Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G smartphone review

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Erin Lawrence

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5G

Samsung continues its smartphone updates with the new Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G. I had a chance to spend a couple of weeks with the Ultra phone to see how it works and what it’s like to use.

Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G review

There’s the Galaxy Note 20 & Note 20 Ultra: so what’s the difference?

The big differentiator of the Note lineup overall is the included stylus or Samsung S-Pen. We’ll get to that in a moment… but both Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra have it; it now lives in the bottom left of the phone body.

Galaxy Note 20 & Note 20 Ultra: what’s the difference?

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5GThere are a few small differences from the 20 to the 20 Ultra: notably, the battery on the ultra is a bit bigger, with 4,300mAh (25W Charging) on the 20, and 4,500mAh (25W Charging) on the Ultra.

Both phones have the same processor (the Snapdragon 865+) while the 20 has 8GB or RAM to the Ultra’s 12gb RAM. The Ultra also has expandable storage.

The cameras are a bit different too: the Note 20 has a 64MP Rear main camera and the Ultra upgrades you to  a 108MP main camera/

The display is also different between the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra: The Ultra is a hair larger.

 Let’s talk about that screen…

The Note 20 has 6.7”  display while going with the Ultra gets you 6.9” edge AMOLED Infinity-O Display.

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5GSamsung Note 20 Ultra 5G: size & esthetics

This is a big phone, though it’s incredibly light. It has the edge-to-edge Infinity-O display Samsung phones are known for, but the top and bottom edges are kind of boxy. Nonetheless it’s slim, sleek and looks beautiful, particularly in Samsung’s flagship Mystic Bronze shade.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a camera that’s far better than the previous Galaxy Note 10 series. Which is a good thing, because the massive protruding camera array on the back was a serious detriment. At least it’s doing something.

Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G: camera

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5GThe Galaxy Note 20 Ultra features a 108MP rear wide angle camera,  a 12MP Telephoto camera, and a 12 MP ultra wide camera.   ON the front, there’s a 10MP selfie cam. There;’s also a 5X optical zoom, 3X hybrid Optic Zoom on the Ultra and a 50X digital superzoom feature. It’s all backed by a laser autofocus sensor.

Samsung phones have always taken great photos and the Note 20 is designed so you can outdo your pals on almost every front.

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5G

Rear camera array

Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G: Single Take

An advanced AI feature called Single Take will let you take one shot and give you multiple options with it. Tap the shutter and record for a few seconds (you choose the time), then let your phone do the post-production work. It delivers several different formats and even suggests the best one. And for portraits, it gives you studio-level photos with a pop of colour in the background.

 Finally the cameras have support for low light environments and a Night Mode that turns multiple frames into one well-lit, clear photo.

The photos are outstanding… the detail on close up and macro shots is stunning, the colours are great and the camera gives you a tonne of control over your images. The camera could be a video all on its own, so I’ll leave it at that, but Samsung phones have some of the best cameras in my opinion.

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5G

Using Single take

8K video on Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G

The big upgrade on this phone is 8K video recording. While this is still in the early adopter phase for a lot of us, suffice to say taking videos in 8K means they are four times higher resolution than 4K UHD, so they’re ultra crisp, sharp, detailed and realistic.

The Video camera also gives you full control of your videos with ISO, shutter speed, manual focus, and more options in Pro Video mode. You can also create a cinematic environment by shooting in 24fps and adjusting between 16:9 or 21:9 aspect ratios.

You can also set the camera to 120fps to shoot super smooth, detailed video. Keep it in real time or slow it down for slow-motion videos with less warping, less shudder, and way more action. Then when you play it back, the display automatically shifts to 120Hz for the full effect.

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5G

Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G video effects

Adjust the background depth for DSLR-like focus in your vlogs. Then heighten the magic of the scene choosing from a variety of effects and shifting their intensity: Blur, Big Circle, Colour Point, and Glitch.

