Hands On With the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

What makes a phone worth $1,299 in a pandemic? That’s the challenge for the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, a giant honking superphone coming out August 21. This monster of a device represents the absolute top-of-the-line in the US right now, and it might be worth the money, if everything works as promised. I spent a few hours with the phone, and so far it seems pretty promising.

The Note 20 Ultra comes in a 128GB model for $1,299 and a 512GB model for $1,449. Both look the same: impressive 6.5-by-3.0-by-0.3-inch slabs (HWD) weighing 7.3 ounces. Yes, this is a big phone, even marginally taller and deeper than the Galaxy Note 10 , but if you’re here, you’re here for the full serving plate experience.

It comes in matte bronze or glossy black or white. I got the bronze version, which looks very much like Apple’s rose gold color. It picks up fingerprints quickly, but I don’t think that will matter because you really need a case to smooth out the back panel. The camera bump is ridiculous—a big, chunky rectangle that may get caught on or scratch things if you don’t have a case to even out the phone’s Z-axis.

camera bumpGalaxy S20 Ultra, the wrong phone at the wrong time. The S20 Ultra is a $1,449 monster with a buggy camera, engineered at a moment when it looked like the economy was booming and released into a pandemic and economic crash. The Note 20 Ultra starts with the S20 Ultra’s platform and makes a bunch of course corrections: fixing the camera, lowering the price, and adding in the trademark S Pen and some new software features. Upon first glance, it looks like it achieves the goal.

s pen on leftUSB or Bluetooth microphone. Paired with 8K recording, that could be a big step forward for audio clarity.

I haven’t been able to get a good feel for the phone’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor or its universal 5G yet. I’m expecting 5G performance here to be similar to the S20 , which means excellent on AT&T and Verizon, but second to OnePlus phones on T-Mobile because the OnePlus devices get 5G radio software updates more promptly.

audio optionsdeals out there. And cheaper phones genuinely don’t have things this one has: triple-layer 5G, for instance, or a 108-megapixel camera, or 8K recording. Those features are all kind of overkill, but there’s room for some overkill in the world. I’ll dig in further as we proceed toward a full review, so check back soon.

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August 7, 2020
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