Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max: Which should you buy?
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is one of the most feature-rich Android phones you can buy in 2020, and while some may see it as overkill, it's the perfect fit for others. The 120Hz display is buttery smooth, Samsung's ample software features allow for endless possibilities, and the included S Pen is a powerful tool for drawing or note-taking. Factor all that together with great performance, battery life, and cameras, and you end up with a premium smartphone through and through.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
iPhone 12 Pro Max
If you want the biggest and most powerful iPhone money can buy in 2020, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is for you. Terrible name aside, the Pro Max delivers on all fronts. The display is large and vibrant, the battery can easily make it through more than a full day of use, and Apple's new MagSafe accessories have tons of room to grow. The real star of the show is camera performance, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max delivering outstanding picture and video quality.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max are two of the biggest and most powerful smartphones you can buy, and both are easy to recommend to different groups of people. If you're a longtime Android user and want to stick with the operating system, the Note 20 Ultra offers some of the most robust features and specs out of any other handset on the market. Should you prefer iOS, the iPhone 12 Pro Max uses its large size to deliver the best battery and cameras out of any iPhone you can buy.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Price and availability
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max are two of the largest smartphones you can currently buy, and in addition to having big footprints, they also carry gigantic price tags.
If you're vying for the Note 20 Ultra, be prepared to spend at least $1,300. That's how much the base model with 128GB of storage costs, with the 512GB model going all the way up to $1,450. The phone can often be found on sale for $200 off that retail price, but it's still a pricey phone.
For those interested in the iPhone 12 Pro Max, it has a starting price of $1,099 for the baseline version with 128GB of storage. You can also get the phone in 256GB and 512GB flavors, with those costing $1,199 and $1,399, respectively.
You can buy the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra right now, while sales for the iPhone 12 Pro Max begin on Nov. 13.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Where the Note shines bright
Looking at the Note 20 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that both phones are among the best for their respective platforms. As such, they end up having a lot in common. No matter which one you end up choosing, you can expect fast performance, great displays, powerful cameras, and reliable battery life. However, as we start looking at some of the finer details between both phones, you start to see some key differences.
In the case of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, one of its biggest advantages over the iPhone 12 Pro Max is its screen. Not only is it a higher resolution compared to the iPhone, but you also get a 120Hz refresh rate. Whether you're scrolling through Twitter or navigating through endless emails, that 120Hz feature means everything you do on the Note will look faster and smoother compared to the iPhone.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Galaxy Note 20 Ultra||iPhone 12 Pro Max|
|Operating System||Android 10|
One UI 2.5
3088 x 1440
120Hz refresh rate
|6.7 -inch OLED|
2778 x 1284
60Hz refresh rate
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+||Apple A14 Bionic|
|Storage||128 or 512GB||128, 256, or 512GB|
|Rear Camera 1||108MP primary|
|Rear Camera 2||12MP telephoto|
|Rear Camera 3||12MP ultra-wide|
|Rear Camera 4||❌||LiDAR sensor|
|Battery||4,500 mAh||Up to 20 hours of video playback|
4.5W reverse wireless
7.5W MagSafe wireless
15W Qi wireless
|Dimensions||77.2 x 164.8 x 8.1mm||78.1 x 160.8 x 7.4mm|
|Colors||Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, and Mystic White||Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite, Silver|
Another huge benefit of the Note 20 Ultra is one of its most noteworthy features: the S Pen. Whether you plan on drawing, taking notes, or want a way to remotely take pictures, the S Pen is an invaluable tool that has so many use cases. Some people will benefit from it more than others, but if you can find ways to integrate it into your workflow, you'll be hard-pressed to use another phone without it.
There are also some smaller features you'll want to keep an eye out for. Only the Note 20 Ultra allows you to expand your internal storage with a microSD card, and thanks to Samsung Pay, you can use the Note to pay at virtually any store that accepts debit/credit cards (it uses MST and NFC payment technologies).
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max The iPhone wins with its cameras and battery
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a few tricks up its sleeve you shouldn't ignore, but that's not to say the iPhone 12 Pro Max doesn't have a few of its own. In fact, there are two main areas you should consider when deciding between the phones.
First and foremost, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a camera champion. The Note 20 Ultra has one of the most versatile camera systems we've seen this year, but the 12 Pro Max manages to edge it out. Apple's image processing is more natural-looking and true-to-life than Samsung's over-saturated aesthetic, low-light performance, and the new LiDAR sensor allows for the best AR experiences you can find on a modern smartphone. Apple also continues to reign supreme in the video department, with the 12 Pro Max supporting 4K video at 24, 30, and 60 FPS, not to mention it being able to record in Dolby Vision HDR.
As if that all wasn't enough, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will soon get Apple's ProRAW shooting mode — allowing you to take RAW photos that retain Apple's image processing.
The other big win for the iPhone 12 Pro Max is its battery. While Apple doesn't disclose an exact capacity size, reviews for the phone reveal it can get through well more than a day of regular use. The Note 20 Ultra also has good endurance, but the 12 Pro Max is the phone to get if you want as much battery life as possible.
We also want to mention Apple's new MagSafe system for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which looks to have enormous potential. Using a system of magnets on the back of the iPhone, Apple envisions a world where all of your accessories work around MagSafe. We've already seen chargers, car mounts, cases, and wallets designed with MagSafe in mind, and who knows what'll come down the pipeline over the coming months and years.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Two big phones we're happy to recommend
All of this is to say that both the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max are phenomenal devices. The Note's S Pen and 120Hz display give it some unique edges over the iPhone, but if you want industry-leading camera and battery performance, Apple has you covered.
For a lot of people, this comparison will ultimately come down to which operating system you prefer. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra runs Android and the iPhone 12 Pro Max is powered by iOS. We're not here to debate which platform is better than the other, so if that's the case for you, just buy the phone running the software you know you'll enjoy.
No matter which one you end up choosing, you're getting one of the best phones released this entire year.
Incredible specs, endless features
Searching for a massive Android phone with more features than you could ask for? That's exactly what you get with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The 6.9-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate is among the best we've seen, performance is blazing-fast, and you get great results with the cameras and battery. Not to mention, Samsung's S Pen allows for features that just aren't possible on the iPhone.
The absolute best iPhone you can buy
It's big, heavy, and expensive, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max stands out as the most powerful iPhone you can get right now. Assuming you can stomach its high price, the Pro Max rewards your spending with a huge display, outstanding battery life, and the best cameras Apple's ever put in a smartphone. The lack of a 120Hz display is a bummer, but if that doesn't bother you, everything else about the 12 Pro Max is the tops.
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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.