Super Steady mode provides for anti-shudder in videos on Galaxy Note20 5G and Note20 Ultra 5G, so the action footage you shoot should come out steady and clear.

S-pen: Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G

Billed as “the world’s most powerful S Pen” the pen in the Note 20 Ultra is much more than a stylus. It has the unique characteristic of feeling like a real pen writing on paper instead of a metal nib scraping on glass.

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5GThe Pen can also be a remote control for your phone and it brings back the gestures or Air Actions found in the Note 10, though I had to look hard to find anything about that. Seems while Samsung touted this feature on the 10, it’s just quietly included on the 20. Just as well, since when I tried out the air actions on the 10, I found they worked pretty well, but weren’t something I’d really use day-to-day.

Theres a few other features that are back too including  Screen off memo where you just pop out the S Pen and you can write on your blank screen without unlocking your phone, then pin it to the screen or find it in Samsung Notes. Very handy!

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5GScreen write also makes a return where you can take screenshots and add notations. With a tap of the S Pen, your notations and notes transform into text you can copy and paste. And if you’re writing at an angle or go off track, Auto Straighten realigns your writing to keep your outlines tidy and organized.

One other feature lets you Start your notes on your phone and they’re automatically saved—so you can easily sync up and access them on your other devices. Samsung Notes has all the same functionality on your PC, with an optimized User interface. I didn’t have a PC to try this with so I didn’t test this feature.

Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G: battery life & charging

The battery on this phone is meant to be an “all day” battery, coming in with 4500 mAh.

That’s about average and likely helps keep the phone’s design slim and light. While some phones have scaled up to 6000mAh batteries that’s not super common. Even so, the Note 20 Ultra has some features designed to help you make the most of what’s inside:

The battery uses  AI, which helps it conserve power intelligently. And the 25W power-up feature is topnotch. When I heard it charges from 0-50% in 30 minutes, it sounded like an exaggeration until I tried it myself. That’s a lot of improvement to fast-charging.

The Note 20 Ultra lets you use Power Share, which turns your phone into a wireless charging pad, letting you charge compatible devices like headphones, watches and other phones.

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5GSupport for gaming

With the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate feature to be launched on September 15 this year, you can play over 100 Xbox games on the Galaxy Note 20 smartphones. What’s more, you can use a game controller, access multiple Xbox games online, and enjoy an exciting gaming experience without interruption.

While gaming on the Galaxy Note 20, you may have to use a controller for your favorite Xbox games. However, you will also need to buy the game controller separately, mainly because it doesn’t come with the phone.

The 5G connectivity feature makes gaming more exciting than usual with super-fast connections unless there is a fault from your network service provider. I’m not a gamer, so I didn’t try this, so I’ll take Samsung’s word for this that it’s fast, responsive and fun.

This phone is 5G ready and the powerful intelligent processor inside Galaxy Note20 5G and Note20 Ultra 5G makes sure your downloads and streams happen as fast as 5G enables them. Or when you’re near a Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi 6 delivers a quick and more secure connection, while the Wi-Fi Optimizer keeps latency low for uninterrupted gaming and video calls, even in a crowded area.

Overall Review of Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G

samsung, galaxy, note 20, spen, review, ultra, 5G

Power Share in use

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra  has lots of features. The battery performance, aesthetic appeal, camera, and 5G connectivity are big plusses in this smartphone.

I like the size, weight and feel, and while I wasn’t using it enough to test the overall speed, and load it by using multiple data heavy apps, it seems speedy enough for the average user.

One of the features I didn’t like was the camera array on the back. It’s clunky, protruding and it means the phone can’t lay flat. That said, Samsung’s cameras take absolutely stunning photos. I’ve long loved Samsung phones for their cameras and this one is no different.

If I have to buy a new smartphone, I wouldn’t think twice about opting for Galaxy Note 20.

Sells for a whopping $1819CAD, but as you know you can get it for less from your cellular provider with a contract.

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