Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review

The big question here is whether it's worth the $1,300 price tag attached to it. Even with all the bells and whistles, that's a hefty price tag.

Play Video
Tshaka Armstrong
YouTube Host, Mobile
Read More
December 10, 2020
6 min read

We are committed to sharing unbiased reviews. Some of the links on our site are from our partners who compensate us. Read our disclosure policies to learn more.

Let's say I put a ninja in front of you, and asked you to assess him or her. Could you fully assess that ninja's skills in a matter of days? Someone proficient in dozens of fighting styles, and spy craft and field craft, a master of infiltration? Well, Note 20 Ultra hopes to infiltrate your wallet, and not unlike that ninja, it has many skills. Everything about the appearance of the Note 20 Ultra says premium. Its mystic bronze shell oozes opulence, turning heads wherever I post.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Overview: Camera, Gorilla Glass & More

It's stature. Well, it's a beast of a machine with IP68 water and dust resistance, along with Corning's new Gorilla Glass Victus, its toughest glass yet. However, the device feels svelte in hand. It's tall, with a screen measuring 6.9”, placing it in no uncertain terms into “phablet” territory.

On the front, you'll find one half of the stereo pair of speakers which is also the earpiece. It's a barely perceptible slit at the top of the display as it was on the Note 10. Below that, you'll see a 10-megapixel hole punch camera that supports face recognition. And below that, you won't see it until you activate it, an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. That's a good thing to have with so many of us wearing face masks these days. The right side of this beauty is where you'll find the power button and volume rocker. The left side of the phone is bare.

The top of the phone is where you'll find the Nano-SIM tray, which also supports micro SD cards up to one terabyte. The bottom of the phone is where you'll find another microphone, USB-C charge port, and speaker grille. And then we come to the S Pen. This year, it's on the left side of the phone. Fellow lefties rejoice, this is ergonomically ideal for us. #LeftHandersMatter

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Charging Time, Wireless Charging & Other Features

Now, looking at the back of the phone, there’s no getting around it. You're going to have a sizable camera module hump.

I know people tend to make a big deal about these things, but I really don't get all the fuss, unless you don't put a case on your phone. How many of you watching this doesn’t put a case on your device? You rugged smartphone user who likes to live dangerously.

Since most folks are going to put a case on the phone, and those cases are going to generally sit flush with this camera module, it becomes a non-issue to me.

Around that camera module though is that mystic bronze that I spoke of earlier. But this year Samsung has added this haze effect to the finish, which keeps it from being a fingerprint magnet and gives it a satiny, soft-touch feel.

And underneath that bronze haze is a 4500-milliamp hour battery, which supports Rapid Charging 2.0. Meaning it will charge to 50% in 30 minutes. It also supports wireless charging 2.0, which means that you'll get speedy top-offs wirelessly with any 10-Watt battery wireless charger. And that's superficial.

Sure, it's beautiful no doubt, but skills are more important than looks once you're in the door.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Screen Display & Processor Specs

This display runs at up to Quad HD+ and is Samsung's Infinity-O type display, which will run at up to 120Hz, and is HDR 10+ certified. Let's be very clear, you’re paying premium prices here. And just like I thought the S 20 Ultra was one of the best displays on the market, I have to admit the Note 20 Ultra is giving me those same vibes.

Every time I put the S 20 Ultra down to review other phones, but then came back to it after a time, it never ceased to be a delight to my eyes, I missed it. And I was looking at some great displays on other devices. My only issue with this display is that Samsung makes that beautiful 120Hz refresh rate available on the HD+ resolution and not the WQHD+ resolution. In other words, if you want that super-smooth screen and scrolling, you can't use the phone at its highest resolution.

Now, the human eye can only see so many pixels per inch. This packs 496 of them. And if I asked 100 people to tell me the difference between 3088 by 1440, which is the highest resolution, and 2316 by 1080, very few if any would be able to tell the difference. As studies have shown that 2316 by 1080 is pretty much the limit at this size of the display that the human eye can discern. Anything above that is extra cost and effort with no real reward. But some folks may feel that if you're going to give us that resolution option, and 120Hz, don’t restrict how I use my phone even though it means less battery life.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Cameras & Space Zoom

There are four cameras on this phone, and they deserve their own review. Between the still and the video features, between the automatic settings and the new Pro Mode video features, there’s a lot to unpack. The pixels on the front shooter are large, so they let in a lot of light, which bodes well for selfies.

