A global pandemic isn’t going to stop Samsung from dropping its latest flagship phone. The Galaxy Note20 Ultra is here, but is it genuinely worth its costly asking price?
Immediately following the reveal of the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the Korean tech giant’s newest flagship device. We were already impressed with the Galaxy Note10 Plus, so we were very intrigued to see if Samsung could build off what made that phablet (phone and tablet) one of the best smartphones on the market, and we can say with confidence they did.
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra’s screen is GORGEOUS. The 6.9″ edge Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED near bezeless experience is crispy and gives users the best edge-to-edge viewing experience on a smartphone yet. The 120Hz screen refresh rate makes scrolling and browsing on the phone a super fast and clean experience. It’s a significant improvement from the Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, which was the company’s first attempt at the 120Hz screen refresh rate.
Out of the box, the Note20 Ultra is in “Adaptive” mode, which turns on 120Hz when scrolling and utilizing other features the require a faster screen like playing games. To conserve battery, the refresh rate is lowered to 60Hz, and if you want to save even more battery, you can just turn on the 60Hz option. Speaking of gaming on the Note20 Ultra, we are absolutely impressed at how well Xbox Games Pass Ultimate worked on the device and how smoothly the games played on the Note20 Ultra. Definitely a game-changer… pun intended.
If there is one complaint we had about the screen is the fact that it’s still curved. When the curve was first introduced, it was a nice feature, now it just welcomes accidental touches and forces you to hold the phone in a way sometimes that won’t interrupt your experience.
Design & Durability
For the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, Samsung introduced a new matte finish it calls “mystic,” which is supposed to alleviate the whole fingerprint issue. We got the “mystic bronze” review unit, and it’s stunning. Like the Note10 Plus’ “aurora glow” finish, the “mystic bronze” also kinda changes colors when light hits it. In certain angles, it looks rose gold, while in another aspect, it has kind of a purplish finish, but it’s very attractive.
The rather large camera bump on the back of the phone seriously sticks out on this device… literally. BUT, it’s definitely not a bad touch, in fact, it most definitely gives the Note20 Ultra a unique look that will definitely grab folk’s attention.
The phone is made of all glass, Gorilla Glass Victus, to be exact, which Samsung claims is more scratch-resistant than Gorilla Glass 6 and can withstand drops up to 2 meters. The camera box is made out of Gorilla Glass 6 still. We didn’t put that to the test being that we have to give the device back, so we’re just going to have to take the companies word on that.
S-Pen & Battery Life
Fans of Samsung’s Note devices usually gravitate to the phablet for the S-Pen. We are happy to report that S-Pen experience on the Note20 Ultra has been vastly improved. You will notice immediately that it’s more responsive than ever thanks to the reduce latency, Samsung claims it’s under 9 milliseconds now.
Using the S-Pen and writing on the screen feels much better thanks to new haptics added. The S-Pen also makes noise now when you use it, it kind of sounds like writing on a chalkboard but not as annoying. Also, we definitely appreciated the handwriting auto-straighten, as well as the PDF importing features.
The new air gesture features while cool is hard to use and come off very gimmicky, and we don’t see them as something a regular phone user will utilize. BUT, if you’re doing a PowerPoint presentation, then the air gestures make perfect sense.
Other returning features that we like include:
- Magnification of small fonts on pages
- The ability to annotate everything.
- Screenshot taking is more precise, and copying and pasting text are much easier.
- Taking a selfie by pressing the S Pen button
The camera box isn’t big for no reason, that protruding bump is packing some serious power. The Galaxy Note20 Ultra’s camera is very impressive, and that should come as no surprise. No matter the situation, the Note20 Ultra’s 108-megapixel paired with the laser autofocus delivers some stunning shots. Just peep this photo taken on the Coney Island Boardwalk during sunset.
The night mode is also fantastic and works even better if you have a steady hand, or you place the phone on a tripod.
The Note20 Ultra camera system features a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera as well as 50x zoom, which is more than enough than 100x space zoom that Galaxy S20 Ultra featured. The “Live Focus” feature (portrait mode) works exceptionally well.
Professional photographers and videographers will appreciate the camera’s “pro” options. We loved using the pro-video mode and messing around with the directional microphone feature and filming in 8K.
As for the selfie, the camera, it’s excellent, and the Live Focus feature works amazingly well. To us, it works better than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which can overdo the bokeh effect and will blur out parts of your face.
One thing about the Note line of phones is they always packed BIG batteries, and that’s because the phones do so much. The Galaxy Note20 Ultra has a 4,500-mAh battery, which is smaller than the S20 Ultra’s 5,000-mAh battery, but regardless it did last throughout the day.
Now granted, our lifestyles have changed dramatically due to COVID-19, so the daily commute to the office is not happening. BUT using Google Maps, Underarmour MapMyRide app, and Tidal for well over an hour during bike rides didn’t significantly drain the battery at all. So you definitely can get a full day’s worth of use out of the phone without having to charge it. Speaking of charging the 45-watt fast charging will get you juiced up and back in the game swiftly, and wireless charging is also clutch.
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra is a fantastic phone, but the timing of its release could keep it out of the hands of many. We won’t be shocked if the $1,299 (128GB) and $1,449 (512GB) scare some people away wary about spending money during the global pandemic. But it’s understandable why it is pricey because Samsung stuffed this bad boy with all of its latest innovations except the fact that it cannot fold like the upcoming Galaxy Fold Z.
Besides the price and curved screen, which are our only complaints, Samsung managed to deliver the perfect tool that can be used for work and play. If you have the money for it, it’s worth it, if you really want a Note 20 Ultra, we suggest you utilize any promotions your carriers are offering to get one.
Photos: Bernard Smalls / @PhotosByBeanz