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The best Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Review

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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: is it worth your purchase?

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The Galaxy S20 Ultra is the top model of the three that make up the new Galaxy S20 series. Its large screen size, the best in its class, is accompanied by surprising specifications that translate into great performance.

However, it is difficult to add all its positive aspects with which to justify its high price. Despite this, if you want a great 5G smartphone with a great camera set, this terminal will not disappoint you. 

Retail price (RRP)

£ 1,199 (128GB) | £ 1,399 (512GB)

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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Review

What differential aspect can a smartphone like the Galaxy S20 Ultra offer me? Samsung’s largest screen model is now a veritable monster in specs, including its camera zoom that scales up to 100x. 

So much power obviously comes at an inexpensive price, as we will see below. While mind-boggling in many respects, the camera setup does have a few weaknesses that make the results somewhat inconsistent.

Also the battery life in the international model, the variant that has an Exynos processor, has better autonomy times, despite the large size of the battery cells that resides inside, due to the efficiency of the chip itself. 

From Samsung they emphasize that the large size, design, battery and price, is something that you have to be willing to overlook when faced with specifications of its caliber and a surprising camera. It is a compensation that many people will not convince. Let’s see it. 

Price and availability

As it seems obvious, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is not the cheap model in this series. Its most basic configuration starts at € 1,359 in the case of the model with 128 GB storage, while that of 512 GB jumps to € 1,559, a price that exceeds that of the Galaxy Z Flip with 256 GB and 4G. 

At the performance level, and based on the specification sheet, it is clear that the S20 series are superior, but in the Galaxy Z Flip you will also be paying for its innovation in design and differentiation with its folding screen. 

The new Galaxy S20, S20 + and S20 Ultra models are already available in the United States, while for Europe and other parts of the world, it is possible to carry out pre-purchase with shipping scheduled  for March 16. There is also a promotional option that includes Samsung Care + insurance when you buy the Galaxy S20.

The price of the cheapest model corresponds to the Galaxy S20 which is € 909 at the time of its launch and with 128 GB of storage. The Galaxy S20 + with the same amount of memory, amounts to € 1,009 in 4G mode. The 5G is associated with an increase of € 200 and available only with a capacity of 512 GB.

With the current offer that is in force, the advance pre-purchase on the Samsung website, it is associated with the gift of the new Galaxy Buds + headphones whose price is € 179. You can already read our review of the Galaxy Buds + .

To be honest, at this price, the phone should be near perfect or it should stand out especially in areas where others do not reach, so that it can be justified against what competitors have been offering. 

Design and build quality

The first thing to know about the Galaxy S20 Ultra is that it is big, very big. Over the years we have seen phablet models with stratospheric screens and this model is no wonder, with a diagonal of 6.9 inches. 

You may like big phones. You may be used to an S9 + or S10 +, or maybe even the 6.8-inch Note 10+. Well, the S20 Ultra is larger than those mentioned, interrupted only by a perforated camera now centered.

It should be noted here that the thinner frames almost completely eliminate the edge of the frame, and the decision to reduce curves and return to the flatter edges makes the screen look spectacular, also facilitating its use.

The problem we found in the S20 Ultra is its greater thickness. And make it heavy. In the hands it really feels a bit out of proportion, especially if you’ve had a chance to own the smaller siblings Galaxy S20 and S20 +. 

We say unbalanced due to the weight of the camera module located at one of its ends, which means that when holding it with your hand, you have to find the perfect position to balance its weight. 

The Ultra Quad Camera Module, out of specs yet, is an eyesore. It occupies a large part of the back face of the mobile and protrudes from the surface in order to house a Space Zoom 100x that needs its travel. 

For design purposes, we see that the decision to eliminate the headphone jack is maintained, as well as the Bixby voice assistant button, present until then in previous Galaxy generations. A long press on the power button replaces them. 

The colors of the finishes in which you will find the new Galaxy S20 Ultra are gray and black, although the cheaper models are more striking, maintaining a more serious and sober appearance for which it can be chosen by many company executives .

