The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra enters the bustling flagship smartphone arena. The competition is fierce, but is the Note 20 Ultra hiding anything up its sleeve? We find out in our review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra – Specifications
|Specs||Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G|
Expandable up to 1TB via microSD
Dual Hybrid SIM :
1 x Nano SIM
1 x MicroSD
|Display||6.9-inch Edge QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X|
120Hz Refresh Rate
240Hz Touch Sampling Rate
|Camera (Rear)||12MP Ultra Wide Camera|
. Pixel size: 1.4μm
. FOV: 120˚
. F.No (aperture): F2.2
108MP Wide-angle Camera
. PDAF, OIS
. Pixel size: 0.8μm
. FOV: 79˚
. F.No (aperture): F1.8
. 1/1.33″ image sensor size
12MP Telephoto Camera
. Pixel size: 1.0μm
. FOV: 20˚
. F.No (aperture): F3.0
Laser AF Sensor
. 5x Optical Zoom
. Up to 50x Super Resolution Zoom
OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
|Camera (Front)||Camera Front 10MP Selfie Camera|
. Dual Pixel AF
. Pixel size: 1.22μm
. FOV: 80˚
. F.No (aperture): F2.2 10MP Selfie Camera
. Dual Pixel AF
. Pixel size: 1.22μm
. FOV: 80˚
. F.No (aperture): F2.2
|Charging||Fast Wireless Charging 2.0|
USB PD 3.0
|S-Pen||S Pen Bluetooth enabled, Lithium Titanate Battery: Up to 24 hours of battery standby time|
Pressure levels: 4096, Pen tip diameter: 0.7 mm, IP68
|Connectivity||5G (SA + NSA)|
Sub6 / mmWave
Ultra Wide Band
|Sensors||Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensor|
Earphones by AKG
What’s In The Box?
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
- USB Type-C Cable
- USB Type-C AKG Earphones
- Extra Eartips
- Fast Charger
- SIM Pin Ejector
- Quick Start Guide
Notice how there’s no basic TPU casing for the phone at all? We were a bit puzzled by this, because it would’ve been a great help when it comes to overall comfort. But, this might just be Samsung steering you towards purchasing their proprietary casing to go along with your new smartphone.
I don’t blame the company, because some of the Note 20 series accessories actually look pretty good. And also the fact that most of the time, the casing wouldn’t be used because most users would prefer buying 3rd party casings.
Based solely on looks and not user experience (I’ll explain this a little later), the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a truly beautiful smartphone. It exudes all-round elegance, especially with the new Mystic Bronze, which is the colour we have in our studios. The curves are all in the right places, and the phone feels really nice to hold in the hands.
On the top, there’s the microphone and the SIM tray, whereas the right side is where the power and volume buttons are. As for the bottom, you’ll find the USB Type-C port, the speaker grille, another microphone, and of course, the S-Pen. All connectivity ports and buttons are well placed, but notice the location of the S-Pen has been placed on the left, instead of the right? This may be to make it more user-friendly for those who are left handed.
The back of the Note 20 Ultra is one of the phone’s main design highlight, as it’s furnished with an extremely smooth matte finish. The camera bump is slightly thicker than usual, which is similar to the camera bump found on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The thickness is probably to accomodate the telephoto lens that is capable of up to 50x Super Resolution Zoom. But then again, the S20 Ultra was capable of 100x Super Resolution Zoom.
Having a 6.9-inch Edge QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (what a mouthful) screen, the Note 20 Ultra has an impressive display to marvel at. Giving you every amount of screen real estate possible, the bezels are minimized to the edges, along with a tiny Infinity-O notch to hide the 10MP selfie sensor.
The Note 20 Ultra’s “Adaptive Frequency” OLED screen also uses variable refresh rate to help you save battery. Debuting first on the Note 20 Ultra 5G, it can go up to 120Hz for gaming, down to 60Hz for video playback, 30Hz when you’re texting, or even as low as 10Hz when showing a still image. According to Samsung, the display would use 40% of the normal required power when running at 10Hz, and this rings true in our battery test segment.
Certified with HDR10+, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s screen is bright and colourful. Videos and games appear more vivid, and food videos (a recently picked up interest) look so much more enticing. The display’s 120Hz refresh rate further accentuates the entire viewing experience, with the 240Hz touch sampling rate improving on the screen’s real-life immersiveness.
I’m really impressed with how Samsung managed to pack so much screen into the device with really minimal footprint. That being said, the same cannot be said for the user experience.
I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra as my daily driver for about two weeks now, and it’s been a rollercoaster love-hate sort of ride. I love its huge beautiful screen and all the S-Pen features I get to tinker with, but using it on the daily just isn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be.
Despite its large screen, Samsung did minimize the bezels to make it as small and comfortable as possible. But, the device was still too large to hold, even for my hands. That leaves me holding the phone in really awkward grips.
Using the device for my daily routine is fine, but when it comes to lying down, or leaning sideways, the phone would try and slip out of my hands. This is mainly because of the matte finish on the back, although it looks and feels nice, it is slippery. However, Samsung did increase the grip with glossy strips on the side of the phone. So, it does help a bit when you’re trying to keep the phone in your palms.
Additionally, my palms would also touch the curved edges, resulting in accidental touches and text inputs here and there. This is the reason why I say a simple casing would’ve been nice to include in the box. It would’ve improved the overall user experience by adding more sides for you to hold. Sure, putting on a casing would remove the nice matte finish on the back, but I’d still prefer to keep the phone safe in my hands, rather than have it dropped on the floor cracked.
