Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: The first three things I noticed about Samsung's newest phone

Some initial thoughts about the camera bump, S Pen, and larger display.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Samsung on Wednesday announced the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, and while you can preorder the phone right now, it won't be available in stores until Aug. 21. 

A few hours ago, FedEx delivered a Mystic Bronze Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review unit. I immediately set it up, and have been poking around the interface. In no particular order, here are some features that have stood out to me so far. 

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When are phones going to quit growing?

I never did get a chance to use the Galaxy S20 Ultra, so the Note 20 Ultra is the first time I've used a Samsung phone with a 6.9-inch display. 

There's no other way to say it -- it's huge. Over time, I'm sure I'd adjust to holding the phone, and even learn to figure out one-handed use, but I'm going to need a healthy adjustment period before that happens. The curved edges of the screen help make it more manageable, which is something the standard Note 20 doesn't have. 

That said, the screen looks amazing. I briefly turned on the full 3088 x 1440 resolution and watched a couple of videos, and Samsung clearly still knows what it's doing with its displays. Colors are bright and vibrant, while blacks are deep and accurate. 

Unfortunately, when you switch to WQHD+ resolution, you lose out on the 120Hz refresh rate. So I'll be sticking with FHD+ resolution so I can take advantage of the faster refresh rate. Samsung doesn't apply 120Hz all of the time. Instead, it's adaptive, meaning the Note 20 Ultra will use the faster refresh rate when you're doing tasks that would benefit from it, like gaming or scrolling. 

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That camera bump...

On the back of the Note 20 Ultra is a 12MP ultra-wide camera, a 108MP wide-angle camera, and a 12MP telephoto lens with up to 50x zoom. The entire camera array, which includes those cameras plus a laser autofocus sensor, is... big. Not only in how wide and tall it is, but also how much it sticks out from the Note 20 Ultra's housing. 

Without a case, there's no way you can rest the phone on a table or desk and use it without it being extremely wobbly. 

For instance, if I wanted to use the Note 20 Ultra as a notebook during a meeting, leaving it on my desk, I can't. The uneven surface created by the camera bump means that the phone will move back and forth as I write from one side of the phone to the other. 

It's incredibly awkward, at best. 

I quickly snapped a couple of pictures of nearby houses at 50x zoom, and the photos look alright, but I'll need to get out and explore a bit more before I can say whether or not 50x zoom photos are going to be useful. 

For the record, I did find 30x on the Galaxy S20 Plus useful when taking landscape shots, but that was about it. Hopefully 50x has a similar utility. 

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The S Pen is faster now

Maybe it's just because I know the Note 20 Ultra's display and S Pen has a 9ms latency, but it sure feels faster to write on compared to the Note 10. 

There's no discernible difference between where the tip of the S Pen touches and where the digital ink on the screen shows up. 

One feature I had already dismissed as a gimmick and nothing I would use was the new S Pen Air actions for navigating the phone. 

But, after trying them a couple of times, I have to say, I kind of like them. To be clear, they are a little awkward and will take some practice to fully get the hang of, but I can see the thinking behind the idea, and how in regular use, they'll make getting around the Note easier when you're in the middle of a note-taking session, or already have the S Pen in your hand.

We'll have plenty more coverage around the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra in the coming days, including a full review and more comparisons. In the meantime, did you preorder a Note 20? If so, which one? Let us know in the comments below. 

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