Categories
Reviews

Galaxy Buds Pro review: Samsung’s AirPods Pro-beating earbuds | Technology


Samsung’s latest Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds add noise-cancelling, virtual surround and improved sound, making them a challenger to Apple’s AirPods Pro.

At £219, they are the new top-of-the-range earbuds from Samsung, sitting above the £179 Galaxy Buds Live and £159 Galaxy Buds+.

The Buds Pro have silicone ear tips and a general shape similar to the Buds+ but look more like the Buds Live. They are stored in an excellent, compact, square charging case that easily fits into the money pocket of a pair of jeans.



The design of the Buds Pro is an amalgam of the company’s previous efforts. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The new earbuds are bigger and heavier than the Buds+ and do not twist to fit in the concha of your ear in quite the same way, protruding slightly further, but are still small compared with rivals. They do a good job of avoiding putting pressure on the delicate parts of the ear, held in place by the oval ear tips – of which there are three sizes in the box.

They were comfortable and stayed securely in my ears but you can twist a small lip of the earbud under the cartilage of your ear to lock them in place if needed. The earbuds are water resistant to IPX7 standards, which means they can be submerged in up to one metre of water for up to 30 minutes, making them some of the most water-resistant earbuds available.

Specifications

  • Water resistance: IPX7 (one metre up to 30 minutes)

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, SBC, AAC, SSC

  • Battery life: five hours ANC on (up to 18 hours with case; 28 hours with ANC off)

  • Earbud dimensions: 19.5 x 20.5 x 20.8 mm

  • Earbud weight: 6.3g each

  • Driver size: 11mm woofer + 6.5mm tweeter

  • Charging case dimensions: 50 x 50.2 x 27.8 mm

  • Charging case weight: 44.9g

  • Case charging: USB-C, Qi wireless charging

Connectivity and controls

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro



The Galaxy Wearable app on Android handles pairing, controls, updates and noise-cancelling settings. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Buds Pro support Bluetooth 5 with both the universal SBC and AAC audio standards used by most devices. But they also support Samsung’s own “scalable audio codec”, which can provide higher-quality audio but only works with Samsung devices. They are compatible with all standard Bluetooth devices and support automatic pairing with Samsung and other Android devices via the Galaxy Wearable app plus Swift Pairing with Windows 10 PCs. Unlike their predecessors, the Buds Pro are not supported by the Galaxy Buds app on an iPhone, so iOS users can use the earbuds but will not be able to change settings or update them.

The earbuds only connect to one device at a time but support seamless switching (so you don’t have to manually disconnect) and a new auto-switch system that can be used with Samsung devices running OneUI 3.1 or higher such as the new Galaxy S21 series. Either earbud can be used on its own.

Connectivity to a Galaxy Z Fold 2, iPhone 12, MacBook Air M1 and other devices was excellent.

The exterior of the earbud is touch sensitive. Tap once for pause/play, twice and thrice for track skip. A tap-and-hold gesture can be set to control the volume (left for down, right for up), control noise-cancelling settings, activate the voice assistant or trigger Spotify on compatible phones. Take both earbuds out and the music pauses; take only one out and ambient sound mode activates on the other. The controls work well with good audible feedback.

Battery life

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro



The compact case charges via USB-C or wireless charging. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The earbuds last for up to five hours with noise-cancelling active and can be charged 2.6 times in the case for a total of 18 hours. Turn off noise-cancelling and the earbuds last up to eight hours and up to 28 hours with the case. Five minutes charging will add up to one hour of playback.

The case is charged via a Qi wireless charging coil in its base or the USB-C socket in the back. A cable is included in the box but not a power adaptor.

Sustainability

Samsung does not provide an estimate of the number of full-charge cycles the batteries in the case or earbuds should last. Batteries in similar devices can typically last for 500 cycles while maintaining at least 80% of their original capacity.

Samsung does not sell individual replacement buds or cases. The Buds Pro are repairable but unlike previous Samsung earbuds the battery cannot be replaced, ultimately making them disposable.

The earbuds and case are made from 20% post-consumer recycled materials. Samsung operates recycling and trade-in schemes for smartphones but not for its earbuds. The company publishes annual sustainability reports but not impact assessments for individual products.

