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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review – Is The Zoom Worth It?

The new Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G phone is known for its ultimate processing power and its new 100x “space zoom” camera. I have tested the highly advertised space zoom lens during a bright sunny day and at night. Both have its own pros and cons. Now this is my review on the new Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.

My first look at the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is the massive size and feels a tad heavy. It is also quite thick as compared to other flagship devices but we all know that the size and thickness is to accommodate the top-of-the-line camera modules. And boy they are a joy.

First Look & Design

Putting the size aside, I feel that the Galaxy S20 is made to set its own persona and in this case, being an elegant monster. I really don’t mind the size and weight. It just feels solid. Of course if you want something smaller, you can always get the normal S20 which is smaller and lighter. But I like this monster in particular.

I received the Cosmic Grey version of the S20 Ultra. Only two colour variants available for the Ultra 5G edition and the other available colour is Cosmic Black. Very aptly named because they included the space zoom in it as well. Get it? Nevermind.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review

Most of Samsung’s flagships comes in this black box, which is nice. Inside the box you will find all the standard stuffs like the earphones tuned by AKG, USB type-C cable and the charging port, a silicon case to protect your S20 and the user manual that no one reads.

The S20 Ultra fits well in my hand but typing in one hand proved a little bit difficult. So for those who have this phone will need both hands to type. The volume rocker and power button sits on the right side of the phone (as usual) while there’s nothing on the left side. The SIM and MicroSD slot is located at the top of the device along with a tiny microphone hole.

At the bottom you can find the usual ports such as the USD type-C charging and data port, bottom blasting speaker and another tiny microphone hole. You won’t find a headphone/earphone jack here so you need to plug in the accompanied USB type-C earphone instead.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?

The selfie camera is a punch hole type located right at the top on the front side of the phone. And at the back of the phone, you can find the huge camera module that houses 4 cameras and 1 LED flash. The flagship camera here is the huge 108MP sensor on the main shooter, the 100x “space zoom” and 10x hybrid optical zoom camera. Of course it also comes with ultra-wide angle camera setup to squeeze that extra person in a group photo.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review

Display is amazing. I tried running a 60fps 1080p videos with the S20’s 120Hz FHD display, it was awesome. Super smooth, highly vibrant and no lag video playback. The resolution and fluidity of the video is amazing. I really love the punchy colours and at 120Hz, it’s a whole new experience.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review

That paired with AKG tuned Dolby Atmos stereo speakers bumped it up another notch. The S20 Ultra has a speaker at the bottom but it also uses the ear-piece at the top as a speaker. The sound quality may not be out of this world but it does its job to give you that surround experience.

Now lets take a quick look at the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G specifications.

  • SoC: Exynos 990 (7 nm+) Octa-core (2×2.73 GHz Mongoose M5 & 2×2.50 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • GPU: Mali-G77 MP11
  • OS: Android 10, One UI 2
  • Memory: 128GB 12GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 512GB 16GB RAM
  • Display:
    Dynamic AMOLED 2X capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
    6.9 inches, 114.0 cm2 (~89.9% screen-to-body ratio)
    1440 x 3200 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~511 ppi density)
    120Hz@FHD/60Hz@QHD refresh rate
  • Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 6
  • Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 5000 mAh battery
  • Camera:
    108 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
    Periscope 48 MP, f/3.5, 103mm (telephoto), 1/2.0″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 10x hybrid optical zoom
    12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1.4µm, Super Steady video
    0.3 MP, TOF 3D, f/1.0, (depth)
  • Selfie Camera: 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 0.7µm, PDAF
  • Sensors: Fingerprint (under display, ultrasonic), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
  • Colours: Cosmic Grey, Cosmic Black

Performance & Usage

Previously, I am able to use Antutu 3D to benchmark all the phones that I review. But ever since Google Playstore pulled out Antutu from its list, I have to use another benchmarking app to test the power of the S20 Ultra. That, and my usual PUBG Mobile gaming sessions.

