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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 9: Should you upgrade?

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Bronze
Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Bronze (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

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The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra takes flagships to a whole new level. Everything on the phone is dialed up to 11; there's a stunning 6.9-inch AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, 12GB of memory as standard, Snapdragon 865+ chipset under the hood, and the S Pen has three times lower latency. Combine that with a powerful 108MP camera at the back and you get a phone that stands out from the pack.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The obvious upgrade

Gorgeous new design
Massive 120Hz AMOLED screen
Snapdragon 865+ delivers blistering performance
S Pen now has just 9ms latency
Exciting cameras with 108MP primary lens
Expensive
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is sub-par

Galaxy Note 9

Galaxy Note 9

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The Galaxy Note 9 is now starting to show its age. The internal hardware is still reliable in day-to-day use, but you miss out on exciting features like a high refresh rate display, versatile cameras, fast wired and wireless charging, and the bold new color options. If you've used the Galaxy Note 9 for the last two years and are looking to upgrade, the Note 20 Ultra is a great choice.

Galaxy Note 9

Outdated

Vibrant AMOLED panel
Still runs fine in day-to-day use
S Pen with useful software features
All-day battery life
Headphone jack
Dedicated Bixby button is annoying
Fast charging limited to 15W
60Hz panel

Samsung has blurred the lines between the Note and Galaxy S series in recent years, but that doesn't make the Note lineup any less exciting. With the S Pen picking up new features and the hardware seeing a considerable upgrade, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra makes a strong case if you're looking to upgrade from the Galaxy Note 9.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra offers exciting upgrades in all key areas

Phones have matured to a point where you don't need to upgrade every year. That's true even for mid-range phones, so it stands to reason that the sentiment holds up for flagships. The Galaxy Note 9 illustrates this point perfectly; the phone debuted back in August 2018, and two years later it's still going strong. The Snapdragon 845 delivers reliable performance, the display still holds up just fine, and the S Pen continues to be a standout feature for the Note series.

Unfortunately, the phone has picked up two platform updates already, and it is unlikely it will make the switch to Android 11 once Google releases the stable update later this year. That makes it an ideal time to think of upgrade options for the Note 9, and Samsung's latest Galaxy Note 20 Ultra stands out as the obvious pick.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a sublime 120Hz display encased in a gorgeous design.

Samsung made the switch to 120Hz displays this year with the Galaxy S20 series, and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra retains this key feature. There hasn't been a single feature over the last two years that has affected day-to-day experience as much as 90Hz and 120Hz displays, and this is one feature that you have to use to truly appreciate.

The 120Hz display on the Note 20 Ultra is sublime, and Samsung made several changes to the AMOLED display tech to make it the best overall panel you'll find on any phone today. Samsung has led the industry in this area for several years now, and it continues to eke out more gains with each generation. The Note 20 Ultra is just 2.9mm taller than the Note 9, but you get a huge 6.9-inch display, and that's down to the thinner bezels at the top and bottom.

The slim bezels, along with a hole-punch cutout and a 120Hz screen, combine to give the Note 20 Ultra a distinct edge over the Note 9. There's just so much more on offer here, and you will love the changes that Samsung introduced with its latest flagship. Then there's the design. The Note 20 Ultra is available in Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, and Mystic White variants, and the bronze model, in particular, stands out.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Bronze

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

With the Note 20 Ultra, Samsung has switched to a new camera layout that sees the sensors highlighted more prominently. The camera housing protrudes a fair bit from the body of the phone itself, but the overall aesthetic is rather pleasing.

Let's talk about the cameras. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a 108MP primary camera along with a 12MP wide-angle lens and 12MP zoom lens that delivers 5x optical zoom. The Galaxy Note 9, meanwhile, has dual 12MP cameras. Having used the cameras on the Note 9 extensively over the last two years, I can confidently say that the 108MP lens on the Note 20 Ultra is a huge upgrade. You also get 8K video recording on the Note 20 Ultra and 720p slow-motion video at 960FPS.

The Note 20 Ultra packs a huge camera and internal hardware upgrades.

