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Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G Review - Almost Perfect?

OPPO
How does the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G latest flagship fare after a month of use? Let's find out.
Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G with S-Pen


Announced in August, Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G arrived in the Philippines weeks after. It features a 6.9-inch 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass Vitus protected Dynamic AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate at QHD+ resolution.

Inside is an improved 7nm Samsung Exynos 990 octa-core processor, Mali-G77 MP11, 12G LPDDR5, 256GB UFS 3.1, 4500mAh battery with up to 45W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, wireless reverse wireless charging.

Running the show is Android 10.0 with OneUI 2.5 and is priced at PHP 72,990.

Multimedia Experience

S-Pen
Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G and S-Pen

In front of the Note20 Ultra 5G is a massive 6.9-inch 3D curved Gorilla Glass Victus protected Dynamic AMOLED with 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ with resolution 3088 x 1440p at 496 ppi.

The big difference between this display and the S20 Ultra 5G's is that the Note20 Ultra 5G's display has a variable refresh rate meaning that it can change the refresh rate depending on the content currently on-screen.
Netflix on the Note20 Ultra 5G's 120Hz display
Netflix on the Note20 Ultra 5G's 120Hz display

The display supports HDR10+ and has a higher peak brightness than the S20 Ultra 5G which makes watching or streaming high resolution and/or HDR content. This is impressive because DisplayMate declared this S20 Ultra 5G's display as visually indistinguishable from perfect.

The variable refresh rate locks the resolution to 1080p but it makes for an overall smoother experience with almost no noticeable stuttering.

The display supports up 10-points of simultaneous touches. Our taps and gestures register instantaneously and accurately. This makes this phone ideal for multi-touch supported apps and games.
Earpiece and bottom firing speakers
The earpiece and bottom-firing speakers

Above the display is a super slim slit with the ear piece and at the bottom side of the phone is the speaker grill. These two speakers produce a significantly better stereo audio experience than the Galaxy S20 Ultra. In fact when playing audio side by side, the Note20 Ultra 5G had a deeper, fuller, and more powerful sound. It even has higher maximum volume than the S20 Ultra 5G. It may be the best speakers on a smartphone yet! 

The review units we received included the usual Samsung braided AKG branded USB-C to in-ear earphones that are included in the retail box. They sound the same as they've always been. There is no included USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter.

Microphone recording with the Note20 Ultra 5G is very Good. It has great noise cancellation that gives our callers little to complain about voice quality. Nothing beats a dedicated external microphone but the Note20 Ultra 5G's microphones are better than most of the competition.


Cameras

Note20 Ultra 5G
Note20 Ultra 5G 

At the back of the Note20 Ultra 5G is a triple rear camera module made up of a 108MP f/1.8 main camera, 12MP f/2.2 120-degree ultra-wide-angle camera, and a 12MP f/3.0 5x optical zoom periscope camera with 50x Space Zoom, LED Flash, OIS, PDAF and Laser AutoFocus.

This new combination of PDAF and Laser AF fixes our biggest concern with the S20 Ultra 5G. The AutoFocus of the Note20 Ultra 5G's camera is more reliable, fast and accurate. We wished this was implemented on the S20 Ultra 5G.
Rear camera UI


Included camera modes are Pro, Panorama, Food, Night, Live Focus, Live Focus Video, Pro Video, Super Slow-Mo, Slow Motion, and Hyperlapse.

The Pro mode allows for control of ISO (50-3200), Shutter Speed (1/12000-30 secs), White balance and exposure compensation (+-2 stops).


It also has the "Single Take" that was first made available in the S20 series. Once you press the shutter button, the Note20 Ultra 5G will take photos and videos with all cameras. It will then pick the best from all the photos and videos and put them all in one album.

In our experience, it is best used when you want to capture a precious split-second once in a lifetime moment.

Because of the ability to shoot both photos and videos at the same time, you can capture the moment in both forms and pick which you like better.

We were surprised that the Note20 Ultra 5G did not inherit the 100X Space Zoom of the S20 Ultra 5G but honestly, we didn't miss it. We almost never used the feature in the S20 Ultra 5G anyway. 

