07/26 Update below. This post was originally published on July 23
Thanks to a sensational leak by the always reliable WinFuture, we now have high resolution official images of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra as well as a detailed breakdown of its specifications. WinFuture has also attained images and specifications for the entry-level Galaxy Note 20 and it confirms what we already knew: this is a highly problematic phone.
07/25 Update: Remarkably, Samsung has now opened reservations for the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra on its website ahead of both phones being announced, with the promise of a $50 instant credit when you do so. While the company doesn’t explicitly reveal the two models, the accompanying preview video shows an S Pen in the new Mystic Bronze finish and the small print acknowledges that “Galaxy Note” is a trademark of Samsung Electronics. At this stage, Samsung is clearly aware the cat is out of the bag and that the leaked images and specifications (listed below) are correct. As such, the gap between the two models could hardly be greater. The Note 20 Ultra looks like one of the best Galaxy phones in years and the Note 20 appears to be one of the most underwhelming. If you can’t afford a Note 20 Ultra, the soon-to-be heavily discounted Galaxy Note 10 Plus would represent a better buy than the standard Note 20.
07/26 Update: users tempted to reserve a new Galaxy Note smartphone, now have a good idea of what they will cost. SamMobile reports that Samsung is set to launch the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra at similar price points in South Korea to the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus (which the Ultra replaces). This results in price points of 1.199 million won ($998) for the Note 20 and 1.452 million won ($1,209) for the Note 20 Ultra, which also aligns closely with US pricing from last year. That said, these prices are problematic because the Note 20 is far from being a $1,000 smartphone (especially with Galaxy S20 prices plummeting) and the Note 20 Ultra, while cheaper than the S20 Ultra, will still cost more than Apple’s flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max, making it unlikely to convert iPhone owners. The Note 20 Ultra will be Samsung’s best phone of the year but that, in itself, may no longer be enough.
Looking at the Note 20 Ultra, however, Samsung has clearly created a smartphone which is a class above the Galaxy S20 range. The design is both an evolution of the Note 10 Plus and S20 Ultra. It refines the styling of the former with even smaller bezels and new S Pen with a remarkable 9ms of latency, while incorporating the power packed specifications of the S20 Ultra (details below) and improving on them with an industry-first LPTO display, improved chipset and essential camera changes.
By contrast, the Galaxy Note 20 looks more like a ‘Note 20 Lite’. Unlike every Galaxy S20 model, the Note 20 lacks a high refresh rate display while its design has taken a step backwards from the Note 10 with larger bezels and a surprisingly thick chin. Compared to the Note 20 Ultra, it also has less memory and storage, a lower resolution camera, lower latency S Pen and smaller battery.
My one concern for both models, however, is the Exynos 990 chipset which will ship to buyers outside the US. The 990 was already inferior to the Snapdragon 865 and a faster 865+ is coming to US buyers, which will only widen the gap further. Samsung’s in-house chip division is in trouble.
Despite this, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra looks a cut above every Samsung phone released this year, while its price looks set to significantly undercut the S20 Ultra. Potential buyers should also brace themselves: the release is less than two weeks away. Meanwhile, potential Galaxy Note 20 buyers should elsewhere or spend more to get the Ultra model.
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