The OnePlus 12 could be one of 2024’s best Android phones | Digital Trends
OnePlus has had a brilliant year thanks to some great devices. The OnePlus 11 emerged as a comeback in terms of value for money, with high-end features for just $699. It offered a big and bright display, good-quality cameras, excellent performance with clean software, and all-day battery life.
But it still had two omissions, which seem to be fixed by the OnePlus 12 that was unveiled in China today. If the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is anything similar to the Gen 2 in terms of efficiency, the OnePlus 12 could be one of 2024’s best Android phones.
A truly impressive camera system
I used the OnePlus 11 as my daily driver for a while, and I was impressed with the overall performance and design. While the OnePlus 12 doesn’t offer a complete overhaul in terms of looks, it’s been upgraded under the hood to offer two key features – one that I dearly missed having, plus one that appeals to the U.S. market, in particular.
Despite the presence of three cameras on the OnePlus 11, I missed having 3x optical zoom. The OnePlus 12 sports a new triple camera setup, which not only adds a better telephoto sensor, but also shares the overall camera DNA with the OnePlus Open. The OnePlus 12’s triple rear camera setup is led by a 50MP Sony LYT-808 primary camera with optical image stabilization (OIS). It is accompanied by a 48MP Sony IMX581 ultrawide angle camera and a 64MP OV64B periscope lens with 3x optical zoom.
It’s the exact configuration of the lenses as the OnePlus Open, which houses the most versatile camera setup on a foldable phone. I’ve been using the OnePlus foldable phone since its launch, and it has only improved the cameras with each update.
The 50MP Sony LYT-808 sensor is impressive on the OnePlus Open. As you can see from the above images, the skin tone is good and there’s ample dynamic range, with no overblown highlights in the cloud — the overall image looks pleasing. The camera wasn’t very well-tuned for lowlight at launch, but OnePlus has fixed that, too, to some extent.
While the 50MP primary camera captures detailed photos, I was more impressed with the 64MP periscope camera. And that’s because it not only takes good 3x shots, but also performs well up to 15x digital zoom, with great 6x zoom images. When compared to the digital zoom on my iPhone 15 Pro, the OnePlus Open performed better on 6x and up to 15x.
The above images show great details and good dynamic range on 3x as well as 6x zoom. Those are some big expectations to have after experiencing the OnePlus Open. But with it having the same camera setup (now tuned with “4th Gen Hasselblad Camera for Mobile”), I’m pretty confident that the OnePlus 12 will be a step up from the OnePlus 11 in terms of camera quality.
OnePlus brought back wireless charging
Both the OnePlus 11 and OnePlus Open had one glaring omission – no wireless charging. While I didn’t have an issue (because I mostly work remotely in cafes or from sofas), I get the argument of how convenient wireless charging can be for some people. It’s also beneficial when you have several wireless charging pads set up in various places inside your home.
The OnePlus 12 brings 50-watt wireless charging to the table. It’s reminiscent of the OnePlus 10 Pro, which was the fastest wireless charging phone in the U.S. at the time of launch. The OnePlus 12 will soon take that mantle as it’s rumored to launch in the U.S.in January.
The addition of better cameras and wireless charging makes the OnePlus 12 a complete phone. You should expect a price bump, for sure, but I expect it to be one of the phones to look out for in 2024 given the company’s recent track record and my experience with OnePlus Open’s camera system. The OnePlus 11 was already a great phone, and the 2024 flagship seems to take it up a notch.
What else does the OnePlus 12 offer?
The OnePlus 12 features a 6.82-inch QHD+ 2K OLED LTPO display that supports a 120Hz refresh rate. The screen is rated to reach 4,500 nits of peak brightness, which is one of the highest numbers we’ve ever seen. You’ll normally see the phone reach around 1,600 nits, but it can get a lot brighter when it needs to. The 4,500 nits level is meant for HDR content; some areas of the screen can go up to that number when required in HDR videos. Like the OnePlus Open, the OnePlus 12 display supports Dolby Vision, 10Bit Color Depth, and ProXDR.
The OnePlus 12 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, which I’ve yet to test, but I hope it’s at least as efficient as the Snapdragon Gen 2. The OnePlus 12 now starts at 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM instead of 8GB and comes equipped with the same base 256GB of UFS 4.0 storage. It goes up to 24GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.
The 2024 OnePlus flagship packs a 5,400mAh battery that supports 100W wired and 50W wireless fast charging. To prevent it from overheating, it sports Oppo’s SuperVOOC S power management chip, which was first introduced on the OnePlus 11R. The OnePlus 12 is rated IP65 for dust and water resistance, which is a step up from the IP64-rated predecessor.
In terms of design, the OnePlus 12 doesn’t feature an overhaul, but still has some noticeable changes. First, the alert slider is now on the other side of the phone, so you now get the volume rockers and power button on one side and the alert slider on the other. Second, the green color variant features a wavy pattern on the back. It sure looks good in pictures. The OnePlus 12 comes in three color options — white, green, and black.
OnePlus 12 price and availability
The OnePlus 12 price starts at 4,299 yuan ($607) in China for the base 12GB/256GB variant, whereas the top-end 24GB/1TB model will sell for 5,799 yuan ($818). It’s a 300 yuan increase from the OnePlus 11, and you should expect a price bump on the OnePlus 12 when it goes global in “early 2024.” As per previously leaked information, the device is expected to be launched in other markets by the end of January.
It’s unclear how much the OnePlus 12 will cost when it eventually comes to the U.S., but if it’s China pricing is anything to go by, it should be quite competitive.
Microsoft’s AI Narration App Expands to Android for Blind Users
Microsoft launched the Seeing AI app on Android devices Monday, expanding the free app that narrates the world to millions more blind and low-vision users. Seeing AI is now available for free in 18 languages on the Google Play Store with plans to expand to 36 languages next year.
“Even AI Rappers are Harassed by Police” | AI Unlocked
Seeing AI first launched for IOS in 2017 allowing users to point their camera and hear a description of what it sees. The app identifies currency, reads books, spots products, and scans barcodes. It can also recognize and save friend’s faces and provide an estimate of their age, gender and expression.
The new Android version will have all the latest updates, including generative AI capabilities to summarize articles and ask detailed questions about your surroundings. There are 3 billion Android users globally, and the Seeing AI technology will now help more users than ever.
Seeing AI is one of many accessibility products that utilize the power of generative AI. Google released Magnifier in October, helping low-vision users to zoom in on the smallest details of the world around them. Magnifier also lets users add color filters to increase contrast, improving the visibility of minute details.
Generative AI has the extreme potential to increase accessibility for people with disabilities. The Harvard Business Review found that 386 million working-age people around the world have disabilities, and unemployment among that group is roughly 80%. Generative AI, if deployed correctly, could dramatically level the playing field for folks with disabilities. Artificial intelligence offers an outsized impact on this community compared to the rest of the world, and apps like Seeing AI are paving the way.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: the best Android phone yet | Digital Trends
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
“The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is the most complete, most versatile Android smartphone you can buy. It’s a big purchase in more ways than one, but it’ll last you for years.”
