The Note 20 Ultra Is the Ultimate Android Phone

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Unlike with most telephones that come throughout my desk, it takes me a minute (or a day) to totally bear in mind the best way to put Samsung’s Galaxy Note telephones to full use. These large, feature-rich telephones make me really feel like a retired swordsman unsheathing his weapon for the primary time in years.

For the previous two weeks, I’ve been doing issues with the brand new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra not simply potential on different smartphones. I’ve scrolled by way of a recipe with no need to place my dirty fingers on the telephone’s display screen. I’ve sketched (some poor) art work whereas lounging on the sofa, and I’ve remotely snapped selfies with the telephone resting a number of toes away, far out of attain.

All of this (and extra) comes at a really steep value: $1,300. You don’t want to pay this a lot for a very good telephone, particularly on this financial local weather. Our top phone pick proper now, the Google Pixel 4A, prices $350 and affords precisely what most individuals want. But generally you need extra. Maybe you need one of many greatest telephones out there proper now. Or perhaps you need that stylus. Maybe you need hands-free selfies and recipe scrolling. Perhaps, most of all, you do not wish to make compromises. Well, Samsung’s Note 20 Ultra has very, only a few of these.

Excess Excel

When you pay this a lot for a telephone, you possibly can and may count on best-in-class elements. Take efficiency for example. Few different Android telephones will have the ability to beat the Note 20 Ultra in uncooked energy. It’s utilizing the newer Snapdragon 865+ chipset (which is barely sooner than the 865 in Samsung’s Galaxy S20 range) with 12 GB of RAM. That pairing means you’ll by no means really feel slowed down, whether or not you are hurtling by way of tweets at 2 am, switching between 10 completely different apps, or enjoying graphically intensive cellular video games.

Photograph: Samsung 

The 6.9-inch AMOLED display screen can be beautiful. It stretches all the best way to the sides of the telephone’s physique, and the selfie digicam sits in a tiny, floating circle within the high middle. This “all screen” design makes my apps look expansive and fashionable, which makes utilizing the telephone really feel nice. Aesthetics matter, folks! Aside from that teeny digicam, there aren’t any pointless or ugly trimmings to interrupt my digital window. It additionally helps that the display screen is fantastically wealthy in coloration and will get extraordinarily shiny. Unlike on cheaper telephones, you will not need to squint if you stare at it on a sunny day.

What I’ll fortunately pay extra for in a telephone is a excessive display screen refresh price. Traditional telephone screens refresh 60 occasions per second. Most of the newer, pricier telephones bump that rate to 90. Here, Samsung bumps the refresh price to 120 occasions per second. These further frames make animations and scrolling results extra fluid, and it may even allow you to answer the motion extra rapidly in fast-paced video games. It feels like a small acquire, and it’s, nevertheless it enriches that on a regular basis expertise.

If solely the telephone itself was simpler to carry. This is a massive telephone. Comfortably reaching sure elements of the display screen with only one hand is close to unattainable, even for my giant paws. It leaves a large rectangular imprint on all my pant pockets and makes it look as if I’m carrying round a pocket book. I additionally naturally tighten my grip when utilizing it outdoor, as a result of if this unwieldy, all-glass machine falls out of my arms and breaks, you possibly can guess it will value a fairly penny to restore. You ought to use a case (I like this one) as a precaution.

I would like to notice (pun meant) that this is among the first telephones utilizing Corning’s new Gorilla Glass Victus, which is supposedly extra scratch-resistant and sturdy than earlier smartphone glass formulations. I often see a number of scratches after two to 3 weeks with a telephone, however to Corning’s credit score, the Note 20 Ultra’s great matte front and back screens look simply as clear because the day I bought it. More excellent news: It’s IP68 water resistant, so a drop within the lake throughout your quarantined tenting journey is not going to kill it.

Speaking of killing it, I had a tough time hitting zero % with the 4,500-mAh battery. On a median day, the telephone often hovers round 40 % battery by midnight. It’ll have the ability to final till the center of the second day earlier than it wants a recharge. With heavy use, count on it to final a day and never way more.

Rounding it out are all of the extras, like wi-fi charging (you possibly can even cost different units wirelessly by stacking them on high of the Note), a MicroSD card slot to broaden the bottom 128 gigabytes of storage, twin audio system that get loud and sound actually good, and NFC for contactless funds. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor too, nevertheless it hardly ever works on the primary strive for me.

It’s additionally future-proofed with help for things like Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. On the latter, this telephone can help each sub-6 and millimeter-wave 5G (extra about all that in our guide here), so even should you swap carriers, you will nonetheless have the ability to connect with their respective 5G networks, which isn’t the case with some first-gen 5G telephones.

Stylus Shenanigans

During my testing interval, I needed to remind myself a number of occasions that this telephone had a built-in stylus (known as the S Pen) earlier than I began repeatedly utilizing it. I’ve by no means craved the stylus as an enter mechanism, nor have I ever missed it after transferring on from a Note telephone, however I can at the very least admire it. It will be helpful, whether or not for scribbling down notes, signing an digital doc, or simply doodling.

