This is my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review after around one and a half months. Note 20 Ultra is one of my favorite smartphones of the year so far, and it ticks a lot of boxes for me.
And I think most importantly what I like about the Note 20 Ultra is that a lot of feedback that we had about the Note 10 Plus as well as the Galaxy S20 Ultra has been taken onboard by Samsung. We’ve got a lot of the improvements that we had asked for.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra box contents
- Note 20 Ultra handset
- AKG earphones
- 25W USB-Type-C Charger
- USB Type-C cable
- SIM ejector pin
- Tips for S-Pen
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review: Display
Initially, I want to talk about the display and I know I’m going to sound like a broken record right now, but the Note 20 Ultra has one of the best displays on a smartphone right now. I would say that it is my favorite display on a smartphone. It’s bright, it’s sharp, it’s vibrant, it’s super, super smooth.
Thanks to the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. I know a lot of you guys are going to be going down in the comments that, yeah, but when you are at 120Hz you do switch down to FHD+ resolution.
And that is absolutely true, at that high refresh rate the Note 20 Ultra is automatically going to switch down to the FHD+ resolution. But honestly speaking, this is not how much of a big deal. It’s not something that I had really noticed.
Yes, it would have been great having both, but let’s be real, the refresh rates and the resolution are not the only things that make a great display. There’s also things like 1,500 nits of peak brightness on the Note 20 Ultra, which makes this the brightest smartphone display out there.
In addition to that, this also has the most durable display on a smartphone because it is using Gorilla Glass Victus, the latest from Gorilla Glass. Now, I’m not somebody who does drop tests, not intentionally anyway, but the king of drop tests, speed tests, and battery tests, David from PhoneBuff has actually done a detailed drop test of the Note 20 Ultra.
But essentially, after dropping the Note 20 Ultra on a hard surface face down many times it was still functioning and that’s something that’s absolutely awesome about the Note 20 Ultra.
The bezels also smaller compared to the Note 10 Plus with a smaller punchout as well so you are getting a higher screen to body ratio. Display of Note 20 Ultra is still very curved. I would prefer something flatter and I did like what Samsung did with the S20 Ultra where the display, although it was slightly curved, it wasn’t as curved as the Note 20 Ultra.
We’ve still got the ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner. I was really hoping for the 3D Sonic Max from Qualcomm, but the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner actually works absolutely fine.
My advice would be register the same thumb or finger twice, and that’s just going to make it a little quicker and more accurate.
Note20 Ultra: Design and Build Quality
Now let’s talk about the build and the design. So I really liked the look and feel of the Note 20 Ultra. It does have a very squared off or boxed off edges like we have seen from previous Note devices. I do like this, but it doesn’t make it as comfortable to hold as maybe something else that has more curved off edges.
I’m really digging this bronze color, mainly because it has a matte finish. You guys know that most of the people prefer matte over glossy, but I totally understand that bronze is not a color for everybody. So there is a black as well as a white version available.
However, those do have a glossy finish. So not as much in the white, but definitely in the black you are going to be noticing lots of fingerprints. So I would definitely recommend picking up a skin.
On top of display, we do have Gorilla Glass Victus, which means that the Note 20 Ultra is a lot more durable compared to other smartphones. So if you just rock this with a skin and no case, I think generally you should be okay.
Now don’t come and blame me if you drop your smartphone from 20 feet or whatever and manage to break it. I’m just saying, generally, I think you will be fine not having this with a case.
We still do have IP68 water and dust resistant, which we’ve had from Samsung for many, many years, thumbs up for that. And then we do have this extremely large camera bump. I mean, it’s huge.
Personally, I don’t mind it too much because I think it does look quite elegant compared to the S20 Ultra, which was a little bit bland. And I do like that the camera rings are consistent. I think it goes well with the overall look.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs iPhone 11 Pro Max
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Note 10 Plus
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs S20 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera review
And let’s talk about these cameras because there is a lot to talk about. And I want to say again, that it’s great that Samsung has taken a lot of that feedback on board and given us a lot of improvements that we asked for on the Note 20 Ultra.
So the primary camera is about 12 MP, as always, and honestly speaking, I never shoot at 108 MP because you get much better dynamic range at 12 MP. And the primary camera is excellent.
You get some great dynamic range, excellent colors and detail. Now this is a very large side sensor. So there’s positives and negatives, like we’ve seen before.