Incredibly powerful processor
Versatile telephoto zoom camera
S Pen adds value
Water-resistant and durable
Long software update commitment
Many interesting features to explore
Large, bright, detailed screen
Wired charging is complicated, and only 45W
Big and heavy
Before reading this review, there are a few things I want to suggest. Don’t get caught up in the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s admittedly high price tag; instead, think about the value it represents. Don’t get overwhelmed by its astonishing ability or extensive feature list, but consider the things it can’t do. Don’t think of it as “more of the same” compared to the Galaxy S22 Ultra either, as you’ll miss the things that mean it’ll stay usable longer.
I know that’s a lot of “don’ts,” but there’s a reason I’ve pointed them out. It’s because the Galaxy S23 Ultra can do pretty much everything you want today, next year, and almost certainly for a few years after that, too. When you know this, it’s only the things it can’t do that will matter — and believe me, it’s a very short list indeed. Join us as we go into detail in our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review.
About our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review
Our Galaxy S23 Ultra review is based on many weeks of regular use since the phone was released. We tested three different models throughout that time. First, one review model supplied by Samsung in the U.K. was used by Andy Boxall, which was subsequently returned and replaced with a retail version purchased from Samsung’s online store. The other is being used in the U.S. by Joe Maring. All three are unlocked versions of the phone.
I (Andy Boxall) revisited the Galaxy S23 Ultra at the end of November 2023 and updated our review accordingly, plus added a new section right below covering how it operates today. The score remains the same, and it’s still a recommended buy. We’re also still using the S23 Ultra regularly.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: 9 months later
The thing that struck me most about the Galaxy S23 Ultra in November 2023 is that it doesn’t seem to have aged at all. If you told me it was released yesterday, I’d believe you and would give it the same breathless review as I did in February. The prompt update to Android 14 and One UI 6 definitely helps, as does the fact the S Pen and the brilliant, fun 10x optical zoom continue to be unique in the market.
Samsung will replace the Galaxy S23 Ultra in early 2024 with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. This inevitable change may make you stop and think if the S23 Ultra is worth buying today, and although we’d say if you can wait, it’s probably worth it, there’s no reason to dismiss the S23 Ultra if you aren’t bothered about having the latest model. It’s excellent all round, and you won’t regret buying it today.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: design
I came to the Galaxy S23 Ultra from the OnePlus 11 and spent the first few days adapting to the difference between the two. The OnePlus 11 is slim, light, and very “holdable,” and the S23 Ultra really isn’t any of those things. If you’re coming from a phone that isn’t nearly 9mm thick, 78mm wide, and 233 grams in weight, you’re really going to notice how much of a handful the S23 Ultra is.
It’s not unmanageable, but there is a period of adjustment involved unless you’re already using the Galaxy S22 Ultra or an iPhone 14 Pro Max, which are the closest analogs to the S23 Ultra’s size.
You will get used to the S23 Ultra’s size and weight, but if you’ve got small hands, the width and thickness make singlehanded use very difficult, which is far harder to overcome. It’s a consideration that’s mostly unnecessary on phones like the OnePlus 11, iPhone 15 Pro, or even the Galaxy S23 Plus. If this is going to be your first massive smartphone, before you buy it, go and hold one first and see if you think it’ll fit into your lifestyle. Some folks may never adjust to the S23 Ultra’s size, and for them, the much smaller and more pocketable Galaxy S23 will be a better fit.
Samsung hasn’t really changed the design of the Galaxy S23 Ultra over the S22 Ultra. It’s still that familiar all-business look, with curved sides to the chassis and the screen, tiny bezels, and five circular camera modules on the back. It’s not especially eye-catching, but this will be part of its appeal. There’s a maturity to the simple stylishness of the S23 Ultra, and the device itself is instantly recognizable too. It’s not going to be mistaken for an iPhone 15 Pro Max or a Google Pixel 8 Pro.
The build quality is superb, it’s incredibly substantial, and it should be very durable too. The S23 Ultra has an IP68 water-resistance rating, Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and Samsung’s latest Armor Aluminum chassis material. The weight means putting it in a case will protect it in the event of a fall onto something hard, but there’s a degree of reassurance that comes from Samsung’s commitment to durability that’s missing from many of its competitors.
This also applies to Samsung’s use of recycled materials, and its lengthy software update commitment, which, when combined with the durability and performance of the phone, adds up to it being a device you’ll be happy to keep for years. It used to be fine to keep a phone for two years if you were keen on mobile tech, but this is a three-or-more-year device.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: colors
There are eight different color options for the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The standard Phantom Black, Lavender, Cream, and Green models are widely available, but if you order directly from Samsung you can choose one of four exclusive colors. These are Lime, Graphite, Red, and Sky Blue. If you do opt for one of the Samsung-only colors, you may have to wait a little longer for delivery.
We started off using the green Galaxy S23 Ultra, and it’s certainly attractive. Green is an on-trend color for smartphones, with everything from the iPhone 13 Pro to the OnePlus 11 tackling the tricky shade. Samsung didn’t go for a bright or forest green, toning it down for a subtle look when it wasn’t in the right light. It stood out a little more when the light did hit it, but it’s hardly an attention grabber.
Step forward with Samsung’s exclusive colors. These really will grab attention, as they’re far brighter and more eye-catching. I chose the Sky Blue model, which took a week longer to ship than a standard colored model, and am very pleased with my choice.
I considered the red model but preferred the Sky Blue model’s chrome finish on the chassis to the red version’s black finish. The blue is still quite subtle, taking on a paler, almost silver color at certain angles. If you can handle the long wait, you won’t be disappointed with one of Samsung’s exclusive colors.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: camera
The headline feature is Samsung’s own ISOCELL HP2 200-megapixel camera. It’s joined by a far more conventional 12MP wide-angle camera with a 120-degree field of view, plus a pair of 10MP telephoto cameras for a 3x and 10x optical zoom. The camera is also equipped with optical image stabilization (OIS) and laser autofocus, plus a Super Resolution Zoom with recommended levels of 30x and 100x digital zoom.
It’s possible to shoot photos at the full 200MP resolution; just be aware that these take up at least 40MB of space on their own, compared to the more usual 4MB to 7MB 12MP shots the camera takes by default.
Here’s the most important thing you need to know about the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s camera: the reason to buy it is not the 200MP camera, but its incredible zoom capabilities. They are transformative and make the camera so much more versatile than what’s on any other phone available today. The quality of the 3x and 10x zoom is excellent, but now the 30x zoom is catching up. And although the 100x still isn’t great, it’s much better than ever before. The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s telephoto cameras take photos that are impossible to replicate on any other smartphone, at least with the same quality. You’ll have a lot of fun taking amazing zoom photos with the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
The main camera takes brilliant photos, but you won’t really know it’s a 200MP camera. Shots have a vibrant, exciting tone, with strong colors and masses of detail. I like the overall atmosphere the camera creates, which straddles the line between realism and hyperrealism very effectively. Most of the time, the colors are amped up by just the right amount, but it can slip into oversaturation when faced with reds and blues in some situations.
