Galaxy S20 Ultra ongoing review: Samsung’s camera, battery and superfast screen so far

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is probably the most superior of Samsung’s new telephones.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is an attention-grabbing beast. As probably the most superior of Samsung’s new Galaxy S20 phones, it has the biggest display measurement, the most important battery and probably the most digicam toys in comparison with the Galaxy S20 Plus and normal Galaxy S20 (scroll to the top for a full specs comparability). It’s additionally the most costly, beginning at $1,400 for the 256GB model, in comparison with $1,000 for the S20 and $1,200 for the S20 Plus.

Samsung’s details of delight for the Ultra come right down to that 6.9-inch display, the big 5,000mAh battery, a 108-megapixel principal sensor, as much as 100x AI-assisted digicam zoom and a 40-megapixel principal digicam. The core software program and {hardware} options, together with a quick 120Hz display refresh price, Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and 5G readiness stay the identical for all S20 telephones (the bottom S20 mannequin is a bit more sophisticated, supporting the sub-6 kind of 5G, except for Verizon). 

My mission this week: To check the stuffing out of the Ultra and decide if it lives as much as the promise, who it is for and if it is value all that cash within the first place. Testing is a course of, and good opinions take time. So for now, listed below are a few of my preliminary impressions, which I’ll replace with new observations as they come up. These are under no circumstances my closing ideas, so I hope you will stick round for the ultimate, rated evaluate and particular shopping for recommendation.

Now, let’s get this present on the street! 

Read additionally: Our first photos with the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s new cameras

Quick Galaxy S20 Ultra takeaways

  • Its 6.9-inch display is vivid and good, with Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED 2X tech. Ironically, the display’s pixel density is a tad decrease than on the opposite S20 telephones, however with out having these evaluate items from Samsung, I can not but examine them aspect by aspect.
  • The Galaxy S20 Ultra feels actually heavy (7.76 ounces) and in comparison with the Galaxy Z Flip I reviewed earlier this week, my hand will get fairly drained holding it whereas watching video.
  • The cosmic gray colour I received in my evaluate unit jogs my memory of modeling clay within the worst means. Buy it in black or get a case.
  • You can really feel the sides of Samsung’s pre-applied display protector whenever you swipe the sides of the display (e.g. when utilizing Android 10’s gesture navigation). It is not one of the best feeling.
  • I like utilizing the Edge show panel as an apps shortcut bar, and I additionally love the power to lock the tab and alter it is colour so I can simply discover it irrespective of which display I’m on.
  • Design-wise, it is not as refined because the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, however the stubbier (and fewer rounded) edges do make it simpler to position a cursor on the fringe of the display with out my finger falling off the sting.
  • Since the cosmic gray backing is not as mirrored, fingerprint smudging is much less obvious.
  • Benchmarking assessments again up my impression that the S20 Ultra handles duties extraordinarily rapidly.

New: Life with the 120Hz display

The Galaxy S20 gadgets help 120Hz refresh charges on the display. That means pixels refresh 120 occasions a second, twice that of the usual 60Hz refresh price. The concept is to make every little thing from scrolling and animations to gameplay liquid clean. 

The characteristic is not on by default, and it is not within the fast entry bar, so you must flip it on your self. Samsung envisions you will use it on a regular basis or not, slightly than having you toggle it for gaming, after which reverting. The alternative, in fact, is yours. 

Using 120Hz will take a battery toll. Exactly how a lot, I’m not but positive. I spent the primary day and a half with the S20 Ultra utilizing the usual 60Hz setting as a result of I needed to determine a baseline feeling for the phone because it was straight out of the field. Now I’ve engaged the 120Hz setting to see if and the way I really feel the distinction.

It’s nonetheless too early for me to inform, however after a full day with it right now (and enjoying just a few rounds of a racing sport), I’ll return to 60Hz tomorrow to see what the change is like. 

The Ultra’s monumental digicam bump worries me

Samsung redesigned the entire Galaxy S20 Ultra’s cameras and gave its premiere phone the most important digicam array of the S20 gadgets. The module is inescapably giant, about an inch by an inch and a half if I eyeball it, and it rises from the floor. It’s unpleasant, however extra importantly, I fear about defending the glass over the sensors.

When I set the phone down on its again on a tabletop, or reposition it, I can really feel and listen to the bump scrape throughout the floor. If this phone had been to fall out of my arms and hit the pavement, that module would most likely be the very first thing to crack. Unfortunately, I do know this state of affairs firsthand. The similar factor occurred when the Galaxy Note 10 Plus took a nosedive out of my pocket after I completed reviewing the phone.

I’m relying on a case to make the digicam module really feel extra flush, and higher defend it throughout drops. Broken glass throughout the sensors can downgrade photograph high quality.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

The S20 Ultra’s digicam bump is loud and proud.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How good are 108-megapixel digicam and 100x zoom?

I immediately began testing the Galaxy S20 Ultra camera, nevertheless it’s just the start. The Galaxy S20 Ultra’s principal digicam has a 108-megapixel sensor, however that does not imply that each photograph you are taking will robotically be 108 megapixels. Without that setting, photos resolve to 12-megapixels, however every of these “superpixels” is made up of 9 smaller pixels utilizing a time period known as pixel binning.

