Techilicious by Rajiv Makhni: Samsung Note 20 Ultra Vs the rest of the world

Hindustan Times | ByRajiv Makhni
Aug 30, 2020 12:52 PM IST

Every time the Note series adds a new phone to its portfolio, it becomes the phone against which all other phones are compared.

Benchmark. Samsung should rename the Note 20 Ultra phone, the Benchmark 20 Ultra. It’s not that it’s absolutely perfect or that there is no other phone like it. It’s because every time the Note series has a new phone added to its portfolio, it becomes the phone against which every other flagship phone will be compared. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do here. Compare this one phone to the rest of the world.

(The Samsung Note 20 Ultra has a luxurious feel and finish)
(The Samsung Note 20 Ultra has a luxurious feel and finish)

The Note 20 Ultra

I’m going to be brief. As a package of good looks, premium design, incredible screen, great performance, super usable S pen and fantastic camera and optics, the Note 20 Ultra is a winning combination. It carries forward the legacy of the Note series very well with an angular monolith design, great new colours (including the much-advertised Mystic Bronze), metal build and a very premium finish. Hold the phone and you know you’re holding luxury in your hand. The large camera bump at the back (it juts out like it has a life of its own) isn’t as off-putting when you realise that the rest of the phone is much slimmer than any other. It’s the world’s first phone with the new Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 6.9-inch Quad HD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate – one of the best screens on any phone.

The S pen is now even more productive and has lower latency. Inside resides the Exynos 990 chipset (still no Snapdragon version for India! Why, Samsung, why?) that does a great job but still lags behind its Snapdragon counterpart. It has triple rear camera setup (housed in that mega bump but with great trim detail around each lens) with a 108MP primary sensor and support for 50X zoom (not as good as it sounds). The other two sensors include a 12MP ultra-wide and a 12MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom. It can record 8K video and the front selfie camera is an okayish 10MP that wasn’t as good as I expected. There’s 4500 mAh battery, 25W fast plus wireless charging and reverse wireless charging too. All in all, an incredible package. Costs about Rs 1 lakh.

Versus the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

Performance-wise the iPhone 11 Pro Max is better
Performance-wise the iPhone 11 Pro Max is better

Ah, the battle of the champions. This comparison needs a whole separate column but I’ll make it easy for you. Looks – the Note wins it by a hair; screen – the Note; performance – the iPhone; camera – video is better on the iPhone; still pictures and other stuff on the Note. In the final analysis, the Note wins it with the S pen (that gives it a different edge over all other phones) and just newer tech all around (the iPhone is nearly a year old now).

The large camera bump at the back isn’t as off- putting when you realise that the rest of the phone is much slimmer than any other

Versus the Note 20

Samsung released the Note 20 along with the Ultra. I’m still scratching my head as to why. The Note 20 has been relegated to back shelf status. Plastic body, lower specs, smaller screen, lower resolution, S pen with lower functionality, camera and optics that aren’t anywhere near the Ultra. Nope, the Note 20 doesn’t make the cut. If you’re buying a Note phone this year, buy the Ultra.

The OnePlus 8 Pro is lighter and slightly smaller
The OnePlus 8 Pro is lighter and slightly smaller

Versus the Samsung S20 Ultra

These are two great phones, each with some serious innovation within. The Note is better looking (way better), the S20 Ultra is a bigger phone (heavier too) even though the screen size is the same on both, the camera with laser focus and better night shots also makes the Note win the camera war, battery is bigger on the S20 Ultra, it charges faster too and both phones are IP68 rated. The Note wins here too with just more premium looks and performance. If you’re paying Rs 1 lakh plus, your phone should look the part.

Versus the OnePlus 8 Pro

Interesting comparison as the OnePlus is nearly half the price and still has some heavy-hitting specs and performance. In looks, the Note has an edge, the OP8 has a smaller screen but can run 120Hz while running in full WQHD+ resolution (the Note can’t), in camera capabilities, the Note on paper blows the OP8 Pro out of the water, but in real life it’s quite close, the OP has a Snapdragon 865 to Note’s Exynos, both have similar batteries and the OP is lighter and slightly smaller. Not bad for a device at half the price.

The Asus ROG 3 is pretty good at a much lower price
The Asus ROG 3 is pretty good at a much lower price

There are others one can consider, like the Mi 10 (doesn’t come close), the Asus ROG 3 (pretty good at a much lower price) and others that don’t really compare. Suffice to say that the Note 20 Ultra is king of the hill for now, but in the world of tech, a phone that rules can be unseated in a day. Let’s watch what the competition does to take on the ‘benchmark’ phone.

Rajiv Makhni is Managing Editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

Techilicious appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, August 30, 2020

Note: An older version of this story used a photo of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra as the opening picture, which has subsequently been changed to the Samsung Note 20 Ultra

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