The greatest downside? Samsung’s palm rejection know-how for the S Pen is not nice. It will be annoying when the display screen makes random traces the place my palm rests, or worse, when it errors my palm changes and zooms out and in of my memos. It’s an issue for taking notes, nevertheless it’s straightforward sufficient to get round with sketching apps which have a “Pen Mode Only” that disables contact enter and solely acknowledges the stylus.

New within the Note 20 Ultra is Anywhere Actions, which helps you to use wand-like gestures with the S Pen to regulate the display screen. For instance, press the button on the stylus and make this “<” gesture mid-air to return in any app. This “^” gesture will go house. You can customise all of this and tailor it to your favourite apps. I toggled it on for Google Chrome—a swipe gesture up and down with the S Pen and I can scroll up and down a recipe web site with out having to the touch the display screen.

There’s quite a bit Samsung has packed into the S Pen, however you’ll want to spend the time studying its capabilities and tweaking settings to ingrain it into your on a regular basis workflow. Do you want it? No. But it may make interacting along with your telephone much more like paper and pen.

Reliable Cameras

The digicam system on this telephone is not too completely different from the Galaxy S20 Ultra from earlier this 12 months, nevertheless it’s even higher. Gone are the autofocus points that plagued the S20 mannequin. On the Note, a most important 108-megapixel sensor is flanked by two 12-megapixel ultrawide and telephoto cameras.

I’ve develop into significantly keen on the telephoto lens, which helps you to snap pretty high-quality photographs at 5x zoom (and generally decent-looking pictures at 10x zoom). It’s nice having the ability to get a more in-depth view of a topic with out having to bodily transfer nearer. And if you wish to soak up a panorama or a decent area, the ultrawide choice is simply as succesful. The most important digicam shoots at 27 megapixels, merging 4 adjoining pixels into one to soak up extra gentle, however there is a particular 108-megapixel mode you should use to protect plenty of element and find yourself with a high-resolution picture. This choice additionally produces a pleasant, pure bokeh impact with a pleasantly blurry background.

Colors could be a little oversaturated at occasions and distinction could be a bit missing, however you get good element and the cameras fare nicely in high-contrast situations. More spectacular are how they (even the 10-megapixel selfie digicam) fare at night time with Samsung’s devoted Night mode. This mode takes a number of pictures in fast succession and stitches them collectively. You have to remain nonetheless whereas it is capturing the shot, however the result’s a better-exposed picture. It competes with the Pixel 4A’s Night Sight—generally the Pixel snaps the higher picture, different occasions Samsung wins—however you get a much more versatile system within the Note 20 Ultra.

And that is not the one purpose you’d wish to shell out for these cameras. Samsung is among the few Android producers that makes telephones with video capabilities nearly as good (if not higher) than the iPhone. Video picture high quality is spectacular, as is picture stabilization. With the Note 20 Ultra, you possibly can shoot in 8K at 24 frames per second (with a 21:9 facet ratio) for a real, cinema-like expertise.

That’s a bit overkill, nevertheless it’s the Pro Video mode that is extra fascinating. Now, you possibly can select which microphones on the telephone you wish to use when recording (omnidirectional, entrance, or again), and when you have wi-fi earbuds like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live, you possibly can even select to document audio from them as an alternative of the telephone. Handy should you’re desirous about vlogging throughout quarantine!

Better Software

Samsung is lastly committing to 3 years of Android model upgrades. That’s not as nice as what you will get from Apple, which generally can promise 5 years of upgrades, nevertheless it’s nearly as good as you will get within the Android world. Longer software program help means your machine stays safer for longer, bugs are taken care of, and also you get new incorporates a couple years down the highway.

Also fascinating listed here are the Note’s particular integrations with Microsoft Windows. You can pair up the telephone wirelessly along with your Windows machine, and you are able to do issues like drag and drop information, entry your pictures, see notifications, and even reply to texts and take calls.

You can launch your entire Android apps in Windows too. I do not assume most individuals will care about that, however it may be helpful in choose conditions. For instance, Instagram does not allow you to add pictures from wherever apart from inside its app. What I typically do after I edit a photograph snapped by my mirrorless digicam is add it to Google Photos, entry it from my telephone, and share it to Instagram. Now with this integration, I can drag my edited photograph to the telephone and share it with the Instagram app with out having to select up my telephone, saving me a number of steps.

Price, Noted

The Note 20 Ultra is pricey. Samsung even does not need you to pay $1,300 for it! An organization spokesperson tells me prospects aren’t “taking full advantage” of Samsung’s discounted affords in the event that they’re paying the complete value. (For instance, you possibly can commerce in a telephone of excellent high quality to save lots of a number of lots of of {dollars} on a brand new Note.) So take Samsung’s recommendation and check out to not pay the complete value for it. But should you do, this can be a telephone that can simply final you 4 years, if no more (additionally, get it in bronze—it seems to be attractive).

You is likely to be questioning concerning the cheaper and smaller Galaxy Note 20—I have not used it but, nevertheless it’s laborious to suggest. It compromises on too many options (it does not have the upper refresh price, and the again is plastic as an alternative of glass) but it nonetheless prices $1,000. Get the Galaxy S20 as an alternative. Or in order for you a less expensive high-end telephone, snag the OnePlus 8 Pro. It’s good, nevertheless it does not fairly hit the Note 20 Ultra’s degree of excellence.

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