Update, August 6, 2020 (05:45 PM ET): Pre-orders are now open for the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra! Click one of the buttons below to grab yours.
A “cheaper” Note
Bigger, better, and pricier
Original article, August 5, 2020 (10:00 AM ET): Samsung announces its flagship Note devices each August, and this year these phones are the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20. Together, the Galaxy Note 20 series offers refined hardware, more productive software, and powerful specs.
Is the new Note the phone for you? Android Authority is here to tell you everything you need to know in this Galaxy Note 20 buyer’s guide.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra at a glance
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Note 20 were announced on August 5, 2020, and represent Samsung’s best efforts in terms of design and performance. These phones are an excellent choice if you’re looking for:
- Huge screens
- Elegant design
- S Pen stylus
- The most flexible camera system
- Power to spare
- Top specs
The Note 20 Ultra comes in three colors — Mystic Black, Mystic Bronze, and Mystic White — and costs $1,299.
The Note 20 comes in Mystic Black, Mystic Bronze, and Mystic Green and costs a slightly more affordable $999.
These phones compete with themselves more than anything else, but you might compare them to the Apple iPhone XS Max, LG V60, OnePlus 8 Pro, Huawei Mate series, Samsung Galaxy S20, and other top-of-the-line flagships. The Note 20 Ultra and Note 20 are not for those:
- On a budget
- Don’t like over-sized phones
- Don’t want/need a stylus
- Don’t want/need all the performance
- Prefer simpler software
Galaxy Note 20: What’s new?
The Galaxy Note 20 series carries forward the DNA of one of history’s most storied phone lines. The original Note was derided as an aberration, a too-huge phone bound to fail. Surprisingly, consumers loved it. Once it caught on, every phone maker jumped aboard the giganto-phone train. Not too long ago, the Note 7 was a burning disaster — literally. Samsung came roaring back a year later with the Note 8 and it has been on a the steady ever since.
So where does that leave us in 2020? The Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are the pinnacle of a smartphone family that’s been about upping the ante. Is the ante sufficiently upped?
Samsung is clearly responding to a competitive market. Other phone makers have pushed boundaries with massive batteries, fast displays, high-megapixel cameras, and leading processors. Not every manufacturer has found the right formula. On the surface, the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra take all these characteristics and combine them successfully in one product.
Both phones sport an aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass on the front. The Note 20 Ultra has the brand new Gorilla Glass Victus, while the cheaper Note 20 features Gorilla Glass 6. The Ultra has Gorilla Glass on the rear as well, but the Note 20 drops to “glasstic,” which is Samsung’s name for glossy plastic.
Both are svelte with measurements of 8.1mm and 8.3mm thick, respectively.
The displays have been upped to 6.9- and 6.7-inches for the Ultra and the Note 20, respectively, which makes them larger than their predecessors. The Ultra gets a sharper and faster screen with WQHD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. Super AMOLED 2 tech ensures high contrast and lush colors on both phones.
Under the hood you’ll find the absolute latest processor in the Snapdragon 865 Plus, which is an enhanced version of the 865 with higher clock speeds. Memory and storage configurations are about the same as last year, with 8GB/128GB available to the Note 20, and 12GB of RAM and 128 or 512GB of storage available to the Note 20 Ultra, with microSD expansion to boot.
Samsung ported over the camera system from this year’s S20 family, and that makes us sort of nervous. (The S20 Ultra’s camera had focusing problems.) The Note 20 Ultra’s main sensor is 108MP and it’s aided by an IR focusing array. It has a 12MP telephoto camera capable of 5x optical zoom and a 12MP wide-angle camera.
Samsung mixed things up a bit in the Note 20 with a 12MP main camera, 64MP telephoto camera, and a 12MP wide-angle camera.
Both phones share the same 10MP selfie camera.
