Review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G

Is the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G a smartphone or a tablet? This is the question one can legitimately ask when looking at this smartphone with such substantial dimensions. And yet, surprisingly, the device is very pleasant to use on a daily basis and knows how to make people forget its imposing size thanks to its qualities, and there are many of them. We have tested the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G and here we give you our full review and all our conclusions.

A screen size of 6.9 ″, curved edges on both sides, a photo module on the back that some compare to a hob… If the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra reminds you of something at Samsung, this is no coincidence: 6 months ago, the South Korean manufacturer was already releasing a similar Smartphone, the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The comparison between the two devices does not end there, since the two smart phones also share the same processor and the same photo capabilities (with one small detail, we’ll come back to that). So why release a Smartphone with so many similarities just a few months apart?

if the Note 20 Ultra is quite close to the S20 Ultra, it does stand out on several points. On the one hand, because it comes with a stylus (hence the name Note, you would have guessed); But also because its design differs in more than one way from that of the S20. (Or because its battery is not the same either). Finally, because one of its rear photo sensors changes compared to the S20 Ultra, as does its front sensor.

Are all these differences really worth it? We tested the new Note 20 Ultra and get ready, because there is ultimately a lot more to say than we first thought. Come on, let’s go for the full test of the new flagship of Samsung smartphones!

Price and availability

Priced at 1400 USD for the 256 GB version and 1509 USD for the 512 GB edition, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is available in 3 colors: Mystic Bronze, Mystic White and Mystic Black.

The new Smartphone from Samsung is available from August 21, 2020. It is possible to pre-order it until August 20 inclusive (there is not much time left) and to benefit for the same price from a small “bonus” among the following two:

  • 3 months of access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, plus PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus wireless controller and wireless charger
  • A pair of Galaxy Buds Live headphones

Note 20 will be officially available from August 21.

Datasheet: Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra

Galaxy Note 20 UltraGalaxy Note S20 Ultra
Dimensions164,8 x 77,2 x 8,1 mm166,9 x 76 x 8,8 mm
Memory12 Go12/16 Go
Rear photo sensors108 MP (f1.8), + 12 MP (f3.0, 5x optical zoom) + 12 MP (f2.2)108 MP (f / 1.8), + 48 MP (f / 3.5, 4x optical zoom) + 12 MP (f / 2.2), TO 3D (f / 1.0)
Front photo sensor10 MP (f/2.2)40 MP (f/2.2)
Weight208 grammes220 grammes
Storage256 Go / 512 Go128 Go / 512 Go
Battery4500 mAh5000 mAh
Display6.9″ (19.3:9, 120Hz)6,9″ (20:9, 120Hz)
ProcessorExynos 990 (7nm)Exynos 990 (7nm)
ResistanceIP68IP68
Wireless chargingavailable, 15available, 15W
Fingerprint sensorYes, under the screen (ultrasound)Yes, under the screen (ultrasound)
Second slotSIM or microSDSIM or microSD
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and 20 Ultra technical specs

A classy device in terms of design

With its 6.9 ″ screen, the Galaxy Note 20 Utra arrives directly in the large box of Monopoly smartphones. And its edges curved to the left as to the right do not change the situation. Compared to the Galaxy Note 10+ released around the same time last year, the screen size is increased by 0.1 ″. Its weight and dimensions are also increasing, since the device now crosses the 220 gram mark (against 196 g for the Note 10+) and goes from 16.23 to 16.69 cm in height. In short, this Note 20 Ultra is an XXL model in every sense of the word and doesn’t really play in the same court as last year’s Note 10+, which was wearing the premium model of the range.

In terms of design, we find the same curved edges as those of the Note 10+, on both sides of the screen. We also find the same sharper angles (more “square” some would say) as those of the S20 Ultra and which remind us that the Note 20 Ultra is a device that also serves as a mini-tablet for professional use.

