underscored galaxy ecosystem 2020
CNN  — 

Samsung’s Unpacked 2020 may have looked a bit different this year — with the company presenting virtually from Korea in lieu of an in-person NYC event — but the event was still packed to the brim. The company announced seven new products to five of its product lines:

And you won’t have to wait months to add them to your own tech lineup. The Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are available for preorder, with shipments planned to roll out on August 21. Meanwhile the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is available for pre-reserve right now and preorders will start on September 1.

Samsung’s bean-shaped true wireless earbuds, the $169.99 Galaxy Buds Live, and the Galaxy Watch 3 are available now. Like previous Galaxy Watch models, the 3 is available in 41mm and 45mm sizes, along with Bluetooth and LTE versions, making the pricing a bit more intricate:

  • Galaxy Watch 3 41mm Bluetooth ($399.99; samsung.com)
  • Galaxy Watch 3 45mm Bluetooth ($429.99; samsung.com)
  • Galaxy Watch 3 41mm Bluetooth and LTE ($449.99; samsung.com)
  • Galaxy Watch 3 45mm Bluetooth and LTE ($479.99; samsung.com)

Lastly, Samsung’s pair of tablets, the Tab S7 and Tab S7+, land this fall with starting prices of $649.99 and $849.99, respectively. But enough about launch dates and base pricing — allow us to, well, unpack each of them.

Here’s how to preorder the Note 20 and 20 Ultra

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That’s right — the time has come, and Samsung has opened preorders for the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra. Best of all, as it normally does, it pays to preorder when it comes to the deals. Let’s break it down.

Now through August 20, you’ll get a $100 credit to Samsung.com for preordering the Note 20 or a $150 credit for preordering the Note 20 Ultra. You can put that toward anything on the site, including the Galaxy Buds Live. Additionally, you can trade in an eligible device for up to a $650 credit toward a Note 20 or 20 Ultra or a $400 credit if the trade-in has a cracked screen. And that brings the $999.99 Note 20 down to $349.99 and the $1,299.99 (starting) Note 20 Ultra down to $649.99. Talk about savings.

You can order directly from Samsung and choose to buy it outright as an unlocked device that will work on any carrier or opt for a locked device. With the latter, you can choose between AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint or U.S. Cellular. Samsung also offers a number of financing options, including Guaranteed Buy-Back. With this, you end up getting back 50% of the device’s retail cost, or $500, if you send it back in good condition within 20 months.

With the Note 20, you get your choice of Mystic Bronze, Mystic Green or Mystic Black, while the Note 20 Ultra is available in Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black and Mystic White. If you want a suggestion, we’d recommend Mystic Bronze. It truly looks like fire. The Note 20 is only available with 128GB of internal storage for $999.99. The Ultra comes in 128GB for $1,299.99 or 512GB for $1,499.99.

Most models are still in stock and should ship by August 19. The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra officially launch on August 21, but Samsung is known to deliver the phones a little bit early. You can preorder the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra right here, right now.

Additionally, Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Watch 3 are also shipping right now.

Galaxy Z Fold 2

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The surprise of Unpacked? Well, we kinda already knew it was coming, but Samsung’s second-gen folding smartphone is now finally official. The Galaxy Z Fold 2, which finally delivers a larger screen on the front and what we hope is a sturdier build, is up for pre-reserve now and will launch for preorder on September 1. No pricing just yet, but if you want one, we recommend reserving now.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 features a 6.2-inch Infinity-O display on the front, which is much larger than the 4.6-inch outer screen on the original Galaxy Fold. Opening it up will unveil the 7.6-inch internal Infinity-O screen. Instead of a notch, these have pinholes, and the screens are stretched close to the bezels, making the phone nearly bezel-less.

And the Galaxy Z Fold 2 will be available in Mystic Bronze and Mystic Black. We don’t know much else about the next-generation foldable from Samsung, but the tech giant said it’s focusing on delivering the best experience possible. It features the same Ultra Thin Glass that premiered on the Z Flip and a hinge that can be used to prop the Z Fold 2 stationary at different angles. There’s even a sweeping mechanism that will remove debris or dust from under the screen. From the teaser video, we can also tell you that there’s a three-camera system on the back.

In the meantime, you can reserve the Galaxy Z Fold 2 now, and preorders will open on September 1. But if you want a more compact foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip 5G is up for preorder now and lands on August 7.

Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra

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For the second year in a row, Samsung simultaneously announced two new Notes: the Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra.

