Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review: A love note to Note lovers

Our Samsung Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely evaluate discovered 3 transparent causes to make the soar to this new flagship telephone: Mystic Bronze, laser autofocus, and the S Pen’s new 8ms latency. And when you’re in search of any causes to not, neatly, there are many the ones on this evaluate too—particularly, it’s gigantic, dear, and now not an enormous improve over the S20 Extremely.

note 20 ultra screen Michael Simon/IDG

The 6.Nine-inch display at the Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely unquestionably wishes two palms to perform.

However when you’re a Notice fan, you recognize precisely what you’re getting and you recognize you need it: the most important, quickest, and maximum tough Android telephone you’ll purchase. For everybody else, it’s now not so easy.

Samsung’s flagships have got so excellent that critiques of them are all mainly the similar: Sure they have got the most productive specifications, however they’re additionally the most costly (even if the Notice 20 Extremely in reality prices $100 lower than the S20 Extremely). The mathematics is brutally transparent: Even with trade-ins and provider provides, you’re nonetheless going to be paying extra for this telephone than for another Notice that got here sooner than it.

There’s undoubtedly that you simply’re getting so much on your cash with the Notice 20 Extremely. However Samsung has raised the bar so prime, the most productive will not be price the cost of admission anymore.

note 20 ultra buttons Michael Simon/IDG

Sorry, Bixby fanatics, the devoted button is long past for excellent.

Giant, daring, brilliant, and lovely

There’s no great solution to say it: The Notice 20 Extremely is essentially the most unwieldy telephone I’ve ever used. Granted, it’s about 15 grams lighter than the S20 Extremely, three-quarters of a millimeter thinner, and simplest a few millimeters wider, however that telephone was once already on the higher prohibit of what my palms and wallet may just care for. The additional width at the Notice 20 Extremely, along side its very boxy form, makes it really feel extremely uncomfortable to care for and raise.

The unwieldiness is due in no small phase to the digital camera bump. You’ve noticed it in pictures, and it’s each and every bit as obvious because it appears to be like. The Notice 20 Extremely’s spectacular thinness in reality works in opposition to it right here, making the bump really feel a lot thicker by means of comparability. The dimensions additionally method it’s difficult to make use of when resting on a desk. I even encountered some problems with charging pads. A case would assist, however you wouldn’t need to use one.

note 20 ultra bezels Michael Simon/IDG

The bezels aren’t totally long past at the Notice 20 Extremely, however they’re now not very visual.

Why? Since the Notice 20 Extremely is flat-out stunning. Samsung’s new colours are dubbed “Mystic,” and so they give the Notice a refinement and dignity that contrasts with the pop-culture vibe one will get from the S20 Extremely’s brilliant, iridescent “Cosmic” colorways. 

The Notice 20 Extremely has a luscious matte end that’s nicer than what I’ve noticed on any Galaxy telephone I’ve ever used. It doesn’t want to develop on you just like the iPhone 11 Professional’s Nighttime Inexperienced, or watch for the appropriate mild just like the Notice 10’s Charisma Glow. It repels fingerprints love it was once made from plastic, and it has a greater grip than the shiny S20 does. The brand new bronze colour’s matching, chrome steel facets upload a marginally of class, accentuated by means of the slivers of colour that peek out above and underneath the show. You’d be nuts to get another colour and much more nuts to position a case on it, even a transparent one.

note 20 ultra s20 ultra Michael Simon/IDG

The Notice 20 Extremely’s matte end is a large growth over the shiny S20 Extremely.

The entrance of the telephone is similarly fabulous. The bezels across the monumental 6.Nine-inch display are about as skinny as they may be able to get with out disappearing totally. The curved edges distinction well with the flat peak and backside.

As it’s a Samsung flagship, it is going with out announcing that the show is large, brilliant, and breathtaking. However I’ll say it anyway. Samsung come what may manages peak itself with every new flagship. In the event you cross deep sufficient within the comparability with the S20 Extremely, you’ll see a extra constant white steadiness and a better max brightness (a whopping 1,500 nits the usage of adaptive brightness), however all you’ll understand are the colourful colours and deep blacks.

The Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely has the similar 120Hz show that Samsung offered with the S20, so sadly, you continue to want to drop the answer to Complete HD to make use of the 120Hz surroundings, but it surely’s a small sacrifice. If you check it out, you gained’t need to return. however right here it has an adaptive refresh charge to preserve battery existence. So when you’re studying a piece of writing, the velocity will drop to 60Hz, however when you’re taking part in a sport or observing a film, it’ll building up to 120Hz. It is a nice battery-saving characteristic and one that appears to be unique to the Notice. Samsung has introduced the One UI 2.five options which can be coming to the S20 and the adaptive refresh is not one in every of them.

Energy to spare with some sparing portions

The Notice 20 Extremely will not be a real “gamer” telephone just like the Asus ROG Telephone three or the Lenovo Legion Duel, but it surely packs simply as a lot of a punch. The Snapdragon 865+ mixed with 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM produced the most productive rankings I’ve ever noticed on an Android telephone:

Geekbench five

Unmarried: 966
Multi: three,067
Compute: three,652

PCMark Paintings 2.zero: 12,298

So that you’re getting a telephone that’ll run the whole lot at tip-top velocity, together with Microsoft’s new xCloud Xbox gaming carrier. I’m no gamer (my Sweet Overwhelm obsession however), and my Minecraft Dungeons-loving son was once too younger to check out out the preview along with his account, however Xbox fanatics will without a doubt be pleased with the efficiency.

note 20 ultra thickness Michael Simon/IDG

The Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely (peak) is simplest about three-quarters of a millimeter thinner than the S20 Extremely, however the distinction is noticeable.

You’ll additionally have the ability to obtain Fortnite with out side-loading, an surprising good thing about Epic’s contemporary warfare with Google and Apple. As a result of Samsung runs its personal App Retailer and doesn’t have phrases as strict as Apple’s for builders, the brand new Epic Retailer with discounted V-Dollars is to be had at a faucet. My son stories that whilst the on-screen controls had been somewhat complicated in the beginning, gameplay at the Notice 20 Extremely is “OP” (that suggests excellent), and he was once ready to snipe some sweats.

The Snapdragon 865+ chip will get somewhat scorching, on the other hand. In Fortnite and different graphically in depth apps, the again of the telephone changed into noticeably heat to touch, continuously topping 100 levels Fahrenheit all the way through the heaviest quite a bit (in keeping with an infrared thermometer). It would transform a subject on scorching days. That’s almost definitely why the Asus ROG Telephone three and Lenovo Legion Duel have specialised cooling techniques.

Something players will want to carry to the Notice 20 is a couple of earbuds. Samsung has quietly determined to nix them as freebies from variations of the Notice 20 bought in the US. That almost definitely gained’t subject to maximum customers who’ve lengthy dumped the in-box buds for one thing higher, however on a $1,300 telephone, it feels somewhat stingy. As does the 128GB of garage, which is part of what the Notice 10+ begins at.

note 20 ultra selfie Michael Simon/IDG

The bezels are skinny, the digital camera is targeted, and the display is beautiful at the Notice 20 Extremely.

Additionally somewhat at the skimpy aspect is the Notice 20 Extremely’s four,500mAh battery. Whilst that’s larger than what you’ll in finding on maximum telephones, it’s smaller than the five,000mAh battery within the S20 Extremely. However don’t concern: Your Notice Extremely continues to be going to make it in the course of the day, even with heavy customers who need to stay 120Hz movement smoothness grew to become on.

