Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G review: a technical masterpiece

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Who I am
Judit Llordés

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is not a smartphone for everyone. It is extreme, both in price and in technical characteristics and design. After almost two weeks in his company, however, I can only recognize the masterpiece made by Samsung. We are faced with a very remarkable piece of technology, overall the best top of the range of 2020 so far. There is some flaw, it is not perfect, but the level reached by this range is unmatched in the Android world.

1.329 euros (which become 1.429 euros for the 512 Gigabyte version of internal memory) are many, perhaps too many. High-end devices have now reached hardly justifiable figures. This Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, however, offers some features that make these numbers slightly more digestible, starting with the S-Pen. The latter must be one of the reasons for buying such a product, because the user experience offered by the "stylus" of Samsung is unique in the smartphone landscape.

Exceptional build quality but forget about ergonomics

With the new creature from Samsung also debuts il Gorilla Glass Foods, which covers the front and the back. On paper it should withstand drops from 2 meters in height, a feature that could really make a difference. What is striking, however, is the satin finish of the back cover, despite the use of glass: it does not retain fingerprints, is much less prone to scratches and returns a wonderful sensation to the touch. In the Mystic Bronze color (which you see in the images) it is really very elegant.

All this, however, has a price. The smartphone reaches in fact the 208 grams of weight (which everyone can hear), stands 164.8 mm tall and has a particularly protruding rear photo module. It is therefore impossible to use with one hand, the extreme curvature of the edges of the screen creates some problems during writing, it can be uncomfortable to put in your pocket. In short, it is certainly not the device to buy if handling is a priority.

The power key and the volume rocker however, they can be reached easily with the fingers. Similar speech for the portion of the screen in which the biometric sensor has been inserted, precise and fast in recognizing the fingerprints and consequently unlocking the smartphone. PDa note the choice to move the S-Pen to the lower left corner whose extraction, positioned in this way, can be more uncomfortable for right-handed than left-handed.

The contrast between the satin effect of the back and the glossy one of the frame is very nice. There is IP68 waterproof certification (despite the "hole" for the S-Pen) and, in addition to the Mystic Bronze color, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G also arrives on the market in the Mystic Black and Mystic White color variants. In short, a wide choice in the logic of being able to intercept the tastes of the widest possible audience.

A cinema within your pocket

6,9 inches, 1.444 x 3.088 pixels, HDR10 + standard support, variable refresh rate from 10 Hz to 120 Hz, peak brightness that touches 1.500 nits. These are some of the numbers of the huge display of this smartphone, a 6,9-inch panel, probably the best tested to date together with that of the Sony Xperia 1 II (of which I will publish the review in the coming days): viewing angles practically infinite, perfect outdoor visibility, extremely faithful chromatic range.

It is an AMOLED VRR (variable refresh rate) screen and the variable refresh rate is the big news introduced by the South Korean company. 120 Hz is a godsend for video games, with which the visual experience offered by the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is truly of the highest level. Unfortunately, however, it is not possible to set, at the same time, the maximum level of refresh rate with the maximum resolution QHD +.

A choice, however, which, combined with the variable refresh rate, saves up to 22% of energy. Do not miss the Always-On functionality, always very useful, and the DCI P3 color range is 100% covered. In short, the features tell us about an extraordinary screen and the user experience confirms it. Too bad only for the curvature of the edges which, in addition to creating some problems in terms of ergonomics, is also not very comfortable for writing with the S-Pen.

Little to say about performance, despite some "perplexities" arising from the presence of the Exynos 990 SoC. of the same processor seen on board the Galaxy S20, so a certainly high-end chip. Although it has been on the market for a few months now, it is able to guarantee overall performance that has nothing to envy to its direct competitors. Also because, we remind you, in this smartphone it is flanked by 12 Gigabytes of LPDDR5 RAM (with 256 or 512 Gigabytes of internal memory, however expandable via micro-SD).

