The Samsung Galaxy S20 series was released back in Mar 2020, with three variants, the S20, the S20 Plus and the S20 Ultra. The S20 Ultra is the best of the best, sporting a 6.9″ massive display, an improved camera system with higher quality main camera shots and enhanced zoom. The hardware internals in the S20 Ultra is basically the best available now. As a trade-off, it’s relatively heavier and thicker, and also more expensive.
The S20 Ultra display is great, the colors are vibrant and offers good brightness and readability. You can turn on 120Hz frame rate, which makes animations on the phone very smooth. This mode is best for gaming, and there are increasingly more games supporting the higher refresh rate. You can’t run 120Hz at full resolution though, Samsung applies a resolution cap at 2400 x 1080 for the 120Hz mode, which could be an attempt to save battery life, and reduce heat. I personally didn’t find the resolution to be a big issue. It’s probably not a technical limitation, since OnePlus and OPPO were able to do it on their 120Hz phones at the higher resolution, so maybe Samsung could turn it on in future, but I wouldn’t bet on it. To support the higher refresh rate, the touch sampling rate of this phone is 240Hz. It’s not immediately apparent, but it helps to make the phone feel more responsive.
The S20 Ultra has a 5000 mAH battery, that’s more than 10% larger than the S20 Plus. In addition, the S20 Ultra features 45W wired fast charging but the default charger in the box is only good up to 25W. So you would need to buy the charger separately. As I was reading, it appears the 45W is only triggered at specific conditions and other comparisons between the 25W and 45W charger indicates that the latter is probably only around 10-20% faster.
Let’s talk about the S20 Ultra camera. A 108MP rear camera, 40MP front camera, 100X zoom. The camera hardware and software has improved in this iteration, and what I like is that it generally works well enough in auto mode to allow you take great photos easily. I did experience that at times, especially in low light conditions, the autofocus can be more miss than hit, taking a while to achieve a proper focus.
Overall, landscape photos, portraits are all great. Photos are generally well saturated and vibrant. Night mode is a little too aggressive in requiring a long exposure time, and while it generally adapts well to minor shakes, getting your subjects (esp. kids) to stay still for almost 10 second is impossible.
The ultra-wide is one of the widest, and distortion is limited. The last camera feature is the 100X Space Zoom. It’s interesting but really more of a gimmick. While you can make out some details, it’s really just a mash of colour at that level of detail.
Is the S20 Ultra worth it? That really depends on how much you are willing to fork out for a phone.
Should we, as the tech community, be at Samsung’s throat about this price? Maybe. It’s insanely high for a normal, conventional glass slab phone. Hell, the Galaxy Z Flip cost $20 less than the Galaxy S20 Ultra and it’s a more charming and fun device. Some people will argue there is no reason to spend over $500 on a phone, and maybe for some, that’s true. The cameras, performance, display, and battery life will all be good enough on those devices. The Galaxy S20 Ultra isn’t about good enough. It’s about the best phone a power user can get and it’s going to cost you a lot to get that.
If the price still seems too high, you should get the regular Galaxy S20 or Galaxy S20+, or even a OnePlus 8 Pro. Those are considerably cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. At the time of writing this review, the Galaxy S20 is available on Amazon for $1,000, the S20+ is available for $1,200, and OnePlus 8 Pro is at $899. If you were to get a Galaxy S20 instead of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the $400 you save could be spent on a 1TB Micro SD card, 2 wireless chargers, some cases, a second 25W wired charger, and still have some money left over. If I were a reasonable man, I would have done that instead. The differences between the devices aren’t worth $400