Galaxy Note 20 Ultra ongoing review: 7 standout and not-so-great features today

    The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is arresting, however costly. Here’s what we predict to this point.
    Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
    I’m not gonna lie: reviewing the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G throughout a pandemic is bizarre. Normally, I hit the road early within the day and depend on the cellphone as my lifeline from morning ’til night time, capturing photographs of every part and something, actually residing with the gadget and studying its rhythms. The neatest thing ever is with the ability to naturally use a cellphone’s options within the second the place they make sense.Things are totally different now. Plenty of my regular actions are shuttered, and now that I’m working and residing an hour from CNET’s San Francisco workplace and its plethora of fascinating structure, road scenes and nightlife, discovering pure methods to make use of the Note 20 Ultra as a substitute of the always-open laptop computer that now appears like a literal extension of my physique is extra of a problem. For instance, when following a house exercise on the Note 20 Ultra — which has a beautiful 6.9-inch show — I saved questioning why I wasn’t simply utilizing the 13-inch laptop computer display screen as a substitute to comply with the strikes. And the everyday night time scene close to the place I stay? A not-very-photogenic streetlight.So here is one of many large questions I’m trying to reply by the point the Note 20 Ultra assessment interval is full: How does a tool constructed for energy customers, who’re lively in society, match right into a world already modified by the coronavirus pandemic?That’s to not say I’m not having fun with my time with the Note 20 Ultra. I’m having a blast attending to know the ins and outs of this energy cellphone. I’ve already fallen in love with the signature bronze shade of the $1,300 (£1,179, AU$1,894) flagship gadget, and the truth that its matte end deters fingerprints.It’s glossy and exquisite — till you get to the huge digicam bump —  however it’s additionally huge, awkward for my smaller fingers to maneuver and perplexing in the case of sure design selections. This is an ongoing assessment, so my impressions might change and deepen as time goes on. Keep studying for my observations to this point, and for extra on the usual Note 20, which prices $1,000 (£849, AU$1,499).Galaxy Note 20 (128GB, $999)Order from Samsung | Verizon | AT&T | Xfinity Mobile | T-Mobile | US Cellular | Best Buy Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (begins at 128GB, $1,299)Order from Samsung | Verizon | AT&T | Xfinity Mobile | T-Mobile | US Cellular | Best Buy That Note 20 Ultra digicam bump means enterprise.
    Juan Garzon/CNET
    Note 20 Ultra: 7 issues I like proper nowColor: I can see why Samsung made mystic bronze its signature coloration and swapped a shiny end for a glossy, subtle matte sheen. It’s lustrous and understated with out being boring, and much much less of a grease entice. At least it seems that manner.Casual images: Taking photographs is enjoyable. Images are vivid and 5x optical zoom retains image high quality excessive sufficient to make me maintain utilizing it. Ultra-wide angle photographs are all the time an amazing device to have within the photograph arsenal to supply dramatic impact. Yes, the Note 20 Ultra continues Samsung’s prevalence to oversaturate some photographs and 108-megapixel images can produce blended outcomes. Overall, I’m pleased with most photographs.Zoom images is wanting higher: I’m glad the Note 20 Ultra steps again from the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s 100x “space” zoom. My greatest shot at 50x AI-assisted zoom was one I lucked into. It seems good, however even with a stabilizing drive like a tripod, the picture jumps like loopy.

    Screen high quality: 6.9-inches and, as all the time, is brilliant and good. This was glorious for studying the information, watching movies and scrolling via photographs. See the flipside to brightness under. Since the bezel’s so slim, I maintain unintentionally urgent the edges of the cellphone, however the picture itself is terrific, even on the default FHD+ setting of two,326×1,080 pixels (it goes as much as WQHD+, which is 3,088×1,440 pixels). Stylus tips: My favourite Galaxy Note instruments return to life, like taking a very exact screenshot utilizing the S Pen, utilizing the magnifying device to learn on-line menus and too-small font (so easy), and simply making a display screen recording or GIF of a portion of the show. There are a number of extra moreover, like writing on high of a PDF you possibly can import into the notes app (sure!) and annotating a display screen. You also can double-click the S Pen button to erase what you have written. It is not new this 12 months, however it’s a favourite.Selfie shutter button: Taking a selfie utilizing the S Pen is a breeze if 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 cellphone. Face tone filters for selfies are good so as to add some heat or step on the breaks if an image is oversaturated. Phone calls: Who makes use of a cellphone anymore? I do! Lots! Especially now that I take numerous work calls whereas out on a stroll. Every name has sounded nice in my space, however in fact your state of affairs might range relying on the service the place you reside.

