Over the past few years, smartphones have somewhat plateaued, with mainstream flagships essentially only competing against one another to achieve ever-increasing perfection. Samsung creates a phone that is absolutely fantastic with its Galaxy Note 20 Ultra by building on what has been a great formula with the Galaxy Note 10 and S20 series. Simply put, it is launching into the market at the incorrect time.
BIG AND BOLD HARDWARE ANDAMP; DESIGN Samsung has consistently chosen a boxy, industrial design for the Galaxy Note series’ exterior. In previous years, that has meant preserving the display’s curved edges, giving all four sides somewhat sharp corners, and adopting some fundamental design principles from the Galaxy S range, which makes its debut earlier in the year.
That is precisely what the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra does. It takes the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s shamelessly large size and enormous camera bump, squares off the corners, and rounds off the display. It sounds strange on paper, but it looks stunning in actuality. The phone’s flat top and bottom truly help the design stand out, which is why I really enjoy them.
The Mystic Bronze color, which is straightforward yet distinctive at the same time, aids in this. Additionally, it boasts a smooth, slippery coating that finally conceals fingerprint smudges that perpetually accumulate on glass phones’ backs. I’m so happy the Note 20 Ultra is finally starting to reverse Samsung’s longstanding use of glossy backs. Only Mystic Black and Mystic White continue to have shiny backs, which is unfortunate.
The hardware of the Note 20 Ultra truly comes down to whether you adore it, but the polar opposite is also completely possible. Although the display’s curved edges keep this design from being my favorite smartphone style, the design is nonetheless eye-catching overall.
STUNNING, BUT WITH ONE ANNOYING QUIRK, THE DISPLAY The Note 20 Ultra’s enormous 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED QHD display is located on the front of the device. Its brilliant colors and razor-thin bezels give the impression that you are holding nothing but the screen. It is sharp and colorful.
Simply put, this may be the greatest smartphone display currently available. The Note 20 Ultra only serves to highlight how excellent Samsung is at producing smartphone screens at this time.
In addition to the display’s inherent quality, it also offers a 120Hz refresh rate, which makes everything feel incredibly fluid. With this phone, Samsung also introduces an adaptive refresh rate display that alters its refresh rate based on what the user is doing in order to preserve battery life. In practical use, though, I’ve never been able to tell the difference. It really does feel as though the battery life has improved significantly when compared to the S20 .
However, for me, the display’s curvature on the side rails is the only issue. With the Galaxy S20 series, Samsung finally abandoned this utterly meaningless fad. It’s back and it’s just as nasty as before. Even worse, it still results in touch rejection issues and irritating reflections. Because the touch rejection is so poor, I frequently strike keys on the display’s edges when typing in particular. If you don’t have a case I’ve been using one from Spigen for this display, random touches will annoy you every day. The fact that you have to cope with this on what is currently the finest smartphone display is such a pity.
A WORD FOR SOFTWARE ANDAMP; PERFORMANCE: POWERFUL Android is preinstalled on the Note 20 Ultra, just like it is on the rest of Samsung’s devices. This time, Android 10 with OneUI 2.5 on top is used, and it works really well! Although there are a few regrettable hitches here and there, overall Samsung’s software is a well-designed, clean Android overlay with a ton of helpful functions.
Two essential functions are brand-new to the Galaxy Note 20. The first is a few upgrades for Samsung Notes. The software that gives Samsung’s phablet its name has long been one of the best note-taking apps available, and these most recent enhancements have only made it better. Samsung adds the capability to export handwritten notes to PDF, OneNote, Word, and other file types on the Note 20 Ultra. You can even convert them to plain text for sharing anywhere you like. Additionally, Samsung can arrange your notes so that they are simpler to read. The S Pen is a really useful tool for getting things done because of its genuinely impressive content.
Additionally, by making DeX on the Note 20 Ultra wireless, Samsung is enhancing DeX. DeX on the Note 20 operates entirely wirelessly, with the possibility of it ultimately appearing on other phones. Simply tap the symbol, and the Note will look for compatible smart TVs in the area. Almost all smart TVs over the previous few years fall within this category, including the wildly popular TCL Roku TVs (and Roku set-top boxes, too). Although the performance depends on your connection and hardware, this works surprisingly well. I wouldn’t anticipate using it for gaming (other from perhaps with a controller), but it’ll work just fine for sharing photos or slideshows from a phone app.
