While 2020 is starting off to be a rather turbulent year, something that has managed to stay consistent is the release cycle for Samsung and its Galaxy range of smartphones. This year opting to jump right to 20, from last year’s S10, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is the combination of all the best tech you can find on the smartphone market. While it comes in at a hefty price tag, there is a lot to enjoy about this monster flagship that packs all the bells and whistles and then some.
Starting with the build, the top of the range S20 Ultra offers an AMOLED 2X screen, with HDR10+ 120Hz for all the game lovers out there. Moving past the display, all the range comes equipped with a 7 nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor, at least 12GB RAM, and a 16GB option available on the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. There’s also fast wireless charging, a micro SD card slot, Android 10 with One UI all the standard bells and whistles you hope from a flagship smartphone, and of course, like the name suggests, 5G.
This being the top end of the S20 range, you will find the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, built to offer the best experience possible for the lineup, the S20 Ultra boasts an Ultra-Wide 12 MP F2.2, a Wide-angle 108MP F1.8 a Telephoto: 48MP F3.5, Depth Vision, and due to the bigger sensor size, it also delivers Space Zoom Hybrid Optic Zoom 10X with Super Resolution Zoom up to 100X. Powering the bigger screen and features, the Ultra also delivers a 5,000mAh battery, so you won’t be stuck without a charge as you snap away on your phone. It will also be only offered in Cosmic Gray, with Cosmic Black as a Samsung store exclusive.
That being said, what matters is how a phone feels to use, and the Samsung S20 Ultra is one of the most premium-feeling smartphones of 2020. The sleek design and edge-to-edge glass make the S20 Ultra feel far bigger than the phone is. Samsung has been shaving off bezzles where possible, and the result is a phone that feels great, will turn heads, and will fit in most people’s pockets.
This year, the S20 range all offers bigger camera sensors compared to the S10 lineup. This allows for more clarity, higher resolutions, and more light. Images taken with the phone looked sharp, with fantastic colour reproduction and in real-world testing, the S20 Ultra did not disappoint. Photos came out looking vibrant, clear and looked great even when imported to the computer. The increased sensor size seemed to offer a notable improvement in clarity and overall image quality compared to last year’s offering. It is hard to say if most people will see the difference, but looking back to photos taken with the S10, and the overall increase in quality can be seen.
The Space Zoom feature also works far better then I would have expected looking at the feature list. Due to the fact, the S20 Ultra has a 108MP camera and that combined with the 10X optical zoom, makes images look passible, even at 100X. That being said I question the need for this feature. Yes, it is nice taking a picture of something far away, but the quality isn’t clear enough to make it worthwhile for the average consumer.
The S20 Ultra range also offers up Single Take feature. This new mode lets you capture many images from a moving subject, and the phone will not only capture numerous photos, but it will also make gifs of the subject, along with finding you the best shots possible from the action. Using the scene Samsung set up for journalists, we managed to capture numerous good shots of aerialists, along with the other activities taking place in the scene. While it may not have a use for everyone, anyone looking to take pictures of pets, or kids, etc, will find this feature exciting, and if it works as well in the wild as it does in these tests, it will be a fun addition to many peoples photo taking adventures.
Samsung has also given the ability to capture up to 8K video, with Super Steady that will work to reduce motion even when you don’t have a gimbal or stabilization system in place. It will also let you use these new cameras in apps like Google Duo, with the video chat app now built right into the device’s phone feature, making it easy to call up and use when needed.
As this is a Samsung device, the S20 Ultra includes a slew of other software features that users can explore, along with improvements with Bixby, which includes Netflix and Spotify integration that makes the experience easier, and more useful for the end-user.
But this brings us to the core user experience, and honestly, Samsung with OneUI has made something I don’t hate.OneUI gets out of my way, lets me use the phone, but offers enough value to make it justify its case for existing. Such as the integration with wearable technology such as watches and headphones. They work well, as one would expect, and the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ sound amazing when paired to the S20 Ultra.
Battery life is another impressive area for the S20 Ultra. Packing a massive 5,000mAh battery, the S20 Ultra needs that power with the ability for 5G and a huge 120Hz display. In our testing, doing web browsing, watching some media, and using the phone at a medium to heavy level we managed on average around 11-13 hours of battery. More than enough to get through most days. Granted this will be less when connected to 5G, but sadly this is a feature we were not able to test at the time of review.
If you turn off the 120Hz display, you can push the battery even further, managing over 16 hours in video playback, and around 15 with web browsing, social media and other internet-based activities. Thankfully, the S20 Ultra charges up quickly thanks to a 25W fast charger, we managed to top up the phone to around 60% in only thirty minutes, with a full charge taking around an hour.
Sound on the Samsung S20 was another promising aspect of the S20 Ultra. The speakers on are some of the loudest, and clearest I have tested on smartphones to date. This includes the likes of the latest iPhone, Pixel 4, and last year’s Samsung slate, as it offers a more lifelike sound, with a wider range, clearer mids, and an overall better feeling sound. If you plan to watch media on this massive screen, it is good to know the speakers are built to deliver sound to match.
Performance on the phone, is as you would expect, top-notch. Utilizing the latest and greatest Snapdragon 865 SoC, there were no signs of stuttering, slow down, or any sign of struggle. From Fortnite to the most intensive apps I could find to load on the phone, the S20 Ultra powered through them all with ease. Combined with the vibrant screen, this is one of the best phones currently available for gaming, or if you just want to push a phone to its limits.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is without question one of the most well built, powerful phones currently on the market, but that does come at a cost. Currently standing at $1,849.99 CAD for the standard model, the S20 Ultra is not a cheap offering, costing more than many laptops. Combine that with the fact the full S20 lineup offers a very similar feature-set, you have to decide if the extra size and features are worth the extra expense. As it stands, the S20 Ultra is a great offering to the Galaxy lineup, and if you want only the best, then look no further, this phone checks all the boxes.