Samsung’s esteemed Note is back in a bigger and bolder avatar. On the face of it, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra repackages hardware and maintains parity with the S20-series flagships that the South-Korean giant introduces early on at the start of the year. However, Samsung has had an extra 6 months at hand to iron out kinks, optimize existing hardware, and to add new technology – consequently resulting in several noticeable improvements, big and small.

Of course, this is also the first 5G phone from Samsung in the country and the signature S Pen stylus that is consequential to the Note experience takes a generational leap forward.

We have been putting the new Note Ultra through its paces, trying to decide if this is a phone that we’d recommend. In our Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review, we’ll try to address all related queries. 

Contents:

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Price India Price and Specifications

Product  Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G
Display 6.9-inch LTPO (HoP) AMOLED, 1440 x 3088 pixels, Dynamic 120Hz refresh rateHDR10+Gorilla Glass Victus (front and back)
Chipset 7nm+ Exynos 990 octa-core 5G
Software Android 10
RAM and Storage  12GB LPDDR5 RAM/  256 GB UFS3.1 storage
Dimensions and weight 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1 mm; 208 gram
Rear camera  108 MP, f/1.8, 26mm, 1/1.33″, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
12 MP, f/3.0, 120mm (periscope telephoto), PDAF, OIS, 5x optical zoom, 50x hybrid zoom
12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm ( 120-degrees ultrawide)
Front camera  10 MP, f/2.2, 26mm, Dual Pixel PDAF
Battery 4500mAh, 25W fast charging (USB PD 3.0)
Reverse charging, 9W reverse wireless charging
Others S Pen (9ms latency), In-display fingerprint reader,
Samsung Dex wireless, Samsung Pay
Price Rs 1,04,999

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review: Unboxing 

Samsung continues with the same box packaging from last year. Contents include:

  • Handset 
  • Pre-installed screen protector 
  • Good quality AKG earphones (Type-C)
  • 25W USB PD 3.0 charging adaptor
  • USB Cable 9 (Type C to Type C)
  • SIM ejector and documentation

A protective case is something we sorely missed. Also, we’d have expected a faster charger bundled in the box, especially considering the price hike this year. On a positive note, Samsung does install a good quality plastic protector on the display (and also on the top and bottom edges).

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review – Design and Build

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has that Notesy feels to it, and if you ask us, the Mystic Bronze color looks quite remarkable. The Ultra is as broad as the Note10+ from last year, while the height and thickness have marginally increased to accommodate a slightly bigger screen — up from 6.8-inches to 6.9-inches diagonally (We’ll get a 7-inch next year? Probably not, Notes and 7s don’t get along very well).

What you’d first notice is the massive camera bump where the cover glass is just Gorilla Glass 5. It straight away set us rummaging for the case in the box, but there was none to be found. Then again, the protrusion was to be expected and is an acceptable compromise for the magnificent zoom camera (which we will talk about, in a bit).

The Note 20 Ultra is the first phone to employ the latest Gorilla Glass Victus on both front and rear. This is also the first time Samsung is using a frosted finish for the back. Similar to frosted backs we have experienced on other phones, the glass resists finger smudge rather well but feels a tad more slippery than the ceramic finish we had on the S20 series.

This is not a phone for comfortable one-hand usage and it isn’t meant to be either. Samsung’s Notes have always been unapologetically big, and wholly committed to the purpose of helping people accomplish more on their phones. If you happen to use your phone for serious professional work, you’d surely appreciate every extra bit of screen real-estate at hand.

We are not sure if Samsung is using a bigger in-display sensor for the Note20 Ultra, but the unlocking is a lot snappier. Fixing of biometric unlock speed was long overdue and we are finally satisfied with what we have on the Note 20 Ultra.

Other than that, the Note is still IP68 water-resistant and is still missing the audio jack.

To sum it up, we’d say that the Note 20 Ultra is a very well designed for a big phone. The more we live with it, the more we appreciate the feel of the phone and subtle refinements that Samsung has put in.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review – S Pen

You are probably wondering about the S Pen which now draws from the left edge (this will take some getting used to).