Set of cameras

Let’s dive into his skills as a cameraman. All of Samsung’s focus for this S20 series seems to have been squarely on its sensor improvements. And to tell the truth, it is where we find the main differences compared to its smaller S20 and S20 +. 

As the main element you will find in its back a main sensor with a large aperture that reaches 108 MP and f / 1.8 (leaving by the way the sensor with variable aperture technology that Samsung has used in recent years). 

By default, captures are not carried out at 108 MP, instead the phone uses the combination of pixels to form up to nine pixels in one (‘not binning’ in Samsung’s terminology) and thus produce sharper and more detailed photos 12 MP with enhanced dynamic range.

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The photos are, generally speaking, great. Between the high pixel count and the large sensor size, the Ultra model’s camera can produce amazing levels of detail and more vivid colors than ever before, without deviating too much from the hue saturation that some may find in Huawei models. 

If you prefer, you can adjust the mobile to take the captures at 108 MP. In this mode, the photos take a second longer to process, with the added bonus that each camera will eat you between 30 and 50 MB per photo shot. 

The main benefit of these very high resolution images is the freedom they offer to be able to cut out areas without losing much sharpness or detail, something that you probably don’t usually need in your day-to-day life unless you are a professional. 

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Another aspect to take into account is that the dynamic range is noticeably worse in the photos you take at 108 MP compared to the fact of doing it with the rest of the capture modes offered by its other sensors. 

It is also joined by a 12 megapixel ultra wide angle that holds up really well in front of the main lens, along with a depth sensor, and which is the main selling point of the S20 Ultra; its 48 MP telephoto lens. 

In many countries, such as the United States, this may be the first smartphone to be marketed with super zoom, given that in other parts of the world, such as Spain, we have already been able to enjoy the benefits of the Huawei P30 Pro or the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom . 

Samsung’s so-called Space Zoom 100x actually relies on a 5x telephoto lens, which can be activated up to 100x thanks to the additional digital zoom. This is a trick that will allow you to observe sequences or photos from very long distances, but without outstanding results. 

In fact, if you want to get decent pictures by driving the x100 zoom to its maximum expression, you will have to use an additional tripod on which to position your mobile in order to eliminate any movement that your hands may produce. 

We have observed that there is some loss of vibrancy and depth of color in these types of captures, as expected with an aperture of f / 3.5. Despite which, the screen of your S20 Ultra will show details that your eyes cannot reach. 

The other common problem was the autofocus, where its behavior was also somewhat inconsistent and variable. The autofocus was slow at first, taking a few seconds to find a focal point. 

With the update deployed by Samsung, we managed to accelerate this process and now it is somewhat less slow, with ranges that we can consider within the average. However, this does not prevent macro mode results from being less than desirable. 

This issue is likely due to the larger 108 MP sensor switch, which introduces a natural bokeh effect. Depth of field is significantly shallower, making photos of close subjects tend to look soft compared to the more common flat focus on other terminals.

The problem is not limited to super close macro photos, as even photographing a plate of food for Instagram tends to leave parts of it in focus and other parts slightly blurred. 

Night mode improves, taking advantage of the larger sensor, but we must admit that Samsung’s set of algorithms is still slightly behind what is possible to achieve with the latest generation iPhones, Pixel or Mate Pro. 

This is especially noticeable when handling mixed light sources coming from different sources. The results are good but they are not the best despite the novelties introduced in its hardware, especially when dealing with the white balance. 

The Single Take function allows you to capture a special moment with both photos and simultaneous videos. Use multiple cameras to capture up to ten high-quality photos and four video clips, suggesting certain edits and effects. 

It works very well although you should bear in mind that it adds powerful music to the video scenes you capture, so it can interfere with any audio or conversation that you have really wanted to capture. 

Speaking of video, the S20 Ultra records at 4K and 60fps, and you can even hit 8K at 30fps. The size of storage required is obviously very high, but knowing that a phone is capable of doing it is frankly surprising compared to much more professional equipment. 

