Galaxy Note 20 Ultra ongoing review: Everything good and not-so-good so far

    The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is arresting, however costly. Here’s what we predict up to now.
    Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
    I’ve simply accomplished my second day with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G. Samsung’s cellphone and I are beginning to get into a pleasant little groove. I’ve already fallen deeply in love with the signature bronze shade of the $1,300 flagship system, and the truth that its matte end deters fingerprints.It’s smooth and delightful — till you get to the large digicam bump —  but additionally monumental, awkward for my smaller palms to maneuver and perplexing in the case of sure design selections. (And preserve studying for extra on the usual Note 20, which prices $1,000.) 

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    So far, I’ve taken wealthy, engaging images and loved all of the bounty an exceptionally massive 6.9-inch display screen can convey. I’ve fielded cellphone calls, stored up with work and social networks, purchased groceries touch-free and navigated with Google Maps — all of the every day belongings you’d usually do along with your cellphone on a given day.It’s nonetheless early on and my testing interval can have quite a bit to cowl, from night time pictures and a brand new suite of S Pen gestures to a gradual statement of battery life on a 6.9-inch show with a 4,500-mAh battery and a default 120Hz refresh fee. There’s one different large query I’m seeking to reply by the point the Note 20 Ultra overview interval is full: how a tool constructed to maintain you energetic in society suits right into a world already modified by the coronavirus pandemic.That Note 20 Ultra digicam bump means enterprise.
    Juan Garzon / CNET
    Note 20 Ultra: Here’s what I like proper nowThe bronze shade with the matte end: smooth, subtle and fewer of a grease lure when slick or dirty palms get throughout it. It’s lustrous and understated with out being boring.Taking images is enjoyable. Images are vivid and 5x optical zoom retains image high quality excessive sufficient to make me preserve utilizing it. Ultra-wide angle images are all the time an excellent software to have within the picture arsenal to supply dramatic impact.The display screen, as all the time, is vivid and good, wonderful for studying the information, watching video and scrolling by images.My favourite Galaxy Note methods return to life, like taking a extremely exact screenshot utilizing the S Pen, utilizing the magnifying software to learn on-line menus and too-small font, 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 while you press the stylus button with one hand with out having to stay your arm out at a clumsy 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 sounded nice in my space, however after all your state of affairs may fluctuate relying on the service the place you reside.

    Note 20 Ultra options I’m maintaining a detailed eye onBattery life is one thing I’m intently observing. After an uneven first day, Day 2 was extra like what I’d anticipate for a flagship cellphone — whew. At 10:30am it was absolutely charged and freshly disconnected from the charger. Exactly 12 hours later after a day or moderate-to-heavy use that included an hour and a half of Google Maps navigation, it was at 35%. This was utilizing the default 120Hz display screen setting. Let’s see how tomorrow goes.That digicam bump is tough to disregard. Without a case, I continually 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 transferring the system 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.

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    First Look: Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra


    The S Pen placement could also be one thing I merely must get used to, however up to now, the transfer from the precise facet of the cellphone to the left is not working all that properly for me. There’s nothing inherently unsuitable with the design, however for some cause 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 modifications because the exams go on.Wired headphones do not come within the field. That might not seem to be an enormous deal as Samsung transitions customers towards wi-fi earbuds like its Galaxy Buds Live. But not everybody needs to spend money on a set of wi-fi buds. More to the purpose, Samsung spent years touting the $99 worth of the wired headphones that got here within the field. Without them, the Note’s value retains going up whereas shedding worth. If you do not have already got headphones you need to use, your price of possession simply went up.It can get slightly toasty. My CNET colleagues and I’ve seen the Note 20 Ultra appeared to each generate and dissipate various warmth. Nothing out of the strange, simply an emanating heat that telephones (and laptops and different electronics) can get after they’re working onerous. On a sizzling summer time day, it wasn’t essentially the most nice sensation in my pocket and hand, however undoubtedly not a dealbreaker.

