Remember when there were easier times and there was only one version of a flagship. Remember how we gradually went from one flagship smartphone to 2, one big and the other even bigger. Think how Samsung even stepped up this trend in March and launched 3 variants of its flagship for 2020, the Galaxy S20, S20 Plus and the S20 Ultra. The S20 Ultra is said to be Samsung’s ridiculous all-out phone, not only does it pack the best of everything like its smaller siblings, it also boasts of being over the top. I’ve been using the S20 Ultra for almost 4 months now, so let’s find out how Samsung’s most expensive smartphone fares.
Feel and build in your hand
I always start my reviews with the feel of the hand and the hardware of the device. As with the excessive subject of this device, the S20 is Ultra BIG, it has a large 6.9-inch display, it has a massive camera module larger than any other I’ve seen, and it weighs 222 grams. Of course, the S20 Ultra is not a one-hand device even with larger hands.
Surprisingly, even after the large camera module on the top, the weight feels very well distributed and it sits very tightly in the hand, like a very well thought-out object of opulence. The volume and power buttons are both on the right side and click enough. Of course, with such a large module, the phone has a tendency to wobble if you store it on a table or other surface, even with a case on.
Well, there have been several complaints about the Ultra’s camera glass breaking on its own or with minor damage, and that honestly doesn’t seem very far-fetched considering how big this glass is. Luckily, I have had no problems with my or any friend who has been using it for 3 months.
But overall, Samsung has nailed the hardware and construction part of this phone, and if I could add just one thing, it would be the stainless steel frame that the iPhones use. It’s not even a stretch considering this phone is more expensive than them.
Let’s get to the display. Samsung colors and displays are the best. I think this is the best display in the business that offers a great viewing experience without obsessing over it much. The problem exists that you are getting either a refresh rate of 120 Hz + a lower Full HD resolution or 60 Hz + QuadHD which is the actual resolution of the display. Personally, I’m satisfied with Full HD, but it’s a shame that compromises have to be made with such an inflated price. The argument that it could lead to throttling or poor battery life is another thing that is just unacceptable to me. This should be a top product, problems such as throttling or battery life should be clarified before the finished version is shipped.
Now that we are talking about throttling, let’s talk a little more about it. A number of software updates ago, there was a terrible throttling issue, so even scrolling through the app drawer and browsing resulted in excessive heat and slowing down. This has largely been resolved and is no longer a problem. The phone sometimes gets randomly warm, but the temperature does not rise to any worrying levels.
How to hide apps on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone
Performance & Games
Now don’t get me wrong, the overall performance of the S20 Ultra is very good. As good as possible. There is excellent memory management, apps open quickly and the user interface is very easy to use at 120 Hz. But then you switch to gaming and the Exynos processor in this phone shows its ugly side. Long story short, this phone is not intended for gaming and should not be considered by gamers. Long-term followers of this blog and YouTube Channel know I love PUBG. Note that for $ 1400, or Rs 100,000, the S20 Ultra doesn’t even support HDR + Extreme graphics settings. That’s crazy. If the most expensive Android phone doesn’t support the highest graphics setting available, where should I go? And it gets even worse. It turned out that even last year’s flagships support higher graphics settings than the Ultra. Ain’t it just crazy Even my Exynos S10 Plus from last year supports it!
After 30 minutes of gaming with voice chat activated, the S20 Ultra throttles and lowers frames in a way that is nobody’s business. It’s a shame Samsung put the Exynos processor in this phone as I’ve heard that the Snapdragon 865 is devoid of all of this nonsense. And don’t tell me to wait for them to tweak it. It’s a very expensive phone and I shouldn’t have to wait months after buying it for optimal performance. Anyway, in a nutshell, if your usage involves something high performance, forget about that phone. Just believe it doesn’t exist and move on.
Now that I’ve calmed down, let’s get to the camera.
We have commended that Samsung’s flagship Galaxy models are known for their amazing color science and HDR processing, and the S20 Ultra is no different. But it left a few stones on the way to the $ 1,400 price tag.
This year’s flagship now has a quad camera setup with a time-of-flight (ToF) depth sensor. Here’s a quick look at the detailed camera specifications for the Galaxy S20 Ultra:
- The main lens images are sharp, properly exposed, and have accurate colors with true-to-life contrast.
- The optics for all primary 3 lenses (ultra wide angle, wide angle and telephoto) have improved significantly compared to the previous generation in terms of chromatic aberration, sharpness and overall performance.
