Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 8: Should you upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra back
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra back (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has everything you could want in a 2020 flagship. The phone has a gorgeous new design and comes with a sublime 120Hz AMOLED display, the latest Snapdragon 865+ chipset with 5G connectivity, a new S Pen with reduced latency, and all-day battery life. The cameras have also been overhauled, with the 108MP primary lens delivering outstanding photos.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The obvious upgrade

Stunning 120Hz AMOLED display
Gorgeous design
S Pen with lower latency than before
Snapdragon 865+ with 5G connectivity
Exciting new cameras with 108MP main lens
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor isn't good enough

Galaxy Note 8

The Galaxy Note 8 fared well over the years, but it is clearly showing its age. While the screen is still great and the hardware holds up for day-to-day use, the device is outdated on the software front. It hasn't been updated to Android 10 and won't get any more security updates. So if you're looking to switch to a new phone this year, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra will feel immediately familiar.

Galaxy Note 8


Great AMOLED panel
S Pen with useful software features
Reliable in day-to-day use
Battery life is still decent
Still on Android 9.0 Pie
Ageing internals
No 5G connectivity

Samsung doesn't really make radical changes with its flagships anymore, but it still manages to deliver exciting new features that raise the bar for the industry as a whole. With the Note 20 Ultra launching three years after the Note 8, you get enticing upgrades in all areas, so let's take a look at why you should consider upgrading to Samsung's latest phone.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 8: Huge upgrades everywhere

If you're using a flagship, you don't need to upgrade every year. Phones from three years ago are still going strong on the hardware front, and if you're using the Galaxy Note 8 in 2020, you know this already. The design is still modern, the screen just as good, and the Snapdragon 835 chipset holds up in day-to-day use.

The Note 20 Ultra has a gorgeous design and will get three years of Android OS updates.

But the biggest issue here is software updates. The Note 8 debuted with Android 7.1.1 Nougat and got two platform updates to Android 9.0 Pie. Samsung has also finished three years of security updates for the phone, and it will not get any further updates. Two years of OS updates isn't long enough, and for what it's worth, Samsung is fixing the issue.

All flagships starting with the Galaxy S10 series and select mid-range Galaxy A devices will get three Android OS updates, a much-needed change. That means the Note 20 Ultra will get three OS updates, one more than the Note 8. That makes the device much more enticing right out the gate, and we haven't even started talking about the hardware yet.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra front

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra delivers exciting hardware upgrades in just about every area. You get a massive 6.9-inch AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, and the thin bezels make playing games and streaming videos that much more immersive. This is the best screen you'll find on any phone today, and it is an absolute delight to use.

You get meaningful hardware upgrades in virtually all areas from the Note 8.

Then there's the hardware on offer. The Note 20 Ultra features the latest Snapdragon 865+ chipset and has 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage as standard. This is one of the best Android phones around, and the hardware here will hold up just fine for several years. There's also a 108MP primary camera at the back, and it takes outstanding photos.

You also get a microSD card slot, a 4,500mAh battery with 25W wired charging and 10W wireless charging, Wi-Fi 6, stereo speakers, IP68 rating, and global 5G connectivity. The differentiator for the Note series has always been the S Pen, and this time Samsung has lowered the latency to 9ms, making it even better to use for jotting notes or doodling.

While the Note 20 Ultra is packing a lot of new hardware and a larger screen, it is immediately familiar as a Note device. So if you're considering the switch from the Note 8, you'll feel right at home. Oh, the S Pen is now on the left, and there's no 3.5mm jack anymore, but other than that, the in-hand feel is largely similar.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 8: All the specs

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CategorySamsung Galaxy Note 20 UltraSamsung Galaxy Note 8
Operating systemAndroid 10
One UI 2.5
Android 9.0 Pie
One UI
Display6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED
3088x1440 (20:9)
Gorilla Glass Victus
6.3-inch Super AMOLED
2960x1440 (18.5:9)
Gorilla Glass 5
ChipsetSnapdragon 865+
1 x 3.0GHz A77
3 x 2.42GHz A77
4 x 1.80GHz A55
Snapdragon 835
4 x 2.35GHz Kryo 280
4 x 1.90GHz Kryo 280
GPUAdreno 650Adreno 540
Storage128GB/256GB/512GB UFS3.164GB/128GB/256GB UFS 2.1
MicroSD slotYesYes
Rear camera 1108MP f/1.8, OIS
8K at 24fps
4K at 60fps
12MP f/1.7, OIS
4K at 30fps
Rear camera 212MP, f/3.0
telephoto, OIS
5x optical zoom
12MP f/2.4
telephoto, OIS
2x optical zoom
Rear camera 312MP, f/2.2
Front camera 110MP, f/2.2, 80° FoV
auto focus
8MP f/1.7
auto focus
Front camera 2None2MP iris module
Connectivity5G, Wi-Fi ax MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS
Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS
Stereo speakers
3.5mm jack
Stereo speakers
ChargingUSB-C PD3.0
Fast charge (25W)
Fast charge (15W)
Water resistanceIP68IP68
SecurityIn-display fingerprint sensor
Face unlock
Fingerprint sensor
Iris sensor
Dimensions164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm
161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm
ColorsMystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic WhiteMidnight Black, Maple Gold, Orchid Gray

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 8: It's time to upgrade

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra back

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The Galaxy Note 8 is a fine phone on the hardware side, but with Samsung cutting off software updates, you will have to upgrade sooner rather than later. The obvious choice is the Note 20 Ultra. The phone has stunning hardware with a gorgeous new design, groundbreaking cameras, a sublime 120Hz screen, and all-day battery life.

The biggest reason to switch to the Note 20 Ultra is for the software updates.

While the Note 20 Ultra has exciting hardware upgrades across the board, Samsung's commitment to delivering three Android OS updates will benefit the phone in the long-term. The Note 20 Ultra comes with Android 10 out of the box and will be updated to Android 13 in three years' time.

That is a huge deal as it ensures the Note 20 Ultra receives the latest Android update for an extra year. That wasn't the case with the Note 8, which didn't receive the Android 10 update. When you're paying this kind of money on a phone, you will want to be able to use it for at least three years or more, and as such, it's great to see Samsung doing better in this key area.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.