    What will we take a look at tomorrow?There’s nonetheless a lot to see because the Note 20 Ultra begins to settle in as my every day cellphone for the following week. That means the stylus’ new gesture options, night time pictures, gaming, new methods with the Note app and extra. Check again as this overview develops day-to-day. Keep 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 shade), and thick digicam bump on the again staring out like a set of compound eyes, it does not take far more than a look to see this new cellphone for energy customers could be very a lot siren-meets-cyclops.The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra’s appears to be like are just the start of the story — and there is way more under — together with one genuinely shocking change. But earlier than we go there, it is vital to grasp 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 world 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 yr’s entry-level Galaxy Note 10. But whereas Samsung asks us to think about the deserves of a 5G system with juiced-up cameras and a few options higher fitted to the boardroom than the lounge, Google has simply launched a wonderful $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 placing bronze shade
    See all images

    The timing is coincidental, however unlucky. Phones can take greater than a yr to cycle by the pipeline, so when Samsung’s designers and engineers have been plotting the Note 20 refresh, the function roadmap was properly 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 now varieties 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 listing 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 popular display screen to learn in mattress, on the sofa or on the kitchen desk after I need a change of tempo. I exploit cell 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 associates and coworkers throughout hours-long walks with simply my cellphone as a solution to get recent 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 essential options really feel much less compelling on the outset by dint of the occasions. In reality, I hope the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra win me over after I get to check out the overview items. I hope Samsung’s trade-in and yearly improve applications entice its loyal prospects to improve to a tool which will properly 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 vivid, large 6.9-inch show.
    Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
    I’m prepared for the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra to persuade me, or not less than 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 price much more than the Note 20, its capacity 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 yr, there is a huge gulf between the usual Galaxy Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra. (Scroll to the tip for the complete specs comparability.)Note 20 Ultra: What you want to 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, assist for Google’s Nearby Share by its UWB Share (extremely huge band) function 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 occasions 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 gadgets, and try to reply my laundry listing of questions. Attending a digital briefing and poring over our footage, it is clear that from one angle, the Note 20 Ultra appears to be like smooth 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 prone to breaks, cracks and scratches when dropped or dragged alongside a floor — for instance, in the event you lay the cellphone on its again. We’ll put the Note 20 Ultra’s new Gorilla Glass Victus shielding on each side to the take a look at, however I’ve banged up sufficient cellphone cameras throughout my profession as a reviewer to counsel avoiding that danger in any respect prices.The mystic bronze shade 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 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 (similar as final yr) 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 possibility, 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 metallic 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 one of the best of one of the 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 function and a essential digicam able to taking pictures a 108-megapixel picture, 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 possibility — you faucet it to show it on while you need the complete decision. When it involves zoom, the Note 20 falls again to 50x zoom, with the Note 20 settling in at 30x. It’s attention-grabbing 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 value.The Note 20 Ultra has 5x optical zoom, which ought to make images 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 images 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 blissful. 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 information monumental on and off your cellphone.Writing is one factor Galaxy Note telephones do finest.
    Richard Peterson/CNET
    The Note 20 telephones get new S Pen stylus and word app methodsWhat would the Galaxy Note be with out its stylus? For loyalists, scribbling, navigating and annotating are a part of the cellphone’s attraction. So is the truth that the Notes app lets you do all the above. Here are the latest 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 may also 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 possibility is on.Handwriting recognition will get higher with instruments together with autostraighten. Samsung Notes will get dwell auto-syncing in the end. This will retailer a word within the cloud so that you can entry from another system — 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 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 assist for sharing information like a digital key. Point to share with different Samsung gadgets utilizing UWB. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers 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 gadgets and apps to your Samsung cellphone, together with notes and reminders.Samsung DeX, the imaginative and prescient for changing your pc 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 a whole lot of static and distortion, however it did lower 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-proof (IP68)

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

    Price off-contract (USD)


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

    Price (GBP)



    Price (AUD)



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