoom, the rear camera offered zoomed in shots with excellent detail even when shot in an impromptu fashion.

Galaxy S20 Ultra at dusk

Beyond that up to 30x, you can make do with a steady hand and leaning on a railing to get shots to get usable snaps. Beyond that level, you’ll need a tripod. This shot of a clock tower several hundred metres away is perfect evidence of that though the resulting images are very grainy, making it more a novelty at best. It also isn’t particularly good under dim light conditions beyond 30x with even more pronounced grain and noise.

For now, the 100x Space Zoom is purely for bragging rights and attempting shots which you’d likely never be able to take like sitting way back in the mosh pit at a concert and getting up close shots of your favourite performer on stage though – again – you’ll need a tripod to yield remotely usable results. We also attempted a 100x moon shot when the moon was full and oddly enough, our preview shot exhibited more detail than the results we captured.

Galaxy S20 Ultra
100x shot of the full moon
Galaxy S20 Ultra front
Actual results with the 100x shot of the moon

The phone’s signature ability to record 8K video is limited to 24fps and looks absolutely brilliant to behold with footage so sharp that you can screencap crisp 33-MP stills off captured footage. At this resolution, there’s no image stabilisation so you’ll need a tripod or a very steady hand.

S20 Ultra
The ultrawide angle camera exhibits excellent colour rendition and performance akin to the primary camera under daylight conditions like the shot below.

All this footage also takes up a ton of space with a minute of 8K video gobbling up 600MB worth of storage. Watching it is another kettle of fish entirely and you’ll need Samsung’s new 8K QLED TVs to make the most of the footage beyond your Galaxy S20 Ultra’s display. You’ll likely be doing most of your videos in either image stabilised 1080P or in 4K and both yield excellent footage.

 

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Battery Life


The Galaxy S20 Ultra packs a massive 5,000mAh battery which is one of the largest that you can shove into a phone which goes some way towards feeding the ravenous hunger of a 120Hz display and an 8K video capturing device. 

Most users will likely default to the 120Hz FHD+ setting rather than the 60Hz WQHD+ setting to experience the phone’s main calling card. For the former, with modest usage settings, a combination of WiFi and LTE data on all day, a couple of hours worth of watching video, several hours of web browsing and an hour worth of gaming, heavy use of social media and just using the camera and 4K video capture, the phone managed to last a whole day with just enough left for the commute home with about 9 plus hours of active screen time.

The more pragmatic use of the 60Hz WQHD+ option ekes out significantly better endurance. With the aforementioned usage settings, the phone easily lasted the better part of a day and a half with about a dozen hours of active screen time. 

Galaxy S20 Ultra rear

These estimates however go rapidly south if you’re liberally capturing 8K video and using 5G connectivity but we were only able to test the former and not the latter seeing as there’s still a dearth of 5G connectivity in Malaysia. If you’re capturing significant 8K video on the phone, you’ll likely halve these battery life estimates.

Charging the phone is fortunately relatively fast with the provided 25W fast charger. From dead zero, it managed to get fully charged in about an hour which is quite an achievement. We didn’t have a 45W charger to test it with but it should enjoy even faster charging speeds. There’s also reverse wireless charging and it works with the Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds+.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra?


The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is the pinnacle of Samsung’s technological prowess, with a brilliant 120Hz display, a powerful ensemble of hardware paired with a large battery along with an impressive rear camera capable of capturing 8K video along with 5G support when it rolls out later down the line.

If you happen to have five grand burning in your pocket and want to have bragging rights with the most powerful phone that Samsung currently has, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is right up your alley.

You can check Adam Lobo TV’s online review of the Galaxy S20 Ultra if you’re more of a visual sort of chap. You can check him out in the link below:

 

What we loved Breathtakingly beautiful 120Hz display, excellent rear camera, beefy performance, 8K video capture, 5G ready

What we didn’t All the high end bells and whistles drain battery life fast, 100x space zoom is a novelty, not cheap, camera bump is huge, no 3.5mm audio jack, 

We say The Galaxy S20 Ultra is the sum result of Samsung’s technological prowess crammed into a relatively compact shell. The next generation hardware on offer here is best-in-class  with a 120Hz display and a camera capable of capturing 8K video though this is also one of their most expensive phones to date. If you’re after the best that Samsung has to offer, this is it, hands down.

Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia

ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF Review – Sturdy Office Cornerstone

The ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF isn’t exactly a normal desktop PC as it is intended for commercial users from small businesses all the way to large corporations, meant for mass deployment in large quantities and has significantly higher levels of service support to ensure minimum disruption for businesses.

Asus ExpertCenter D6414SFF angled

More astute readers will notice that the device exhibited in our shots is labelled as an ExpertPC. As we were going to print, ASUS was in the midst of a rebranding exercise, altering the existing brandname into ExpertCenter. Bar the name difference, we were assured that everything else including specifications in the review unit is identical to a stock production unit.

Consumer PCs intended for retail use usually veer towards more garish colour schemes with a ton of RGB lighting shoehorned in for good measure, the ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF has aesthetics on the conservative side with a minimalist matte black finish and a more utilitarian outlook that prioritises ease of maintenance and easy access to ports for the user. 

In that regard, the PC itself is relatively compact, with dimensions larger and chunkier than a conventional pre-20th century phonebook along with the option to either lay it vertically or horizontally for use. What is particularly reassuring is that the chassis itself is rated MIL-STD-810G, which means it can survive a drop to the floor at 150G/2.5ms and withstand up to 500Hz vibrations for up to an hour in all directions on top of general resistance to humidity and extremes of temperature.

Asus ExpertCenter D6414SFF front ports

While it’s relatively compact, the PC is extensively kitted out with a ton of ports on both the front and the rear to handle current gen and even legacy hardware too. Mounted on the front as standard is an 8X speed CD-RW drive; somewhat of a rarity these days. Next to it is a headphone and microphone port, a USB Type-C port, 4 USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports and a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports for a grand total of 7 front-facing USB ports. The front also has a smart card and SD card reader too.

The rear of the chassis hosts a rather quaint PS/2 mouse and keyboard port for legacy hardware, a HDMI port, a VGA port, a display port, a LAN port and a pair of USB 2.0 ports along with a line-in, a line-out and a microphone port.

Asus ExpertCenter D6414SFF rear

The interior of the ExpertCenter D6414SFF is equally well planned and thought out with easy tool-less access and a hinged steel case that opens to reveal a 3.5-inch hard disk slot that can be removed with just your fingers, an M.2 SSD slot, a quartet of DIMM slots and a PCI slot, 2 PCI-e X 1 slots and one PCI-e x 16 slot for GPUs and other additional kit.

In general, the layout is very well thought out and will benefit modders looking to upgrade their gear though it’s really intended for purchase and use by businesses. It’s not immediately deployable out of the box though. While it comes with a free keyboard and mouse, it doesn’t have a monitor to go with it though it’s something you can likely get it on your own as an individual purchase.


ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF Performance


The ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF comes in a variety of configurations that vary depending on how deep your pockets (or rather your company budget) go with prices for the base model starting from just RM1,249. 

At this price point, you’re getting something sufficient for basic paperwork with a Celeron G4930 CPU, 4GB DDR4 RAM, a 1 terabyte 7,200RPM hard disk and a DVD-RW 8X burner. If you need something with a bit more punch, you can opt for a version with an i3-9100U CPU for RM1,799 or a Pentium G5400 CPU for RM1,399. Optionally, you can also get a custom quote from ASUS for even beefier specifications as the chassis itself has plenty of space with the option to cram in a GPU and SSDs as needed.

Asus ExpertCenter D6414SFF opened
The ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF offers tool-less access via two thumb screws and a slide-out panel that hinged open to offer access to the interior

In Malaysia, the top of the line variant, which was the configuration sported by our test unit, retails for RM2,299 has similar specifications as the entry level model but upgrades the CPU to an 10th Gen Intel Core i5-9400U processor paired with Intel UHD Graphics 630 integrated graphics.

However, our version differs slightly from what is listed online as it has an additional 4GB DDR4 RAM for a total of 8GB RAM crammed into the chassis. With this kind of configuration, the ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF is primarily designed for paperwork crunching and photo editing at most though our test unit is certainly more capable than its cheaper siblings by a significant margin.

Where the ExpertCentershines is on the management side of things as it has a ton of features, including several optional ones for an additional sum, that make it easier to manage entire fleets of them in a company. While one PC going down in one office location isn’t much of a booha, things rapidly go downhill if you have multiple work-stopping faults spread across different office locations. 

That’s where the the brand’s centralised IT management software, dubbed the ASUS Control Center comes into the picture to manage all ASUS servers, workstations and the like remotely via one easy interface along with the ASUS Business Manager utility app that simplifies maintenance and optimisation tasks for individual desktops. More security conscious companies can elect to install chassis intrusion alert alarms, an optional Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to prevent tampering of the hardware. 

Asus ExpertCenter D6414SFF timespy

Asus ExpertCenter D6414SFF nighraidAsus ExpertCenter D6414SFF pcmark
In terms of performance, the ExpertCenter proved to be serviceable for general duties short of heavy duty video editing and graphics work. In 3DMark’s Time Spy test, it got a modest 424 points while in Night Raid, which is intended for hardware with integrated graphics, it scored a better 5,274 points.


In Cinebench R20, it got a modest score of 2,179 points while in the SuperPosition Benchmark test, it got 742 points and 4.61fps on average in the 1080P medium benchmark test and 528 points with an average of 3.4fps on the 1080P high benchmark test.

Our test unit’s 1TB Toshiba 7,200rpm D101ACA100 SATA hard disk offered equally modest 181.63MB/s and 186.41MB/s read/write speeds. For better performance, it’s best to get an SSD but that’s also a matter to wrangle with your company’s procurement division.

Asus ExpertCenter D6414SFF crystal disk mark

 

Booting it up took a minute or two, but it proved to be a functional workhorse. It handled about two dozen or so open tabs in Chrome, managed to crunch through a day’s worth of emails and documents on Google Doc with a slew of Netflix and YouTube shows on 1080P.


The ExpertCenter’s bundled keyboard and mouse are serviceable at best and do the job. The keyboard is plasticky with a USB port to hook up to the PC and still managed a fair 100WPM with a seasoned typist. 

ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF Price and Conclusion

As it stands, the ASUS ExpertCenter is a sturdily made, highly configurable desktop with a plethora of customisation options depending on how deep your pockets go.

The chassis is easy to access, has a host of extra bays to juice it up and has enough performance in its stock configurations for all but the most demanding paperwork crunchers.

Asus ExpertCenter D6414SFF crystaldisk specs hard diskAsus ExpertCenter D6414SFFA front

Unfortunately, we were not able to test the remote management systems of ASUS’ ExpertCenter range so the context of our review is strictly towards the build quality, design and performance of the ASUS ExpertCenter desktop on its own.

If you’re looking to kit out an office with a slew of affordable, sturdily built desktops, the ExpertCenter D6414SFF  looks like an ideal candidate for the task.

ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF Specifications

Price RM2,299
Processor Intel Core i5-9500 (upgradeable up to Intel Core i7 8700)
OS Windows 10 Pro
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 630 (upgradeable up to NVIDIA GeForce GT1030 2GB GDDR5)
Memory 4GB DDR4 RAM (base configuration upgradeable to 64GB)/ 1TB 7,200RPM hard disk
Size/Weight 95 x 277 x 340mm /5.5kg

Review unit courtesy of ASUS Malaysia. For more details visit: https://www.asus.com/my/Commercial-Desktop/ASUS-ExpertPC-D6414SFF/

 

What we liked Generous array of ports and expansion slots, highly customisable to fit business requirements, MIL-STD 810G rated, easy access no-tool chassis
What we didn’t Bundled keyboard and mouse are plasticky and basic at best, rather plain looking, SSD ought to be the default in stock configuration
We say The ASUS ExpertCenter D6414SFF doesn’t wow crowds with snazzy design or terrifyingly powerful pixel crunching hardware but these aren’t concerns for a business enterprise.

