The Samsung Galaxy Note series is still on top of its game, even after almost 10 years of being at the cutting edge of mobile technology. For some people, it’s easy to view the Note 20 ultra as “just another Note”, and for a good reason. It’s a beast of a phone that offers the best specs, including a top display, better note-taking capabilities, and updated software to help the Note user stay ahead of the pack. However, it’s also a mix of other Samsung hits, including the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Note 10 Plus.
A few questions remain, has Samsung finally figured out how to fit the right blend of features in its Note lineup to stand them apart from the Galaxy S counterparts? Is it the ultimate flagship for power users? And is the Note 20 Ultra really worth the ultra high price? Perhaps more importantly, is it the right phone for you?
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Let’s Talk Price First
Currently, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is available at $1,300 in the U.S. for the 128Gb, with an option of a 256GB model at $1,400. If you trade in your current Samsung smartphone, you can get up to $650 in trade credits, especially if it’s a recent flagship like the S20 Ultra or the Note 10 Plus – or if you purchase the phone through a carrier. And since this is a 5G phone, you will have to get a 5G plan to take the full advantage of the phone’s extra connectivity speeds.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the phone’s design.
Hardware & Design
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is basically a taller Note 10+ with the beefier camera module of the Galaxy S20 Ultra. In other words, it’s a very familiar device.
It’s available in three colors, the well-received Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, and Mystic White. The phone’s squared-off edges work well with the urbane Mystic bronze color, which in our opinion gives this phone a corner office vibe. The finish also feels good at hand and does a great job of resisting fingerprints.
- Under-display fingerprint scanner
- Gorilla glass 7 (victus) front and rear
- IP68 Certification
The Note Series have always represented a refined piece of hardware. The series often see splashy designs that favors muted elegance. From the Note 8, the Note 9, and the Note 10, each had its own design cues that felt simple and at the same time delicate. Toss in some creative color mixes and finishes and the Note came out as the best dressed phone, nearly every time.
The front of the Note 20 Ultra is hard to distinguish from the Note 10+, save for the larger 6.9” screen. However, when you turn the phone around, the strikingly enormous camera module is hard to miss, especially considering the fact that it keeps the phone from lying flat on a surface. The protrusion is large enough to get in the way of wireless charging in some mats, and even get caught in your pockets when storing the phone.
When compared to the Note 10+, there are two main changes in terms of design – the S-Pen has been relocated to the bottom-left side, while the volume and power buttons have been restored to the proper side of the phone. Perhaps this was done to accommodate the large camera module.
The Note 20 Ultra really gives you the full impact of Samsung’s excellent AMOLED screens – perfect blacks, seamless color roll-off, HDR10+ support, high brightness, and more.
- 6.9-Inch Super AMOLED Display
- WQHD+ resolution, 19.3:9 Aspect Ratio
- 120Hz Variable Refresh Rate
One of the biggest changes this year is jumping from a 60Hz refresh rate to 120 Hz refresh rate. This is largely an aesthetic feature, though it makes the phone feel super smooth, powerful, and modern. However, the 120Hz refresh rate is only available at 1080p resolutions, with 1440p being stuck at 60Hz, which is a bummer.
Switching to the higher resolution will quickly reveal that the extra gains in resolutions isn't worth trading off the 120Hz. Plus, 1080p resolution is still pretty sharp, even on the large screen. However, this is not something we expected to be dealing with at the $1,300 price point.
Performance & Battery Life
Running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+, the performance of the Note 20 series is as good as you’d expect. Combined with the 120Hz refresh rate, the SoC glides through the day no matter what you throw at it – multi-tasking, playing power-hungry games, opening and running apps, and even using the S-Pen to take notes, long screenshots, or just about anything else. Although this performance is impressive, it’s quite expected for such a premium phone.
The battery life is good, of course depending on how you use the device. The 4,500mAh is relatively large, but it doesn’t perform as impressively as we’d hoped. We found the Note 20 Ultra to eat through a fully charged battery before the end of the day, which is not ideal, especially for power users. Fortunately, there’s fast-charging tech that comes in handy when you’re running out of juice.
These days, the triple-lens camera set-up is pretty common on smartphones. Samsung handily delivers here. There’s a 108-MP main sensor, a new 12MP sensor capable of 5x optical zoom, and a 12MP wide-angle camera that delivers twice the field of view of the main sensor.
While Samsung is no longer number one in the camera department, it’s still among the top manufacturers, and photos taken with the Note 20 series don’t disappoint. We liked how Samsung is differentiating itself with its incredible zoom abilities.
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has curved edges, which admittedly look amazing, but curved screens are bad – they distort and cut-off content, and make the phone super fragile. The phone is also super expensive, especially considering having to gripe with the curved screen edges, 120Hz not being available at full resolution, and the not-up-to-par battery life.
Still the Note 20 Ultra is a true flagship, with the appeal of an added stylus and power-user features. And if you do choose to pick it up, getting a quality case will dramatically improve its durability.
Our cases are built to protect your phone using 100% Aramid Fiber, which means they will not interfere with the normal functioning, or signal reception of your phone. Plus, they're super luxurious and durable, so they'll not only add a great look and super premium feel, but also stand up to scratches, dings and dents year after year.