One of the positives being that you get an excellent shallow depth of field straight from the camera. And a lot of the times I don’t even have to use the artificial portrait mode because you’re already getting a really nice looking natural depth of field.
The disadvantage of that, however, is that you have a very small plane of focus. So when you are trying to take pictures, especially closeups of subjects, then half of it will be in focus and half of it will not, sometimes only a very small parts of it. I find this especially true when you’re trying to take pictures of food.
If you are somebody who takes lots of pictures of food then some of your meal will be in focus on some of it will not. I tend to find that you have to kind of go back a little bit and then crop in later on, which does help somewhat, but it’s something to bear in mind.
One thing that has improved massively is the auto focus. You had me and many others complain about the auto focus issues that the S20 Ultra had and Samsung have improved the auto focus by including a dedicated laser auto focus sensor.
And this makes the focus on the Note 20 Ultra very very good. I would still say it’s not as good as dual pixel auto focus, like we’ve had from Samsung in the past, but it’s totally usable and I generally don’t have much of a problem with it at all.
Moving on to the ultra wide camera, you guys may have heard me rant about the ultra wide camera on the S20 Ultra, which was really a step back from the Note 10 Plus, which had an excellent ultra-wide camera. And that’s because dynamic range just was not good on the S20 Ultra’s ultra wide camera. This has again been improved on the Note 20 Ultra and the Note 20 Ultra takes amazing ultra wide images.
I’m somebody who uses the ultra wide camera pretty much every single day and I’m very impressed with the results that I’m getting from the Note 20 Ultra. It’s got one of the best ultra wide cameras on the market right now.
Periscope zoom camera
And let’s also talk about the periscope zoom camera, which now does not have 100X plastered all over the back, like we had on the S20 Ultra.
Again, thumbs up, Samsung for taking that off and also taking off 100X zoom which was pretty much pointless. We now have 50X zoom, which is not something that I’m going to use every day, maybe not even every month, but, if you’re into spying on your neighbors or something.
I’m not saying you should do that but if you are then the 50X zoom might be useful for you. Results are still not amazing, they are okay for certain situations. If you need to read some text in the distance you’ll be able to use it occasionally.
No, it’s there if you want to use it and I’m absolutely fine with that. I don’t use it personally. 5X zoom is amazing. Some of the best results you’re going to be getting out there. 10X is awesome as well. And I would personally only go to a max of 20X because after that things do start getting very digital and not really usable.
But at 10X you get some excellent results and I’m very happy with the zoom camera on the Note 20 Ultra. Now, things are not perfect, there’s still lots of room for improvement, in particular when it comes to skin tones.
This is something that I’ve talked about many times before. For some reason, Samsung just cannot get skin tones right. Pictures of me taken on the Note 20 Ultra generally look a bit towards the yellow side and it also makes me fairer.
And there’s also a little bit of smoothing happening, even if you switch off beauty mode completely. So this is something that I hope Samsung can improve, although I am not a very confident that’s going to happen because I’ve been saying it for the past many, many years and it still seems to be the same.
And I also want to touch on portrait mode. So generally when it comes to pictures of people, the best focal length to use is around 2x on a smartphone, which is the equivalent of 50mm on a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. And it’s kind of the focal length that our eyes are.
So generally speaking, 2x portraits look the best. Now because we don’t have a dedicated 2x lens on the Note 20 Ultra what I have found is that portraits on the Note 20 Ultra are a little bit soft.
Now I’m assuming this is because it’s cropping into the primary camera because it doesn’t have 2X, but that’s just something that I have noticed with the Note 20 Ultra. I do prefer the portrait mode from other smartphones compared to the Note 20 Ultra.
Now let’s talk about the front facing camera as well. The Note 20 Ultra does overall a really good job for selfies, but once again, the skin tone problem is still there. You’ll look a little bit fairer and a little bit more towards the yellow side, which I’m not a huge fan of.
When I was trying to take selfies, it was still struggling but then I realized the reason for that was because skin smoothening was switched on by default.
So it seemed like what the Note 20 Ultra was trying to do was smoothing my skin as well as blur the background, which computationally was a bit of a problem for it and then what it would do is just give me a portrait without a blurry background, which is of course pointless.
So when I switched off skin smoothening then I was getting some excellent portrait shots from the selfie camera.
Edge detection was really, really good. So Samsung, switch off skin smoothening by default. If somebody wants to switch it on, then have a popup message saying, hey, if you want to look fake then, you know, switch it on if you want to. But please do switch this off by default.