Notice 20 Extremely customers should accept second-best on the subject of battery existence, on the other hand. In benchmarks, I were given higher than 12 hours with 120Hz grew to become off, however simplest round Nine hours with it on. My real-world reports had been equivalent: Even with the brand new adaptive refresh charge, the Notice’s battery tired considerably quicker when movement smoothing was once on, which is simply going to be a truth of existence till it evolves. It’s the primary reason the iPhone 12 almost definitely gained’t come with a ProMotion show—it kills battery existence.

When you want to price it, you’ll get 25W immediate charging, however now not the 45W charging at the Notice 10+ and Galaxy S20 Extremely. It gained’t make an enormous distinction—the Notice 20 Extremely will nonetheless refill in lower than 90 mins the usage of the 25W charger—but it surely’s atypical that Samsung got rid of toughen after only a 12 months.

The digital camera bump additionally led to some problems with charging pads. Greater than as soon as my telephone didn’t price for the reason that digital camera lifted the telephone up sufficient the place the coils weren’t touching.

A mighty note-taker

As a result of it is a Galaxy Notice telephone, it has an S Pen on board, regardless that it’s now not just like the styli of Notice previous. For one, it’s been moved to the left aspect of the instrument after dwelling its complete previous existence at the proper aspect. 

note 20 ultra notes Michael Simon/IDG

You’ll need to take extra notes together with your Notice 20 Extremely’s S Pen.

The location isn’t the one factor that’s new. Samsung has speeded up the S Pen’s latency from 45ms to 8ms, which has a dramatic impact on writing and drawing. I by no means had a subject with the outdated pen’s efficiency, however the brand new S Pen feels as herbal as writing on a real piece of paper. That latency is equal to the Apple Pencil’s, and it makes an enormous distinction when taking notes, marking up paperwork, or simply scribbling at the display. It’s even higher with the upper refresh charge. Samsung’s Notes app has been upgraded as neatly, with higher handwriting toughen and annotated audio. I believe you’ll be the usage of your Notice to take notes extra continuously than with earlier Notes.

The remainder of the S Pen’s methods aren’t just about as spectacular. Samsung grew to become its stylus right into a Bluetooth far flung with the Notice Nine and added app gestures remaining 12 months. Now the Notice has much more “air movements” that allow you to keep watch over all sides of the telephone with again, recents, house, and screenshot gestures. I may just quite see the attraction of the usage of the S Pen as a far flung for the Digital camera or Gallery, however the use case for the brand new air movements is very restricted.

note 20 ultra camera2 Michael Simon/IDG

The digital camera bump at the Notice 20 Extremely could be very bumpy.

And that’s if you’ll get them to paintings. Whilst I used to be ready to finish the at hand educational that forces you apply every of the brand new gestures, getting them to paintings whilst the usage of the telephone wasn’t so easy. I continuously brought about the unsuitable gesture or none in any respect. 

I struggled to discover a reason why to make use of them. Even if I used to be the usage of the S Pen, it was once simply as simple to faucet the telephone than wave my hand to return a display or transfer apps.

The brand new S Pen is joined by means of a brand new model of One UI (2.five) that brings minor digital camera and interface tweaks, as Samsung continues to refine some of the perfect Android skins this aspect of the Pixel. Samsung has in particular designed One UI to be friendlier to massive telephones. The menus, navigation, and format all make the Notice 20 somewhat more uncomplicated to care for. You’ll nonetheless want two palms, however One UI is a excitement to make use of.

A extra reserved, extra subtle digital camera

The Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely has a digital camera device rivaling that of any smartphone available in the market, but it surely’s now not moderately as extravagant because the S20 Extremely’s. That’s a excellent factor. The 100X House Zoom that was once plastered around the digital camera array at the S20 Extremely has been reduced to 50X, and the DepthVision lens has been changed by means of laser autofocus.

note 20 ultra bump Michael Simon/IDG

The Notice 20 Extremely is impressively skinny at eight.1mm, however the digital camera bump provides some girth.