    7 Note 20 Ultra options I’m holding an in depth eye onBattery life: After an uneven first day, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s 4,500-mAh battery is behaving extra like what I’d anticipate for a flagship cellphone — whew. On my heaviest day of use to this point, it was at 35% after 12 hours (which included an hour and a half of Google Maps navigation) and slowly drained to 16% by 7am. This was utilizing the default 120Hz display screen setting utilizing adaptive brightness and no battery optimization setting. I’ve now turned that on, so we’ll see the way it goes.That digicam bump: It’s onerous to disregard and is frankly a little bit of an eyesore. Without a case, I consistently fear about dropping it and cracking the digicam array, which might undoubtedly be the very first thing to hit, or else laying it down and dragging or shifting the gadget in a manner that scratches the digicam. This has occurred to me earlier than and ruined each ultrawide picture thereafter, so belief me after I say that is no idle concern.

    Now taking part in:
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    First Look: Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra


    It’s heavy: After an particularly grueling day, I wished to veg out watching Netflix earlier than drifting off to sleep. After 10 minutes, my hand grew heavy attempting to carry up the cellphone. I switched to my cellphone stand, propping the Note 20 Ultra on the stand and in flip placing the stand on my stomach. It wobbled and swayed each time I laughed. It even fell off as soon as. I lastly put the stand and cellphone on my nightstand and flipped to my facet to look at, till I obtained a crick in my neck and referred to as it quits after about an hour. Great sound and picture high quality, although.The S Pen placement: It could also be one thing I merely must get used to, however to this point, the transfer from the suitable facet of the cellphone to the left is not working all that effectively for me. There’s nothing inherently flawed with the design, however for some motive reaching for it appears like a chore. Did it transfer to accommodate the digicam {hardware}? We’ll see if I heat as much as the adjustments because the exams go on.Nighttime display screen brightness: With the lights out, Android’s Wind Down mode on and the brightness slid to its lowest setting, the display screen is simply too brilliant to induce sleepiness. It’s extra more likely to rev me up throughout middle-of-the-night wakeups than lull me again to sleep. I’d like to see a extra aggressive midnight setting. Wired headphones do not come within the field. My colleague Patrick Holland embraces this — and perhaps for you, it isn’t a giant deal as Samsung transitions customers towards wi-fi earbuds like its Galaxy Buds Live (aka Galaxy Beans). But the Galaxy Buds stay value $170 and Samsung spent years touting the $99 worth of the wired headphones that got here within the field. So for those who did not care all that a lot about wi-fi headphones (for instance, they all the time fall out of my ears or decide up wind noise outdoors,) you are mechanically dropping the $99 worth of the bundled headphones, plus the $170 or nonetheless a lot you wind up spending on one thing else. So for those who do not have already got headphones you need to use, your value of possession simply went up.It can get a bit of toasty. My CNET colleagues and I’ve seen the Note 20 Ultra appeared to each generate and dissipate various warmth — this has been a each day incidence. Nothing out of the strange, simply an emanating heat that telephones (and laptops and different electronics) can get once they’re working onerous. On a sizzling summer season day, this hasn’t been essentially the most nice sensation in my pocket and hand, however positively not a dealbreaker.