It takes considerably brighter photos than the iPhone 14 Pro and exposes more detail in the shadows too, but this comes at the expense of a natural color palette. The camera also produces shots with a very different atmosphere. I’d call them more instantly shareable, but that won’t be deemed a good thing by everyone. Comparing the Galaxy S23 Ultra camera to the Google Pixel 7 Pro, one of our favorite camera phones, was a real eye-opener; the Galaxy S23 Ultra has stolen the Google phone’s crown. It also tied with the much newer Apple iPhone 15 Pro’s camera in this test, showing it hasn’t lost any of its ability since launch.
You can also download Samsung’s Expert RAW app from the Galaxy App Store, which unlocks the camera’s potential to take professional-level images in RAW format that are ready to be edited in apps such as Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is the default editor for the app, but it requires a subscription to use all of its features. Pay through the app, and Lightroom Premium costs $5 per month, and it comes with an extended two-month free trial.
I wasn’t convinced it would be worth it, or that you wouldn’t need a lot of expertise to use it effectively, but I was wrong. The Lightroom for Samsung app adds a great deal to the overall camera experience, and retains that all-important hands-on approach to editing images that’s disappearing due to the use of AI. I’m definitely not an expert with Lightroom, but the easy tutorials have given me enough confidence to adjust my photos so they look better to my eyes.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s versatility makes it really desirable, and I feel confident I will be able to take any photo I want with it — and that’s something other phones can’t quite provide. It’s also still the only phone you can buy with a 10x optical zoom, and even when other phones get close to that figure, the quality is often lacking in comparison. It’s a superb camera phone.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: video recording
I continue to adore the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s camera for stills; it’s so incredibly versatile that I rarely feel it can’t capture the shot I want. But what about the video performance? The Galaxy S23 Ultra can record video at up to 8K resolution at 24 frames-per-second (fps), or at a more reasonable 4K at 60fps. It also has many special modes, including slow-motion, Hyperlapse, and Portrait video.
You’ll have to be mindful of storage space shooting at higher resolutions. A minute of 8K video takes up about 620MB, while 4K resolution fills almost the same amount of space at 550MB on average. If you do this regularly, and start shooting 200MP stills, too, then it’s easy to see how quickly 256GB of storage space would be filled. It’s worth considering the 512GB version or even more if you want to take a lot of video.
But what does the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s video actually look like? To find out, I took the phone with me on a short trip away and made a point to shoot as much video as possible, instead of mostly taking still photos as usual. You can read my complete article on what it’s like to use the S23 Ultra as a video camera, with several examples of performance — plus you can see one of the videos from it above. I really enjoyed using the S23 Ultra’s video mode, as it repeats all the still camera modes, giving you a lot of versatility. It can’t beat stills for me, personally, but there’s no question it’s just as powerful if you prefer it.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: performance
Powerful isn’t a strong enough word to describe the incredible ability of the Galaxy S23 Ultra. We’d already been impressed by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in the Iqoo 11 and the OnePlus 11, but here — in its custom “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 For Galaxy” guise — it’s an absolute monster. I’d love to say I have pushed the phone to its limits, but I don’t think I’ve come close. I play games, use apps, make calls, use Bluetooth and Samsung DeX, take 200-megapixel photos, and shoot some 8K video. Even with all of that, the S23 Ultra just shrugs it all off.
Playing Asphalt 9: Legends for 30 minutes doesn’t cause any noticeable temperature increase apart from a tiny bit around the top edge, but nothing that you’d call hot, or even that warm. Recording a 15-minute Hyperlapse video caused the phone to heat up more around the camera module –not so it was burning, but definitely hot to the touch. Apps start and refresh in seconds, and even Google Maps grabs a signal and loads the local area faster than other phones I’ve used. When you start noticing little things like that, it means the entire system is incredibly smooth and fast.
Powerful isn’t a strong enough word to describe the incredible ability of the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
My review model has 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage space. There is an 8GB version available, but it’s probably worth getting the higher specification one if you’re planning to keep the phone for a while. Internal storage is also an important consideration. A single 200MP photo is at least 40MB, and a minute of 8K video is often close to 600MB. That’s before you’ve installed any games, and some of the top games today can take up to 10GB alone. Do think about the 512GB model if you intend to keep it for a while.
This time, Samsung hasn’t made an Exynos version of the Galaxy S23 Ultra for global markets. I’m extremely glad, as I can’t see any way the almost overwhelming ability of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 For Galaxy could be beaten. Buy the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and be safe in the knowledge you’ll have to work pretty hard to reach its limits.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: screen and software
That’s 6.8 inches of Super Dynamic AMOLED screen you’re looking at on the front of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and it’s even bigger than the massive iPhone 14 Pro Max and Pixel 7 Pro. It’s enormous, and has the brightness to go with its size. Peak brightness is 1,750 nits, and even walking around Manhattan on a (surprisingly) sunny February morning, Section Editor Joe Maring could still see the screen perfectly. I’ve had no problem seeing the screen, either. It’s easily comparable to the iPhone 14 Pro’s similarly bright display.
Watching Disney+ and Amazon Prime, the screen’s vibrant colors and deep blacks are immediately obvious, and the sheer size of the screen makes it more immersive than you’d expect from a mobile device. I love the wide viewing angle too, so even when the phone is flat on a desk, video still looks excellent and just like you’re watching it straight-on.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars looks amazing, with tons of detail on show. The audio is great too, with centralized dialogue and expansive music, plus a pleasing amount of depth. When playing games, though, your palm does tend to cover the lower speaker unless you hold the phone “upside down” when the buttons get in the way and are less natural to press.
Android 13 with Samsung’s One UI 5.1 software was installed when the phone launched, but it has since been upgraded to Android 14 and One UI 6. We’ve got a review of the latest software here. I find it takes time to get the best from One UI as it’s quite feature-dense, and you really have to work to find many of the best or most helpful ones. For example, did you know you can change the lock screen clock, notification layout, and add filters to the wallpaper? To find these capabilities, you have to tap and hold the screen when the phone is locked, rather than it being an option when the phone is unlocked.
None of the additional features are pushed at you, though, so it never feels overwhelming, and you don’t get the impression you’re underutilizing the device. As you explore and find new features, the good news is they mostly work very well and are rarely gimmicky. Samsung’s DeX system is a good example, as the phone can be connected to a monitor or PC to provide a big-screen PC-like experience. I wouldn’t use it very often, but it’s very effective when it is called into action.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s software features work very well and are rarely gimmicky.
Samsung provides one of the longest commitments to software updates in the industry, with four years of major OS updates and five years of security updates too. It’s another crucial aspect of the device’s longevity, and a reason to buy and keep using your phone for years to come. However, Google has gone one step further with the update commitment for the Google Pixel 8 series, which will receive new software until 2030.
I always make a core set of adjustments in One UI when I set it up, and once they’re done, the software looks and works just as I like. I’d put it up against Android on the Pixel 7 in terms of speed, and although it’s not quite as simple to use as Google’s version, it’s more intuitive and fun than OxygenOS 13 on the OnePlus 11. It’s reliable, attractively designed, consistent in its look, and almost always logical to use.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: S Pen Stylus
The Galaxy Note series has been retired, and the top S Series phone has taken its place; hence you’ll find the S Pen stylus hidden in a slot on the bottom of the phone — another reason this is a big smartphone. It’s securely held in place, and the tiny internal battery powering the Bluetooth is charged while it’s docked, ensuring it’s always ready to go. the pen is thin and relatively short, but I find it comfortable to hold and scribble notes. I’m no artist, though, and the stubby length may not be comfortable enough to craft any masterpieces.
