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Cyberpunk 2077 Review: Gameplay, Performance & Optimization – Hot Hardware

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johnny silverhand 2


Cyberpunk 2077
has been one of the most hotly-anticipated titles in recent memory. Expectations were so high for this title that it’s quite possible that CD Projekt Red could never live up to them. After numerous delays, however, Cyberpunk 2077 launched on December 10 to a mix of high praise and mild disappointment from many reviewers. The game is so massive, however, that we elected to take our time to really soak it in before tackling this review. 

For those who are new to the franchise, Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game franchise. The second and fourth editions of Cyberpunk, known as Cyberpunk 2020 and Cyberpunk Red, are probably the most popular variants of the game. The tabletop game was published for the first time in 1988, and the intervening 30-some years have not changed the game world all that much. As a result, Cyberpunk 2077 looks somewhat retro-futuristic, as this is how people in the 1980s imagined what the future would look like. They’re probably a little disappointed by how pedestrian actual 2020 looks by comparison. 

Immediately, Cyberpunk 2077 was a hit. CD Projekt made back all of its development and marketing costs on the strength of pre-sales alone. As a result, the studio softened the requirements for employee bonus payouts. Despite being available DRM-free from CD Projekt’s own GOG game shop, Steam’s player counts showed that a million gamers were playing Cyberpunk at the same time almost immediate after its release. 

minimap destination

While Cyberpunk 2077 is a hotly anticipated game, it’s also a showcase title for NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX graphics cards. CDPR applied DirectX Ray Tracing technology liberally to Night City to provide realistic lighting, reflections, and atmosphere. All of the screenshots we’re showing in this article have DXR enabled to its highest potential, unless otherwise indicated. As you’ll see throughout our review here, the game is a beauty. Eventually all of this eye candy will make its way to AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 family of GPUs, but that day is not today. We expect it to happen around the same time as the RDNA2 Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 get their ports. 

About Cyberpunk 2077

In Cyberpunk 2077, you are V, a mercenary on a clock who has three difference, complex and varied backgrounds. Street Kid V was a gang member who grew up on the streets of Night City, that knows who the kingpins are, and has complicated histories with some of them. The Nomads are outsiders from the badlands, and the Nomad version of V is looking to make a fresh start in Night City. Lastly, Corpo V had a pretty intense corporate job who runs afoul of the very company that employs him (or her) when a hit job goes horribly wrong. We selected Corpo V for our play-through. Beyond playing through the origin story, picking a specific origin gives background-specific conversation options in the game, and can lead to making specific missions easier or more difficult. 

charactercreation

The character creation process is Cyberpunk is pretty barebones. For years, other RPG developers have allowed players to really recreate exactly what they wanted. This is accomplished by sliders and two-dimensional grids that adjust facial features with a great degree of freedom. In Cyberpunk 2077, CDPR only gives a list of pre-determined models that reflect different facial features, and there’s no fine-tuning at all. This is pretty shallow and not a great start for a role-playing game, as pickier players will have a harder time finding exactly what they want. There are only two voice options, too. This is way behind the 10-year-old Dragon Age: Origins, for example. 

Regardless of which origin story you start with, V falls out of favor with their faction and winds up befriending another mercenary named Jackie Welles. Welles and V are part of a team to find a biometric enhancement through a “runner” (a middle manager that introduced mercs to potential clients) named Dex. Jackie and V’s heist starts out smoothly enough, but eventually things happen that cause the job to go awry. At the end, V has a biometric implant with a virus with the ghost of Keanu Reeves, and everyone V knew from the first couple hours of the game is dead. This is where the game opens up. 

V is now on the clock. The virus contains the personality of dead terrorist Johnny Silverhand, played by the aforementioned Keanu Reeves, and is racing to erase V’s personality, using his or her body as a shell for the computerized Johnny. As a result, Johnny goes everywhere with V, and V’s internal dialog is replaced with actual dialog with Johnny. Silverhand taunts V at every turn, but figured out early on that it’s bad news for him if V dies. The computerized essence of Johnny and V start out working together to figure out how to remove the implant from V’s head.

johnny silverhand
The first time we meet Johnny Silverhand, played by internet favorite Keanu Reeves

Johnny is the biggest narcissistic jerk you can imagine, but his lines as delivered by Keanu come across a little bored. I suppose we’d be a little bored if we’d been trapped as a personality construct on a glorified SD card for the last 50+ years too. We think this is intentional, since Johnny can be seeing leaning against the wall more than he takes any other pose, and he’s just too “cool” to care what anybody thinks. Early on he just wants V dead so he can take over the body, but quickly changes his tune when he realizes the controversy and importance of everything that happened early in the story. 

