Galaxy Note20, Galaxy Note20 Ultra
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Video: Jaime Rivera and Adam Lein

It is about that time, again. After one of the most steady streams of leaks we’ve seen yet, meet the new Samsung Galaxy Note20 series, what the company calls as their “Most Powerful Note Series Yet”, and I think that for the first time since the Galaxy Note 8, I’m actually gonna agree.

See subsequent launches have proven that this line-up is probably Samsung’s most beloved, and yet each year after the Note 4 and then Note 8, many have complained that all we were really getting was a Galaxy S with an S Pen. Just a different chassis with the same specs, display, and camera. And this was always a problem because the Note went from being the vanguard device to being relegated to an iteration of that Galaxy S that would make it Obsolete six months later.

For 2020, the approach is actually changing. Some cases for the good, others quite interesting, others for the not so good.

I think this is the most interesting change in an approach that the company has done in recent times. Last year we saw a larger and smaller Galaxy Note 10 with slight differences in Specs, and the same happened early this year with the Galaxy S20. For the Note, I want you to remember how the Galaxy S10e was just as powerful as the other Galaxy S10s but yet different in design. Well, this is what we have with this line-up. Two Galaxy Note20s that look similar, are just as powerful, and yet their difference is actually not the size.

If you stacked them side by side, they really resemble each other. I’m glad Samsung finally made the jump to matte glass, which they’re dubbing their new timeless design. Both devices share the same Mystic Bronze finish, but if you go Ultra you have options for Mystic White or Black, and then the Note20 offers Mystic Green and Gray.  

The Note20 Ultra is barely 2mm taller, 3mm wider, and around 16 grams heavier, even if the Note20 is a slight hair thicker. Visually they nearly look the same, but once you look closer you’ll see a flat display on the standard variant vs the Ultra. The regular Note20 has a 6.7-inch panel capped at 1080p+ and 60hz while the Ultra is 6.9-inches can do 120hz, though not exactly sure if at Quad HD+ just yet. The Ultra does mention Dynamic AMOLED on the spec sheet, but I didn’t see that mentioned on the regular Note20.

The spec sheet is one of the good things as finally, we get a more powerful Galaxy Note when compared to the S. We’re talking Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ at least in the US, 8/128 in RAM and storage for the regular, 12 and 128 or 512GB (expandable) for the Ultra. There’s barely a 200 mAh difference in battery size, same IP68 ratings, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, fast and wireless charging capabilities, and ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Same sub-6 and mmWave across both devices as well. A change might be a new Ultra Wide Band tech that serves to share files or as a digital key is exclusive to the Ultra.

Obviously the signature feature is the S Pen, which is technically the exact same across both devices physically. What changes is latency. Given the 120hz on the Ultra, this allows 9ms of latency while the standard does more like 42ms. If this is something triggered by the display I don’t expect you to notice a difference. What did change is that Air Gestures are now evolving to let you fully control your phone remotely, like when you’re giving a presentation. Honestly, things that sound cool, but that we’ll know more of when we get our full review units.

And since we started with the topic of software, oddly not much changed from a visual perspective, meaning it’s the typical One UI on top of Android 10, with very similar visuals. The important updates are really on how this phone integrates with productivity. Samsung Notes finally offers Live Sync across devices with your Samsung Account and even Microsoft Office, and these can now sync with audio recordings. You can import PDFs for annotations and even auto straighten your handwriting. There’s deeper integration with Microsoft’s link to windows allowing you to live stream your apps on your PC, in addition to better drag and drop features. You even get an Xbox game pass ultimate along with some other perks for gaming. And then Samsung DeX now works wirelessly and especially with Samsung TVs that support it. All these are experiences we’ll dive in soon.

Probably what I’m looking forward to most is the cameras as this is another interesting variation when compared to the S. See the Galaxy Note20 in specs resembles more the Galaxy S20 or 20, which were actually my favorite approach when it comes to specs, as you get a better play of megapixels on the telephoto. By contrast, the Galaxy Note20 Ultra shares the same primary sensor as the S20 Ultra, but then less powerful but still good telephoto and ultra-wide, and yeah we also don’t get that crazy 40-megapixel shooter in the selfie camera. Time will tell if the large hump is worth it when comparing results, as we now even have Laser Auto Focus.

What the company made more fanfare about is that they want to make this a better video camera now that social video is huge.  It records 8K at 24fps, options for a more cinematic aspect ratio of 21:9, smooth adjusting of zoom speed between cameras, and even select the direction you want the audio to focus on, and even use the Galaxy Buds Live as a remote Bluetooth Microphone. That I really want to test as rarely do companies get Bluetooth audio sync right.

As for the not so good part, let’s talk price. The Galaxy Note20 starts at $999, which is a $50 hike from the Galaxy Note 10, and sure you do get more size, but half the storage and some other trade-offs to punch in the 5G. The Ultra is where things get steep though starting $1299, a whopping $200 more than last year’s plus, for half the storage as the last year. But hey you get all the perks. Sadly we only had a brief amount of time to get first impressions of them before the event, but I can tell you they are beautiful and finally as powerful as they should’ve always been. Let me know what you think about the price in the comments.

Now the company didn’t stop there. We do have a new Galaxy Watch 3 backed by a design of Swiss Watch Designer IWC Schaffhausen. We have a premium stainless steel body, 3 colors, and yes, the Rotating Bezel is back! It’s actually 14% thinner, 8% smaller and 15% lighter than its predecessor and offers two+ days of battery life, all while offering a larger display, a new approach to workouts, sleep tracking, stress testing, fall detection, and even fitness at home. I’ll get back to you on more details once we have our review units, but so far we have two sizes at 41 and 45mm, and pricing starts at $399 for Bluetooth or $429 for LTE.

We also got the new Galaxy Buds Live in which the focus was ergonomics, active noise canceling with an open-type design which is my favorite, IPX2 water resistance, advanced audio with 12mm drivers, a game mode to reduce latency, beamforming for voice pick up, 3 microphones and a crazy 8 hours of playback without ANC, 6.5 hours with it, and 21 hours on the cradle. All starting at a very aggressive $169.

Last but not least, a Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ which would be the company’s first 5G tablets. Two sizes 11 and 12-inch with different screen technologies, SUPER Amoled and 120hz on the plus variant. Both powered by the new Snapdragon 865+. There’s a larger S Pen in tow, the new approach to Samsung Notes, a new full keyboard experience, DeX functionality the moment you dock it, and three color options starting at $649 for the 11-inch variant and $849 for the 12-inch plus model.

But here’s the thing. You guys know Samsung. By the time you watch this video, I’m sure there will be one more thing. Stay tuned for the Pocketnow Daily later today as we discuss whatever else we didn’t get for you ahead of time.

But yes, this is the new Samsung Galaxy Family. A new approach, new looks, more powerful, but all things we’ll have to test in our full reviews to tell you which one is right for you.

Let us know what you liked most in the comments!

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