The stylus latency has been reduced to 9ms from 42ms and yes the S Pen now rolls a hell lot smoother. This doesn’t have much to do with the S pen itself but the digitizer, because the Note 10 S Pen also felt similarly smooth on the Note 20 Ultra.

We noticed that the S Pen doesn’t smear the display with the light-yet-noticeable trails as it used to.

Anyways, there are more gestures this time and air actions are easier to execute. There are navigation options too, but unless you are engaged with a boardroom presentation, there are always easier ways to accomplish the same.

We believe that for these S Pen gestures to be as effective, the S Pen button needs to be bigger in size and more tactile.

Since this is a note, we’d be remiss not to mention that Samsung’s Note taking app has gotten a lot better and can also sync audio notes with hand jotted texts. It’s also great for taking notes on PDFs.

We do draw our S Pen a lot and due to the extra-large size at play, the stylus proves incredibly handy as the camera shutter button (especially when we are relishing the awesome zoom camera and needed some extra stability) and we also find it’s precise touches particularly useful while using the phone browser (for professional purposes).

Also, S Pen always has been a valuable tool for executives who need to often sign documents while on the move.

Also Read: 20 S Pen Features, Tips, and Tricks

Also Check: Samsung Galaxy S20 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review – Display

Samsung can be credited with some of the best AMOLED displays of our times and manages to improve them with every generation. Colors, contrast, and dynamic range on the Note20 Pro are simply awesome (we prefer the ‘Natural’ profile). And consuming HDR content on the broad canvas truly feels like bliss.

For the first time, Samsung uses an LTPO display panel that supports dynamic refresh rate – which is to say that the display could refresh at as low as 1Hz for static content or as high as 120Hz while gaming. This helps conserve battery, but we are not yet sure by how much.

For all that’s great, the grand Note 20 ultra still can’t push 1440p @120Hz. Users will have to choose between 1080p@120Hz or 1440p@60Hz. After going back and forth a bit, we ultimately settled for more pixels. Either way, this is not the sort of compromise we should be making on a phone that costs more than 1 lakh. 

The competition does offer 2K@120Hz, but then none of those screens have the wow factor you’d get with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra display. Truly the screen is impressive.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review – Performance and Software

In India, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 is powered by Exynos 990 paired with up to 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB UFS 3.1 storage. Samsung’s Exynos 990 on Galaxy S20 fell a little behind the Snapdragon 865 in terms of performance and thermals.

Going by the benchmarks, the Exynos 990 on the Galaxy Note20 Ultra isn’t a massive upgrade over the Exynos 990 on the S20 series. Having said that, gaming performance seems to have improved. We didn’t face any erratic performance issues on our Note 20 Ultra. Yes, the SD 865 is better, but the Exynos 990 didn’t feel lacking from the raw performance perspective. 

Also Read: 5 Impressive multitasking tricks on Samsung phones

Software is the familiar OneUI 2.0 that comes laden with useful extras like Samsung Knox, Samsung Dex wireless, and Samsung Pay. Samsung partners with Microsoft to make workflow between your Windows PC and Note20 seamless. In fact, the Your Phone app will soon let users access Android apps right from the PC. 

Samsung Dex is another such productivity too. The major upgrade with Dex is that it has gone wireless. If you have a Miracast enabled TV (or Dongle), your TV will be able to mirror a desktop-friendly version of your phone in a jiffy! This makes Dex even more accessible. 

Also Read: 7 Cool Samsung Dex tips and tricks

When in Dex mode, there is an option to use your Note as a touchpad. This, however, didn’t work well. To make the most of Dex, you’d need wireless mouse and keyboard. 

The Note 20 Ultra has all the latest connectivity option and it’s also the first Android phone to include Ultra-wideband (UWB) connectivity. UWB is currently being used to enhance Nearby Share, but Samsung is also developing it for indoor navigation (SmartThings Find) and as a digital key.

