MANILA - The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is a big phone, not just in terms of its kilometric name, but more importantly in terms of its features and performance. It’s also a really beautiful and elegant looking gadget. And for a phone that’s geared more for business users, it’s also fun to use.
Samsung has been very busy lately fending off assaults on its status as the world’s biggest smartphone maker from Chinese brands like Huawei, Xiaomi and the Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Realme family.
It has also been equally busy slugging it out with these brands in the race for Android camera supremacy. When Samsung launched its flagship Galaxy S20 Ultra last February featuring 100x zoom, it didn’t take long for Huawei to launch its own phone that also featured 100x zoom.
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G doesn’t try to outdo either of these devices in the zoom factor, as Samsung limited this latest and greatest version of the Note to just 50x zoom. But make no mistake, this phone is no laggard in the photography department either.
SPECS AND DESIGN
Samsung kicked off the phablet trend when it launched the first Note years ago. Since then, phones have been getting bigger and bigger, and the new Note is no exception. At 6.9 inches, you’ll need Lebron-sized mitts to use this gadget one-handed.
It still features the much-beloved curved screen of Samsung’s flagship phones. The matte-finish at the back (for the Mystic Bronze color option) isn’t just for looks either, it also wards off smudges from oily fingers.
Up front is Samsung’s ‘Infinity-O’ display that achieves a near bezel-less look by putting the selfie camera in a punch-hole.
On the right side are the power and volume controls, and at the bottom reside the USB-C port and the hole when the S-Pen slides in. Sadly for fans of wired headphones, there is no dedicated audio jack in this device, like other top-shelf devices today.
Perhaps the most intriguing design choice for the Note is its rear camera module that really sticks out from the back. If you like your phone laying flat, you’re going to need a pretty thick case for this one.
As expected of a flagship product, this phone’s specs are top notch. You get 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage that is still expandable via a microSD card.
The screen is probably the best in its class. The Dynamic AMOLED display boasts or 1440 x 3088 pixel resolution. With the exception of its sibling Galaxy S20+, this is probably the sharpest, most pixel-dense phone screen right now.
The screen pumps out vivid bright colors and its 120Hz refresh rate is really easy on the eyes. After using this phone for a few days, using another phone with a measly HD resolution and 60Hz refresh rate seemed like a huge letdown.
To protect this screen, the Note 20 Ultra 5G also uses Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which is supposedly the toughest Gorilla Glass yet.
Driving all of this is Samsung’s homegrown Exynos 990 chipset. The US version of the phone uses the comparable flagship-level Snapdragon 865.
Suffice to say, there is no Android app that this phone can’t handle. With a top notch processor and 12 GB of memory, it can run every game out there with plenty of muscle to spare. Gamers will appreciate the 120Hz screen. Gamers will also appreciate the audio, which is one of the best on a smartphone: loud and punchy without cracking.
Business users will love the S Pen for taking notes. But more creative types will also appreciate being able to do sketches and doodles with the stylus. Artists who like to fiddle around with Autodesk sketch will find the S Pen responsive and nearly up to par with a professional graphic stylus.
Samsung says the S Pen has 4096 levels of pressure and 9ms of latency. What this simply means is it's the closest thing yet to mimicking the feel of writing with real pen and paper.
The S Pen also allows more precise photo editing, if you want to experiment with Photoshop-style photo manipulation.
The Note 20 Ultra’s massive screen and resolution also makes video editing on a smartphone a lot more fun.
The massive pixel density, huge screen allows you to view several clips on your timeline, trim videos more precisely, and cut and paste on timelines.
But the most fun thing about this phone is definitely its camera.
While other phones have added more whiz-bang specs to their cameras, the Note 20 Ultra’s shooters are very impressive.
The main camera is excellent, as you can expect from a Samsung flagship.
But it’s the wide angle and telephoto cameras that really make this gadget stand out.
As my wife said when we took photos with the phone while biking, the wide angle camera makes any scenery look epic.
Equally epic are shots of distant mountains using the 5x zoom telephoto shooter.
If you like taking photos of wildlife such as birds, this phone will let you get really close with its 50x digital zoom.
It can even take amazing shots of the full moon.
The bird and moon photos are good enough for posting on Facebook, as long as they are viewed on mobile screens. On the bigger screens of desktops and laptops, they look a lot less detailed.
But hey, it’s not really fair to expect a phone camera to produce the same image quality of a DSLR with a 300mm or 500mm zoom lens.
And to top it all off, as its name suggests, this phone also connects to 5G networks!
Unfortunately, our area has yet to get 5G from either telco while I was doing this review, so I wasn’t able to test this. I guess, this just goes to show that you shouldn’t buy a phone just because it can connect to 5G.
It will probably take at least another year for 5G to be rolled out in the Philippines’ major cities, and there may still be a lot of issues with connection even after that.
Still, this is one feature-packed phone that is as premium as it gets right now. It's expensive, but you can definitely see what you're paying for if you get this phone. The Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G has an SRP of 72,990. Both PLDT and Globe Telecom also offer installment plans for the phone.