Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review: a smartphone, unleashed (2023)

In a year when mid-range devices like the Pixel 4a and OnePlus Nord have been getting a lot more attention than usual, Samsung has just released the new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. If you’re looking for a pragmatic device that offers a decent value proposition, this isn’t the phone for you. The Note 20 Ultra was built to be a no-compromises device, promising to deliver the ultimate performance and photography experience. And of course, it’s also the phone with the S Pen.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Based on that quick intro, you might have the foregone conclusion that the Note 20 Ultra is going to be my favorite smartphone of the year. Right off the bat, I’ll say that this phone is exquisite in many different ways, but it’s not perfect and is definitely not the phone most people should buy.

While there’s not a perfect phone that will appeal to every buyer, the Note 20 Ultra is in a precarious position, delivering practically every feature most spec junkies crave these days, but the phone’s price and overall size will ensure that it remains a coveted phone for a very small segment of the market.


The design of the Note 20 Ultra is the first indication that this phone means business. With its squared-off edges, bold bronze finish, and ridiculously large camera module on the back, this phone isn’t built for the casual smartphone user. The Note line has always been targeted at power users and smartphone enthusiasts, mainly because it packed in so many features and a massive battery that could keep the phone running for days on end.

After toning things down for the Galaxy Note 8 through the 10 after the exploding battery fiasco of the 7, it’s nice to see the Note return to its roots.

Holding the phone, its size, and its weight impart the overwhelming superiority of this device when compared to the competition. But while it’s a massive phone, it’s also refined. Samsung’s made sure that the fit and finish are pristine and the Frosted Satin finish on the rear glass panel is a nice touch after last year’s aura glow which was a fingerprint magnet.

The S Pen

As the name implies, this phone is the latest in Samsung’s lineup for Note devices. While the massive camera bump on the back of the phone gets the most attention, the main feature that sets this phone apart from every other Android device on the market is the S Pen. Yes, there are a handful of devices that have pen or stylus support, but only a few of those have a pen that can be stored inside the phone and fewer than that have the software support to make the pen even remotely useful.

As is the case each year, the S Pen functionality has been expanded this year with a slew of new features. The most NOTE-worthy and most useful are the integration with Microsoft OneNote and the reduced latency. Samsung Notes has always been a decent app, but with Microsoft OneNote, using the notes you take on your computer or sharing them with family members or co-workers is a much more pleasant experience.

The latency from when you start writing on the screen with the S Pen and when it shows up has been reduced to just 9 milliseconds Making the S Pen feel significantly more responsive than it has in the past. Add to that the subtle pencil writing sound that the phone makes when you’re using the S Pen and it nearly feels like you’re writing on paper

You even get a handful of new air gestures for controlling the navigation of the phone, but honestly, the camera controls that were added last year are still the most useful if you’re using a selfie stick or a tripod to get a steady shot.

Just be sure to slap a case on this thing if you want to take notes with the phone laying on your desk since the camera bulge makes it impossible otherwise.


As is the case with most of Samsung’s flagship smartphones, the Note 20 Ultra sports a curved AMOLED panel. This makes the phone feel sleek and looks smaller than it actually is, but I’m personally not a fan since the number of false touches you get can be infuriating. It honestly feels like Samsung’s palm rejection software has gotten worse this year, but it could simply be the sheer size of the display.

But the real story here is the adaptive 120 Hz refresh rate when you bump the resolution down from 1440 to 1080. The difference is truly noticeable and after you’ve used the phone at the higher refresh rate, you’ll likely stick with the lower resolution rather than going back to 1440 and be stuck at 60 Hz. Having an option to use it at its full resolution would be ideal, but that would cause additional battery drain and as I’ll touch on in a bit, that’s something that the Note 20 Ultra has a few issues with already.

The color reproduction and brightness, as always, are commendable. Using the phone in direct sunlight isn’t an issue at all and I love how dark the display can get in low light so that you can use it in bed at night without lighting up the whole room.


Besides the S Pen, the other highlight of the Note 20 Ultra is the triple camera system that Samsung is using on the back of the phone. The 108MP main sensor is a repeat from the S20 Ultra earlier this year, but this time around they’ve included a laser autofocus system to make sure each shot is in focus. The improvement is quite noticeable as I didn’t have any issues while capturing images on a short family vacation this past week.

