Galaxy Note 20 is Samsung’s cheaper power phone. Here’s the trade-off

The Galaxy Word 20, left, and the Word 20 Extremely.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Check out the photograph above and what do you see? Two Galaxy Word telephones for energy customers that value $1,000 or extra, with a stylus to wield as a navigation software, digital pen and extra. You see instant variations, too — digital camera mounts that look wildly totally different and finishes that are not fairly the identical. That is precisely how Samsung meant the usual Galaxy Word 20 ($1,000, £849, AU$1,499) and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra ($1,300, £1,179, AU$1,849) to be. 

The Galaxy Word 20 Extremely is designed to be the standard-bearer, checking off all of the packing containers anybody would need on their wishlist. Alternatively, the Word 20 has distinctly much less “premium” options, a plastic backing, no 120Hz display refresh fee and no microSD card slot, as an illustration. In an effort to create a extra approachable mannequin, the usual Word 20 — like final 12 months’s Note 10 — seems to be extra about trimming down the marquee machine than anything.

To be fully clear, I have never seen the Word 20 in individual, and so far as I do know, no cellphone reviewer has. I could also be (and hope I’m!) pleasantly shocked after I do see the completed product, whose 6.7-inch display and smaller total measurement may be a greater match for my palms. 

There’s additionally yet one more level to name out, and that is the elephant within the room. With a deadly pandemic that will not appear to finish without a vaccine and an eviction crisis looming within the US, it is an uncommon time to launch a $1,000 cellphone. The Word 20 sequence was within the works lengthy earlier than the coronavirus modified the whole lot, however one thing in regards to the sequence — and all of the options it affords — feels out of step with these occasions when extra individuals than ever are working and residing at residence. The entire level of the Word sequence is to higher bridge work and play for individuals who reside life on the go. I do not learn about you, however I am not going a lot of anyplace nowadays. 

Nonetheless, I’ve had a blast reviewing the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, and I am excited to see what the Word 20 brings. Learn on for all the main points. (And do not forget the Galaxy Z Fold 2 on Wednesday, which matches on preorder Sept. 1.)

Learn additionally: Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra: All the specs that are the same and different

Galaxy Word 20 vs. Word 20 Extremely: Shocking variations

Samsung eased us into the concept of a extra entry-level Word cellphone in 2019, however this 12 months, there is a vast gulf between the usual Galaxy Word 20 and the Word 20 Extremely. (Scroll to the tip for the complete specs comparability.)

For instance, the usual Word 20 has a 6.7-inch flat display (versus a 6.9-inch display) with no curved sides, a staple on the Word line for years. However here is the clincher — it has a plastic again, which Samsung prefers to name “polycarbonate.” There is no microSD card slot (similar as final 12 months) and small options are lacking. There are stepped-down digital camera specs (together with no professional video mode), a much less superior display know-how with no 120Hz refresh fee choice, a smaller battery capability (4,300 mAh versus 4,500 mAh), much less RAM (8GB versus 12GB) and no UWB sharing.

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Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Hands-on first impressions


The camera module looks smaller, but also less stylized, and the device has more rounded edges, versus the Note 20 Ultra’s more aggressive corners.

Embracing pastel, the Note 20’s mystic green, mystic bronze and mystic gray tones all come with a matte finish. It uses a metal frame and Gorilla Glass 5 on the front, not the most recent Gorilla Glass Victus.

The Note 20 shares the same core specs as the Note 20 Ultra. The 10-megapixel selfie camera, new S Pen gestures and Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus processor are part of both phones. 

But back to the Note 20’s plastic backing: That feels out of character for a phone family that’s typically about showcasing the best of the best Samsung has to offer. Without having reviewed the phone yet, a $1,000 phone with a plastic back seems hard to swallow. Maybe I’ll change my mind.

Writing is one thing Galaxy Note phones do best.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Note 20 camera: Premium, just not the upper shelf 

The camera array is where Samsung wants the Note 20 phones to shine. The standard Note 20 camera has more than respectable camera specs on its own. They’re just not as flashy as the Note 20 Ultra’s 5x optical zoom (which is sharp) and full degree of zoom, which I think few people actually need or will use.