In this realm, the ASUS Expert PC D6414SFF shines as it is fit for purpose, with a minimalist, easy to access chassis with generous expansion slots and MIL-STD-810G ratings for sturdiness and durability, lending it to easy deployment and management; key concerns if you have hundreds of them to manage in a business environment.

Add in sufficient performance for the average spreadsheet and paperwork jockey and you have a sturdy cornerstone that can help turn the tide in the budget and office wars.

Samsung Galaxy Note10 Lite Review – The Delightfully Lite Heavy Hitter

Samsung Galaxy Note10 Lite Review

The Galaxy Note10 Lite is one of the few, if not the only, smartphone in its price range with a stylus. While it has hardware that’s a bit long in the tooth, that does not dismiss the fact that it’s still a potent performer with immense battery life, a huge and vibrant display and a solid rear camera array. If you want the Galaxy Note experience, this is currently the most affordable and effective way to experience it now.

Editor's Rating:
4

Launched at the same time as the Galaxy S10 Lite in Malaysia, the Galaxy Note10 Lite is a curious mix of new and old tech which is intended to offer much of the Galaxy Note experience with some tradeoffs at a very affordable price point.

Externally, the Galaxy Note10 Lite eschews the glass and metal chassis of its pricier siblings and instead opts for a facsimile that’s been dubbed as glasstic which is effectively polycarbonate but with a shiny reflective coating that mimics the aesthetics of glass.

Galaxy Note10 Lite front
The backplate itself has a design akin to the new Galaxy S20 series with a squarish, blocky triple rear camera array emplaced in the upper left corner of the phone. The left side of the phone is bare save for a hybrid SIM card tray that lets you pop in a SIM card and a microSD card or two SIM cards at the same time.

The base sports a grille for the sole mono speaker on the phone, a USB Type-C port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a well for the bundled S Pen stylus. The right side of the phone sports a power button and volume rocker while the top is otherwise bare.

Galaxy Note10 Lite rearThe front of the phone consists almost entirely of display, with slim side bezels and a tiny punchhole in the 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-O display up top for the selfie camera. Much like its pricier siblings, it also has an under-glass fingerprint scanner to keep the design neat and clean. The Note10 Lite is also one of the few Galaxy Note series phones in recent service since the early Galaxy Note5 that has a completely flat display rather than curved edges.

Galaxy Note10 Lite camera

Belying its RM2,299 price tag, the Galaxy Note10 Lite proved to offer a premium heft and build quality akin to its pricier siblings though it is technically meant to be lower on the totem pole than the Galaxy Note10 in pricing, performance and capabilityl under practical conditions it’s pretty darned close to what its pricier kin can do and falls short by just a notch or two.

Galaxy Note10 Lite audio jack
It even manages to go one-better over the pricier Galaxy Note10 as it packs a much larger 4,500mAh battery with 25W fast charging though it lacks wireless charging support. There’s also one thing that it has that the Note10 series lacks – a 3.5mm audio jack which is a pleasant bonus.

Galaxy Note10 Lite Benchmarks

Under the hood, the Galaxy Note10 Lite comes with an Exynos 9810 octacore processor, a two-year old SoC that first saw service on the Galaxy Note9 and Galaxy S9 series phones. Paired with this is the latest Android 10 and Samsung’s own One UI 2 that’s also seen on their latest Galaxy S20 series phones. For Galaxy Note10 Lite units in Malaysia, we’re getting 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage expandable via the hybrid SIM card.

Galaxy Note10 Lite angled
The Exynos 9810 octacore processor was built on a 10nm process whereas the more powerful Galaxy Note10 and Note10+ run on the Exynos 9825 processor. While the Exynos 9810 was cutting edge in its day, it’s pretty long in the tooth and not as energy efficient along with being slightly less powerful than the current day Exynos 990; this will impact on battery life but the provision of the large 4,500mAh battery makes up for it.

In synthetic benchmarks, the Galaxy Note10 Lite acquited itself in a respectable fashion. In PCMark’s Work 2.0 test, it got 6,126 points. In Geekbench 5.0, it got a single-core score of 660 and a multi-core score of 1,929. Under Antutu 3D, it got a decent score of 331,660 points. In 3DMark’s Slingshot Extreme Open GL ES 3.1 benchmark, it got a score of 4,031 points while in the Sling Shot Extreme Vulkan test, it got a score of 3,723 points.

Under practical field conditions, the Note10 Lite did not disappoint and proved swift enough to be the match of most competing flagships. Games like the latest Call of Duty Mobile were tackled on the highest settings without any discernible lag. The phone managed heavy duty browsing with over a dozen open Windows in Chrome and a host of other tasks with swift load times throughout the experience.

The provided Super AMOLED display maxes out at Full HD+ resolution much like the Note10 and served up wonderfully vibrant hues onscreen and pin-sharp text. Even compared to the 4K displays on the Note10+, there isn’t much difference unless you pore over every pixel. Its FHD+ resolution also works in its favour here as it also means that there’s less pixels to push and which in turn extends battery life. 

Galaxy Note10 Lite side

The main quibble here is that the Note10 Lite only has a single mono speaker at the base of the phone, perhaps in an effort to cut corners. The speaker itself is loud, manages to stay audible without distortion at high volumes but has poor sound staging; if you’re watching movies or gaming on this, you’d best resort to using headphones.

Samsung’s upgraded One UI 2 interface offers a bit more clarity on what apps are using what resources in the background and has more options for granting and denying permissions on a per app basis. 

The interface has most of the Note10 series tweaks, including their Air Command feature to let take notes with the SPen and Edge shortcuts that let you gain quick access to preselected apps. The biggest thing that this version of One UI 2 lacks though is the omission of DeX mode so you can’t hook it up to a monitor via a HDMI cable to fire a desktop interface nor can you hook it up to a USB port to your PC to mirror what’s display on your phone.

It’s hardly a concern for casual users but it is something important to take note for power users. Fortunately, the phone does retain the use of Samsung Pay so you’ll be able to get your usual payments done with a minimum of fuss.

Galaxy Note10 Lite SPen Stylus performance

The provided S Pen stylus on the Note10 Lite is effectively the same as the one used in the Galaxy Note9 with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support, allowing you to use a combination of button presses on the stylus to remotely control aspects of the phone within several meters distance.

You can use it as a remote shutter release allowing you to prop the phone up somewhere and take wefies or other customised tasks like browsing through your own image gallery. Unfortunately, it lacks the accelerometers seen in the Note10 and Note10+, so it lacks wand-like gesture controls on the S Pen.

Galaxy Note10 Lite S Pen


Omission of gesture controls aside, the SPen in the Note10 Lite allows you to sketch, draw and doodle as well as use the full range of Air Command shortcuts to do screen grabs, edit and annotate notes and the like.
In keeping with its pricier siblings, the S Pen also has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity with the full range of function afforded to other Note series styli.

The fact that you’re getting this kind of functionality at its price point at just about 2 grand is quite a surprise.

Galaxy Note10 Lite camera performance

While Samsung’s most affordable Note has a Lite added to the name, it’s no slouch in the camera department. The rear comes with a triple camera array arranged in a squarish housing with an LED flash. All three cameras have a 12-MP sensor but differ in purpose.

Galaxy Note10 Lite cameras

The primary camera sports an F/1.7 aperture with OIS though it lacks the Dual Aperture switching tech of its pricier siblings. The second camera comes with 2x optical zoom and the third one packs a 123-degree ultra-wide angle lens. Both the zoom and primary rear camera have optical image stabilisation. The front packs a 32-MP selfie camera.

The camera user interface is a mix between that of the Note10 and the Note9. There’s a Live Focus mode but only for stills and it lacks the ability to defocus or to desaturate the background. A Pro mode exists with the full monty of expected options including ISO, shutter speed, white balance and the like. There’s also a dedicated Night mode that requires a 4-second delay but which serves up better lit shots after dark.

Note10 Lite Ultrawide mode
Ultrawide angle camera under daylight conditions
Note10 Lite primary
Primary 12-MP camera
Note10 Lite zoom
2x Optical zoom under daylight conditions

Shots taken off the cuff under daylight with the primary, wide angle camera and the optical zoom proved to be excellent under daylight, delivering Samsung’s characteristic aesthetic look with crisp detail and hues veering slightly towards on the vibrant side.

Note10 Lite

Note10 Lite
Ultrawide angle mode

Shots after dusk in low light are equally good as well with the Night mode trading off a 4-second delay for better dynamic range and a bit more detail. Pixel peeping up close reveals some softness and noise but it’s more than adequate for more than enough quality for a Facebook or Instagram post. 

Note10 Lite night
Note10 Lite Night mode off
Note10 Lite night mode on
Note10 Lite Night mode on

Both the front and rear are capable of capturing 4K video. Captured video at 4K is generally good with the provided OIS helping to smooth out most shots but electronic video stabilisation is only available at 1080P resolution, helping to manage hand shakes and gait judder to a much more significant degree.

 

Note10 Lite
Wide angle camera at dusk
Note10 Lite night mode on
Primary camera at dusk

Note10 Lite review low lightYou’re getting top-shelf performance here that can give competing flagships a run for their money and which can acquit itself favourably against its pricier siblings like the Note10 and Note10+.

Galaxy Note10 Lite Battery Life, Price and Conclusion


The massive 4,500mAh battery crammed into the Galaxy Note10 Lite gives it exceptional endurance. In fact, it’s even larger than the batteries crammed into the pricier Galaxy Note10 (3,500mAh) and the Galaxy Note10+ (4,300mAh). This is however tempered by the older, less efficient Exynos processor but the sheer size of the battery in the Galaxy Note10 Lite lets it steamroller over any these limitations with sheer brute force.

Galaxy Note10 Lite camera

With a combination of WiFi and data on and screen brightness set to auto, the Note10 Lite was easily capable of lasting nigh on two days with a couple of hours of voice calls across both days, constant use of social media and a good several hours of movies combined with marathon Call of Duty Mobile gaming sessions. It was only by noon on day 2 that it merited a top-up.

The Galaxy Note10 Lite is an interesting phone indeed. You’re getting a premium experience with expandable storage, a vibrant Super AMOLED display, a decent set of cameras, incredible battery endurance and above all, the S Pen stylus. It even manages to retain a 3.5mm audio jack in the bargain, something its pricier siblings lack.

Unfortunately, it lacks DeX mode functionality, only has a mono speaker rather than the stereo setups of its pricier siblings and lacks IP water resistance. All of these omissions aren’t deal breakers but they’re something worth noting, pun notwithstanding, for power users.

Galaxy Note10 Lite review

As it stands, the Galaxy Note10 Lite is a worthy proposition for those seeking an affordable way to get in on the Galaxy Note series experience. Its older predecessor the Galaxy Note9 is still a worthy contender that can still be found if you are fairly resourceful with similar specifications and a sharper display.

What we liked S Pen stylus works as remote control, huge battery, excellent Super AMOLED display, retains a 3.5mm audio jack, great cameras
What we didn’t Lacks DeX mode, has a mono speaker, no IP rating
We say The Galaxy Note10 Lite is one of the few, if not the only, smartphone in its price range with a stylus. While it has hardware that’s a bit long in the tooth, that does not dismiss the fact that it’s still a potent performer with immense battery life, a huge and vibrant display and a solid rear camera array. If you want the Galaxy Note experience, this is currently the most affordable and effective way to experience it now.