Rear Camera Samples

rear 1x camera daylight
rear 1x camera daylight

rear 5x camera daylight
rear 5x camera daylight

rear 10x camera daylight
rear 10x camera daylight
rear 50x camera daylight
rear 50x camera daylight

rear ultra-wide daylight
rear ultra-wide daylight


In daylight, the main camera produces impressive images with good sharpness, color, and contrast. The ultra-wide camera, on the other hand, produces slightly softer images but with the same colors.

When looking at the different zooms, we can safely say that up to the 10x zoom, images are beautiful with good sharpness, high detail, good contrast, and vibrant color.

At the maximum of 50x zoom, the images are sharp with accurate color but with some noise present. It is a good image for a super digital zoom.
indoor rear 1x camera
indoor rear 1x camera 
indoor rear 5x
indoor rear 5x 
indoor rear 10x
indoor rear 10x
indoor rear 50x
indoor rear 50x
indoor rear ultra-wide camera
indoor rear ultra-wide camera 

In indoors, the story is the same wherein the ultra-wide camera, the main camera, and the 4x optical telephoto camera perform well in terms of sharpness, contrast and color. When placed side by side, the ultra-wide image is slightly softer but this time, the white balance between the ultra-wide and the main camera is consistent.

It is only at 50x zoom do we notice softness and the appearance of noise.
main camera close-up
main camera close-up

In close-up situations, the main camera was able to produce an image with sharp and detailed images while maintaining accurate color. Because of the camera is nearer to the subject the natural bokeh and the fall-off is more noticeable. It is pleasing but there are other phones that can focus at shorter distances from the subject.

The Note20 Ultra 5G removes the Time of Flight sensor. We didn't miss it as the Live Focus mode performs similar with our without it.
lowlight 1x camera
lowlight 1x camera

lowlight 5x camera
lowlight 5x camera

lowlight ultra-wide camera
lowlight ultra-wide camera


In low light situations, the Note20 Ultra 5G's cameras struggled. Images are soft with noticeable noise. In some cases there is discolouration. This surprised us as the S20 series took great low light images. This is where the Note20 Ultra 5G needs improvement.
Night mode 1x camera
Night mode 1x camera

Night mode 4x camera
Night mode 4x camera

Night mode 10x camera
Night mode 10x camera

Night mode ultra-wide camera
Night mode ultra-wide camera

Night mode is available for the Ultra-wide, 1x, 4x, and 10x cameras. Overall, Samsung's Night Mode has significantly improved the image quality of the low light shots for the ultra-wide, standard, and 4x. We recommend using the Night mode 1x, 4x and ultra-wide when you can.

The 10x zoom has minimal noise but remains soft. The subject's details are lost but retains its accurate colors.
Front facing camera
Front-facing camera

On the punch hole is the 10MP f/2.2 selfie camera with Dual-Pixel Autofocus. Front-facing camera modes include Photo, Video, Live Focus, Live Focus Video, Single Take and Selfie Night Mode.

The Live Focus and Live Focus Video modes have up to 7 levels of blur and up to 8 levels of face smoothening. There is no Pro Mode with the Front-Facing cameras.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie

In daylight, the selfie images are sharp with vibrant color, and good contrast. In some situations, the subtle and natural soft out of focus (bokeh) background makes an appearance which adds to the overall feel. 
Live Focus with Color Point filter
Live Focus with Color Point filter

In the second image, the Live Focus was able to isolate the subject and blur the background nicely. If you look closely at Neil's ears and shoulders, edge detection is spot on. It only struggled with Neil's individual hair strands that stray away from the rest of the hair. The black and white color point filter along with the glitch filter add a unique and fun twist to selfies.
Indoor selfie
Indoor selfie

In indoor situations, the front-facing camera was able to produce detailed selfies with vibrant color and good contrast. In this indoor short, there was a warm light source in the background but the Note20 Ultra 5G was still able to pick the correct white balance that correctly depicts Neil's skin tone.

lowlight selfie
lowlight selfie
lowlight selfie with flash
lowlight selfie with flash
Night Mode Selfie
Night Mode Selfie


In low light situations, the front-facing camera is able to produce soft selfies with noticeable noise and discolouration. It is far from the low light selfies of the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra. 

The flash and selfie Night modes help improve the details and sharpness while lowering the noise. The selfie night mode is great for still subjects and backgrounds in low light. The screen flash does also help but it created a green discolouration.

If you had to pick between Night Mode Selfie and screen flash, we recommend using the Night Mode selfie when you can.