What’s new with the S Pen? Samsung says the stylus has “more lifelike precision” that recognizes greater levels of pressure. This means it feels even more like writing on a piece of paper. The Samsung Notes app is also improved with seamless syncing across phones, tablets, and PCs. Samsung Notes is able to more easily and accurately straighten out messy text. Further, it has more power over PDFs, making actions such as highlighting text more natural and simple.
There are four new gestures you can make with the S Pen in order to interact with various apps and content on the Note 20. For example, skipping a music track or jumping to the next PowerPoint slide.
Samsung phones can record audio and jot notes at the same time. Tapping a written note takes you to that spot in the associated audio. DeX, Samsung’s productivity user interface, is now wirelessly enabled, allowing you to cast your screen to a TV or monitor. Any opportunity to get rid of wires is a good one.
New integrations with Microsoft and Xbox improve the phone’s work and play capabilities. For example, Note 20 owners can link their phone to their Windows 10 PC to access mobile apps directly on the computer. This can be used to send messages, manage notifications, sync photos, and make phone calls on the PC. Further, users can add mobile apps to their Windows PC taskbar. Samsung says later this year, Note 20 owners will be able to run multiple apps side by side.
Users will be able to play more than 100 Xbox games online via Xbox Game Pass on their Galaxy Note 20. The Note 20 Ultra has a game booster on board and 240Hz touch response to make it a better gaming device. A special edition gaming controller will be made available with the purchase of a Game Pass bundle.
Last, 5G. In the US, both the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra ship with support for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless 5G. Samsung hasn’t specified 5G support elsewhere.
How does the Note 20 compare to the Note 10?
What’s new in Note 20 Ultra compared to Note 10 Plus? Plenty. First, and most importantly, the display. Last year’s 10 Plus boasted a 6.8-inch Infinity-O display with 3,040 x 1,440 pixels, HDR10+, and 498ppi. The 2020 Note 20 Ultra has an updated 6.9-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The Note 10’s screen had a 60Hz panel. This means the Note 20 Ultra will deliver a much smoother experience to end users. It’s a gamer’s dream.
The processor is a generational leap. One of the biggest criticisms of the Note 10 Plus is that it went with the standard Snapdragon 855 processor and not the 855 Plus. Samsung didn’t make the same mistake twice. The Note 20 jumps to the Snapdragon 865 Plus, which is a significant boost in terms of raw processing power. Samsung is keeping RAM and storage configurations about the same.
The battery improves by about 200mAh. If you’re concerned that’s not enough, Samsung insists the efficiency of the 865 Plus, in addition to new power management techniques, gives it all the go it needs.
What about the cameras? Well, we’re looking at two totally different systems. The biggest change is the increase in pixel count for the Note 20 Ultra, which jumps to 108MP. The massive increase in main camera sensor resolution should give the Note 20 Ultra a leg up, as should its IR focusing system. Moreover, the newer phones can shoot 8K video, where last year’s Note 10 was stuck at 4K.
In the good news department, it looks as though Samsung rectified the power button issue by moving the screen lock/power button back to the right edge of the phone. You won’t find a Bixby button.
What’s the difference between Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra?
It’s not all about the size. There are surprising differences between this year’s two Note 20 siblings that ought to give you pause. What’s in that $300 price differential? Quite a lot.
Let’s start with the screen. Where the Note 20 Ultra has a 6.9-inch WQHD+ display at 120Hz with a bit of a curve, the Note 20 drops down to a flat 6.7-inch Full HD screen at 60Hz. These are disappointing changes. Moreover, they come in different aspect ratios: 19.3:9 for the Note 20 Ultra, 20:9 for the Note 20. Samsung didn’t say why the aspect ratios aren’t the same.
The phones share the same processor, so that’s good — some markets are stuck with Samsung’s own Exynos processor — but RAM/storage differ. The Note 20 Ultra offers a hefty 12GB/512GB option, but the Note 20 is limited to 8GB/128GB. We found that 8GB of RAM is plenty to run a modern Android phone, but that extra 4GB certainly helps, particularly when gaming. Worse, the larger Ultra includes microSD expansion and the smaller Note 20 doesn’t.
