We need to talk about the new Galaxy Note 20 series. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any hands on-time with the device, and if you are wondering why the best answer that I can give you is that it was a Samsung Canada public relations issue. Thankfully, they did virtually brief us about the products, so I’m here to give you the specs, the pricing, and what some of the new features are that they have added to the Note 20.
Models & Price
There are two models this year, the standard Note 20 5G that comes with a 6.7-inch display and retails for a $1,000 USD, and then there is the Note 20 Ultra 5G that comes with a 6.9-inch display and retails for $1,300 USD. That is a lot of money, but I guess at this point we expected that.
If you look at last year’s Note 10 series, Samsung came out with three models: The Note 10, which came with a 6.3-inch display (it was a pretty small phone), the Note 20+, and the Note 20+ 5G. This year they are sort of simplifying it, they are moving beyond a smaller display and adding 5G across all devices.
Design & Colours
Let’s start with the design. The body looks relatively the same compared to the Note 10, I guess they refined a few things here and there. The edges are squared off, the screen is a big curve, so unfortunately you are not getting a flat display like what’s found on the Galaxy S20 series. They also went with a frosted finish at the back, this one is called Mystic Bronze and I kind of like it. Also, if you pay close attention, you can see how thick and protruding that camera bump is, it’s definitely something to get used to.
The Ultra model comes in three colors, there is Mystic Bronze, Black, and White. While the regular Note 20 comes in Gray, Green, and a Mystic Bronze variant. Now if you take a look at the entry-level Note 20, you can consider it as a successor to the smaller Note 10 from last year or a replacement for the Note 10+, because the screen size is relatively the same compared to the Note 10+. However, when you look at the price difference between the Note 10 and the Note 20 it’s about a $50 premium, so that’s something to consider as I’m walking you through the specs and all the features.
The resolution on the Note 20 still remains at 1080P+ if you compare it to the Note 10, but when you bring the Note 10+ in comparison it definitely looks like a downgrade because you are not getting a Quad HD+ screen, which is pretty disappointing for a phone that size. And the worst part is that you are not getting a higher refresh rate display on the entry-level Note 20. That’s right, that means you are getting a 60Hz AMOLED screen. Samsung is really trying to charge consumers $1,000 for a smartphone and they expect people to believe that a 60Hz screen is the best that you have to offer… But in reality it really isn’t because there are cheaper smartphones that costs less, that offer higher fresher displays, better quality displays, higher resolution displays, and this is just a questionable choice by Samsung. I’m sure a lot of you were disappointed, I sure am.
Now if you look at the Note 20 Ultra 5G the situation is a little bit better. Samsung has upgraded the refresh rate from 60Hz to 120Hz while maintaining the same Quad HD+ resolution found on the Note 10+. I’m not sure if this phone can do both 120Hz and Quad HD+ at the same time, that is something that I have to validate when I get my hands on the sample. Also do keep in mind that the 120Hz mode is adaptive, it doesn’t stay consistently at that refresh rate, it switches back and forth between 120Hz and 60Hz depending on the type of content that is being viewed on the display.
Both of these phones feature the same ultrasonic fingerprint sensor found on the Note 10 series, so don’t expect any advanced facial recognition features this time. If we look at the rest of specs, both the Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra are getting the Snapdragon 865 Plus SOC, 8GB or 12GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage, but the Ultra model offers a 512GB variant. However, there is something that really caught my attention. The Note 10 and the Note 10+ came with 256GB of base UFS 3.0 storage, but the Note 20 series starts at 128GB. I don’t know if I’m missing something here, but you are getting a brand new smartphone with less storage compared to last year’s model. Let me downgrade sink in. Oh, just like the Note 10, the Note 20 doesn’t feature expandable storage, while the Note 20 Ultra does come with that feature just like the Note 10+ and the Note 10+ 5G.
The battery size on the Note 20 remains the same as the Note 10+, but when you compare it to the regular Note 10 it is definitely an upgrade, as you would expect considering you are getting a bigger phone for $50 more. The Ultra steps things up to 4,500mAh. Now if you have been following the Galaxy S20 series, the S20 ultra came with a 5,000mAh battery. The reason why Samsung decided to go with a smaller battery on Note 20 is because they had to allocate space for the S-Pen, so that is understandable. A couple more things to point out, the Note 20 Ultra is one of the first smartphones to come with Gorilla Glass 7 because of its metal and glass design. While the Note 20 comes with Gorilla Glass 5 and a plastic body, so it definitely is a bit of a downgrade compared to the Note 10+ and the regular Note 10.
If we take a look at the camera system, it does get a generous upgrade compared to the previous generation. On the standard model you get a 12MP ultra-wide sensor, 12MP main sensor, and a 64MP telephoto sensor with 3X hybrid zoom. The Note 20 Ultra gets a 108MP sensor, 12MP ultra-wide, and then a 12MP telephoto with 5X optical zoom. If you recall, the Galaxy S20 Ultra had some issues with autofocus on its main 108MP sensor, and Samsung was able to address that through software updates, but it still isn’t quite perfect. This time around they have actually upgraded the hardware to make it faster and more efficient, so that is welcome. If I compare it to the Note 10 series the only benefit that you are getting is that higher megapixel sensor, so the images are probably going to turn out more detailed, which is nice. Also you are going to be able to shoot 8K video at up to 24FPS in either 16:9 or a more cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio. Finally, a really cool feature that has been added to the Note 20 series – both on the Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra – is the ability to record with multiple audio sources. That last addition is a really cool prosumer video function that they have tacked on onto this lineup.
With the specs out of the way, what are some of the other new features added to the Note 20 series compared to the Note 10 series? Well, let’s start with the S-Pen. What they have done is decreased the latency between your S-Pen and the display by 15ms, so you are going to get a more paper-like experience when you are using the S-Pen, which is a pretty welcome upgrade. Also Samsung DEX is now getting wireless support, so if you have a TV that supports a screen mirroring feature you can use Samsung DEX wirelessly without having to plug in a cable. Then there is the addition of ultra-wide band technology or UWB, which is an advanced sharing protocol that comes with an enhanced secure digital key. Basically, if you have someone else with a Note 20 you can share larger files faster and in a more secure way instead of sending them via Bluetooth or email, so that is pretty cool. And finally there is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you now have access to a 100+ games through that app, and if you preorder the Note 20 or the Note 20 Ultra you get 3 months of free subscription service. It also comes as a bundle with a controller and a wireless charging pad.
And that is pretty much it. Honestly, I’m pretty disappointed with this announcement because I was expecting a little bit more from Samsung with the Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra. In this case they have completely taken an L with this launch, because if you look at the Note 20, there is nothing really new about that smartphone. The displayis relatively the same compared to Note 10, you are not getting a higher refresh rate screen, you are getting half the storage compared to the Note 10 series, which just doesn’t make any sense to me.
When you look at the Note 20 Ultra, it is a very expensive smartphone, $1,300 USD is way too expensive for this model. Is it worth switching from your Note 10+ or your Note 10+ 5G? I guess that is for you to decide. If you are someone who’s contract on something like a Galaxy Note 9 is about to expire, then this could be a logical upgrade if you enjoy the Note/S-Pen experience. I definitely looking forward to getting these phones in my hands to if the experience is better in-person than it looks to be on paper.