Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Galaxy Note 10+ (5G)
Best Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra features
- Record practical zoom levels
- Smooth 120Hz scrolling and gaming
- Incredibly detailed pictures and video
- Excellent display and sunlight visibility
- Very good battery life and fast charging
- First phone with 16GB RAM
Best Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ features
- Better value for the money (double the S20 Ultra base storage)
- Very good pictures and video quality
- Versatile S Pen stylus
- Excellent display and sunlight visibility
- Fast battery charging
Samsung isn’t targeting the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G towards the dedicated Note 10+ owners, but even if it did, the Note has twice the base storage and an S Pen to fight off any heretic thoughts about splurging $300 extra for the Ultra with.
Granted, the amount of detail that the 108MP camera of the S20 Ultra captures, and the crazy zoom levels are unmatched yet the Galaxy Note 10+ takes very good photos in all scenarios that matter, too.
Displays and design
Nominally, the 6.9” S20 Ultra display is slightly larger than the 6.8-incher of the Note 10+, but since it employs a taller aspect ratio, the surface area of both displays is basically the same – 17.7 vs 17.6 square inches.
The 20:9 display of the Ultra, however, brings about a narrower body, making the phone slightly easier to hold and operate with one hand than the Note. If we can talk about ease of handling with phones that are bordering on the 7” mark, that is, plus the S20 model is heavier to balance and more uncomfortable in pockets.
For all other practical purposes, the Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Note 10+ employ the best that the OLED display technology can offer when it comes to contrast and standard gamut or rich color representation.
The combination of record low mirror reflections and peak brightness north of 1300 nits makes them the best there are at outdoor, sunlight visibility as well. The maximum power consumption of the displays is slightly in favor of the S20 Ultra, though, which should positively reflect on the battery life in bright environments.
Camera and audio
Not to rain on the Note’s parade but the camera set of the S20 Ultra is second to none when it comes to raw specs. A giant 108MP sensor and 48MP zoom camera with periscope lens have never been tried before, and the “100x Space Zoom” notion on the back of the Ultra engraves its superiority.
Samsung is prepping a grand camera update for the S20 Ultra but out of the box its main advantage over the Note 10+ camera amounts to the level of detail and zooming it is able to capture. Just tap or click on the stairway to the monument here below, and the well-defined pebbles will do the convincing in regards to the S20 Ultra's resolved detail superiority - those from the Note 10+ are a hot mess in comparison when zoomed into.
The S20 Ultra photos also exhibit better white balance with truer-to-scene, albeit colder in comparison to the yellowish Note 10 overtone colors. When shooting people, though, the Ultra's algorithms are trained to emphasize faces by brightening and overexposing the shot, in addition to smooth-plastering the skin surface. The Note's camera software keeps things looking more natural in those scenarios.
Needless to say, zooming with the Ultra returns way better details and sharpness (up to 10x and even 30x when there is enough light), while the Note maxes out at 2x telephoto. The Ultra also has a slight edge in low light predominantly with detail and bright highlights but the Note 10+ performs pretty well at night, too.
In comparing the front cameras, however, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is a mixed bag. It has a solid 40MP sensor that resolves a greater amount of detail and can shoot excellent, well-lit 10MP portraits with Tetracell pixel-binning. Sometimes, however, Note 10+ is the one that delivers more balanced selfies, while those from the Ultra get overexposed and the skin imperfections get fixed a bit too aggressively.
Software & performance
Running Samsung’s latest OneUI 2.0 layered on top of the latest Android 10 edition, the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Note 10+ strike the fine balance between a feature-rich interface and the notorious core Android smoothness.
Zippy is as zippy does, and that goes for the interface and app performance on both phones. Turn on the Motion Smoothness display option of the S20 Ultra, and the ability of its screen to refresh at 120Hz immediately put it abreast of the Note 10+.
For a battery life hit, that is, but something’s got to give. The Note, however, returns the ball with the versatility of its S Pen stylus that can now not only doodle, select, or annotate, but also execute commands from afar.
You no longer have to download a separate app to activate rich navigation gestures, as Samsung has baked them into the S20 Ultra interface settings.
With up to 16GB RAM and a second-gen 7nm Snapdragon 865 processor, the new Galaxy has an edge before the 855/Plus on 12GB RAM set of the Note 10+, but it’s on paper, as both perform admirably in benchmarks and in real life.
Oh God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry! This is the line that every Galaxy S-line or Note owner addresses to Samsung when it comes to battery capacity. Samsung still put a 4300mAh battery to support the Note 10+ 4.5 million pixels, for instance, while Chinese flagships with larger packs push 30% less screen dots, and that wisdom is on display in our battery benchmarks.
For the S20 Ultra, however, Samsung woke up from its marathon slumber, and used a new circuit packaging technology to stuff the largest, 5000mAh battery it has ever placed in a flagship. It has to, if it wants it to survive a double whammy of 5G connectivity and a huge 120Hz display.
That extra juice results in longer endurance indeed, albeit not drastically so, while if you keep things chugging at 120Hz, the battery life may even drop below the Note 10+ usage time on a charge.
Nominally, the larger S20 Ultra battery should charge slower than the Note 10+ unit, but Samsung lists both as taking 70 minutes to fully charge with the stock 25W brick, and supporting its ultrafast 45W charging, too. In reality, we tested the 5000mAh pack to go from zero to hero in an hour (59min., to be exact) which is even faster than what Samsung advertises, and a tad faster than the Note.
Still, the high-res displays prevent the two phones from being at the top of the battery life pack among their peers, and Samsung is setting realistic expectations by saying that they are “full-day battery” phones, rather than overpromising.
Set the interface to dark mode, though, use 4G and the default display resolution with stock 60Hz refresh, and not only will the S20 Ultra battery life be the best out of any Samsung flagship so far, but you may just stretch it into the next day with normal usage, too.