It’s as multifunctional as you could expect from a stylus, providing ways to clip images and text, translate text, take notes, sketch, and even make use of it as a remote shutter button for the phone’s camera. There’s no question it’s well-engineered and is more versatile than a passive stylus, but whether you use it regularly or not depends on your eagerness to take handwritten notes or sketch on your phone.
I don’t find many opportunities to use the primary features very often, but I do like one feature a lot. When you remove the pen while the phone is locked, you can scribble endless notes on the black screen. Press the side button to erase a word, and tap Save to store the note in Samsung Notes. It’s incredibly responsive, very fast, and the palm rejection is spot-on. Jotting things down on your phone like this is seamless and really fast.
It’s not just lock-screen notes that are fast — it’s the whole thing. Use the instant translation feature by hovering the S Pen over the top of the text you want to translate, and in less than a few seconds, it appears in a pop-up box. If you use it on Twitter, it’s faster than the platform’s own translation system. The S Pen is not a reason to buy the Galaxy S23 Ultra on its own, but it is a great piece of added value. You may not use it all the time, but when you do, its speed and precision are outstanding.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: battery and charging
The Galaxy S23 Ultra does not come with a charger in the box but does come with a USB Type-C-to-Type-C cable. The phone supports Samsung’s fastest 45-watt charging technology, which requires either a Samsung Super Fast Charging 2.0 charger or a compatible charger from another brand that supports both it and the USB Power Delivery PPS standard. It makes charging the Galaxy S23 Ultra at its fastest speeds a little confusing if you’re a newcomer, so you want to make sure you choose the right charger when going to buy one.
Obviously, Samsung wants you to buy its own charger, which costs around $30, but others are available if you search. I’ve used the Anker 313 GaN charger, which is compatible with both Power Delivery PPS and Super Fast Charging 2.0, and it charged the phone in 63 minutes. It’s not as fast as the OnePlus 11, but very few phones are, and an hour is acceptable for a battery of this capacity.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s battery is more than capable to keep you going.
I’d like it to be a little simpler to work out which chargers and cables will be compatible. If you charge it using a charger that’s not compatible with Samsung’s technology, it’s a lot slower. A regular charger takes around 100 minutes to fully charge the battery, and that’s not great. I do like the way it shows the estimated charge time on the lock screen, helping you plan ahead, and it also tells you what kind of charging system is being used. For example, it does state if Super Fast Charging 2.0 is active.
Once it is fully charged, it’s capable of lasting for more than two days with moderate use, and a lot of its ability comes from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s increased efficiency. Watching a 30-minute YouTube video drains the battery by just 2%. Roughly the same time using GPS drains a similar amount of energy too.
Even on more intensive days, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s battery is more than capable to keep you going. On a day with over an hour of playing Marvel Snap and browsing Twitter, then watching YouTube videos for 45 minutes, plus regular use of Google Chrome, Reddit, Duolingo, and more, the S23 Ultra ended a nearly 16-hour day with 5 hours and 20 minutes of screen-on time and 24% battery still remaining.
Add in 15W wireless charging and reverse charging for accessories like the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, and the Galaxy S23 Ultra is very nearly the complete package when it comes to charging and battery life.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: price and availability
The cheapest Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is $1,199 and comes with 256GB of storage space. If you want 512GB of storage space, the phone will cost $1,379, while the most expensive 1TB model costs $1,699. It comes in Green, Cream, Lavender, or Phantom Black colors, but if you order from Samsung, there’s an additional choice of Red, Lime, Graphite, or Sky Blue colors.
In the U.K., the same colors are available, and the 256GB Galaxy S23 Ultra costs 1,249 British pounds. It’s 1,399 pounds for the 512GB version and 1,599 for the top 1TB model. You can buy the Galaxy S23 Ultra directly from Samsung’s website, at retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, or from your favorite wireless carrier.
This is an expensive smartphone, especially if you choose the 1TB model. The price puts it in competition with the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and Samsung’s own Galaxy Z Fold 5. If you simply can’t justify spending so much, take a look at the Galaxy S23 Plus, which has a large screen and the same processor, or the OnePlus 11. OnePlus’ latest phone has the same processor and battery capacity, plus the camera and screen are both excellent. It’s a very good value at $699. The $999 Google Pixel 8 Pro is another good choice if you want to spend less and prioritize camera performance over device performance and battery life. And if you’re OK sacrificing some screen size and battery, the regular Galaxy S23 is a phenomenal choice.
Before spending less, though, do consider the longevity of the device and how long you see yourself keeping it. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is so powerful and has such a versatile camera, mega battery life, impressive durability, and long-term software support that it will likely outlast many other devices, purely because of its outright ability. If you want to spend once and keep your new device for years and years, the Galaxy S23 Ultra may be the better bet over the long term.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: verdict
What can’t the Galaxy S23 Ultra do? It’s not quite as fast to charge as the OnePlus 11, and it’s not going to fit comfortably in all hands or pockets — but that’s about it. There’s a real pleasure in using a phone that puts ability ahead of gimmicks and keeps a sensible, yet stylish and recognizable design over needlessly changing it up to try and attract buyers. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is Samsung at its most confident, and it’s the sensible, mature buying decision for anyone wanting the pinnacle of Android performance and ability. It’s a combination that makes it one of the best phones of the year.
What it’s not is daring, or especially forward-thinking. Head over to the Galaxy Z Fold 5 for that, as the Galaxy S23 Ultra gives you the best that’s available now, without compromise, and doesn’t try to push the envelope or be the next big thing. It’s the current big thing, and because it’s not advancing the fundamentals over what we’re used to seeing already, it’ll stay relevant and usable for more people over many years.
Only the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max come close to being this confidence-inspiring, as other top-tier Android phones are often thwarted by software woes, performance that’s good but never outstanding, and try-hard designs that can limit appeal. You’re going to pay a lot of money for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but it’s worth every penny, and in three or even four years’ time, when it’s still a great phone, you’ll look back and see what good value it actually was.
I’m talking about the Alienware 34 QD-OLED, of course, which I bought about a year ago. I’ve been in love with it ever since, immediately recognizing why it’s widely considered one of the most important gaming monitors released in the last few years. The most recent holiday barrage of deals got me, though, and I sold the monitor, which often tops lists and review charts, in exchange for something completely different.
I picked up the KTC G42P5. I understand if you don’t know who KTC is — I didn’t, either — but I rolled the dice on the display after I found an Amazon deal that was too good to pass up. I’ve had the monitor for about a week now, and I’ve already put it through its paces. And I’m floored.
Hitting the right price
Let’s start with why I chose this particular monitor, though. It’s a 42-inch OLED display, which, yes, I recognize sounds like a massive size for a computer monitor. It is, but I’m certainly not the first one to put a 42-inch display in front of my PC. And in practice, a 42-inch 16:9 monitor is a lot closer in size to a 34-inch 21:9 monitor like the Alienware 34 QD-OLED than it sounds.