The rest of the cast does a great job, and we couldn’t help getting emotionally attached to V’s crew and acquaintances. It helps that the story is engaging and the writing is extremely well done. Even though so many characters die early on, each one is a gut punch. We liked these people, and thought they’d be with us for the long haul. And when the next batch of people insert themselves into V’s life, we get to know and appreciate them just as much. 

That’s actually a pretty stark contrast to another science-fiction hacker thriller game that launched this fall, Watch Dogs: Legion. Perhaps it’s because there were so many playable characters in Watch Dogs, but each one felt stiff and we had a hard time connecting. The writing wasn’t as good and the story wasn’t as engaging either. Everything about Cyberpunk‘s story has been bigger, deeper, and stronger than anything in Watch Dogs Legion. WDL was a fun game, but Cyberpunk went above and beyond with the writing. 

lizzies bar

The only ding we can make against the story of Cyberpunk is how little our own decisions impact the overall flow of the story. When Johnny first appears, it’s apparent that V only has a limited time in Night City before he gives up the ghost, but we can spend all our time running side missions and collecting cars, and he’ll never die due to the implant. The closest we get to affecting the story is how we approached the gameplay. Skipping all the optional parts of a story mission makes it harder because we may not have stealth or surprise on our side, but going in guns blazing is just as effective as stealth. We’re playing a pretty linear story, albeit an incredibly entertaining one. 

Cyberpunk 2077 Missions And Structure

As a story-driven role playing game, we don’t want to give away much more than that. There’s quite a bit more to do in Night City, though. Along with the main storyline, Cyberpunk 2077 has tons of side quests to accomplish from runners all over Night City, quests that stem off the main story missions, and even fetch quests for an AI-run taxi company, Delamain.

Just about everywhere we went had one or more side missions available, which ranged from finding a specific person to interrogate or kill, steal technology, sneak around to gather intel, and a lot more. The side quests themselves do start to get a little repetitive after a while, but each quest giver feels like a real person with their own distinct personality, motives, and desires. The attention of detail in the writing is top-notch, and the side quests reflect it. 

wet pavement

Getting around Night City has a diverse set of travel methods. V can drive a car, walk to fast-travel kiosks that allow going anywhere right away, or ride in a Delamain taxi. Walking is also on the table, although it’ll take a while. Driving is a little strange, however. When we drove ourselves around, we could switch between a first-person camera, which provides very limited visibility, and a third-person camera where we still had to move the camera with the mouse as we drove. Neither option was very attractive, and we found ourselves fast-traveling an awful lot. Night City is pretty open from the start, and we could fast-travel to areas we’d never visited previously. 

Both being open-world games, we feel compelled to draw more comparisons to Watch Dogs Legion. London wasn’t nearly as big as Night City, nor as detailed. Cyberpunk‘s world scales vertically as well as horizontally, as overhead bridges, skywalks, and buildings all tower overhead. It’s also very densely populated. The NPCs and vehicles that roam the streets are varied and interesting. At night, the city lives up to its name, as Night City is very dark, wet, and neon. 

Cyberpunk 2077 Combat In Night City


Cyberpunk 2077
is mostly a first-person game. Combat is full of gunplay and swordplay, and most of the standard first-person shooter tropes apply. That includes looting ammo and weapons off the fresh corpses of our fallen enemies, right-clicking to look down the sights of a gun, and WASD + mouse navigation. Many of the weapons we found felt very satisfying. Pulling the trigger on a shotgun when we were up-close and personal with an enemy rightly left them completely incapacitated.

combat

Another method of combat is in close quarters with fists, knives, or swords. Because Cyberpunk 2077 happens in a city where the Emperor of Japan rules the land, there are some hints of Samurai, and getting a sword is a blast. In one mission, we were stuck deep inside a building when an alarm went off, and the first person we dropped had a katana. And then we had a katana, which feels overpowered until we realized that if someone cut our arm off with a sword, we’d be pretty non-responsive. Perhaps the melee weapons are appropriately weighted in that light. When we could be stealthy, it was tons of fun to hack into our enemies. V has a stamina meter, so just wildly swinging the sword is not advised, but it’s super sharp and does a load of damage, so it felt wonderfully freeing in our hands. 

