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Home News 24 hours with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Big, beautiful, and backwards

24 hours with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Big, beautiful, and backwards

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I can’t stop taking photos of this beautiful new finish.

It’s a good thing I’ve got a couple of spare camera batteries and some new lenses to break in, because my camera will basically be glued to my hands for the next week or two. Yesterday, FedEx came by (a little later than expected) and dropped off two packages, containing Samsung’s just-announced Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Watch 3.

You guessed it: Mystic Bronze!

Both came in the new Mystic Bronze color that Samsung made — ahem — quite a fuss over during its Unpacked live stream, and it’s absolutely gorgeous, though as many have pointed out, it’s much more akin to rose gold than bronze.

Whatever you want to call it, I’ve been having a lot of fun taking photos of the Note so far, and wanted to share a few of them along with my early thoughts on the phone as someone who spent a considerable portion of the last year using the Galaxy Note 10.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Gorgeous new hardware

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The Note 20 Ultra is gorgeous from basically every angle. I know a lot of people have had some Strong Opinions on the giant new camera housing, and it’s definitely a unit, especially compared to the relatively slim modules on last year’s Note 10+. But it doesn’t bother me much; the Ultra definitely doesn’t sit flat on a table (at least, not without a case), but it isn’t too top-heavy, and I honestly think it looks fine.

More importantly, the new matte texture on the rear glass is a very welcome change from previous years’ glossy finishes. Not only does it look better, it keeps your phone from instantly becoming a fingerprint magnet, and even adds a bit of grip to the phone so it doesn’t slide out of your hand.

Something I’m not so big on, though, is the relocation of the S Pen over to the left side of the phone. After nine years of Galaxy Notes with the S Pen on the right, it confuses the hell out of me every time I go to press against the righthand corner, only to meet cold, unmoving metal. On the other hand (sorry), this is great news if you’re left-handed.

In fact, everything on the Note 20 Ultra is reversed compared to the Note 10+. The bottom-firing speaker is on the opposite side. The volume and power buttons have moved back to the right edge. None of this really affects usability, but I found it interesting regardless.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Improved cameras

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I’ve also been pretty impressed with the cameras, for the most part. The 108MP primary sensor is identical to the one we saw on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but Samsung added laser-assisted autofocus to help with all of the focusing issues the S20 ran into. So far, I’ve had zero issues with close-up subjects or wide landscape shots, though it’s still a little early for me to definitively say “problem solved.”

I still have all of my usual Samsung camera complaints. Colors are way overexaggerated, and the Note 20 Ultra still ramps up low light shots out of what I can only assume is sheer terror that you might lose a tiny bit of shadow detail. There’s also the same haloing effect around backlit objects that I’ve run into with every Samsung phone in recent memory.

Still, dynamic range is great, and just like I experienced on the S20 Ultra and even the S20+, the massive sensor is able to achieve extremely impressive natural depth of field with nearby subjects that could easily trick the untrained eye into thinking you’re shooting with a DSLR.

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Another good sign: zooming seems to be a lot more usable at its upper limits than I had expected. The Note 20 Ultra shares wide-angle and ultra-wide sensors with the S20 Ultra, but the telephoto sensor is totally new. It’s 12MP, down from 48MP on the S20 Ultra, but it offers 5x optical zoom, and has both a wider aperture than before at f/3.0 and larger individual pixels a 1 micron.

In our initial hands-on coverage, both Andrew Martonik and I theorized that the lower resolution would have a negative impact on distant zooming, while the 5x perspective would be better for closer zoom ranges than the S20 Ultra’s 4x telephoto. To my surprise, not only does 5x look great, but 20x and even 50x, the maximum zoom distance on the Note 20 Ultra, remain relatively clear.

There’s still plenty of testing to be done. I didn’t get my review unit yesterday until about 11 AM, so it’s hard to quantify things like battery life just yet — though as I finish up this article at 4:45 PM, having started my day at 7:30 AM, I’m sitting at 65% with 3.5 hours of screen-on time, which definitely instills some confidence.

This is far from a full review, but hopefully it gives you a good idea of what to expect from the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra until I’ve had time to gather some more complete thoughts. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for my review video — and keep an eye out for my review of the Galaxy Watch 3 as well, coming soon to the site!

