The Note series has always been viewed as a serious business phone, and that is too bad because it offers a lot of great features, and at the latest Galaxy Unpacked reveal event, Samsung spent a surprising amount of time showing us that the Note series is not just for the dull business types who want a dual-screen, but that gaming and taking photos and filming video is at a level where this phone is a serious contender for your next upgrade.
I'm personally a big fan of the sleek Note10, which offers strong design, a great display, and decent sound quality. That being so, I was a bit surprised to see that the design had reversed, quite literally, as the S-pen is now on the left side instead of the right, and the volume and power buttons are back on the right side, instead of being on the left.
The phone, despite making way for a massive 108MP camera, is sleek, lightweight, and if not for the colour, subtle, which I love as most phones have become chubby to a point where they don't rest well in the hand. You can even wear a pair of skinny jeans, and the phone still fits in the pocket.
The Note 20 comes in both Ultra and non-Ultra versions where the 108MP camera has vanished, and in both 4G and 5G models (it's 5G only for the Ultra). Oh, and you get to choose between 256GB or 512GB of storage.
The Ultra starts at £1,179.00 / 1266 Euro for the 5G 256 GB version, while the tested model was the £1,279.00 / 1364 Euro version. There is dual- and e-sim support, but Bixby seems to survive. I usually hate it, but the AI can search things you take images of - that's a bit of a Skynet-flashback-horror for you right there - but it's actually a pretty cool feature.
While the Note20 Ultra 5G has 5G, no carrier has 5G where I live, and so I have not been able to test 5G speeds - however, the 4G speed has been the best in any phone I have tested this year. It does, however, support WiFi 6.
The 6.9" display uses Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. This product is only a month old and should provide double the scratch resistance of Gorilla Glass 6, and be able to withstand drops on a hard surface from two meters. Samsung is the first company to use it, but as someone who has felt the despair of a completely smashed screen, please don't try this at home kids. It still uses the Edge Infinity-O, and I am a huge fan, with the phone weighing in at 208g. Yes, it has punch-hole for the selfie-cam, and no, I don't mind.
The display is capable of delivering 1500 nits over its Dynamix AMOLED2X 120Hz panel, with very strong and RGB-depth like colours. Due to the intense summer weather, I even had the chance to test it in strong sunlight. It works great, and while that might sound stupid, a surprising number of modern phones are close to useless in full daylight.
The GUI is the Samsung One UI; its easy to use and get used to. IP68 water resistance is a nice addition as well. The face recognition works great, but the Fingerprint scanner is very detail-oriented, and you need to apply your thumb pretty precisely.
In the belly of the beast is an Exynos990 platform, that is using ARMv8 CPU with 4x2.0GHz cores, 2x2.5GHz cores and 2x2.73GHz cores. 12 GB of RAM is used along with a Mali G77 GPU with 11 computing units.
The Antutu score is 522.9132, with a CPU score of 151780 and a GPU score of 210827. The battery never went above 40 degrees, and the phone itself stayed at no more than 51 degrees, even under high load. Geekbench 5 score is 633 single-core, and 2726 multicore, OpenCL compute score was 5540 which is twice of both Note10+ and OnePlus7Pro. I don't know what cooling is used - but it works flawlessly.
The loudspeakers seem to have not received any major changes from the Note10, but being as good as they were already, that's not really a problem. It offers plenty of volume, too, and they are using Dolby Atmos as most others, but don't expect a cinematic experience.
The S Pen has been improved as well, although I personally found it pretty good as it was. It can take notes directly to PDF, Word and PowerPoint, and it works like a magic wand remote as well. I must admit that the S Pen, in general, makes even simple private notes, like a grocery list, so much easier. Samsung might have paid a lot of money for MS Word integration, but more impressive, it has managed to turn my doodles into actual text with great accuracy and is even able to recognise my handwriting. Scary and impressive at the same time.
Xbox has a co-op with Samsung in regards to the Note20, mainly aimed at taking advantage of 5G, however, if you live somewhere with fantastic 4G coverage, it might not be completely wasted, or if you are the type of person who plays just about everywhere in the house, you are in for a treat as well. More than 100 Xbox games are compatible and can be played via the Cloud using Xbox Games Pass. It has been heavily marketed, and seemingly with 5G, will give us some of the Google Stadia Experience we never got. If you just use your normal games, you won't be disappointed though, the Note20 Ultra is powerful enough to run all games in the app store, and I must admit that the 120Hz AMOLED does a great job.
The camera offers a 5x optical zoom, and 50x digital. I hate digital zoom, so lots of optical zoom is appreciated. The 108MP 8K camera is, of course, the most interesting part, and you can even pair it with Galaxy ear-buds in case you want external microphones. The images are crisp and clear, and you get a lot of detail even when you start zooming, but more importantly, the night mode actually works. It does not have the same level of detail when zoomed in, and while shooting snaps in low light without night mode all the black and grey colours blend, but the same colours are more strongly defined when using it.
There is, of course, a price to pay; 108MP images are 28MB each. Worse still is the 8K/24FPS (the 120FPS video is not compatible with 8K) - yes, it's fantastic, and I hate that I need to activate "pro video", but it makes sense because it's 10MB per second of video. The fluid motion of the recordings are very impressive but do it too often and the colourful high-resolution video will fill up your storage in record time.
When you want to use a second screen, a newer Samsung model could be suitable as you can use the Samsung DeX, which turns your TV into a second monitor, controlled by your phone. It's very impressive as always, but I think Samsung may overestimate how much editing can be done on a phone.
The Battery is a 4500mAh that charges roughly 70% in 50 minutes or 50% in 30 minutes. That is just how batteries work, but the charge lasts all day, and you can supplement with wireless charging, and the fast charger included is really nice.
So, I actually don't have anything I don't like. Despite being a serious business phone, it only has a few superiours when it comes to gaming, and the camera is by far the best I have tried, particularly when it comes to dark surroundings and filming - implementing on-the-fly editing and external microphones using the Galaxy buds was also a brilliant move. I had feared that the phone would be more expensive, so I really can't complain about the price either.
The Note20 Ultra 5G might be for business, but it is just as useful for fun and shenanigans.
Loading next content