While not a huge difference in size, the two devices do give you some options: a 6.7-inch flat FHD+ Infinity-O display on the Note 20 and a 6.9-inch edge Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display on the Note 20 Ultra. So the Ultra does bump up the screen quality, too. There’s also a price difference. The Galaxy Note 20 starts at $999.99 for 128GB of storage paired with 8GB of RAM. The Note 20 Ultra starts at $1,299.99 for 128GB of storage with 12GB of RAM. There’s a 512GB version of the Note 20 Ultra for $1,449 as well. Both base prices represent an increase over the 10 and 10+ but are pretty in line with other flagship devices.

Samsung sweetens the pot with some preorder deals, though, which go through August 20. If you preorder the Note 20, you’ll score a $100 Samsung credit, and preordering a Note 20 Ultra nets you a $150 credit. You can put this toward anything on Samsung.com, like toward a pair of Galaxy Buds Live. And if you’re trading in an eligible device, you can score up to $650 in credit toward the purchase of a Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra.

For those prices, you may be wondering why you’d make the switch.

Well, for starters, the displays on both the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra will be sharp and vibrant. Both panels are Infinity-O with a pinhole notch center at the top that houses a 10-megapixel selfie camera. It should give you a vibrant and sharp display, but the 20 Ultra gets the edge. Yes, it’s an Infinity-O panel, but it’s a 6.9-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED with a 3,088-by-1,440 resolution and 496 pixels per inch. Impressive all around — and did we forget to mention it has a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate? Safe to say it will make hearts flutter like it did on the S20 Ultra. For reference, it’s the same screen size as the S20 Ultra and is a hair larger than an iPhone 11 Pro Max, which is 6.5 inches.

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Here’s the catch, though: The Note 20 gets only 60Hz, which really doesn’t make sense with a $999 price tag — not to mention it’s a lower-quality FHD+ panel, meaning you only get 393 pixels per inch and a 2,400-by-1,080 resolution. For a $1,000 phone, we would have really liked to see 120Hz there. But, at 6.7 inches, it’s still larger than an iPhone 11 Pro Max and on par with the Galaxy S20+. It shares the same refresh rate as the 11 Pro Max but falls short of the S20+.

Powering both displays — and, well, the actual Notes themselves — will be considerably large batteries. The Note 20 gets a 4,300mAh battery, and the 20 Ultra gets a 4,500mAh. Both of these will support fast charging via the Qi-enabled standard or via a cord. The Note 20 family uses USB-C for charging and data. Wireless PowerShare is on the back and will allow you to charge other devices with the Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra. A wired charge should deliver a 50% battery in about 30 minutes.

Both Notes, which feature Android 10 with Samsung’s One UX on top, will be noticeably faster than other phones and likely have more runway to build off of for gaming in addition to more physical memory to handle a bunch of apps open at once. That’s because powering each is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ processor (with 8GB on the Note 20 and 12GB on the Note 20 Ultra).

What’s really exciting is Ultra-Wideband Technology, or UWB, which will allow you to just point and share files to other UWB-enabled devices, which is akin to AirDrop on Apple devices. It can also allow your Note 20 or 20 Ultra to act as a digital key for your home.

And we can’t forget about the S Pen. It’s really what makes the Galaxy Note, well, a Note and what brings the dedicated fan base back year after year. It’s still a smart stylus that is handy for notes and sketches — it also lives within the device. Air Actions, which were first introduced with the Note 10, get an upgrade this year, as you’ll be able to take screenshots and fully navigate the interface.

The other big improvement comes when you’re using the S Pen to write or take notes. You’ll notice less latency as the stylus gets closer to a pen to paper. The core Samsung Notes app will now sync your content across devices and the Web. It’s free with a Samsung account and will be an easy way to move notes between devices.

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Design, on the other hand, is really nice. It doesn’t pop as much as the Aura Glow Note 10+, which we affectionately referred to as the hardest phone to photograph. Instead, the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra get a rectangular design that’s a bit tall given the screen ratio. The Note 20 Ultra comes in Mystic Bronze, black or white. But we’ll come out flat and say it: Mystic Bronze might be our new favorite phone color. It’s a brushed rose gold and looks fantastic — and, yes, you can pair your Mystic Bronze Ultra with a Mystic Bronze Tab S7+ and Galaxy Buds Live. The standard Note 20 comes in Mystic Bronze, gray or green.

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Both devices get a camera bump on the back that protrudes a bit from the body.

