Galaxy S20 Ultra: Top camera features finally make sense, but battery life doesn’t (ongoing review)

    The Galaxy S20 Ultra is probably the most superior of Samsung’s new telephones.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    I started this ongoing overview of the Galaxy S20 Ultra figuring out that Samsung’s redesigned digital camera system and the large 5,000-mAh battery would make or break the cellphone. I’ve spent the previous few days testing its 108-megapixel most important sensor and as much as 100x AI-assisted digital camera zoom and a 40-megapixel most important digital camera, searching for causes to make use of these over-the-top options in actual life. I lastly discovered it.Unfortunately, throughout my day trip taking pictures within the atmospheric, coastal metropolis of Monterey, Calif., the S20 Ultra’s battery life additionally got here into query. I’ll break each observations down under. But earlier than I do, only a reminder that these are my evolving impressions, which change as new info and observations come to gentle. They’re on no account my closing ideas, so I hope you will stick round for the rated overview and particular shopping for recommendation about who this cellphone is for and if it is well worth the asking value.Remember, too, that the S20 Ultra is probably the most superior of Samsung’s new Galaxy S20 telephones, with the biggest display measurement 6.9 inches), the most important battery and probably the most digital camera toys in comparison with the Galaxy S20 Plus and normal Galaxy S20 (scroll to the top for a full specs comparability). It’s additionally the costliest, beginning at $1,400 for the 256GB model (£1,199 for the 128GB model or AU$1,999), in comparison with $1,000 for the S20 and $1,200 for the S20 Plus.The core software program and {hardware} options, together with a quick 120Hz display refresh fee, Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and 5G readiness stay the identical for all S20 telephones (the bottom S20 mannequin is a bit more difficult, supporting the sub-6 kind of 5G, aside from Verizon). And now, here is my breakthrough understanding in regards to the S20 Ultra’s digital camera, battery and extra.Read additionally: Our first images with the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s new cameras
    How the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s digital camera modified my mindI admit I used to be optimistic however skeptical once I began testing the Galaxy S20’s two marquee digital camera options, the 108-megapixel most important digital camera sensor and 100x “space zoom.” They skirt the sting of gimmick. But a day spent photographing issues I really like in a spot expensive to my coronary heart made me perceive the worth of those options in a extra private method — which is strictly the check I used to be going for.I spent the day with my mother clambering the identical coastal rocks and strolling the identical paths that I’ve almost yearly since my childhood. We laughed at overconfident squirrels on the hunt for human meals they undoubtedly should not be consuming; peered into tide swimming pools crammed with hermit crabs, mussels and folded in sea anemones; felt the salt wind whip our faces and watched the Pacific’s majestic waves crash upon ocean rock. These are issues I naturally need to {photograph} and share, and so that is what I did.The promise of the Ultra’s 108-megapixel sensor is to offer you extra element if you crop right into a shot. I initially discovered that wasn’t all the time the case, relying on what it’s you are taking pictures. First, you need to choose the setting or else the digital camera will take 12-megapixel images, utilizing a course of known as pixel binning. A deep crop edited after taking this picture from excessive above with the S20 Ultra’s 108-megapixel digital camera setting.
    Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
    Second, I had higher luck with images that weren’t too shut up. For instance, I shot a mid-distance picture of blue mussels spiking a rock. I’d have needed to wade in to get shut sufficient for a macro, however taking a fast picture in 108 let me crop in with glorious element on one cluster or one other. To get discover element on a towering flower planted alongside the coastal path, a daily previous macro shot did the trick.I’ve all the time mentioned that the advantage of excessive zoom is to shut a bodily distance you possibly can’t overcome to see the factor you need to see — just like the cornice of a palace or a celeb on stage. The picture will not be frameworthy, however it’s higher than having nothing in any respect. In Monterey, the S20 Ultra’s 10x, 30x and even 100x zoom, which depend on AI algorithms, had been helpful for photographing big cormorants clustered on a rock and a person in a chartreuse kayak paddling far out from the shore. When I left Mom to clamber up a hill of rocks, each zoom and 108-megapixel images let me {photograph} her waving from under.These most likely aren’t options you will use every single day, however I’m beginning to really feel that I’d use them greater than I initially thought.

    Just a few extra digital camera particularsSamsung mentioned it made the S20’s sensors 3 times bigger than one the Galaxy S10 to let in additional gentle. Photos are clear, sharp and colourful general. Here are some check pictures from the Galaxy S20 Ultra thus far.108-megapixel photographs take up far extra space, say two to eight occasions the storage for a lot of pictures.Photos taken at 10x and 30x zoom are higher high quality than 100x zoom.At 100x, the digital camera’s house zoom will get too shaky for clear handheld pictures. Use a tripod or monopod, or stabilize it towards a floor.Some images I shot shut up had been truly noisier in 108 once I zoomed in (on the laptop computer display and the cellphone display) than they had been taken with the usual picture mode.Battery life with the 120Hz displayThe Galaxy S20 units help 120Hz refresh charges on the display. That means pixels refresh 120 occasions a second, twice that of the usual 60Hz refresh fee. The concept is to make every part from scrolling and animations to gameplay liquid clean. The characteristic is not on by default, and it is not within the fast entry bar, so you need to flip it on your self. Samsung expects you to both use it on a regular basis or by no means, relatively than having you toggle it for gaming after which reverting. The alternative, after all, is yours. Using 120Hz instantly took a battery toll on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Granted, I hit the cellphone laborious with three hours of Google Maps navigation to and from Monterey. And I always used the cellphone to {photograph} and file my environment. But I misplaced energy at the next fee than I’d anticipate for a tool with such an beneficiant battery. After 10.5 hours, I had dropped from 100% to 12%, and nonetheless had hours of night to go. Thankfully, the cellphone absolutely charged in below an hour, utilizing the 25-watt charger that comes within the field.It’s laborious to say how lengthy the battery would have lasted with the 60Hz refresh fee. Maybe I’d have seen a dip too, however I’m undecided that the additional smoothness from the 120Hz display is price battery nervousness for me. Meanwhile, the battery testing continues.
    So seems you CAN run down a 5,000mAh battery fairly low in 9 hours. It’s straightforward! 💯 at 8:30am + 3 hours driving navigation, + nonstop picture and video + 120Hz display refresh fee – 5G (4G just for me) #GalaxyS20Ultra— Jessica Dolcourt (@jdolcourt) February 23, 2020

