This year, the new Samsung Galaxy S20 range is getting the S20 Ultra, a hormone-boosted version with an impressive 6.9-inch screen and a brand new photo frame with a 108-megapixel sensor.
As expected, it was at the beginning of February, just before MWC 2020, which ultimately did not take place, that Samsung had formalized its new premium smartphones, the Galaxy S20. And as was already the case last year, the 2020 vintage comes in three models, with the Samsung Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 + and Galaxy S20 Ultra.
In this test, we are interested in the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, the most expensive and most advanced of the Galaxy S20 this year. Indeed, there arrives an impressive screen of 6.9 inches which is even larger than that of the Galaxy Note10 + of the last school year. But that’s not all, if the Note10 + took over the photo block from the S10 + with some improvements, the S20 Ultra arrives with a brand new photo block whose main sensor offers a resolution of 108 Megapixels. Now, with all the on-board innovations, the Galaxy S20 Ultra will not revolutionize the world of smartphones, but it is still pushing the limits of what Samsung can offer in the premium smartphone segment. We tested it for almost two weeks and as much to say it right away, it’s a success.
Features and Packaging
As a reminder of the features, the new Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra offers you:
|Galaxy S20 Ultra|
|Screen||– Dynamic AMOLED 6.9 inch
– Flat screen in 20: 9 format
– 1440×3200 definition (Quad HD +)
– Density 511ppp
– HDR10 +
– 240Hz Touch Sensor
– Gorilla Glass 6
– Punch in the center
|Design||– Aluminum outline
– Glass back
|SoC and GPU||– Exynos 990 (Max. 2.73GHz + 2.6GHz + 2.0 GHz)
– GPU Mali-G76 MP12
– 7nm engraving
|Memory||– 12GB or 16GB of RAM
– 128GB or 512GB of storage
– Micro-SD memory port up to 1TB
|Colors||– Cosmic Gray
– Cosmic Black
|Camera||– 108 MP main sensor
– Nona-binning technology (9 pixels in 1) 12.4 MP
– Aperture f / 1.8 and Optical Stabilization
– Dual Pixel Autofocus
– 4x 48 MP telephoto sensor
– Quad-binning technology (4 pixels in 1) 12MP
– F / 3.5 aperture and Optical Stabilization
– 12 MP ultra wide angle sensor
– FoV 123 ° and Aperture F / 2.2
– TOF Depth Vision sensor
– Automatic HDR photo
– Night Mode on 30 images
– Hybrid Optic Zoom 10x
– Space Zoom 100x (digital)
– 8K video capture at 30fps
– Single Shot mode
– 40 MP front sensor
|Audio||– AKG stereo speaker
– Dolby Atmos
– no 3.5mm jack
|Drums||– 5000 mAh
– Super Fast Charging 25W
– Super Fast Charging 2.0 45W optional
– USB-C port
– Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
– Wireless Powershare
|Connectivity||– Ultrasonic fingerprint reader under the screen
– Bluetooth 5.0
– WiFi 6
– 2x nano-SIM
– 5G sub-6
|Software||– Android 10
– One UI 2.1
|Height and weight||– 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm
|Price||S20 Ultra 5G 128GB / 12GB: € 1,359
S20 Ultra 5G 512GB / 16GB: N / A
|availability date||March 13, 2020|
On the packaging side, we find the black rectangular cardboard box and as usual, we are entitled to a USB-C to USB-C cable and no longer USB-A, a 25W USB charger, a USB-C to USB adapter -A, AKG in-ear headphones / hands-free kits and instructions for first use. Nothing very original in itself.
For its price, count 1359 € for the 128GB version with 12GB of RAM. A 512GB version with 16GB is well planned, but we don’t have a date yet.
