Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review: A beauty and a beast, but the price is hard to justify

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Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review: A beauty and a beast, but the price is hard to justify

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review (Image: SAMSUNG)The Galaxy Note is back with its yearly refresh and, as long as you opt for the more expensive

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Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review: A beauty and a beast, but the price is hard to justify


Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review (Image: SAMSUNG)

The Galaxy Note is back with its yearly refresh and, as long as you opt for the more expensive Ultra model, you’re in for a very nice upgrade. In fact, as you can read from our Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra comparison, there’s really no point in buying the standard model as the Note 20 Ultra is where all the best updates and upgrades have gone.

There’s an abundance of things to like about this new premium phone, but the big question is… is really worth over £1,100 of your hard-earned cash?

Express.co.uk has been putting the new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra through its paces for the past few weeks and here’s our thoughts on Samsung’s new flagship smartphone.

One of the most striking things about the new Note 20 Ultra is its design. There really is no question that it stands out from the ever-expanding Android crowd with a style that will definitely make you look twice. In fact, the next time you wander into a phone store you’ll find it almost impossible to tear your eyes away from the Note 20 Ultra.

We took delivery of the striking Mystic Bronze model for our review and this is one of the nicest colours we’ve seen from Samsung all year. It’s bold without feeling glitzy and the new matt finish means it doesn’t show up all of your mucky fingerprints – something that can’t be said for most glass-covered phones.

The Ultra has a very industrial feel, which we really like. It is genuinely stunning that the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra comes from the same company that produced the ugly S20 Ultra just a few months earlier.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

The new Note 20 Ultra gets a new design and Mystic Bronze colour (Image: SAMSUNG )

Our only gripes about the new design are the bulbous camera bump, which is truly ginormous, and the sharp square edges on the corners, which don’t exactly make it that comfortable to hold in your hand for long periods of time.

Other than those niggles we really, really love what Samsung has done with the Note 20 Ultra – this is easily one of the most dazzling phones the South Korean firm has made in a very long while.

Along with that new look, you’ll also be impressed by its improved 6.9-inch AMOLED screen which now gets a 120Hz refresh rate. This follows on from the S20, which also received these stutter-free displays when they launched back in March. If you’re unfamiliar with 120Hz – this boasts twice as many frames than the standard 60Hz screens on previous handsets, which makes system animations much smoother and gameplay fast-paced.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

The Note 20 Ultra’s S Pen is now even more responsive (Image: SAMSUNG)

However, Samsung has really improved things on the Note 20 Ultra compared with the S20 handsets with the display now adapting the refresh speed depending on what the user happens to be doing. This means you won’t find the same battery-draining issues that the S20 was heavily criticised for.

As with all Samsung displays, the quality is superb with everything bursting with colour and content appearing pin-sharp and packed with detail.

You also get an almost bezel-free experience – with the display curving around the edge – and just two slithers of black a the top and bottom. It really does look simply stunning although we still hate the fact that text gets so close to the edge when viewing websites, but that’s just a pet hate of ours – we’re aware that some of you love these curved screens.

Another positive thing to note about the screen comes when you pop the famous S Pen out from inside the shell.

That’s because Samsung has now got the reaction time of this digital stylus down to just 9ms making it feel like you really are writing with a real pen on real paper. The older S Pen was never slow, but this faster technology is an improvement that will be welcomed by Note fans who scribble endless messages on the screen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

The Note 20 Ultra has a very big camera bump (Image: SAMSUNG)

Along with being quicker, there’s also some newly added Air actions, called Anywhere actions, which provide five convenient and customisable gestures for easier navigation on any app or screen.

Something else that Samsung users will love is better integration with Microsoft and an easier way to mark up files such as PDFs. There’s also some other nice added extras to this year’s note-taking capabilities, including improved handwriting recognition and the option to easily rotate your scribbles to make things look a little neater.

It’s all good stuff and makes the whole point of owning a Note feel even better.

The next dramatic change to this rebooted phone comes to the rear of the device with an all-new camera system that now features a 50X Space Zoom.

This is a good decision from Samsung as the 100X Space Zoom found on the S20 Ultra was a bit excessive and, to be perfectly frank, really didn’t work that well. Although images still look a little blurry when you push this zoom to max it’s really nice to have and we think most users will get some use out of it.

SEE NOTE 20 CAMERA SAMPLES BELOW

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

The Note 20 Ultra also gets all of the usual wide-angle, Night and DSLR-style portrait modes plus there’s a laser autofocus which makes things feel super snappy when pointing and shooting an image.

If it’s video you want to take then there’s the option to enable recordings in full 8K, plus a new Pro Video mode adds some extra style to your home movies.

Owners of Galaxy Buds can even use these headphones as a remote microphone to help the audio sound as good as the video looks.

Overall the camera experience is excellent with the lenses feeling responsive and the images looking pin-sharp and crystal clear.

We wouldn’t say it’s any better some other phones we’ve tested, such as the iPhone 11 Pro or P40 Pro, but it certainly holds its own and it won’t disappoint when snapping images for your next family album.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

The Note 20 Ultra can recharge other accessories wirelessly (Image: SAMSUNG)

Moving inside the phone you’ll find a fast Exynos processor, which is good but isn’t as powerful as some versions of the Note 20 Ultra which get Qualcomm’s new 865+ chip. Samsung continues to produce devices with different chips inside and all UK models get Exynos power.

It’s a shame users don’t get the option to pick which processor they want but it’s something that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

If battery life is a concern then the 4,500mAh battery is good enough and, in our tests, easily got us through a day. Don’t expect much more than that though especially if you are a power user.

When it does run dry it can be fast-charged and refilled on a wireless via any Qi pad. And if you’ve got battery to spare, you can use the Note 20 Ultra as a wireless charging pad to recharge your wireless earbuds, smartwatch, or dying smartphone of a good friend.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review (Image: SAMSUNG)

When watching movies on the move there’s decent speakers and it’s fully 5G ready meaning streaming those films should be fast and buffer-free.

One final bonus is the improvement of Samsung Dex. When the Samsung first announced this desktop-like experience you needed a special dock to make it work. Then that changed to a wired connection but now the Note can beam content to your TV or display wirelessly.

When connected to a second screen, Galaxy Note 20 also acts as a Touch Pad control and you can use the device as a Keyboard, when you need to type in DeX screen. There’s clearly a whole lot to like about the Note 20 Ultra, but you will face a high price to own one.

The standard Note 20, which we don’t recommend buying, starts from £849 and the Ultra begins from £1,179. That’s a lot of money for a phone and the biggest issue for Samsung is the flurry of new Android devices that are arriving with great specs for half the price of these new Note phones.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review: Final Verdict

If you love a Note and have deep pockets, then seriously, what are you waiting for?

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is easily the best device Samsung has ever made and there’s no question you’ll love every minute of using it. The design is sublime, the camera is incredibly capable and there’s enough power to keep everyone from mobile workers to hardcore gamers perfectly happy.

In fact, the only real problem for this phone is the cost and the endless wave of rival Android smartphones available for half the price.

This is undeniably the best Note ever made, you just need to make sure you’ll get enough out of this smartphone to justify the price tag – and turn your back on more affordable (but very comparable) rivals.



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