Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Note 20 Major similarities and differences
At their core, the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra offer the same experience. At a glance, you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. However, there are a handful of details that differentiate them, and lead to that multi-hundred dollar price difference.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Note 20 Size, display, and specs
The phones are nearly the same size, with just a couple millimeters here and there separating the two. Their screens are almost the same size, too, at 6.7 for the Note 20 and 6.9 inches for the Ultra. Batteries are correspondingly close, at 4,300 and 4,500mAh. They have the same Snapdragon 865+ chipset, 128GB base storage, and extra features like fast charging, wireless charging, stereo speakers, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, IP68 water resistance, and of course the S Pen. They also run the exact same software, so as far as software features and the day-to-day experience go, things are identical.
|Category||Galaxy Note 20||Galaxy Note 20 Ultra|
|Operating System||Android 10
One UI 2.5
One UI 2.5
60Hz refresh rate
120Hz refresh rate
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+|
|Memory||8GB LPDDR5||12GB LPDDR5|
|Rear Camera 1||12MP primary
|Rear Camera 2||64MP telephoto
3x hybrid zoom
5x optical zoom
|Rear Camera 3||12MP ultra-wide
|Security||In-screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensor||In-screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensor|
|Battery||4,300 mAh||4,500 mAH|
|Dimensions||75.2 x 161.6 x 8.3mm||77.2 x 164.8 x 8.1mm|
Then, when you get into the details, things diverge a bit. The Note 20 oddly comes up short in RAM, with just 8GB to the Note 20 Ultra's 12GB, and if you want more storage you're out of luck as only the Ultra offers an optional 512GB option and an SD card slot. The Note 20 Ultra also has a 120Hz refresh rate, which dramatically smooths out all motion compared to the Note 20's 60Hz, though the latter model's flat panel is a boon for anyone who's run into accidental touch input with curved displays in the past.
There's just an overall cost-cutting theme to the standard Note 20.
Building on the cost-cutting theme, it's also a bit off-putting that the back of the Note 20 is a coated plastic rather than glass. Sure, we see lots of plastic phones out there, but not ones that cost $1,000. The Note 20 Ultra has the classic high-quality Samsung design and materials you expect, and you'll definitely notice the different material on the standard Note 20.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Note 20 Cameras
The Note 20 Ultra also technically has a more capable camera system. The 108MP camera is shared with the S20 Ultra, but enhanced with the addition of a laser auto focus system, and the zoom camera has a true 5X telephoto lens while the Note 20's "telephoto" is just digitally zooming. The front-facing and ultra-wide rear cameras are shared between the two, and the Note 20's cameras are still capable, but you'll want the Note 20 Ultra if you strive for the best of the best.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Note 20 Which should you buy?
As always, comparisons like this need to start with a discussion of money. The Note 20 Ultra retails for $1,300, a full $300 more than the standard Note 20. Either you're alright with paying that price, or you're not. If you are, then you can easily justify getting the Note 20 Ultra — it has a nicer design, a much better display, improved camera, and higher-end specs. It's a proper Note.
The Note 20 Ultra is the one to get, if you can afford the high price.
If you really need to have an S Pen, but your budget isn't up to the level of the Note 20 Ultra, I'd encourage you to look at buying the Note 10+ instead. Now that the Note 20 series is on sale, the Note 10+ is bound to drop in price. If it goes on sale down into the $800 range, there's a great argument that it's a better buy than the Note 20, particularly if you don't need 5G support.
However, if your goal is to get an S Pen in a new phone, in order to get the longest runway for software updates and newer (improved) cameras, the Note 20 is a decent buy. It gives you the core Samsung experience, with a huge display and the S Pen with the latest software right out of the box. You'll save money, but you'll also be reminded that you were just a few hundred dollars away from getting the real top-end Note.
The one to get
It's more expensive, but you won't regret it
The Note 20 Ultra is the proper Note this year, with all of the latest specs and features you expect. It's also arguably a better buy than the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
S Pen on a budget
A new Note at a lower price, with compromises to match
Samsung cut corners on the Note 20 to hit a more enticing price point, but it arguably cut too much. Shortcomings in the specs and display tarnish the Note experience.
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