Remember, too, that 108-megapixel photos simply take up twice the house of a photograph taken with the digicam on normal mode, typically many occasions larger. For instance, I’d take a 12-megapixel shot that is 3MB in measurement whereas the 108-megapixel model shops that scene at 24MB, occupying Eight occasions extra storage.

In order to snap a 108-megapixel shot, it’s good to choose the choice. I do not suppose I’ve the grasp of when to make use of it and when to not. Some images I took in vivid daylight and in low gentle situations, regarded brighter and extra saturated in 108 than the identical photograph I took in normal mode, shedding shadow and element. They weren’t at all times my favourite, and in some methods appeared much less distinct as a result of the shading seems to be flattened out, at the least in my check images to date.

One check photograph of many. (This is a 12-megapixel picture.)

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

What has been spectacular is the element you see when cropping into a selected a part of the picture, like the middle of a flower or a small element on a shot. Still unclear to me is when I’ll get that element and once I will not. Some images I shot shut up had been really noisier in 108 once I zoomed in (on the laptop display and the phone display) than they had been taken with the usual photograph mode. It is perhaps that shut up and macro pictures do not work as effectively with the 108-megapixel possibility. Luckily I’ve a full day of pictures to work that out.

I’ll additionally proceed to experiment with 100x zoom, which makes use of AI algorithms to zoom in to far distances. Samsung calls its characteristic Space Zoom, and the Ultra is the one new S20 that may hit 100x. I’ve already taken some faraway pictures of architectural options at 10x, 30x and 100x zoom. It’s neat to see the development, however at this level, I battle to think about a time I’d really need the full-fledged 100x zoom. At this vary, the digicam will get too shaky for handheld pictures. 

I do see a profit to taking 10x and 30x zoom in locations the place you may’t bodily shut the gap between your place and the topic — like at a rock live performance — however for these 100x zoom pictures, a monopod, tripod or different stabilizer is a should.


A deep crop on a flower middle utilizing the 108-megapixel digicam setting.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Battery life: A powerhouse within the making

If the sound of a 5,000-mAh phone battery sounds superior, you would be right. It makes the S20 Ultra heavier, however already I’m reaping the advantages of 100% confidence that my phone will be capable of stand up to most issues I throw at it. At least over 4G information, and utilizing a 60Hz display. I’ll be maintaining a tally of the battery right now to see how the 120Hz refresh price may take a toll.

As for 5G, these quicker speeds are recognized to empty battery reserves quicker than 4G, however that is not one thing we have been capable of quantify but. At this level, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is not fairly calibrated to AT&T’s 5G community, and I’ve been testing on an AT&T SIM. AT&T and Samsung guarantee me that by the point the Ultra arrives on retailer cabinets, 5G can be good to go. I’m attempting to get my arms on a T-Mobile SIM card to see how which may make a distinction in battery life.

In the meantime, the S20 Ultra continues to truck alongside, retaining spectacular battery reserves even after hours of hotspotting to my laptop, streaming Netflix video, and importing dozens of images and video over mobile. I’m utterly unconcerned about operating low. Battery testing will take time, particularly for our lab assessments, however to date, it is clean crusing.

Now enjoying:
Watch this:

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra’s 100x zoom makes snooping simpler


Still to return in Galaxy S20 Ultra testing

  • Photos, images, images (particularly actual world 108-megapixel and house zoom situations)
  • Single Take digicam extra with Ultra’s cameras
  • Battery toll with 120Hz display
  • Battery life lab drain assessments
  • Day to day usability
  • More processing efficiency

Galaxy S20, S20 Plus, S20 Ultra specs

Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Display measurement, decision 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Pixel density 563ppi 525ppi 511ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 2.72 x 5.97 x 0.311 in 2.9 x 6.37 x 0.30 in 2.99 x 6.57 x 0.35 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 69.1 x 151.7 x 7.9 mm 73.7 x 161.9 x 7.8mm 76.Zero x 166.9 x 8.8mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.75 oz; 163g 6.56 oz; 186g 7.76 oz; 220g
Mobile software program Android 10 Android 10 Android 10
Camera 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight digicam 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight digicam
Front-facing digicam 10-megapixel 10-megapixel 40-megapixel
Video seize 8K 8K 8K
Processor 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.Zero GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.Zero GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.Zero GHz)
Storage 128GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB
RAM 12GB 12GB 12GB, 16GB
Expandable storage Up to 1TB Up to 1TB Up to 1TB
Battery 4,000 mAh 4,500 mAh 5,000 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No No
Special options 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; water-resistant (IP68) 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; water-resistant (IP68) 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; 100x zoom; water-resistant (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $999 $1,199 $1,399
Price (GBP) £799, £899 (5G) £999 (5G) £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,349, AU$1,499 (5G) AU$1,499, AU$1,649 (5G) AU$1,999

Published earlier this week and up to date continuously with new info.

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