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Galaxy Note20 & Note20 Ultra 5G – First Impression Review

Phone / Tablet Samsung

Is it worth paying a hefty price tag?

The long-awaited power built Samsung smartphone sitting on the high-end tier has arrived in 2 models – Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, and Galaxy Note20 available with and without 5G. It's hard to miss the expensive price tag for both models, so is it worth paying for this power built smartphone? Before we dive into details, here's a glance against its earlier released high-end model - S20 Ultra 5G.

Camera

Rear Camera

While both models have a triple camera on the rear, Note20 Ultra has a better camera specification. It has a 108MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP telephoto, and laser autofocus (AF) sensor used to enhance AF performance in close range and low light environment. On the other hand, Note20 house a 12MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide, and a 64MP telephoto.

Front Camera

Sitting on the same starting price of $1898, the Note20 Ultra does not share the same front camera specs as the S20 Ultra, which is 40MP. Instead, it has a 10MP punch-hole front camera, same as the Note20 and its predecessor Note10+, but smaller in size.

Camera Features

Among the number of camera features and modes, there are two significant changes – the laser autofocus (AF) sensor and space zoom. 

Laser Autofocus (AF) Sensor

The note20 Ultra has a laser autofocus (AF) sensor, which presumably will speed up focusing, which was an issue faced by S20 Ultra users previously.

Space Zoom

Both models have a space zoom feature, with an additional super-resolution zoom enhanced by AI. The Note20 offers a 3x optic zoom with an additional 30x digital zoom, while the Note20 Ultra provides a 5x optic zoom with an additional 50x digital zoom. A significant drop from the S20 Ultra - 10x optic zoom with an additional 100x digital zoom. Even so, the photo quality above 50x digital zoom in S20 Ultra is blurred and barely usable.

 

Performance

Instead of receiving the Snapdragon 865+ chipset in Singapore, both models come with the Exynos 990 chipset, which is the same as the S20 Ultra. 

Note20 Ultra

The Note20 Ultra runs on a choice of 60Hz or an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate display setting, with a 12GB Ram, enhancing the user experience with a smoother and higher responsive display. Upon choosing the latter, the adaptive display detects what the user is doing and shift the refresh rate accordingly, hence saving on battery life. According to The Tech Chap, the refresh rate is adjusted to an estimated 1-11 Hz when reading a web page, 30-60Hz video streaming, and above 48Hz during gaming. It is also available in a 256GB storage size, with an expandable slot of up to 1TB, replacing the dual SIM card slot.

Note20 

The Note20 runs on a low refresh rate of 60Hz, with an 8GB RAM, and such specs is usually at a lower price tag in the mid-end-tier smartphone. Not a pretty spec sheet for a $1,398 smartphone sitting on the high-end tier. And despite having only one storage size – a 256GB, it does not have an expandable storage slot.

 

Display

Note20 Ultra

The Note20 Ultra comes in a near bezel-less 6.9-inch edge, QHD+ dynamic AMOLED, 2x Infinity-O display of (3088 x 1440) resolution, which delivers 1500 nits of color and a glare-free view even during daylight. It has a pixel density of 496 PPI, slightly lower than both S20 Ultra and Note10+.


Design with a nice curvy edge, it is protected on both the front and back with the latest corning gorilla glass victus. Claimed as the toughest gorilla glass, it can survive drops onto hard, rough surfaces from up to 2 meters, and is more scratch-resistant. Available in 3 colors, the mystic bronze, mystic green, and mystic gray, the Note20 Ultra overall design justifies the premium label. 

 

Note20

On the other hand, the Note20 also comes in a nearly bezel-less screen but is in a 6.7-inch flat, FHD+ Super AMOLED Plus, infinity-O display of (2400 x 1080) resolution and has a pixel density of 393 PPI. Even with a lower spec sheet, the display color is still pretty vivid and bright.


Design with a flat, boxy edge, the Note20 has a polycarbonate casing at the back, and a gorilla glass 5 at the front, as mentioned by The Tech Chap. Although it is not the latest Gorilla glass victus, it still has considerable protection against damage from drops up to 1.2 meters, waist-high drops onto hard rough surfaces and scratch-resistant. Available in 3 colors, the mystic bronze, mystic black, and mystic white. Due to the reinforced polycarbonate back casing, the overall Note 20 design doesn't feel as premium when on hand as compared to the Note20 Ultra.

Battery Life

The Note20 Ultra has a 4500 mAh battery capacity, while Note20 has a 4300 mAh battery capacity. Both models run on an all-day intelligent battery and can be charged with fast wireless charging 2.0. With a 25W super-fast charger included in the box, the smartphones can be charged more than 50% in 30 minutes. Although claimed to last as an all-day battery, a further test will be required.

S Pen Performance

Built as a phablet (phone + tablet), the S Pen plays a significant role in the Note series. Both models S Pen has a considerable improvement, with a low latency of 9ms for Note20 Ultra and 26ms latency for Note20, as compared to its predecessor Note10, which is a 42ms latency. This improved responsiveness makes note-taking and drawing closer to the natural feeling of writing on paper. On top of that, the S Pen also function as a remote for selfie-taking, content controller, and presentation clicker. It has also shifted its placement to the bottom-left of the phone as compared to the previous models.

Cons

Weight

Both models have a significant weight, with Note20 Ultra weighing 208g and Note20 weighing 192g. As an S20 Ultra user, a good 20min of texting on a 220g phone is enough to feel the strain. 

Display Size

As mentioned earlier, the Note20 Ultra and Note20's display comes in a 6.9-inch and 6.7-inch, respectively. It is a relatively big screen that is suitable for watching movies, gaming, and even taking notes. That's great. However, the downside of a big screen is that it is hard to maneuver around with one hand. 

Processor Chipset

If you are to buy either model in Singapore, it will be with an Exynos 990 chipset, not the Snapdragon 865+. That is to say, the performance has some differences. And with a different chipset, the battery life might be affected too. Hence, we will require further testing with the Exynos 990 chipset built, before we can conclude if the battery life remains true – an all-day lasting battery.

High Refresh Rate/ High Resolution (Note20 Ultra)

The Note20 Ultra has an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz but is only applicable if you set the screen resolution to an FHD+ (2316 x 1080). And if you are to choose the WQHD+ (3088 x 1440) option, you will have to settle for the low refresh rate of 60Hz. Meaning, it's either a high refresh rate for a better and smoother experience or a high screen resolution for better display quality. You can't have both at the same time.

Storage Space (Note20)

Both models are available in one storage size - a 256GB storage, with only Note20 Ultra available with an expandable storage slot. Meaning Note20 does not have expandable storage, unlike its predecessor, Note10+. 

 

Verdict

Having said so, the overall first impression of the Note20 Ultra still has a justifiable price tag. It concludes with the flagship camera, the toughest gorilla glass casing protection, smooth and better experience with a high refresh rate and display resolution, a substantial 256GB storage space that is also expandable, and a lower latency S Pen. Also, features such as the IP68 water and dust resistance, biometric authentication with face or finger, and extra security (Samsung Knox) are included. Although we would still require further testing before knowing the battery life performance, it is good to know that the smartphone can be charged up to 50% in 30mins.

As for the Note20, the price tag might not be as justifiable as the premium Note20 Ultra. It sells at $1398 for an LTE version and an additional $150 for a 5G version. It has a performance spec sheet that is almost similar to a mid-tier smartphone, costs more, and has a lesser premium touch.


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