Galaxy Note10 Lite Specifications

Price RM2,299
Display 6.7-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED display, 2,400 x 1080 pixels
Processor Exynos 9810
Memory 8GB RAM/128GB storage
Camera 12-MP F/1.7 + 12-MP F/2.4 w/ 2x zoom + 12-MP F/2.2 ultrawide (rear) / 32-MP F/2.2 (front)
Battery 4,500mAh
Size/Weight 163.7 x 76.1 x 8.7mm / 199g
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia. Check out their official page at https://www.samsung.com/my/smartphones/galaxy-note10-lite/SM-N770FZSUXME/

Samsung Galaxy A71 Review – Awesome Screen, Camera and More

Galaxy A71

The second of Samsung’s two new Galaxy A series phones, the Samsung Galaxy A71 aims to offer to offer the desirable trinity of features for aspiring phone owners – a large and vibrant screen, a good camera and, as they are wont to put it, awesome battery life.

While Samsung’s product naming system is somewhat straightforward, the Galaxy A71 occupies an interesting gray area. While its nomenclature implies it to be a revised upgrade of last year’s Galaxy A70, it has hardware that is closer to the Galaxy A flagship, the Galaxy A80 albeit in a sturdier casing without any of the rotating camera mechanisms of the latter.

Galaxy A71 backplate

Previously, we took a look at its design and build quality. This time around, we’re going to put it through our usual bench marks and field tests.

Samsung Galaxy A71 performance and Specifications

As a midrange phone, the Galaxy A71 is quite well equipped with a 6.7-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED Plus Infinity-O display. What this translates to, minus the marketing jargon, is a large and vibrant Super AMOLED display with 2,280 x 1080 pixels resolution with a small punch hole up top for the 32-MP camera.

Complementing this is a midrange Snapdragon 730 octacore processor paired with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage with a triple card slot that accepts microSD cards up to 512GB in size. The Snapdragon 730 octacore processor was first introduced in 2019 and is used in Xiaomi’s Mi 9T as well as Samsung’s own Galaxy A80; both were introduced last year as well.

While it’s not an apple to apple comparison, so to speak, the Galaxy A71’s RAM and storage setup is akin to the A80 with an identical processor running the show though the Galaxy A71 has a more powerful camera and a larger battery at a lower price point. All these points are compelling features especially for someone on a budget.

The phone runs One UI 2.0 on Android 10 with a few refinements specific to Samsung’s Galaxy A series. Older versions had some amount of bloatware but this time around they’ve achieved a somewhat fair middle ground. Rather than plonking in two browsers, Samsung has just stuck with Chrome and left their proprietary browser as an optional download.

Other apps preloaded on the phone include Netflix and Lazada both of which are fortunately in common use. They’ve also added in the Samsung Max app that acts as a combination of a VPN and a data savings app though the latest version now has a freemium ad-supported mode and a deluxe version with an RM8.49 monthly subscription fee.

Other features culled from higher end Samsung phones include their Edge screen which lets you get a series of shortcuts to favourite apps and a Bixby Home page that aggregates all your notifications into one page. Getting about is fast, smooth and generally intuitive with a relatively flat learning curve.

In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the Galaxy A71 has approximately similar performance to the A80. In Antutu 3D it got a score of 239,494 points while in 3D Mark’s Sling SHot Extreme Open GL ES 3.1 test it got 2,035 points and 1,862 points in the Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan test. In PCMark’s Work 2.0 test, it got 7,703 points. In GeekBench 5, the Galaxy A71 got a single-core score of 547 points and 1,743 points in the multi-core score test.

When taken for a whirl around the block, the Galaxy A71 did everything expected of it without faltering or keeling over. The web browsing experience on Chrome ran smoothly with over a dozen windows open and resource heavy pages loading without a hitch while swapping between all of them took mere seconds.

Most apps loaded in seconds save for more intensive, resource intensive ones with a cloud-component like Call of Duty Mobile with the general user experience being fast and zippy across the board. On that front, it’s a pretty competent gaming platform as well with the aforementioned game running smoothly at high settings along with Asphalt 8, PUBG and Planescape:Torment.

The display on the Galaxy A71 offers vibrant, saturated hues and pin-sharp text onscreen with the ability to play Netflix in Full HD. Clarity under sunlight is good for gaming and movie watching duties though the mono speaker at the base detracts from a full-on viewing or gaming experience.

While the mono speaker fairly loud and doesn’t distort at maximum volumes, there’s only so much it can do but at this price point it’s hard to quibble though a stereo speaker setup would have been most welcome.

Galaxy A71 quad camera

While comparisons would be drawn to its immediate predecessor the Galaxy A70, the Galaxy A71 comes with a much beefier camera array, upping the camera count to 4 versus its predecessors triple camera array. For the Galaxy A71, you get a massive 64-MP F/1.8 camera as the primary camera paired with a larger 12-MP 123-degree angle ultrawide camera, a 5-MP depth sensor and a 5-MP macro camera.

Galaxy A71 rear camera

One thing to note is that none of the cameras have optical image stabilisation (OIS) though there is a software-based Super Steady mode to offer a modicum of image stabilisation when capturing video. The front has a 32-MP fixed focus selfie camera. Both the front and rear cameras are capable of capturing 4K video.

Galaxy A71 closeup

Compared to the A70, the Galaxy A71 has double the Megapixel count on the primary camera and a better wide angle camera to boot as well as benefiting from a number of algorithm enhancements to offer better overall performance and more features with the addition of a Night mode in particular to offer better shots in low light. Samsung Galaxy A71 camera mode UI
The camera UI is somewhat akin to the usual interface and menu options seen on the Galaxy S series and Note series albeit pared down to avoid competition. You still get the usual auto, video, panoramic and macro modes as well as a Live Focus mode though it’s the basic one circa Galaxy Note 9.

Galaxy A71 primary camera
Primary camera of the Galaxy A71 on auto mode indoors
Galaxy A71 wide angle
Wide angle camera of the Galaxy A71 taken indoors

You’re only able to dial the strength of the defocus but not the aesthetic style seen in the Galaxy S10 onwards. The camera UI also lacks a Live Focus Video mode as well so the depth camera is mostly relegated for stills. 

Samsung Galaxy A71 pro mode

Fortunately, what you do get is a Scene Optimiser mode that detects what you’re shooting and tweaks settings for best results.

In keeping with other Galaxy A series phones, the Galaxy A71 also has a Pro mode but it’s still as basic as it gets with only the option to tweak ISO, exposure and white balance. Still, seeing its intended demographic, it’s not a major concern.

Galaxy A71 primary
Capture with the Galaxy A71 main camera on auto settings
Galay A71
Wide angle camera on the Galaxy A71

In the field the Galaxy A71 proved to be very competent with results matching most contenders in its price range with good shots from its primary and wide angle camera in both daylight and dim light conditions.

The 64-MP primary camera proved to be highly capable with good detail and colour rendition on auto mode in both daylight and all but the dimmest low light conditions.

For night shots, Samsung has provided a Night mode this time around that works for both the primary and wide angle camera that has a longer exposure time but offers better lit shots that offer richer colours though with a trade-off of a slightly soft look. 

Samsung Galaxy A71 macro mode
Taken with macro mode indoors
Samsung Galaxy A71 macro mode
Macro mode outdoors.

The wide angle camera did best under daylight with slightly poorer performance under low light. Both the primary and wide angle camera are immediately accessible on the camera UI but the provided macro camera is nested deeper in the menus. Macro shots are fair but seem rather washed out when used outdoors and it produces grainy shots in dim light; understandable seeing the nature of the small 5-MP camera. It performs its best work under bright, indirect light.

Samsung Galaxy A71 low light mode
Low light mode on the Galaxy A71.

The provided Live Focus mode is the basic version unlike the more sophisticated ones seen in the Galaxy S10 series onwards but does let you dial the depth of bokeh. There’s some subtle improvements in the algorithm and it’s able to better track subtler details like hair over the older A70. Videos captured in 4K don’t benefit from any electronic image stabilisation so you’ll need to use it with a tripod for best results. Videos are decent for casual use but dynamic range and detail aren’t particularly stellar compared to what a flagship Galaxy S or Note series phone can deliver.

Samsung Galaxy A71 live focus
Live Focus mode on the Galaxy A71. Pretty good as it manages to pick out and identify the edges even with the fine hairs on the resident cat.

Dial the video down to 1080P resolution and you get a modicum of image stabilisation via Samsung’s Super Steady mode first seen on last year’s models with relatively smooth results if you keep videos to a smooth gait though the Super Steady OIS in the new Galaxy S10 Lite is a far superior implementation that also incorporates hardware stabilisation versus just software alone.

In its own mid-tier league, the Galaxy A71’s cameras compare favourably with its contemporaries with the added advantage of 4K video capture and a Super Steady mode allowing for decent quality stills and video for both casual use and social media posts.

A71 primary
Captured with the primary camera of the Galaxy A71
Galaxy A71 wide angle
Ultra wide angle mode for the Galaxy A71


Galaxy A71 Price, Battery Life and Conclusion


In terms of endurance the Galaxy A71 has one of the largest batteries available in the market at 4,500mAh which also has 25W fast charging.

With an average use case using a combination of data and WiFi on all day, moderate use of Facebook, TikTok, Instagram as well as a couple of hours of gaming and YouTube surfing, the phone was easily able to last a whole day and a half before things dipped low enough to be a concern.

We lacked the bundled fast charger in our review unit but we managed to use a third party 25W fast charger and managed to get it juiced in just under two hours.

Galaxy A71
At RM1,799, the Samsung Galaxy A71 is priced just slightly north of average midrange phone prices in Malaysia but it proves to be a competitive for astute shoppers as the phone brings a lot to the table.

You get a larger Super AMOLED display compared to the competition that often use less vibrant LCD panels, a solid set of specifications, a decent rear quad camera, a massive battery along with a triple card slot and a 3.5mm audio jack too. For aspiring buyers on a budget looking to acquire a sub RM1,800 phablet workhorse, the Galaxy A71 is well worth a look.

What we liked Large and vibrant Super AMOLED display, good rear camera for price, long battery life, 3.5mm audio jack, under-display fingerprint reader, triple card slot
What we didn’t finish is a fingerprint magnet, plasticky buttons, pared down Pro mode, no water resistance
We say The Samsung Galaxy A71 compares favourably against other midrange phones and brings a lot to the table, offering a massive and vibrant Super AMOLED display, a good rear quad camera, expandable memory, an audio jack  and above all,  superb battery life, all at a price under RM1,800.

Samsung Galaxy A71 Specifications

Price RM1,799
Display 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus Infinity-O display, 2,400 x 1080 pixels
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 2.2GHz octacore
Memory 8GB RAM/ 128GB + triple card slot (microSD up to 256GB)
Camera 64-MP /F1.8 + 12-MP ultrawide angle + 5-MP depth sensor + 5-MP macro camera (rear) / 32-MP (front)
Battery 4,500mAh w/ 25W fast charging
Size/Weight 163.6 x 76 x 77mm/ 179g
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia. Check out their official product page here.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite Review – Affordable Luxury

Galaxy S10 lite front
Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite Review - Affordable Luxury

The Galaxy S10 Lite features a flagship-grade processor, a large and vibrant screen, one of the largest batteries ever shoehorned into a Galaxy S-series smartphone and an excellent rear camera with some cutting edge tech thrown in for good measure at a decent price tag. An excellent Galaxy S-series phone for non-power users looking to get in on what Samsung’s flagship phones have to offer.

Editor's Rating:
4

Previously, we took a closer look at the build quality, design and specifications of the Galaxy S10 Lite in our preview feature. This time, we’re peeking under the hood to see how the Galaxy S10 Lite fares after putting it through its paces.

