The Galaxy Note line from Samsung is a great example of gadgets for which you don’t ask whether people ‘want’ it. After 10 odd years of Galaxy Notes — and the company has hiked prices every year — it’s evident that this particular stylus-wielding phone has takers, and millions of them. So, when Samsung says it wants to sell the Note 20 Ultra for Rs. 1,04,999 during a global recession year, sure, let’s believe them.
Though the price has increased, the Note 20 Ultra doesn’t necessarily bring any surprises. It’s an iterative update, and like every Note before it, you could wax eloquent about how good a phone it is.
But, did anyone really think it wouldn’t be though?
With the Note 20 Ultra Samsung has possibly perfected the use of sharp lines in a smartphone’s design. There’s a bronze variant this year, which you may or may not like, like any other color. And the stylus has moved to the left, which, as someone who writes with his left hand, I have no problems with.
Samsung is also unapologetic about the huge camera bump on the back, which didn’t bother me either. In fact, the large module that fits three cameras actually keeps the phone from wobbling too much when it’s kept on a desk or other flat surfaces.
What I don’t like is that both the volume rocker and power button are on the right, which means I shift my grip often. I don’t want to do that on a phone that’s fully made of glass and has almost no discernible edges. If I buy this, I’ll have to protect this expensive glass slab with my life and no cover or case is ever going to be enough.
As far as its features go, the Note 20 Ultra’s best feature by far is the display. You rarely come across a Samsung display that doesn’t impress, but the Note 20 Ultra’s 120Hz refresh rate is what makes this phone what it is. Sure, the processor is fast and it has gobs of RAM inside, but the display’s refresh rate is what keeps things feeling smooth and fast.
I have a habit of turning off animations on all Android phones I use because they just make things feel slow at times. On the Note, the refresh rate changes dynamically, between 10 and 120Hz. The idea is to keep UI transitions as fast as possible when needed and save as much battery as possible when you don’t need fast refresh rates.
You can also change the refresh rate to a standard 60Hz and some may not like the fact that you can’t ever choose to have 120Hz as the default. But it really doesn’t matter.
The cameras are also distinctly Samsung. The company has dropped the 100x zoom feature from the S20 Ultra has been replaced by 50x here, but if it didn’t matter to you then, it won’t matter now. It’s still a curious choice from Samsung though since the Note 20 Ultra is known to be the company’s ‘no compromise’ phone every year.
On regular shots, everything works. You still see the oversaturation in photos that Samsung has made a business out of, low light shots are unnaturally bright and often too soft for my liking. But if you know your cameras, you can get a lot out of this device. And if you’re posting photos on social media only, there’s nothing you’ll miss. The front camera oversoftens photos though, something I’m not a big fan of.
All in all, the Note 20 Ultra ticks all the right boxes. I don’t know how many Note buyers were planning on shelling out the big bucks this year, but it has everything any Note has had and is iteratively better than the last one, as has become the standard for smartphones nowadays.