Amidst a global pandemic, Samsung still manages to introduce further smartphone innovations with the Galaxy Note 20.

For years now, Android fanboys have always looked forward to August: Samsung’s annual Galaxy Unpacked showcase. Every year brought forth a new iteration of the Galaxy Note series and this year is no different, even if we’re literally going through a global pandemic.

With the need for technology and innovation growing steadily day by day, Samsung isn’t resting on its laurels. The Galaxy Note 20 brings work and play into a powerful device that doubles as a computer suite. Aided with all-new S Pen, there’s no telling what the Galaxy Note 20 is capable of. As we try to navigate a new way of living, Samsung doesn’t classify its latest device as a smartphone; in fact, it refers to it as a “power phone”.

Luckily for us, we got our hands on the high-end variant of the latest series: the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G.

Design

The many shades of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G: Mystic Black, Mystic Bronze, and Mystic White.

For the past few years now, Samsung has always looked to improve on its design for the Galaxy Note series. While the Galaxy Note 10+ did offer sleek lines and curved edges, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G takes it a few steps further. However, that isn’t a good thing sometimes.

There are plenty of hits and a couple of misses; the biggest disadvantage to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is its large and protruding camera block. While the past few years has placed more emphases on the camera performance, this shouldn’t discount for the design of the camera block. In fact, the camera bulge is significantly larger compared to its predecessor, even the more lifestyle Galaxy S20 Ultra.

However, not all is lost. Given its business approach towards the design, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G features a brilliant blend of metal and glass into one sleek body. Its matte-finish glass back is refined and elegant; it also keeps away fingerprints, something its predecessor was notorious for. But the biggest takeaway from the design is the new colourways, in particular the Mystic Bronze. It also features curved edges with the Infinity-O display for good measure, pushing its bezels to the very limit.

Display

Its 6.9-inch display makes streaming videos and scrolling through social media a breeze.

Standing tall at 6.9-inches, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is miles ahead of the competition when it comes to size. But does that really matter in the grand scheme of things? Having used the device for two weeks now, it does play a huge part in your daily life.

For starters, if you’re a fan of all things ‘Dark Mode’, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s readily available in the settings. Choose from three different screen resolution modes — High Definition (HD+), Full High Definition (FHD+), and Wide Quad High Definition (WQHD+). Sadly, only the FHD+ screen resolution is capable of offering a 120Hz refresh rate. If you opt for WQHD+, it goes back down to the standard 60Hz. However, this isn’t evident unless you’re an avid mobile gamer.

Aside from that, the display is a Dynamic AMOLED 2X capacitive touchscreen, offering bright and vivid colours with a level of vibrancy that can’t be matched in many other devices in the same premium smartphone segment. This makes streaming videos on Netflix a treat as well given its HDR10+ support. It’s capable of showing the truest black with the brightest white, ensuring that the contrast of colours is evident from the get-go.

Performance

It’s a perfect daily driver.

Say what you will about Samsung smartphones, it is a true workhorse that can carry more than it should. Sadly, it will never truly reach its full potential unless you’re getting the device from the United States, which uses the latest Snapdragon 865+ processor. For the rest of the world, we’re stuck with the Exynos 990 chipset instead and while it isn’t necessarily bad, it’s nothing compared to what Snapdragon has to offer.

With that said, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G still manages to bring work and play into a single device without any hiccups. There are three storage options to choose from, ranging from 128GB to a whopping 512GB of storage. Luckily for us, we got stuck with the middle ground of 256GB. It’s also worth noting that all three variants feature 12GB of RAM.

It’s blazing fast while still maintaining a smooth experience throughout. Gaming on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G feels amazing as well given its much larger screen and refresh rates. The smartphone was made for fast-paced mobile games like Fortnite and Call of Duty: Mobile. Even if you’re just using it for social media, you get more content with every scroll of the screen, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok.

Camera

Much like every smartphone these days, its the camera department that gets the most attention. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is no different, sporting a triple camera system with a single front-facing camera. It features two 12MP lenses for the ultra-wide and the telephoto as well as a whopping 108MP wide-angle lens for good measure. On the front is the 10MP selfie camera, capable of getting in some good shots along the way.

And as it goes with every Samsung smartphone, you can expect its camera system to step up when needed. Samsung also makes its camera app straightforward and easy to use, giving you everything you need at your fingertips. The Single Take feature is back once more, giving you different shots and videos in just a short 10-second snippet. Samsung also included a standalone Food feature for the camera as well as Night mode, Super slow-mo, and Live Focus video.

The camera itself is a big personality in more ways than one. Pictures are sharp, crystal clear, and vibrant while its colour reproduction is very much accurate to the subject matter. Whether you’re shooting on Auto or Pro, rest assured that the camera does is capable of bringing the best out of your shots. Night mode works exceptionally well, whether you’re in a dimly-lit room or outdoors during the night. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G also introduces up to 50x hybrid zoom and a 5x optical zoom, giving you sharper pictures the closer you go. However, it’s with video recording that the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G shines brightest.

Pro-grade 8K video recording is the new normal for Samsung and its latest flagship, providing you with the right tools to shoot your shot in many different ways. Pro Video mode puts you in the seat of a director, giving you control over the ISO, shutter speed, manual focus and much more. You can also shoot up to 120 frames per second (fps) and not have to worry about any stutters shakes. This is thanks to the advanced AI stabilisation, which acts as an optical image stabilisation (OIS) to keep your videos steady and clear.

S Pen

Now, we can’t talk about the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G without talking about its S Pen. The Korean tech giant’s premium flagship has featured the stylus since its inception and it has grown from strength to strength with each passing year. 2020 is no different and the S Pen comes with new features to talk about.

One of the greatest updates would be the realism of writing with the S Pen. With help from the 120Hz refresh rate Infinity-O display, it makes writing, drawing, doodling, screen capturing, and just about anything else you can do with the S Pen that much easier. It can also turn your writing into text with just a tap, making texting all the more convenient. But what makes all this happen is the 9ms response time, meaning that the phone is capable of detecting the S Pen the moment its hovering above the screen.

Verdict

When it comes to premium flagship devices, you can count on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G to live up to its reputation. However, 2020 isn’t the year for that, especially for a smartphone that costs S$1,898. With COVID-19 still very much present in all our lives, I can’t imagine many would definitely want to fork out a hefty sum for a new smartphone. Given that it does come with plenty of great features, will we ever get the chance to put it to the test properly?

That said, it is still an exceptional device. It looks good, it feels good, and it definitely works well beyond one’s imagination. It’s a great daily driver as well, especially if you’re constantly on-the-go. Just be ready to pay through the teeth to get it.

This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur.

Wi-Liam Teh
Senior Writer
Wi-Liam is a geek at heart with a penchant for tattoos. Never without a drink in hand (preferably whisky, gin, or Guinness), he is also a writer by day and a keyboard warrior by night. On his day off, he masquerades as a streetwear and sneakerhead enthusiast while his bank account says otherwise.