The other two cameras are great as well, featuring 12MP sensors paired with an ultrawide lens and a 5x periscope lens. While I’ve always been a big proponent of ultrawide lenses on smartphones, this 5x telephoto lens is the first one to convince me that having a good zoom is just as important. But rather than having me talk about it, just take a look for your self at what the Note 20 Ultra can do.

At the end of the day, this triple-camera array makes the 20 Ultra one of the most versatile smartphone cameras today, allowing you to capture incredible photos no matter how close or far you are from your subject. I still think Samsung’s default settings are a bit too punchy with over-saturated blue skies and contrast dialed up a bit too high. But if you’re taking pictures to post to Instagram of your Facebook feed, you’re gonna love the results.

The only real let down is the front-facing camera. The 10MP sensor performs well in a lot of lighting conditions, but Samsung’s beauty mode adjustments which can’t fully be turned off, lead to some pretty horrible selfies. I wasn’t a fan of the OnePlus Nord’s selfie camera, but even that one took better shots than this.


If you’re a gamer or a power user, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a phone that can outclass the Note 20 Ultra. Samsung’s using the new Snapdragon 865+ inside this thing, paired with 12GB of RAM and 265GB of onboard storage.

For having 12GB of RAM, the phone seems to dump apps and games from memory more often than it should, but if you use about a dozen or so apps throughout the day, you’ll likely never have to wait for them to reload.

As for the sheer performance of this thing, I wasn’t able to find a single app or game that could slow it down. With gaming, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite titles with settings turned all the way up and even take advantage of the display 120Hz refresh rate if the game supports it.


The only thing that does feel slow on the Note 20 Ultra is the Bixby Daily feed to the left of the home screen. While I don’t use it much, the times I do accidentally swipe over, it takes 5 seconds to load up any content. My recommendation is to simply disable it since it has more ads than actually useful content.

Honestly, that’s the thing that irks me most about the Note 20 Ultra and all of Samsung’s newer devices. Samsung has scattered ads in as many first-party ads as it possibly can, promoting restaurants in the dialer app, apps recommendations in pop-up notifications, scattering ads in Bixby Daily, Samsung Pay, Game Launcher and Weather apps.

If I’m paying $1,300 for a smartphone, I don’t want any ads. Period.

As for One UI, Samsung’s adjusted a few things since rolling the new design language. It’s far better than what Samsung used to have but still feels a bit bloated and overbearing when compared to what other OEMs are doing.

The sheer number of features and customizations that are included in the software is an asset for those who truly know what they’re doing, but Samsung doesn’t have a mechanism to showcase the features to new Samsung users, forcing you to dig through menus that are often 4 to 5 layers deep to tweaks settings.

The good news is that Samsung has announced that the Note 20 Ultra and a select number of newer devices will be getting three years of software updates, so things should technically get better between now and 2023.

Wireless Dex

Anyone who’s owned a flagship Samsung phone in the past few years is likely familiar with Dex by now. The desktop UI that appears when you connect your phone to a monitor is a great way to use it with a much larger screen to be more productive or simply enjoy your media, but this year, the Note 20 Ultra does away with the cables and allows you to do it wirelessly. This doesn’t really work with most monitors, but if you own a smart TV, there’s a good chance you can use this. Controlling the desktop using the touchpad feature on the phone isn’t the best, but connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and you’ll have yourself a nifty desktop experience if you’re willing to put up with the lag that comes along with the wireless connection.


In the past, owning a Note meant having a phone that could get you through a long world day and still have enough power to get you through the next morning without worrying about battery life. But things are a bit different with the Note 20 Ultra.

On paper, the phone’s 4500 mAh battery sounds impressive, but when you factor in the massive display, bleeding-edge processor and cameras that practically force you to take pictures all day, the real-world results aren’t that impressive.

The average user should be able to make it through a day without any issues, but the Note 20 Ultra is built for the power user, someone who’s constantly on their phone, taking notes in meetings, playing games that take advantage of the phone’s incredible performance and snapping photos from sun up to sunset. Doing that, I was usually reaching for a charger with 15% battery left by 6 or 7 pm. Not something you’d typically expect from a Note.