On the front side, “the punch” selfie sensor is still present. Like the previous version of Note, it is located at the very top and midway between the left and right edges of the screen. As on previous models (since the S10), the device benefits from a fingerprint sensor housed on the screen and based on ultrasonic technology. The device recognizes its user perfectly, even if it seems to have lost velocity compared to the S20, which unlocks almost immediately.

The periphery of the device is made of aluminum. The right edge of the device houses the volume control and power buttons. On the upper part, we find the port for SIM and microSD cards, while on the bottom edge of the Note 20 Ultra, we take advantage of the USB-C port, the speaker and the small slot dedicated to the stylus. Note in passing that the location of the latter two has changed, as they moved from the right (on the Note 10) to the left (on the Note 20 Ultra). The reasons for this change are unknown, but as a left-hander, this change suited me quite well. A change brought to the detriment of right-wingers, therefore? The right-handed people to whom the smartphone was entrusted weren’t bothered either, so there is something for everyone.

Finally, note that the jack port always responds to absent subscribers, as is now the case on all high-end Samsung smartphones since the Note 10.

The rear of the device, protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus, has a large module for photo sensors and flash. And when we say consequent, understand by that that this is one of the most imposing devices that we have had in our hands to date, both in width and height, but also and especially in thickness. It is also reminiscent of the Huawei P40 Pro +, which had already surprised us with its volume (and its size!).

To conclude, this one is very beautiful, as we had already seen during our handling of the Note 20 Ultra in the premises of Samsung.

A screen that adapts to your needs

If the 6.9 ″ screen of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra offers a definition of 3088 x 1440 pixels, the device mainly benefits from a 120 Hz display. Remember that this technology offers more fluidity in the scrolling of pages, playing videos and of course in games. And if the transition from 60 to 90 Hz was moderately noticeable, the transition to 120 Hz makes perfect sense. The display is indeed much more comfortable for the eyes on a daily basis, so much so that it becomes difficult to go back after tasting it.

This type of refresh is nothing new for the manufacturer, since the S20 range was already benefiting from it. But Samsung has learned from its mistakes and decided to rework the support for this technology. Because on the S20, as soon as the 120 Hz mode was activated, the battery life dropped by several hours (on average we lost 3 hours of battery). How can we reduce consumption under such conditions? Samsung obviously found a solution by matching the frame rate to the application in use. The system “turns up” the frequency when it proves useful, with a spectrum ranging from 10 to 120 Hz. This reduces the energy consumption of the device, while enjoying the advantages of a higher refresh rate than customary, but only when the system deems it necessary. However, it is not possible to “freeze” the frequency at 120 Hz, as was the case on the S20. It is still possible to do it at 60 Hz.

Also with a view to saving energy, the Note 20 is configured by default to display an image at 2316 x 1080 pixels (FHD +). It is possible to go up to the maximum resolution of 3088 x 1400 pixels (WQHD +) via the display settings of the smartphone. But in this case, we lose the frequency in 120 Hz, and we must therefore be satisfied with 60 Hz.

In the end, despite some software restrictions, we have a beautiful screen. Colors and contrast are fully balanced, while the 120 Hz mode delivers a feeling of unparalleled visual comfort. For our part, we preferred to push the brightness up slightly rather than relying on automatic mode, but that’s just a matter of taste.

Audio: not bad, but could do better

As mentioned above, the jack has said goodbye to us (this was already the case on the Note 10). It is therefore advisable to rely on a Jack / USB-C adapter. Although not included, the smartphone comes with AKG wired USB-C headphones, which have a volume controller located on the cord. These same headphones come with 3 pairs of earbuds and sound relatively decent, even if they lack bass.

The Note 20 is also equipped with two speakers: one is located on the top edge of the screen, while the other is housed on the bottom edge of the device, near the housing for storing the stylus. Again, even if the sound delivered is rather well made and you really have to push the volume to the maximum to perceive saturation, the bass is really not present. The good point is that the device delivers “real” stereo sound, unlike a P40 Pro +, for example, which is sold at a similar price, but which lacks it.