Galaxy S10 Lite

Galaxy S10 Lite Specifications and Performance

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite comes with a bevy of specifications that bely its Lite designation. Rather than going for half measures, Samsung has kitted out the S10 Lite with a flagship-grade Snapdragon 855 processor paired with an Adreno 640 GPU, 8GB RAM and 128GB of expandable storage.

Running under the hood is the latest Android 10 with their current One UI 2.0 user interface that has Bixby Home support as well as modest refinements that include a dark mode as well as Edge panel shortcuts.

Galaxy S10 Lite front

Unfortunately, it lacks support for Samsung DeX, their in-house means of allowing you access to your phone via an instance of your smartphone display onscreen, presumably as a differentiation measure against its pricier siblings so hooking it up to a PC or monitor via a USB cable won’t fire up DeX mode.

Seeing as it’s a flagship-grade SoC, its performance is predictably pleasing. When subjected to benchmarks, the Galaxy S10 Lite did not disappoint. In Antutu 3D’s benchmark, it got an impressive score of 459,772 points while in GeekBench 5.0, it got a single-core score of 741 and a multi-core score of 2,575 points.

In PCMark’s Work 2.0 benchmark, it got a score of 10,113 points while in 3D Mark’s SlingShot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1 test it got 5,720 points while in the Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan benchmark it got 4,979 points.

In field tests under a normal usage scenario, the Galaxy S10 Lite did not disappoint with swift, speedy performance for movies and gaming alike. It handled Call of Duty Mobile at high settings without keeling over for two hours of non-stop gaming and managed over two dozen open windows in Chrome and several hours worth of work on Google Docs without any lag whatsoever. The provided under-display fingerprint reader worked as expected with pleasingly swift fingerprint recognition.

The provided Super AMOLED Infinity-O display did not disappoint either with lusciously rich colour rendition and beautifully deep blacks which makes watching gaming and especially Netflix on it a real treat and it’s primed to do so at Full HD with Widevine L1 support baked in.

Perhaps the only disappointment here is that the phone only has a mono speaker at the base rather than the stereo speaker setups of its full-fledged S10 siblings. Even so, it’s still a darned lot better than many other competing brand flagships in the sub RM2.5K range in terms of audio quality and it’s easily able to max out the volume without distortion or tearing.

As far as performance goes, it’s every bit the match of its pricier siblings at an even lower price point and the omission of stereo speakers and DeX mode aren’t dealbreakers, especially for mainstream users who don’t need to full breadth and power that the other pricier S10 series phones offer.

Galaxy S10 Lite Camera

The rear triple camera array is a step up from even the other Galaxy S10 series phones as it uses a new tech that seems to combine both EIS and an enhanced form of OIS called Super Steady OIS.

Galaxy S10 Lite rear cam

Unlike prior examples of camera optical image stabilisation that primarily stabilise the lens with the rest flopping around to keep up, the Super Steady OIS seen in the Galaxy S10 Lite places the entirety of the primary 48-MP camera – lens, sensor and all – into a gyroscopically stabilised housing that compensates for hand jitter and movement. Combined with the large 48-MP sensor, you’ll get more stable shots and video that is a grade better than that even on the existing S10 series phones. It’s a tall boast but one that the S10 Lite’s rear camera array achieves in part.Galaxy S10 Lite camera rear

The rear triple camera array is built around a primary 48-MP F/2.0 camera with their Super Steady OIS tech, a secondary 12-MP F/2.2 camera with a 123-degree ultra wide angle lens and a tertiary 5-MP F/2.4 macro camera for close-up shots. Worth nothing here is that the Super Steady OIS feature is only present on the primary 48-MP camera, while its ultra wide and macro camera lack that feature.

Galaxy S10 Lite camera

Getting about the camera is via the usual One UI 2.0 camera interface with options for using the primary camera and wide angle mode along with a pro mode for stills though there is no such mode for videos. Like other Samsung phones of recent vintage, you also get a Life Focus mode for stills and a Live Focus Video for videos.

Galaxy S10 Lite camera UI

In keeping with other triple and quad camera array setups, the Galaxy S10 Lite’s three rear cameras each have a particular function with the primary 48-MP intended for otherwise general purpose work and the wide angle as well as the macro camera for specific scenarios. You’ll have to manually toggle each mode via the camera menus.

Galaxy S10 Lite modes

Videos can be captured in up to 4K though you need steady hands as capturing video this crisp needs a dedicated external gimbal or tripod and lacks image stabilisation. If you want to take advantage of image stabilisation, you’ll need to dial it down to 1080P for it to work.

The primary 48-MP camera with its Super Steady OIS is an impressive accomplishment indeed. Snaps taken with the primary camera offer great colours and good retention of detail under well lit conditions.

Galaxy S10 Lite primary camera
Galaxy S10 Lite Primary camera
Galaxy S10 Lite primary camera
Excellent details and colours in this close up shot with the primary 48-MP camera on the Galaxy S10 Lite

The camera is also capable excellent low light shots in most dimly lit and starlit settings that you’d encounter in urban locales with great colours though with some amount of softness in the details if you peer too close.

Galaxy S10 Lite low light

Captured videos with its Super Steady OIS mode on are exceptional indeed at 1080P with the phone able to render silky smooth footage akin to a gimbal when walking at a modestly brisk pace while retaining pretty good performance in dim light on account of the relatively large sensor and bright aperture.

Galaxy S10 lite primary
The Galaxy S10 Lite primary camera captures good details and colour under daylight
Galaxy S10 Lite wide angle
The wide angle camera captures a 123-degree field of view

Of note is the inclusion of its zoom in mic feature that takes advantage of a trio of built-in mikes to selectively focus the sound when you zoom in on a subject. On that part, the Galaxy S10 Lite does a fair job for the fact that it lacks any actual optical zoom and still renders up decent stills and snaps at 2X zoom with the capability to max it out to 8X though at that level of magnification all you get is grainy footage.

s10 lite 32-mp selfie
Pretty good snap via the Galaxy S10 Lite’s front-facing 32-MP selfie camera

The macro camera works best under daylight conditions with decent snaps though it doesn’t work all too well under low light with grainy images along with finicky distance detection for it to activate.

s10 lite primary camera
Captured with the Galaxy 10 Lite 48-MP primary camera
galaxy s10 lite wide angle
Captured with the 123-degree wide angle camera of the Galaxy S10 Lite

The 12-MP wide angle camera is capable of delivering some great stills, especially for nightscapes straight off the cuff though the lack of Ultra Steady OIS and the middling aperture means that it doesn’t fare all too well capturing videos in dim light with dimmer results than what you’d get with the primary 48-MP camera.

The front fixed focus selfie camera has the usual bevy of beautification modes including Live Focus and Live Focus Video modes with generally pleasing results. In lieu of an actual LED flash, the phone temporarily turns the display white as an ersatz flash.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite Battery Life, Price and Conclusion

Samsung’s latest affordable Galaxy S series phone packs the largest battery out of the entire S10 series at 4,500mAh with 25W fast charging support via a USB Type-C port. While we lacked the provided official charger to go with it, we used a fast charger from a Galaxy S10 and managed to get a 50% charge in about an hour from dead zero which is par for the course.Galaxy S10 Lite front

 

With a modest use-case scenario, the Galaxy S10 Lite can last shy of two days which we managed with an hour or two of voice calls, a combination of either data or wifi on for most of the working day, a couple of hours worth of Netflix and gaming for both days as well as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat on all day. With full on heavy use editing videos, maxing out screen brightness and generally snapping a ton of videos and snaps in succession, the S10 Lite comfortably lasts a full day. This is more than enough for even the most demanding users.

At RM2,699, the Galaxy S10 Lite is priced on the lower end of premium flagships and you’re getting plenty for what you pay for with a top of the line Snapdragon 855 processor, a large and vibrant Super AMOLED display, a large battery and above all the first implementation of Samsung’s spanking new Super Steady OIS technology.

However, this is tempered by the lack of DeX mode, an audio jack and the omission of a stereo speaker, all of which are negligible concerns for bargain hunters. The Galaxy S10e is also priced around this range though it has a smaller display, less endurance on account of a smaller battery and slightly older camera tech though its size may endear it to users with smaller paws.

If you have been teetering on the fence on getting in on the Samsung Galaxy experience, the Galaxy S10 Lite is a delightful and viable way to do so.

What we liked Large and vibrant display, excellent specifications, great rear camera with ability for steady video, excellent battery life
What we didn’t Only has a mono speaker, no DeX mode, no 3.5mm audio jack
We say The Galaxy S10 Lite features a flagship-grade processor, a large and vibrant screen, one of the largest batteries ever shoehorned into a Galaxy S-series smartphone and an excellent rear camera with some cutting edge tech thrown in for good measure at a decent price tag. An excellent Galaxy S-series phone for non-power users looking to get in on what Samsung’s flagship phones have to offer.

Specifications
Price RM2,699
Display 6.7-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED Plus Infinity-O display
Processor Snapdragon 855
OS Android 10 w/ One UI 2.0
Memory 8GB RAM/ 128GB +microSD card
Camera 48-MP F/2.0 w/ Ultra Steady OIS + 12-MP ultra wide angle + 5-MP macro (rear) | 32-MP F/2.0 (front)
Battery 4,500mAh w/ 25W fast charging
Size/Weight 162.5 x 75.6 x 8.1mm / 186g
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia. To preorder your Galaxy S10 Lite swing by their official page here https://samsung.com/my/offer/mobile/pre-order-the-new-samsung-galaxy/

Alienware M17 R2 review – There’s light on the dark side (of the moon)

Alienware M17 R2 front

First glimpsed at the Dell and Alienware showcase that took place in Taiwan amidst Computex 2019, the Alienware M17 R2 is an interesting design as gaming notebooks go as it forgoes the usual emphasis on either form or function to the exclusion of the other, and instead has a wonderful balance of both to create what is arguably one of the best looking (and powerful) gaming rigs that we’ve ever laid eyes on in aeons.

Alienware M17 R2 angled

 

Alienware M17 R2 Variants for Malaysia

In terms of configuration, the Alienware M17 R2 comes in several variants with the entry level one clocking in at RM10,199 for a 17.3-inch Full HD display with Tobii Eyetracking tech, a 9th Generation Intel Core i7 9750H CPU, 16GB DDR4 2,666MHz RAM, 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD and an overclockable NVIDIA GeForce RTX2060 with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM.

A midtier model exists that has similar specifications but upguns the GPU to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX2070 with 8GB GDDR6 with Max-Q design for RM800 more for a grand total of RM10,999.

We managed to score the highest end variant with everything maxed out and dialled to eleven. The highest end variant has prices starting from RM12,799 with a similar 17.3-inch FHD display with Tobii Eyetracking tech, a 9th Generation Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, 16GB DDR4 2,666MHz RAM and a 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD.

Our maxed out variant comes with a beefy Intel Core i9-9980HK octacore processor with the rest of the specifications remain the same for the princely sum of RM15,856.

Needless to say, the price tag for any configuration of the Alienware M17 R2 is daunting, even for the entry level configuration, but you’re not paying just for the hardware alone but a whole raft of other beneficial features which we’ll delve into shortly.

Alienware M17 R2 Build and Design

 

This new design language, appropriately dubbed by Alienware as the Legend industrial design, has resulted in a chassis that is just 19.5mm thin, making it one of the slimmest gaming notebooks of its size currently on the market.

Alienware M17 R2 side
It’s a rather strong hint but it’s somewhat obvious that the design team responsible for the Alienware M17 R2 are Pink Floyd fans on account of how they’ve named the colour schemes available for the notebook.

In Malaysia, the Alienware M17 R2 only comes in a dark shade of matte black aptly called – wait for it – the Dark Side of the Moon though other regions have a niftier looking Lunar Light white finish. Fortunately, the matte finish repels fingerprints nicely which makes it all the more pleasing to the eye.