Now let’s talk about video. The Note 20 Ultra takes some excellent quality video. We do have up to 8K. Disclaimer, 8K does crop in quite a bit and you do lose things like stabilization. So I think it’s going to be something that a very small number of people are going to use.
I personally use 8K very rarely on my Note 20 Ultra but, you know, you might be somebody who does want that feature and it’s there. And there’s also pro video mode, which I think is really, really good because it gives you a lot of control over your images.
And it also allows you to do things like get more smooth zoom for your shots, which is awesome. And you also have more control over the audio recording, which is great, as well as the ability to use your Galaxy as a live or whatever to record audio on the Note20 Ultra.
So definitely a thumbs up for me for video recording on the Note 20 Ultra and I would go as far as saying that the Note 20 Ultra records the best video on any Android smartphone out there right now.
Why is that?
Because I still would prefer the iPhone 11 Pro Max video over the Note 20 Ultra and that’s because it’s just more consistent in my experience. And you also have consistent frame rates across the board.
So on the iPhone 11 Pro Max I can film at 4K 60 fps from the front, the ultra-wide, the telephoto, as well as the primary rear camera. On the Note20 Ultra, you only have 4K 60 from the front facing camera and the primary rear facing camera.
You do not have 4k 60 from the ultra wide or the telephoto camera. I don’t know why that is and I know not everybody is going to be filming at 4k 60 fps, but it’s just consistency, I think is quite important. Especially if you’re somebody who’s going to be vlogging across multiple cameras, I think that’s important and I think the iPhone does that better.
Note20 Ultra: Media and Entertainment
Now, the speakers are absolutely great on the Note20 Ultra, they’re loud and they do sound very, very good. However, the positioning of the bottom speaker is now on the left hand side, rather than what we had before, which was on the right hand side.
This might not really seem like much of a big deal and it’s something that I’ve not heard anybody else talk about. But for me personally, when I’m gaming, I find myself covering the bottom speaker. So when I’m gaming, say I’m playing some Call of Duty or whatever, I’m actually covering up the bottom speaker which is not the best experience.
I wish that Samsung left the speaker on the right hand side, I’m sure there’s some technicalities inside, but that’s definitely a piece of feedback and something that you definitely should bear in mind in my opinion.
And speaking of the speaker placement, speaking of the speaker place, anyway, the S Pen location has also changed. So it’s on the left hand side compared to the right hand side. This was not much of a big deal, I did find myself kind of reaching for it on the right hand side but, you know, it’s something that I got very quickly used to.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra S-Pen
Let’s talk about the S Pen, I absolutely loved the S Pen. Honestly, it’s such a useful tool and although I don’t use it every single day, when I need to just do a quick doodle or like sign a document or something, it’s so, so useful. And the S Pen has been improved massively.
We’ve just got like 9 ms of response time so it’s so, so smooth. There’s lots more features of the S Pen, like improved handwriting recognition, the ability to import PDFs and annotate them. If I go through every single one this video’s going to be over an hour long.
I’m sure there’s lots of great videos which cover all of the tips and tricks of the S Pen so, you know, have a bit of a search on that. But for me, I think the S Pen is just a very useful tool, which even though you might not use all the time, when you do have it you’re thankful that you do have it.
I also use it to edit images, something that I do a lot. So again, having that precision is just not possible by just using your finger. We also still have the remote control features, so you can use it to take images, which is really the only thing that I use the remote trigger for.
Do I wave my S Pen around to do stuff?
No, I don’t, I’m not Harry Potter. I don’t need a wand to control my smartphone, it’s just easier to reach over and do things myself. I mean, those features are there, they might be useful to some of you, but it’s not something that I use. Nevertheless, S Pen, great.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review: Software
Now quickly also touching on the software, One UI on top of Android. It’s great, I really like it, it’s one of my favorite skins on Android. It’s clean, it’s very customizable. And let’s talk about battery life before we go on to the whole Qualcomm vs Exynos debate.
Samsung Note20 Ultra: Battery and Charging
We’ve got wired charging, wireless charging, as well as reverse wireless charging, which I really don’t use much, but, it’s there if you need to use it. For charging, you do get a 25W charger out of the box, which is pretty fast. I mean, it’s absolutely fine for me.