The batteries are only slightly different, at 4,300mAh in the smaller phone and 4,500mAh in the larger phone. Given the difference in screen size, resolution, and refresh rate, the smaller phone will likely put up better battery life numbers
The cameras are different, too. Where the Note 20 Ultra has a 108MP, 12MP, and 12MP arrangement, the Note 2o has a 12MP, 64MP, 12MP arrangement. The saving grace for the Note 20 here is that its 12MP shooter has much bigger pixels: 1.8µm compared to 0.8µm. Both share the same 10MP selfie camera and can capture cinema mode 8K video at 24fps.
Then there’s the glasstic. The larger Note 20 Ultra is a glass sandwich, with Gorilla Glass front and back, with aluminum in between. In a stunning move, Samsung has downgraded the regular Note 20’s rear panel to glasstic, or a plastic material with a glass-like paint job. Sure, this could make the phone a bit more durable, but I don’t like the idea of paying $999 for a phone with a plastic back.
Last, the UWB feature. Using proximity and other sensors, the Note 20 Ultra will be able to do two things the Note 20 cannot: act as a digital key with certain front-door locks, and send files to other phones in a blink. Samsung did not provide a reason for this discrepancy in features.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra specs
|Samsung Galaxy Note 20||Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra|
|Display||6.7-inch AMOLED Infinity-O
20:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
|6.9-inch AMOLED Infinity-O
19.3:9 aspect ratio
120Hz refresh rate
|Construction||Plastic (aka Glasstic) body
Gorilla Glass 5 display cover
|Metal and glass body
Curved (Edge) display
Gorilla Glass 7 display cover
|CPU||NA: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
Global: Samsung Exynos 990
|NA: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
Global: Samsung Exynos 990
|Storage||NA: 128GB internal
No microSD card support
Global: 256GB internal
|NA: 128GB or 512GB internal
microSD card support up to 2TB
Global: 256GB or 512GB internal
25W wired charging
15W wireless charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
25W wired charging
15W wireless charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
12MP 2PD OIS wide-angle (ƒ/1.8, 1.8μm)
64MP telephoto (ƒ/2.0, 0.8μm, hybrid 3x zoom)
12MP ultra-wide (ƒ/2.2, 1.4μm)
108MP PD OIS wide-angle (ƒ/1.8, 0.8μm)
12MP telephoto (ƒ/3.0, 1.0μm, optical 5x zoom)
12MP ultra-wide (ƒ/2.2, 1.4μm)
|Video||8K at 24fps in 16×9 or 21:9||8K at 24fps in 16×9 or 21:9|
|Security||In-display fingerprint sensor
|In-display fingerprint sensor
|Durability||IP68 certified||IP68 certified|
|Connectivity||5G (separate sub-6GHz and mmWave models)
4G only model available in selected markets
|5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave)
|Dimensions & weight||75.2 x 161.6 x 8.3mm
192g (sub-6GHz only)
194g (mmWave supported)
|77.2 x 164.8 x 8.1mm
What are some good Note 20 alternatives?
Let’s say you dig the Note 20 and all, but you’re not down with the price or the S Pen and want something similar. You have options, my friend.
If it’s the S-Pen you don’t care for, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is the obvious option. This is Samsung’s largest flagship without a stylus. It runs the same software and has a nearly identical camera system. The slightly smaller S20 Plus is also a good option.
If you’re looking for nothing other than a large screen, the LG V60 might work. Not only is it more affordable at $899, but it comes with an optional second display. We found it to be well-rounded and decent value to boot.
The OnePlus 8 Pro offers a similar story as the V60, but goes in a different direction in terms of design and software. OnePlus made a compelling phone with a gorgeous screen that can serve as a media powerhouse. Its software is much cleaner than either LG or Samsung’s, however, and that is reason enough to take a look at the OnePlus 8 Pro.