    What will we check subsequent?More S Pen gestures. I’ve tried them out, however have not but discovered my groove.Night images — time to scout out one thing worthy of photographing in an unforced manner, which is harder when streets are near-deserted and bars and eating places function a bustling to-go enterprise.Pro video mode. Maybe a neighborhood squirrel will do one thing fascinating.Gaming with this mix of display screen, battery life, weight and razor-thin bezels.Note app tips. I’ve skilled some, however must spend a bit of extra time to essentially get used to them.UWB Point to Share: Using Google’s Nearby Share, it is meant that can assist you switch recordsdata to different Samsung units geared up with this characteristic. That is perhaps a bit difficult to check out with my work-from-home mandate and social distancing pointers in play — keep tuned.There’s nonetheless a lot to see because the Note 20 Ultra begins to settle in as my each day cellphone for the subsequent week. Keep checking again as this assessment develops daily. And maintain studying for our authentic impressions on the Note 20 Ultra and normal Note 20. And scroll to the very finish for all of the specs.

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    The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra jogs my memory of a determine straight from Greek mythology. With its glossy profile, resplendent bronze end (for its signature coloration), and thick digicam bump on the again staring out like a set of compound eyes, it does not take way more than a look to see this new cellphone for energy customers may be very a lot siren-meets-cyclops.The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra’s seems are just the start of the story — and there is way more under — together with one genuinely stunning 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 can be found 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 worldwide recession and throwing into query the necessity for a premium cellphone 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 contemplate the deserves of a 5G gadget with juiced-up cameras and a few options higher fitted to the boardroom than the lounge, Google has simply launched a superb $349 no-frills cellphone that appears extra consistent with these lean and uncertain days.
    Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are available in a hanging bronze shade
    See all photographs

    The timing is coincidental, however unlucky. Phones can take greater than a 12 months to cycle via 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 displays, will make sense for a post-pandemic world, the state of COVID-19 circumstances right now varieties a weak argument for the “normal” actions that benefit 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 checklist of 2020 telephones, although it is too quickly to know. I spend all day on my laptop computer, however nonetheless typically attain for my cellphone as a second and even most well-liked display screen to learn in mattress, on the sofa or on the kitchen desk after I need a change of tempo. I take advantage of cell funds greater than I ever did earlier than, as outlets in my space eschew money in favor of touchless transactions. And battery life continues to be of the utmost significance as I reconnect with mates and coworkers throughout hours-long walks with simply my cellphone as a technique to get contemporary air. Samsung, too, says cell utilization has been up throughout this time.The distinction is that, with out an finish to the pandemic in sight, it feels tougher to get on board with a cellphone whose principal options really feel much less compelling on the outset by dint of the instances. In fact, I hope the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra win me over after I get to check out the assessment items. I hope Samsung’s trade-in and yearly improve applications entice its loyal prospects 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 cellphone 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 a minimum of attempt their hardest — top-heavy digicam bulge and all. (Psst. Samsung additionally introduced the Galaxy Z Fold 2 on Wednesday. Although it is certain to value much more than the Note 20, its potential to remain open whereas folded has me genuinely excited to see extra.)  Galaxy Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra: Surprising variationsSamsung eased us into the concept of a extra entry-level Note cellphone in 2019, however this 12 months, there is a large gulf between the usual Galaxy Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra. (Scroll to the top for the total specs comparability.)Note 20 Ultra: What it’s essential knowThe Ultra has a 6.9-inch curved display screen, a extra squared-off form and all of the perks, together with the higher-powered digicam tech, help for Google’s Nearby Share via its UWB Share (extremely large band) characteristic and a microSD card slot as much as 1TB. The display screen has an choice to flip right into a 120Hz refresh fee, the place every pixel refreshes 120 instances per second, making scrolling liquid-smooth. (We’ll should see how this impacts battery life.)And then there’s that digicam bulge. Full disclosure: I have not had an opportunity to see both Note 20 in particular person right here in California, however my New York colleague, Richard Peterson, was capable of deal with and videotape each units, and try and reply my laundry checklist of questions. Attending a digital briefing and poring over our footage, it is clear that from one angle, the Note 20 Ultra seems glossy and attractive. From one other, it is unpleasantly top-heavy in a manner that makes my thoughts leap to a case as a necessity to guard the Note 20 Ultra’s digicam mount. The proven fact that the digicam array protrudes so removed from the physique makes this space way more vulnerable to breaks, cracks and scratches when dropped or dragged alongside a floor — for instance, for those who lay the cellphone 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 cellphone cameras throughout my profession as a reviewer to counsel avoiding that threat in any respect prices.The mystic bronze coloration sports activities a matte end, whereas mystic black and mystic white are shiny glass.That digicam mount on the Note 20 Ultra is critical enterprise.
    Richard Peterson/CNET
    Note 20: Did somebody say plastic?The normal Note 20 has a 6.7-inch flat display screen with no curved sides (a staple on the Note line for years). But here 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 digicam specs (together with no professional video mode), a much less superior display screen know-how with no 120Hz refresh fee 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 latest Gorilla Glass Victus.The Note 20 shares the identical core specs because the Note 20 Ultra. The 10-megapixel selfie digicam, 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 cellphone household that is sometimes about showcasing the very best of the very best Samsung has to supply. Without having reviewed the cellphone but, a $1,000 cellphone with a plastic again appears onerous to swallow. Maybe I’ll change my thoughts.Note 20 cameras: 108MP, professional video mode, 8K video seizeThe digicam array is the place Samsung needs 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 principal digicam able to capturing a 108-megapixel photograph, concentrating as a substitute on the concept of cropping in for extra element. Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra digicam

