Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G (Exynos) First Impressions (Update: video added)
The Samsung Galaxy Note series is the pinnacle of productivity on-the-go. It immortalizes the legacy of PDA (Personal Digital Assistants) — or Pocket PCs — that were commonplace some 15 years ago. Samsung itself long asserted that the Galaxy Note series can reduce the dependence on your PC — if not replace it completely. With the newly announced Galaxy Note series, it expresses the notion more persuasively. The Galaxy Note 20 series, especially the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, is for the trailblazers, achievers, the go-getters. It is also one of the ideal choices for anyone who desires the most premium Android smartphone — with due skepticism for foldable devices.
I received Galaxy Note 20 Ultra unit from Samsung for review two days ago; while this duration is too small for me to reach a fair and satisfactory answer to the question above, you can find my first impressions in this article.
Before I share the opinions from my shallow dive into the excellent experience that Samsung swears by, here is a look at specifications of the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra. Tap on the downward arrow to expand.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Series Specifications
|Specification||Samsung Galaxy Note 20||Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charging|
|Android Version||One UI 2.5 based on Android 10||OneUI 2.5 based on Android 10|
One Word for Design — Classy!
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is inarguably an artifact of luxury. A golden finish is so 2018 and I’m glad that Samsung went with a more subtle bronze surface. I have been slobbering over the Mystic Bronze since the very first leak of this color variant on Samsung’s own website because of how palatable it looks It lacks the vain gaudiness of a gold finish or the glam of the Note 10+’s Aura Glow (chameleon) identity.
The bronze finish, to me, appears refined and poised. But for anymore who wants to be seen as modest, Samsung also offers the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra in glossy finishes with Mystic Black and White colors. It’s almost a shame to put a case on the Bronze one, but if you insist on needing one, we’ve rounded up the Best Galaxy Note 20 Ultra cases here.
If not the smartphone’s price and its aesthetics fail to conveys its class, its feel in hand definitely does. A sturdy metal frame lies wedged between curved glass surfaces on the front and the back. Samsung uses the latest and most reliable generation of Gorilla Glass — Victus — for protection on both sides, claiming increased durability and resistance against scratches. The frosted glass surface on the back gives the illusion of a brushed metal finish while the chrome around the side rails complements it with a sense of assurance.
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s glass back screams premium, and the strengthy metal echoes it. But, the material also contributes noticeably to the weight of the smartphone. Adding to the Ultra’s weight is its large footprint, primarily because of the massive 6.9-inch display. This large display and the consequential heft may render the beaucoup Ultra unusable for users that desire a handy (pun intended) experience.
The triple rear cameras, as well as the laser autofocus, populate the large camera bump on the back. The 108MP primary and the 5x periscopic telephoto sensors have been carried over from the Galaxy S20 Ultra to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Besides these two cameras lies the 12MP ultra-wide-angle sensor dispensing a 120° wide field of view.
While the specifications of the cameras are promising, the sizeable camera bump prevents the smartphone from sitting straight on a flat surface. While the fragile glass construction already warrants a carrying case (see the best Galaxy Note 20 Ultra cases here), the camera bump makes it almost inescapable. Despite the bump, however, the smartphone does not dangle when held along the center thanks to a great job with weight distribution by Samsung.
While the heft may dissuade some users, almost everyone intrigued by the Samsung Galaxy Note is the S Pen. With the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Samsung vouches for improvements in the precision of the S Pen. The S Pen cavity has now been moved to the left of the smartphone’s bottom face instead of the traditional position on the right side, so longtime Note users may have to retrain their finger muscles to pop the new S Pen without looking. Samsung claims that the S Pen has been improved to have a much lower latency (of 9ms as compared to Note 10’s 26ms) to resemble the impression of actually writing on a piece of paper. Further, there are a bunch of new air gestures and additional features to the Notes app.
While the S Pen is vital to the first-class experience on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the terrific display is what makes it more appealing. We discuss the display’s features in the next section.
Display — Smooth, Bright, and Brilliant
Samsung uses a massive 6.9-inch WQHD+ (3088 x 1440 pixels) Super AMOLED display with curved edges on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. There is a tiny hole-punch at the center of the display that houses the 10MP selfie camera. Expectedly, the device benefits from Samsung’s expertise as a manufacturer and supplier of displays for a vast majority of smartphone brands.
The display on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is bright, exquisite, smooth, and super-responsive. Samsung claims a brightness value of 1500nits for the display, and although I cannot verify this without proper equipment, the display is bright enough. Not only is the display legible under sunlight, but it is also fairly color accurate. Indoors, the maximum brightness that you’re likely to restrict your usage to is about 60%, and anything above that could discomfort many users.
The display has a 120Hz refresh rate, which means the animations will appear twice as smooth as on traditional 60Hz displays — which is one of the reasons you should not buy regular Galaxy Note 20. Like the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the 120Hz mode is only usable when you set the display resolution to Full HD+ (2316 x 1080 pixels). We hope for Samsung to calibrate the display on the Galaxy S20 Ultra to support 120Hz refresh rate at the WQHD+ resolution. If that actually happens, we may expect the same on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra as well. Until then, however, you will be limited to Full HD+ resolution if you want to enjoy the higher refresh rate.
Samsung is working on optimizing software for WQHD+ 120hz on the S20 series and should release it in the next 1-3 months if all goes well.
— Max Weinbach (@MaxWinebach) February 18, 2020
In my two days of usage, I have been using the phone at Full HD+, and that, in no way, feels like a compromise. In addition to the 120Hz refresh rate, Samsung has added multiple steps for the display’s refresh rate to adapt as per the content. In general usage and scrolling, the refresh rate is set to 120Hz but, it scales down to a lower value (mostly 30Hz or 60Hz) if you’re playing a game. The display further reduces to 24Hz while watching movies, 10Hz while you’re reading, and 1Hz for the Always-on Display (AOD). This “Adaptive” shifting of the refresh rate helps in preserving the battery, especially since the higher refresh rate operations can be really thirsty for battery juice.
Overall, the display feels like everything we can expect from a flagship. But does it justify the $1400 price tag? We aim to address that in our full review.
Performance — The Dragon is Snapping at Exynos’ Heels
Samsung is choosing to use its Exynos 990 SoC on the Galaxy Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra in most countries — except in select markets like the U.S, where the device rocks the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus. Samsung has been shoving its Exynos chipsets down peoples’ throats for many years now despite the fact they are known to underperform the counterparts from Qualcomm.
We don’t know when Samsung will end its seemingly eternal desire to willfully dissuade users wanting the unbeatable flagship performance, especially when they are paying the full price. What we do know is that we will be testing the performance of both the variants over the next month and bringing a comprehensive comparison to you.
The 12GB LPDDR5 RAM on the Note Ultra is a relief if you open too many applications simultaneously. In my short usage, I did not witness any aggressive app killing, and apps in the background remained undisturbed in the same state for as long as 12 hours, which is quite impressive. All these features will be tested in our full review.
Samsung has also included support for Wireless DeX, allowing you to run desktop-style apps right from your phone and view the output on a large display. You can attach a wired or wireless keyboard and mouse to make the setup more functional.
Final Impression — Bold & Noteworthy
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is not only a gorgeous-looking smartphone, but it also leverages one of the best displays, features promising cameras, and offers a much improved S Pen experience. Like I said in the introduction, it appears to be an ideal device for go-getters and achievers while also being a device that gets eyes glued to its design and especially the bronze color.
Although Samsung’s $1400 pricing can be overwhelming, you can choose from a variety of deals on locked and unlocked variant based on your location. Check out our round-up of the best Galaxy Note 20 deals here.