ReviewsSamsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: the ultimate smartphone, a...

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: the ultimate smartphone, a little too much (part 2)


After a first part reviewing certain technical elements of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, our colleague continues his analysis of the Samsung smartphone.

Samsung equipped the Galaxy S20 Ultra with a 5000 mAh battery, the largest capacity ever used, sign that it is finally ready to push the limits of its batteries after the debacle of the Galaxy Note 7. 

The S20 needed it anyway one that works. With 5G compatibility and an option to increase the frequency to 120Hz for the display, even the 5,000 mAh battery was struggling to last a full day in heavy use. Without the frequency boost, the device can remain autonomous for two days, which is only achieved so far by the iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

The supplied 25 W charger charges the Galaxy in about an hour and a half, but it can also be charged at 45 W, with the right charger. Our colleague has tested many 60 W chargers that did not work,

All S20 phones sold in the United States will be equipped with a 5G modem, but it will be possible to choose to disable it in the settings, which will slightly increase the battery life. 

Those who have subscribed to a 5G plan from T-Mobile or Verizon in the country may not see the speeds as high as they were announced. Although Verizon’s mmWave 5G speeds are said to be fast, they are limited to very small pockets in the United States. 

Our colleague tested the S20 Ultra on T-Mobile’s 5G network in Connecticut, and the speeds were often lower than its Pixel 4 on Verizon’s LTE network. It has happened to exceed 100 Mbps, but it did not seem to him to transcend LTE.

Samsung seems to be committed to keeping its S20 line up to date as quickly as possible. By the time the reviewer wrote his article on March 3, his S20 Ultra had already released the March security update. The One UI software overlay has completely transformed the experience of Samsung smartphones, offering one of the best user interfaces that Android has to offer. The S20 family comes with One UI 2, and although it is an iterative update, the new features it brings – including the extension of the dark mode and better support for back gestures – have nothing to envy to the Pixel 4.

A great camera with caveats

While there are many reasons to criticize it, the S20 Ultra’s camera has powerful sensors and lenses that can do more than any other smartphone camera ever made. Like the S20 +, the Ultra has four rear cameras, all different:

S20 Ultra

  • Camera 1: 12MP Ultra Wide, f / 2.2
  • Camera 2: 108MP Wide angle, f / 1.8
  • Camera 3: 48MP Telephoto, f / 3.5
  • Camera 4: DepthVision (flight time)

S20 +

  • Camera 1: 12MP Ultra Wide, f / 2.2
  • Camera 2: 12MP Wide angle, f / 1.76
  • Camera 3: 64MP Telephoto, f / 2.0
  • Camera 4: DepthVision (time of flight)

However powerful and exceptional they may be, these specifications of the S20 Ultra may not really make a difference in everyday shots. Most of the time the 108MP sensor will never be on. As with the 100X zoom, which people will often not need. And the smartphone can record in 8K, which, to be honest, will only be used rarely.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: the ultimate smartphone, a little too much (part 2)

If the 108MP sensor obviously stands out on the Ultra, the telephoto lens is the real star. Samsung’s claims are true: it can zoom up to 100X. A somewhat unhealthy point is that with this objective, our colleague was able, from his garden, to see through the window of his neighbor’s kitchen … 

The S20 Ultra is even more surprising when zoomed out. While the 2X or 3X optical zoom is fairly standard for high-end Android phones, Samsung says the S20 Ultra has a “lossless” 10X zoom that combines a 4X optical zoom and a 6X digital zoom with AI to reduce noise usually obtained with this kind of technique.

Samsung has also worked a lot on its night mode. Most of the work is done by the ISOCELL Bright HM1 image sensor which powers the 108MP lens. Night mode shots use combination technology (no binning) to combine 0.8μm pixels into 2.4μm, but Samsung’s maturation algorithm also deserves recognition. 

On the S10, the night photos are largely overexposed. The Ultra supports many more nuances: shadows and lights are preserved, and in some photos, the night mode of the S20 Ultra can beat that of the Pixel 4.

Samsung also continues to advance portrait mode. Even without a second standalone camera like the S10 +, the edges are sharp and the strands of hair are visible. The rear camera excels thanks to the time-of-flight sensor, although aggressive AI tends to smooth faces a little too much with the selfie camera.

Another advantage, if another is needed, of the S20 Ultra camera is the 8K video recording, capturing 30 frames per second. It takes a lot of storage space for this: each minute consumes about 600 MB. 

A bug disturbs the autofocus of the smartphone, which may require you to redo some shots. Samsung has reportedly implemented a patch in Korea, but the tester’s device, which received the March update, has not seen a fix. The autofocus problem also affects photos, but it is more evident in videos. 

This is a recurring problem on the camera which remains troublesome, despite the excellent quality of the photos. Our colleague particularly appreciated the new Single Take function from Samsung, which uses Ai to offer a multitude of photos and different compositions.

Knowing how the size of the S20 Ultra affects the photographic experience is finally important. The S20 Ultra is so large that capturing a moving subject may not be possible. It takes several seconds to take the smartphone out of its pocket, launch the camera, point it at its subject and press the shutter button.

Why buying a Galaxy S20 Ultra

Three types of people will be able to go as far as putting the 1,400 or 1,600 € TTC to afford the very high-end smartphone from Samsung:

  1. Samsung fans who are willing to pay anything for the latest and best of devices;
  2. Smartphone photographers who need the latest and best camera;
  3. Influencers who have enough money to afford this phone.

That is just about everything. Anyone else should take a closer look at the S20 +, which has a lot of the same features and specifications, minus certain elements of the camera. But make no mistake, the S20 Ultra is a phone that can be positioned as the best Android phone ever made. But for most people, it’s just too much for that much money.

I am a web developer, and digital marketer I love programming, and technologies, always looking for new technologies and new challenges.

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