Samsung released an array of smartphones during the Galaxy Unpacked 2020 earlier this month of August and among those is the Galaxy Note Ultra which is like the peak of Galaxy smartphones including the S20 Ultra itself.
One of the cool thing about this device is the design which though looked quite similar to the previous model, the Galaxy Note 10, it in fact pack in much more design aesthetics in terms of the color of choice and then the gigantic rectangular camera module at the back of the device which gives it a big bump when placed right on a flat surface.
last year, Samsung released Galaxy Notes, the Note 10 and 10+ both which were great and the same was repeated this year just with the addition of an extra which I’m going to be reviewing today as well as talking about the specifications, quirks, features and pricing of the device so grab a chair because this is going to be a really long form post.
Earlier this year when the Galaxy S20 Ultra was released along with other S20-series, one particular thing that made the S20 Ultra outstanding was the fact that Samsung kept on inflating everything on the device including the number of cameras, its storage capacity, even the screen size.
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Same goes with the S20 Ultra as well. It is a quite big smartphone with a lot of oddities at least from my point of view. First I mentioned the gigantic camera module at the back of the device. The new rectangular design seems to be the new gold standard for all smartphone makers while others like Google stuck with the iPhone-ish square camera module.
The rectangular module on this device is oversized first of all and it gives the device a really big hump that will definitely protrude when placed in the pocket or on a flat surface meanwhile the device did compensate with it’s body thickness which is slightly reduced compared to the previous Note 10 which had it’s camera modules flattened with the case.
But what could make the camera module so big if not for the fact that the smartphone carries a big 108MP sensor and another 12MP ultra wide sensor. This time around, the third camera on the device is the Periscope sensor which could also be found on the S20 Ultra.
Might seem to make you ask why Samsung needed to make another smartphone when we already have one that is similar in every aspects as with the case of the S20 Ultra but hold on, there is more to the Note 20 Ultra.
The display is one of the best thing you’ll be getting and while it seems that Samsung had gone back to the flat display style for the S20 series, the curvy display is still on with the Note 20 and it also sports a brilliant high refresh rat e offering you the brightest AMOLED display on any smartphone currently.
Then what is a Galaxy Note smartphone without the Stylus Pen right? Well, the S Pen got a new location which is by the left bottom side and it got some really powerful improvement with 9ms latency as well as sporting features such as the system-wide Air actions as well as Note app which is also tweaked up to fit well for a 2020 smartphone user.
So initially, I did have some mixed feelings about the redesign of the Note 20 Ultra though but don’t forget this is built with quality materials. We’re talking about stainless steel midframe which was formerly aluminium and also the Corning Gorilla Glass 7 also known as Victus which altogether gives the device a strong durability and resistant to accidental scratches.
Matte back design to fence off smudges and fingerprints but that’s not for the Mystic Black color though as the Mystic Bronze color only gets this treatment.
The intro to the device can keep going on and on but for real, it’s just a truly premium device which offers all of the best high quality specs together for you.
And speaking of specs, the device has a little lag behind the current S20 Ultra in terms of the battery capacity as well as the magnificent 45-watt ultra-fast charging support. Another thing is the processor which some people are definitely fearing now since Snapdragon chipsets are clearly dwarfing Samsung’s own Exynos
Speaking of, we’ll be reviewing the Exynos version of the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, in 5G spec. That’s one of few times you’ll hear 5G mentioned in the review, however, as we’ll be dropping it for the sake of brevity.
Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G
While there is nothing very exciting about the unboxing experience, the device’s boxing when cracked opened has two piece black cardboard box which has the S Pen printed on the lid and then the 25-watt charger as well as a USB-C to C cable and a pair of AKG-branded in-ear headphones.
You also get the extra S Pen tip and an extra casing to keep the device save from smudges but you can of course opt for more expensive ones that can fit right well and better for you if that’s the case.
