Samsung Galaxy Note 20 – worth the hype?

With an array of successful flagship models under their belt, Samsung recently unveiled the latest of their Note series, the Galaxy Note 20. But, does it live up to everyone's expectations? Let's find out.

Galaxy Note 20

Recently, Samsung launched their new Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Samsung’s Galaxy Note series started out as serious business-centered phones. It’s S Pen stylus promised productivity to many.

However, bigger screen sizes and a reliable stylus is not enough to call a newer model, innovative. Of late, Samsung has turned the Galaxy Note series into a premium flagship lineup, with a roughly six-month gap between Galaxy Note and Galaxy S series launches.

This year’s Galaxy Note 20 series is being billed as “the best of the best”, with all the latest features and specifications, plus of course the S Pen. There are two different models like last year, however with a few more differences beyond screen size.

Release

On 5th August, Samsung unveiled the new Galaxy Note 20 at a ‘virtual Unpacked event’ alongside the Note 20 Ultra. At launch, the handsets will be available in three colors each, the Mystic Bronze hero colorway shared between them. The Note20 also gets Gray and Green, while the Ultra will be available in Black and White – all of them Mystic, as the official naming will have it. Mind you, color options will vary by region with most markets getting two of the three available at launch.

Comparison between the two models

The Galaxy Note 20 is Samsung’s new entry-level stylus-included smartphone for 2020, but it’s one that doesn’t seem particularly exciting for the usual Note-loving crowd. It highlights some more affordable features compared to its more exciting Ultra sibling but it may well be just as good for those who don’t want to spend top dollar. Many consider the phone to be quite ‘vanilla’.

Both Notes get the S Pen too, at least this much is still guaranteed. It’s been moved to the left of the phone now, a major change from all previous generations. It comes with added gestures and it’s got improved latency for an even more pen-on-paper-like feel – on the Ultra, that is, the vanilla model doesn’t get that either.

Both phones get a stainless steel frame; a new development for Samsung high-end phones after sticking with aluminum for their skeleton needs until now.

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Design and Display

Avid Note phone users will be familiar with the Galaxy Note 20’s large size and premium-feeling design. This houses a 6.7-inch display, however, the fact that the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a slightly larger display doesn’t mean the Note 20 feels small. It has a Full HD resolution, which doesn’t look as great as the QHD Galaxy S20 range, but it’s suitable for watching videos and more.

Unfortunately, the saw a couple of surprising downgrades compared with last year’s Galaxy Note 10. Firstly, the screen isn’t curved at the sides, instead sitting flush with the top edges at the left and right. Secondly, its display only has a standard 60Hz refresh rate display; whereas a lot of other top-end phones – including all three Galaxy S20 phones and the Note 20 Ultra – have been upgraded to 120Hz.

This translates into a slower performance when the display refreshes. This also means that the other phones give a smoother experience when you’re gaming or scrolling through your social media feeds. However, this extreme detail is only palpable to those who have already used a 120Hz display before.

Read more: Galaxy A90 5G: Samsung’s first affordable 5G smartphone

All things considered, the display feels like a disappointment given the strides Samsung has taken recently in making some of the best screen tech you’ll find on a phone.

Camera and battery 

So far, there were limited opportunities to try out the camera setup on the Galaxy Note 20. However, they seem to be every bit as impressive as those on the Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus range. The rear array comprises a 12MP f/1.8 main, 64MP telephoto and 12MP ultra-wide cameras.

That main camera isn’t as powerful as the 108MP shooter on the Note 20 Ultra – it’s a similar story with the main cameras on the Galaxy S20 and S20 Ultra –  but it performed well in several limited tests. On the front is a 10MP selfie shooter which sits at the top of the display in the center. Its lens is concealed in a small pin-hole in the screen, which should make those who aren’t fans of notches happy.

There’s a 4,300mAh battery inside the phone which we’d expect will keep the handset chugging along the day. The Note 20 only features 25W fast charging, rather than topping out at 45W. So, while you can juice up your phone reasonably fast, it will still not be the fastest charging experience. However, it supports 15W of fast wireless and wireless power share for reverse wireless charging; which sounds like a sweet deal to us.

Performance

The under-display fingerprint reader is the same as on the Note 10 and the S10 before that. It’s made by Qualcomm and still uses ultrasonic technology, instead of the faster optical alternative which the competitors use. Its accuracy is far from stellar, and we think it doesn’t deliver a user experience fitting for a flagship phone.

You get either 128GB (in the US) or 256GB (in the UK) of storage on the base Note 20 model. That decision appears to be region dependent and not something you can upgrade or downgrade to at time of purchase.

The handset is running Google’s Android 10 operating system with Samsung’s own One UI 2.5 overlay on top. So, it’ll look similar to your current Samsung phone, and not too dissimilar to stock Android on many other phones.

Takeaway

It safe to say that the standard Samsung Galaxy Note is no longer the brand’s top phone. 2019’s introduction of a Plus model, and this year’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra stepped it up a notch. Thereafter, the standard Note 20 isn’t as exciting as expected, but it seems like a solid option nevertheless.

If you want a Samsung device with the signature S-Pen stylus and large screen, but you don’t want to lay down a huge amount of cash, the Note 20 may be just the phone for you.

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