If you don’t mind going off the beaten path a bit, the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro is an excellent handset. It’s not quite as large as the Note 20 series, but it offers some of the best battery life around in an all-around stunning package.
The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra replace last year’s Note 10 and Note 10 Plus. If the latest specs don’t concern you, the 2019 Note 10 series is now available at bargain prices. More importantly, we found they can still go toe-to-toe with many 2020 flagships.
Last, if you’re not sure you’re an Android lover, Apple’s over-sized iPhone 11 Pro Max offers power, battery, and photography chops to spare. It’s just as expensive at $1,249.
Samsung Galaxy Note and Note 20 Ultra: Should you buy them?
A “cheaper” Note
Bigger, better, and pricier
Samsung’s Note series is for a particular type of buyer. The biggest difference between the S series and the Note series is the latter’s S Pen stylus. The S Pen gives the Note 20 an alternate means of input and control that simply isn’t available in other phones. This year Samsung added some remote gestures to the S Pen, which allow you to control aspects of the user interface by making V-shaped gestures with it. This isn’t the most staggering leap forward, but it’s something. So, the first decision you need to make is whether or not the S Pen is something you’re interested in.
The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra represent the best from Samsung, the pinnacle of phone making. That’s why you’ll find an elegant design, all the best components, and a display to drool over. Seriously, the 6.9-inch Super AMOLED of the Note 20 Ultra, at 120Hz, is quite the eye pleaser. The phones are also among the first to pack the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus, which gives them an edge over phones with the standard 865.
Then there are the cameras. Both phones have big camera modules on the rear that house triple-camera arrangements, including standard, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses. The telephoto includes Samsung’s Space Zoom feature, allowing for hybrid zoom to 50x. We can only hope that Samsung worked out the kinks we saw in the S series’ similar camera system.
But the cost. Holy cow these phones are expensive. At $999 and $1,299 for the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, respectively, they are among the priciest handsets in the market. You’re looking at $42 to $55 per month on a carrier installment plan. That’s not nothing.
Should you buy them? On the surface, we like what we see in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It’s an all-around beast. It has the processor and display chops of a top gaming phone — without the goofy design and gimmicks. It offers a compelling camera system and other top specs. It’s really big, so you have to like carrying a platter with you all the time. But when it comes time to watch a movie, play a game, or get some work done, that huge screen may just be worth it.
We’re not as enthused about the Note 20. Samsung says it wants to offer the Note experience to those who prefer smaller phones, but the watered down specs are disappointing as is the plastic rear panel. Granted, we haven’t tested either phone fully, but on first blush, and know about all the great deals out there for launch, you likely can’t go wrong with the Ultra.
Top Samsung Galaxy Note 20 questions
Q: What colors does the Galaxy Note 20 come in?
A: The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra comes in Mystic Black, Mystic White, and Mystic Bronze. The Galaxy Note 20 comes in Mystic Black, Mystic Green, and Mystic Bronze. Samsung says the bronze color is its signature look for the two phones.
Q: Does the Galaxy Note 20 have a headphone jack?
A: No, neither the Galaxy Note 20 nor the Note 20 Ultra have a headphone jack. We don’t yet know if a USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter is in the box, but we suspect not.
Q: Does the Galaxy Note 20 have a microSD slot?
A: The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a microSD slot, the Galaxy Note 20 does not. Samsung didn’t account for this difference, but it likely comes down to the size and more power-user feel of the Ultra.
Q: When will the Galaxy Note 20 be released?
A: The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Note 20 will go on sale August 21. That means it will be available at Samsung.com, as well as carrier stores.
Q: When can you pre-order the Galaxy Note 20?
A: Pre-orders for the phone begin on Samsung.com and other retailers’ web sites on August 6. Samsung didn’t provide an exact time.
Q: Does the Galaxy Note 20 come with earbuds?
A: No, the Galaxy Note 20 does not come with earbuds in the box.