Test Drive Gadget Reviews with Bill and Phil

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G: Perfect for Our Tech Ego

Call us phone snobs if you will, but when the tech journalists declare a new entry on the luxury smartphone landscape, we cannot wait to get our hands on it. That certainly was the case for Samsung’s premier smartphone, the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G. This new smartphone is a handful of exquisite features that do not disappoint.

Bill & Phil

The Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G is probably not for everybody. With a starting retail price of $1,300, the Note20 is one of the most expensive phones on the market right now, and there are plenty of smarter economic choices for most users. But if you are like us — consumed with tech envy when you see a colleague using a device with more bells and whistles than yours — well, read on.

We have always contended that size does matter when it comes to smartphones. Samsung stretched the new Note20 to a 6.9-inch screen, the largest screen size we have ever used on a smartphone. Maybe it’s our aging eyes or just our supersized ego, but we absolutely love the extra screen real estate on our primary collaboration tech device. In addition, the Note20 is capable of a fast 120Hz screen refresh rate when displaying video-intensive content. By comparison, the iPhone 11 in all its variants has a locked screen refresh rate of 60Hz. What does that mean? When viewing certain content like movies, animations or games on the Note20, the experience should be much more visually pleasing.

Of course, the S Pen, or stylus, that comes with the Note20 is a big reason we became fans of the Samsung Galaxy Note line of phones years ago. With the Note20, the latency of the S Pen is the lowest ever at 9 milliseconds, which is equivalent to the latency of the Apple Pen on the iPad Pro. The result is a very realistic experience when using the S Pen to jot down notes on the Note20. We use this feature even more now that we have both a larger screen and a faster response stylus. And even with our poor handwriting, we can easily convert our handwritten notes to text in an editable Microsoft Word document or PDF. We also really love to use the S Pen to mark up and highlight PDFs and to sign documents while we are on the go.

This new smartphone is a handful of exquisite features that do not disappoint.

The Note20 sports a triple-lens camera system that is pretty common on most new, higher-end smartphones today. We can shoot photos with the standard view lens, the super-wide-angle lens or the telephoto lens. We are not photography experts by any stretch of the imagination, but we are pretty impressed with the photos we can capture. You can also shoot in robust 8K video on the Note. (But to be honest, most videos that we shoot would be fine in 4, 3, 2 or even 1K, if it exists.)

Samsung has covered the Note20 in Corning’s new version of Gorilla Glass, called Victus. What does this mean? It means an increased resistance to drops, now up to 2 meters, and a more scratch-resistant screen. We inadvertently tested the drop resistance a couple of days after unboxing when the behemoth phone slipped out of hand and dropped to the floor. Gorilla Glass Victus held up like a champ and the phone sustained no scratches or cracks.

Like the Note10 model, the Note20 has a fingerprint reader on the screen for authentication. While not perfect, the fingerprint reader on the Note20 does seem to be more precise than the previous model.

The Note20 Ultra also has the 5G designation. This is the first smartphone we have bought that is 5G compatible. The Note20 communicates over the 5th-generation cellular network standard known as 5G, which is said to be orders of magnitude faster than current 4G speeds. We have been touting 5G as a coming revolution for a couple of years and now it is here — sort of. As the cellular carriers rush to build out their 5G networks, the availability and quality of 5G reception varies widely. When 5G is fully implemented throughout the United States, it reportedly will offer transmission speeds that dwarfs today’s cellular networks. Our experience so far has been underwhelming.

So as we await the realization of the promises from the 5G revolution, we are very pleased with the design and function of our new pricey and flashy smartphone. Depending on where you are with your current cellular contract, many carriers are offering incentives to help with the purchase of the Note20, which is what we took advantage of. Would we have bought the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G even without any pricing incentives from our carrier? Probably. Our tech ego is just too big to let this big, beautiful smartphone sit on the shelf.