Galaxy Note 20 Ultra ongoing evaluate: Everything we love — and do not — up to now

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is arresting, however costly. Here’s what we expect up to now.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Late Thursday morning, the package deal arrived with a thump: a plain brown cardboard field containing inside it Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G. I ripped it open, sliced by the tape and gently shook the black lid from the field. There it was, the brand new, signature bronze shade of Samsung’s $1,300 Note 20 Ultra. Sleek and exquisite, but in addition overly giant and perplexing. (Keep studying for extra on the usual Note 20 for $1,000.) 

So far, I’m having fun with uncovering the Note 20 Ultra’s mysteries and I hope to obtain a Note 20 quickly after. For now, probably the most premium of Samsung’s Note lineup is the one I’ve to work with. The gleeful, giddy individual inside loves peeling again the layers and discovering all the pieces great, or quirky, elements of the telephone, from a greater technique to shoot selfie photographs to the big 6.9-inch display screen.

Then there’s the choosy reviewer aspect that frets over the battery life that plunged at an alarming charge on Day 1 and worries what is going to occur to the impossible-to-ignore digital camera module protruding out the again prefer it owns the entire joint.

After a day with the Note 20, I really feel like I’ve solely scratched the floor. There’s a lot forward within the testing course of, from gaining a greater understanding of how shortly a telephone with a 6.9-inch show with a default 120Hz refresh charge churns by a 4,500mAh battery to how effectively the brand new suite of gestures work in day-to-day life, particularly the “next normal” that Samsung retains utilizing to check with the unknown methods the coronavirus pandemic is completely altering world society and probably shopping for habits for the close to future.


That Note 20 Ultra digital camera bump means enterprise.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Note 20 Ultra: What I like up to now

  • The bronze coloration with the matte end: Sleek, refined and fewer of a grease lure when slick or dirty fingers get throughout it. It’s lustrous even when pleasantly hazy.
  • The display screen, as all the time, is brilliant and good.
  • My favourite Galaxy Note tips return to life, like taking a extremely exact display screen shot utilizing the S Pen and simply making a display screen recording or GIF of a portion of the show.
  • Taking a selfie utilizing the S Pen is a breeze once you press the stylus button with one hand with out having to stay your arm out at an ungainly angle or fear about dropping the telephone.
  • Face tone filters for selfies are good so as to add some heat or step on the breaks if an image is oversaturated. 

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is arresting, however costly. Here's what we expect up to now.

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First Look: Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra


What may not be so nice in regards to the Note 20 Ultra

Battery life confuses me. At 1pm, I switched within the ordinary testing SIM card and battery was at 100%. By 4pm, it was at 45%. That was with Wi-Fi and 4G (not 5G) information engaged. Yes, the display screen was utilizing the default 120Hz choice, however a part of the time, I used to be on a telephone name with the display screen off. The name sounded nice, by the best way. I’ve reached out to Samsung to see if there could also be a problem.

Nether Note 20 telephones comes with a pair of free wires headphones. That might not look like an enormous deal as Samsung transitions customers towards it Galaxy Buds Live wi-fi earbuds, however the truth this firm spent years touting the $99 worth means the tip result’s that the Note value retains going up wile shedding earlier worth.

That digital camera bump is tough to disregard. Without a case, I consistently fear about dropping it and cracking the digital camera array, which might undoubtedly be the very first thing to hit, or else laying it down and transferring the machine in a method that scratches the digital camera. This has occurred to me earlier than and ruined ever ultra-wide picture after, so belief me once I say that is no idle concern.

Why is it so sizzling? On an 81-degree day, the Note 20 appeared to each generate and dissipate various warmth. Maybe it is tied to no matter is happening with the battery life, possibly it is simply a big telephone that should shed quite a lot of warmth. I used to be in a position to go on a virtually two-hour stroll with out it falling out of my again pocket, although I might instantly really feel there was a change from the Galaxy Note 20 Plus, one other giant telephone that nonetheless felt smaller.

What will we check tomorrow?

