Samsung Galaxy Note 20, Note 20 Ultra unveiled: Everything you need to know

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung unveiled today the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the latest versions of its flagship S Pen-equipped smartphones and the first with 5G connectivity. Apart from the 5G support, the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra don't break any major barriers, but there is enough here for stylus-wielders to consider upgrading. 

Among the highlights of these new phones is a new S Pen with greater responsiveness and accuracy than the previous version. This year's chip flavor is the Snapdragon 865+, which should provide a decent performance boost. And there were some updates made to the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra's displays and cameras, including the ability to shoot 8K video at 24fps. 

Oh, and it's worth reiterating: when the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra launch later this month, they will be the first in the Note series to support 5G, so you can get the fastest wireless speeds whenever they become available in your area. 

If you want to compare these two models, we've published a separate Note 20 vs Note 20 Ultra face-off. There are a lot more details to parse through, so without further ado, here is everything you need to know about the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra price and release date

The Galaxy Note 20 starts at $999 with a Snapdragon 865+ SoC, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The Note 20 Ultra starts at $1,299 and comes with 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Note 20 Ultra customers can upgrade to 512GB of storage or use the microSD card slot (not featured on the Note 20).

The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra will be available for pre-order on August 6 and will ship on August 21. 

AT&T customers can pre-order the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra on August 6 while in-store and online availability will begin on August 21. A limited time offer gets you the Note 20 for free when you trade-in a phone and buy it on a 30-month installment plan.

Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Galaxy Note 20Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Display (resolution, refresh rate)6.7-inch AMOLED (FHD+, 60Hz)6.9-inch AMOLED (WQHD+, 120Hz)
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 865+Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
MicroSD slotNoYes
Rear Cameras12MP f/1.8 (Wide-angle), 64MP f/2.0 (Telephoto), 12MP f/2.2 (Ultrawide)108MP f/1.8 (Wide-angle), 12MP f/3.0 (Telephoto), 12MP f/2.2 (Ultrawide)
Front camera10MP10MP
Battery size4,300 mAh4,500 mAh
Water resistanceIP68IP68
ColorsMystic Gray, Mystic Green, Mystic Bronze Mystic Black, Mystic White, Mystic Bronze
Size75.2 x 161.6 x 8.3mm77.2 x 164.8 x 8.1 mm

Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra design 

The Note 20 picks up where the Note 10 left off when it comes to design, retaining its tall, stately posture with gently curved edges and sharp right angles. 

Turn to the back and the first thing you'll notice are the three large circular lenses housed in a rectangular module. For whatever reason, people like to throw criticism at the shape of smartphone camera modules -- this one, at least to me, is inoffensive. 

I'm less thrilled about the new color options. Gone are the exciting rainbow hues of the Aura Flow finish and in its place are gray, green and bronze (Samsung's new signature color) on the Note 20 or black, bronze and white on the Note 20 Ultra. They look nice based on the press images, but come on Samsung, where is the excitement?

Following the Note 10's lead, the Note 20 doesn't have a headphone jack (boo!) or a dedicated Bixby button (yay!). The volume rocker and power button are on the right side of these phones, both of which are IP68 water-resistant. 

(Image credit: Samsung)

Their large 6.7-inch and 6.9-inch displays might suggest the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are unwieldy, and while that will certainly be true for some, Samsung has done a fine job of reducing the bezels to fit such a large screen in the smallest phone possible. 

At 6.36 x 2.96 x 0.3 inches and 6.8 ounces, the Galaxy Note 20 is larger and heavier than the Galaxy Note 10 (5.9 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches, 5.9 oz). The Note 20 Ultra is more similar to the Note 10 Plus (6.4 x 3.0 x .31 inches, 6.9 oz), coming in at 6.4 x 3 x 0.3 inches and 7.3 oz.

 Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra display

The displays on the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are considerably different, and it's not only about size. 

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Note 20 has a flat 6.7-inch, 2400 x 1080-pixel FHD+ panel whereas the Note 20 Ultra has a curved 6.9-inch, 3088 x 1440-pixel Ultra WQHD+ panel with Dynamic AMOLED 2x technology for 25% increase in brightness. 