Alienware M17 R2 honeycomb design

The Legend Industrial design features a combination of sharp angular lines, gentle curves at key points and a honeycomb motif around the ventilation grilles, making it highly distinctive and is visually unmistakable when plonked next to the usual chunky array of gaming notebooks out there.

Rather than cramming in a psychedelic array of blinking LED backlighting willy nilly all over the notebook, the Alienware M17 R2 tastefully limits the bling to the extent of six-zone RGB backlighting on the keyboard, an LED backlit Alienware logo on the top lid as well as the stylised power button and in a narrow LED strip along the rear housing.

As far as ports are concerned, Alienware has strategically spaced them out across the rear as well as the left and right sides of the notebook with ports seeing less use thoughtfully emplaced on the back.

The impressive part is that Alienware managed to accomplish this feat without any compromise on cooling or performance as you can max it out with an NVIDIA RTX 2080 GPU with Max-Q design  and 8GB GDDR6 VRAM and an overclockable Intel Core i7-9980HK processor though this is at the expense of a much wider footprint on your desktop than usual with the rear housing jutting out somewhat from where it would usually be flush with the hinges on account of Alienware’s robust Cryo Tech V3.0 cooling systems to keep the heat under control.

Less commonly used ports are emplaced on the rear along with a strip of RGB lighting

Our test unit had maxed out specifications including the above Intel Core i7-9980HK CPU and an NVIDIA RTX 2080 with Max-Q graphics card paired with a 512GB SSD and 16GB DDR4 RAM. The maxed out specifications are pleasingly powerful – assuming you have sufficiently deep pockets – but the biggest downside here  is that the RAM is permanently soldered in so there’s no option for adding more regardless of whichever configuration you purchase for the Alienware M17 R2.

Even so, what you have is more than enough to tackle any game currently in the market including Borderlands 3, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, the Division 2 and almost everything else you can name for quite a few years down the road at maximum settings.

The right side of the notebook comes with a pair of USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports while the left comes with a Killer Networks E2600 Gigabit Ethernet port, a USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port with Powershare tech that lets you charge other kit like phones off the notebook’s internal battery and an inline audio jack for headsets. The rear comes with a HDMI 2.0b port, a mini display port 1.4, a Thunderbolt 3 port, the obligatory DC-In power port to keep it juiced and an Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port to allow for you to augment the notebook with an external GPU.

The top lid itself is a swath of matte black broken up by an RGB backlit Alienware logo in the centre along with a faint motif of what looks like an I and a 7 stylistically emblazoned in the corner.

Flip the lid open and you’re greeted with an impressive full-sized keyboard that has per-key customisable RGB backlighting with a dedicated numeric keypad. The keyboard also sports a quartet of customisable shortcut keys for macros and the like. Much in the vein of many gaming notebooks, the touchpad is emplaced slightly left of centre and is generously sized for ease of use. Each of the keys on the keyboard have enhanced key travel this time around versus the previous M17 at 1.7mm along with the usual N-key rollover and anti-ghosting tech.

Perched just beneath the 17.3-inch FHD panel is a Tobii Eye Tracking array for use in selected games like the Division while up top is a webcam for video calls and the like. The display itself is impressively equipped and optimised for gaming with a 144Hz refresh rate, 9ms response time, a brightness of 300nits and also has Eyesafe Display Tech to ensure its easier on the eyes by reducing blue light emissions from the display.

Overall build quality is excellent with no wobble in the hinges with the whole affair feeling extremely sturdy. The only quibble here is the size of the Alienware M17 R2 as it’s just too wide to fit into most conventional backpacks. The provided power brick is also immensely heavy and unwieldy as well which further adds to its portability issues.

Alienware M17 R2 Performance

High specifications and slick design are just one part of the equation to what makes a great gaming notebook. One of the key concerns with a portable gaming solution is how it tackles heat and it’s often a compromise in terms of specifications to keep the heat under control, or the implementation of a more robust cooling solution; the Alienware’s M17 R2 goes for the latter option and ensures its beefy ensemble of kit stays cool even under heavy workloads via their Cryo Tech V3.0 cooling array.

Essentially, the Cryo Tech V3.0 cooling array features a dual-intake, dual-exhaust airflow design that pulls in cool air from the top and bottom vents and shunts it out through the rear and side vents.

This works in conjunction with four heat pipes and a liquid-crystal polymer fan blade  also act to vent heat away from the GPU and CPU. In terms of improvements over the older Cryo Tech V2.0 array, the new array has a 32% increase in diameter for the CPU cooling fan blades, a 10% increase in diameter for the GPU fan blades and 25% obstructions and thus better air flow. The end result, theoretically speaking is that it’s able to sustain better performance without thermal throttling for longer periods of time.

Cinebench R20 Alienware M17 R2

In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the Alienware M17 R2 performed favourably across the board. In Cinebench R20, it got an excellent score of 2,804 points. In 3DMark’s Time Spy Extreme benchmark, it got a respectable score of 3,477 points while the less demanding TimeSpy test got 7,374 points. In the Port Royal benchmark which tests a notebook’s capability to handle real time ray tracing (RTRT), it got a solid score of 4,370 points.

Alienware M17 R2 timespy
3DMark Time Spy Extreme benchmark

 

Alienware M17 R2 Time Spy Extreme
3DMark TimeSpy Extreme benchmark
Alienware M17 R2 Port Royal
3DMark Port Royal

In the SuperPosition Unigine benchmark on the 4K Optimised settings yielded a score of 6,672 points. In PCMark 10, it got a great score of 5,064 points.

 

Alienware M17 R2 superposition benchmark

Alienware M17 R2 pcmark

Across the board, the Alienware M17 R2 performed with flying colours. The notebook ran whisper silent with the built-in CryoTech V3.0 fans and heat pipes ensuring that the temperature remained manageable with the fan blades even at heavy loads being just slightly louder than a whisper even under intensive gaming in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint and Borderlands 3. In Borderlands 3, we managed an impressive 80fps on high settings with almost everything dialled to maximum.

In more mundane tasks, the notebook was sheer overkill. Over two dozen opened browser windows in Chrome as well as a 1080P YouTube video were handled without any discernible lag and heavy multi-page spreadsheets as well as 1080P video editing were tackled without issue.

 

Even after several hours of intensive gameplay, the Alienware M17 R2 only proved to be slightly warm to the touch in critical areas like the keyboard and palm rests with the vast majority of the heat shunted to the side and rear vents.

The provided display did not disappoint with exceptional detail and colour rendition with beautifully deep blacks and brilliant whites onscreen, making it ideal for both gaming and movies alike.

The fast 144Hz refresh rate and 9ms response time. The Eyesafe Display tech worked like a charm, allowing us to use it for hours at a time in stretches of six hour shifts without encountering undue eyestrain. The speakers themselves were top notch, serving up excellent audio quality with a fair amount of detail and the ability to kick out distortion free audio when dialled to maximum.

Alienware M17 R2 rear

The provided full-sized keyboard proved to offer an excellent typing experience with the ability to customise the lighting via the Alienware Command Center all the way down to lighting for specific games. The keys were highly responsive, allowing for us to hit 110WPM without undue trouble.

Alienware M17 R2 Price, Battery Life and Conclusion

Under an average workload of productivity apps, several open browser windows and streaming video, the Alienware M17 R2 managed a very middling four and a half hours of usage before needing a recharge. It’s not the best in terms of endurance nor is it remarkable but it’s certainly enough for you to nip out for a short business meeting or work at a coffee shop before heading back to the office. Anything more intensive or gaming related means you’ll have to tote the rather huge power brick and cable along with you.

As it stands, the Alienware M17 R2 is an immensely powerful gaming rig with its impressive Intel Core i9-9980HK and NVIDIA RTX 2080 with Max-Q graphics card, all of which are wrapped in an exceptionally slim and distinctive looking chassis. If you’re looking for one of the slimmest and most powerful gaming rigs currently available, the Alienware M17 R2 is way ahead of the pack.

What we liked Excellent keyboard, beautiful and slim design, superb performance, great cooling performance
What we didn’t Not cheap, only has 1080P FHD as screen option, RAM soldered in
We say Powerfully built and beautifully designed, the Alienware M17 R2 is a show stopper of a gaming rig that doesn’t come cheap and has a few minor quirks of its own, but proves to be one of the most powerful and good looking gaming notebooks that money can buy.

Specifications
Price RM15,856
Display 17.3-inch FHD with 144Hz, 9ms and Tobii Eye Tracking
Processor 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9980HK 2.4 GHz
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 8GB GDDR6 with Max-Q Design
OS Windows 10 Home
Memory 16GB DDR4 2,666MHz RAM / 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD
Battery 76WHr Lithium Ion
Size/Weight 399.8 x 295.5 x 18.6mm / 2.63kg
Review unit courtesy of Dell Malaysia. Check out the official product page here.

Borderlands 3 Review – Third Time’s the Charm

The Borderlands series has always been known for its hilariously off-the-wall humour, unique art style and, above all, for defining a completely new genre – the first person shoot-and-loot. Imagine Diablo from a first person perspective with fully automatic weapons and you get Borderlands. This latest outing, Borderlands 3, is the latest installment in the franchise and expands on this formula in new ways while keeping it sufficiently familiar for old-hands of the franchise.

Borderlands 3 review

For the uninitiated, the Borderlands series primarily takes place on the planet Pandora, a chaotic former penal world that’s chock full of powerful alien artefacts as well as the mostly insane and homicidal former inmates who have turned to banditry to survive.

This ramshackle world sees Vault Hunters (that’s you) puttering about thwarting the plans of a host of bad guys aplenty who are out seeking ancient alien vaults for their own gains. In Borderlands 2, you thwarted the plans of a rather barmy Handsome Jack an egomaniac with a private army and a megacorporation of his own.

Moze Borderlands 3 review

In Borderlands 3, you take on a new villain, or rather two of them, a pair of murderous live-streaming televangelists called the Calypso Twins who have unified all of Pandora’s usually bickering bandits into one cult to find even more of these mysterious vaults which have the usual Macguffins for unbridled power. Naturally, you as a new generation of Vault Hunters have to get stuck in to save the day.

Revisiting Pandora

Every Borderlands game has you playing as one character class from out of four possible choices each of which offers a different play style.

This time around, you’re given the choice of an ex-megacorporate soldier with her own suit of powered armour called Moze the Gunner, a corporate hitman called Zane who can summon digital doppelgangers and support drones on demand, FL4K the Beastmaster, a humanoid robot with cybernetic pets and Amara, a Siren who has miraculous powers that revolve around thumping things flat with a series of giant phantom arms that offer massive melee damage along with other powers for crowd control.

While each of these characters has a basic power with a cooldown and a unique play style, you’re able to further customise them via a series of skill trees by investing points earned from levelling up after completing quests and killing enemies. This enables you to create unique play style variations of each character and there’s a veritable cornucopia of variables that allow you to mix and match them to suit whatever style you want, even from characters that aren’t exactly optimised for it.

skill tree Borderlands 3

An example is kitting Moze, who is primarily a classic ranged combat character with a series of melee upgrades for her powered armour suit so that you have a rocket-fist firing killing machine that can pulp enemies into goo on demand. If you’re not happy with your invested skill points, it’s a simple matter to reallocate them entirely at any point in the game for free so that you’re not painted into a corner.

While the characters you play are new to the Borderlands universe, the game weaves the characters from prior games seamlessly into the plot so that many of your alter egos from Borderlands 2 are now NPCs who are part of the narrative in Borderlands 3.

It’s a relatively simple move on the part of the writers but it jumpstarts your emotional attachment to the game if you’ve played any of the prior sequels and makes the whole story seem a lot richer.

