The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra doesn’t turn upside down and doesn’t fold, so you might wonder why it costs $ 1,400. The astronomical price becomes more comfortable to swallow when you consider that Samsung has packaged its most advanced camera of all time on this flagship phone. A stack of four lenses that has a primary sensor of 108 megapixels and a 10x lossless zoom trigger that can achieve unprecedented 100x digital power. This is our Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review.
A look at the photos this collection of bloody optics and sensors can capture and the Galaxy S20 Ultra looks set to be voted the best camera phone on the market. One problem with this: since the publication of our first review, we have encountered several problems with the cameras. Fortunately, the S20 Ultra is so much more, with its gigantic 6.9-inch, 120Hz Quad-HD monitor and future-proof support for the entire operator’s 5G network.
However, even for $ 1,400, the Galaxy S20 Ultra still can’t be perfect. To begin with, Samsung removed the headset and the camera module on the back is distractingly huge. Some users may love the more compact 6.7-inch Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus (priced at $ 1,199) or the 6.2-inch Galaxy S20, even more compact and cheaper (priced at $ 999), but these models lose the Ultra’s powerful zoom.
From the price and the screen to the 108 MP camera, almost everything is super big on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. That should make it one of the best phones that money can buy when Samsung comes up with a solution to camera problems. But it also means that the Galaxy S20 Ultra is not suitable for everyone.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Review: Design
In a way, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra looks a lot like the Samsung phones that preceded it – that is, the S10 and Note 10. The edges are curved, the screen goes to the edge of the device and almost kisses the metal frame , and there’s an Infinity-O camera cutout at the top, right in the middle. But the S20 Ultra is like a Galaxy main phone on steroids. For one, the screen is huge, extending 6.9 inches from end to end, which is more significant than Samsung’s Note 10 Plus 6.8 inches.
And the giant rectangular camera module at the rear dominates the rear of the device, aggressively emerging from an imperceptible gray glass plate. The S20 Ultra comes in just two incredibly dull tones – Cosmic Black and Cosmic Gray – which are undersized when you consider how hard this phone works under the hood. Samsung offers the Cloud Blue and Cloud Pink versions of the most expensive variants of the Galaxy S20, although these shades are lacking for Ultra customers. And no matter what color you buy, this phone is also a strong magnet for fingerprints; perhaps Samsung should also have offered a frosted glass option.
The only aspect of the S20 Ultra’s design that we haven’t talked about yet is its size and make no mistake – this is a smartphone monster. The phone measures 6.6 x 2.9 x 0.34 inches and weighs about 7.7 ounces, making it much more significant and slightly thicker than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, but with narrower hair. On Samsung’s merit, however, it could keep the S20 Ultra lighter than the 7.97-ounce Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, although the iPhone has a smaller battery and a smaller camera module. Anyway, if you prefer a smaller smartphone, the S20 Ultra is certainly not for you.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Review: Screen
The screen almost makes up for the lackluster design of the S20 Ultra 5G. Almost. It is a beautiful screen that is the best you can buy on any phone at the moment. Samsung introduced the Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O to the 6.9-inch main screen with various resolutions and refresh rate options. Out of the box, it is defined as Full HD + or 2,400 by 1,080 pixels. You can upgrade it to Quad HD +, or 3,200 to 1,440 pixels, or downgrade to HD + at 1,600 to 720 pixels.
Whichever you choose, you get the same 20.5: 9 aspect ratio. The sharpness of the screen is simply excellent, even in the medium setting. You will see a slight degradation if you put it on HD +, but the Quad HD + configuration is stunning in its brightness. You can choose 60Hz refresh rates, which is what most screens use, or much better 120Hz, which is better for games. Let me tell you, the 120Hz setting gives the screen an exuberant smoothness that must be seen to be believed. Without the ability to combine the high number of pixels and the high refresh rate at the same time, you have a screen that dominates all other panels on the market.
The color is excellent. Obviously, the screen is HDR10 + certified, which means that the right content will provide an incredible dynamic range. I watched some HDR10 movies on Netflix and was impressed. Samsung allows you to manage almost all factors of the screen and its performance. Choosing full resolution or refresh rate will affect battery life, but you can adjust brightness, blue light filter, color profile and all other typical settings. The Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G has an incredible screen.
Review of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: Camera
The camera should – and is – the number one selling point for this phone. It is a sample of an imaging system and is more advanced than anything we’ve seen before. This is the basis. Samsung gave the Galaxy S20 Ultra a quad camera setup on the back. The standard lens has a 108MP sensor at f / 1.8. By default, it records 12MP images, with a factor of nine of the total number of pixels (without binning). The camera is connected to a 12MP wide angle camera at f / 2.2, a 48MP optical camera at f / 3.5 and a flight time camera to process depth information. Some of Samsung’s features include 100x zoom and 8K video recording.