Speaking of hacking, all electronics in Cyberpunk 2077 are hackable. Want to blind an enemy? Hack their optics. Want to distract them instead? Make the TV behind them change channels. Want to kill the surveillance system? Hack a computer and turn it off. There’s some bad news with this, however: your electronics are hackable, too. It’s kind of annoying to see an enemy hacker overheat your implants and cause your skin to burn. Whenever we saw that V was being hacked, whoever was infiltrating had to become top priority to prevent some horrible status ailment from derailing the rest of the fight. Can we spend a few Eddies on a Patch Tuesday upgrade, please?

exploring

The only aspect of Cyberpunk‘s combat that isn’t particularly fun in a first-person perspective is the camera system. The game is completely first-person, outside of driving a car. There’s no “vanity camera” in Cyberpunk 2077 at all. Once we customized V and got dressed, that was the last we’d see of the clothes, hairstyle, face, and tattoos unless we happened to wander into a bathroom and checked ourselves out in the mirror. Maybe that’s a good thing, considering the limited customization options. 

Cyberpunk 2077 Glitches Remain

Despite multiple delays, Cyberpunk 2077 still feels a little bit rushed. CDPR pushed out the version 1.04 hot fix right after launch, and that version fixed a lot of game-breaking and mission-ending bugs, but still some issues remain. One of the most comical happens right outside of V’s apartment. There are some barricades along the street, and the path is so thin that every car passing V’s apartment on that side of the street sideswipes the barricades. Those drivers get angry and yell at V like it’s somehow our fault that they don’t know how to drive. 

More troubling are the magical appearing pedestrians and vehicles. Cyberpunk 2077 was something of a chore to benchmark because the game world is randomized every time we load, and people and cars appear out of thin air. On multiple occasions, we’d look both ways before crossing the street and then suddenly get mashed by a car that appeared right on top of us. As we turn corners, people warp in right before our eyes like they’re Protoss Stalkers from StarCraft, and because they’re solid objects we suddenly can’t walk where we had a clear path a moment earlier.

texture pop in
Texture pop-in is rampant, but a fast SSD will at least minimize the time it takes them to load.

Those issues are the most aggravating, but others remain. The internet had a field day making fun of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Cyberpunk for their low-resolution placeholder textures that eventually get replaced with more details, but the same thing happens on a pretty powerful PC. Texture pop-in is pretty jarring at high resolutions and detail levels, and on our test system with 32 GB of system memory, it’s a shame that it happens at all. 

Lastly, it seems that Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t make the best use of AMD’s CPUs with symmetric multi-threading, including every generation of Ryzen up through Zen 3. One Redditor put together an unofficial binary patch that seems to correct the issue. Because we were testing on AMD CPUs, a Ryzen 7 3700X and Ryzen 9 3900X, we made the decision to enable it. We’ll talk more about our testing methods on the next page, but it does make a big difference when Ray Tracing is enabled and the GPU isn’t the limiting factor…

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Xiaomi Mi 11 Bugs and Issues we found on our Review Unit – gizmochina

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The Xiaomi Mi 11 debuted as the first Snapdragon 888 flagship in the market last month. The phone offers tremendous value for your money bringing in a top-notch 2K display with the fastest Snapdragon chip in the market right now. You even get two different material options on the device, one with a leather back and another one with a traditional glass one.

Xiaomi Mi 11

However, being the first Snapdragon 888 smartphone in the market, there was bound to be some small bugs and issues with the device. Surprisingly, these bugs turned out to be more than what we had imagined which is why we decided to make a quick video giving you a complete picture of the Mi 11.