We will need to spend some more time with the phone before we make any conclusive remark. What we can say is that the Note 20 Ultra tends to run hotter.

The 4500mAh battery supports USB PD 3.0 but Samsung restricts the device to the basic 25W fast charging. You can not buy a separate 45W adaptor to get faster-charging speeds for the Note 20 Ultra. The downgrade is probably in the interest of better long term battery health.

The Note 20 Ultra can also reverse charge other phones via cable or wirelessly, but with all the heavy machinery grunting inside, there probably wouldn’t be much left to splurge.

Software is the familiar OneUI 2.0 that comes laden with useful extras like Samsung Knox, Samsung Dex wireless (which we will be exploring in our full review later), and Samsung Pay. Alas, the interface feels so much better at 120Hz.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Camera Review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra borrows the S20 Ultra camera system but there are a few changes. The telephoto camera now uses a 12MP sensor (instead of 48MP) and is equipped with a wider aperture lens.

The primary camera retains the large-size 108MP Nonacell sensor that combines 9 0.8µm pixels into 1 and outputs 12MP images. The 12MP wide-angle camera remains the same as on Galaxy S20 Ultra as well. 

The camera seems to focus faster now, and we managed some remarkable daylight and night time shots. The sheer amount of detail and the wide dynamic range from both primary and wide-angle cameras are impressive, to say the least.

Also quite impressive is the new periscopic zoom camera. The clarity in the zoom camera has definitely improved. In fact, images up to 10X zoom are surprisingly good. 

10X Zoom shot above has remarkable details

The selfie snapper and live focus mode shows significant improvements. In these two aspects, the Note 20 Ultra delivered better results than iPhone 11 pro.

Samsung perhaps has the best Pro mode and Pro video mode there is on the Android side of things. The camera app is loaded to the brim with features. There is slow-motion recording, super slow motion capture, Audio zoom, Pro mode for videos, and a tonne of AR stuff in there.

So, overall, Samsung nails the camera part. It still falls a tad short of iPhone 11 Pro,  though.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G Review: Battery and Audio

The 4500mAh battery supports USB PD 3.0 but Samsung restricts the device to the basic 25W fast charging. You can not buy a separate 45W adaptor to get faster-charging speeds for the Note 20 Ultra. The downgrade is probably in the interest of better long term battery health. 

Out of the box, the Note 20 Ultra can reverse charge other phones via cable. or wirelessly. But considering the battery mileage, this sure feels like a splurge. 

While running the display at 4K resolution and with one SIM card in use, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra can last for one moderate usage day. Not more. With the refresh rate set to 120Hz, the battery drains a bit faster. Be it the optimizations in Exynos 990 or the variable refresh rate OLED, the difference in mileage on 120Hz and 60Hz isn’t as wide as it was on the Galaxy S20. 

We suspect the major battery hog on Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is UWB technology. A UWBTest app has been responsible for copious static drain (12 to 41%). If this is fixed via an update, the battery backup could significantly improve.

As for the audio, Samsung houses powerful stereo speakers and the audio quality is excellent. The audio signature is neutral and well balanced.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review verdict: Should You buy it?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a fantastic phone, no two ways about that. Beyond a certain price bracket, the price-value proposition takes a backseat. Most consumers buying in the segment aren’t comparing in terms of value, but need a product that is awesome and serves their purpose well. 

And to that effect, the new Note is perfectly recommendable. The more time we spend with the phone, the more we like it. 

The Note 20 Ultra has an extremely appealing display (despite the lack of 120Hz at 2K), powerful stereo speakers, a capable camera system, a more fluid S Pen stylus, and it’s very well designed for a big phone.

If you ask us, you need not hold yourself back because of the Exynos 990 and the overall performance. The battery backup, however, should have been better. 

Pros 

  • Impressive display
  • Excellent design
  • Amazing cameras 
  • One UI software with useful extras like Samsung Pay, Dex
  • S Pen feels more fluid
  • Snappy performance 

Cons

  • Middling battery life 
  • No 2k@120Hz
  • No audio jack

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