The most important sensor is an animal. Few phones were shipped with such a high number of megapixels (see the Xiaomi Mi Note 10), but you can be sure there are more on the road. The idea behind such a sensor is twofold: first, to allow more light and, second, to provide incredible detail. This sensor guarantees the excellent performance of the S20 Ultra in low light. While the main setting is to shoot 12MP photos, you can choose to shoot full 108MP photos at any time. The full resolution photos are certainly impressive in their details, and the noise is not as bad as I expected.
Most standard daily photos look almost perfect. All beach / boardwalk photos below are visible in their accuracy. The image is better than real life, because shadows are eliminated more or less correctly for details. Zoom in on the balloons in the boardwalk game and you will see lots of details, but also some noise. My Pixel, by comparison, didn’t capture that much detail. The only thing that impressed me was the white balance, which got very hot from time to time.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 family has several new stylish camera modes, including Single Take, Night Mode, Night Hyperlapse and more. Here are some examples of the night mode with dark pictures taken in normal mode and the second with night mode on. You can see the difference it makes. It is like seeing in the dark, although there is a little noise.
Let’s talk about zoom. Samsung says the phone can expand 100x. This is technically true, but it is not the sales pitch you think it is. Using a combination of lenses, optical zoom and digital crop, Samsung can create a variety of zoom options. You can shoot with 0.5x, 1x, 2x, 4x, 5x, 10x, 30x and 100x using simple buttons on the screen. You can drag the slider to find the right amount of zoom for the photo.
It is crucial to explain the differences. The phone can capture 4x optical zoom thanks to the 48MP periscopic camera. Everything else is hybrid, that is, a mixture of optical and digital cutting. Samsung says it uses AI to help reduce the inevitable shocks in your hands, which are evident at 100x, but I can’t say that it works particularly well.
Then there is 8K of video recording. Sure, the S20 Ultra can capture and even cut 8K videos directly, but almost anyone can watch. The vast majority of TVs sold today are in Full HD or 4K. Now, some high-end 8K TVs can be launched for consumers, but they cost thousands of dollars and are not yet ready for conventional use. This means that all you do with 8K video is to bite your device’s storage. At least for a while. You could say that this possibility makes the S20 Ultra future proof to some extent.
The video I recorded on the phone is great. All you need to do is set it to 4K at 60fps and sit back and enjoy. It is sharp, colorful, well exposed and punctual when it comes to white balance. You will be impressed. I like one of the latest features that allows you to seamlessly switch between the main camera and the selfie camera, so you can add yourself to a clip. The video also supports live or bokeh focus mode. As with still images, the ToF camera is used to assess depth and create a portrait effect when recording video. It’s not the best, but you can add a new look to your images.
The selfie camera is a 40MP camera that can bake up to 10MP. You can see in these examples that it works well. When adding a flight time sensor, depth information is more accurate.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Review: Hardware and Performance
The S20 Ultra 5G is one of the first smartphones to come with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor. It comes with 12 GB of RAM, but you can choose 16 GB if you still have $ 1,599. Our analysis unit had a 12 GB stock. Running 3DMark, AnTuTu and GeekBench, the 865 destroyed all other phones currently in the respective test databases. The S20 Ultra defeated 99% of all other tested devices and showed particularly impressive results compared to the previous generation Snapdragon 855 hardware.
Most importantly, the device seemed unstable all the time. No matter what content or application you run on the S20 Ultra, it devours calculations and provides smooth performance. I noticed a slight delay when I put the S20 Ultra 5G at full resolution or at a faster refresh rate. However, there is a lot of information for the processor to break, and the phone does an admirable job. As always, with Samsung, you can empty your memory and clean things up to cause a disruption in phone performance.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: battery life
Then there is the 5,000 mAh battery, one of the biggest batteries of any smartphone to date. The S20 and S20 Plus have 4,000mAh and 4,500mAh batteries, respectively. The largest device receives the largest battery, and Samsung claims that it will offer two days of battery life. It also depends. On a day when I set the device to a faster refresh rate of 120Hz in Full HD + resolution, with screen brightness and battery in adaptive mode, the 5,000mAh was transferred from morning to night without any problems.
There was still a small reserve in the tank, certainly not enough to last another half day. I had to charge that night. I got the same results when I put the phone in full Quad HD + resolution at 60Hz. It is clear to me that if Samsung allowed the owners of the S20 Ultra 5G to use full resolution and the fastest refresh rate, the battery would die much faster. This is different if you choose the Full HD + and 60Hz resolution option. With this conservative configuration, the battery life is arguably longer.