Note that most of these bugs can be resolved via a software update. So while it does hinder your user experience right out of the box, in the next couple of months, we can expect the phone to be more refined. That said, if you are buying the phone right now (before the software update), you’ll have to live with a few glitches and we have noted them down below.

Mi 11 bugs and issues we discovered

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  • The Mi 11 randomly shuts down during usage.
  • The camera app crashes occasionally while shooting photos.
  • Some games don’t load properly and you may see a noisy pixelated screen.
  • Snapdragon 888 heats up quickly and the Mi 11 isn’t able to take full advantage of the chip’s processing power as it throttles down the clock speed to manage the heat.
  • Camera Performance is Average
  • The leather Mi 11 rattles when playing via the loudspeaker.

Xiaomi Mi 11 hands on 05So these were some of the issues that we found on the Mi 11. Given that its a flagship device, you would expect it to have a flawless performance right out of the box. But that isn’t the case here.

However, we want to stress that most of these issues can be solved via a future software update. And in a month or two, the Mi 11 will likely be as refined as any other flagship in the market. So if you are okay with these bugs, you can go ahead and get the Xiaomi Mi 11. As we mentioned in our review, the phone has a lot to offer for its price tag.

Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra Review Cameras Featured
Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra

But personally, I am shifting back to the Mi 10 Ultra for the time being. Hopefully, when the Mi 11 Pro or the Ultra makes it to the market after the Chinese Spring Festival, I’ll try getting back to the Mi 11 series.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Thoughts and Impressions | The Startup – Medium

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Is it innovation? Or is it compensation?

Jan 16 · 9 min read

Image for post
Samsung S21 Family — From Samsung

I love phone announcement events.

The fanfare behind the announcement is extravagant, sometimes rightfully so, most of the time, not as rightfully so.

I’m still fascinated yearly by the over the top dramatics that circle around events like CES, and OEM announcements like Samsung’s Unpacked events.

2021 has been more virtual with tech events, but the underlying feelings have not changed.

Towards the end of CES tech enthusiasts and die-hard Samsung Fans alike were all wondering about what the next Galaxy S iteration would bring to the table. Considering we’re still knee-deep in a pandemic, it’s not surprising that events are different this year.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I read about the Galaxy S21. Samsung’s Unpacked Event was virtual this year, a testament to our inability to attend events in person.

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Samsung — Photo by Kote Puerto on Unsplash

This year, 2021, the year of calamity, foolishness, and masks, brings a series of devices that have confused me a bit. The devices announced are the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21+, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

I wonder if this is the company compensating for the mitigating factors surrounding money during the pandemic, or is it innovation instead of compensation?

Confused? Me too. Let’s get to the details first.

Yep, just like the iPhone, we’re having to deal with saying goodbye to another accessory that had a home in the flagship phone packaging.

You aren’t going to get a power brick when you purchase the phone. Yes, I was upset about this when I spoke about the iPhone 12, I know. But at this point, we’re all going to have to expect the lack of accessories with flagship phones. From iPhone 12 to Xiaomi, and now the S21 family of devices, it’s time to let go of the idea of having a charger with your new phone packaging. I mentioned it recently in my smartphone rumors and predictions, and I’m pretty confident that this is the only prediction I’m not wildly off base within 2021.

We went through this moment when the iPhone got rid of the headphone jack; we were alright. We’re going to eventually get over the charger not coming with the box too. I’m still not going to forget that Apple called the decision courageous. It’s alright.

Now, let’s talk about the Galaxy S21. Here are the particulars behind the Galaxy S21 family, available on January 29 all over the place.

Taking a look at all of the S21 options, we start with the base model Galaxy S21. I pulled the specs from Ars Technica which you can see below if you want the in-depth comparison.

Galaxy S21:

S21 Rear Camera — From Samsung

  • $799
  • IP68 Water Resistance
  • 6.2″ / 1080p / 120Hz Display (oh, the speed! the speed of it all!)
  • 8GB RAM (remember, the S20 had 12GB RAM)
  • Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100 (Everywhere Else)
  • 10MP Front Camera / 12MP Main, 12 Wide, 64 Telephoto Rear Camera Combo
  • 128GB/256GB storage options with no expandable storage
  • 4000mAh Battery (the power…Look at all of that power)
  • USB C charging with Wireless Charging Capabilities
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S21+, S21 Ultra — From Samsung

A few step-downs concerning storage not being expandable, the price, the refresh rate, the RAM, whatever. You can consider some of these specs as a reason for the lower price.

