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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Review – More Phone Same Party Tricks
"It is almost the perfect smartphone."

Just when you thought Samsung could not release a bigger phone they did. The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is the biggest and most ambitious phone the company has ever made (forgetting the Fold because let’s be honest, who buys that?). It is not only huge, but it is also very (very) expensive. Throughout my time with this device, I could not help but wonder “when is something too much”. You see, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is heavy, hard to hold, has an unsightly camera bump at the back and due to this all, the design simple does not work. I mean it rocks back and forth when it is on the table because of this massive camera bump/

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G  is aimed at this so-called “Android Power User” but who is a power user these days? There are better Samsung devices on the market that pack great features in a form factor that works a lot better than this. Even the plain Galaxy Note 20 is a much more user-friendly device. Let’s see how it all holds up.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Tech Specs

  • Price: R29,999
  • OS: Android 10 with One UI 2.0
  • Display: 6.9-inch AMOLED (QHD; 120Hz)
  • CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 128GB, 512GB
  • Rear camera: 108MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom (ƒ/3.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2)
  • Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2)
  • Battery: 4,500 mAh
  • Battery life: 10 hrs 26 min (7:59, 120Hz mode)
  • Colours: Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic White
  • Size: 16cm x 7.7cm x 0.08cm
  • Weight: 207 grams

 

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Design

Probably my biggest gripe with the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is its design. No matter how big your hands are you will need two hands to hold this device. Reaching for the notification centre is impossible with one hand and the heavier top often causes the device to tilt off out of my hand. One thing it does bring to the table is the gorgeous display. The 6.9-inch AMOLED screen is one-of-a-kind and reaches every corner of the device. However, it is curved meaning the edges always have this dull look to them. I don’t get the point of curved displays on a smartphone and I just wish Samsung would move away from them now. A flat-screen would have worked wonders here as there would be more space to work with the S-Pen and more screen to look at.

The back of the device has a reflective glass design and picks up every fingerprint possible. The model I received was black and it definitely gives you a premium feel in your hand. We then have that hideous camera bump. Now, I get that this was necessary but I can’t help but feel that Samsung could have done something a little more creative here. This massive array juts out of the phone and when placed on a table the device even rocks back and forth. This means if you are using the S-Pen while the device is flat, it is constantly moving due to the wonky weight distribution.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Review

There’s no headphone jack, the Bixby button is gone (thank the heavens) and the S-Pen is now on the bottom left-hand side of the phone. This adorable little stylus is removed by pressing in on it and pulling it out. It then goes back the same way. Thankfully, the S-Pen is removed and replaced any way you want so it does not need to be upright. As long as the pointer goes in first. It makes using and replacing it in a hurry a breeze. Not to mention the satisfying click it makes when pressing it in and out. The phone also gives off a slight vibrate. This all adds to the experience.

By now the usual features in a Samsung flagship device include the under-screen fingerprint scanner, which is better than ever in the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G. It just seems to work faster and with less hassle. We have come a long way here since this was introduced a few years back. This also means the device comes with a screen protector on it too.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Review

Display

I hate the curved display but there’s a lot to love here other than its edges. One feature is the 120Hz capabilities which means a higher refresh rate and smoother animations. It comes at a cost though. Enabling 120Hz lowers the resolution of the display to 1080p which is not uncommon on smartphones these days. If you want the highest resolution then you’ll need to put up with 60Hz. This enables QuadHD. I do think keeping the device on 120Hz at 1080p all the time is the best route here. The display, while being 6.9-inches is not big enough to notice the drop in resolution.

The 120Hz makes the world of difference when fiddling around the device and best of all when playing games. Sure, it may eat through your battery a little faster too but the payoff is totally worth it here. There’s also an adaptive frame rate feature which automatically drops the display’s refresh rate when doing things that don’t require a higher hertz. This means the display is not always making use of 120Hz when surfing the web or reading emails, for example. This greatly saves on battery life.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Review

Yes, the device is bulky but the payoff for the better display makes it worthwhile. It is massive and makes playing games, watching movies and just daily use a dream. I just wish there was no curve because it really does get in the way of enjoying content at times.

Camera

While the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G packs one of the most eyesore camera bumps I have ever seen, the functionality is also one of the best on the market. The camera array includes a 5x ultrawide, 1x regular, 5x optical, and the 50x digital. However, only three of these are actually worth your time and I am sure you can guess which one I hated. Yes, the 50x photo mode is terrible and should not even be considered as a feature. We will talk about why soon.

First off we have the ultrawide lens. Quality is great. Images are a little noisy around the edges of the photos but in bright conditions, this is reduced. Images are most vivid during the day. However, at night things start to get strange. Samsung has a history of over smoothing images to reduce the noise and the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is no different. There is no way to turn this off making it a problem you have to live with.

The regular lens does a great job taking your average shots. It is the best out of the lot with the sharpest image quality in the day, the best shots at night. As soon as you try to switch to any other mode, you suffer from noise or smoothed images. This regular lens is the one you will use most of the time and is simply fantastic.

Then we have the 5x optical zoom which is great too. The lens really lets you get in on the details not only up close but anything in the distance too. 5x is probably the best we will get on a smartphone at the moment without sacrificing the quality. I was surprised to see how well this optical zoom worked in relation to everything else and if anything, the camera bump is big and ugly because of this lens. It makes the wobbly table issue worth the problem.

Lastly, there is this so-called 50x zoom. This is half of the gimmicky S20 Ultra lens which was more a party trick than anything else. Samsung should just cap this zoom at 10x because that is the sweet spot here. Anything over that and images starts to get ugly. Images at 50x are hard to look at with high noise and very little detail. You can take a photo with the regular lense and just zoom in with your finger and get the same result.

When it comes to video, the 8K support allows for a 16:9 and 21:9 aspect ratio. However, don’t be fooled by this feature. It is as gimmicky as the S20’s 100x zoom. The video recording quality is shoddy and uses way too much storage to be worth your time. There’s also no stabilization on 8K or 4K so you are stuck with stable video on 1080p. There’s also a 960fps slo-mo video mode which is fun for a while and then you’ll never use it again. This too lowers the quality quite substantially to get the shot.

Performance and Battery Life

While the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is huge, you won’t get the best battery life on the market here. The display eats a lot of it leaving you with average use. I got around a day with the phone on heavy use and was left with 25% at night. It is good. It is not a two-day battery but any power user will feel happy about its charge. When it comes to charging, the device supports 15W wireless and 25W fast charging. It does not support 45W for some reason.

Daily performance is great. The phone’s CPU and whopping 12GB of RAM lived up to its expectations. Swapping apps is fast and gaming is a dream on this phone. I could not test the 5G because I don’t have a 5G sim.

Verdict

I had a love and hate relationship with the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G. It is a phenomenal device when it comes to performance. However, its design let me down. The phone is just too big even for my giant hands. The camera bump gets in the way too. Sure, many users may enjoy this bulky phone but the smaller model may provide the same enjoyment without the huge size problem.

Beyond that, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is a great device. Its camera (not the 50x zoom) holds up pretty well and the display is superb. You just need to pay R30,000 to enjoy it all.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Review

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