You get to see some of the quirky, wonderful characters from the first and second game that have become familiar faces like Lilith the Siren and Brick the Berserker as well as background NPCs that have taken on a life of their own like the eponymous Claptrap, Mad Moxxi the bartender and Tina the explosives expert who is absolutely completely stark-raving insane and who delivers some of the funniest dialogue in the game.

Borderlands 3 review

The plot is straightforward and there aren’t many narrative twists with the chief antagonists in the game acting like a superpowered pair of brats with entitlement issues but in a game like Borderlands 3, the plot mostly acts as a scaffold for you to shoot up a ton of hostiles so it’s not that big an issue.

The most interesting feature on hand in Borderlands 3 is that the game expands to worlds beyond Pandora and you’re now able to explore other planets, each of which has unique environments as part of the campaign which is quite a pleasing leap forward seeing as the last two games were just stuck on one podunk planet. All the usual biomes are here – swamps, arctic tundras, deserts and the like – just on other planets – but it’s still a kick out of just being stuck on Pandora.

Borderlands 3 – Guns. Lots of Guns.

Quests aside, the core aspects of the Borderlands 3 gameplay experience revolve around various permutations of FedEx quests, shooting everything in sight and dealing with a boss or two though you do get the option of riding a variety of armed vehicles to traverse large distances, all liberally seasoned with the series’ trademark puerile humour.

Enemies come in a variety of unique permutations, each requiring you to factor in and deal with them so that every firefight isn’t a boring shooting gallery. Some enemies will rush you. Others will take cover and plink away at you and others will attempt to buff or help their colleagues take you out. Later on in the game, enemies will have elemental types and shields that you have to deal with which make things more interesting.

Naturally harsh language isn’t going to work in the game and you’ll have to shoot your way out of most problems. This is where Borderlands shines as you have over a billion possible permutations and likely more of randomly generated guns for the taking.

 All these guns each have a different manufacturer, which affects its base stats, a type be it a submachine gun, rifle or whatnot and also a rarity from common to legendary. Mixing and matching all these features together gets you a weapon and there’s a mind boggling array of possibilities like sniper shotguns or rocket pistols and everything in between. Much of the motivation in the game, plot aside, is to farm and hunt for these rare weapons and you’ll likely be hunting down and farming many of the ingame missions to get the best loot available.

While the main storyline missions take up most of the game, there’s still a massive array of side-quests as well as a host of free DLC including the recently released free Maliwan Takedown content as a post-campaign mission. All this takes a good thirty plus hours of gameplay which is generous by current standards. While hardcore gamers can likely power through this in shorter amounts of time, casual gamers with day jobs will appreciate the fact that each of the missions or sidequests can be completed in about an hour, allowing you to play in bitesized portions between adulting duties.

In terms of replayability, the game does offer increasing difficulty levels on subsequent replays but beyond that, the plot remains the same. Luckily, you have the option of traversing the campaign in up to four-player coop mode which adds a significant level of fun to the proceedings and makes what would have been a sterile affair into something hilarious.

Working in Borderlands 3’s favour is Gearbox’s commitment to a constant trickle of ingame content means that you’ll likely be enjoying your investment for a long time to come. Borderlands 2 had a ton of content up until the day Borderlands 3 launched so odds are good that you’ll be enjoying this game for several years down the road.

It’s not the most intellectually demanding game but Borderlands 3 a well rehearsed and solid gameplay loop, a constant array of loot to strive for and a ton of charm.

What we liked Fresh storyline with the same signature irreverent humour, new gameplay mechanics, new environments beyond Pandora, massive amount of guns and loot. Did we mention a ludicrous among of guns ?

What we didn’t Even with balance updates some characters weak after the endgame, doesn’t wander far from shoot and loot mechanics

We say A lovingly crafted, highly entertaining 30-hour romp that will endear casual and hardcore players alike in both single and in up to four-player coop mode. If you loved any of the prior Borderlands games or just want an entertaining diversion, Borderlands 3 is the de facto king of the shoot-and-loot hill.

Borderlands 3
Publisher 2K Games
Developer Gearbox Software
Genre First Person Shooter
Multiplayer Yes
Available for PC, Xbox One and PS4. PC version reviewed.
 

Dell XPS 13 9380 Review – Refined Perfection

The creation of the ideal ultrabook has always been a Sisyphean task for notebook manufacturers. Year after year, we see their greatest offerings fall short of greatness in one fashion or another be it due to design issues or significant compromises on the hardware owing to the challenge of cramming in something so powerful into something so slim. 

XPS 13 front

The unit of Dell’s vaunted XPS 13 that we received dubbed the XPS 13 9380 is by far the closest, if not the ultimate personification of the ideal ultraportable as it is not only powerful, but slim and a sight to behold in equal measure. 

Prior to this we took it for an extensive firsthand look and unboxing. Dell’s revision of their well regarded XPS 13 isn’t a radical change in terms of design or functionality, rather, it consists of a well considered series of enhancements that elevate it over its predecessor, already widely regarded as one of the best Windows ultraportables ever made.

In terms of size and form factor, this iteration of the XPS 13 is akin to its predecessor the 9370, retaining a similar weight and slimness as well as many of the features that make the XPS series a coveted workhorse amongst road warriors in the know. 

XPS 13 top angle

It retains the side mounted battery indicator – a series of white lights on the side like a power bank – that lets you see how much juice it has left at a glance without having to turn it on.

It also retains the coveted lead of being one of the smallest laptops to pack not one but two Thunderbolt 3 ports which allow you to port the feed out to up to two 4K displays if you deign to do so. 

Other road warrior essentials like a backlit keyboard and, above all, excellent battery life stretching into a good 8 to 10 hours on average for the UHD version and almost double that for the FHD variants cement its status as a top choice for road warriors. But, there’s more under the hood than meets the eye.

So, what’s changed in the XPS 13 9380?

The one major gripe with the XPS 13 9370 was the first thing they fixed – the placement of the webcam. Originally located on the base of the display in the 9370, the revamped XPS 13 moves it to the top by reengineering their new 720P webcam to be smaller than ever before so as to fit into the already narrow bezels.

XPS 13 side left
The XPS 13 has a battery indicator on the side that lets you check how much juice it has at a glance without having to turn it out.

This time around, they’ve also introduced a new shade of Frost for the external chassis that is even paler than the usual silvery brushed aluminium finish common to notebooks combined with Arctic White woven glass fiber palm rests. This colour combination was the colour scheme of our test unit. Optionally, the XPS 13 can also be acquired with a Rose Gold external finish or a darker Platinum Silver with black carbon fiber palm rests. 

XPS 13 right

The notebook also has a hardware upgrade, this time around to the 8th generation Whiskey Lake Intel Core processors that offer slightly better performance over its immediate Kaby Lake predecessors in the 9370. 

XPS 13 bookshelf

That aside, the XPS 13 retains a similar 52Whr internal battery and can be charged via any of its three USB Type-C ports and its 45W Type-C charger, making it logistically easier to charge in the field. Other than that, the XPS 13 also ships with a Type-C to Type-A dongle to read flash drives and other kit.

The XPS Experience


Our test unit is the top of the line variant with everything dialled to the maximum. Taking centre stage on Del’’s most powerful XPS 13 variant 9380 is a 13.3-inch 4K UHD InfinityEdge touchscreen that has an 80.7% screen-to-body ratio, a rated 1,500:1 contrast ratio and a brightness of 400-nits as well as the ability to cover 100% of the sRGB colour gamut. 

xps 13 front display

This makes the XPS 13’s display ideal for enjoying movies and for content creators like photographers and desktop publishing artists who require colour accuracy. The bezels framing it are among the slimmest seen on a notebook though the bottom bezel is by necessity slightly thicker . However, it does not detract from the fact that they’ve managed to cram in a 13-inch display in an 11-inch form factor.

Paired with this is an 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8565U 1.8GHz processor capable of running at a Turbo Clocked speed of 4.6GHz. The eighth gen Intel processors are built on a 14nm process and have about 5-10% improvement in performance compared to the prior generation’s Kaby Lake R CPU. 

To allow it to achieve its full potential, the XPS 13 also has a pair of thermal cooling fans at the base of the notebook that kick in at high thermal loads though you can adjust this in the settings. This is also complemented by what Dell calls GORE Thermal insulation which consists of a thin and flexible layer of thermal conducting aerogel material within the chassis that helps to shunt additional heat away from the XPS 13’s processor.

XPS 13 underside

This is complemented with a maximum of 16GB of DDR4 RAM that has been soldered in. This means that you can’t augment the storage after you purchase your unit; you’ll have to specify it when you order it the first time around.  Rounding things off is an 512GB NVMe PCIe solid state drive. It eschews a graphics card on account of its slimness and instead relies on an Intel HD Graphics 620 solution.

The keyboard lacks a numeric keypad but hosts a generously large touchpad and a backlit keyboard with 1.3mm key travel. In addition to backlighting, the XPS 13 adds in a power button that also doubles as a fingerprint reader to unlock the notebook. The direction pad in the lower right also doubles as a means to control screen brightness. This is further complemented by the textured white palm rests made of carbon fiber that add a rather luxurious feel to the whole affair. 

XPS 13 keyboard

While detractors have voiced that the Arctic White carbon fiber palm rests are prone to staining, we’ve tested it over a period of a month across a variety of different scenarios, including hauling it on road trips, in offices and even with a bunch of Cheetos-stained fingers on more than one occasion and the finish remained a pristine white. 

Dell Mobile Connect and other interesting bits

The XPS 13 doesn’t only excel on the aesthetics and hardware, they’ve made a genuine effort in designing a real productivity powerhouse with some useful software unique to Dell. Since most of us are connected via our phones these days, Dell has integrated their Dell Mobile Connect software that pairs up to your smartphone – regardless if it’s an iPhone or an Android phone so you can interact with your phone in a windowed instance on your Windows 10 desktop without having to take your eyes off the XPS 13’s display – for example, when taking calls, transferring files or whatnot. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s extremely helpful indeed.

Another useful addition is their Dell Update that takes the hassle of checking for updates and general housekeeping for your XPS 13 as it handles it all for you including getting updates for the firmware straight from Dell. That aside, the notebook is gratifyingly bereft of bloatware and you’re getting an otherwise clean experience when you use it.

Dell Mobile Connect

Of particular note is that Dell has a significantly more robust power and battery management software than usual installed on the XPS 13 dubbed Dell Power Management. You’re able to automatically optimise battery life, check the health of your battery and finetune your settings depending on your needs whether you need more juice or more endurance in the field. The software also allows for thermal management where you can tweak the fan speed and processor as well with settings ranging from Cool to keep things quiet at the expense of some noise on account of the louder fans all the way to Ultra Performance where the processor and fan speed are dialled to 11.

Dell Power Manager XPS 13

XPS 13 Performance

Booting up the XPS 13 is gratifyingly fast and it goes to the desktop in a matter of seconds. From there, the notebook handled everything asked of it in a delightfully swift fashion. On the ‘Optimised’ auto setting, we opened two dozen browser windows on Chrome and it still happily chugged along and it handled all our usual productivity tasks like Microsoft Office, spreadsheets and photo editing without breaking a sweat. 

The fait accompli here is that the XPS 13 managed to continue doing so for close to a whole day when plugged into the mains without it feeling warm in the slightest and the cooling fans remained almost whisper silent. This is also on account of the GORE thermal solution which kept the heat to a level low enough that you can comfortably work with this on your lap for extended periods of time.

Alas, the XPS 13 is not a gaming machine by any measure of the word as it lacks a discrete graphics card and instead is reliant on an internal Intel UHD Graphics 620. It’s still capable of some retro gaming and less intensive games like Crying Suns or the venerable Shadowrun series which are handled without issue.