- The 108MP shots are remarkable, but only in the right lighting conditions. The pictures are detailed and are pretty good around the edges too. But the file sizes are too big.
- Indoor performance has improved compared to last year’s flagships due to the new sensor and processor.
- Thanks to the S20 Ultra’s larger sensor size, the super wide-angle lens takes much better pictures than the last generation of the Galaxy flagships.
- The 4x telephoto lens is sharp and well exposed, but there are sometimes artifacts in the images. And for some reason the telephoto lens option is set to 5x instead of 4x. The S20 Ultra has 4x optical zoom, but the camera app always zooms to 5x.
- The 100x space zoom is a nice feature, but not practical. The captured images are not clear and have a lot of noise. However, it can come in handy when you want to know what your neighbor is cooking. Here is a picture of a potato moon for no reason. (Taken with 100x zoom)
- What is annoying when switching between the 3 main lenses is that the color temperatures sometimes change.
- The S20 Ultra takes breathtaking portraits with both the wide-angle and zoom lenses. The subject separation and blurring effect is one of the best we’ve tested so far, including the iPhone 11 Pro series. Plus, the HDR mode is the icing on the cake if you’re taking portraits outdoors.
- The front camera takes pretty good 40 MP still images in both the normal and wide field of view. The selfies are good in daylight with highlights and accurate skin tones.
- In night mode, the noise performance and color accuracy are really good and there are fewer artifacts compared to previous generations.
Other results are an overall speed of the camera app, an improved camera user interface and the lack of HDR in panorama mode. My favorite feature is the single take mode which takes a video 3-10 seconds and offers you different media formats like pictures, videos and GIFs. So you can easily take photos without missing the moment. It’s like live photos on steroids.
Camera examples with full resolution of the Galaxy S20 Ultra: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmPnV3yb
Videos: Overall video performance is good and there are some excellent video features, but the small limitations make the recording experience a bit annoying.
- Videos recorded outdoors are well exposed with all 3 lenses with precise colors and contrasts. Indoor shots face south, but the upgraded larger sensors control the noise very well.
- Here’s the annoying part:
- Not all lenses and functions are supported in all resolutions and frame rates. This is really disappointing for a $ 1,400 smartphone that is said to offer a revolutionary camera experience.
- The front camera performs well in terms of exposure, colors, and skin tones in a variety of resolutions, but captures flares and hue shifts when you are in front of a light source. The footage isn’t shaky and the quality is more than adequate if you want to vlog with it.
- The 8K video mode:
o It records at 24 frames per second and is cropped
o There is also a lot of jitter, which makes handheld video almost unusable.
- To sum up, it feels good to carry an 8K video camera in your pocket, but frankly, it’s over the top and impractical. To take full advantage of the 8K resolution, you need a mobile gimbal to stabilize all the tremors and an 8K display to “feel” the high resolution.
- Manual video mode feels very limited and Samsung hasn’t allowed a third-party app as allowed Filmic Pro to take full advantage of the new camera setup .
- The S20 Ultra can record video in HDR10 and supports the HEVC format, which is great if you are low on storage space.
- The low-light shots look better than the Note10 + and the colors stand out evenly. Over-smoothing is noticeable when recording at 60 frames per second in 4K and FullHD.
Full resolution 8K video samples captured on the Galaxy S20 Ultra: https://bit.ly/s20ultra8ksample
In short, the S20 Ultra has a really nice camera in terms of both hardware and software. Samsung has become one of the leaders in the Android market when it comes to mobile photography.
But buying the S20 Ultra for just 100x zoom and 8K video isn’t the best bet. We recently tested the Note 10 Plus and the difference between the camera performance of the Note 10 Plus and the S20 Ultra isn’t exponential. So check that too.
Coming to the other little things from my experience, 120 Hz displays are amazing. A noticeable increase from 90 Hz, thumbs up.
There is of course no headphone jack and unfortunately no included dongle, but at least AKG Type C earphones are included, which are actually nice.
Finally, I want to talk more about the general concept of this phone. With increasingly powerful budget phones, $ 399 iPhones, and inexpensive OnePlus phones, why does the Galaxy S20 Ultra even exist? Even the much cheaper S20 Plus is reason enough not to rely on the Ultra. Then why is it here and who is it for? In my opinion, the S20 Ultra does not stand out in terms of function, but above all it shines in terms of form. The large footprint, the camera module that cannot be overlooked, and the large display – these are all style statements from Samsung. They are there to make the phone stand out from the sea of rectangular panels and show opulence, both of the device and the user.