This time, both displays are HDR10+ certified and have a 120Hz refresh rate so swipes and S Pen scribbles should feel silky-smooth.

Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra S Pen 

Every Galaxy Note owner's favorite feature is getting a long-overdue revamp. The all-new S Pen boasts some impressive enhancements.

(Image credit: Samsung)

Among the more exciting improvements is reduced latency from 42 milliseconds to just 9ms. Samsung says this will make the S Pen more responsive and accurate when compared to the one included with the Note 10. There should be virtually no delay between the time you move the stylus and when digital ink appears on the screen.

For some, Air Actions are gimmicky, for others, they're useful. If you're part of the latter group, you'll be happy to hear that Samsung has expanded Air Actions, which allow you to perform actions with a swipe of a hand, no screen-touching required. As before, the Bluetooth-enabled S pen has 4,096 levels of pressure and is rated to IP68 standards.

Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra performance and 5G 

The Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ SoC, which enables 5G connectivity and should provide a performance boost over the Snapdragon 855 in the Note 10. 

There are some subtle specs differences between the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra. With the smaller, less expensive phone, you get 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The Note 20 Ultra, on the other hand, has two configurations: with 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. 

Following the Galaxy S-series of phones, the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra now boast 5G connectivity. While still in its infancy, 5G promises to provide ultrafast data speeds, high capacity bandwidth and near-zero latency. We tested Verizon's 5G network with the Lenovo Flex 5G, and while it was inconsistent, we hit speeds of up to 1.2 gigabits per second.

Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra cameras

The camera setup also differs between these two devices. The biggest variance is that the main Note 20's main camera is 12-megapixel, F1.8 whereas the Note 20 Ultra has a 108MP, F1.8 camera similar to the one on the Galaxy S10 Ultra.

Both phones have a 12MP, F2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens with a 120-degree field of view so you can take cityscape and landscape photography without stitching photos together. 

(Image credit: Samsung)

The third lens, used for zoom, favors the Note 20, at least on paper. The smaller phone uses a 64MP, F2.0 lens to capture zoomed-in images. The Note 20 Ultra relies on a 12MP, F3.0 to get up-close to its subjects. That said, the Note 20 Ultra can "Space Zoom" up to 50x using a combination of optical and digital zoom while the Note 10 stops at 30x. 

And finally, only the Note 20 Ultra has a Laser AF Sensor designed to improve the speed and reliability of focusing on a subject (something the Galaxy S20 Ultra had problems with). 

(Image credit: Samsung)

Note phones have always excelled in the video department and the Note 20 Ultra is taking things to the next level with 8K (!) video recording at 24 frames per second for what Samsung claims is "cinematic-style film making." For videographers who need more control, the Ultra lets you change exposure, zoom speed control and audio inputs. And on that point, you can change audio sources between internal and external sources.

Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra battery life

(Image credit: Samsung)

Here is where things get interesting. The Note 20 Ultra has a 4,500mAh battery, which is notably smaller than the 5,000mAh battery in the Galaxy S10 Ultra, which also has a 6.9-inch display. What this means for battery life remains to be seen, but we'll be sure to put the Note 20 through its paces when we get it in the lab.

The Note 20 has a 4,300 mAh battery, a big jump up from the 3,500mAh battery in the Note 10. 

The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra support fast charging when connected to a USB-C cable or when placed on a Qi wireless charger. 

 Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 outlook

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra might look like incremental upgrades but there is enough to get excited about. For one, they are the first Note phones with 5G support, making them futureproof. They also come with a new S Pen that promises to be more responsive than the previous one. And new cameras and updated displays sweeten the deal. 

Do all of these updates justify the $999 starting price for the cheaper of the two phones? We'll have a better idea once we get our hands on the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra. Until then, things are shaping up nicely for the beloved phablet.

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy is the assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag where he reviews laptops, phones and other gadgets while covering the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News covering 5G and IoT. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, traveling or watching soccer.