One of the main highlights of having a Galaxy Note device, is its S-Pen. Unlike any other smartphone company, the Samsung Galaxy Note series is the longest running smartphone series to feature an S-Pen as its mainstay feature. From the first Note to the latest Note 20, the S-Pen has gone through multitudes of improvements and this time, we’re in love with the low 9ms latency.
Let’s not talk about new Air Actions and etc for now, and just take some time to appreciate how fast the response is when you try to pen something down on the Note 20 Ultra. You can start creating a note as soon as you take the stylus out, and there’s no visual lag or delay when you flick a line on the display. There’s even an accompanying pencil writing sound when the phone detects you’re writing.
Remember the position of the stylus being changed to the left? That might be better for left handers, but the fact that the camera bump is on the right side of the phone, left handers will find it difficult to write, especially when the phone is placed on a surface. This is because the camera bump causes quite a significant lift, and the bottom left side is somewhat “hollow”. Right handers won’t have an issue with this, but left handers out there, just something you should know.
The new features introduced on the S-Pen this time round mostly helps with general navigation and note-taking in the Samsung Notes app. You can finally draw air gestures to go back, home, open up recent apps, and even take a screenshot. In the Samsung Notes app, you can now even record audio while you’re taking a note. The app will then make audio bookmarks, where you can playback audio at the point where the specific writing was done.
The navigation Air Actions and note taking features work as intended, so no complaints there.
Here’s a video example of the new gestures found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
Despite Malaysia only getting Samsung’s proprietary Exynos 990, instead of the more popular Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, the Note 20 Ultra still performed excellently without any hiccups during my time with it. Apps all launch fast, and the animations are made even more fluid thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz touch sampling rate. Every action on the phone feels faster, thanks to the improvements in OneUI 2.5.
Gaming on the Note 20 Ultra is amazing, mainly due to its large screen and sheer graphics processing power. Games run smooth on the 120Hz display, with the visuals looking bright and vivid too. A 15-minute game on Arena of Valor with graphics settings set to Ultra and high refresh rate mode on, it used up only 3% of the battery. Furthermore, the phone only gets mildly warm even after long hours of gaming.
Yet again, because of the smooth matte back, it can get even more slippery if your palms are sweaty. While gaming, depending on how you hold your phone, you can definitely feel the camera bump so it might get a little annoying after a while.
Here are some of the performance benchmarks we ran on the Note 20 Ultra.
Despite having only a triple camera setup, these three lenses were more than enough to take that Instagram-worthy shot. Images come out clear and bright, with the exposure levels well managed. Even in low-lit environments, the images I took were automatically enhanced to look brighter, without needing to turn on night mode. There is a little noise, but that’s only visible if you zoom in and pay close attention looking for it.
When night comes, photos on normal mode tend to look darker, with blobs of black in the photo. But with Night Mode turned on, images are instantly lit up with details well captured.
Here are some of the photo samples taken with the Note 20 Ultra 5G:
Video quality is superb with impressively smooth stabilisation, thanks to the OIS module found on the 108MP main sensor. What I really like about the video recording on the Note 20 Ultra, apart from its stellar video quality, is the phone’s newfound ability to zoom slowly. I’ve always hated zooming midway of recording a video, because the zoom is done in steps and it looks really jarring. With this new improvement, zooming in and out in video is a lot smoother.
Here’s a short video to show you the video quality on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G:
Apart from that, there’s also the feature where you can choose which microphone to use when you’re filming. For example, if I’m vlogging, I can choose the microphone that’s facing me to record audio. If I’m filming someone else in front of me, I can choose the microphone on the back. That way, the recorded audio in the video will always be loud and clear.
The dual speakers on the Note 20 Ultra are definitely loud, and it does give off the stereo effect. But, the treble can get a little messy at high volumes. Don’t get me wrong, the speakers sound great with good highs and loud mids, as well as clean lows. Vocals sound surprisingly good, especially when you’re listening to acoustic songs or making video calls.
When it comes to gaming, due to the position of the speakers, the audio would get covered by both my palms, so the audio constantly sounds muffled. That’s where I would get annoyed by it, and then connect a pair of TWS earbuds to them.
For music listening, it is recommended to listen at the 60% mark for the best audio experience.
I tried to work with the Note 20 Ultra throughout the day, so there’s a lot of intensive use with the camera, social media apps, texting, S-pen note taking, video call meetings, and music listening. Even so, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s 4,500mAh battery could last me the entire day with 33% left for the night. Just enough battery left for a few more games of Arena of Valor and Call of Duty: Mobile before going to bed.
Charging the device from 1% to full with the fast charger takes about 1 hour and 11 minutes.
With Samsung’s asking price of RM5,199 for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, the price tag may be a little steep for some. But if you’re upgrading from a Note 8, or have always wanted a feature-rich stylus to go with your smartphone, the Note 20 Ultra is definitely a smartphone you should consider.
The phone is fast, the camera takes great pictures and videos, and all that good stuff is packed into a beautifully designed piece of machinery.
There’s still time for you to pre-order a unit for yourself, with exclusive pre-order gifts including a Buds Live, a UV sterilizer with wireless charging, a wireless charger convertible, and maybe even a 55-inch Samsung 4K Smart TV?
If the Ultra is a little too much for your taste, there’s the smaller Note 20 too. You can check them out here.