Performances

While some expected Samsung to standardize its SoCs regardless of the region of marketing, the South Korean brand ultimately did not change its sales policy. The United States gets a Snapdragon 865, while the rest of the world gets an Exynos 990. A configuration identical to that of the Galaxy S20 line, in short. Even if the performance gain is not obvious in all daily tasks, benchmarks prove that there is still a small relative gap between the two SoCs. As sales of the S20 are clearly not there, Samsung may still have a large stock of Exynos 990s to sell … a processor that can therefore be found in the two Note 20s.

Without achieving the performance of a Snapdragon 865, Samsung’s Exynos 990 still delivers excellent results. The benchmarks that we carried out using 3DMark and Geekbench show that its SoC equals, or even surpasses in some cases, a Kirin 990. It is this processor that is found in particular on the entire range of Huawei P40s, with the exception of the Lite model. On the other hand, and we had already seen the phenomenon with the S20s: the device heats up when the processor is used excessively. And you can clearly feel the effects of this heater, perhaps because of the material used on the back of the device (the famous Gorilla Glass Victus).

In terms of storage capacity, there are two editions in France: one equipped with 256 GB, and the other with 512 GB. Both have 12 GB of RAM, which is more than enough for working, playing, open tons of apps at the same time etc.

Enjoying a Wi-Fi 6 connection, like all high-end models from Samsung for almost 2 years, the Note 20 Ultra is also compatible with the 5G standard. Note in passing that it is only available in this version, unlike the Note 20, which can be acquired sometimes in 4G version, sometimes in 5G.

Is it a gaming smartphone?

While most manufacturers now have a phone intended for more gamers in their catalog (Asus with its Rog Phone 3, Xiaomi with its Black Sharks, etc.), this was not yet the case for Samsung. The manufacturer has therefore found in its Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra two potential candidates to fulfill this function. The Note range, until now is mainly dedicated to the professional world. It has therefore taken the leap and is aimed at gamers.

For the occasion, Samsung has teamed up with two partners of choice. As part of the pre-order, the manufacturer is providing a controller suitable for mobile gaming and reminiscent of the Xbox One joystick. Designed by the manufacturer PowerA, the Moga XP5-X Plus is paired via Bluetooth with the smartphone. The controller has a small adjustable arm that allows you to put the smartphone. If the adjuster looks a bit “cheap”. Note that it is possible to pre-order the controller separately for € 74.99 (slightly more expensive than a classic Xbox One controller), with delivery scheduled for October 1.

Also during the pre-order period, Samsung has also partnered with Microsoft and its xCloud service, which allows streaming of over a hundred titles. Titles that are actually from the Xbox One catalog and accessible as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offer (usd 12.99 / month, the first month being only usd 1). By pre-ordering the device, you get three months of free access to Microsoft’s service. It is hoped that Samsung and Microsoft will extend the operation for those who have chosen not to pre-order the device and prefer to acquire it a little later. Because, the offer is rather relevant for those who want to try their hand at streaming on Android.

And this is where the positioning of a “gamer smartphone” really makes sense. Because rather than betting on an overpowered SoC like a Snapdragon 865 or 865+, Samsung has turned to streaming.

We haven’t had a chance to thoroughly test the Moga controller yet. We were just able to get started for a few minutes with a smartphone without connection and without any game installed, during a session organized at Samsung a few weeks ago. On the other hand, Microsoft’s xCloud service is already available, so we had plenty of time to test the gaming side of the smartphone by simply connecting it to a classic Xbox controller. If the experience is not yet optimal, especially for the position of the smartphone in relation to the controller (you have to put the device on a small base and not move), the sensations and the pleasure of playing Xbox titles respond On call. We just regret that the text areas are a bit small and sometimes completely illegible. For the rest, the smartphone offers excellent picture quality, although again we had to crank up the brightness level.

