Galaxy S20 Ultra: Top camera features finally make sense, but battery life doesn’t (ongoing review)

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

I started this ongoing evaluation of the Galaxy S20 Ultra figuring out that Samsung’s redesigned digital camera system and the large 5,000-mAh battery would make or break the phone. I’ve spent the previous few days testing its 108-megapixel major sensor and as much as 100x AI-assisted digital camera zoom and a 40-megapixel major digital camera, on the lookout for causes to make use of these over-the-top options in actual life. I lastly discovered it.

Unfortunately, throughout my time out taking pictures within the atmospheric, coastal metropolis of Monterey, Calif., the S20 Ultra’s battery life additionally got here into query. I’ll break each observations down beneath. But earlier than I do, only a reminder that these are my evolving impressions, which change as new data and observations come to mild. They’re on no account my closing ideas, so I hope you will stick round for the rated evaluation and particular shopping for recommendation about who this phone is for and if it is definitely worth the asking value.

Remember, too, that the S20 Ultra is essentially the most superior of Samsung’s new Galaxy S20 phones, with the biggest display screen measurement 6.9 inches), the most important battery and essentially the most digital camera toys in comparison with the Galaxy S20 Plus and customary Galaxy S20 (scroll to the tip for a full specs comparability). It’s additionally the costliest, beginning at $1,400 for the 256GB model (£1,199 for the 128GB model or AU$1,999), in comparison with $1,000 for the S20 and $1,200 for the S20 Plus.

The core software program and {hardware} options, together with a quick 120Hz display screen 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). 

And now, this is my breakthrough understanding in regards to the S20 Ultra’s digital camera, battery and extra.

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

How the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s digital camera modified my thoughts

I admit I used to be optimistic however skeptical once I began testing the Galaxy S20’s two marquee digital camera options, the 108-megapixel major digital camera sensor and 100x “space zoom.” They skirt the sting of gimmick. But a day spent photographing issues I like in a spot expensive to my coronary heart made me perceive the worth of those options in a extra private means — which is strictly the check I used to be going for.

I spent the day with my mother clambering the identical coastal rocks and strolling the identical paths that I’ve almost yearly since my childhood. We laughed at overconfident squirrels on the hunt for human meals they positively should not be consuming; peered into tide swimming pools full of hermit crabs, mussels and folded in sea anemones; felt the salt wind whip our faces and watched the Pacific’s majestic waves crash upon ocean rock. These are issues I naturally need to {photograph} and share, and so that is what I did.

The promise of the Ultra’s 108-megapixel sensor is to provide you extra element while you crop right into a shot. I initially discovered that wasn’t at all times the case, relying on what it’s you are taking pictures. First, it’s a must to choose the setting or else the digital camera will take 12-megapixel pictures, utilizing a course of known as pixel binning


A deep crop edited after taking this photograph from excessive above with the S20 Ultra’s 108-megapixel digital camera setting.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Second, I had higher luck with pictures that weren’t too shut up. For instance, I shot a mid-distance photograph of blue mussels spiking a rock. I’d have needed to wade in to get shut sufficient for a macro, however taking a fast photograph in 108 let me crop in with glorious element on one cluster or one other. To get discover element on a towering flower planted alongside the coastal path, an everyday outdated macro shot did the trick.

I’ve at all times mentioned that the good thing about excessive zoom is to shut a bodily distance you may’t overcome to see the factor you need to see — just like the cornice of a palace or a celeb on stage. The photograph will not be frameworthy, nevertheless it’s higher than having nothing in any respect. 

In Monterey, the S20 Ultra’s 10x, 30x and even 100x zoom, which depend on AI algorithms, have been helpful for photographing large cormorants clustered on a rock and a person in a chartreuse kayak paddling far out from the shore. When I left Mom to clamber up a hill of rocks, each zoom and 108-megapixel pictures let me {photograph} her waving from beneath.

These most likely aren’t options you will use day by day, however I’m beginning to really feel that I’d use them greater than I initially thought.