Each adjustments serve the Notice 20 Extremely neatly. Whilst the 108MP lens continues to be in large part pointless—I couldn’t inform the adaptation between 108MP footage and 12MP “binned” photographs—the Notice 20 Extremely is unquestionably Samsung’s perfect smartphone digital camera. It’s no accident that it’s additionally the least gimmicky, eschewing options like Twin Publicity at the Notice Nine for the issues that subject: stepped forward night time mode, lightning-fast center of attention, and real looking zoom.

note 20 ultra 50x zoom Michael Simon/IDG

The Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely has spectacular zoom, noticed right here (clockwise from peak left) at 1X, 10X, 30X, and 50X.

The zoom has its limits. When driven to 50X, the Notice 20 Extremely nonetheless produces noisy photographs. Drop to 30X and so they’re useable, however 10X yields the most productive effects. If I had been in trade of the Notice 30’s digital camera, if truth be told, I’d make 30X the higher prohibit and paintings on perfecting it. Samsung’s zoom is its greatest benefit over Google and Apple (for now). Even with fewer megapixels in its telephoto lens (12MP vs 48MP at the S20 Extremely), the Notice 20 Extremely takes higher zoom photographs.

note 20 ultra portrait Michael Simon/IDG

Even and not using a devoted time-of-flight sensor, the Notice 20 Extremely (left) takes portraits which can be as crisp because the S20 Extremely’s.

The opposite large growth is with autofocus. Focusing was once a subject with the Galaxy S20 Extremely that hasn’t ever been satisfactorily resolved. For the brand new technology, Samsung added a laser autofocus sensor to the Notice 20 Extremely. It makes an enormous distinction over the S20 Extremely and is a much more helpful fourth lens than a macro or intensity one. I’ve by no means used a telephone that targeted this briefly without having to faucet the display, and it is helping all sides of the Notice.

note 20 ultra focus Michael Simon/IDG

The Notice 20 Extremely’s laser zoom is so immediate and actual, the middle of topics are continuously too in center of attention, leaving blurry edges.

Then again, every now and then it really works somewhat too neatly. When the foreground is very similar to what’s at the back of it, the Notice 20 now and again locked onto the unsuitable a part of the image. Different cameras had been smarter. When it were given it proper, pictures continuously had an competitive bokeh impact even with out the usage of Reside Center of attention. Within the photograph of the flower above, for instance, the again petals are out of center of attention. The similar shot with the Pixel 4a has the whole lot in center of attention.

Night time mode additionally improves at the Notice 20 Extremely, pulling it on the subject of equivalent footing with  the iPhone 11 and Pixel four. Shadows and lowlights aren’t blown out as they’re on different Galaxy telephones. Footage have much less noise than at the S20 Extremely. It’s a super growth and places the Notice 20 Extremely on company footing with the night time mode champ.

note 20 ultra low light Michael Simon/IDG

The Notice 20 Extremely (left) takes sharper, extra balanced, and no more over-exposed pictures in Night time mode in comparison to the S20 Extremely. (It was once very darkish once I took those photographs.)

Arms down, the Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely is Samsung’s perfect digital camera telephone. You’ll nonetheless get a wholesome serving of Samsung’s trademark oversaturation, and the app continues to be slightly extra complicated than it will have to be. However extra continuously than now not, you’re going to take your telephone from your pocket and snap a super percent with little or no fuss, whether or not you’re a ways away or shrouded in darkness.

Will have to you purchase a Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely?

Not anything I write right here goes to persuade you a couple of Notice 20 Extremely both manner. If in case you have $1,300 to spend on a telephone and need the perfect of Android, you’ve almost definitely already determined to reserve one. And when you’re a Notice lover, it’s most likely already at the manner.

For everybody else, on the other hand, it’s a difficult advice. It’s undeniably the most productive telephone you’ll purchase, but it surely’s additionally almost definitely extra display and gear than most of the people want. Regardless of the way you slice it, $1,300 is a ton of cash to pay for a telephone, even one as stunning because the Notice 20 Extremely.

Replace eight/21: Added extra details about the adaptive refresh charge.

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