A good mastery of autonomy

Equipped with a 4500 mAh battery, 500 less than the S20 Ultra, the Note 20 Ultra nevertheless offers a very good autonomy. We submitted it to our usual test: 1 hour of video streaming on Netflix, 1 hour of music listening on Deezer, 1 hour of GPS use in the car, 1 hour of non-streamed gaming, 1 hour of telephony, web, chat, excessive consultation of messages… All on a daily basis. Surprise: the phone is able to last almost two days without crying famine. It does as well, if not better, than the S20 Ultra, which struggled to control its power consumption due in part to the constant 120 Hz display.

The device supports fast charging. The charger included in the box allows the Smartphone to be fully re-inflated in less than 1h10.

S Pen: Galaxy Note trademark remains unmatched

The stylus that comes with the Galaxy Note range has always been one of the strengths of Samsung smartphones. Hyper responsive, ergonomic and perfectly integrated into the operating system and its applications, the little accessory currently has no equal, whatever the competing offer. Is this still the case on the Note 20 Ultra?

Let’s put the suspense aside: Samsung’s stylus remains the best model we’ve tested so far. Better, even. Samsung has yet found a way to improve the responsiveness of the S Pen by lowering its latency from 42 to 9 ms. it includes gesture controls, which allow you, for example, to scroll through photos, zoom in on a part of the screen or take a picture without even having to touch the screen, always using the stylus. This new version of Note now allows you to take a screenshot (always remotely) or switch to the device’s home screen.

A very complete environment

On the software side, we take advantage of Android 10 and the One UI 2.5 interface. No big surprise on this side, the duo still functioning wonderfully. One UI allows you to configure your environment in all directions, while providing a wealth of information about the state of health of the device. The overlay obviously allows you to configure the S Pen: it is for example possible to use the small side button to launch a specific application, rather than opening the camera, or switching off the phone when pressing extended.

The system also offers a one-handed operation and allows the adjustment of gesture controls. It also offers to optimize video playback (a feature not enabled by default), whether on Netflix or YouTube. In short, we have an ultra-rich and infinitely customizable environment.

As for the assistant Bixby, he is still there. Not really user-friendly, not really efficient, Samsung does not seem ready to let go yet. However, this could change in the coming months: the South Korean manufacturer could abandon Bixby to turn to Google Assistant, as we mentioned a few weeks ago on the site.

Photo

We find on the photo part a configuration finally very close to that of the S20 Ultra. We therefore always benefit from a main sensor of 108 MP (aperture of 1.8). If the ToF D sensor has disappeared because of Apple, which has swept all the stocks, we gain there however a slightly more powerful optical zoom: this one goes from x4 (S20 Ultra) to x5 (Note 20 Ultra). On the other hand, it is no longer possible to zoom digitally in x100, Samsung realizing that such a focus when taking a picture was meaningless and damaged the image of its smartphones. This type of zoom requires perfect camera stability and flawless brightness … These conditions are extremely complicated to meet. Samsung therefore preferred to return to the digital x50 zoom, and we are not going to complain.

In bright light, the smartphone delivers excellent shots, the contrast and colorimetry levels are really good. Note, however, that we had to deactivate the “scene optimizer” mode several times in order to keep the colors more natural. In the photo below, we left it in place and as you can see the sky is really very blue, the clouds cottony and the greenery … really very green. Turning off the scene optimizer fixed the issue with the shots that we took afterwards.

The x5 zoom fulfills its role fully. Here again, the tones are beautiful, contrast and brightness are balanced … There is something to be seduced.

With the Note 20 Ultra, Samsung is also demonstrating its full mastery of low-light shooting. If, in this regard, the P30 Pro, Mate 30 Pro and P40 Pro remain the absolute reference, Samsung is improving the photo processing provided (with each iteration) of its high-end smartphones. The S10 was already good, the Note 10 made things better, and then the S20 and Note 20 brought a noticeable plus in the area of ​​night shooting.

At the front of the device, however, the selfie sensor has lost its rendering, going from 40 MP to 10 MP. The level of detail of the faces weakens, the colors are finally quite neutral (not to say dull), and we quickly come to miss the S20 Ultra. Too bad that Samsung has chosen to reduce its manufacturing costs to the detriment of the front sensor.

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