Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: It’s powerful It’s beautiful But do you really need it?

Samsung Galaxy S20 Is Too Damn Expensive

But it’s a shame it’s so big, and that there’s no headphone jack. Those specs are definitely better than anything you’ll find in the Galaxy S10 models, so if premium photo-taking tops your wish list for smartphones, you’ll want to consider Samsung’s newer models. Still, while the Galaxy S10 range can’t match the best camera phones like the iPhone 11 Pro or the Pixel 4, they still take very good photos compared to similarly priced devices. In our Galaxy A50 review from last year, we found Samsung’s midrange phone to deliver impressive performance for its price even if the battery and cameras weren’t great.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Is Too Damn Expensive

But the internet is a scary place —if I’m uploading a selfie, then I’m probably going to edit the photo anyway. I definitely prefer the standard wide-angle shot above.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is a powerful phone with crazy specs. But it’s unlikely you’ll use its special features on a daily basis. When’s the last time you really, deeply lamented the fact that your phone’s mobile data connection wasn’t marginally—maybe 10 or 20%—faster? Because right now, and for the foreseeable future, that’s statistically all 5G is going to get you.

A very slippery and shiny pair of overalls, but overalls nonetheless. And if price wasn’t a factor, I’d have a hard time choosing any phone available today over the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Samsung is aware of these inconsistencies, specifically with the autofocus issues, overprocessing, and image smoothening.

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Then last year, Samsung bested the iPhone XR’s aggressive price tag with its own Galaxy S10e. It featured an OLED display instead of an LCD one, twice as many cameras, and double the storage for the same $750. So naturally, when Apple went ahead and trimmed the iPhone 11’s price of admission to $699, I assumed a cheaper Samsung Galaxy S20 was on the way as well. I imagined it would challenge our expectations of affordable premium phones, Samsung Galaxy S20 Is Too Damn Expensive with 5G, a 120Hz screen, and a triple camera in the usual beautiful package. The smaller S20 and S20+ go without the Ultra’s folded periscope camera or its 108MP super-sensor. Instead, they have a standard 12MP primary camera and a 64MP secondary sensor, which is used for 8K video and sensor-cropped zooming . All three phones have a rear 12MP ultrawide camera, and the S20+ and Ultra get a time-of-flight sensor for AR stuff.

  • I’d get suspicious looks, but then I’d explain that it’s truly an amazing deal for $699, as it’s very close in performance to the $999 iPhone 11 Pro.
  • Google and Apple both blow Samsung away on the realism of their photo processing, and both offer much more consistent output in challenging light.
  • But a world without price tags simply isn’t a place where normal people live.
  • Size and an innate unwieldiness are this phone’s biggest weaknesses.
  • The range also only extends as far as a couple of city blocks, and it barely penetrates buildings.

It’s not as crystal clear as the one taken in broad daylight. If you zoom into the photo, you can see my pores and some dry patches of skin. I definitely prefer the standard shot below to the one above.

Samsung Galaxy S20

In which case, you’ll likely want to keep it set to that lower refresh rate. For starters, it comes equipped with a 6.9-inch display, 108-megapixel camera sensor, 5G modem, and a 5,000mAh battery — and that’s only a fraction of what it offers. Seriously, there’s very little to dislike about the S20 Ultra. It has blazing performance, the best screen on a phone I’ve seen yet, strong battery life, and thanks to full support for the three main types of 5G, it’s as future proof as you can get at the moment . However, when going from 10x to its full 100x zoom, Samsung is simply using digital zoom to crop in and make things look larger without actually enhancing image quality in a meaningful way. So as you go above 10x, clarity and sharpness start to deteriorate.

  • Making this worse was the fact that the phones topped out at 256GB of storage, while only the Ultra model allowed users to purchase a 512GB option.
  • Battery The S20 will easily make it through the day and then some, and you can extend battery life significantly by switching to 60Hz display mode.
  • But clearly the phone maker thinks the Galaxy S10 offers enough to still be a front-line phone a year after its initial release.
  • The average upgrade cycle is now more than 26 months.
  • For people who have been on Samsung phones and will continue buy new Samsung phones every 2 or 3 years, Samsung is doing well on cameras.

Even in a case, the S20 is totally pocket-friendly, and the ultra-wide display—coupled with Android’s pinch-to-fit video—actually hasn’t made me miss my larger Pixel 4 XL all that much. And when I look over at the S20 Ultra on my desk, I am struck by just how comically massive it is. So, yeah, I think the baby S20 strikes the right balance on size for most people. Regardless, when I used it as my main phone, I never fully took advantage of all of its features. I only zoomed in 100x because I wanted to test the feature.