There are several reasons I wanted to switch back to 16:9. I wanted to be able to play console games on my main display without black bars, and I wanted to be able to take 4K screenshots for the performance guides I write here on Digital Trends. More than anything, though, I was just done messing around with the problems 21:9 brings.
The Alienware 34 QD-OLED is great, but I was fed up with playing Elden Ring with black bars or getting sucked out of Alan Wake 2 whenever a cutscene played. At the same time, I didn’t want to give up the perfect black levels of OLED or the massive screen real estate the Alienware 34 QD-OLED offered me. The KTC G42P5 checked all of my boxes, and at a price I could actually justify.
There are a few other options if you’re interested in this form factor. It uses an LG OLED panel, so naturally, you could pick up the 42-inch LG C3 OLED. There are a couple of problems compared to KTC, though. For starters, it’s a TV, so it lacks DisplayPort, and it’s more expensive. I spent $800 on the KTC display, while the LG TV sells for $1,000, or $900 on sale. The LG has some upsides like image processing if you’re not worried about latency, but that didn’t tip the scales for me.
The main competition is the Asus ROG Swift PG42UQ. It’s a 42-inch monitor just like the KTC, and it’s overclocked to 138Hz (also just like the KTC). It’s a near-perfect monitor, but there’s one big problem. It’s $1,400. Even during holiday sales, I’ve never seen it sell for cheaper than $1,200 — that’s a full $400 more than what I spent on the KTC for what is essentially the same display.
Those are your only two options if you want this form factor. Older LG TVs like the C2 OLED are available, but for above $1,000, and the Gigabyte Aorus FV43U is cheaper, but it’s not OLED. I picked up the KTC G42P5 on sale for $800, but even now, it’s available for $1,000 at the time of writing. That’s still $400 cheaper than the Asus display at list price.
The natural question is, why? If this is the same panel with the same features, why is it so much cheaper than the competition? There are actually a couple of reasons.
Why is it cheaper?
I’ll assume you’ve never heard of KTC. It’s a Chinese company that started pushing out displays in 2021, and the brand has only recently started making the rounds on Amazon. KTC as a company, though, isn’t new. KTC says it’s been around for 27 years, serving as a manufacturer of displays for companies like Samsung, ViewSonic, and LG. You probably haven’t seen a KTC-branded monitor, but there’s a decent chance you actually have seen a KTC monitor.
The idea here is that the middleman is becoming the seller with KTC, which pushes down prices a little bit. That’s not a crazy idea in the world of tech. Even AMD, Intel’s biggest competitor in the world of processors, started out as a supplier for Intel before breaking off into its own standalone brand.
There’s a practical reason for this particular monitor being cheaper than the competition as well: It doesn’t include a stand. It’s easy to forget how expensive a solid stand for a 42-inch display can be — $125, at least for KTC’s G42P5 stand — and KTC cuts that cost out.
That could be a downside depending on what you’re wanting to do with the display. For me, it was a positive. I was able to save some money because I already had a monitor arm — about $50 on Amazon — and for a display this large, there’s a good chance you’re going to mount it on your wall. There are also TV stands available for the 100 x 100 VESA mount for about $15. Regardless, there are several situations with a display this large where you might not use the included stand, and at least you have the option to skip it with the KTC G42P5.
It’s worth noting that, even with the stand, the G42P5 comes in $200 cheaper than the ROG PG42UQ, so the savings aren’t only reliant on the stand.
The monitor itself
Now, we need to talk about the monitor itself. The KTC G42P5 uses an LG OLED RGBW panel, which is the same panel in later versions of the LG C2. All of that is to say, it looks great. OLED offers perfect black levels for infinite contrast, while brightness, although low compared to LCD, is still enough to overcome most ambient lighting conditions.
Digging into the numbers, I measured brightness at around 400 nits for 10% of the screen in SDR, and that shot up to above 600 nits for a 3% windows in HDR. Those numbers don’t sound high, but remember that this is a 42-inch screen. You don’t want it blasting 1,000 nits at you as a computer monitor.
In practice, I have two windows directly pouring light into my office, and I’ve never struggled with brightness issues, and that’s while running the panel at 30% of its maximum. Unless you have extremely bright ambient lighting conditions, the brightness of the monitor shouldn’t be an issue.
For colors, this OLED panel offers a wide gamut. That means it exceeds 100% of the sRGB gamut, pushing into wider gamut like DCI-P3. In that color space, I measured an excellent 97%.
Color accuracy was a different matter. KTC calibrates each monitor at the factory and includes a report, but the calibration is off, specifically for the DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB color modes. I measured a color error of 6 for Adobe RGB and 4 for DCI-P3, neither of which is great. On the standard mode, the color error was over 3. Ideally, you want to see a color error of under 2.
That’s nothing a little calibration can’t fix. Using the free DisplayCal, I calibrated the monitor, and it was able to achieve a color error of 0.6, which is very good.
It’s always nice when colors are perfect out of the box, but at least you can pull the KTC back if you need great color accuracy. That doesn’t always matter in practice, though. Sure, the colors were off out of the box, but the display still looked great for games and movies before calibration.
There are some downsides here. For starters, the OSD (on-screen display) isn’t great. All of the options are there, but it looks a little janky. For instance, “overclock” is “over clock” in the menu, and some settings just randomly don’t capitalize letters. None of this actually matters for the performance of the monitor, but it certainly makes it feel like you’re getting a cheaper product.
The bigger issue is the Auto-Brightness Limiter (ABL). If you’re unfamiliar, all OLED displays have an ABL that limits the brightness when you reach certain thresholds. In practice, this plays out as the monitor quickly dimming itself when you pull up something very bright like a white webpage, and it gets brighter when you pull up something darker, such as a website in dark mode.
Ideally, ABL should be invisible on a display as it was on my Alienware 34 QD-OLED, but it’s very aggressive on the G42P5. I constantly see the display light up and limit itself as I’m swapping between browser tabs. It’s particularly annoying when I pull up the Windows search bar with a website open, as the screen immediately lights up with my dark mode Windows theme.
This would normally be a deal-breaker, but there are a couple of reasons it’s not for me. First, it only applies with HDR. There aren’t issues in SDR, even if I crank the screen to its maximum brightness. ABL still kicks in, but it’s far less noticeable, and it’s fast enough that you won’t catch it most of the time.
Second, it’s never become an issue in games or movies. There are situations where ABL can kick in and become distracting in media, but it’s not common enough to become a problem. Based on my testing, it looks like ABL kicks in when about 60% of the screen is white, dimming to its lowest point when pure white reaches about 70% of the screen. It’s not enough to turn me off of the G42P5, but it’s my biggest complaint coming from the Alienware 34 QD-OLED.
The final issue is the OLED maintenance feature, but it’s more of an annoyance than a problem. It kicks in automatically, giving you a 20-second countdown before the pixel refresh starts. This has already caught me a couple of times, locking me out of using my PC for a few minutes. Thankfully, you can turn off the automatic pixel refresh if you want.