Well lets go over to my overall gaming experience with the Galaxy S20 Ultra first. PUBG mobile is able to run on the fullest and highest graphic settings on this phone. When I run the game at its fullest graphic settings at normal 60Hz refresh rate, it was flawless. The graphic was so good and smooth. I even turned on the shadows for more realistic effects. It was so smooth that I totally love the rendering.

Now I turn on the 120Hz refresh rate settings for the display, run the game again to see what kind of graphics I will get. It was even better. I have seen a more smoother movements in my days of playing PUBG Mobile. It was liquid smooth. I know that this S20 is made for gaming and it’s so true. I’m loving the graphics that I got two chicken dinners in a row during my first few games with the Galaxy S20 Ultra. And because of that, I started streaming my game plays on my Facebook. It’s THAT good.

This is probably the highest spec device that I’ve tried so far. I wouldn’t know how other flagships perform on heavy graphics. So this is entirely my own experience with the most powerful device that I’ve reviewed. This and the Galaxy Tab S6, and Galaxy Fold too.

On to the benchmark. I use 3D Mark app for this. It is similar to Antutu 3D benchmark app whereby it plays a really heavy 3D graphic rendering software to see how the device performs. So the S20 Ultra device that I tested received a final score of 5,633 and 5,330 on OpenGL ES 3.1 and Vulkan GPU settings respectively. It also sits at number 14 in the list of devices which is not bad. The Snapdragon 865 variant of the S20 performs way better than the Exynos version.

On heavy graphics use, the phone tends to heat up a little bit. I guess this is normal for every devices out there, especially when it’s made for gaming. Hence they other gaming phones are putting in their own cooling systems such as liquid based or tiny fan inside the phone. Just remember, heavy graphics and processing power required extra energy and will produce heat.

Speaking of energy, the S20 Ultra comes with a 5,000mAh Li-Po battery. The whole 5,000mAh storage managed to keep the S20 Ultra alive for more than a day. In fact, I only have to recharge it at the end of the 2nd day after it is fully charged. Or at the end of the day if I play games all day long.

But if you’re not a gaming person, the Galaxy S20 Ultra can last close to 3 days if you’re only using it for social media and messaging. I managed to extend it to 3 days when using it for normal use.

Another thing that I liked with the S20 is the improved ultrasonic under-display fingerprint scanner/sensor. It managed to scan my fingerprint quickly and more accurate than the previous flagships (other than the Note10). Last time I need to place my finger at the exact point at the front display. Sometimes I need to press a little so that it can scan my fingerprint. With the S20 Ultra, it scans quickly and accurately. So this is an improved function, a big plus for S20 series.

Camera & Photography

Before we begin, here’s a quick recap on the S20’s camera setup.

  • Camera:
    108 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
    Periscope 48 MP, f/3.5, 103mm (telephoto), 1/2.0″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 10x hybrid optical zoom
    12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1.4µm, Super Steady video
    0.3 MP, TOF 3D, f/1.0, (depth)
  • Selfie Camera: 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 0.7µm, PDAF
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review

This is where most people are looking forward to. It’s the real world usage of the camera and this will help in making that final decision for the purchase.

The most talked about camera function and how it performs. Every one wants to know how the 100x space zoom looks like. What is the end result and is it really good? I’m going to just tell you this. This is a hybrid zoom function and the 100x zoom is mostly digital zoom, not optical zoom. The 10x optical zoom however, is available in this S20 and we can see how it goes from the gallery below.

Ready to see the results? Here goes…

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Ultra-wide angle test indoors.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Food photos.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review
A beautiful day at the beach. Ultra-wide angle. But wait…
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Lets zoom in a little bit. Is that an island? – Normal wide angle.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review
Oh! It is an island. 5x optical zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Looks like they have some sort of a jetty there. 10x optical zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
It is a jetty. And a house too maybe? Good place to go fishing. 50x digital zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
If there’s anyone on that island, we can see them. Full 100x space zoom.