In light of some of the cutbacks concerning the S21/S21+, we still have an updated SoC with the Snapdragon 888, updated camera capabilities, and a dynamic refresh rate, which adapts the screen refresh rate to whatever is on the screen.

The dynamic refresh rate can help the display quality when watching Netflix, Facebook-ing (even though that is slowly becoming a pariah in this highly virtual world but we don’t want to talk about that now do we?) The display is the main thing that you will experience with the device, and it’s important to have the quality that Samsung has planned with its S21 displays.

Galaxy S21+

  • $999
  • 4800mAh Battery (the “oh the power phrase probably won’t read well if I put it here..will it?)
  • 6.7″ display
  • See Galaxy S21 specs posted above for the rest of the S21+ specs

We have the same general idea of specifications for the S21+ as there were for the base level S21. You can state that the S21+ is a larger version of the S21. You already knew that, that’s not what you are here for.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

  • $1199
  • 5000 mAh Battery (powerful..all-powerful…the power!)
  • 6.8″ 1440p 120Hz display
  • 128 / 256 / 512 GB storage options
  • Snapdragon 888 (US) Exynos 2100 (everywhere else)
  • 40MP Front Camera / 108 MP Main Camera/12MP Wide Angle, Dual 10MP telephoto Rear Camera combo
  • 12GB or 16GB RAM
  • USB C charging (wireless charging capable)
  • S-Pen Compatible (uh…okay)

The S21 Ultra is the best of the best, the cream of the crop when it comes to the S21 options. No compensating factors here, nothing keeping you from greatness when it comes to this phone.

The price of the S20 ultra started at $1400, and the S21 Ultra, with a respectable upgrade of its specifications, is priced lower.

Since the S20 ultra was a bit questionable when it came to camera quality, you can decide on whether the camera is more improved versus last year, or if it’s another half-done attempt at a high-end device.

A huge blaring question that comes out of the Galaxy S21 announcement is whether Samsung opted for compensation over innovation with this year’s phone launch.

I’d like to think that the decision to cut the price with the Galaxy S21 is more on the innovation front versus the compensation front. This was more of an effort to broaden the reach of the flagship offerings to more people across the world.

I’ve begun to think that pricing with phones has become less of a factor in 2021 than it has in years past. We always knew that the more money you spent on your smartphone upgrade, the better your upgrade. Budget smartphones were light years behind the flagship prices, and you saw people skipping car payments, rent, and medical bills to buy the latest iPhone or Android device on launch day.

While I still believe devices like the Galaxy Fold 2, the Galaxy Fold, and any Vertu device that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime are insanely priced; I don’t know if we can look at prices as much in 2021 as we did in 2017, when the iPhone X broke our pocketbooks.

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Note 10 — Photo by Mark Chan on Unsplash

The Samsung Galaxy S20, with its multiple iterations, was teetering towards overly expensive as well. A 200 dollar price drop is a welcome change that opens the company to a different demographic that might be looking for something a little more than the mid-range Galaxy A-Series devices.

Remember the days when we were appalled at the price of the iPhone X, and the Galaxy Note Series after the Galaxy Note 8? I remember those phones touching $1000 and the world screaming bloody murder. What a difference a few years makes.

I’ve had a history of complaining about electronics pricing. These days I have more reason to hold off on spending. Just about everything has cost more money in the middle of the pandemic, from toilet paper (quit hoarding toilet paper, yall) to gasoline, to the essentials that you need in your everyday life.

Personally, it has become difficult to find reasoning to splurge on items that I used to enjoy before the pandemic. Phones and other electronics being the main things I’d rather not spend money on.

My beliefs and difficulty in finding items to splurge on was a big reason as to why I had a slightly off reaction to the AirPods Max that launched in December. The headphones launched at $550, and they were expensive. Was I right in being angry about a pair of $550 headphones? Probably not, but here we are.

