- Gorgeous Display and Beautiful Colors with 120Hz Refresh
- SD Card Expandability and only One variant available
- Camera is superb but the Space Zoom is still a Gimmick
- S Pen Experience is pretty darn Amazing
- Battery Life is decent
- Relatively identical design as the Note10+
- The pricing is absolutely expensive, making it harder to recommend
Just like last year, Samsung announced their new Note lineup, and it comes in two different variants. But unlike last year, we now have the Normal Note20 and the Note20 Ultra, replacing the Plus variant from the last generation. At least that’s the trend with the whole use case this year. We didn’t review the S20 Ultra – well, we didn’t want to because of the whole Movement Control Order, we weren’t allowed to go out at all. But we did review the S20, S20+ and the Z Flip. Samsung graced us with the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G (a long name) and I have a lot to say about it – so, part of the review is in the video and the rest of it is written below and hear us out.
Watch it on YouTube
Look and Feel
If we were to compare it with hand in hand with the Note10 Series, honestly – not much has changed, except for some fine-tuned design choices with the Note20 Series. In this review, we are going to talk about the Ultra of course. That said, this is the only phone this year from the Note lineup to have a curved display on the front and a curved overall design. On the back is where you see a prominent change: it’s got a hump. Not like any other kind of little bump but a marginally bigger one – thicker than a Malaysian 50 sen coin. So, placing the phone on a flat surface is virtually impossible without a case and by the way, the phone doesn’t come with a Silicon Case – so better pickup a case before you even get the phone and a screen protector because there’s no protective film either.
We received the Mystic Black and in fact, it reminded me more of Sony Xperia Z Premium metallic color which I loved. It also comes in a “frosty” matte finish but made only available in one color – Mystic Bronze. This is kind of a disappointment that in order to experience a new look, you have to get that one color when they could have made all the phones “frosty” looking. The Mystic Black is a dust and fingerprint magnet – so again – case, get one. As for the whole phone, it feels the same but humongous as compared to last years Note10+ and a lot more fragile but in the build department, you are definitely getting a premium finish with the glass and metal rails.
Specification and Performance
This time, the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G only comes in one configuration to keep it simple and neat. You’ll find the following under the hood.
- Samsung Exynos 990 Processor Octa-Core
- 12GB RAM | 256GB Internal Storage
- Expandable memory via MicroSD Card up to 1TB
This is pretty much what you should know in this aspect. Malaysians or pretty many countries that isn’t getting a Snapdragon variant is going “No Exynos.” Which is an expression I personally hate hearing for good reason. The thing is that the Exynos variant versus the Snapdragon variant has a performance difference, with Qualcomm powered smartphone being marginally better in benchmark scores.
In reality, it doesn’t matter if you get the Exynos or the Snapdragon, you are not going to see any different in the experience. That said – my question to you is this “Does that marginal improvement helps you in anyway?” If the answer is no, the Exynos 990 processor is still a great silicon to go with and there’s truly little to get disappointed at all. To keep that cool – it’s covered with either a Vapor Chamber or a Graphite Cooling system (which is odd) but for the most part, the thermal on the phone is on the okay side.
The Note20 Ultra 5G was my daily driver for the most part and I had a good time using it – play one or two game titles and the experience is as what you get in today’s flagship smartphones – snappy, quick and responsive. Whatever you find under the hood tells part of the story, but the display is where you will really experience the phone. Before that, here are the benchmark scores of this phone – Antutu, Geekbench and AIDA64 for specification verification.
The Note20 Ultra is the only one to come with an edge-to-edge display – it houses a 6.9” QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display. Not just that, the display still retains that punch hole camera on top, which Samsung calls it the Infinity-O. It still is one gorgeous, in fact one of the best panels you can find in the market on a smartphone. It also gets the extra quirks like 120Hz refresh rate masked under the Adaptive Display term which is rather interesting. Unlike the S20 and the S20+ which had an 120Hz option, the Ultra went for the Adaptive term, to our use case – which felt the same. But it behaves like a ProMotion display on an Apple display, when its not in use it drops the frames and when it is in use the refresh rate kicks back in. Watching shows and playing games are immersive. The lack of bezels to hold does get a little iffy but now we get so many phones with relatively the same concept, it doesn’t feel that bad either.
The fingerprint sensor underneath the display remains the same – slow and sluggish. Sometimes unable to recognize the fingerprint sensor properly. I really hope the next generation of devices does get some sort of improvement in that department.
Software and S Pen Experience
Another area the phone improved, and the main highlight will be the S Pen. The S Pen’s improvements this time around – it has gone through but to put it short: more software improvements, finetuning of the tip with almost very little latency and this time, there is no extra replacement tip included in the box. That said, the S Pen users will be enjoying taking notes on the Samsung apps and being able to convert it into Powerpoint and such.
On the back of the Note20 Ultra 5G, it comes with a relatively similar setup as the S20 Ultra which was unveiled earlier this year. It comes with a triple camera setup comes with the following sensor and configuration:
- 12MP Ultra Wide Camera
- 108MP Wide Angle Camera
- 12MP Telephoto Camera
To assist all that camera with better focus, it comes with Laser AF Sensor. The camera performance on the Note series or Samsung flagship series has always been superior for many reasons – all possible to its good color production and the algorithm to make it pop. It’s a great point and shoot camera you can use it to snap a picture without thinking twice. Now you do have the option to tinker the whole settings to your liking with the Pro tool but it’s going to be a once in a while use, ones gonna go through. Check out the samples from this camera below.
As for the front facing camera, it comes with a 10MP Selfie shooter for you take some good selfie or wefie as per your liking.
Battery Life and Charging
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra gets a bump in the battery division – it now rocks a 4500mAh and comparing with the smaller Note20, that’s 200mAh extra – which gives you an idea that the smaller Note20 is not too shabby in the battery offering. That said during our time using the phone, we were able to get about a whole day use out of every battery cycle and our usage involved – using the GPS, watching Shows, Social Networking, Listening to music, Bluetooth connectivity and Cellular Data.
During our usage – we got about 4 hours 30 minutes which in my opinion is a little too short. It is a little too subjective and varies accordingly to different users, but on a day when I don’t use my GPS, the phone gives me about 5 hours+ screen on time. Good thing is that you can end your day and even though you will – most likely, connect to a wall adapter at the end of the day, good news – you are not doing it in the middle of the day going around in search for a USB-C cable or a battery pack.
I am going to be very honest here – the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G is a huge smartphone with the usual treatment going on – I love it. New specs for a new year, a new look and that’s basically it. The hardware is strong and the improvements in the software is marginal but that doesn’t mean the software is bad or anything, in fact, it’s great. But say if you are coming from a Note9 or a Note10, you won’t be able to tell a single difference because there isn’t anything staggering that make you go that you need this phone.
Samsung phones in general has hit its peak and I say this from the S20 onwards because there isn’t anything more you could do to a smartphone and all they could do is fine tune whatever they have, which is exactly what’s happening. Another thing is that the price has skyrocketed to an all-time high, coming in at a whopping RM 5,199 and as much as I am a huge fan of the Note Series and still rocking my Note8, I don’t think I will be changing to it. Maybe the smaller Note20 is something I’d consider but we will talk about that in the upcoming review as we are doing content on that indeed.
The Note20 Ultra 5G is a great phone and if you have the money to spend and find it okay with the idea of changing your phone every three years, go ahead. If its pricey for you, the Note20 is a good alternative. Not the 5G but the normal Note20.
Special thanks to Samsung Malaysia for sending us the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G for reviewing purposes and for making the following content happen.