A complicated lineup

For a phone that was supposed to be better, it felt like there was a lot of cost-cutting measures involved for a phone that was supposed to be the best of the best. Perhaps Samsung thought that with their reputation, customers would still support them anyway.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Is Too Damn Expensive

Don’t feel pressured to buy this phone solely because of 5G, unless you don’t plan on upgrading your phone for years, and are willing to wait until it hits your area. Like I mentioned before, it’s not as simple as pointing and shooting. The Space Zoom feature requires a tripod to stabilize the shot. It’s frustrating to go past 30x, because the camera gets super shaky and it’s tough to zone in on your subject. I’m not calling myself a video director or anything, but it literally looks like I’m using a camera dolly. Samsung also improved its super steady function from the S10.

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While the entry-level Galaxy S20 has all of those things, it doesn’t start at $700. Now you’ll need to drop a grand just to get in the door.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Is Too Damn Expensive

On top of everything, the S20 Ultra comes with some other improvements like Samsung’s Quick Share tool for more easily sending and receiving files wireless with other Galaxy phones. Unfortunately, because this feature is only available on the S20 line for now, and I don’t have another S20 with Quick Share or Samsung’s new Bluetooth Music Share to really test those features in-depth just yet. Which is nice to see as various groups attempt to consolidate the wide array of fast charging techniques.

Comparing apples to apples

For years, Samsung has demonstrated that it makes the best mobile displays in the world, and that’s definitely still true on the S20 Ultra. The one downside is that 120Hz mode is only available when the phone is set to FHD+ resolution or lower instead of its max QHD+ 3200 x 1440 capacity. The phone’s still IP68 water resistant, can quickly juice up wired or wirelessly, has a MicroSD card slot, a reliable in-display fingerprint sensor, and is chock full of other features.

The iPhone 11 Pro’s photos look more realistic, which is something the Ultra is capable of, but not consistently. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its faults. Like its buggy autofocus and tendency to over saturate photos.

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, well, I’m not. I should not be encountering these issues on a phone that costs $1,400. Yes, it can at times triumph over the Pixel 4, my favorite camera phone, but I still lean toward the Pixel most of the time.

This means the phones can run 5G on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in one capacity or another. For people who have been on Samsung phones and will continue buy new Samsung phones every 2 or 3 years, Samsung is doing well on cameras.

There’s also a microSD card for up to 1TB of additional storage. Regardless, the display is still really nice, especially when set to a refresh rate of 120Hz. Out of the box, though, the display is set to 60Hz, which feels snappy as well. But its size, fragility, and cost are the main reasons why I would almost prefer to stare at the phone from a distance than hold it. That’s super awesome, and not something I personally expected. There were a lot of missteps Samsung made this year for the Galaxy S21 series.

Software, performance, and battery

And while I’m typically not someone who takes a lot of selfies, I’ve got to give credit to the S20 Ultra’s 40-MP front-facing cam. On previous Galaxy S phones, selfies often made people’s face look a little soft, their skin a little too smooth, as if the phone’s beautification slider was never fully turned off. But on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, things look super crisp, and you’re going to see everyone’s flaws and blemishes in full detail, to the point where you might go back to turning beauty mode on ever so slightly.

But these aren’t the kinds of features that necessarily spring to mind as must-haves when you’re taking photos to post to your Instagram Stories. The other unique camera the S20 Ultra is packing is an all-new 108MP unit that first debuted on the Xiaomi Note 10 last year. This camera is binned down to 12MP in normal shooting mode, resulting in each imaging “pixel” on the sensor being three times larger than the primary sensor on the Galaxy S10 family . That means more light gathering, which means better performance in difficult lighting conditions. We’ll have to test it to really get a feel for this camera, though, and we weren’t given many samples to evaluate.

My grip was compromised because I had been trying different hand positions over the past week just to be able to use Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, a phone with a 6.9-inch screen. I usually managed to catch it and remind myself that this phone needs two hands. It’s an interesting gamble for Samsung, as it seeks to push out new features on its flagship phones while also continuing to offer high-end handsets that more shoppers can afford. Whether this turns out to be a new direction for Samsung’s phone lineup will be determined with how comfortable people are snapping up 2019’s top Android phone in 2020.