With a screen that covers the entire front surface, it’s hard to revolutionize the genre. The biggest difference from last year’s S10 is the adoption of the punch in the center of the screen for the front camera, as on the Note10. On our side, we prefer, perhaps more out of habit than anything else. With a 6.9-inch screen, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is now the largest of the Galaxy S and Note. But where Samsung is strong is that the S20 Ultra is not that different in terms of size compared to an iPhone 11 Pro Max for example. The size is ultimately quite similar because the S20 Ultra is a smartphone in 20: 9 format, so long.
If we find the metal outline and the glass back, we would have liked Samsung to take more risks as it had been the case with the Note10 + and its mesmerizing back with a multitude of colors. We find ourselves on the S20 Ultra with a relatively basic gray or black color and annoying limit. Afterwards, it’s sober and elegant, but so boring. Give us the Galaxy Note10 Aura Glow! Because it remains a Galaxy S, we find more rounded corners and therefore this side more general public. On the photo block side, Samsung did not try to be discreet with an impressive but all the same impressive photo block. It is almost a quarter of the back surface of the smartphone and above all, it is thick, which makes the smartphone wobbly when it is placed flat on a table. A case is almost mandatory if you are looking to erase the thickness of the photo block.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is an XL smartphone and claims to be such. Using it with one hand remains somewhat complicated but it is not impossible, especially since Samsung has integrated in its OneUI some options to facilitate the use with one hand. In any case, with one hand, the palm of the hand mistakenly presses on the bottom of the screen. And for the weight, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is clearly not one of the lightest with its 220g. Now it’s still less than an iPhone 11 Pro Max but 24g more than a Galaxy Note 10+ or 14g more than a OnePlus 7T Pro for example. In a pocket, it feels immediately, but more than the weight, it is especially the length of the smartphone that is felt. We would have liked to be able to fold it (see the test of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip HERE).
As on the Galaxy S10 + or Galaxy Note10 +, the fingerprint sensor is of the ultra-sonic type and is located under the screen. So, unlike those offered by Huawei, Oppo or OnePlus, it does not need light to operate. In addition, it can work even if your fingers are wet. This is a new version and if it remains slower than a real physical sensor, the S20 Ultra’s sensor is faster and more precise than what we had with the S10 + / Note10 +. So less whim and more efficiency, and that’s all we asked for since the S10. And finally, important point, the power and / or standby button as well as the volume buttons are now all on the right edge, which is good for right-handers and less for left-handers.
Screen and Audio
You’re getting closer and closer to a tablet with a 6.9-inch screen. We remind you that an iPad mini is a 7.9 inch screen, and that it was not that long ago, we had 7 inch tablets… The fact remains that there is a Dynamic AMOLED panel but this year, Samsung has decided to ignore curved screens. The Galaxy S20 therefore offer a flat screen. Why ? Simply because screen technologies have evolved so much that screen edges are now relatively thin and there is no longer any need to “simulate” the “infinite” screen with curved edges. If the screens are flat, the edges are always curved, just like the back, always well curved, a little to remind and keep a relationship with the previous Galaxy S. We will finally note that the screens are even longer since they are all in 20: 9 format compared to 19.5: 9 on the recent Galaxy Note10.
The screen edges are very thin, the definition is always Quad HD +, the panels are HDR10 + certified and the big news that many expected, the Galaxy S20 Ultra (and the other S20 also) all offers a refresh rate of 120Hz (as the Asus ROG Phone II, 90Hz on the OnePlus 7T and 7 / 7T Pro or the Pixel 4) and that’s not all since the Galaxy S20 Ultra offers a 240Hz touch sensor, which reduces response time on each press on the screen and therefore be more efficient on games like Call of Duty Mobile for example. We will come back to this later but the 5000mAh battery is not there without justification and we suspect that a 120Hz screen consumes more than a 60Hz screen.
In terms of display finesse, if everything is played at the level of the figures, I challenge you to find a difference with the naked eye for all that is display finesse at the level of texts and others. The blacks are very deep and the colors are obvious to you. To be very sensitive to colors because of my passion for photography, there is no problem there. Samsung is doing it again with color honors. The colorimetry is mastered. The viewing angles are very good and the brightness is excellent. As a result, I had no problem with visibility in direct sunlight and only happiness on a daily basis and when watching multimedia content.