However, we cannot show you the results because not even YouTube lets us upload a video sample recorded with this 8K quality, further proof that the technological world is not yet ready to handle this content. 

The camera interface now also allows you to switch between the front and rear cameras while recording a video, allowing you to seamlessly jump between filming yourself and what you’re seeing around you. Ideal for vloggers. 

Regarding the selfie camera, for this occasion we have only a 40 MP and f / 2.2 sensor (a big jump if we take into account the 10 MP in the other S20s). Samsung allows through the application to make a normal or enlarged selfie, but it is a camera cutout game. 

In any case, the shots look great. There’s a narrower color range than the rear lenses, but the details hit some pretty impressive levels, although we’re surely hitting the top ceiling of what selfie cameras can deliver . 

Extra large screen

If the cameras are one of the S20 Ultra’s biggest draws, the screen is not far behind. We have already mentioned its large size, 6.9 inches, but it is a screen that improves on the Note 10+. 

We say it loud and clear, that you are probably facing the smart terminal with the best screen you can buy, at least at the beginning of this year. Its Super AMOLED panel supports 3,200 x 1,440 pixels and is HDR10 + compatible supporting a refresh rate of 120 Hz.

If you’re not sure what the 120Hz refresh rate means, it’s essentially how fast the screen loads new images. A faster refresh rate means smoother scrolling, smoother animations, and handling more fps in games.

Most phones have 60Hz displays, and some, like the latest OnePlus models, have 90Hz. Samsung is not the first to add 120Hz (that was the Razer phone) but it is the first to add it to a mainstream model. which is not limited to games.

The results speak for themselves, and the S20 Ultra overflows with great vision from any angle you look at its screen. Again, the panel is bright and vivid, with deep contrast, excellent viewing angles, and the benefits of 120 Hz. 

However. First of all, you can get the same panel, albeit smaller, on the regular S20 or S20 + (with the same resolution, so you should get a higher pixel density on smaller phones). As good as this screen is, you won’t need the Ultra model to take advantage of it. 

The other caveat is that the higher resolution of 3,200 x 1,440 is incompatible with the 120Hz refresh rate so you won’t be able to set both at the same time. This is presumably due to controlling the battery usage the terminal can make. 

If you increase the refresh rate to the maximum, you will have to lower the resolution to a lower value of 2,400 x 1,080, and vice versa. You will have to choose between smoother animations, or higher resolution images.  

Battery and autonomy

Despite the generous capacity offered by its cells, which reaches the value of 5,000 mAh, it does not seem enough to power a screen of this type and a set of components of the highest level. 

We must point out that we have been reviewing a model based on Samsung’s Exynos 990 processor. It is the configuration that will be marketed in most parts of the world. 

Some other select markets get S20 phones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset, and speaking to North American press colleagues, they seem to confirm that these models could enjoy a longer life due to their energy efficiency.

As for the model with Exynos, we have seen that the duration gives to overcome the use throughout the day, but not much more, far from what we are used to with the Note 10+, the phone used as the main one on a day-to-day basis. 

Most of the days that I have used the S20 Ultra it has stayed at 20% of its capacity at bedtime, after between 3 and 5 hours of screen time. That’s fine, but it’s really the minimum for a new phone, and we’re concerned that after a year of use it will no longer reach these values. 

This is because you’re using the 120Hz refresh rate much of the day, and switching to 60Hz (while leaving the resolution at FHD +, not max) seems to help, although not as much as you might think. 

According to our calculations, we could save around 10% more or less in a full day of use. That reinforces the feeling that the problem here is not so much with the screen, and more with the Exynos chipset that is a real devourer, something that we already saw in the S10 with Exynos chip. 

Of course, you might think that if you care about the battery, you should reduce the refresh rate, lower the resolution, turn off 5G, and more. Those actions may be worth it, but then don’t buy the S20 Ultra. 

5G connectivity

5G connections ensure that you are purchasing a terminal with an eye to the future. At the end of the day, it is technically in the full name of the phone, although I still hesitate to consider 5G to be a compelling reason for those who hesitate to update their S10. 