Trading the best
The KTC G42P5 is a perfect answer for me. As much as I loved the Alienware 34 QD-OLED, I’ve been feeling the squeeze of 21:9 for a while, but I couldn’t justify spending $1,400 on the PG42UQ or over $1,000 on a 42-inch OLED from LG. The KTC G42P5 hit the right price with the right features, and with little in the way of sacrifices.
It’s not as seamless as the Alienware 34 QD-OLED, with disappointing color accuracy out of the box and annoying ABL in HDR. Thankfully, those issues are easy to correct, making the KTC G42P5 a suitable replacement. It nails the screen real estate and the excellent picture you get out of OLED, and it comes in at a price that puts monitors like the PG42UQ to shame.
How a MacBook Pro got me back into PC gaming | Digital Trends
I have fond memories of the old days of PC gaming. That is, the old days for me. Games like Starcraft and Elder Scrolls: Morrowind had a big impact — but honestly, it’s remembering the endless hours of Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn that ring my nostalgia bell the loudest.
But somewhere along the way, I more or less retired from regular gaming. Between reaching my mid-30s, getting some new hobbies, being married, buying a house, and having kids, I wasn’t finding a lot of time or energy for the old pastime. It sounds stereotypical, I know, but its sadly true.
Then a laptop came around called the M3 Max MacBook Pro, along with a little game called Baldur’s Gate 3. And bam — all of a sudden, I was 13 again, compelled by an expansive game world and a convenient means to easily get there.
It’s all about convenience
Baldur’s Gate II came out in the year 2000. I’m not going to try and pretend I remember the details of all my experience with this game, but let’s just say I wasn’t a hardcore PC gamer at the age of 13. I played it on whatever computer my parents happened to have, which was primarily used to access AOL. It was the same beige computer on which I did homework assignments, chatted on AIM, and made my first MySpace account.
The metaphor isn’t perfect, but being drawn to Baldur’s Gate 3 on the M3 Max MacBook Pro felt a lot like that for me. These days, you’re not going to play AAA PC games by accident. You need some dedicated hardware to make those games work well, and most of it is targeted specifically at that demographic. That is, for the most part, has been a good thing. But that’s definitely not what the M3 Max MacBook Pro is. Even as it’s launched its own gaming service in Apple Arcade, Apple has always seemed to hold the PC gaming community at arm’s length. There are signs of that changing in the near future, but we’re still in the beginning stages.
I’ve been using the 14-inch M3 Max MacBook Pro for the past month or so, and wrote the initial review of it after it launched in November. The most notable thing about it is the huge boost in graphics with the M3 Max. The previous versions were powerful, but for the first time, the hardware here felt capable enough to handle many of the latest flagship PC games without sacrificing too much in settings. And hey — Baldur’s Gate 3 just so happens to be one of the big new titles to run natively on Macs.
It’s not just the fact that it can handle a game like Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s that it handles it like a dream. Unlike almost every gaming laptop I’ve ever used, the temperature on the surface of the device never gets uncomfortably hot, and the fan noise doesn’t overpower the fantastic speakers. You can even play this game unplugged from the wall without a discernible drop in performance.
I have to mention the screen too. Gaming laptops are finally starting to catch up with some of the mini-LED displays out there, but the XDR display on the MacBook Pro is still unbeaten in terms of quality. The colorful and detailed world of Baldur’s Gate 3 looks gorgeous in HDR — a perfect match for the the MacBook Pro’s bright, bold screen. Throw in the ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate and the clarity of its glossy screen, and you have a visual feast accessible right at your fingertips. It’s even one of the few games you can comfortably play right on the trackpad, which is a huge convenience factor. I know that sounds crazy — but trust me, it works.
All of that means I have an incredible gaming experience on the same laptop that I’ve been composing articles on, writing emails, and taking Zoom calls. It’s right there, just like that beige box I used back in the early 2000s in my parent’s basement. And that accessibility has made it far easier to jump in here and there when I have the time.
Of course, a MacBook Pro alone isn’t enough to get me hooked on a game. I needed something that reached deep into my brain and tapped a nerve of pure nostalgia and joy. And for me, that’s exactly what Baldur’s Gate 3 offered.
I’m happy to admit that nostalgia plays such a big role in my connection to Baldur’s Gate 3. Like my resurged obsession with embarrassing 2000s-era pop punk, I should have known that the game to get me back into gaming would be something directly tied to my adolescence. Because that’s exactly what Baldur’s Gate 3 is — old school in all the best ways.
Rather than adopt a more modern storytelling style or updated combat mechanics, Baldur’s Gate 3 feels almost relentlessly determined to stay true to its roots as a Dungeons and Dragons tabletop adventure. The absorbing story doesn’t rely on extravagant cut scenes and cinematic drama, but instead on dialogue trees, digital dice rolling, and choices you make. It seems to revel in just how nerdy it is too — never wincing away at less dorky costumes, characters, and storylines. And that’s exactly what makes it so charming and unique.
Heck, for me, even the frustrating bits are nostalgia bait. It’s clunky at times, there are plenty of graphical glitches, and sometimes I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. If you spent time PC gaming in the early 2000s, all of that should be familiar territory.
In all my time trying out new devices and testing out games on them, I’ve never felt drawn to go beyond what I needed to properly evaluate the product. It’s not that there haven’t been games that intrigued me over the years. Of course not. A brief stint in Halo Infinite was the last time a game like this grabbed me, and it was for very similar reasons. But as life has gotten busier, the barrier of entry of time and convenience keeps getting higher and higher.
Being absorbed into a game like Baldur’s Gate 3 on a MacBook Pro somehow smashed its way through that barrier, and left me reminiscing about when PC games, technology, and life itself was a bit simpler.
The no-contract plan provides nationwide 5G access primarily through its own Helium Mobile Network that’s backed up by “the nation’s largest 5G network” — T-Mobile. This allows the carrier to provide full 5G coverage at much more affordable prices than traditional carriers and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).
In addition, Helium Mobile is sticking with a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy that gives subscribers the freedom to use any compatible phone of their choice and reduces the overhead involved in contracts and phone financing.
“Traditional carriers think they have Americans over a barrel. At Helium Mobile, we believe that cell phones are an essential service and unlimited data, text, and calls are table stakes,” Amir Haleem, CEO of Helium’s parent company Nova Labs, said in today’s press release. “We are tired of carriers that hide high subscription rates, roaming, and additional data fees behind free phone upgrades that lock you into years of expensive plans. Americans deserve better.”
How Helium Mobile works
Nova Labs initially built the Helium Network as an effectively crowd-sourced project that relied on mobile Helium hotspots to create a decentralized wireless (DeWi) network organically built on leveraging existing internet connections of those folks who were willing to purchase and carry a hotspot, which Helium Mobile says allows it to “pursue the community vision of democratizing access to the internet.”
As widespread as the Helium Network has become, it hasn’t quite reached the point where Helium Mobile can provide ubiquitous coverage, so it’s also entered into an MVNO arrangement with T-Mobile to provide 5G service when there are no Helium Network hotspots nearby. This not only expands coverage but also increases network performance by using T-Mobile’s fast and expansive 5G network for additional capacity. The company calls this “Dynamic Coverage.”