That large camera module on the back is so for a reason. The periscope camera embedded in there enables some interesting tech. Thanks to the main camera’s large sensor, Note 20 Ultra does quite well in low light situations. One of the interesting things was that even at night in low light conditions, the zoom produces fairly sharp images.

Unlike some cameras these days which have macro lenses, Samsung gives you a telephoto camera with Space Zoom. Now, in my testing of other cameras, I’ve seen where taking a photo with that camera's highest megapixel shooter, then cropping in has provided better macro shots than some of those dedicated macro lenses.

If you're truly a macro photographer, you’re probably not looking at smartphones anyway. But if you're a casual shooter looking to get a pretty close up of something like a flower or bug, use the 108-megapixel main sensor and then just blow it up a bit or crop in, as the pros might say.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra DeX Screen Mirror Cast

I recently had the opportunity to preview the Tab S7 Plus, and the standout feature on that device for me was DeX. So, I played with that here on the Note 20 Ultra.

The new feature for 2020 is the ability to connect to mirror cast compatible TVs and streaming devices. For me, that meant my Roku Ultra.

What that does is give you a near laptop or desktop experience from your mobile device. Your phone becomes the brain, and the monitor you're connecting to is your computer. I think that to get the most from this experience, you’re going to definitely want to connect a mouse and keyboard to your phone. But if you're only pushing Netflix, you can use the phone itself as an input device on-screen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra S Pen Upgraded Response & Air Actions

Now, of course, what would a Note 20 Ultra review be without a look at the S Pen? Especially with the new upgrade from a 42-millisecond to 9-millisecond response time, placing it on par with the Apple pen. Except, this one comes with the phone at no extra cost. Paired with that 120Hz screen refresh rate, writing on the Note 20 Ultra really is like using pen and paper. And you get new air actions which allow you to navigate the interface with a wave of the pen. The S Pen and all it can do is also another aspect of the Note 20 Ultra, which deserves its own video just like those cameras.

On top of the new air actions, you will still get the things you already may be familiar with, like smart select. Which can help you copy the text you wouldn't otherwise be able to copy. And the ability to determine content captured from your screen into GIFs, hard G, like I did with this clip from my Apple Ban's Fortnight video.

And if you're going to have the ability to take notes, why not be able to access them from anywhere? That's a pain point some may have had to endure using Samsung Notes in the past but not anymore. Not only does Samsung Notes now have a new folder structure, which mimics what you'd see on any modern computer, but it also syncs with Microsoft OneNote, so you can access your notes from any device. Well, you will be able to do that. Samsung says that functionality will come to users sometime later this year.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Packed with Extras

The Note 20 Ultra is indeed ultra-premium. Almost everything I can think of is thrown into this phone. And at $1300, I'd expect that to be the case. For Note lovers on the cutting edge, I don't see where anyone would be disappointed.

There's, even more, coming to this phone soon, which I haven't even played with yet like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which arrives mid-September. There's so much more to fully journal for you, but I'm gonna look through them more fully before bringing them to you. If you're going to pay this premium price for a device, it may as well do as many things in your life as it can. Quite frankly, it seems like this phone is up to that task.

Follow us on YouTube!

If this video helps you, please hit those Like and Subscribe buttons.

And go on and smash that notification bell to get updates whenever we put out a new video.

Tshaka Armstrong
Written by
Tshaka Armstrong
Tshaka is a nerd and Griot. Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer, and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

Related Articles

A white, rectangular security camera sitting on a wooden tabletop
Best Cheap Security Cameras of 2023
Our round up of the best cheap security cameras for $100 or less. These 6...
Colorful apartment buildings
Best Renter and Apartment Security Systems 2023
Want to secure your stuff while you rent? Read our review to find the best...
Best Cell Phone Deals February 2023
Here are the very best cell phone deals of the month, all in one place....
What Is a Smart Plug and How Does It Work
What Is a Smart Plug and How Does It Work?
Smart plugs help you automate devices you already own. Learn about the possibilities of smart...