To return to the 120Hz refresh rate, it currently only works with Full HD + definition. Samsung has told us that an update will come to activate Quad HD + at 120Hz but given the energy consumption, this may not be the best idea. It would be good if Samsung detects when you need 120Hz more and when you need Quad HD + definition more. The main interest of a 120Hz screen is the overall fluidity and as we spend our days scrubbing pages or timelines, the interest is seen quite quickly on web pages, Twitter or Instagram. Afterwards, to be honest, it’s not an obligation either and coming back to smartphones with “simple” 60Hz screens doesn’t really pose any problems. You really have to be a screen nerd to feel a gene.
Samsung finally offers stereo speakers and with Dolby Atmos support, everything can simulate 360 ° sound. Obviously, we are talking about loudspeakers and the uses that result from it, you will not be able to power a movie theater either, will you? It should be expected, the Galaxy S20 Ultra no longer offers a 3.5mm jack port. We’re in the wireless era and if it could still hinder some people, we must recognize that it is less and less a priority for many. The fact remains that the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra comes with excellent quality AKG headphones. No complaints.
5G, One UI, Performance and Autonomy
Before we attack performance, let’s talk about 5G. And it’s going to be simple since we don’t have 5G in France yet. Suddenly, we could not test and as we do not belong to large groups integrating SFR, Free or Orange, we will have to wait. The advantage all the same of the Galaxy S20 Ultra is that it will only be available in 5G version, with obviously 4G compatibility, so we will have no choice and we can test 5G from that it will be available, or if we are abroad.
Android side, no surprise in itself, we obviously find the OneUI overlay which we always find pleasant and super complete. The contribution of 120Hz is more than appreciable on a daily basis. The experience is generally quite close to Android Stock with a few small optimizations and additions. We will note, typically, the possibility of being able to keep certain applications in memory for a faster opening, or just so that they never stop. We think for example of music applications like Spotify. So, we were a little afraid for autonomy but there was no impact on a daily basis. There are a few new features like adding Spotify to alarms but nothing really big either. And finally, there is DeX which can work as well alone as on a PC or Mac. When will a laptop dedicated to DeX and with just a screen, a keyboard, a trackpad and a monster battery on which it can only work with a smartphone with a DeX type function?
In terms of performance, the Galaxy S20 Ultra in its European version offers an Exynos 990 SoC. In terms of performance and according to the benchmarks, there are not too many surprises, it is a high-end SoC and like for a few years now, the power of these SoCs has exceeded our needs, so apart from benchmarks, this will not necessarily change our daily lives. Obviously, I tried all the recent games like Asphalt 9, Brawl Stars, Call of Duty Mobile, Shadowgun Wars or PUBG Mobile and there is not much to say, it was fluid. However, according to feedback from the Snapdragon 865 version, we regret that Samsung did not choose to offer us this version (even Korea abandoned the Exynos then …).
The Galaxy S20 Ultra offers a 5000mAh battery, which may seem enormous, but considering the screen diagonal of 6.9 inches, already, then the refresh rate of 120Hz and the SoC Exynos, which consume visibly more than its accomplice At Qualcomm, it is ultimately a minimum to offer a smartphone capable of holding a full day. If we had a few scares on the autonomy the first days, the S20 Ultra has adapted to my habits and more since the update, which allows me to easily last a whole day. In my practice, I rotate between 4h and 5h of screen per day and before the update, I arrived at the end of the day around 20%. It’s clearly not the best, but it’s worse. There is fast charging as well as Qi and PMA compatible wireless charging. For fast charging, this is the one we had with the Galaxy Note10 +, namely the possibility of recharging your smartphone from 0 to 100% in just over an hour.
