Samsung makes tons of phones every year and largely for the last decade has remained the premier manufacturer of smartphones across the world. But the Galaxy Note line has always been Samsung’s special child. It grew into a category of phones which make up the majority of what one expects from phones while also retaining some unique traits of its own. After all, the idea of the big-screened smartphone has been Samsung’s gift to the world. And after testing the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra for more than a week, it is no surprise to me that the latest Galaxy Note is not only big and powerful but also Samsung’s best phone ever. It is not perfect as almost no product is, but this is Samsung flexing its muscles and how.
- When one starts using the new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, you have these warm feels that it wells you up with. It is massive gargantuan size can overwhelm you at first but when you hold it you realise its beastly beauty. Its fit and finish are in a league of phones that haven’t existed because of the supple use of aluminium and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. It feels more like a luxury item than just a phone. This is an impressive feat considering that this phone isn’t a designer collaboration — it is just the standard Galaxy Note. Imagine the levers Samsung were to hit if there was a special edition in the works. Heck, I don’t want to even know.
- Part of the reason why this phone is such a hulking beauty is because of its massive 6.9-inch Super AMOLED screen. And it is a super screen in every sense of the word. This is simply put the best screen to have been installed on a smartphone which while is table stakes for a Samsung phone, it is ingenious on Note 20. This is the first phone to offer the combination of a quad-HD resolution, AMOLED technology and 120Hz peak refresh rate to have a true variable refresh rate that ramps up and down dynamically on the basis of the content that is being displayed. This technology also enables the reduced latency on the S-pen which makes it even more useful than ever.
- This is also the best camera phone Samsung has released to date. This is the same system as the 108-megapixel behemoth as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but better. It now gets a laser autofocus system, and improved night mode alongside, 5x optical zoom and 50X digital zoom along with a supreme ultrawide camera. It is easily amongst the top 3 camera systems I have tested in 2020 alongside the Mi 10 and Vivo X50 Pro. More so, I feel it is the most versatile of the lot as all the three cameras perform well in kinds of conditions consistently. With the Mi 10, you can say the ultra-wide mode isn’t as good and perhaps with the Vivo, one can claim that it overexposes images because of the sophisticated stabilisation system. The Galaxy Note gets the balance right.
- For video, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is right up there with the best. While 8K video capabilities are astounding in a phone, what’s more, impressive is the way it handles 4K and 1080p video. Alongside its sibling the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Mi 10, this phone takes the absolute best video I have seen on an Android phone. I even shot a bunch of videos for the warpcore YouTube channel with this phone and that’s how useful it was. Outside of the iPhone, this is the best phone for taking videos on the go, while also getting the advantages of pristine audio even loud and challenging ambient environments.
- The Galaxy Note line of phones have been known for their beastly performance and this Note 20 Ultra is no different. It is powered by the Exynos 990 chip along with 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and super-fast 256GB UFS 3.1 storage. This converts to excellent day to day performance which is right up there with the best of the Android. The multitasking capabilities of this phone go beyond that of traditional Android phones and even the iPhone thanks to the enhancements Samsung has made to the user interface. The phone also has enough thump to handle anything.
- It also remains a sterling device for gaming thanks to the partnership with developers like Epic Games and Microsoft and also the general hardware which includes a best-in-class panel and also really formidable processing hardware. The phone will even support Microsoft’s xCloud cloud gaming service in markets outside of India.
- The presence of the S-Pen has always made the Galaxy Note stand apart from the crowd. It adds this level of creative and productive dynamism that’s generally restricted to the tablet form factor. It was always clever but now it’s fluid to the degree of a pen on paper while also integrating support for applications from Microsoft. In fact, Samsung’s relationship with Microsoft makes this phone stand apart as it synergies with Windows computers with an Apple like continuum of fluidity of work across devices with apps like My Phone.
- Samsung has also elevated its commitment towards software updates with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra promising Android platform updates for more than 3 years. Samsung has enhanced its OneUI user interface and cleaned it up. It is attractive, functional and verbally fast. It even supports iOS style gestures which makes it quite easy to navigate alongside some dedicated features for the S-Pen which can be activated by either removing the pen from its silo or pressing a button on it.
- Samsung also nails the basics on this phone. It has IP68 water and dust protection, a pretty large 4,500mAh battery that lasts more than a day providing 7-8 hours of screen on time and also sterling call quality on both cellular and WiFi. The battery life is perhaps augmented by the dynamic refresh rate on the screen but regardless it is fantastic. It also supports fast wireless charging and wireless power share so it is pretty much armed to the teeth.
- Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the fact that it isn’t powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ CPU in India. The Snapdragon 865+ is at least 20 percent faster and more power efficient as the Exynos 990 in India. This would’ve basically made this phone perfect. It’s battery life would’ve been better and so would have its performance been more equitable for hardcore gamers.
- The size of the Note has always made it restrictive for some users. Some people just prefer smaller phones like the iPhone SE. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is not made for that crowd despite all the grace and elegance it brings to the table.
Should you buy it?
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is in a league of its own. For people who want to get work done this is the new age BlackBerry or Nokia Communicator, while also leading a double life as one of the sexiest smartphones around. That’s a rare combination — it goes McKinsey and company to Vogue literally on the fly. It feels business like a BlackBerry but also like a typical Samsung Swiss Army knife, just that it looks and feels more like a Louis Vuitton. Yep, if Louis Vuitton would ever make the tech equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, now they know which OEM to call — Samsung. Take note, Louis Vuitton!