There’s nonetheless a lot to see because the Note 20 Ultra begins to settle in as my day by day telephone for the subsequent week. That means the stylus’ new gesture options, e-mail, photographs, the day by day information digest, motion pictures and reveals, train and all the remainder. Check again as this evaluate builders day-to-day. And hold studying for our authentic impressions on the Note 20 Ultra and commonplace Note 20. And scroll to the very finish for all of the specs.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra jogs my memory of a determine straight from Greek mythology. With its smooth profile, resplendent bronze end (for its signature coloration), and thick digital camera bump on the again staring out like a set of compound eyes, it would not take rather more than a look to see this new telephone for energy customers could be very a lot siren-meets-cyclops.

The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra’s seems to be are just the start of the story — and there is much more beneath — together with one genuinely shocking change. But earlier than we go there, it is vital to know the context into which these telephones are coming to gentle. The Galaxy Note 20 telephones are obtainable for preorder now and are anticipated to reach by the official sale date, Aug. 21. The Note 20 begins at $1,000 (£849, AU$1,499) and the Note 20 Ultra begins at $1,300 (£1,179, AU$1,849).

The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world on its head, endangering lives, launching a world recession and throwing into query the necessity for a premium telephone whose most cost-effective mannequin prices $1,000, which is $50 greater than final 12 months’s entry-level Galaxy Note 10. But whereas Samsung asks us to think about the deserves of a 5G machine with juiced-up cameras and a few options higher suited to the boardroom than the lounge, Google has simply launched an glorious $349 no-frills telephone that appears extra in line with these lean and uncertain days.

The timing is coincidental, however unlucky. Phones can take greater than a 12 months to cycle by the pipeline, so when Samsung’s designers and engineers have been plotting the Note 20 refresh, the characteristic roadmap was effectively established. The Note line has all the time stood for software program and specs that went above and past. While most of the options and updates, like new S Pen gestures tuned to working EnergyPoint shows, will make sense for a post-pandemic world, the state of COVID-19 instances right this moment kinds a weak argument for the “normal” actions that advantage such a tool.

That is not to say that the Note 20 and 20 Ultra will not have a spot within the who’s who record of 2020 telephones, although it is too quickly to know. I spend all day on my laptop computer, however nonetheless typically attain for my telephone as a second and even most popular display screen to learn in mattress, on the sofa or on the kitchen desk once I need a change of tempo. I take advantage of cellular funds greater than I ever did earlier than, as outlets in my space eschew money in favor of touchless transactions. And battery life remains to be of the utmost significance as I reconnect with mates and coworkers throughout hours-long walks with simply my telephone as a technique to get contemporary air. Samsung, too, says cellular utilization has been up throughout this time.

The distinction is that, with out an finish to the pandemic in sight, it feels more durable to get on board with a telephone whose most important options really feel much less compelling on the outset by dint of the occasions. In fact, I hope the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra win me over once I get to check out the evaluate items. I hope Samsung’s trade-in and yearly improve packages entice its loyal clients to improve to a tool which will effectively ship the form of core performance, long-term battery life and pleasing extras that may make a telephone enjoyable to make use of for years.


The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a brilliant, huge 6.9-inch show.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

I’m prepared for the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra to persuade me, or no less than attempt their hardest — top-heavy digital camera bulge and all. (Psst. Samsung additionally introduced the Galaxy Z Fold 2 on Wednesday. Although it is certain to price much more than the Note 20, its means to remain open whereas folded has me genuinely excited to see extra.)  

Galaxy Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra: Surprising variations

Samsung eased us into the thought of a extra entry-level Note telephone in 2019, however this 12 months, there is a huge gulf between the usual Galaxy Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra. (Scroll to the tip for the total specs comparability.)

Note 20 Ultra: What you must know

The Ultra has a 6.9-inch curved display screen, a extra squared-off form and all of the perks, together with the higher-powered digital camera tech, assist for Google’s Nearby Share by its UWB Share (extremely huge band) characteristic and a microSD card slot as much as 1TB. The display screen has an choice to flip right into a 120Hz refresh charge, the place every pixel refreshes 120 occasions per second, making scrolling liquid-smooth. (We’ll need to see how this impacts battery life.)

