Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

GSMArena team, 18 August 2020.

Design

The Galaxy Notes have their own distinct design language to set them apart from the more mainstream S-series phones. The Note20 Ultra respects that principle and adopts the striking sharper corners we've come to expect from the lineup - in contrast to the easier-on-the-eyes, more rounded look of a Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G reviewGalaxy Note20 Ultra (middle) looks more like the Note10+ (right) than the S20 Ultra

The evolutionary refinement can be seen when looking at the two notes side-by-side. The bottom bezel is a hair thinner, the selfie camera cutout is smaller and... that's about it - there wasn't much to shave off the older model to begin with.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G reviewGalaxy Note20 Ultra (right) next to the Galaxy Note10+

The display remains slightly curved - enough to annoy flat screen die-hards and to make glass protectors a pain to install, at best. The Note20 Ultra is where Gorilla Glass Victus debuts, offering improvements over GG6, so hopefully, screen protectors shouldn't be needed. Having said that, the phone does ship with a sheet of plastic foil for some extra peace of mind, though in the past we've been unable to get official replacements for those.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

The Note20 Ultra is not just a Note, but also an Ultra and there's no chance you'll miss that even at a passing glance at its back. A camera assembly so big and prominent we haven't seen before. With the Note20 Ultra now thinner than the S20 Ultra, the bump is raised higher - out the calipers go and we measured 2.6mm on the Note, 2.2mm on the S model.

The usual practical consequences of that involve wobbling on flat surfaces and the phone does suffer from that - not ideal if you want to be drawing on it. A case is the only obvious solution.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

Having said that, the design of the Note20 Ultra's camera cluster is a lot more sophisticated and classier than on the S20 Ultra. For starters, there's no sign of the Space Zoom 100X branding - we still can't fathom how that made it to a flagship Galaxy in the first place. The otherwise rectangular opening for the periscope's prism has gotten a circular outline to match the other two, and the three cams have the same brushed metal looking rings around them, in a matching color to the phone's paintjob.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

Our review unit is in this year's hero color, Mystic Bronze. It comes with a soft touch matte finish that is about as slippery as they come, but hey - with a camera bump this big, you can use it for extra grip. The greatest upside to the finish is that it's nowhere nearly as accommodating to fingerprints and your Mystic Bronze Note20 Ultra will stay relatively clean.

That is not the case with the other two color options. Mystic as they may be in the promo materials, the Black and White variants come with the usual glossy glass. Matte or gloss, the back panel of the Note20 Ultra is made of Victus too, so at least there's that. Note20s are all IP68 certified, as expected.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

The two sheets of glass that cover the internals are held together by a metal midframe, which has historically been made of aluminum. Samsung reps shared with us that the frame on the Note20 Ultra is made out of stainless steel, a statement we have no reason to doubt, nor are we equipped to verify. It's metal alright.

The frame is nearly flat on the top and the bottom, making you think the phone could stand upright on its own. Well, the slightly protruding S Pen prevents it on the bottom. It almost works with the top, though the device is never stable, instead swaying gently back and forth, waiting for you to look the other way so it can come crashing down. Just reviewer things, nobody needs to have their phone standing upright anyway.

USB-C port, loudspeaker, mic and S Pen on the bottom - Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review Card tray with hybrid microSD slot up top - Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review
USB-C port, loudspeaker, mic and S Pen on the bottom • Card tray with hybrid microSD slot up top

On the sides, there's not even 2mm of the frame exposed, except on the right where the power button and volume rocker are and the frame is widened to accommodate them. Indeed, the power button has returned to the right side of the phone where it should be - on the Note10s Samsung experimented with a left-side power button, and couldn't hear the end of it. We know, we complained ourselves.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

We were debating whether the button placement on the Note10s was somehow related to the position of the S Pen silo on the right side of the handset and if the ever-thinning sides made their coexistence impossible. Well, the buttons are on the right now, and the S Pen is on the left - adding two and two together...

Let's put it this way - it requires some getting used to. Long time Note users will poke at the lower right corner of the handset and wonder why there's no click from the stylus' butt end. The clicky bit is on the S Pen all the same, only the entire S Pen has moved. Perhaps less than ideal ergonomics for right-hand users though people have adapted to some more dramatic changes, one would think. And then, left-handed folks might finally have a Galaxy Note to love.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

The S Pen has the exact same physical dimensions and weight as the one on the previous generation and it looks identically. Samsung quotes 24 hours of standby battery life out of the stylus' lithium titanate battery, up from the 10 hours of the Note10's specs. Judging by the lack of physical changes, that's likely due to optimization rather than a new battery.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

The Galaxy Note20 Ultra measures 164.8x77.2x8.1mm and weighs 208g and that's 0.7mm thinner than the S20 Ultra, as well as 14g lighter. The Oppo Find X2 Pro, Huawei P40 Pro+, and Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro all hover around the 9mm thickness mark and the Find is the only one lighter around here at 200g for the leather version. Meanwhile, the Mi matches the Note for weight and the Huawei stands at 226g, as much as the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which also happens to be as thin as the Note. What we're trying to do is give context to say that the Note20 Ultra is, in fact, relatively thin and light for its class.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

It is, however, the widest handset of this bunch, save for the iPhone (not that the bezels out of 2017 help the iPhone's case). At 77.2mm, the Note20 Ultra it's not a phone for single-handed operation, that much is clear. But with the S Pen around, two-handed use is sort of assumed, right?

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G review

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

got my new Note 20 Ultra phone and immediately has wifi connection problem. Wasn't able to connect to wifi. After many calls and remote diagnostic done, had to bring it down to Samsung Service Center (my "new phone's" 3rd day). Th...

  • Anonymous

tf is wrong with repairing the current phone instead of offering a new one?

  • Anonymous

what? tell us how is it more 'mediocre'