Yes, it’s not a crazy speed like we’re seeing from lots of other manufacturers and also the 45W charger is no longer supported on the Note 20 Ultra and as far as I can tell it’s because, you know, Samsung probably didn’t sell as many when it came to the S20 Ultra because 25 Watts is absolutely fine.
And wireless charging as well, I’m personally somebody who uses wireless charging all the time so I can just drop this on a wireless charger and kind of wake up to it fully charged.
Battery life has been I would say good on the Exynos version, but better than good on the Qualcomm version. And this is something that I’ve talked about many, many times before, and it’s also the case here. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ version is just going to give you better battery life compared to the Exynos version and it’s more power efficient.
So to give you a real world example on my usage, now this is my usage, obviously it’s going to differ to your usage, but for me, somebody who’s a heavy user, I’m getting around four and a half hours of screen on time, on average on the Exynos version.
But I’m getting five and a half hours on the Note 20 Ultra Qualcomm version. So once again, it is a case of around 10 to 15% better battery life on the Qualcomm version.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Exynos vs Snapdragon
Now let’s break down all of the differences between the Qualcomm version and the Exynos version.
So first and foremost, the Qualcomm version is more powerful. It’s faster, if the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 version was already better than the Exynos 990, then obviously we were expecting the 865 Plus to be even better. And it is better.
How much is it going to affect the regular person day-to-day?
Honestly speaking, I don’t think it’s going to affect the majority of people, like 90 – 95%. I’ve just made that percentage up. Obviously, I don’t know the exact percentage, but generally speaking, I don’t think for general users it’s going to be that much of an issue.
If you are somebody who, you know, edits a lot of video on your Note, plays a lot of games, then I think it might be something that affects you. But let’s break down what Samsung has kind of done to address this issue.
Firstly, the Exynos version does come with a larger storage version. So you are getting a base of 256 GB vs the 128 GB base on the Qualcomm version. So that’s kind of like, you’re getting a bit more storage. Yes, you’re getting an inferior chip sets on the Exynos but you’re getting more storage.
In addition to that, Exynos version did come with earphones in the box, the AKG USB-C earphones and Qualcomm version did not. Now, I’m not sure if this is going to be the case for every Exynos version out there, but I can only talk based on my experience.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Price
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G comes with a price tag of ₹ 1,04,999 for 12 GB RAM/256 GB storage. The Note20 Ultra 5G supports dual-SIM cards and comes with a hybrid slot.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review: Conclusion
So is the Qualcomm version worth the extra money even though your not getting the headphones and you’re getting a smaller storage version? I think it is.
But I think the bigger problem that I have is something that Zack from JerryRigEverything mentioned, and that is that both of these smartphones, although they’re very different in many ways, are be marketed as the same smartphone.
And I also have a problem with this. Now don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that there’s lots of logistics and supply and demand issues, which we simply don’t understand. There’s clearly lots of things going on in the background and that’s fine.
But then don’t market us the same smartphone when it’s different, right. Call the Exynos version something different. Maybe call it the S20E Ultra. You can’t market these as the same device when they are not.
Having said all of that, can I still recommend the Note 20 Ultra? 100%
I think it’s an excellent smartphone and it’s definitely one of the best smartphones of the year so far. Can I still recommend the Exynos version? As I said, for most people, I think it’s going to be absolutely fine.
What do you guys think of the Note 20 Ultra? Are you going to be getting it? Do drop me a comment below, let me know your thoughts.
I hope you enjoy this long and detailed Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review. If you did then give this article a share.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra specifications
|Specifications||Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra|
|Display||6.9 inches, QHD+, Dynamic AMOLED, 120 Hz|
|Protection||Gorilla Glass Victus|
|Build||Glass Front and Back,|
One UI 2.1
|CPU||Snapdragon 865+ / Exynos 990|
|GPU||Adreno 650 / Mali-G77 MP11|
|RAM / ROM||128GB + 12GB, 256GB + 12GB, 512GB + 12GB|
|Front camera||10 MP, f/2.2|
|Rear camera||108 MP, f/1.8 (main)|
12 MP, f/3.0 (telephoto)
12 MP, f/2.2 (ultrawide)
|Features||8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+|
|Charging||25W Fast charging|
4.5W reverse wireless charging
|Fingerprint sensor||Under display, ultrasonic|
|Geekbench Scores||928 Single core|
2,721 Multi core
|Connectivity||2G / 3G / 4G / 5G|
|Color options||Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic White|