But my overall unboxing experience isn’t different from when I am pulling apart an affordable smartphone just that what I’m getting out of this box is a thousand dollar smartphone with tons of juice to it. But anyway taht’s it for the introduction to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Let’s get more indepth.
The Hardware and design
As mentioned above, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the peak of the Galaxy Note smartphone probably until we have an experience with the Z Fold 2 but in terms of hardware and design, this is really a great device sporting really awesome hardware specifications that sets it out.
Samsung had always made the Note series boxy unlike the Galaxy S Series which is usually more curvy. The device took majority of it’s design specs from the previous generation Note 10 series as well just that this time around with a different camera module at the back.
When placed side by side, their striking resemblance can be seen can be seen with both having the hole-punch camera cut-out right at the center top of the device something which Samsung had adopted on all of its smartphones this year and also with a much smaller bezel and a slightly curved out edges on the display of the Note 20 Ultra unlike the S20 Ultra which is very flat.
One of the big disadvantage of the curved display is installing screen protector but yeah the device sports the new Corning Gorilla Glass Victus (GG 7) which is a much more improved protection over the previous GG6 which might at least help you without needing to install a screen protector. Meanwhile Samsung did place a plastic foil on top of the screen just to keep things clean with the main protection so the plastic foil might be the one suffering with minor scratches in some cases.
The device’s sides includes the smartphone’s volume rockers and power button while the bottom is where the device speaker sits along with the USB Type-C port and the Stylus Pen port. There is also the microphone right at th bottom while the back is where the magic lies.
One thing I found to not be entirely interesting is the size of the camera bump which this time is almost the quarter of the smartphone’s width casing it to wobble when placed on a flat surface. A casing will even it out but some silicone casing might still cause the camera area to protrude as well.
But the design of the camera module is really premium and the device feels like a true US$1000 smartphone. This time around, there is no Space Zoom 100x branding unlike the S20 Ultra and the rectangular shape on the periscope prism still got a circular outlining which matches up with the other two sensors above it making things more uniform.
Color spec of the Note 20 Ultra
My review unit is the Mystic Bronze which has this cool look and feel to it and it’s in fact matte making it resistant to fingerprint smudges and all that.
Meanwhile Samsung made the Black and White color variant the usual glossy finish which might not be as cool as the Mystic Bronze which seems to be much repellent of fingerprint. But the choice might still depend on the buyer eventually. But I generally preferred the Matte finish and the Mystic Bronze somewhat looked very appealing and premium. I got quite a lot of look when I was carrying the device around for filming.
The Note20s are all IP68 certified, as expected which makes them resistant to some accidental water splashes but this is in case of accidents so it’s usually better to not go swimming with your smartphone in your pocket.
The two sheets of glass that cover the internals are held together by a metal midframe, which has historically been made of aluminum. Samsung reps shared with us that the frame on the Note20 Ultra is made out of stainless steel, a statement we have no reason to doubt, nor are we equipped to verify. It’s metal alright.
The S Pen
The next noticeable difference on this device is the slightly protruding S Pen which prevents the bottom from being symmetrical. But the purpose of that would be for an ease of pulling out the device when you want tot use it because the S Pen this time around is much more improved as well offering some outstanding performances that makes it really useful.
Another great thing is that the S Pen on the Note 20 Ultra is similar in dimensions to the previous generation as well as taking the identical look and feel. Samsung did claim that the battery life of the S Pen is 24 hours of standby with a lithium titanate battery cell which can be based on software optimization of the stylus rather than entirely replacing the battery s the size of the stylus pen remains the same.
Size of the Galaxy Note 2 Ultra
The new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra measures 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm while weighing 208 grams making it 0.7mm thinner than the Galaxy S20 Ultra and then 14g lighter than it. Other premium smartphones such as the Huawei P40 Pro+, Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro all are around the 9mm thickness mark.