Then there's the internal hardware. While the Snapdragon 845 chipset on the Galaxy Note 9 is still going strong in 2020, the Snapdragon 865+ on the Note 20 Ultra is in another league. The powerful chipset coupled with the 120Hz screen leads to silky-smooth interactions in day-to-day use, and the Note 20 Ultra blazes through the most demanding of games with ease.

The Note 20 Ultra also comes with 12GB of RAM as standard, double that of the Note 9. The battery is larger at 4,500mAh, and you get 25W wired charging along with 15W wireless charging. The Note 20 Ultra even charges other devices at 5W wirelessly. There's Wi-Fi 6 connectivity as well, IP68 dust and water resistance, NFC, and stereo sound. Oh, and did I mention that the Note 20 Ultra has 5G connectivity? If you're looking for a device that will work over both Sub-6 and mmWave 5G networks around the world, this is the phone to get.

The S Pen is also picking up big upgrades and now has just 9ms latency. That makes it easier than ever to take down notes or just doodle on the Note 20 Ultra, and Samsung is also rolling out new software features to leverage the low latency.

CategorySamsung Galaxy Note 20 UltraSamsung Galaxy Note 9
Operating systemAndroid 10
One UI 2.5
Android 10
One UI 2.0
Display6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED
3088x1440 (20:9)
HDR10+
Gorilla Glass Victus
6.4-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
7nm
Snapdragon 845
4 x 2.80GHz Kryo 385
4 x 1.70GHz Kryo 385
Adreno 630
10nm
GPUAdreno 650Adreno 630
RAM12GB LPDDR56GB/8GB LPDDR4X
Storage128GB/256GB/512GB UFS3.1128GB/512GB UFS 2.1
MicroSD slotYesYes
Rear camera 1108MP f/1.8, OIS
8K at 24fps
4K at 60fps
12MP f/1.5 or f/2.4, OIS
4K at 60fps
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
Wide-angle
None
Front camera10MP, f/2.2, 80° FoV
auto focus
8MP f/1.7
auto focus
Connectivity5G, Wi-Fi ax MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS
Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS
AudioUSB-C
Stereo speakers
3.5mm jack
Stereo speakers
Battery4500mAh
Non-removable
4000mAh
Non-removable
ChargingUSB-C PD3.0
Fast charge (25W)
USB-C
Fast charge (18W)
Water resistanceIP68IP68
SecurityIn-display fingerprint sensor
Face unlock
Fingerprint sensor
Iris sensor
Dimensions164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm
208g
161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm
201g
ColorsMystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic WhiteLavender purple, Ocean Blue, Midnight Black

It's time to upgrade to the Note 20 Ultra from the Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

The sheer number of features on offer make the Note 20 Ultra the ideal choice if you're looking to switch to a new phone in 2020. The Note 9 has aged well, but if you're in the market for a flagship with the latest tech and a great stylus, there really isn't an alternative to the Note 20 Ultra right now.

The Note 20 Ultra offers enticing upgrades across the board.

Let's round up the features. The Note 20 Ultra gives you a massive 6.9-inch 120Hz AMOLED panel that's ideal for streaming TV shows and movies on your phone and playing games. The high refresh rate combined with the powerful hardware makes a genuine difference in day-to-day use.

As for the hardware, the Note 20 Ultra packs the latest tech this industry has to offer. There's 12GB of RAM as standard, the 128GB storage module is based on UFS 3.1, and the Snapdragon 865+ should last several years without any issues. There's also global 5G connectivity, so if you're interested in a phone that can connect to 5G networks once they go mainstream, the Note 20 Ultra is a great option.

Then there are the cameras on the back. The 108MP camera takes fantastic photos, and you get a lot of versatility with the 5x zoom lens and the wide-angle sensor. With 8K video recording, laser autofocus, and a suite of shooting modes, you're getting a big upgrade from the Note 9.

Samsung also made a lot of changes to the software over the last two years, and One UI 2.5 feels polished. The stylus is another area that got a lot of attention, with the S Pen now offering lower latency than ever before. Bring all the features together and you get one of the most powerful phones in 2020, and the obvious choice if you want to make the switch from the Galaxy Note 9.