There are also a ton of additional functions offered by Samsung’s software that are difficult to ignore. On my daily driver Pixel 4 XL, I don’t have features like scrolling snapshots, an integrated screen recorder, pop-out app resizing, and others that might be incredibly helpful on this big screen. I also value the close connection that Samsung and Microsoft have been developing over the past year greatly as a Windows user. Although the Note 20 Ultra can do a lot with Link to Windows, I must admit that I rarely find myself using it. Simply said, it doesn’t really improve my workflow, but it might be ideal for yours. I did try it out for a short while, but I had no issues.
However, there is one significant issue with the software that I can’t ignore and that Samsung would probably prefer I ignore. No, Bixby is not it.
Samsung’s OneUI advertising are getting increasingly absurd. The dialer and other unrelated Samsung programs, like the pre-installed weather app, occasionally display advertisements. Then there are push notifications that appear and try to persuade you to purchase additional Samsung accessories or gadgets. You recently paid $1,300 for a smartphone. Samsung may promote that particular phone to you, and in a few months, you’ll be inundated with advertisements for their newest creation.
Ads are widespread on low-cost gadgets and, to be honest, they’re acceptable. Ads can lawfully assist in defraying the cost of hardware, giving you more hardware for your money. These advertisements, however, should not be present in first-party applications after you enter flagship territory. There is essentially no justification for Samsung to promote advertisements on a $1,300 smartphone. Yes, there is a setting to disable adverts, but it doesn’t completely do so. This behavior is absurd, and I honestly don’t think Samsung will stop until its consumers publicly reject it by withholding their money.
It’s challenging to overlook how quick and smooth the program seems in spite of those intrusive adverts. This phone’s performance is outstanding. This is without a doubt one of the fastest smartphones I’ve used this year; it might even be faster than the OnePlus 8 Pro, which previously held that distinction. Furthermore, unlike OnePlus, Samsung doesn’t violently delete my background apps.
The Snapdragon 865 and 12GB of RAM are responsible for such incredible performance. The enhanced CPU just significantly boosts the performance of the ordinary 865 seen in the S20 from earlier this year, but the Note 20 feels faster than that should be possible. This feels like Samsung’s fastest smartphone by far, so some substantial optimization must have been done in the background. Really excellent work, Samsung. The fact that the Note 20 Ultra seems like a genuine advance from the S20 range is another benefit of the improved chip.
However, there is a regrettable asterisk next to that statement: Samsung is still exclusively employing Qualcomm CPUs in a few regions. In the United States, you’ll get a Snapdragon 865 , but the Exynos 990 is the standard in Europe and other parts of the world. That chip is still excellent and competent, but there are actual changes in performance and battery life. Many Note customers have good reason to feel undervalued by this gadget given that it frequently costs considerably more in areas with that less spectacular chip.
S PEN | IMPOSSIBLE TO DIFFERENCE FROM A REAL PEN The Galaxy Note line’s moniker and, quite honestly, its fan base, are both derived from the S Pen stylus. This capability is exclusive to this smartphone, and a ton of people are practically dependent on it. Every year, Samsung makes small design tweaks or adds new software features in an effort to make the pen better.
Most Note owners will be enticed to purchase the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra because Samsung’s S Pen is making its largest leap in years. This improvement manifests itself as a ridiculous 9ms reduction in latency. The Apple Pencil, which has served as the industry benchmark for a while, has the same latency as that.
The human eye can actually not notice the lag between the pen and the lines it draws on the screen when there is latency so low, which is made possible in part by the 120Hz display. It is, to put it mildly, remarkable and effectively creates the illusion that you are using a real pen.
The redesigned tip, which feels more natural when touched against the glass, helps to further sell that idea. It is just stiff enough to give the impression that you are drawing on paper.
Samsung tried out some air motions with the Note 10 last year, and the Note 20 Ultra now offers more of them. However, this function is really simply a cheap marketing ploy. It’s a fun party trick, but who goes to parties anymore in the COVID era?
A PRIMARY EXAMPLE OF SAMSUNG LEARNING FROM COMPLAINTS RELATED TO CAMERA I was on the verge of disgust when I reviewed the Galaxy S20 series earlier this year due to the camera situation. Samsung felt as like it was static and, in the case of the S20 Ultra, virtually regressing while everyone else was making significant improvements. Samsung has solved the most of my concerns with the Note 20 Ultra and may have produced the greatest smartphone camera overall.
