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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra quick review: Looks to kill, but will it be enough?

Sushant Talwar     August 8, 2020

Samsung is arguably the biggest name in the world of Android smartphones, and a big reason behind it being so have been the uber premium flagships that it launches twice a year. Split across the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series, Samsung launches multiple flagships every year, that not only take the fight to other Android phone makers but also take on the Apple's iPhones with their premium features and design.

The latest in this list are the Galaxy Note 20 series of phones, which were launched by Samsung earlier in the week. The series brings with itself two new phones, the Galaxy Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra. While both are premium segment devices, it is definitely the latter which is the more interesting of the two.

The new Galaxy 20 device steals the Ultra moniker from the Galaxy S20 series launched earlier in the year and uses it to its advantage. In every possible way, this new phone symbolises excess in technology and stands out as a worthy bearer of the Ultra tag. This new flagship marries a brilliantly crafted design to core hardware that is still among the most powerful available for smartphones right now.

Although we haven't spent nearly enough time with Galaxy Note 20 Ultra to put out a full review yet, however, we've had enough interaction with it to share our initial impressions of the device.

To begin with, one of the biggest positives of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra appears to be its design. While the Galaxy S20 and Note 10 phones were beautiful looking devices in their own right, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra in our opinion takes the design game to a whole new level. The Note 20 Ultra is a gorgeous beast that's crafted solely from metal and glass. However, what makes it quite different from the Note 10+ and the S20 Ultra is the treatment of glass on the device.

Much like these phones, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra also uses glass at the back. But this time around, this sheet at the back gets a frosted glass finish, instead of the glossy reflective treatment we've seen on flagships from Samsung in the recent past. This helps give the Note 20 Ultra a sense of understated class, which too be honest, is just the look that productivity-focused flagship devices from the Galaxy Note series should always be going for.

Samsung's also managed to make the phone much slimmer in profile than the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Note 10+, making the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra feel quite lightweight and ergonomic in the hand. This is not to say, the new Galaxy Note flagship is the most lightweight phones out there. It definitely isn't. However, it is much lighter than previous generation phones, and even the weight that it has appears to have been evenly spread across the phone, making the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra feel like a delight to hold in the palm.

On the front, the phone brings with itself a similar 6.9-inch WQHD display that we've seen on the Galaxy S20 Ultra earlier in the year. Although, the curves here are slightly more pronounced, which depending on the user's preference, could be a con or a pro in favor of the device. The performance of the panel, however, is exactly as you'd expect. In our limited time with it, we found the phone's display to out punchy colours and even handle blacks really well.

The only real qualm that we have of the display is that Samsung still does not support 120Hz refresh rate at WQHD resolution. Much like the S20 Ultra, for this one has to scale down the resolution to Full HD+. But this is a software bottleneck, and we hope that it gets fixed in the future updates by Samsung. Talking about qualms, the phone's rear camera set-up also features a rather thick camera bump that's actually more pronounced than the one on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Although, it will be unfair if we don't mention that the design treatment of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra's camera module is much better than the S series phone, so that's definitely a pro in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra's favor.

Under the hood, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra sports the same Exynos 990 SoC that we've seen on the S20 Ultra earlier this year. While the use of an old chipset is a slight bummer, Samsung's pairing of it with 12Gb of RAM is definitely welcome news. There's also 256GB of expandable storage to go with it so your phone doesn't tun out of space any time soon. Till now, this configuration has worked well for us, and we haven't encountered any lags or stutters. But considering we encountered a few issues with the Galaxy S20 Ultra in the first few days, we'll like to reserve our judgment on the performance of the device for now.

The same is for the cameras which we really haven't had enough time to play around with. As for cameras, Note 20 Ultra features a 108-megapixel main camera sat next to a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera that supports 5x true optical zoom. This is not only different from the S20 Ultra, but also Note 20, which on the other hand, only gets a 64-megapixel camera for telephotos with 3x hybrid optic zoom, a 12-megapixel primary camera, and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera. The Note 20 Ultra can record 8K videos and also comes with support for the "Space Zoom" feature. However, it only goes up to 50x this time around.

The Note 20 Ultra also comes with a 4,500mAh battery -- slightly bigger than the 4,300mAh one on the regular Note 20. While we still have to run it through our battery loop test, we think the battery pack on the device working in tandem with Samsung's highly optimised UI should be good enough to help it last at least a day on moderate-high usage. The phone also gets 25W of fast charging support, which interestingly is a downgrade from the 45W fast charging speeds supported by the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

But considering that very few users had access to that because of Samsung not shipping the required charger in the box with the S20 Ultra, there won't be too many Samsung fans complaining about the downgrade in charging speeds.

The Note 20 Ultra also gets a new S Pen with five new gestures this year. However, the biggest upgrade is definitely the S Pen bringing its latency down to 9ms -- from 42ms on the previous version of the S Pen. This makes the S Pen feel more responsive, and when paired to the fast 120Hz, the display helps make it flow like a breeze on the Note 20 Ultra's display.

Overall, we quite like the Note 20 Ultra for now. There are things that we still need to test on the phone, but our initial impressions are quite positive, as the phone looks like it could be worth the Rs 1,04,999 price tag that Samsung has slapped on it.


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