In the early 2000s, we often laughed at the suits in the airport or at cafés who tapping away at their smartphones with little wand-like devices. It all looked ostentatious, and we knew it would take some special technology to make the stylus even seem cool.
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Then the S Pen from Samsung — a stylus for the Note range of devices — came along and things started looking up for the seemingly vestigial accessory. In fact, for this range of smartphones, it was not just an accessory, it was a part of the device’s ecosystem.
- Display: 6.9” edge Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X ; Infinity-O Display (3088x1440),496ppi, HDR10+ certified ; 120Hz refresh rate
- Dimensions & weight: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm, 208g ; S-Pen: 5.8 × 4.35 × 105.08mm, 3.04g
- S Pen: Bluetooth enabled, Lithium Titanate Battery: Up to 24 hours of battery standby time ; Pressure levels: 4096, Pen tip diameter: 0.7 mm, IP68
- Sensor: Ultrasonic Fingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Hall sensor, Proximity sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
- Front camera:10MP selfie camera: Dual Pixel AF, Pixel size: 1.2 micrometres, FOV: 80˚, F.No (aperture): F2.2
- Rear cameras:12MP ultra wide camera: Pixel size: 1.4 micrometres, FOV: 120˚, F.No (aperture): F2.2 ; 108MP wide-angle camera: PDAF, OIS, pixel size: 0.8 micrometres, FOV: 79˚, F.No (aperture): F1.8, 1/1.33” image sensor size; 12MP telephoto camera: Pixel size: 1.0 micrometres, FOV: 20˚, F.No (aperture): F3.0; Laser AF Sensor ; Space Zoom: 5x Optical Zoom, up to 50x Super Resolution Zoom, OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation), Tracking AF
- Audio: Stereo speakers and earphones sound by AKG; Surround sound with Dolby Atmos (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus included)
- Battery & charging: 4500mAh ; Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, USB PD 3.0 (PPS) certified Fast Charging for wired charging (AFC and QC2.0 compatible)
Having taken the Note20 Ultra 5G for several good spins over the past couple of weeks, one of the biggest gaze-pullers is the design. I had the Mystic Bronze model and Samsung clearly had a distinct goal here: to make sure people who saw someone who had this device in-hand would know exactly what it was. Thanks to the chrome rose-gold curved sides and the sleek side buttons with the flat top and bottom edges, the Note20 Ultra 5G has a luxurious feel.
If you thought the S20 Ultra was speedy, the Note20 Ultra 5G is a few levels up. One can opt for either the 90Hz or 120Hz frame refresh rate. This device is also equipped with clever adaptive behaviours in refresh rate depending on your activity; streaming and gaming will occupy higher refresh rates while more monotonous activity such as basic browsing or texting will demand lower ones.
The aforementioned is helped by the Exynos 990 processor, which is manufactured on Samsung’s new 7nm LPP EUV (extreme ultra-violet) process. The Exynos 990 has a triple-cluster CPU core set-up bettering power distribution and graphics improvement. It prevents annoying screen tearing and/or glitches for smoother animations. Thanks to this form of Machine Learning in the Note20 Ultra 5G, for a 4500mAh battery, the device is optimised to run all day and halfway through the night before you hit the first margins of a Battery Saver mode.
The Note20 Ultra 5G comes with — finally — Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. The scratch resistance of this protection is up to four times better than competitive aluminosilicate (which typically fails at less than 0.8 metres) and I (accidentally) put this to the test during a recent tumble on some stairs which left me a little bruised but the smartphone still looking brand new and unaffected by trauma. There does not seem to be any weight difference with the new Victus glass and even if there is, it is not too noticeable.
The 0.7 millimetre-tipped S Pen is neatly tucked away on the right side bottom of the device for easy access. While I did not exactly end up like one of the aforementioned suits with their PDAs, I adapted to using a stylus fairly quickly. There is a quick tutorial to understand the newer quirks to the S Pen as well as the existing basics. I found the S Pen helpful in getting precise shorthand done during interviews, and the Note 20 Ultra 5G quickly learned to keep that on hand for me as a go-to note-making option. The no-touch screen commands using the stylus also added some whimsy to my experience. The responsiveness of this gadget is strengthened by the Exynos 990, and has impressive standby power.
And the cameras: as usual, Samsung does well with the camera setups, barring one major drawback. With the weather changes heading towards more humid — even by Hyderabad standards — I caught a little condensation in the gaps between the lenses and device body. I often had to wait for the condensation to ride itself out, which was a little frustrating.
However, as with our previous review of the S20 Ultra, the Telephoto and Portrait modes produce quality results, with little to no compromise. Do be warned, the Space Zoom’s 50x zoom requires stabilisation in the form of placing the phone on a surface or using a tripod. The Laser Autofocus does most of the work for you, leaving you to decide what you want to capture. And, of course, the Single Take feature is ideal for those left in indecision but short on time to capture a given moment. Video recording is a delight as is audio capture with the in-device Dolby Atmos tech.
Ultimately, the Note 20 Ultra 5G is pricey at ₹1,04,999; you have to be sure this is the phone you want for the long haul. For those wanting a similar experience but not ready to commit, opt for one of its less pricey counterparts such as the Note9 or the Note10.