I remind you that Android learns from your uses (a week in general) and if the benchmarks can give a sort of ranking between different smartphones, they are not necessarily representative of reality. Here are several captures with what I did with it. This allows you to better appreciate the uses.
What does the Galaxy S20 Ultra give in photos?
We get to the photo and this is where the Galaxy S20 Ultra stands out not only from other competitors but also from other S20s. The photo block is brand new and this, both in terms of its features and its imposing design on the back. We thus find a main sensor of 108 Megapixels with nona-binning technology which allows to merge 9 pixels in 1 and therefore photos at output of 12.4 Megapixels. Added to this is a 4x optical telescopic zoom similar to what we knew on the Huawei P30 Pro or Oppo Reno Zoom 10x. With the 108 Megapixel sensor, Artificial Intelligence, and telescopic zoom, the Galaxy S20 Ultra offers a 10x hybrid zoom and a digital zoom up to 100x and a level of x30 rather usable. We will also note a front camera with a 40 megapixel sensor and therefore the quad-binning technology which allows to merge 4 pixels into 1 and therefore to output 10 megapixel selfies.
With this new photo block, Samsung has somewhat revised its photo application in order to simplify it on a daily basis and offer a user experience relatively close to that of the iPhone photo application, but while keeping many options at hand. Note for example an excellent interface to easily zoom from 0.6x to 100x. We find all the software functions of the Galaxy S10 as a better AI for scene recognition, better detection of closed eyes or HDR mode, Live Focus, and the essential Night mode which will have the particularity of operating even with the ‘ultra wide-angle, this is not the case on the iPhone 11 for example. Above all, we will note a new mode which is not the one we think about it all the time but which can prove to be practical. We are talking about Single Take mode. Basically, with one click, the smartphone takes no less than 5 styles of photos (AI Best Moment, Ultra Wide Shot, Live Focus, AI Filter, Smart Crop) and 4 styles of videos up to 10 seconds (Forward and Backward Video, Forward Video, Backward Video, Original Video). So, we capture, in a single take, different types of content from a present moment that we can easily share on social networks. Convenient when you think about it!
What interests us first is this new 108-megapixel sensor that allows you to take photos in both 12 megapixels and 108 megapixels. In practice, taking photos in 108 Megapixels does not make too much sense except if you do it for a certain reason. The photos are large but it is undeniable that they provide a fairly impressive level of detail when you crop the photo. We will note a small loading time with each shot so we will dodge the gusts. With such a sensor, it will be noted that it offers an already larger physical size than the rest of the sensors. Also, we end up with a most flattering natural bokeh. And this is where we realize that the objectives of a smartphone reach a certain limit when working on very high resolutions. Indeed, when you take a photo in 108 Megapixels, the separation between the sharp plane and the bokeh is not marked enough as on a real reflex. Also, we will have this impression of blurring around the plane of sharpness (where the focus is done). We think that the general public will not necessarily pay attention but an informed eye sees it immediately.
In the photos below, the original photo in 108 Megapixels is 12000 × 9000 for a weight of about thirty megabytes. So, I offer you a version resized in 3000 × 2250 (approximately) and I cropped on an area with the same size on the original photo:
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is one of those rare smartphones capable of zooming very far. Indeed with a 4x periscope zoom, the S20 Ultra is able to zoom in hybrid up to 100x. We prefer to warn you immediately, if the 100x remains a technical feat, the result is unusable in reality. This could be used for example to read a sign in the distance but no more. On the other hand, the 10x hybrid zoom is more than convincing with impressive results and quite usable. The Zoom 30x is a bit between the two with exploitable results but at the cost of a certain lack of sharpness and contrast, but this is impressive since we are talking about a smartphone! Besides, just for fun, I found that cropping in a photo zoomed in 30x allows a slightly more convincing result than the 100x zoom, which is quite logical since the 100x zoom is purely digital. So yes, we know that some have fallen on Samsung and this 100x zoom which is more marketing than anything else, some have even gone as far as to describe the photo block as “missed”, which is stupid to the extent that they disregard the performance of the S20 Ultra up to 30x and that no smartphone is really capable of. To give you an idea, the quality of a photo in 30x on the S20 Ultra is better than an iPhone 11 Pro in 10x … In short!