Autonomy is sufficient, which in any case does not make you cry for a miracle. The 4.500 mAh battery, with my use (mixed between LTE and Wi-Fi, 2 push email accounts, hundreds of notifications from social networks and instant messaging apps, over 2 hours of phone calls), allowed me to cover 1 day and 5 hours - compared to 4 hours of access screen. It is not excluded that, with even more intense use (perhaps with many photos and videos), an additional charge may be required during the day. In this sense, fast charging stops at 25W (compared to 45W for the S20 series) and wireless at 15W, so this Note charges a little slower than even its direct competitors.

A unique software of its kind

There is Android 10 on board and the smartphone it will obviously be updated to Android 11. As per tradition, Samsung customizes Google's operating system with OneUI, probably the best graphical interface in the green robot landscape. Infinite features that still do not make the user experience confusing, with all the options that appear incredibly always in the right place. The times of TouchWiz are really light years away.

There is no lack of functionality Samsung Dex, which we know well by now, one of the added values ​​of the South Korean company. The novelty is that now it is possible to use the complete desktop environment also via wireless, without any type of additional accessory: just a monitor (or a smart TV) compatible with the Miracast standard, with the Note 20 Ultra 5G that turns into a touchpad to move the cursor. A concept of productivity that is difficult to find in other smartphones and that rises to maximum power with the S-Pen.

The latency of the latter has gone from 42 ms of the last generation just 9 ms. This translates into a writing experience that is ever closer to the classic “pen and paper”, facilitated by the Samsung Notes application, a benchmark in the sector. Now you can directly import PDFs to edit them on the fly, new air gestures have been added and the stylus (via Bluetooth) can be used as a pointer or as a button to take pictures.

The ergonomics of the S-Pen are very good, however, it has remained unchanged compared to last year's model. The battery is recharged simply by placing the stylus back in its housing. In short, it remains the true distinctive feature of the Note series, often overshadowed by the strong technical characteristics that have always characterized this family of smartphones. As mentioned at the beginning, this accessory must be one of the main reasons for buying the Note 20 Ultra 5G.

Finally, let's talk about the photographic sector. We are on very high levels, but some choices by Samsung have created some smudges. Starting with the main 108 Megapixel sensor, capable of pulling out extraordinary shots in the daytime but which suffers more in low light than sensors with less Megapixels. The South Korean company will work to further refine this new sensor, on which we will certainly have the opportunity to return in the future.

The 12 Megapixel f / 2.2 wide angle sensor is definitely convincing, characterized by a viewing angle of 120 ° and very fun to use in everyday life. I also appreciated the choice of reducing the zoom of the 12 Megapixel telephoto lens a 50X (compared to the 100X of the S20 Ultra), as it is much more stable and significantly more usable. The optical zoom stops at 5X and offers a truly excellent amount of detail (both in daytime and at night), while when you go digital you suffer more in low light, as always happens.

Wonderful selfies, shot by the only 10 Megapixel f / 2.2 front camera, capable of bringing out first-class portrait mode. Videos can be recorded up to 8K resolution at 30 fps (the front camera stops at 4K) and the quality is extremely high, even in the capture of the audio part. There is also the possibility of recording videos with the super slow-motion mode at 960 fps, which returns impressive results.

Extremely complete connectivity: 5G with mmWave support, so it is ready for next generation networks; dual SIM support; Bluetooth 5.0; NFC; Wi-Fi 6; GPS A-GLONASS BDS Galileo; USB-C with video support; only the 3.5 mm audio jack is missing. Reception and call quality are of the highest level, on which Samsung has obviously done an ad hoc job. The audio is stereo, has a very high volume and the quality is good.

Conclusions: who should buy it?

In case you are looking for a top-of-the-range smartphone without particular budget limits, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is simply the best choice you can make today. Ergonomics remains its real weakness (along with the price), but otherwise Samsung has created a small technical masterpiece.

This device could score important commercial numbers. It costs a lot, too much, but the amount of functions is such that it is an understatement to simply call it a smartphone. It remains the reference point for those who need productivity and see the S-Pen as an essential accessory. Considering the overall quality we gave him our Award.

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