This points to how well optimized Samsung has made the Note 20 Ultra to not be only smaller but lighter which makes the screen much more pronounced. Compared to the Oppo Find X2 Pro, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is slightly heavier than the latter which weighs 200grams unlike others we mentioned such as the Mi 10 Pro which weighs around 226g just as heavy as the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
But as a Galaxy Note smartphone, it’s wider than the ones we mentioned above. The Note 20 Ultra has a width measurement of 77.2 mm which though can be operated with a single hand for those who have relatively large palms (like me) but could be a challenge to smaller hands especially when you add up the casing to it.
Display of the Note 20 Ultra
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a big smartphone for that matter. With the screen measuring as high as 6.9-inch which is also made of AMOLED technology. It also sports a high refresh rate and one of the brightest smartphone till date with the best color reproduction while the S pen latency is much reduced to nothing.
Speaking of the display, the smartphone’s display, it’s the biggest Galaxy Note till date. Since Samsung usually increase the screen size of its smartphones each year, I thought re Note 20 Ultra being the peak would be about 7.2-inch much like the Huawei Mate 20X 5G but that isn’t the case with this device. Even though it’s size is much closer to the that, it sites around the 6.9-inch mark.
The device has a resolution of 1440 x 3088 pixels which comes with a 19.3:9 aspect ratio with a 496ppi. The Dynamic AMOLED 2X on the Note 0 Ultra gives it the device it’s much needed brightness and power to display things in the highest resolution possible as well as being able to experience it much better in a broad day light.
One of the great thing about the device’s screen is the 240Hz touch sampling which makes it’s screen faster to interact with but then the high refresh rate sits the same with the Galaxy S 20 series which is 120Hz at the highest end which can be reduced to 60Hz to save the device’s battery life.
Other goodie about the Note 20 Ultra is the ability to set the Adaptive mode which auto swaps out refresh rates based on the kind of media or application you’re consuming.
The adaptive mode works according to Samsung that the used refresh rates are 10Hz for still images, 30Hz for text-heavy applications such as email or messaging apps, 60Hz for videos and then 120Hz for games so the adaptive mode works based on what application or the media you’re consuming on the device.
The claims can be experienced while I tried going through different applications, swiping out screens and moving around to other things simultaneously. The smartphone definitely handles it all much better than you’d expect. I was able to play high-graphic games comfortably on the device even though the camera bump continues to hinder my experience requiring me to turn the device to the right whereby the camera bump faces down.
Even though I’m not really of a game person, my colleague Eva Derika who is a game enthusiast did tried out a number of games such as Gangster Vegas, Left to survive, Mortal Kombat, Dead trigger, PUBG all which were absolutely great and smooth.
The Note 20 Ultra handled all game play at a really high refresh rate as possible but you could visibly notice the Adaptive mode switching up from one to the other based on the kind of screen you were.
As for the device’s camera viewfinder, the refresh rate was stuck in the 60Hz refresh rate while video recording switches to the high-end refresh rates.
Other things we tried includes media applications such as YouTube, Instagram, Netflix as well as the native music application whose user interface works really well. The One UI 2.5 that comes bundled with the device played out well in understanding what app or game we were playing then ultimately switching up it’s refresh rate in order to keep the battery usage on the minimal.
When you’re adjusting the slider manually, the Note20 Ultra is capable of outputting 500nits, a new development for Samsungs, which typically top out at or below 400nits.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G||0||504||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G (Max Auto)||0||1024||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy Note10+||0||381||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy Note10+ (Max Auto)||0||794||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G||0||398||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (Max Auto)||0||894||∞|
|Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max||0||820||∞|
|Oppo Find X2 Pro||0||536||∞|
|Oppo Find X2 Pro (Max Auto)||0||871||∞|
|Huawei P40 Pro||0||425||∞|
|Huawei P40 Pro (Max Auto)||0||531||∞|
|Huawei P40 Pro+||0||455||∞|
|Huawei P40 Pro+ (Max Auto)||0||760||∞|
|LG V60 ThinQ 5G||0||511||∞|
|LG V60 ThinQ 5G (Max Auto)||0||622||∞|
|Sony Xperia 1||0||391||∞|
|Motorola Edge+ (Max Auto)||0||607||∞|
Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G battery life
Out of the box you get a massive 4,500mAh battery which is a 500mh downgrade from the Galaxy S20 Ultra despite having nearly similar hardware specifications. I get it, Samsung might be wary of putting a large cell within a tiny casing which could result in an ultimate demise of the device such as the older Note 7 back in the days but that’s another story.
