Live By The S Pen, Die By The S Pen
HWM Singapore|November 2020
Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra
Liu Hongzuo

Fans of the Samsung Galaxy Note smartphones have waited a long year for the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Note20 series. As one of the last few smartphones with a stylus still seeing hardware refreshes on the market, the Galaxy Note20 phones appeal to a very specific niche of people who find the S Pen more productive and intuitive than swiping on a mobile device.

In the hardware arena, the 5G-ready Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra has a curved edge 6.9-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O display that supports 120Hz refresh and 240Hz touch sampling rates. The main draw is the improved S Pen with faster input latency of just 9ms, on par with the S Pen found on the Galaxy Tab S7+. Part of the Note20 Ultra’s triple-rear camera configuration was inspired by the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s, with the 108MP wide-angle camera making a return.

The Galaxy Note20 Ultra carries a design language that’s prominently Samsung’s. It has curved edges on the long side and metal rims framing the device ever so slightly. Textured Haze - what Samsung named their diffused finish - was chosen because it was partial towards neutral colour palettes. This was apparently key to the ‘calm’ appearance of the device.

The 8.1mm thickness gives the Note20 Ultra considerable heft, but it also makes the device sit securely in your hand. Next to the S Pen’s holding slot (at the bottom left) is one-half of its dual speakers (with the other hidden within the call speaker), followed by a centrally located USB Type-C port. The opposite end of the device hides a dual SIM card tray with a hybrid second slot that can take microSDs.

While it’s the epitome of Samsung’s elegance and refinement, the phone’s design does have its quirks as well. It’s almost as if it’s competing with the Huawei P40 Pro+ in having the most inconvenient lens housing among all 2020 phones.

Samsung relies on its proprietary One UI interface for the Note20 Ultra’s Android 10 base OS. What’s new, however, isn’t only the reduced S Pen latency of 9ms, but also Anywhere Actions: five additional Harry Potter-like gestures for phone navigation.

The Microsoft integration feature which was around since Android 7.0 phones and iOS phones - is indeed more integrated on the Note20 Ultra device. Samsung has a specially built Link to Windows app, offering the ability to run your Note20 Ultra apps on the PC itself.

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