Here’s the camera setup on the Note 20 Ultra:

  • A 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera
  • A 108-megapixel wide-angle camera
  • A 12-megapixel telephoto camera
  • A laser autofocus sensor

Here’s the camera setup on the Note 20:

  • A 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera
  • A 12-megapixel wide-angle camera
  • A 64-megapixel telephoto camera

Noticeable differences here are, of course, in the number of megapixels per lens and the addition of a laser autofocus sensor on the Ultra. Space Zoom is back after first seeing daylight on the Galaxy S20 family. This is Samsung’s technology for letting you zoom in and still get a sharp outcome. It’s essentially a combination of optical and digital zoom coming together for a hybrid experience. Neither of these devices reaches 100x zoom like the S20 Ultra. The Note 20 gets a 3x hybrid optic zoom and a 30x super-resolution zoom; the 20 Ultra gets 5x optical zoom and a 50x super-resolution zoom.

Both the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra will be able to record 8K video at 24 frames per second in your choice of two ratios: 21:9 or 16:9. Similar to the manual adjustment mode for photos, you’ll have that video here as well. The Note 20 family can shoot non-8K video, like 4K and FHD, at 120 frames per second.

That’s the breakdown of all the highlights for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, which both go up for preorder in just a few short hours at 12:01 a.m. EST on August 6 for $999 and $1,299, respectively.

Galaxy Buds Live

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After some early leaks, Samsung finally made the Galaxy Buds Live official. These beanlike true wireless earbuds sport a stealthy design (they sit almost flush with the ear) that packs a wide-ranging sound and active noise cancellation.

These come in the aforementioned Mystic Bronze, as well as the more basic black and white. While the buds are glossy on the outside, these have a matte interior with an air vent. The latter helps to alleviate pressure while also letting in a bit of the noises around you. The speaker sits on the bottom portion and the top has an inner wing tip that is interchangeable.

You also shouldn’t have to remove them all that often. These sport an IPX2 water-resistant coating that makes them more durable. They also boast solid battery life. With active noise cancellation turned on (a figure that bests AirPods Pro with ANC), you can expect six hours of use, and with it off, you should get up to eight hours.

The Galaxy Buds Live also feature Bixby Voice integration that constantly listens for the “Hi Bixby” command (akin to “Alexa,” “Hey Siri” or “OK Google”). With Bixby Voice plus active noise cancellation turned on, your battery life drops to five and a half hours.

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The tiny charging case for Galaxy Buds Live provides a super impressive 21 hours, with five minutes of charging in the cradle delivering 60 hours. The case itself can charge via USB-C or a Qi-enabled wireless charging pad (aka the back of your Note 20 Ultra).

In terms of sound quality, we expect these to be on par with Galaxy Buds+, if not better. Inside each earbud is a 12mm speaker turned by AKG. It should deliver a deep sound with crystal-clear low, mid and high tones. Additionally, there’s a lot of tech in each bud: an IR sensor, three microphones and an accelerometer. The microphones actually act as a beamforming unit to pick up your voice.

All in all, the Galaxy Buds Live might look like beans, but they’re shaping up to provide tremendous value at just $169.99.

Galaxy Watch 3

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Samsung also announced the Galaxy Watch 3, the company’s latest smartwatch. It’s a mixture of the original Galaxy Watch and the more recent Watch Active2. You can use the Watch 3 to monitor incoming notifications, track workouts, count steps and even call for help if you fall. However, you’ll need to be patient with some of its functionality (if you live in the US, at least).

Watch 3 is capable of recording and measuring metrics like SP02, V02 Max, ECG and blood pressure; however, Samsung doesn’t have approval to activate the blood pressure feature in the US, and the SP02, V02 Max features won’t be available until after a future software update. Samsung states that an update will come sometime in the third quarter.

However, during the announcement, Samsung announced that it has received FDA approval to activate the ECG monitoring capabilities on the Watch 3 in the US. That puts the Watch 3 in direct competition with the Apple Watch, something the industry sorely needs.

That said, the rest of the Watch 3’s features read like a pleasant upgrade from the Watch Active2, or even the original Galaxy Watch.

There are two sizes, 41mm and 45mm, and Samsung claims it was able to shrink down the entire housing. More specifically, the Watch 3 is 14% thinner, 8% smaller and 15% lighter than the original Watch. That’s with a bigger display and keeping its two-day battery life estimate.

There’s a rotating bezel around the perimeter of the display, and it physically moves, unlike the Active2’s digital bezel that mimics movement. The bezel is used to navigate throughout the watch’s interface, scroll through messages and highlight apps.