And then there’s that digital camera bulge. Full disclosure: I have not had an opportunity to see both Note 20 in individual right here in California, however my New York colleague, Richard Peterson, was in a position to deal with and videotape each units, and try and reply my laundry record of questions. 

Attending a digital briefing and poring over our footage, it is clear that from one angle, the Note 20 Ultra seems to be smooth and attractive. From one other, it is unpleasantly top-heavy in a method that makes my thoughts leap to a case as a necessity to guard the Note 20 Ultra’s digital camera mount. The proven fact that the digital camera array protrudes so removed from the physique makes this space much more inclined to breaks, cracks and scratches when dropped or dragged alongside a floor — for instance, in the event you lay the telephone on its again. 

We’ll put the Note 20 Ultra’s new Gorilla Glass Victus shielding on either side to the check, however I’ve banged up sufficient telephone cameras throughout my profession as a reviewer to counsel avoiding that danger in any respect prices.

The mystic bronze coloration sports activities a matte end, whereas mystic black and mystic white are shiny glass.

That digital camera mount on the Note 20 Ultra is critical enterprise.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Note 20: Did somebody say plastic?

The commonplace Note 20 has a 6.7-inch flat display screen with no curved sides (a staple on the Note line for years). But this is the clincher — it has a plastic again, which Samsung prefers to name polycarbonate. There’s no microSD card slot (identical as final 12 months) and small options are lacking. There are stepped-down digital camera specs (together with no professional video mode), a much less superior display screen expertise with no 120Hz refresh charge choice, a smaller battery capability (4,300 mAh versus 4,500 mAh), much less RAM (8GB versus 12GB), and no UWB sharing.

Embracing pastel, the Note 20’s mystic inexperienced, mystic bronze and mystic grey tones all include a matte end. It makes use of a steel body and Gorilla Glass 5 on the entrance, not the newest Gorilla Glass Victus.

The Note 20 shares the identical core specs because the Note 20 Ultra. The 10-megapixel selfie digital camera, new S Pen gestures and Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus processor are a part of each telephones. 

But again to the Note 20’s plastic backing: That feels out of character for a telephone household that is usually about showcasing the perfect of the perfect Samsung has to supply. Without having reviewed the telephone but, a $1,000 telephone with a plastic again appears laborious to swallow. Maybe I’ll change my thoughts.

Note 20 cameras: 108MP, professional video mode, 8K video seize

The digital camera array is the place Samsung desires the Note 20 telephones, and particularly the Note 20 Ultra, to shine. It’s taken a step again from the ostentation of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which boasted a 100x Space Zoom characteristic and a most important digital camera able to taking pictures a 108-megapixel photograph, concentrating as an alternative on the thought of cropping in for extra element. 

Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra digital camera

Galaxy Note 20 Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Main digital camera 12-megapixel (F1.8, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, 1.8μm, 79-degree FOV, 1/1.76 inch picture sensor) 108-megapixel (F1.8, OIS, 0.8μm, 79-degree FOV, 1/1.33 inch picture sensor)
Ultrawide angle 12-megapixel (F2.2, 1.4μm, 120-degree FOV) 12-megapixel (F2.2, 1.4μm, 120-degree FOV)
Telephoto 64-megapixel (F2.0, 0.8μm, 76-degree FOV) 12-megapixel (F3.0, 1.0μm, 20-degree FOV)
Front-facing digital camera 10-megapixel (F2.2, 1.22μm, 80-degree FOV) 10-megapixel (F2.2, 1.22μm, 80-degree FOV)
Zoom 3x hybrid 5x optical
Super Zoom 30x 50x
Laser auto-focus sensor No Yes
Video seize 8K 8K

Samsung nonetheless gave the Note 20 Ultra an 108-megapixel digital camera choice — you faucet it to show it on once you need the total decision. When it involves zoom, the Note 20 falls again to 50x zoom, with the Note 20 settling in at 30x. 