Helium Mobile’s “unlimited” service comes with the usual disclaimer: data speeds may be reduced after 30GB of usage per monthly billing cycle. Tethering is also limited to 5GB per month. The company doesn’t say how much speeds will be slowed down, but it’s likely enough to maintain basic connectivity for email, messaging, and casual web surfing, similar to other carriers.
While we imagine most folks will interested primarily in Helium Mobile’s unlimited plans, the company’s Network Builder program allows you to be part of the “people-powered” network by operating your own Helium Mobile Hotspot. In addition to getting rewards that could add up to free cellular service, you get to build a network that’s operated by “customers, not carriers.” Helium Mobile likens this to Airbnb and Uber, saying that it helps “reduce monopolies and let customers be owners,” improving service and lowering costs.
Helium also hopes that this could make dead zones a thing of the past since anyone can invest in a hotspot and place it where it’s most needed, creating a “mini cell tower” to cover areas that may not be a priority for the big carriers. The company offers two versions of its hotspot at even lower prices than when they initially launched; the Outdoor Helium Mobile Hotspot sells for $499, while the Indoor Helium Mobile Hotspot can be purchased for $249.
Best 85-inch TV Deals: Save on Samsung, Sony, TCL, and More | Digital Trends
While many large TVs can get the home theater job done, if you want to bring some head-turning action to the experience you need to go with an 85-inch TV. Many of the best TV brands makes models up to 85 inches, and there’s a lot to choose from if you’re hoping to land some savings. Discounts are out there on 85-inch TV models by Samsung, TCL, and Sony, and we’ve done the heavy lifting of tracking them down. So whether you’re shopping to upgrade your home theater or start one from scratch, these are the best 85-inch TV deals for doing so.
Our favorite 85-inch TV deal
85-inch TCL S4 4K TV — $800, was $1,000
TCL has grown in popularity the last few years, as it makes TVs with features that generally outperform their price point. You’ll find an excellent 4K image with the TCL S4. It boasts HDR PRO technology that provides enhanced contrast, accurate colors, and includes the fine details in all of your favorite content. This is a great TV for gamers, movie lovers, and sports fans as it utilizes a feature known as Motion Rate 240 to create exceptional motion clarity, even during fast-paced action.
This should be a particularly enticing TV if smart TV features matter to you. The TCL S4 uses the Google TV smart OS platform. This is one of the better smart platforms, particularly if you watch movies and TV shows across several different streaming services. You’ll get built-in access to things like the best new movies to stream on Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Max, and more, and the Google TV interface does a good job of organizing your favorite content from all of your streaming service, as well as present new content from places you may not otherwise think to look.
More 85-inch TV deals we like
But there’s plenty more shopping to do, particularly if TCL isn’t your brand or you prefer one of several other smart OS platforms in your smart TV. Samsung using its own Tizen smart OS, and you’ll find some great Samsung 85-inch TV deals available. You’ll also find the likes of Sony, LG, and other name brands with discounted 85-inch models, including some that can compete with the best QLED TVs.
Graphics cards are selling again, and that worries me | Digital Trends
GPUs are selling again. Ever since the GPU shortage, graphics cards haven’t been selling well, but a recent report from Jon Peddie Research shows that trend is changing. The report shows that GPU shipments increased by 16.8% compared to last quarter, which is a positive sign. Still, I can’t help but feel worried about what this could mean for GPU prices.
Both AMD and Nvidia came out of the pandemic highs with new ranges of graphics cards. Nvidia set the bar with pricing higher than we’ve ever seen before, and AMD quickly followed, pricing its cards just low enough to be considered a value by comparison. That’s made the price of building a new gaming PC higher than it’s ever been.
Over the past year, however, it’s been difficult for AMD and Nvidia to keep prices propped up. AMD has cut prices on its RX 7900 XTX and RX 7900 XT, and Nvidia has followed with price cuts to the RTX 4070 and RTX 4080. The only GPU that’s gone in the opposite direction is the RTX 4090, which is likely seeing a price increase due to a recent sanction the U.S. placed on China.
With shipments rising again, I’m worried that Nvidia and AMD will reverse course on these pricing drops. That’s problematic considering the cards we’ve seen this generation almost universally arrived overpriced based on the performance they offer.
That’s what has driven a lot of the price drops. As you can read in our RTX 4080 review, for example, it’s a great GPU if you ignore the fact that it arrived $500 more expensive than the card it was replacing ($1,200 compared to $700 for the RTX 3080). AMD’s RX 7900 XTX — the direct competition to the RTX 4080 — drove some of the price drops with drops of its own. Both are solid cards in a vacuum, but they look downright pitiful when you consider how expensive they are.
The cards still sold, but probably not at the rate Nvidia and AMD were expecting. As Jon Peddie wrote in the report: “All through the last three quarters, add-in boards sold, not at normal volumes, and albeit with complaints about prices, but sold, nonetheless.”
There’s another critical factor at play here, though, which basically guarantees that GPU prices won’t fall any further.
Nvidia has reportedly stopped production of the RTX 4070 Ti and RTX 4080 in order to make room for a rumored Super refresh that’s supposedly arriving at CES 2024 in January. If these Super cards are real, the last several months of lowered prices were likely aimed at clearing the way for them to arrive at the same list prices.
It’s great that GPU shipments are improving, but it could mean that prices creep back up overall. It looks like desktop GPUs are driving this increase, too. the report shows that shipments increased overall by 16.8% compared to last quarter, but desktop graphics cards increased by 37.4% compared to last quarter. Desktop GPUs are the driving factor here.
That doesn’t mean that graphics cards will start going above list price, though. The main worry here is that the lowered prices we’ve seen over the past several months will disappear and GPUs will go back up to list price. It’s important to keep a longer historical context in mind. The report says that, although GPU shipments are up for the quarter, they’re still down 5.1% compared to the same point last year.
Peddie sees this as more of a correction, writing, “This bounce back … is being overpraised, when it largely reflects a cleaning out and straightening up of the distribution channel.” I would be remiss to omit Peddie’s warning about these reports, too: “The mistake is the constant search for sensationalism. It’s fatiguing.”
At the risk of diving into sensationalism, the biggest risk right now is that GPUs will go back up to list price, not that we’ll suddenly be in another situation of GPUs selling for two or three times what they’re worth. That’s still cause for concern when the pricing corrections we’ve seen on several GPUs are at risk of disappearing.
Something amazing happened to folding phones in 2023 | Digital Trends
Samsung has been in charge of leading the foldable segment for too long. For years, Samsung dominated the foldable landscape with little to no competition. But that changed in 2023.
While the company put in the work to improve the Galaxy Z Flip 5 with a bigger cover display, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 seemed to remain an afterthought. Fortunately, other smartphone manufacturers started rolling out more foldable phones globally this year, and now, Samsung’s aren’t the go-to choice anymore. There’s finally healthy competition and choice for folding phones, and I’m so here for it.