XPS 13 PCMark 10

XPS 13 3D Mark Night Raid

XPS 13 Cinebench 13In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the XPS 13 performed like a champ. In PCMark 10, it got a score of 3,945 while in 3DMark, Night Raid, which tests for notebooks with Intel HD graphics got a respectable score of 5,503 points. In Cinebench R20 it got a score of 1,094 points. The provision of a 512GB NVME PCIe SSD offers plenty of storage as well as nippy read and write speeds. In Crystal Disk Mark, the XPS 13 managed 2,628.2MB/s read speeds and 1,099.9MB/s write speeds which is well within the range for an NVMe SSD.

XPS 13 Crystal Disk mark
The typing experience with the XPS 13 proved to be an absolute delight on account of the wonderful tactility of the keys. We managed a good average of 120wpm and were quite easily able to touch type with the backlighting coming in handy especially when we continued working on a dimmed out bus lurching along on a red eye route down to Singapore. In fact, this very review was typed out on the XPS 13.

What really knocks things out of the park is the luscious 4K display of our review unit which offered pin-sharp text and excellent clarity along with some of the best colours we’ve seen on a panel of its size. Movies and Netflix are a real treat on the display with beautifully deep blacks and brilliantly vibrant hues when we played our test footage. Of particular note is the XPS 13’s  stereo speakers that are mounted on either side of the chassis which were surprisingly competent, delivering excellent volume and a fair amount of detail too for music and movies alike. 

XPS 13 Price, Battery Life and Conclusion


Our review unit’s configuration of an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and a 4K touchscreen display is the highest variant of the XPS 13 9380 available but it also drains the most juice from the provided 52Whr battery. With a normal use case of web browsing, word processing and an hour or so of video playback, the XPS 13 managed to last a solid 8 or so hours on balanced settings with the screen also set to moderate brightness. You can likely eke out more from the battery if you put it into power conservation mode with dimmer brightness settings in the field.  As far as ultraportables go, this kind of endurance ought to comfortably allow you to travel away from the mains for a day of work offsite. The bundled charger is also one of the lightest available so it’s not that big of a chore to tote around too.

XPS 13 angled

While it’s certainly an audiovisual delight that’ll make you a hit at parties and presentations, the 4K display variant has less endurance than the standard 1080P version which can be had in both touch and non-touch variants. More conservative users looking for more battery life ought to veer for the 1080P but the 4K version truly appeals for those looking for one of the best displays available in a notebook.

While there are certainly lighter or more powerful notebooks out there, our review unit of Dell XPS 13 represents a superb blend of outstanding design and excellent performance that is truly hard to top. If money is no object, this is one of the best ultraportables that money can buy.

What we liked Outstanding build quality and design, excellent keyboard, superb 4K touchscreen, improved webcam, exceptionally slim and light
What we didn’t You’ll be living the dongle life as there are no USB Type-A ports
We say The refined and refreshed Dell XPS 13 represents the pinnacle of Dell’s efforts to create the ultimate ultraportable and by all accounts, they’ve succeeded. There’s very little compromise here with the top-of-the-line model as you get one of the best 13-inch 4K touch displays that money can buy, complemented by blazing fast performance – all combined in a reassuringly sturdy, slim and beautifully hewn casing. You get what you pay for and what you get here is one of, if not the best ultrabook of the year.

Specifications
Display 13.3-inch InfinityEdge Touch Display, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels (Ultra HD)
Processor 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8565U Processor
OS Windows 10 Home
Memory 16GB DDR4 RAM/ 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
Battery 4-cell, 52Whr
Size/Weight 302 x 199 x 11.6mm / 1.25kg
Review unit courtesy of Dell Malaysia. Get a closer look at the newest XPS 13 on their official page here.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Review – Dialled In

Samsung has seemingly sped up their launch cycles for their wearables as the Galaxy Watch Active2 has already hit the market just a few months after the release of their earlier Galaxy Watch Active sometime in April this year.

In terms of specifications, the Galaxy Watch Active2 is a modest incremental upgrade over its predecessor and comes in a variety of different colours with corresponding matching straps in a veritable smorgasbord of materials ranging from fluoroelastomer to metal. In case you’re a fitness buff, there’s also an Under Armour edition variant.

Galaxy Watch Active2

A key difference that the Watch Active2 has over the original Watch Active is that the Galaxy Watch Active2 has a larger display that comes in two sizes – a larger 44mm variant that has a 1.4-inch rounded 360 x 360 pixels AMOLED touchscreen display and a smaller 40mm variant with a 1.2-inch 360 x 360 pixels AMOLED touchscreen. Our test unit was the former. Both variants are functionally similar to each other, save for the size of the display. Its predecessor,  the Galaxy Watch Active has a smaller 1.1-inch AMOLED touchscreen.

In terms of packaging, the Galaxy Watch Active2 is rather spartan with a compact white box containing the watch itself and a disc-shaped charging dock with a USB Type-A port at the end. Unfortunately you’re only issued one strap when you buy the Galaxy Watch Active. The higher end variants of the Galaxy Watch Active2 are functionally similar but differ only in terms of the usage of more premium materials in their straps and the colour finish.

At first blush, the Galaxy Watch Active2 looks like a slimmer and sleeker version of the original Watch Active. Our test unit came in matte black with matching fluoroelastomer straps that can be swapped out at will for third party ones.

Galaxy Watch Active2 clasp

The watch itself is also rated IP68 for water resistance and dust ingress as well as usage in up to 50 meters of water though you shouldn’t be taking it scuba diving in any case. Donning it is a lot easier than the Galaxy Fit on account of having a working clasp which makes fastening it to your wrist a lot easier one-handed.

The finish comes in a matte black that nicely repels fingerprints and the watch case has a similar button layout with a 1 ‘o clock back button and a 3 ‘o clock home button on the lower right. Getting about is primarily via the touchscreen. The underside has a heart rate tracker for fitness tracking duties with eight photodiodes which is double what its predecessor packed for more accuracy.

Galaxy Watch Active2 underside

The overall design is gender neutral and it’s easily worn by either gender. Its build quality is up there with the best of them.

Galaxy Watch Active2 performance

Bar the differences in the size of the display, the hardware on offer in the Galaxy Watch Active2 is similar to the original Galaxy Watch Active with an Exynos 9110 1.15GHz dual-core processor, 750MB of RAM and 4GB of non-expandable storage with about 1.4GB of effective usable space minus the footprint taken up by the firmware.

Watch Active2 weather

You can feasibly load a good playlist or two of music on your watch enough to last a jog or two and most apps average less than a Megabyte so there’s plenty of storage space on hand. Models in Malaysia only have WiFi connectivity though LTE/4G enabled models exist in other countries. The Galaxy Watch Active2 also has built-in speakers for music as well as a slightly larger 340mAh battery versus its predecessors 230mAh which was also otherwise mute.

Watch Active2 apps

Under the hood, the Galaxy Watch Active2 runs Samsung’s own Tizen OS. Since its debut, it’s arguably one of the best implementations of an operating system for a smartwatch with an intuitive means of navigating the menus via a rotating bezel. While early versions like the Gear S3 and Galaxy Watch had a physical rotating bezel, it was something the Watch Active lacked. Fortunately, the Watch Active2 has the rotating bezel implemented in a digital fashion by touching the edge of the rounded bezel but it’s not turned on by default which is mind boggling indeed as it’s quite literally the killer feature of the phone.

Most people will likely get about by touching and swiping the display but the addition of the digital rotating bezel in the Galaxy Watch Active2 is a real game changer. All you have to do is to tap the edge of the rounded display and then move your finger clockwise or counterclockwise to navigate the menus. There’s also satisfying haptic feedback to give you an indication that you’re heading somewhere.
Watch Active2 side
To get started, you’ll have to pair it up with a phone first and there’s several additional apps that you need to install before it plays along nicely with it though Samsung phones will have most of the firmware that you need pre-installed by default.

Watch Active2 app

Like other Tizen wearables, you’re able to change watch faces by downloading new ones and also add in a modicum of new apps. There’s a smattering of games, a ton of watch faces, a variety of navigation apps with varying degrees of efficacy and, interestingly enough, you’re even able to watch YouTube clips on this by downloading an app but the screen the size of a postage stamp so it’s probably something you’d do on a lark or only under the direst circumstances. You can also browse the web on this but typing in text via the T9 keypad is a laborious task and navigating websites is a chore on account of the small display.
Watch Active2 faces
Unfortunately, not much has changed with the breadth and depth of app variety on the Galaxy App store and there isn’t much third party support available and many apps require you to fork out cash too but you still have most of the essentials in regards to fitness tracking already baked in.

Apps notwithstanding, the Galaxy Watch Active2’s core functions as a fitness and health tracker remain intact with the ability to track a variety of workouts – 39 in total – including swimming. You’re also able to track your sleep quality and also fire up a breathing exercise app to relax and calm down if the need arises. Much in the fashion of other wearables, the Watch Active2 also prods you with reminders to get up and walk around if you’re sitting behind a desk for too long.

Watch Active2 exercises

Of note with the Watch Active2 is a novel My Style algorithm which changes the watch face to suit your outfit after you take a snapshot of your chosen garments with your phone which is something that hasn’t been done before with other phones.

When taken for a whirl for a couple of weeks, the watch performed in a similar fashion as the original Watch Active and tracked most of our activities with a modicum of precision. Most of the basic ones like walking, running and the like were tracked relatively accurately and it was able to track our walks and runs down to within several meters or so. The heart rate tracker works as it says on the tin and accurately tracked our ticker at rest and over the course of our commute over the course of the week.

Watch Active2
The provided speakers are serviceable in a quiet environment but are too small to make a difference when you’re outdoors so you’ll still need to tote around a pair of wireless earbuds if you want to catch a tune or two.

The watch also offers ECG functionality for medical-grade heart monitoring though this requires regulatory approval so this feature is not activated in Malaysia. It also apparently has fall detection too in a fashion akin to the Apple Watch but there’s no word on when or if these two features will be activated as yet in Malaysia.

Galaxy Watch Active2 battery life.

The watch has a 340mAh battery but the larger display size means that it also draws more juice. After fully charging it, we managed to eke out just short of two days worth of battery life which is decent but unremarkable.

Galaxy Watch Active2 close up

As it stands, the Galaxy Watch Active2 is a good looking and well crafted smartwatch with solid fitness tracking functionality and one of the best user interfaces ever seen on a smartwatch via Tizen OS. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly compelling upgrade if you already own the original Watch Active but for those who have yet to hop onto the smartwatch bandwagon, it’s an excellent proposition.

What we liked Smooth and intuitive user interface, excellent display, fair two-day battery life, rotating bezel
What we didn’t Not many third-party apps, significant installation footprint on smartphone
We say The Galaxy Watch Active2 is a good looking and well crafted smartwatch with solid fitness tracking functionality and one of the best user interfaces ever implemented on a smartwatch via Tizen OS.

Specifications
Price RM1,099
Display 1.4-inch Super AMOLED, 360 x 360 pixels
Processor Dual-core 1.15GHz
Memory 750MB RAM/4GB storage (1.4GB usable)
OS Tizen
Connectivity WiFi Bluetooth
Battery Life 340mAh (131 hours low usage quoted)
Size/Weight 44 x 44 x 10.9mm / 30g
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia. Check out their official page here.

Asus ZenBook Duo UX481F review – Inspiring Glimpse of the Future

 As one of the world’s largest notebook vendors, Asus isn’t shy on taking bold steps forward with their designs and at Computex 2019 they showcased some seriously innovative showstoppers like the ZenBook Duo UX481F. Now, it’s finally arrived in Malaysia.

Asus ZenBook Duo UX481F angled

Intended to resolve the age-old conundrum of mobile workers and creatives needing more screen real estate, the ZenBook Duo UX481F achieves this by integrating what Asus calls a ScreenPad Plus touchscreen that works as both a secondary display and a larger touchscreen panel to interact with content or apps.