Excellent sound

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro



The oval silicone ear tips create a good seal aiding in bass and sound quality. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Buds Pro take the easy-listening, everyday sound of the Buds+ and improve the audio quality in all dimensions. They produce rich and well-controlled bass, warm mids and precise high notes that make them some of the best-sounding true wireless earbuds available.

They handle many music genres well, with a wider soundscape than most earbuds. Acoustic, guitar-based tracks such as the live version of the Eagles’ Hotel California sound warm, inviting and full of detail. There’s plenty of punch and raw energy in grunge or rock tracks, while high-tempo electronica sounds suitably energised. The earbuds do an admiral job of rendering really deep bass, while even orchestral scores such as Holst’s Planet suite sound grand and full of nuance.

Occasionally, you can get hit with a little too much treble, such as overly prominent trumpets at higher volumes, but overall they sound really great, matching top rivals such as the Jabra Elite 85t. There’s a limited equaliser that can switch between preset modes such as “dynamic” or “bass boost” in the companion app.

Active noise cancelling

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro



Mics on the outside, including inside a wind-noise reducing chamber, detect unwanted noise that is then cancelled out. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Buds Pro have several active noise-cancelling and ambient sound modes. There are two levels of noise-cancelling available. On high, the noise-cancelling is effective at reducing low rumbles and some mid-frequency sounds but falls slightly short of the effectiveness of the Elite 85t and AirPods Pro. The Buds Pro were also affected to a greater extent by the fit of the earbuds – twisting and locking them in place against the inside of my ear significantly improved the amount of noise they blocked out.

The ambient sound mode, which pipes the noise of the outside world into your ears, has four levels and can be automatically triggered when the earbuds detect you speaking. It works pretty well for quick conversations or hearing announcements but doesn’t sound as natural as the best available.

The earbuds also have Dolby technology that tracks the movements of your head in relation to a phone or tablet to create a virtual surround sound Samsung calls 360 Audio. It only works with devices running Samsung’s latest software OneUI 3.1 but, unlike rival systems from Apple and others, it is able to create the virtual surround effect for any video, not only those with Dolby soundtracks, anchoring the sound to the screen. The effect is surprisingly good.

Observations

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro



The case is easily pocketable, which helps keep the buds safe and charged. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • You can set Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant to listen for the wakeword “Hey Bixby”.

  • Game Mode reduces latency for audio that is in sync with the action on screen for games with Samsung devices.

  • Call quality was reasonable: my voice was clear and background noise was minimised but I sounded a little distant and not as crisp as the best rivals.

  • Sneezing, blowing my nose and coughing triggered the auto-ambient sound mode when active.

Price

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro cost £219 and are available in black, silver or purple, shipping on 28 January.

For comparison, the Galaxy Buds Live have an RRP of £179, the Galaxy Buds+ cost £129, the Jabra Elite 85t cost £219.99, the Bose QC Earbuds cost £249.95, the Sony WF-1000XM3 cost £149 and the Apple AirPods Pro cost £249.

Verdict

The Galaxy Buds Pro are Samsung’s best true wireless earbuds yet.

They pack excellent sound with solid noise-cancelling into small and comfortable earbuds without stalks, which have good battery life and a great, compact case – a combination that’s still hard to find. They are also water-resistant to a high standard, which can’t be said for most competitors, and are made with recycled materials.

They are not cheap, costing £219, which puts them in the top end of the market, beating Apple’s AirPods Pro on sound but falling short of the Jabra Elite 85t on noise-cancelling. If other Samsung earbuds are any indication, you should be able to find them with a reasonable discount if you shop around in the near future.

Unlike previous Samsung earbuds, the batteries in the Buds Pro cannot be replaced, which is a disappointing step back and ultimately makes them disposable, similar to most other true wireless earbuds, losing them a star. Samsung does not recycle the earbuds either. They can be used with an iPhone but are not supported by the Galaxy Buds app, so you can’t change the settings or keep them up to date.

The Galaxy Buds Pro are Samsung’s true AirPods Pro-beaters for Android – an excellent set of premium everyday true wireless earbuds.