Examples of photos with different zooms:
But suddenly, what interests us here remains the quality of the photo in general and we can reassure everyone, the S20 Ultra is doing very well. The colors remain a bit too warm compared to normal and therefore contrasted by default. As is often the case with the Korean manufacturer, it is slightly underexposed, which tends to cause details to be lost in dark areas. There was a firmware update that could fix some autofocus issues. Indeed, you should know that the S20 Ultra does not benefit from a Dual Pixel autofocus like the S20 and S20 + and this, because of its new sensor. As a result, the autofocus tended to skate. The update has fixed this behavior but there are times when the S20 Ultra will remain in the blur, especially when the focus must be on a subject near the smartphone. This is a concern that can also be linked to the fact that the main sensor’s lens remains behind compared to what the 108-megapixel sensor can ask for. Suddenly, on fairly close photos, the focus area is perfectly clear, the background with a rather pleasant natural bokeh and an in-between not necessarily clear but not necessarily blurred. This is clearly due to a lens optimized for smaller sensors but for that one. Finally a quick note on the ultra wide angle which is of good quality, it is not as sharp as with the Mate30 Pro from Huawei but it is much better than the iPhone 11. We will finally note that the mode Night of the S20 Ultra is capable of using the ultra wide-angle, which is not the case of the iPhone 11 for example.
In low light conditions, Samsung offers from the S10 + a Night mode. The latter has been revised to be able to take even more photos in order to combine them (30 photos against 14 on the Galaxy Note10 +). If the highlights are well contained and the details present, we would have liked Samsung to dwell on it a little more to better optimize the rendering and perhaps make more detailed photos. Truth be told, there were times, there was no difference between a photo in automatic mode and a photo in Night mode. In automatic mode, the Galaxy S20 Ultra recognizes night scenes well and favors a nice rendering of details but with a white balance which is largely perfectible. We don’t necessarily ask for the daylight side of the Pixels, but perhaps one in between like Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro. It’s a choice.
Better than words, concrete examples:
Finally, on the front, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is not content with a simple 10-megapixel sensor like the S20 and S20 + but offers an impressive 40-megapixel sensor with the famous quad-bining technology that can merge 4 pixels into 1 and therefore to have more information. In reality, this translates into more detailed photos. With all this information, we would have liked more impressive photos, it’s better than the competition or even the S20 and S20 + but not obvious.
For video, the new Galaxy S20s are now capable of recording video up to 4K at 60fps and 8K at 24fps. Be careful, with this resolution, there will only be a digital stabilization and as much to say it immediately, it is not really great in terms of stability. So yes, 8K is not Full HD or even 4K, but we would have liked better mastery of the “Rolling Shutter”, for example. Afterwards, for still shots, 8K videos will impress with the swarming details, especially in good light conditions. Besides, from these 8K videos, you will be able to extract 8K photos from 33 Megapixels. The quality will depend on your stabilization at this precise moment. So in the end, if we want to film in 8K, we will limit ourselves to still shots.
Next to it, there is of course the recording of videos in 4K at 60fps and slow motion of up to 960fps in 720p and 240fps in Full HD. Note the presence of optical stabilization on these more conventional resolutions. The Galaxy S20 Ultra still offers an Action-Cam video mode super stabilized at 1080p. In all cases, as for the photo, the autofocus remains a bit slow, compared to the competition, but also to the S20 and S20 +. Samsung always includes a small video editor to quickly edit your videos. Note that if you want to do more, Adobe Rush is optimized for the Samsung smartphone.
Where to buy it?
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is available at the official price of 1359 euros.