I persuaded him for a whole day and more than a second before I fell completely. This is probably the setting that most people should use. (It appears that the screen does not change dynamically from 60Hz to 120Hz when you start games). Finally, carrying the phone. The Galaxy S20 Ultra supports 45W wired charging and 25W wireless charging. Unfortunately, there is only a 25W charger in the box. However, you need to pay more for the faster charger. The phone absorbs energy like a champion.
I found that it charged the battery by 50% after only 27 minutes connected and after only 35 minutes on a charging platform. A full charge took about an hour. Considering the size of the battery, this is a good thing.
Software, security and other applications
First, it’s a feature called Music Share. That means ignoring the Bluetooth tangle in the car. You know how it works. You sit in the car with the phone connected to the stereo. Your passenger wants to play your music through the car’s speakers. To do this, however, you need to disconnect the phone, pair the phone, and so on. Total pain. Music Share is essentially a Bluetooth pass. Your friend connects the phone to your S20 Ultra 5G and can control the car radio (or any Bluetooth speaker). Requires the second device to run Android 10.
Like Apple’s AirPlay, a new feature called Quick Sharing makes it easy to upload and transfer files. You can activate it through the quick settings menu. The software prefers Samsung users, but it allows you to compile a list of people who can send things blindly. The other option is “everyone” and I don’t think it’s an option. I checked out with another hand of the Samsung device and it worked perfectly to send photos and videos back and forth.
The phone supports 5G from AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, but we were unable to test this feature. None of the operators provided a 5G compatible SIM card. We used the phone in areas that offer T-Mobile and Verizon 5G coverage, but we were not lucky to pick up a signal with standard SIM cards, although the status bar says “5G”.
Interestingly, Samsung adopted Google’s Duo video chat app and inserted it into the S20 Ultra 5G’s native dialer. The button is there and, when touched, starts a Duo video chat with contacts who also use Duo. I had trouble configuring this. It is necessary to open the Duo application separately from the tray to allow synchronization with the dialer for the first time. Then, be sure to use a number linked to your Google Account. After removing some obstacles like this, it worked.
Samsung focused on gaming phones. Along with the use of RAM and 120Hz refresh rate, a new feature allows S20 Ultra owners to suspend up to five applications in RAM. The idea is to save people the burden of waiting for huge games like Fortnight to be reloaded when you get back to the action. It works the way it was designed. In addition, the screen supports touch response at 240Hz during game play. This means that the screen can capture your touches and slide more accurately.
In the security area, you will have a Face ID clone, a fingerprint reader on the display and the usual set of PIN, pattern and password options. I thought the face recognition tool worked well, but it wasn’t perfect. The same goes for the fingerprint reader. Although it is easy to train, the reader was placed a little bit lower on the screen and I had trouble finding it consistently. Too bad Samsung did not adopt Qualcomm’s latest fingerprint reader, which is much larger.
The phone comes with Android 10 and One UI 2.1 from Samsung. It’s the best version of Samsung’s software, but still, I think some people will find it a lot, or they won’t like the look. For starters, you can’t add your Google home feed to your home screen panels. Instead, you will have to accept the Samsung version. In addition, Bixby is the standard personal assistant, not Google’s assistant. You will have to change this in the settings. Either way, Samsung offers space for customization.
Pricing and configuration options
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra costs $ 1,399 and is now available for pre-order. It will hit stores on March 6. The launch configuration includes 12 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, but you can upgrade to a 16 GB / 512 GB model for an extra $ 200 if you need more memory and storage. The Galaxy S20 Ultra is available on major US carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
If you are looking for an S20 Ultra to break and save, be sure to check out our guide to the best deals on the Samsung Galaxy S20. Some retailers and operators offer free gifts, such as gift cards and extra credit for a new S20 when you trade on your current smartphone.
Review of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is a ridiculous phone, from the gigantic 6.9-inch screen to the 108MP camera with Space Zoom. It is the hypercar of the main devices, among sports cars. But when you pay $ 1,399, you deserve an impeccable experience, and the auto focus problems on the camera now give us a break. The battery life of the Galaxy S20 Ultra is excellent, as long as you don’t use 120Hz screen mode often. I’m glad this phone has 5G to make your purchase future proof, as long as you can get coverage wherever you are.
A more significant majority of people will be fine with the $ 999 Samsung Galaxy S20 or the $ 1,199 Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus. You’ll get the same fast Snapdragon 865 processor, smooth 120Hz screens and enhanced cameras (I expect less auto-focus error). However, if you demand the biggest screen and a huge zoom, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is the best Android phone – if you are willing to pay the final price.
That’s it for our review of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
9 Total score
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra sets a new standard for screens on premium smartphones, but the price is too high. And the cameras, while impressive, require a correction from Samsung.
- Stunning photos
- Beautiful 120Hz monitor
- 5G support
- Huge 5,000 mAh battery
- Agile performance
- Cameras have auto focus issues
- Very expensive
- Without headset