The rear-facing camera can capture up to 8K at 24fps and up to 40 at 60fps with stabilization while the front-facing camera can shoot up to 4K 60fps without stabilization and 4K 30fps with stabilization. This is an upgrade as when the S20 series launched, all three models record 8k at 24fps or 4K at 60fps without stabilization.

Samsung's Super Steady mode is present but will limit resolution to only 1080p at 60fps.

At 8K 24fps with stabilization, the footage has a significant crop but the footage is super sharp with incredible details especially during daylight. The Stabilization helps reduce the shake but a stable hand and a smartphone motorized gimbal will make it even smoother. File sizes are massive for 8K footage so use it sparingly.

We recommend Shooting at 4K at 60fps with stabilization as it has a good balance between detail, crop and file size.

Video footage from the front-facing camera at 4K is impressively sharp but with minimal grain. We do recommend using the image stabilization because the video can be very shaky without it.

In summary, the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G front and rear cameras can take compelling images in most situations. It does not suffer from the autofocus problems that the S20 Ultra has and we find that the Note20 Ultra 5G's cameras and image output to be more reliable and more refined. Our only concern is the massive camera bump but this can easily be remedied with a good case.

Performance

AnTuTu and GeekBench

Inside the Philippine version of the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G the 7nm 2.7GHz Exynos 990-octa-core processor with Mali-G77 MP11 GPU, 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of internal storage.

The Note20 Ultra 5G was able to score an average of 543,263 in AnTuTu while in Geekbench, the phone scored 925 in single-core and 2813 in multi-core tests. 
3D Mark and PCMark
3D Mark and PCMark 


In Slingshot extreme, Note20 Ultra 5G scored 6693 in OpenGL and 6330 in Vulcan while in PCMark Work 2.0 it scored 11,433.

The Note20 Ultra 5G is consistently getting better performance in benchmarks against the S20 series. Samsung made some improvements to the Note20 Ultra 5G's Exynos 990.

See also: Samsung claims that Exynos 990 is as powerful as Snapdragon 865

Users should take note that when running the usual AnTuTu benchmark the Note20 Ultra 5G's temperature rose by a decent 6 degrees. For a flagship, this is okay but some of the competition can run cooler.
To play at max frame rate, you have to give up some graphics
To play at max frame rate, you have to give up some graphics

In games like Call of Duty and NBA, the Note20 Ultra 5G didn't have a problem running both games at maximum graphics settings at the highest frame rate supported. It is worth noting that in Call of Duty: Mobile, Note20 Ultra 5G has a choice of maximum graphics or maximum frame rate. You can't have both. This is the same with other flagships in 2020.

After playing for an hour of Call of Duty: Mobile at max frame rate setting, thermal throttling started after 90 to 120 minutes of continuous playtime.

The Note20 Ultra 5G connects wirelessly via WiFi, 4G LTE and Bluetooth 5.1 and connects wired through the USB Type-C. The USB Type-C port supports OTG while the wireless connection via WiFi, 4G LTE and Bluetooth 5 is stable and as fast as you would expect from a flagship Exynos chipset.


Both the Face Unlock and the In-Display Fingerprint scanner set-up process are fast and straight forward. The Face Unlock quickly detects my face and unlocks the phone as soon as the display is active. It is also able to detect my face even if I take off my glasses. It does struggle when you are trying Face Unlock in a dim environment. The display brightens up to be able to compensate for this.

The fingerprint scanner is equally as fast as it instantly detects and registers my fingerprint and unlocks both phones instantaneously. We never once had an instance wherein the fingerprint scanner misread our fingerprint.

Inside the Note20 Ultra 5G is a massive 4500mAh battery. It is 500mAh less than the S20 Ultra. The Note20 Ultra 5G supports up to 45W Super Fast Adaptive fast charging, Fast Wireless Charging and Wireless Power share.
PCMark Battery test and Battery usage
PCMark Battery test and Battery usage

In our usual PCMark Battery benchmark, the Note20 Ultra 5G's battery was able to last for a respectable 12 hours and 7 minutes. This is a whole hour longer than the S20+'s 4500mAh battery that lasted 11 hours.