Pros: great sound, solid noise-cancelling, seamless switching, good controls, comfortable fit, excellent case, solid battery, no stalks, IPX7 water resistance, made of recycled materials.

Cons: expensive, battery cannot be replaced, some features restricted to Samsung devices, can only connect to one device at a time.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro



The earbuds clip into the case via magnets and the lid shuts with a satisfying snap. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Other reviews



Source link

Categories
Gadgets

iPhone 12 Pro Max review: Apple’s longer lasting superphone | Technology


The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the biggest, heaviest and most expensive version of Apple’s smartphone for 2020, a beast in every dimension.

The top-of-the-range iPhone costs from £1,099 and sits above the 12 Pro (£999), the 12 (£799) and 12 mini (£699).

The 12 Pro Max has the same fresh design as the rest of the iPhone 12 range: squared-off sides, all-screen front with slimmer bezels and a frosted glass back. It has the same drop-resistant “Ceramic Shield” technology covering the screen and the new MagSafe magnetic attachment system on the back for wireless chargers and accessories, but that’s where the physical similarities end.



The stainless steel sides of the 12 Pro Max polished to a mirror-like shine, shown here in the gold colour. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The huge OLED display measures 6.7in on the diagonal, which dwarfs all other iPhones and rivals the Android superphones, such as the 6.78in OnePlus 8 or the 6.9in Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

The screen is stunning. Bright, crisp and almost tablet-like at that giant size. Watching HDR video is fantastic, and there is a good set of stereo speakers too.

Holding it usually requires two hands, much like its superphone competition. It is very wide and weighs 226g – 18g heavier than the Note 20 Ultra, 39g heavier than the smaller 12 Pro or a full 64g heavier than the regular iPhone 12.

Thanks to the hard edges I found gripping the 12 Pro Max significantly easier than its rounded and equally heavy predecessor the iPhone 11 Pro Max. I could use it one handed with a bit of finger gymnastics and suffered none of the hand pain I got from trying to grip the bar-of-soap-like 11 Pro Max.

iphone 12 pro max review



The blue iPhone 12 Pro next to the gold iPhone 12 Pro Max. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Specifications

  • Screen: 6.7in Super Retina XDR (OLED) (458ppi)

  • Processor: Apple A14 Bionic

  • RAM: 6GB

  • Storage: 128, 256 or 512GB

  • Operating system: iOS 14

  • Camera: triple 12MP rear cameras with lidar, 12MP front-facing camera

  • Connectivity: 5G, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5, Lightning, ultra wideband and GPS

  • Water resistance: IP68 (6 metres for 30 mins)

  • Dimensions: 160.9 x 78.1 x 7.4mm

  • Weight: 226g

Top performance, 5G and two-day battery

iphone 12 pro max review



No power adaptor is included in the box, just a USB-C to Lightning cable – the phone didn’t charge any faster with a 45W power adaptor than a 20W one. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the same A14 Bionic processor as the regular 12, 12 Pro and iPad Air, and has 6GB of RAM with a starting storage of 128GB – double the iPhone 12’s 64GB. Performance is equally excellent all round: snappy, slick and fast to process photos, videos or when playing games. Speeds on 5G were similar, with slightly better reception than the iPhone 12 Pro and negligible impact on battery life.

Battery life is class leading at more than 48 hours between charges (eight hours longer than the iPhone 12) with the screen on for more than seven hours. The phone will last from 7am on day one until 7am on day three using 5G for about five hours, with the remainder spent on wifi.

It takes 30 minutes to charge the battery to 50%, 73 minutes to reach 90% but two hours 13 minutes for a full charge using a cable and a £19 Apple 20W USB-C power adaptor, or more than three hours with the MagSafe wireless charger.

Sustainability

Apple does not provide an expected lifespan for the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s battery – typically smartphone batteries last at least 500 cycles while maintaining at least 80% capacity – but it can be replaced for £69. An out-of-warranty service costs £566.44, which includes the screen. The iPhone 12 Pro Max was awarded six out of 10 for repairability by the specialist iFixit.