Our Exynos model only supports sub-6 frequencies, the type currently used in European infrastructure, although the US Snapdragon models also support mmWave, which makes them a bit more interesting for years to come. 

I have been testing the S20 Ultra with a Vodafone 5G connection, and although the 5G speeds are impressive, the coverage is not yet widespread enough, not even in central areas of cities like Madrid, where our office is located, so still a challenge. 

That will, of course, improve the key argument for getting a 5G phone now so that you are ready for the next 2-3 years. It will be when the deployment of 5G networks have improved.

Specifications and performance

As for the rest of the specs, they are still overwhelming. The aforementioned Exynos 990 (or Snapdragon 865) is joined by 12 GB or 16 GB of fast LPDDR5 RAM, and the possibility of opting for 128 GB or 512 GB of storage.

The phone is fast and handles any application you throw at it in an agile way. This is also reflected in our values ​​achieved with the benchmark tests that we use as reference, which are among the fastest that we have analyzed. 

The phone comes in single-SIM or dual-SIM model variants, each supporting MicroSD cards up to 1TB. Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC complete the connectivity features. 

From a security standpoint, you get the same under-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner and face unlock that was already offered by last year’s Samsung flagships. If something works well, why change it. 

Software and One UI

As it seems logical, the S20 Ultra comes with Android 10, the latest version from Google along with Samsung’s One UI 2 customization layer. The company has been more conservative from a software standpoint this year.

Thus, the main incorporations focus on offering practical functions in order to be easier to share any content, as well as improving the experience when interacting with other users of Samsung Galaxy phones. 

Quick Share, for example, is essentially AirDrop for Galaxy phones, while Music Sharing allows friends to connect to the Bluetooth speaker through your phone without worrying about pairing processes.

Both functions are exclusive to recent Samsung devices, so they will only help if all your partner or friends have the latest generation of the brand. 

Advanced users will enjoy the function that allows blocking up to three (or five, in the model with higher RAM) most used applications, just at the point where you left them, something that is appreciated in the case of social networks. 

The only other major software addition is Spotify’s integration into Bixby routines, which is great news for those who have stayed true to Samsung’s voice assistant, few seem when no numbers are revealed. 

Final verdict

By way of conclusion, the S20 Ultra is not a phone that most people should buy. Its price is high for most mortals, too big and heavy to handle and carry, and with an autonomy that has left us some doubts. 

Still, it is a phone full of technical achievements, especially in the camera, which in the best of cases, is capable of surpassing all the flagships of the competition, despite having behaved somewhat inconsistently in some early situations. blueprints.

The 120Hz refresh rate is the jewel of what might be the best display on a phone right now, but the impact on battery life makes it bittersweet, a problem that’s compounded on Exynos chipset models versus. to use the Snapdragon. 

So if the camera is the only thing you consider when buying a phone, the S20 Ultra is a compelling case that justifies its purchase, but for all other users, the additional improvements come at a high price and the Galaxy S10 still hold. its attractiveness.

specs

  • Android 10 operating system with One UI 2 
  • 6.9-inch Wide Quad HD + Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel
  • 3200 x 1440 dpi resolution and) 120 Hz frequency
  • Exynos 990 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 eight-core chip
  • 12 or 16 GB RAM (depending on model)
  • 128 or 512 GB storage (depending on model)
  • MicroSD card slot (up to 1TB)
  • Main sensor 108 Mp, f / 1.8, rear camera OIS + 12 Mp, ultra wide angle, f / 2.2 + 48 Mp Tele, depth sensor f / 3.5 +
  • 40MP f / 2.2 front selfie camera
  • Built-in Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanner
  • 2D facial recognition
  • 11ax dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX
  • GPS NFC and 5G NSA / SA / DSS over Sub-6 or Sub-6 and mmWave (Snapdragon only)
  • USB-C connectivity
  • 5000 mAh battery
  • 45W wired charging (25W charger included)
  • Fast wireless charging 2.0
  • IP68 certification against dust and water
  • 166.9 x 76.0 x 8.8mm Dimensions
  • Weight of 222 grams

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