Samsung’s Galaxy Note series helped make bigger phones popular and now it is back in its latest form, again proving that phablets make great devices.
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G comes with a hefty price tag – it starts at £1,179 – but it’s a strong performer for work and play that also looks the part.
The new Mystic Bronze finish introduced this year is the best smartphone colour to be launched in a long time, drawing the eye to the device in a positive way.
The S Pen stylus, the signature feature of Note series handsets, has been given a feature boost too, making it more useful than ever.
But despite the tech on offer, does anyone want a £1,179 handset now?
From the front, the Note 20 Ultra looks much like last year’s Note 10 – it’s all screen with curved edges and a single front-facing camera lens built into the 6.9in Infinity-O screen.
On the back is where things get a lot more striking, with that new finish shown off. The glass is great too, with almost no finger marks showing, no matter how much you handle it.
The device is also very comfortable to hold despite its large size.
The only issue is the camera bump. The Note 20 houses an impressive camera system, but the bump is huge – protruding from the rear of the phone significantly more than on any other device seen recently.
It means that without a case, the device won’t lay anywhere near flush on a surface screen-side up, or slide as comfortably as you’d like into a pocket.
On a £1,000-plus smartphone, that’s not ideal.
The Note series has long been meant to be a productivity machine, with a large enough screen to make note-taking, annotation and any other mobile work possible.
That theme continues with the Note 20 Ultra, with an updated S Pen which is more responsive, further nudging the experience closer to writing on pen and paper.
There is also handwriting recognition for turning written notes into text.
In addition, new Air Actions – gestures made over the phone with the S Pen to navigate between screens – have been added, this time called Anywhere Actions, which allow users to further navigate their device.
The Notes app has been given a welcome update, now supporting PDF annotation, while there’s a new straighten tool to tidy any quick scribbles you make.
There are also expanded links and integration with Microsoft Windows, with more promised in the future, but right now it means users can link the phone to their PC to access apps and notifications, as well as drag and drop files between the two.
But there is also plenty to do with Note 20 Ultra away from work – most notably thanks to Samsung’s partnership with Microsoft. Through the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which is bundled with the phone, users can stream Xbox console games to their mobile via the cloud when the Project xCloud streaming service goes live on September 15.
Crucially, no matter how you choose to use the Note 20 Ultra, battery life shouldn’t be an issue, with the phone lasting a full day comfortably on a single charge.
Much like its predecessors in the series, the Note 20 Ultra places a very good camera at your fingertips.
Photos are bright and detailed, and all the options you would expect on a premium smartphone are here, such as night mode and live focus. The results are impressive even if there is little in the way of new photography features.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the two 12-megapixel telephoto and ultra-wide-angle sensors and the 108-megapixel wide-angle sensor is as good a set-up as you will find on any smartphone.
Samsung also continues to succeed in the layout and array of photo and video options of its camera app, with some additions to microphone pairing options for video in the Note 20 series, which is a rarity in smartphones but will please any content creators thinking about upgrading.
Much of what you find with the Galaxy Note 20 is as you would expect from Samsung – this is a high-quality smartphone packed with useful features, wrapped in a beautiful design that manages to be both a statement and minimal.
It isn’t a huge step forward on last year’s Note 10, but anyone with an older Android device could be tempted to upgrade to this phone.
The price, in the current climate, is probably the biggest issue with the Note 20, and even that isn’t an outlier in a world where some premium smartphones are starting to break the £2,000 barrier.
This then is a solid step forward for Samsung’s Note series which continues to please, even if it doesn’t quite wow.