I have to admit, I like the Note 20 Ultra a lot more than what I was expecting. Besides being discrete and not offering adequate battery life, there’s really nothing this phone can’t do.

But here’s the thing. Take away the S Pen and the 5X zoom and the Note 20 Ultra isn’t any better than the $899 OnePlus 8 Pro. In fact, it’s a bit of a downgrade in some respects. If you simply must have the S Pen or can’t live without a periscope zoom lens, the Note 20 Ultra will make you quite happy, but if those features aren’t high on your priority list, there are plenty of flagship smartphones from 2020 that can be had for a whole lot cheaper.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_50 (4.4 / 5)

The Good

  • S Pen
  • Display
  • Cameras
  • Performance

The Bad

  • Battery Life
  • Software

The Bottom Line

If you need a phone that checks practically every box imaginable, the Note 20 Ultra won’t disappoint. But if you’re looking for a flagship smartphone and don’t need all the bells and whistles that the Note 20 Ultra packs in, there are plenty of other devices that are significantly more affordable.



Why is Samsung no longer selling the Note 20 Ultra? ›

Samsung decided against launching Galaxy Note 21 in 2021 due to the shortage of semiconductors. Afterward, a report by ET News also revealed that the company might suspend the production of the Note 20 series by the end of 2021.

What is special about Note 20 Ultra? ›

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra boasts a huge 6.9-inch display with a dynamic 120Hz refresh rate, a sharp 108MP camera with laser auto focus and a more responsive S Pen. The regular Galaxy Note 20 is the better option for those who can live without a 120Hz display and and more advanced cameras.

Which phone is better between S21 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra? ›

As the newer phone, the S21 Ultra has a more powerful processor with the Snapdragon 888, and a better GPU. It also comes with 12GB of memory out of the box and has a 16GB variant. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra specifications show the Snapdragon 865 and only 8GB of RAM on the base model and 12GB for the variant.

Which phone can beat the Note 20 Ultra? ›

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Performance

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra packs a newer Snapdragon 888 processor, while the Note 20 Ultra is powered by a Snapdragon 865 chip, so it's not a big surprise that the S21 Ultra offers better performance.

How many years will the Note 20 Ultra be supported? ›

Samsung Galaxy Note series

In the Galaxy Note series, only the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 20 phones are eligible for three years of Android OS updates.

What is the common issue with Note 20 Ultra? ›

After many users use this device, the Galaxy Note 20 5G is facing common problems like network, fingerprint scanner, battery drain, overheating, and Bluetooth connectivity issues.

Is the Note 20 Ultra waterproof? ›

The Galaxy Note 20 and 20 Ultra both received an 8, indicating they can be submerged up to 4.92 feet (1.5 meters) in fresh water for up to 30 minutes and emerge unharmed. Samsung recommends to let it air dry if it gets wet to avoid any problems.

Which Samsung Note is the best? ›

Best Samsung Phone – Productivity: Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. There's no question about it, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra tops our list as the best Samsung phone for productivity. Samsung has made a number of meaningful improvements to its latest flagship smartphone, particularly the S Pen upgrades.

Which one is better S20 Ultra or Note 20 Ultra? ›

If I were spending my own money, I would buy the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra over the Galaxy S20 Ultra. For $100 less, you get a dynamic 120Hz display, a laser auto focus sensor for the camera, and a smaller than lighter design. Even if you don't really need the S Pen, the Note 20 Ultra is the better phone.

What is the difference between Note 20 Ultra and 5G? ›

The Ultra comes with 8GB of RAM in the LTE model and 12GB RAM in the 5G model, while the Note 20 sticks to 8GB in both, reinforcing a different positioning of these phones. Storage options differ depending on LTE or 5G too.

What is the difference between Samsung S20 Ultra and Samsung Note 20 Ultra? ›

The Note 20 Ultra has a 5X optical zoom camera, while the S20 Ultra offers a 4X zoom. It's not a big difference, but it's important if you like photography and shooting close-ups. The Note 20 Ultra's fast Snapdragon 865+ chip (865 chip without the + for the S20) gives it a slight edge in speed.

Is it still worth buying Note 20 Ultra? ›

The bottom line is that even though the Note 20 Ultra doesn't have the latest specs, it's still a solid phone with a decent camera array, a large display, and fantastic performance, and it even beats out the S22 Ultra in certain areas, making it great for tech enthusiasts and power users on a budget.