Samsung is focusing a lot of the new functionality of Watch 3 on fitness. There’s a new sleep tracking method, which will provide more details about sleeping stages and how well you slept. There’s also a stress tracking tool that will help you keep tabs on your stress levels throughout the day.

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Another fitness feature will offer a post-run analysis, breaking down your run and various elements, like VO2 Max, or your maximum oxygen consumption rate. But, like the VO2 Max feature, run analysis isn’t available at launch.

There’s also a new feature that lets you play one of 120 video workouts from your Galaxy Watch 3 onto a nearby Samsung smart TV.

The Watch 3 can track up to 40 different workouts directly on the watch. If you forget to start a workout, the Watch 3 will auto-recognize and start recording seven of those. Alternatively, you use voice commands with Bixby to start a specific workout.

If you fall, the Watch 3’s new Trip Detection feature will send an SOS alert to up to four of your emergency contacts, letting them know you’re in trouble. It doesn’t appear that the Watch 3 will call emergency responders like the Apple Watch does.

Rounding it all out, Samsung Pay is built in to Watch 3, allowing you to use hands-free NFC payment systems.

The Watch 3 is available to purchase for $399 for the 41mm version or $429 for the 45mm version. If you want an LTE version of either watch, you’re looking at an additional $50. So, $449 and $479, respectively. You can pick between Mystic Bronze and Mystic Silver for the 41mm model, or Mystic Silver and Mystic Black for the 45mm model.

Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7+

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Samsung’s tablets — the 11-inch Tab S7 and the 12.4-inch Tab S7+ — will both launch this fall with starting prices of $649.99 and $849.99, respectively. And continuing in Samsung’s tradition, both will come with an S Pen that magnetically attaches to the back of the Tab.

What’s really exciting about the Tab S7+ is that the 12.4-inch display isn’t just an ordinary panel — it’s the first tablet to ever sport a Super AMOLED display. It’s a WQXGA+ panel, to be specific, and delivers a 2,800-by-1,752 resolution at 120Hz. There’s also a fingerprint sensor built into the display.

Similar to the Note 20, the Tab S7 has a slightly lower-quality panel that is not a Super AMOLED. Rather, it’s an 11-inch WQXGA 2,560-by-1,600 panel that still features a 120Hz refresh rate. Still buttery smooth, just not as vibrant or sharp. This display also doesn’t feature a fingerprint sensor; rather, it is built into the power button.

Both are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM inside, which, on paper, seems to make these a worthy iPad Pro competitor. Alongside a zippy processor is full support for 5G, and these represent the first 5G tablets in the United States.

The S Pen doesn’t get many updates, but the Notes improvements mentioned for the Note 20 and 20 Ultra are on the Tab S7 and S7+. Additionally, the S Pen is still a bit larger and latency is down to 9 milliseconds. Samsung continues to inch closer to the feeling of pen to paper.

Built into the aluminum frame of the Tab S7 and Tab S7+ are quad core speakers that are tuned by AKG. Speakers were solid on the previous gen Tab S6, so we have high hopes for these. Currently, the iPad Pro packs a mighty fine punch with sound, so we will be sure to compare there as well. On the backside, both Tabs feature a dual-lens camera setup: a 13-megapixel wide lens and a 5-megapixel ultra-wide lens.

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Flipping back to the front you’ll find an 8-megapixel lens built into the bezel. Notably, when holding the Tab horizontally, the camera sits centered on the top and is on the right-hand side when held vertically. The location makes sense, as you can pair the Tab S7 or S7+ with the combination Book Cover. With this, you get a magnetic backpiece that has a kickstand built in and a keyboard cover that attaches via a proprietary port.

And that’s pretty much all we know so far about the Tab S7 and Tab S7+. We have a feeling it will continue Samsung’s reign as the best bet for an Android tablet that can handle productivity and entertainment. Both the S7 and S7+ will launch this fall with a starting price of $649.99 and $849.99, respectively.

Let’s recap what we unpacked

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Samsung packed a ton into its summer 2020 Unpacked showcase. We started off with the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, two real powerhouse devices that are up for preorder on August 6.

The Galaxy Buds Live might look a little funny, but they pack a big value punch with long battery life and strong sound from AKG. The Galaxy Watch 3 aims to be a catch-all with features for wellness and productivity in a fashionable build.

Lastly, Samsung showed off the first 5G tablets for the US market, the 11-inch Tab S7 and 12.4-inch Tab S7+.

We’ll be here to guide you through the buying process with comparisons, accessory roundups and, of course, full reviews in the coming weeks. Stick with CNN Underscored for all the news around Samsung’s summer 2020 Unpacked!

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.