It’s fascinating to see Samsung backtrack like this, however the firm appears to be responding to suggestions that the S20 Ultra was too costly and its 100x zoom wasn’t adequate or helpful sufficient to justify the worth.

The Note 20 Ultra has 5x optical zoom, which ought to make photographs taken in that vary crisper and clearer than utilizing digital zoom alone. We’ll quickly see.

Faster autofocus within the Note 20 Ultra can also be designed to offer it an edge over the usual Note 20, so you possibly can snap photographs of squirmy pets, amusing facial expressions and flapping hummingbirds quicker, with out lacking the shot. 

A professional video mode packs in additional guide instruments and choices for capturing footage, which ought to make aspiring moviemakers pleased. This has been one in all Samsung’s weaker areas for a number of years, in comparison with the most recent iPhone. As with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, each telephones assist 8K video seize. Just remember, it will make video recordsdata huge on and off your telephone.

Writing is one factor Galaxy Note telephones do greatest.

Richard Peterson/CNET

The Note 20 telephones get new S Pen stylus and word app tips

What would the Galaxy Note be with out its stylus? For loyalists, scribbling, navigating and annotating are a part of the telephone’s appeal. So is the truth that the Notes app lets you do the entire above. Here are the most recent options for each Note 20 fashions.

New S Pen gesture navigation: Pointing the pen tip away out of your physique (and at a distance from the telephone), press and maintain the stylus button whereas making one in all 5 new gestures to return, go dwelling, open a current app or take a screenshot with Smart Select. You may squiggle the pen to seize all the display screen.

The S Pen is extra responsive on the Note 20 Ultra when the 120Hz display screen choice is on.

Handwriting recognition will get higher with instruments together with autostraighten. 

Samsung Notes will get stay auto-syncing in the end. This will retailer a word within the cloud so that you can entry from another machine — so long as you are signed right into a Samsung account.

Attach and time-sync voice recordings. You can get your voice word to sync with what you write so it’s going to play again from the time you point out the phrase.

Import a PDF to annotate or spotlight. Instead of printing out a web page or downloading it to signal after which add or ship out once more, you possibly can merely mark your signature and export it again once more.

Other Note 20 options and goodies

  • UWB assist for sharing recordsdata like a digital key. Point to share with different Samsung units utilizing UWB. 
  • Xbox Game Pass Ultimate provides you entry to over 100 video games you possibly can play on the fly. 
  • Samsung’s Microsoft partnership: Drag-and-drop and syncing from Windows units and apps to your Samsung telephone, together with notes and reminders.
  • Samsung DeX, the imaginative and prescient for changing your laptop along with your telephone, now enables you to join to a different display screen wirelessly to view your content material, say in your TV display screen in your lounge. 
  • You can pair a Galaxy Note 20 with the brand new Galaxy Buds Live to activate noise cancellation. In the taped demo I noticed, you continue to hear quite a lot of static and distortion, nevertheless it did lower out interfering conversations.

Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra specs

Galaxy Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Display dimension, decision 6.7 inches; 2,400×1,080 pixels 6.9 inches; 3,088×1,440 pixels
Pixel density 393 ppi 496 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.36×2.96×0.33 in 6.49×3.04×0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 161.6×75.2×8.Three mm 164.8×77.2×8.1mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.84 oz, 194g 7.33 oz, 208g
Mobile software program Android 10 Android 10
Camera 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing digital camera 10-megapixel 10-megapixel
Video seize 8K 8K
Processor Snapdragon 865 Plus Snapdragon 865 Plus
Storage 128GB 128GB, 512GB
Expandable storage No Up to 1TB
Battery 4,300 mAh 4,500 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen
Connector USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No
Special options S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless EnergyShare; waterproof (IP68) 5x optical zoom, UWB sharing, S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless EnergyShare; waterproof (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $1,000 $1,300 (128GB); $1,450 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £849 £1,179
Price (AUD) AU$1,499 AU$1,849