Finally, some real competition
Samsung started facing the heat from Google in June with the rollout of the Google Pixel Fold. It introduced a new form factor with a wide cover display and a horizontal aspect ratio on the inside. In my opinion, it isn’t an ideal form factor, especially with the weight and not having a vertical display on the inside. But it brought actual competition for the foldable phone market in the U.S. — a critically important task.
Honor showcased the slimmest and lightest foldable with the Honor Magic V2 in September, and it was a turning point for me. It lies in the middle of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold in terms of form factor. It solved the major design issues that were a norm for book-style foldables.
The Honor Magic V2 is closer to a slab phone in more than one way. It is thin enough to feel like a regular slab phone and weighs less than my then-primary phone, the iPhone 14 Pro Max. In fact, Honor made a whole new slim 5,000mAh battery for its foldable. Plus, It has a crease less than the other two Folds and packs a 20:9 cover screen, which is close to what you’d find on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra or the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
While the Honor Magic V2’s global availability hasn’t been announced, it is slated to launch sometime in Q1 2024. It showcased what a book-style foldable can be and became a benchmark for design – at least for me. And it remains one even after the launch of the OnePlus Open (more on that below).
Additionally, we saw the return of Motorola Razr with the Motorola Razr (2023) and Motorola Razr Plus. The latter was arguably better than the Galaxy Z Flip 5, with a bigger cover screen and better battery life. Globally, Oppo had already rolled out the Find N2 Flip, which introduced a new vertical cover screen on the outside.
Samsung made a good comeback with the Galaxy Z Flip 5 in Q3, which brought a solid hinge and new cover screen but with the same dual camera setup and gutter-like crease in the middle. The Oppo Find N3 Flip solved both concerns with a triple rear camera setup that included a dedicated telephoto lens on a flip phone for the first time. Plus, the crease situation was much better than Samsung’s phones.
One phone beat Samsung at its own game
If the Honor Magic V2 had been released outside of China, it’d be my go-to recommendation for a book-style foldable. But OnePlus did what Honor couldn’t with its first big foldable, the OnePlus Open. It not only challenged Samsung but beat it in almost every way — despite undercutting it on the price.
Similar to the Honor Magic V2, the OnePlus Open features a 20:9 aspect ratio, which I consider ideal for this type of foldable. As a result of the slab-like cover screen, apps don’t misbehave, which is an issue on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold – whether with black borders or the app not being comfortable and displaying zoomed-in text on an irregular aspect ratio. But the OnePlus Open did two other things that no other folding phone has done yet.
First, It offered a camera setup that’s better and more versatile than any big foldable phone. At launch, it had some issues with tuning for the new Sony sensor, but it has only gotten better with updates. Plus, the 6x zoom feels straight out of a more traditional flagship phone.
Second, the crease is almost negligible. You can still feel it, but it’s notably less than the Samsung, Google, Honor, or Tecno foldables. You can’t see it 99% of the time, and for that 1% you can, you have to view it at a specific angle. It’s a non-issue.
The OnePlus Open also took multitasking to the next level with its Open Canvas feature. For the first time, you can now have three apps simultaneously on your screen, with each interaction just a tap away. When you use it, you realize how much you can accomplish on the big inner display. I can plan for my next story or my next trip with Chrome, YouTube, and Google Keep all open simultaneously.
The OnePlus Open is easily my favorite phone of the year that’s available globally.
2023 did something else for foldables
It’s no secret that folding phones come at an expensive price tag, and oftentimes, it’s the price that keeps consumers from jumping on the foldable bandwagon. But Tecno democratized the market by launching a book-style foldable and a flip phone at unbelievable prices.
The Tecno Phantom V Fold was launched at 79,999 Indian Rupees (INR), which translates to $960, less than most regular flagship phones. YouTuber Michael Fisher famously called it the “a fold at the price of a flip” – something Tecno used at its launch event.
The Phantom V Fold isn’t a bad foldable by any means. It offers a more useable cover screen and a lesser crease on the inner screen than the Galaxy Z Fold 5. There were obviously instances where Tecno had to cut corners. For example, the hinge is either at 90 degrees or 180 degrees flat, and the cameras aren’t something to boast about, but they’re workable.
As if that wasn’t enough, Tecno also launched a flip phone at 49,999 INR ($600), which brings it to a mid-range phone category, similar to the Motorola Razr launch price in the US. It is selling for 54,999 INR ($660) and still remains the cheapest flip phone on the market, slightly cheaper than the $700 Motorola Razr.
You might not get the fastest performance or the best cameras on these two flip phones, but they are democratizing foldables, which have long remained a novel pursuit. In 2023, folding phones aren’t something you have to splurge on, and that’s a big win for the form factor.
Folding phones are here to stay
In short, 2023 was an outstanding year for folding phones.
Samsung faced more competition than ever, which exposed its lazy approach with the Fold 5. Google entered the segment. Honor showed you can make foldables as slim and light as a slab phone. OnePlus led the form factor with great cameras, a near-creaseless display, and next-level multitasking. Oppo introduced a dedicated telephoto camera on a flip phone for the first time. Motorola and Tecno brought foldables to the masses.
That’s more activity in the global foldable market than we’ve seen in the last four years combined — since the launch of the first Galaxy Fold in 2019. I’m still amazed by having a 7.6-inch tablet-like display right inside my pocket that enables me to do so much more than a regular, non-folding phone.
I hope 2024 continues to be amazing for foldables and that Samsung pushes itself to make the Galaxy Z Fold 6 more than an iterative upgrade. This is the best year we’ve had yet for folding phones, and I can’t wait to see where the niche is another year from now.
1More’s PistonBuds Pro Q30 look like great budget buds at $50 | Digital Trends
The new PistonBuds Pro Q30 from 1More boast AirPods-like looks along with active noise cancellation (ANC) and spatial audio, but it’s their rock-bottom $50 price that stands out. As part of the launch, 1More has dropped the price to $40 for a limited time, making these wireless earbuds even more attractive. The PistonBuds Pro Q30 are available in white/gold or black/gold combos.
In the past, 1More has favored a stemless design for its PistonBuds lineup, but this time the company has opted for a stem-based approach. If you’ve ever tried PistonBuds in the past and found them a poor fit, this new shape might be a better option.
Inside the buds are 10mm diamond-like carbon (DLC) drivers that 1More claims will deliver “powerful bass and vibrant vocals” and three microphones per side. The mics power the earbuds’ ANC modes, which include transparency, wind noise resistance mode, and an adaptive mode. With the help of an AI-enabled voice recognition algorithm, 1More promises the new PistonBuds will deliver clear calls.
Though not intended as sports wireless earbuds per se, the PistonBuds Pro Q30 have an IPX5 rating for water resistance, which will keep them very adequately protected from sweat and the occasional splash if you clean and dry them after each use.
Battery life is rated at 7.5 hours with ANC off, and the charging case’s supply can extend this to 30 hours. A fast-charging system can top up the earbuds with an extra two hours after just 10 minutes in the case. Unfortunately, wireless charging is one feature that didn’t make the cut at this price.
There’s an optional low-latency mode for gaming applications, and the 1More Music app can enable a spatial audio feature for “360-degree listening.” Bluetooth 5.3 is supported, along with Bluetooth Multipoint for simultaneous connections to two devices.