The 12 Pro Max uses 100% recycled tin in the solder of its main board, 99% recycled tungsten, 98% recycled rare earth elements and at least 35% recycled plastic in multiple other components. Apple is also using renewable energy for final assembly of the machine, and breaks down the phone’s environmental impact in its report.

It also offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products. The 12 Pro Max does not ship with headphones or a power adaptor, reducing its carbon footprint.

iOS 14

iphone 12 pro max review



Face ID is still the best smartphone biometric unlocking system in the business but cannot recognise people wearing masks. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 12 Pro comes with the same iOS 14.2 version as the 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro and all other iPhones from 2015 or newer. This includes the home screen visual overhaul with widgets and the App Library folders, enhanced privacy tools and the new Translate app. For more see the iOS 14 overview and iPhone 12 review.

You can expect upwards of five years of software support including security fixes and iOS version updates, which is longer than any other manufacturer of smartphones.

Camera

iphone 12 pro max review



The camera app is simple and automatic in most situations, which makes for effective pointing-and-shooting but it lacks full manual control. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the same selfie camera and ultrawide camera as the 12 and 12 Pro, which perform just as well, but different main and telephoto cameras on the back.

The telephoto camera has a longer 2.5x optical zoom, up from 2x. Any increase in reach is welcome, but it pales in comparison to the 4x/5x optical zooms of competitors. The lens is slightly slower than that on the 12 Pro, making it worse in poor light. But both smartphones switch to the more light-sensitive main camera in low-light anyway.

The main camera has the same 12-megapixel resolution but a 47% physically larger sensor, which collects up to 87% more light than its predecessor.

iphone 12 pro max review



The main camera sensor (bottom of the cluster) is directly stabilised against hand-shake rather than the lens being so, which is common in digital cameras but a first in a smartphone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

In good light it shoots photos that are indistinguishable from the 12 Pro: highly detailed with good colour accuracy and control of high-contrast scenes.

When the light level starts to drop around dusk the larger sensor captures far brighter, more detailed and less noisy images that are a marked improvement over other iPhones. The same holds true for indoor shots on dull winter days. The dedicated Night Mode is needed less frequently, too, and when it does engage it captures photos quicker than the regular 12 Pro.

For point-and-shoot photographers you get a clearer image. For enthusiasts, the larger sensor offers much more potential for detail when shooting in RAW formats, including Apple’s new ProRAW format that is due soon with a software update.

The 12 Pro Max also has the same lidar (light detection and ranging) scanner on the back for Night Mode portraits and faster autofocus. The 12 Pro Max can shoot 4K video at 60 frames a second, and in Dolby Vision HDR too.

Overall, the 12 Pro Max has the best camera on any iPhone and has improved low-light performance over other iPhone 12 models. It also brings Apple up to par with top competitors, although the 2.5x optical zoom is still some way behind the best in the business.

Price

The iPhone 12 Pro Max costs £1,099 for 128GB, £1,199 for 256GB or £1,399 for 512GB of storage.

For comparison, the 12 Pro costs from £999, the 12 costs £799, the 12 Mini costs £699 and the iPhone SE costs £399. The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra costs £1,179 and the OnePlus 8 Pro costs £799.

Verdict

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the most feature-rich Apple smartphone this year, but comes at a significant price – both monetary and physically.

It sits firmly in the superphone bracket alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the OnePlus 8 Pro, so big that you may struggle to fit it in small pockets and will almost exclusively need two hands to use it.

You get a huge 6.7in screen, 48-hour-plus battery life, a significantly better camera and improved design and ergonomics over its predecessors. It is certainly not perfect and costs a lot, even if it is only £100 more than the smaller iPhone 12 Pro, but you are getting a lot of phone for the money.

If you can manage its sheer gargantuan size and cost, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is one hell of a superphone.

Pros: very long battery, top performance, improved low-light camera, longer optical zoom, portraits with night mode, water resistant, wireless charging, MagSafe, Face ID, fantastic screen, 5G, long software support.

Cons: no USB-C, need your own charger, enormous, super heavy, very expensive.

iphone 12 pro max review



The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a very big phone that will be hard to fit in pockets and use on-handed. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Other reviews



Source link