While the software have been well optimized to work really well with the battery downgrade, one of the effective ways of draining the battery quickly is by setting the device to it;s highest resolution as well as using the high refresh rates.
While the adaptive display comes to the rescue this time around, the good thing is that being able to switch between modes makes it much easier to use as the device recognizes where you are and ultimately switching up the screen refresh rate that suites that.
During my testing of the Note 20 Ultra, I did tried out some things with the device in order to further squeeze out the battery power and check out how well suitable it can be. For example, game play is a good battery killer especially when the high refresh rate is on.
For my sample, I did tried it in an open area which required that I turn on the full resolution to the very max and while that is the case, the smartphone still did performed well but being able to play game at a high 120Hz refresh rate then proceeding to taking pictures of the park and passers by also meant killing the battery softly.
Surfing the internet didn’t do much but I did tried to step things down in a darkened room to help my eyes but my overall experience with the battery is still good with being able to use the device throughout the day meant that I had lesser worries about if the device would shut off soon.
For a US$1000+ smartphone, chances are you are probably a high profile individual who probably works in the office majority of which are the target audience of the Galaxy Note series since day one. So the battery life might not be an issue with you in this respect unlike people who basically live most of their lives outdoor who need a rugged smartphone that can work endlessly.
The device comes with a 25W adapter out of the box to boost its fast charging capability and able to power up the device to 43% under just 30 minutes even though Samsung did claimed you get 50% within this time frame. But then we have the OnePlus 8 Pro which gets to 63% at that same time frame from literally 0% or the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro 5G which increments to 77% or even the Oppo Fiind X2 Pro which gets 95% really there is something about other devices which the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra missed though.
The Note20 Ultra doesn’t support the 45W charging that the Note10+ and the S20 Ultra have. Seeing how it wasn’t a massive improvement in speed over the standard 25W brick, we gather it won’t be missed, nor would it be making a return but it’s still a strange omission.
30min charging test (from 0%)
- Oppo Find X2 Pro 95%
- Huawei P40 Pro 80%
- Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G 64%
- OnePlus 8 Pro 63%
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max 50%
- Sony Xperia 1 II 46%
- Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G 43%
Time to full charge (from 0%)
- Oppo Find X2 Pro 0:36h
- Huawei P40 Pro 0:50h
- Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G 0:58h
- Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G 1:23h
- Sony Xperia 1 II 1:51h
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max 2:00h
There is the Wireless PowerShare feature which allows you to charge other people’s smartphone that supports wireless charging by merely placing them behind the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or should I just call it the reverse wireless charging and quit the fancy words. It works at 9W but only if the device’s battery life is right above 30%
The speaker blasts really well
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is equipped with a stereo speaker which has a dedicated loudspeaker right at the bottom of the smartphone and the earpiece area. The earpiece therefore serves as the device’s left speaker channel when held in a landscape mode and their output aren’t entirely the same as the earpiece area doesn’t work as loud as the bottom speaker.
The device is good for both indoor and outdoor usage with the speaker loud enough to fill in the entire room or space where it’s been used. I also like the fact that the audio output is well pronounced say you’re listening to a podcast with the device.
Meanwhile Samsung also ditched the headphone jack on this device so you’l be stuck with the Galaxy Earbuds or you can opt for a much affordable earbuds.
Now the part you must have been waiting for is the camera aspect which is a really powerful part of the smartphone. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra comes with a quad rear camera setup which includes a big sensor, ultra wide angle lens as well as a telephoto and periscope lens.