Prior to this, most button pushers are usually relegated to tabbing in and out of adds or plugging in an external secondary display. That’s often not an option though, more so if you’re a road warrior on the move.

Delving into the Design of the ZenBook Duo UX481F

The UX481F itself is ensconced within its own packaging that also comes with a digital stylus for use with the secondary ScreenPad Plus. There’s also the obligatory charging cable as well as a free plush faux leatherette folio that you can slip the notebook into during transport but that’s about the extent of available kit with the ZenBook Duo UX481F.

As a notebook, the ZenBook Duo UX481F boasts of a surprisingly understated design and it’s provenance isn’t apparent until you actually open the top lid. Externally, it looks somewhat like a chunky mid-2000’s series notebook but that’s on account of the extra hardware needed to accommodate the secondary display and the huge 70Whr battery.

ZenBook Duo UX481F side angle

Flip it open and the ZenBook Duo’s true nature becomes apparent as it’s one of the first notebooks in Malaysia to have a secondary ScreenPad Plus touchscreen display perched just above the keyboard and below the main 14-inch Full HD display. A larger, better specced variant with a 4K display and 4K ScreenPad Plus called the ZenBook Pro Duo also exists with a princely five-digit price tag.

Externally, the notebook is done up in a shade of what Asus calls Celestial Blue. Bar it’s somewhat chunky girth, the ZenBook Duo UX481F has excellent build quality with most of the chassis hewn of a light magnesium-aluminium alloy including the entirety of the top lid and bottom as well as parts of the sides.

ZenBook Duo UX481F top lid

A few sections, namely the side panels where the ports are located are still made of plastic, though it’s not apparent unless you really look up close. The top lid itself is also very sturdy and has no flex or wobbling either even if you’re hammering the keyboard buttons at full tilt. Unfortunately, the notebook is somewhat on the chunky side and and it’s rather heavy for an ultraportable at 1.5kg.

The top lid has Asus’ signature ‘concentric circle’ brushed metal finish but is otherwise unadorned save for the Asus logo emblazoned off-centre of the middle . An incidental benefit of the finish that Asus has chosen to use here is that it repels fingerprints in a wonderful fashion.

The base of the notebook has a pair of faux leather friction pads that run all across its length to ensure that it doesn’t slip off a table into oblivion.

ZenBook Duo UX481F angles

The right side of the ZenBook Duo UX481F comes with a microSD card reader, a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB 3.1 Gen 1 port while the left comes with a jack for the obligatory power from the mains, a full sized HDMI port, a USB 3.1 Gen2 port and a single USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port. Flanking either side of the notebook are a series of tiny holes for the side-firing Harman Kardon tuned stereo speakers.

Like other Asus notebooks of recent vintage, the ZenBook Duo UX481F integrates what they call an Ergolift hinge which consists of an angled notch on the base of the top lid assembly that lifts the notebook up in order to offer ventilation and a better typing angle. It’s a subtle but helpful design feature that is seeing service in most, if not all, Asus notebooks and which is of particular benefit for the ZenBook Duo UX481F.

ZenBook Duo UX481F

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo UX481F right side

Flip the lid open and you are greeted by the ZenBook Pro Duo’s UX481F’s raison d’etre. Set beneath the 14-inch Full HD display and just above the keyboard is a 12.6-inch ScreenPad Plus touch screen with Full HD resolution. You’re also able to use the bundled stylus with it, which makes the notebook a viable proposition for artists.

Asus ZenBook Duo UX481F

The key draw here is that the ScreenPad Plus maximises your available screen real estate while also doubling as a secondary touchpad of sorts, allowing you to multitask with more windows and applications or get a better view of multi-menu apps like Adobe Premiere Pro.

The primary 14-inch Full HD display is non-touch capable with super slim 3.5mm wide bezels that give it a 90% screen-to-body ratio. Of note is that it’s also Pantone validated for colour accuracy and is capable of delivering a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, which optimises it even more for creatives.

ZenBook Duo UX481F

Perched just beneath the titular ScreenPad Plus is a rather quaint keyboard layout. Seeing as the ScreenPad Plus panel takes up most of the upper section of the notebook base, there’s no space left for palm rests and Asus has crammed the keyboard into the base of the notebook with the touchpad and two physical buttons stuffed into the right corner as an afterthought.

Asus ZenBook Duo UX481F keyboard

The keyboard itself is fairly standard with the power button inset in the upper right corner along with two dedicated ScreenPad Plus shortcut keys that let you swap whatever is displayed on the primary monitor and ScreenPad Plus back and forth as well as turning it off to save on battery life.

Seeing as this is a ZenBook series notebook, Asus hasn’t spared the horses when it comes to build quality and bar the rather quaint but understandable keyboard ergonomics issues on account of the ScreenPad Plus, the notebook is otherwise an excellent example of engineering with sturdy build quality all around.

Asus ZenBook Duo UX481F performance

Powering the Asus ZenBook Duo UX481F is a 10th generation Intel Core i5-10210U processor paired with an NVIDIA GeForce MX250 card designed for mid-range notebooks, 8GB DDR3 RAM and a 512GB PCIe 3.0 x 2 solid state drive. A variant that is otherwise similar but with a higher end Intel Core i7-10510U processor and double the RAM also exists for RM5,699.

The Intel Core i5-10210U processor has 4 cores and 8 threads with a base frequency of 1.6GHz and a single-core boost frequency of 4.2GHz. On paper, the processor is somewhat akin to the older Whiskey Lake series processors albeit with support for higher RAM speeds at up to 2,666MHz DDR4 RAM though oddly enough, the ZenBook Duo UX481F packs DDR3 2,133Mhz RAM, presumably for cost reasons. The RAM is soldered in so there’s no aftermarket upgrading on the cards.

The provided NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics card gives it a bit of bite for basic retro gaming within the last few years and, interestingly enough, is the lower voltage 10W variant of the MX250, as indicated by its product ID 10De 1D52.

Asus ZenBook Duo UX481F MX250

Theoretically, this should offer a 30% lower difference in performance compared to the higher end NVIDIA GeForce MX250 card with a higher 25W voltage like the one seen in the VivoBook S15 S531F that we tested a while back but it’s a bit hard to draw direct comparisons as it’s not a direct apples to apples scenario on account of differing hardware specifications. It’s somewhat difficult to speculate on why they’ve included the low voltage version here but it’s also presumably for either cost or for heat and power efficiency concerns.

On paper, this version of the ZenBook Duo is intended for light creators and has the hardware capable of fulfilling the job. It handled the usual array of productivity tasks without lagging or keeling over with the secondary ScreenPad Plus displaying YouTube, a calculator and a Chrome browser while the primary display had a fairly resource heavy spreadsheet.

CInebench R20 ZenBook Duo UX481F

It was also able to tackle some modest video editing at up 1080P on Magix without undue trouble. The provision of the GeForce MX250 also gives it some ability to handle last-gen gaming and it managed to run Deus Ex: Human Revolution as well as the at moderate settings and PUBG and CS:GO at low settings without too much trouble.

Asus zenBook Duo UX481F timespy

When subjected to the usual benchmarks, the ZenBook Duo UX481F acquitted itself in a very satisfactory fashion. In PCMark10, it got a score of 2,684 points. In 3DMark’s standard Time Spy benchmark, it got a score of 1,019 points and was unable to run it at Extreme settings.

ZenBook Duo UX481F Superposition

In Cinebench R20, the notebook got a middling score of 485 points. In the Unigine Superposition benchmark, it only managed 479 points when subjected to the 1080P extreme benchmark and a more respectable 2,174 points in the 1080P medium benchmark. The 512GB PCIE SSD offered excellent speeds with 1635.40 MB/s read speeds and 838.83 MB/s write speeds.

zenbook duo ux481F

Clarity and colour rendition on the primary 14-inch display was excellent even under sunlight. The ScreenPad Plus however has a matte finish and colour rendition and brightness on the ScreenPad Plus is serviceable if dim under direct sunlight. I’s a fair compromise seeing as it is designed for use with the provided stylus; a glossy screen would scratch.

ZenBook Duo UX481F PCMark

Another interesting problem is that the angle of the ScreenPad Plus where it’s slightly elevated from a flat surface means that you still can’t get a decent view of. A steeper angle or a kickstand is needed for better visibility which leads to another related issue – the keyboard.

ZenBook Duo UX481F

The ZenBook Duo UX481F is clearly not intended for use on your lap or on the go and seems purely intended as a desktop replacement as it lacks palm rests.

If you’re using this on the go, you’ll likely be holding your hands like a pianist and having to precariously move it several inches forward halfway beyond your knees which increases the chances of it falling off by accident. Fortunately this ergonomics issue is resolved if you plonk it on a desk.

Ergonomics aside,  Asus has put serious thought on the software front for the ScreenPad Plus. On top of being a secondary display, it has custom firmware so that you can use it to record macros to launch several apps with one command.

Asus ZenBook Duo UX481F

For selected apps like Adobe Premiere Pro, you’re able to lock additional menu bars on the ScreenPad Plus so that you have the entirety of the main display to work with; this feature isn’t universal and only works with a select few apps but you’re able to stretch a window so that it covers both the main display and the ScreenPad if needed. The provided stylus also allows for users with the provided skills to sketch, doodle and create artistic masterpieces. We did manage to get some stick men artfully sketched though.

ZenBook Duo UX481F Battery Life, Price and Conclusion

The ZenBook Duo UX481F comes with one of the highest capacity batteries crammed into a notebook at 70Whr. On paper, it’s rated to offer 22 hours of battery life with the ScreenPad Plus off and about 15 hours or so if you’re using both that and the display.

After field testing it, the results are close to the official stated figures as we kept it running with brightness set to middle settings, WiFi on, a combination of video on the main display and the ScreenPad Plus and use of Facebook, Instagram and Google Docs all day long. In effect, this offers the better part of a day and a half of effective use.

Zenbook Duo UX481F

As it stands, the ZenBook Duo UX481F is a notebook ahead of its time. There’s real potential for its ScreenPad Plus display but being so far ahead of the curve, it’s ergonomics and functionality are a bit behind. The ScreenPad Plus is hard to see under daylight and the nature of its design means that you need to prop it up at a fairly jaunty angle to see it beyond what the Ergolift hinge can achieve.

hat aside, there’s no denying it’s exceptional battery life, one of the best we’ve had on test and innovative design. If you’re a heavy multitasker looking for a distinctive looking desktop replacement and can live with its ergonomic foibles and hefty price tag, the ZenBook Duo UX481F is right up your alley. If you’re after something beefier, check out their higher end ZenBook Pro Duo.

What we liked Excellent battery life, generous array of ports, innovative ScreenPad display
What we didn’t Chunky and heavy build, not cheap for what you pay for, cramped keyboard and touchpad, significant learning curve to master ScreenPad Plus features
We say This midrange variant of the Zenbook Duo UX481F ultraportable is ahead of its time with an innovative secondary ScreenPad Plus setup that takes multitasking to the next level. It’s an interesting proposition but ergonomics issues befuddle its execution. If you can live with its hefty price tag and quirks, this represents a unique gamechanger.

Specifications
Price RM4,699
Display 14-inch LCD, 1,920 x 1080 pixels, 100% sRGB Pantone validated + 12.6-inch Full HD ScreenPad Plus display
Processor Intel Core i5-10210U 1.6GHz
Memory 8GB DDR3 2,133MHz RAM  / 512GB PCIe SSD
Graphics card NVIDIA GeForce MX250 (10W)
Battery 70Whr lithium-polymer battery
Size/Weight 323 x 223 x 19.9mm / 1.5kg
Review unit courtesy of Asus Malaysia. Visit their official page here.