    Battery life with out 120Hz or 5G: Very goodStraight out of the field, I had confidence that the Galaxy S20 Ultra may stand up to most issues I threw at it — a minimum of over 4G information and utilizing the 60Hz default display refresh fee. (I’ve already talked about the obvious battery toll of the 120Hz mode above.)As for 5G, these sooner speeds are recognized to empty battery reserves sooner than 4G, however that is not one thing I’ve been capable of quantify but. At this level, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is not fairly calibrated to AT&T’s 5G community, and I’ve been testing on an AT&T SIM. AT&T and Samsung guarantee me that by the point the Ultra arrives on retailer cabinets, 5G might be good to go. I additionally swapped in a T-Mobile SIM card to make use of all day, however wasn’t capable of finding 5G sign wherever I used to be yesterday. On 4G, the S20 Ultra retained spectacular battery reserves even after hours of hotspotting to my laptop computer, streaming Netflix video, and importing dozens of images and video over mobile. I’m in no way involved about working low. 
    The Ultra’s huge digital camera bump worries meSamsung redesigned all the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s cameras and gave its premiere cellphone the most important digital camera array of the S20 units. The module is inescapably giant, about an inch by an inch and a half if I eyeball it, and it rises from the floor. It’s ugly, however extra importantly, I fear about defending the glass over the sensors.When I set the cellphone down on its again on a tabletop, or reposition it, I can really feel and listen to the bump scrape throughout the floor. If this cellphone had been to fall out of my palms and hit the pavement, that module would most likely be the very first thing to crack. Unfortunately, I do know this situation firsthand. The identical factor occurred when the Galaxy Note 10 Plus took a nosedive out of my pocket after I completed reviewing the cellphone.I’m relying on a case to make the digital camera module really feel extra flush, and higher shield it throughout drops. Broken glass throughout the sensors can downgrade picture high quality.The S20 Ultra’s digital camera bump is loud and proud.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    Other Galaxy S20 Ultra takeawaysIts 6.9-inch display is brilliant and sensible, with Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED 2X tech. Ironically, the display’s pixel density is a tad decrease than on the opposite S20 telephones, however with out having these overview models from Samsung, I am unable to but examine them aspect by aspect.The Galaxy S20 Ultra feels actually heavy (7.76 ounces) and in comparison with the Galaxy Z Flip I reviewed earlier this week, my hand will get fairly drained holding it whereas watching video.The cosmic gray colour I acquired in my overview unit jogs my memory of modeling clay within the worst method. Buy it in black or get a case.You can really feel the sides of Samsung’s pre-applied display protector if you swipe the sides of the display (e.g. when utilizing Android 10’s gesture navigation). It is not the perfect feeling.I really like utilizing the Edge show panel as an apps shortcut bar, and I additionally love the power to lock the tab and alter its colour so I can simply discover it regardless of which display I’m on.Design-wise, it is not as refined because the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, however the stubbier (and fewer rounded) edges do make it simpler to put a cursor on the fringe of the display with out my finger falling off the sting.Since the cosmic gray backing is not as mirrored, fingerprint smudging is much less obvious.Benchmarking assessments again up my impression that the S20 Ultra handles duties extraordinarily shortly.

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    Galaxy S20 specs in contrastGalaxy S20, S20 Plus, S20 Ultra specs

    Samsung Galaxy S20

    Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

    Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

    Display measurement, decision

    6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

    6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

    6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

    Pixel density




    Dimensions (Inches)

    2.72×5.97×0.311 in

    2.9×6.37×0.30 in

    2.99×6.57×0.35 in

    Dimensions (Millimeters)

    69.1×151.7×7.9 mm



    Weight (Ounces, Grams)

    5.75 oz; 163g

    6.56 oz; 186g

    7.76 oz; 220g

    Mobile software program

    Android 10

    Android 10

    Android 10


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

    12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight digital camera

    108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight digital camera

    Front-facing digital camera




    Video seize





    64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)

    64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)

    64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)



    128GB, 512GB

    128GB, 512GB




    12GB, 16GB

    Expandable storage

    Up to 1TB

    Up to 1TB

    Up to 1TB


    4,000 mAh

    4,500 mAh

    5,000 mAh

    Fingerprint sensor








    Headphone jack




    Special options

    5G enabled; 120Hz refresh fee; water-resistant (IP68)

    5G enabled; 120Hz refresh fee; water-resistant (IP68)

    5G enabled; 120Hz refresh fee; 100x zoom; water-resistant (IP68)

    Price off-contract (USD)




    Price (GBP)

    £799, £899 (5G)

    £999 (5G)

    £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB)

    Price (AUD)

    AU$1,349, AU$1,499 (5G)

    AU$1,499, AU$1,649 (5G)


    Published earlier this week and up to date regularly with new info.

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