Just a few extra digital camera particulars

  • Samsung mentioned it made the S20’s sensors 3 times bigger than one the Galaxy S10 to let in additional mild. 
  • Photos are clear, sharp and colourful total. Here are some test shots from the Galaxy S20 Ultra so far.
  • 108-megapixel photographs take up far extra space, say two to eight occasions the storage for a lot of photographs.
  • Photos taken at 10x and 30x zoom are higher high quality than 100x zoom.
  • At 100x, the digital camera’s house zoom will get too shaky for clear handheld photographs. Use a tripod or monopod, or stabilize it towards a floor.
  • Some pictures I shot shut up have been truly noisier in 108 once I zoomed in (on the laptop display screen and the phone display screen) than they have been taken with the usual photograph mode.

Battery life with the 120Hz display screen

The Galaxy S20 units help 120Hz refresh charges on the display screen. That means pixels refresh 120 occasions a second, twice that of the usual 60Hz refresh price. The thought is to make the whole lot 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 it’s a must to flip it on your self. Samsung expects you to both use it on a regular basis or by no means, fairly than having you toggle it for gaming after which reverting. The selection, in fact, is yours. 

Using 120Hz instantly took a battery toll on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Granted, I hit the phone laborious with three hours of Google Maps navigation to and from Monterey. And I continuously used the phone to {photograph} and document my environment. But I misplaced energy at a better price than I’d count on for a tool with such an beneficiant battery. After 10.5 hours, I had dropped from 100% to 12%, and nonetheless had hours of night to go. Thankfully, the phone totally charged in underneath an hour, utilizing the 25-watt charger that comes within the field.

It’s laborious to say how lengthy the battery would have lasted with the 60Hz refresh price. Maybe I’d have seen a dip too, however I’m undecided that the additional smoothness from the 120Hz display screen is value battery nervousness for me. Meanwhile, the battery testing continues.

Battery life with out 120Hz or 5G: Very good

Straight out of the field, I had confidence that the Galaxy S20 Ultra might face up to most issues I threw at it — no less than over 4G knowledge and utilizing the 60Hz default display screen refresh price. (I’ve already talked about the obvious battery toll of the 120Hz mode above.)

As for 5G, these quicker speeds are identified to empty battery reserves quicker than 4G, however that is not one thing I’ve 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 might be good to go. I additionally swapped in a T-Mobile SIM card to make use of all day, however wasn’t capable of finding 5G sign wherever I used to be yesterday. 

On 4G, the S20 Ultra retained spectacular battery reserves even after hours of hotspotting to my laptop, streaming Netflix video, and importing dozens of pictures and video over mobile. I’m by no means involved about operating low. 

The Ultra’s monumental digital camera bump worries me

Samsung redesigned all the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s cameras and gave its premiere phone the most important digital camera array of the S20 units. 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 ugly, 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 have been to fall out of my palms 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 identical 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 digital camera module really feel extra flush, and higher shield it throughout drops. Broken glass throughout the sensors can downgrade photograph high quality.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

The S20 Ultra’s digital camera bump is loud and proud.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Other Galaxy S20 Ultra takeaways

  • Its 6.9-inch display screen is shiny and sensible, with Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED 2X tech. Ironically, the display screen’s pixel density is a tad decrease than on the opposite S20 telephones, however with out having these evaluation items from Samsung, I can not but examine them facet by facet.
  • 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 coloration I bought in my evaluation 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 screen protector while you swipe the sides of the display screen (e.g. when utilizing Android 10’s gesture navigation). It is not the most effective feeling.
  • I like utilizing the Edge show panel as an apps shortcut bar, and I additionally love the flexibility to lock the tab and alter its coloration so I can simply discover it regardless of which display screen 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 screen 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 shortly.

Now enjoying:
Watch this:

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


Galaxy S20 specs in contrast

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) 2.72×5.97×0.311 in 2.9×6.37×0.30 in 2.99×6.57×0.35 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 69.1×151.7×7.9 mm 73.7×161.9×7.8mm 76.0×166.9×8.8mm
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 digital camera 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight digital camera
Front-facing digital camera 10-megapixel 10-megapixel 40-megapixel
Video seize 8K 8K 8K
Processor 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 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; waterproof (IP68) 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; waterproof (IP68) 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; 100x zoom; waterproof (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 incessantly with new data.

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Tarun Banerjee

Professional Web Designer & Developer,Expert in SEO & Digital Market, Founder of Tech Hunt.

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