What is the best upgrade for Note 20 Ultra? ›

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is still an almost perfect upgrade over the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It has a brighter screen, better screen protection, a faster processor, faster RAM and storage, better front and rear cameras, longer battery life, faster charging, and much longer software update support.

How many years will a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 last? ›

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 will get three years of Android updates — but there's a catch. One of the tricky things about buying a Samsung phone is that you're never completely sure of if and when you'll get the latest version of Android.

Will Galaxy Note 20 Ultra get Android 14? ›

Of course, you can also choose to keep your Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra and continue using it with Android 13 and One UI 5 as long as you can. It's not like these phones will suddenly become outdated and unusable just because they won't get Android 14.

What is the difference between Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra? ›

Samsung Note 20 Ultra: a high-performance phone at a great price. The Samsung Note 20 Ultra has a larger 6.9-inch screen, compared to the 6.7-inch screen of the Note 20. The screen refresh rate is 120Hz for the Note 20 Ultra, twice that of the Note 20.

Did Verizon stop selling Note 20 Ultra? ›

This product is no longer available.

Does Note 20 Ultra support 5G? ›

Combining top-of-the-line specs with upgraded notetaking and productivity tools, Snapdragon Elite Gaming, 8K video capture, truly global 5G, and ultra-intuitive AI, the Note family empowers users to get more done, have more fun, and find more time to focus on what matters most.

How do I upgrade my Galaxy Note 20 Ultra to 5G? ›

From a Home screen, touch and swipe up or down to display all apps, tap Settings > System updates > Check for system updates.
System Update Instructions
  1. Wi-Fi Only Over The Air (OTA) Programming.
  2. Server-Initiated Software Update Instructions.
  3. User-Initiated Software Update Instructions.
  4. Software Update while Roaming.

How do I extend the battery life on my Note 20 Ultra? ›

11 tips to extend your Samsung Galaxy battery life
  1. Reduce display brightness level.
  2. Close, disable or uninstall unused Apps.
  3. Turn off Always On Display (AOD) or set schedule.
  4. Toggle off WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS when not in use.
  5. Turn on Power saving mode.
  6. Download the latest device software.
  7. Check your device Signal bars.
Aug 10, 2022

How secure is Samsung Note 20 Ultra? ›

Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra provide end to end security integrated into the hardware and software to protect your data in real time with the Samsung Knox security platform.

Does the note 20 ultra have Gorilla Glass? ›

The Galaxy Note20 Ultra is the world's first device designed with Corning® Gorilla® Glass Victus™, front and back. It's the toughest Gorilla® Glass yet, with significantly improved scratch and drop performance.

Can Samsung Note 20 Ultra take pictures underwater? ›

Taking a few photos in the pool or under water photos for a few minutes should be absolutely fine.

Is Note 20 Ultra loud? ›

As recording devices, the two versions of the Galaxy Note20 Ultra both deliver good timbre performance, with good dynamics, precise high-end frequencies when shooting video with the rear camera, and good loudness in both selfie and memo apps. Both produce great loudness in the memo and selfie apps.

Which Galaxy Note blows up? ›

Battery defects caused many Note 7 units to overheat and combust or explode. On 10 October 2016, Samsung permanently discontinued the Galaxy Note 7 due to these repeated incidents.

Is S22 better than note? ›

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has the newer Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200, while the Note 20 Ultra runs the Snapdragon 865 Plus or Exynos 990. In real-world tests with the Snapdragon variants, like exporting 8K videos, or playing games, the newer phone does offer some speed advantages.

Is S22 ultra better than note? ›

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a few years older, and while the phone's Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset was top of the line when it launched, it's a few generations behind the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra packs. That means the newer S22 Ultra is the faster device.

Should i buy S20 Ultra or S21? ›

The S21 Ultra and the S20 Ultra displays are close in spec, but the newer model is 6.8-inches, a little more compact - not that you'll notice. While both offer Quad HD+ resolutions - 3200 x 1440 pixels - the big change for the S21 Ultra is adaptive motion smoothness.