At full 100x space zoom, I need a steady hand to take the picture. Lots of shakes occurred. Perhaps having a tripod would be a good idea too. But alas, I didn’t have any with me at the time. So the end result is a little bit blurry. I’m sure it can be better if I have a tripod.

That was day time space zoom. How about night time? See below.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review
Beautiful night before the MCO.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Let’s zoom a little bit. 5x optical zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Can still see the details. And no, I wasn’t spying. 10x optical zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Night time shooting was not that good. I stopped at 50x digital zoom.

Night time space zoom not that good unless you have a tripod. I wanted to push all the way to 100x space zoom but I can’t make out the image at all. All I saw was just light and lines. So to shoot at night, use a tripod. But overall night photography is really good.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
In almost complete darkness other than the lights above. Captured this using the Single Take mode.

Before I forget, the single take function is the best function you can use on the S20 Ultra. What it does is, the phone will capture a few type of shots within 5 to 10 seconds including videos and display the best looking ones for you to choose from. I use this function a lot. Almost all the time. I can compare the photos and only choose the best that I like. So the black and white photo above is the best of the lot from the single take shot.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Another single take shot.

The photo of my son above was also taken with the single shot function. Now you can see why I love this function especially the auto optimization or filter that it applies. Black and white photos always tells more stories, to me.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Almost played with the filter. This is on live focus > colour point.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G Review - Is The Zoom Worth It?
Just an evening sky with Venus in view. This was close to 8pm, it was actually very dark already.

Normal night photos are good. But in bright daylight is even better. I love the “Single Shot” function on the S20. I can never stop taking photos with it. I will create a photo gallery at the end of this post soon so that I can add more photos later on. I do have more photos that I want to share but I’ll leave it at this for now. If you want to see more photos, come back to this post within a week or two.

Again, the camera functions on this Galaxy S20 Ultra is good. Colours are spot on. I don’t need to edit any of the photos because it already looks good as it is.

As for the video, have a look at the sample video that I took with the Galaxy S20 Ultra below:

I didn’t actually run a full test on the video because I was loving the camera for photographs more. Besides, I’m more into photography. But then the video quality is not bad. If you have a mobile phone gimbal, it will be so much better for videography.

Conclusion

What I love about the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G is the ability to display a cool 120Hz refresh rate that give a smooth rendering of graphics, even when scrolling through web pages is a breeze. Of course the high spec in the SoC and GPU is a big plus point along with the ample storage and 12GB RAM base memory. The higher spec goes up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage space which is awesome.

The ultrasonic fingerprint scanner/sensor is much improved. That I love too. Of course, the camera department is top notch. I love the single shot function and the space zoom can be better. However, the 10x hybrid optical zoom is not bad.

Gaming is a joy on the S20 Ultra. I can have endless gaming time with this phone and it is hard for me to put down the phone once I’ve started. This has got to be my most favourite thing about the S20 Ultra, other than the camera.

Daily usage is above average. Multi-tasking is a breeze and daily work use is superb. The large screen enables me to do a little bit of document work and sometimes with slides too. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is a good daily driver. The only upset for me was that I unable to test the 5G network speed because I need a 5G enabled SIM card for that. That’s too bad but hopefully I can test it next time.

If you wish to get a brand new Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, you can head over to Samsung’s official website now. The retail price for the S20 series starts from RM3,599.00.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G

From RM3,599.00
9.2

Performance

9.5/10

Price

8.5/10

Camera

9.5/10

Functions

9.5/10

Design

9.0/10

Pros

  • Space zoom
  • High spec for gaming
  • Good battery life
  • 120Hz refresh rate is awesome
  • Excellent camera

Cons

  • A little thick
  • A little heavy
  • Space zoom needs a little work
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