A 12MP ultrawide camera, a 12MP periscope zoom lens, and a 108MP primary camera are all located on the back of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The S20 Ultra’s primary sensor was a complete failure, but with some optimization and the addition of a new laser autofocus technology for the Note, a primary camera that can more effectively compete with the likes of Google and Apple has been produced. The majority of the time, pictures taken with this sensor outside are simply wonderful. The photographs are vibrant and detailed without being overdone, as Samsung frequently seems to do. Additionally, Samsung is able to address the terrible problems that plagued this sensor on the S20 Ultra thanks to the updated autofocus technology. That merely demonstrates that Samsung is paying attention to the issues of its users and these reviews.
A fantastic shooting experience is completed by the zoom and ultrawide sensors in addition to the main camera. The quality of ultrawide photographs is still good, and the 5x optical zoom can take some amazing pictures that software cannot possibly duplicate. However, proceed with caution after that because things start to fall apart very rapidly, especially once you reach the 50x limit.
Samsung should be commended for its video quality. Both stabilization and clarity are excellent. This is possibly the greatest video quality I’ve seen for Android. Additionally, Samsung has expanded its Pro Video mode, which enables users to change settings just like they would on a real video camera. The capability to remotely use a set of Bluetooth headphones as a microphone, though, is the most intriguing feature. That is a genuinely important feature for a generation that is infatuated with TikTok and YouTube.
GOOD, BUT NOT VERY ULTRA BATTERY LIFE The Galaxy Note range once had a reputation for having excellent battery life, but with newer releases, that reputation has started to fade. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s name alone suggests that it would be reliable in such a basic area, but it isn’t very remarkable.
This phone’s 4,500 mAh battery is enough. When I don’t use it too heavily, it easily lasts a day with 3–4 hours of screen time, and by evening, it typically has 40–50% left. This could occasionally be a two-day device for my use. The Note, however, will probably only be a one-day device for the majority of people, in my opinion. If you use it heavily, it’ll probably last until the end of the day, but it might not even last that long.
The good news is that rapid charging is still available. The Note 10’s 45W specification is gone, but 25W charging through USB-C is still supported, along with a fast charger that comes in the box and wireless charging. Reverse wireless charging is another option for powering accessories, although given the average power supply, few people will use it.
A FEW SMALL THINGS | SPEAKERS The primary speaker of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is located towards the bottom of the device, just like every other smartphone with thin bezels. It has a single, surprisingly modest grill and a boosted earpiece on the rear. It essentially sounds OK. Nothing really noteworthy is being done here, but there is also nothing that is truly deserving of criticism.
FASTENER SENSOR Samsung has used the same ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which is tucked beneath the AMOLED display, since the Galaxy S10 in 2019. It is also present in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. For the first time, I’m not bothered by the fact that it’s still slower than a capacitive sensor or a quick optical in-display sensor.
I don’t really have any big concerns with the fingerprint sensor here, but it could be due to its larger size or the fact that I used the Galaxy S20 as my daily driver for a good portion of this year. It simply works.
LAST WORDS | Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is an unquestionably excellent phone. It’s possibly Samsung’s best phone. However, let’s face it, few phones are genuinely worth more than $1,000. With a $1,300 price tag, it’s not an entirely unreasonable request either.
However, there is ample evidence that now is simply not the appropriate time for a phone this pricey to enter the market.
According to some of the most current reports, Samsung’s Galaxy S20 series sales were 59% fewer than those of the Galaxy S10 series before it. That is a continuation of the decline we have seen, but it is obvious that people do not currently want to pay for pricey cellphones. Why? A widespread pandemic is currently causing millions of individuals to lose their jobs and leave countless others in financial limbo. No matter how much they adore the Galaxy Note series, most individuals are not in the market for a phone this costly right now. It’s difficult to accept the $200 price increase over the Note 10 either. The majority of users would much rather consider less expensive gadgets like the Galaxy A51 and Pixel 4a, which offer the majority of what the Note 20 Ultra offers for literally $1,000 less.
The COVID-19 pandemic was unavoidable, and Samsung was unable to delay the launch once preparations had begun. However, the result in this case is unavoidable. It’s unfortunate that many people who desire this phone won’t be able to purchase it because it’s really excellent. If you have the money to buy one, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a good option, particularly if you can benefit from the great trade-in prices. Better better, keep an eye out for the coming sales that will reduce this extremely expensive price.
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