For years, Samsung launched a single Galaxy Note, and it was the top-of-the-line phone for the company. With the Note 10 series, we got two Notes: one was smaller and with a few compromises, and both were effectively the same as the S10 series. Then we got the Galaxy Note 10 Lite, a cheaper device with an S Pen. And now we have the Note 20, which once again brings the Note name to a less-expensive phone that has corners cut. While the price looks appealing at first, this isn't the one Note fans want.
Let's review the differences between the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra. The Note 20 has a smaller display, but also one that is only 60Hz — in a year when Samsung has gone all-in on 120Hz, and just spent an inordinate amount of time telling us how great 120Hz is and what it enables with the S Pen on the Note 20 Ultra. It has just 8GB of RAM instead of 12, and only 128GB of storage with no option for more or an SD card slot.
And it seems petty, but it's worth pointing out that the back of the Note 20 is plastic, not glass. Obviously it's superfluous if you're going to have a case on the phone 100% of the time; and it's worth noting the rest of the body is metal. But it's almost a point of principle — why are you trying to market this $1000 phone as high-end when it has a plastic back? Particularly as the S20, which retails for the same price, is glass.
These little differences may seem minuscule to the general smartphone buyer. In particular, I'll admit that most people wouldn't know the difference between having 8GB and 12GB of RAM, and the idea of using an SD card feels outdated. But looking at it all together, these things really mean something to someone who's historically been attracted to the Galaxy Note.
Yes the Note 20 Ultra is more expensive — $300 is a lot of money. It's bigger, heavier and has an awkwardly large camera bump compared to the Note 20. But Note fans don't care about any of that — they are willing to give up some convenience or stretch to deal with a larger phone to get more of everything. Wanting a Note is all about getting the most specs and features into a single device, even if there are trade-offs involved.
Samsung itself reiterates constantly that the Note line is for the "power users" and the "Galaxy fans" — the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the only model that still embodies that mindset, not the base Note 20. Thankfully for all of us, Samsung isn't walking away from the fans entirely. We still have the Note 20 Ultra, and it's clearly a proper Note that's well worth considering. It's just unfortunate that the brand is also being diluted by releasing a Note 20 that doesn't feel true to the line.
For the Note fans
It's more expensive, but you won't regret spending the extra money.
The Note 20 Ultra is the real Note, and it's worth stepping up to get all of the extra hardware it offers. The Note 20 just cuts too many corners.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.