Samsung's latest generation of Galaxy Note phones, the Note20 and Note20 Ultra, come with a few notable upgrades from last year’s Note10 and Note10+. In addition to a bump in processing power, Note20 models received camera and battery upgrades, brighter displays, full 5G connectivity (Sub-6 and mmWave network), and a beautiful matte finish in eye-catching colors. But are any of the new features enough to make an upgrade worthwhile? Read on to see if a Note20 or Note20 Ultra is right for you.
Design and display
At 6.7 and 6.9 inches, these are large phones with beautiful OLED displays. The Note20 has a 6.7-inch FHD flat display, a small bezel, and a hole punch camera up top for selfies—up from the smaller 6.3-inch curved display of the Note10. The Note20 Ultra has a whopping 6.9-inch WQHD AMOLED screen (up from 6.8-inches of the Note10+) with almost no bezels and a smaller hole-punch camera. The Ultra has the curved display that’s been typical of the Galaxy-class devices, with the matte finish, and looks every bit like the glass and metal premium phone that it is.
The big difference in the display is that the Note20 has a refresh rate of 60hz while the Note20 Ultra has a 120hz refresh rate. The similarly priced Samsung Galaxy S20 phone has a 120hz refresh rate.
Both devices get a camera bump on the back that protrudes quite a bit from the body. It’s a rectangular camera housing for the three back lenses and looks very pronounced, though it’s slightly smaller on the Note20 since that device has a standard 3x telephoto lens, as opposed to the periscope camera in the Note20 Ultra.
The other big difference here is while the Ultra is made of metal and glass, the Note20 has a plastic back, not glass, giving it a slightly less premium look and feel. Available colors for the Galaxy Note20 are Mystic Bronze, Mystic Gray, and Mystic Green. The Galaxy Note20 Ultra is available in that mystic bronze, as well as Mystic Black and Mystic White. We have to say the Mystic Bronze, which is a brushed rose gold, is our favorite color yet.
What makes the Note series most appealing to its fans is the S Pen, a Bluetooth-connected smart stylus for writing notes and sketching right on the device. Samsung continues to improve on its multitasking capabilities, and the new Note20 models are even more responsive. Samsung has decreased the latency, making the S Pen much more accurate and responsive.
Latency on the Note20 Ultra has decreased from 42 milliseconds to 9 milliseconds, which puts it on par with theApple Pencil. The Note20’s latency is also reduced, but only to 26 milliseconds.
The S Pen also has upgraded Air Actions, which were introduced two years ago. Air Actions now let you navigate your device with just the flick of the S Pen in any application, so you can return to the home screen or snap screenshot without touching the phone.
The cameras on both phones are impressive with a variety of lens options that you would expect from a Samsung device. Big gains here are for the Note20 Ultra, with a higher power optical zoom lens and a 108MP wide-angle camera, and the Note20 with a 64MP telephoto camera. Here’s the break down:
Note20 Ultra cameras:
- 10MP F2.2 front-facing camera (same as Note10+)
- 12-megapixel F 2.2 ultra-wide camera (down from Note10+ 16MP)
- 108-megapixel wide-angle camera (up from Note10+ 12MP)
- A 12-megapixel telephoto camera with 5X optical zoom (up from Note10+ 12MP with 3X optical Zoom)
- A new laser autofocus sensor and Space Zoom 5x
- 10MP F2.2 front-facing camera (same as Note10)
- 12-megapixel F 1.8 ultra-wide camera (down from Note10 16MP)
- 12-megapixel wide-angle camera (same as Note10)
- 64-megapixel telephoto camera (up from Note10 12MP)
- Space Zoom 3x
They’ll both record 8K video at 24 frames per second and can shoot non-8K video at 120 frames per second. They also have Dolby Atmos Surround sound technology.
Battery and Power
The Note20 and Note20 Ultra both get next-generation processors, moving from the Snapdragon 855 to the new best-in-class Snapdragon 865 Plus processor. The Note20 has a 4,300mAh battery up from 3,500mAh on the Note10, while the Ultra gets a 4,500mAh battery, up from the Note10+’s 4,300mAh. Both support wireless fast charging 2.0 using the Qi-wireless standard. Wireless PowerShare, a carryover from last year, lets you charge other devices with the Note20 and Note20 Ultra. With a wired USB-C charge, you’ll get about a 50% battery boost in 30 minutes.
Availability, pricing, and configurations
The Galaxy Note20 comes in only one configuration (128GB of storage, 8GB of RAM) and costs $999. This is an odd choice since the less expensive Note10 ($949) offered 256GB of storage, and the Galaxy S20 phone comes with 128GB but has a microSD card slot for adding up to 1TB of storage.
The Note20 is the same price as the Galaxy S20, as well as the iPhone 11 Pro. Unless you’re an S Pen devotee, you could save $300 by getting the OnePlus 8, which has a 90hz screen refresh rate and comes in more storage configurations.
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra is available in two configurations, starting at $1,299.99 for 128GB of storage with 12GB of RAM or you can get a 512GB version for $1,449. It also has a microSD card slot for adding up to 1TB of storage.
While this is a steep price, up $200 from last year’s Note10+, it has the higher-end specs and the full metal and glass design of a premium phone. That said, it’s $200 more than the similarly specced iPhone 11 Pro Max and $400 less than the OnePlus 8 Pro. If you’re looking to buy a new Galaxy Note 20, the Ultra is a premium device designed for productivity, and the improved latency and new features in the S Pen make this a better option.
Pre-orders for the Galaxy Note20 and Galaxy Note20 Ultra are underway now and will be available in stores and online starting August 21, 2020. If you pre-order before August 20, 2020, you can get up to a $150 Samsung Credit, and you can get up to a $650 credit with an eligible trade-in on Samsung.com. Verizon is running a buy-one-get-one sale on the Note20 and Note20 Ultra, and T-Mobile is offering buy-one-get-one on the Note20 and buy-one-get-one for $1,000 off for the Note20 Ultra.
[Image credit: Samsung]