Have a great weekend!

So far, so good

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

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  • $1300 at Amazon
  • $1300 at Best Buy
  • $1300 at Samsung

Available for pre-order now!

It’s still too early to give any conclusive thoughts, but the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is certainly shaping up to be one of the best phones of the year, with incredibly powerful specs and cameras that should meet just about anyone’s needs.

Latest

Amazfit Bip U review

Recently, I reviewed the Amazfit Band 5, a capable little fitness band at an affordable price. Today, I have the Amazfit Bip U, another fitness band from Huami with a larger display and a slightly higher price.DesignThe Amazfit Bip U uses a similar design to the Apple Watch with a square 1.43-inch display. While I’m not a big fan of square watch displays, it is highly effective, giving you plenty of screen real estate to view all the information that matters to you.I found the display to be bright, colorful, and easy to read. At the same time, the Bip U was extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear. All in all, as far as a fitness tracker goes, it does a fantastic job of being comfortable and providing a large display for viewing information. It also has a 5 ATM water-resistant rating making it possible to wear in the pool for tracking swimming.Plus, there’s a button on the side that can be used to turn on the screen or quickly open up the exercise tracking. That’s something I wish the smaller Amazfit Band 5 also had.User ExperienceThe Bip U is able to monitor your heart rate, blood oxygen level, stress level, steps, 60+ exercises, calories burned, and track your sleeping. Out of all of those, it monitors your heart rate and stress levels 24 hours a day, and automatically tracks your steps or when you’re sleeping.It appears the only measurements you have to manually initiate are exercise tracking and the blood oxygen readings. I wish it automatically tracked your blood oxygen levels throughout the day, but that’s only a minor complaint considering everything else it does.Additionally, the Bip U can show you the weather, control music playback on your phone, and view notifications. However, the notification support is rather limited only showing a few words and not allowing for any interaction such as replying or dismissing it from your phone.When using the Amazfit Band 5, I had to manually enable a lot of the 24-hour tracking of all of this data. I didn’t have to do that with the Bip U and I assume that’s because the app was already set up from my previous review of the Band 5. Just be aware that you may have to go in and manually enable all of this on yours, including toggling on app notifications and which apps you want to be notified by.Now that it’s tracking all this information, you’re going to need a way to view it. The large 1.43-inch display is perfect for showing you all of your stats, and there is a wide selection of watch faces to choose from, nearly 50 in the store. I settled on one called Sports Rainbow which is reminiscent of the Apple Watch and gives you a nice overview of most of your data.You can get an even better look at your data by using the Zepp app which you’ll need to set up the watch.AppI had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Zepp app in the Amazfit Band 5 review. This was mostly because it was a huge pain to set everything up. The app isn’t organized all that well and some of the English translation is a little off.However, with everything already set up from the Band 5, using the Zepp app this time around was a lot more pleasurable. That’s because after you get everything set up, you mostly stick to the main page for checking your stats.When that’s all you’re using the app for it works great. It’s easy to check your most vital stats, tapping on them gives you a more in-depth look, and additional useful information. This is a big reason I loved the Zepp app, for the way it presents your health data and the insight it provides about the information.Battery LifeHuami rates the Amazfit Bip U for up to nine-days of usage off a single charge. In my experience, I was getting closer to 5-6 days after a single charge.Surely, it’s possible to get nine days of usage off a single charge, but if you’re like me, then you want to enable all the sensors and get full use out of the watch. If that’s the case, you’ll be charging it up once a week to keep it running.Final ThoughtsThe Amazfit Bip U is an impressive little fitness band. It lacks the Alexa integration of the Band 5 I reviewed, but the larger display makes it much nicer to use. When comparing it to the Wear OS watch I typically use, I only found myself missing two main features, the always-on display and better notification support.If you’re not interested in having an always-on display or being able to read more of your notifications and reply to them, then the Bip U would be a fantastic choice. It is a device that helps bridge the gap between basic fitness bands and a full-blown smartwatch at a price that’s more than reasonable.Right now you can pick the Bip U up for $60 on Amazon or on sale for $50 from the Amazfit website.Buy from Amazon Buy from Amazfit

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