The main sensor is the company’s peak 108MP sensor which has a 0.8µm pixels and outputs a 12MP image which Samsung calls the nonabinning. The device’s front facing camera has a 26mm equivalent focal length as well as an f/1.8 aperture OIS.
But for the non technical, this points to the powerful output of the device’s camera as opposed to others. While it did lacked some aspect as well as some hardware specs compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, this did a good job at taking really high quality pictures that resonates well with people.
As for the ultra-wide angle lens, it’s the same as the one found on the Galaxy S20s based on a 12MP 1/2.44 sensor with 1.4µm pixels and uses an f/2.2 aperture lens that should deliver a 120-degree field of view but then lacks autofocus capacity.
As for the telephoto lens, this is different compared to the S20 Ultra as it sports a 12MP sensor unlike the S20 Ultra which had a 48MP sensor. But then compensated with a much bigger individual pixels at 1.0µm vs. the old one’s 0.8µm ones, but that’s a misleading comparison – the 4-in-1 binning on the S20 Ultra means 12MP 1.6µm pixels, and that’s 2.5x the area.
The device has a periscope lens as well which doesn’t exceed the 5x optical zoom level unlike the old one with 4x optical zoom. The lens has an aperture of f/3.0 compared to the older one with a f/3.5 aperture. The difference is minor but the output is great.
Whereas the front facing selfie camera is a regular 10MP selfie camera just as the one found on the S20s and has a 26mm focal length and an f/2.2 aperture. The device has a fitting autofocusing front-facing capability which when used, it took better selfies than your regular device for the native application .
One of the excellent part of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the hardware specification which is brilliant and awesome. The device sports the Snapdragon 865 plus chipset (or Exynos 990) depending on your region. There have however been disputes over the speed and efficiency of the Exynos chipset which most think it’s not as powerful as the Snapdragon chipset. My review unit has the Snapdragon SoC with an amazing experience.
Speaking of experience, the device has a 12GB LPDDR5 + 128GB /512GB of UFS 3.1 RAM and storage with support for an external storage space that can peak at 1TB. Not bad for a highend flagship device after all.
Ogther cool hardware specifications includes the support for 5G NSA, SA, Sub6/mmWave connectivity with LTE band as well which can peak 200Mbps upoad with 2Gbps for download. There is Wi-Fi support in case you’re wondering and Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, MST and GPS sensors.
It’s IP68 dust and water resistant with an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor as well as support for the Wireless DeX support which basically relays your smartphone’s screen to a bigger display that supports it. It also has the Ultra wide band (UWB) chip for device-to-device connections and a fast file transfer.
Final thoughts about the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy Note 0 Ultra is available at a whooping US$1300 price point and shipping is already made worldwide for those who wants tot opt for the device. But aside the pricing of the elegant smartphone, there are some great things that sets this as a really competitive smartphone which aside the pricing after all, it’s a premium flagship device which usually is around that price mark nowadays so no big deal about that.
The device is a great value for those who are more corporate as the device’s design aesthetics fits right well for a business class individual. Though tough and made with a powerful protection possible known to smartphones yet, the Gorilla Glass but that doesn’t mean it is suitable for adventure.
The device’s camera works perfectly in both good lightning and low lights producing a really vibrant color that resonates well with the eyes. Unless you want to dig indepth because you are much more too technical, this device will produce one of the best quality photograph in any situation you put it through.
And not to forget the fact that it comes with a high refresh rate of 120Hz which can be sliced up to the half of 60Hz in order to save battery life. While the One UI 2.5 seems to have been well optimized to work pretty well and save battery life in all aspects as easy as possible, it’s worth noting that that doesn’t entirely mean that Samsung should slice out a whooping 500mAh from the S20 Ultra’s 5000mAh battery which would then be placed right into this device.
A better quality build quality and lacking of a 3.5mm headphone jack shouldn’t be a deal breaker as well but there are is the powerful audio output which compensates for this and also the S Pen is back and even better even though it doesn’t look any different from the previous generation. A much better battery optimization gives you the juice that last through the day on a standby.