    Galaxy Note 20

    Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

    Main digicam

    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)


    64-megapixel (F2.0, 0.8μm, 76-degree FOV)

    12-megapixel (F3.0, 1.0μm, 20-degree FOV)

    Front-facing digicam

    10-megapixel (F2.2, 1.22μm, 80-degree FOV)

    10-megapixel (F2.2, 1.22μm, 80-degree FOV)


    3x hybrid

    5x optical

    Super Zoom



    Laser auto-focus sensor



    Video seize



    Samsung nonetheless gave the Note 20 Ultra an 108-megapixel digicam choice — you faucet it to show it on if 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 ok or helpful sufficient to justify the value.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 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 sooner, 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 help 8K video seize. Just remember, it will make video recordsdata huge on and off your cellphone.Writing is one factor Galaxy Note telephones do greatest.
    Richard Peterson/CNET
    The Note 20 telephones get new S Pen stylus and be aware app tipsWhat would the Galaxy Note be with out its stylus? For loyalists, scribbling, navigating and annotating are a part of the cellphone’s allure. So is the truth that the Notes app means that you can 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 cellphone), press and maintain the stylus button whereas making one in all 5 new gestures to return, go house, open a latest app or take a screenshot with Smart Select. You also can squiggle the pen to seize your complete 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 be aware within the cloud so that you can entry from some other gadget — so long as you are signed right into a Samsung account.Attach and time-sync voice recordings. You can get your voice be aware to sync with what you write so it will 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 goodiesUWB help 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 cellphone, together with notes and reminders.Samsung DeX, the imaginative and prescient for changing your laptop along with your cellphone, now enables you to join to a different display screen wirelessly to view your content material, say in your TV display screen in your front room. 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 numerous static and distortion, however it did minimize out interfering conversations.Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra specsGalaxy Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra

    Samsung Galaxy Note 20

    Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

    Display measurement, 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)

    161.6×75.2×8.3 mm


    Weight (Ounces, Grams)

    6.84 oz, 194g

    7.33 oz, 208g

    Mobile software program

    Android 10

    Android 10


    12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto)

    12-megapixel (ultrawide), 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)

    Front-facing digicam



    Video seize




    Snapdragon 865 Plus

    Snapdragon 865 Plus



    128GB, 512GB




    Expandable storage


    Up to 1TB


    4,300 mAh

    4,500 mAh

    Fingerprint sensor






    Headphone jack



    Special options

    S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless EnergyShare; water-resistant (IP68)

    5x optical zoom, UWB sharing, S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless EnergyShare; water-resistant (IP68)

    Price off-contract (USD)


    $1,300 (128GB); $1,450 (512GB)

    Price (GBP)



    Price (AUD)



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