Is the Note 20 Ultra better than the note 10? ›

Samsung Note 20 Ultra: designed for multimedia

Its camera also outperforms the Note 10 Plus. Both smartphones have 3 lenses, but the Note 20 Ultra leads the way with extra features such as 50x digital zoom, a 5X optical lens, 8K video recording and a 108 MP sensor, resulting in clearer and more detailed images.

How old is the Note 20 Ultra 5G? ›

LaunchAnnounced2020, August 05
StatusAvailable. Released 2020, August 21

Is Note 20 better than S20? ›

The Note 20 has the same camera and RAM as the S20, along with a slightly larger battery capacity and display, S Pen capablities, a slightly more powerful chipset in the Qualcomm model and double the storage. The screen resolution is lower though and the refresh rate half the speed of the maximum for the S20.

Which Galaxy Note is the biggest? ›

Galaxy Note 10/Note 10+

The Note 10 marked the first time Samsung offered a Plus model of its Note, with the Note 10 offering a 6.3-inch 1080p display Infinity-O Display and 3400 mAh battery, and the Note 10+ offering a 6.8-inch 1440p display with a 4300 mAh battery.

What is the latest Android version for Samsung Note 20 Ultra? ›

Software version: Android 13.

Why is Samsung not selling the Note 20? ›

The chip shortage caused during the pandemic continued to grip the market in 2021. This was said to be one of the reasons why the decision was made to discontinue the Galaxy Note lineup. Samsung had instead decided to use those chips for its new foldable smartphones.

Is Note 20 Ultra getting Android 13? ›

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 / Ultra launches Android 13 / One UI 5.1 global update.

Is the Note 20 Ultra still being produced? ›

It was the final model in the Galaxy Note series, with Samsung beginning to integrate the functionality from the Note series into its S series "Ultra" models, starting with the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20.
Left: Galaxy Note 20 Right: Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
DiscontinuedDecember 2021
PredecessorSamsung Galaxy Note 10
36 more rows

What will replace the Note 20 Ultra? ›

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of the best phones on the market today. Thanks to features like its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and refined camera array, it makes an excellent upgrade from the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Is there a new note coming out 2023? ›

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

It's a question on the minds of many Galaxy Note fans: will there be another version of the beloved Samsung Note in 2023? The short answer is, technically no – big emphasis on technically.

What is the difference between Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra 5G? ›

Samsung Note 20 Ultra: a high-performance phone at a great price. The Samsung Note 20 Ultra has a larger 6.9-inch screen, compared to the 6.7-inch screen of the Note 20. The screen refresh rate is 120Hz for the Note 20 Ultra, twice that of the Note 20.

Can I turn off 5G on my Note 20 Ultra? ›

Step 1: Go to Settings > Connections. Step 2: Tap on Mobile Networks. Step 3: Tap on Network Mode. Step 4: Select LTE/3G/2G (Auto), LTE/CDMA, or one of the other 4G/LTE options to prevent the phone from using 5G.

Which is better Galaxy S20 Ultra or Note 20 Ultra? ›

If I were spending my own money, I would buy the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra over the Galaxy S20 Ultra. For $100 less, you get a dynamic 120Hz display, a laser auto focus sensor for the camera, and a smaller than lighter design. Even if you don't really need the S Pen, the Note 20 Ultra is the better phone.

Is it worth upgrading from Note 20 Ultra to S23 Ultra? ›

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is still an almost perfect upgrade over the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It has a brighter screen, better screen protection, a faster processor, faster RAM and storage, better front and rear cameras, longer battery life, faster charging, and much longer software update support.

Which is bigger S22 Ultra or Note 20 Ultra? ›

For example, the heights and widths of the Galaxy Note20 Ultra vs S22 Ultra are 163.3 x 77.9 mm compared to 164.8 x 77.2 mm. The main physical difference between the two series is in their weights.

Why did Samsung discontinue the note? ›

But with changing consumer tastes and all major Android smartphones now coming with a massive display, interest in Galaxy Note started to decline. Eventually, with sales slowing down, Samsung decided to kill the Galaxy Note lineup for good.

What is the newest Samsung Note model? ›

Samsung Galaxy Note series
2011Galaxy Note
2017Galaxy Note 8
2018Galaxy Note 9
2019Galaxy Note 10
2020Galaxy Note 20
8 more rows


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