The same goes for the Ultra’s 108-megapixel camera option, which you tap to turn it on when you want the full resolution, and then crop in for more details. Results have been varied, and it’s a fringe feature for sure. The autofocus likely won’t be as snappy as it is on the Ultra, but will otherwise remain unchanged from the S20 series released in March. 

You won’t find Pro Video Mode, either, but if you don’t have a desire to tinker with manual controls, you won’t miss it.

Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra camera

Galaxy Note 20 Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Main camera 12-megapixel (f1.8, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, 1.8μm, 79-degree FOV, 1/1.76 inch image sensor) 108-megapixel (f1.8, OIS, 0.8μm, 79-degree FOV, 1/1.33 inch image sensor)
Ultrawide angle 12-megapixel (F2.2, 1.4μm, 120-degree FOV) 12-megapixel (F2.2, 1.4μm, 120-degree FOV)
Telephoto 64-megapixel (F2.0, 0.8μm, 76-degree FOV) 12-megapixel (F3.0, 1.0μm, 20-degree FOV)
Front-facing camera 10-megapixel (F2.2, 1.22μm, 80-degree FOV) 10-megapixel (F2.2, 1.22μm, 80-degree FOV)
Zoom 3x hybrid 5x optical
Super Zoom 30x 50x
Laser autofocus sensor No Yes
Video capture 8K 8K, Pro Video Mode

The S Pen stylus is the same, with one exception

There’s one perk for using an S Pen on the Note 20 Ultra, and that’s responsiveness. When the Ultra’s screen refresh rate hits 120Hz — that’s when screen pixels refresh 120 times per second rather than the standard 60 — anything you do on the S Pen, from writing to navigating around, is faster than it would be at 60Hz. 

The difference is especially noticeable when it comes to a pen mark lagging behind the S Pen’s point. Otherwise, the Pen is identical between the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra and functions the same on a Note 10 series phone as it does on the Note 20 Ultra (yes, I checked on both phones with both styluses).

In general, I can get by just fine without the S Pen, but when I do have it on a phone, I immediately appreciate all over again the way that I can use it to enrich the phone experience, like magnifying tiny font on the screen by hovering the pen or taking an ultraprecise screenshot, because why do you want to capture the entire screen just to crop it in, every… single… time?

Here are some new S Pen tricks:

  • New S Pen navigation gestures you can fully customize to open apps or go home, back and so on.
  • A new autostraighten tool for handwriting.
  • Samsung Notes has a new layout and live autosyncing that pairs an audio recording so you can listen to the same part of the note. This seems especially useful for the boardroom, and requires a Samsung account.
  • Import a PDF into Notes — this is automatic and a great, timesaving tool. Just import the PDF to sign with the S Pen. Done. 

Read up on all the Note 20 specs that dovetail with the Note 20 Ultra specs here.

Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra specs

Galaxy Note 20 vs. Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Display size, resolution 6.7 inches; 2,400×1,080 pixels 6.9 inches; 3,088×1,440 pixels
Pixel density 393 ppi 496 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.36×2.96×0.33 in 6.49×3.04×0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 161.6×75.2×8.3 mm 164.8×77.2×8.1mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.84 oz, 194g 7.33 oz, 208g
Mobile software Android 10 Android 10
Camera 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 10-megapixel 10-megapixel
Video capture 8K 8K
Processor Snapdragon 865 Plus Snapdragon 865 Plus
Storage 128GB 128GB, 512GB
Expandable storage No Up to 1TB
Battery 4,300 mAh 4,500 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen
Connector USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No
Special features S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; water resistant (IP68) 5x optical zoom, UWB sharing, S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; water resistant (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $1,000 $1,300 (128GB); $1,450 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £849 £1,179
Price (AUD) AU$1,499 AU$1,849

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Jessica Dolcourt