How can a company that has to have employees that were affected financially by the pandemic launch a device with a high price tag for the holidays? From what I’ve read, it appears that AirPods Max was well received at a launch. Never mind the price of the device, never mind people who are short on cash this year, there were still people who purchased the device.

So now we have the flipside of the coin. a series of devices that took a $200 price shave at launch for reasons including the current global pandemic. You’ll likely see the device launch with a trade-in deal, with the Galaxy Tags, money towards accessories, or whatever being bundled in as a part of the launch package. Take a look at the launch page for the S21 below:

The decision to launch the S21 series of devices lower than the S20 makes me realize that price isn’t always going to be a factor in flagship phones. There will be a market for people willing to spend thousands of dollars, and there’s going to be a market for people who think it’s crazy to spend thousands of dollars on phones.

Samsung’s pricing change could also be a decision that could help change the pricing structure of flagship phones across the board as we move through 2021. The pricing change may help more manufacturers realizing the need for a greater range of capable devices in the Android spectrum.

With the prevalence of higher-priced phones and the equal prevalence of more capable budget devices like the Moto G series, the LG Stylo, and OnePlus Nord, there are more options for capable devices for more people across the economic spectrum.

We are now looking at a world with people who need to look at devices as an investment. But at that same token, the investment is going to be at different price points.

I think Samsung made a pretty decent decision making that $200 shave with the S21. They’ve made an effort to make flagship devices available to more people. Samsung’s pricing decision seems innovative in its compensation.

The Galaxy S21 and S21+ aren’t very innovative. Save for the dynamic refresh rate, the 120Hz displays, and the different capabilities of the camera, there is not much to write home about with the Galaxy S21.

In 2021, where we are looking at finances as a focus of our everyday lives, Samsung was innovative in pricing their 2021 flagship devices. The innovation is in realizing that the company wants to have more people owning their flagship devices. The company realized that more people have less money as we continue through 2021.

We will always know Apple to be premium devices, with premium prices. The addition of the iPhone 12 Mini, and the revamp of the iPhone SE, is Apple’s way to appeal to those looking for a more affordable phone. Pricing the Galaxy S21 series of phones to put them closer to their more affordable options is Samsung’s move to market to more people.

Would I buy the S21? The outer specifications would lead me to want to purchase the device, sure. The camera should be decent and the display refresh rate is decent as well. The specifications previously announced by Samsung for the price are quality.

Having a company decide to lower their MSRP on a device is admirable, having a more affordable device with flagship specs is innovative from a regular consumer perspective.

I am still on the fence as to whether I would upgrade this year, or wait until things begin to ease around the world and the economy. I have held on to my iPhone 7 Plus for almost 4 years, and I’m pleased that my phone has not died yet.

The decision to buy the S21 is going to be up to you. Whether the price drop helps with your decision or not, buying this device is going to be up to you. Buying any device is going to be up to you.

Let me know if you buy an S21, I’d be interested in seeing what you think!

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Samsung SmartThings is now available on Android Auto [Update] – 9to5Google

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After announcing that a partnership with Google would bring Nest devices to SmartThings this year, Samsung is about to integrate with one of Google’s platforms. Alongside the reveal of the Galaxy S21 series, Samsung has revealed that SmartThings is coming to Android Auto.

Soon, the SmartThings app for Android will feature support for Android Auto. Samsung hasn’t confirmed exactly when this functionality is coming, only saying that the Galaxy S21 will be capable of running the feature.

Samsung explains that users will be able to “turn on your porch lights or even raise the temperature of your thermostat before you return home, all from your car.”

The UI seen shows an app on Android Auto with a selection of automations such as “Coming home” and “Going out.” This would allow a quick tap to perform actions such as turning on/off lights, opening/closing a garage door, or adjusting other devices. There’s also a “locations” button on the interface, but we can’t be sure what that does specifically just yet. It’s also unclear if this SmartThings app will feature any integration with Google Assistant on Android Auto.


Update 1/18: Samsung’s latest SmartThings update brings support for Android Auto. As noted by Joe Kester on Twitter, the update adds an Android Auto section to the app on your phone where you can customize what six tiles appear in the Android Auto UI.

The latest SmartThings update is now available on the Play Store and also adds support for the Galaxy SmartTag.


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