If you flip through the pages of my blog it won’t take long for you to conclude that I am rather fond of pen computing. I’ve written thousands of pages and produced countless works of digital art on nearly every type of pen enabled device made in the last twenty years. In my experience working with these machines, I have developed a strong affinity for two series. The Microsoft Surface and Galaxy Note lines of products are my favorites by far.
I love my Galaxy Note 10 Plus. I had planned on keeping it for several years. So when AT&T offered me a killer deal to trade it in, my initial reaction was, “no thanks”. My wife overheard the conversation and pointed out that I was in- fact, out of my mind. So with some concern that the new one wouldn’t be as good, I called them back and ordered the 20.
It arrived here a few days before the retail launch. I used Samsung’s Smart Switch feature to get moved in quickly and have been living on it for the last three days. I’m writing this post on what is already my new favorite phone. The Note series has always been Samsung’s “kitchen sink”, the device they throw everything into. I’m happy to report that the new one has not strayed from the path.
In terms of physical differences, the 20 is marginally bigger than the 10 Plus. Somehow it feels both larger and the same size. There is noticeably more screen real estate, but it doesn’t take much more room in your hand or pocket.
They’ve relocated the buttons to the right edge and the stylus to the bottom left. These changes have messed with my muscle memory a few times, but I’ll get used to them soon enough. Everything else is more or less in the same spot.
I was happy to see that the same LED Wallet Cover is available for the 20. It is an excellent addition to the Note line. I’ve been using them since the Note 8. They hold a couple of cards and show basic notifications on the cover. Between Samsung Pay, a backup debit card, and my driver’s license it’s the only thing I need to carry.
In terms of performance, the Note 20 Ultra is noticably faster at everyday tasks. Both systems are more powerful than they actually need to be. The Note 20 outpaces most of the laptops I have used recently. Where I really notice the speed boost is while using the S Pen in handwriting recognition mode. The delay before it decodes my chicken scratch is much shorter.
Samsung has reduced the lag on stylus input in the new model. I don’t notice the difference all that much while writing or pointing. Shading in my favorite drawing app is another story. There are also some new gestures. If you are a OneNote fan turn on it’s specific app gestures in the S-Pen settings menu. The S-Pens themselves are physically identical and feel the same to hold and write with.
The screen is phenomenal and a major improvement over the Note 10 Plus. One of the first things I did with the new one was to fire up Call of Duty Mobile and crank the graphics to their max. The 120 FPS is immediately evident. Whoever thought that we would see variable refresh rate technology in a phone? Just a short while ago only the most expensive gaming monitors could adjust to match the content. It isn’t just games that are able to benefit from the advancement. Scrolling though Instagram, Facebook, or other feeds is much smoother too.
I didn’t have the 5G edition of the Note 10 so I can’t compare it. I can say that 5G is awesome. Having mobile data that runs as fast as my home service is fantastic. With my mobile hotspot, I’ll never need to worry about crappy hotel Wi-Fi again.
Battery life seems better than the 10. I’ve been using the Note 20 all day, writing this post, taken several pics, played some TDM, listening to Spotify, and I’ve got 59% left. I haven’t run any official tests yet. I assume the ability of the screen to drop down to 10 FPS is having a positive effect. The Note 10 ran at 60 FPS regardless of what you were using it for.
That brings us to the camera. The Note 10 Plus has a great camera system. The three lense options and excellent software made it one of my favorite portable cameras of all time. The Note 20 Ultra’s camera package blows the 10’s out of the water. 5x optical zoom is an important milestone in mainstreame mobile devices. The 50x digital zoom should probably have been cutoff at 30 but that is the only fault I’ve noticed so far. The wide angle shots are jaw dropping when you show them on a 4k big-screen. Speaking of 4k, 60 FPS video is a great upgrade.
The Note 10 has Dex mode and I used it quite a bit. If you haven’t had the pleasure, Dex lets your phone become a computer. Your apps run in Windows on a full monitor with keyboard and mouse support. It’s one of the most underrated features on Samsung devices. The Note 20 takes Dex to the next level. Instead of having to plug-in to a screen with a compatible cable or dock, the Note 20 can run Dex on any wireless screen in range. This is huge. It could mean the end of carrying a laptop for me.
Look for a more detailed review of my Note Ultra 20 after I’ve had it for at least a month. So far it has proven to be a great addition to the Note line and a worthy upgrade.