In our daily usage where we were constantly connected to WiFi and LTE while doing our normal tasks where we use the phone to call, to text, to web surf, to e-mail, to stream music and video, to play games and to navigate with Waze, the Note20 Ultra 5G was able to last for 5 hours and 37 minutes of on-screen time. This is near the performance of the S20 Ultra 5G's larger 5000mAh battery with 6 hours of on-screen time.

Included in the box is the 25W Fast Charger and it charges the 4500mAh battery from 0 to 100 percent in under 80 minutes. The 45W charger is sold separately and in charging time, it only charges faster by around 15 to 20 minutes as both the 25W and 45W slow down its charging speed when nearing the one hour mark to protect the battery.
OneUI 2.5

Under the hood is One UI 2.5 based on Android 10. It offers minor improvements to OneUI 2.1 that was first found on the S20 series. Minor changes and some tweaks were done in the UI and under the hood. Overall, it is still a feature-packed skin of Android. Because of the long list of features, it can be hard to find the feature you are looking for. The search bar helps but It would be great if Samsung could slim it down by compartmentalizing features and just allow us to download the feature we want and need.

Other than that, OneUI 2.5 has been running smoothly, In our month with the Note20 Ultra 5G, we didn't experience slowdowns, stuttering and crashes. Since the phone's arrival, we've been having monthly updates. One major update and several security updates.

In-display fingerprint scanner and face-unlock recognize quickly and accurately with a success rate of 9 out 10 times. A fingerprint scanner is a Godsend during the current situation of 2020.

Pros - Beautiful design, 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED display is one of the best in the market, Note20 Ultra 5G's long battery life, good overall performance, Wireless charging, Great daylight images from ultra-wide to 50x zoom, Laser AutoFocus is fast and accurate!
Cons - Updated Exynos 990 is better but trails behind Snapdragon 865+, so-so low light performance with all cameras

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G Specs

Display: 6.9-inch 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass Victus protected Dynamic AMOLED 2x screen w/ 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, QHD+ 3088 x 1440 resolution at 496 ppi
CPU: 2.7GHz 7nm Samsung Exynos 990 octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-G77 MP11
RAM: 12GB LPDDR5
ROM: 256GB UFS 3.1 expandable up to 1TB via microSD
Back Camera: 108MP f/1.8 main camera with PDAF, OIS, Laser AF + 12MP f/2.2 120-degree ultra-wide-angle camera + 12MP f/3.0 with 5x optical zoom, and 50x Space Zoom with OIS, PDAF + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 10MP f/2.2 with Dual Pixel AF
Battery: 4,500mAh w/ Up to 45W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, wireless reverse wireless charging
OS: Android 10.0 w/ One UI 2.5
Connectivity: WiFi 6, 5G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, OTG, NFC, MST, GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic, pressure
Others: In-display Fingerprint sensor, face unlock, IP68 water and dusts resistance, Stereo Speaker, Hi-Res Audio, Dolby Atmos, S Pen, USB-C, Colors: Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black
Dimensions: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1 mm
Weight: 208 g
Price: PHP 72,990

Verdict

ultra-sonic in-display fingerprint scanner
ultra-sonic in-display fingerprint scanner

The Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G surprised us. We were impressed by its stunning build quality, design and display. The level of polish of the metal and glass is unbeatable. The frosted glass panel at the back and the jaw-dropping display is still the best in the market today.

Performance-wise, Samsung was able to squeeze in better performance from Exynos 990 compared to the S20 series and it shows in benchmarks and in real-world use. Even though it has 500mAh battery less than the S20 Ultra, the battery was still able to last for over 5 hours and 37 mins of on-screen time with a constant data connection is impressive. 

The updated S-Pen with super-low latency makes writing on the Note the best its ever been and the handwriting to text recognition and conversion is so accurate that it boggles our minds.

Samsung has also significantly improved the AF of the rear cameras with the new laser autofocus which makes it fast and accurate.

And it would have been perfect but unfortunately, Samsung chose to use different camera sensors for its front and back cameras and resulted in it suffering in low light. In daylight and well-lit situations, the Note20 Ultra 5G's cameras perform like a flagship but in low light, it struggles. This is the biggest concern we have with the Note20 Ultra 5G and if you can live with sub-par low light performance then we highly recommend the Note20 Ultra 5G.

Build/Design - 5
Multimedia Experience - 5
Cameras - 4
Performance - 4.5
Average - 4.625/5

What do you guys think? Do you agree with us?
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