Teardown reveals Galaxy S20 Ultra's crazy, double-stacked motherboard

No wonder this thing is so thick and heavy.

If you've got a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra arriving on March 6 launch day, there are a few key things to know about the Android phone. One: its 108-megapixel camera has serious autofocusing issues for photos and videos. Two: the powerful Snapdragon 865 chip can almost emulate Nintendo 3DS games at full speed. And three: the S20 Ultra is massive, thick, and heavy, and you should probably start strengthening your hands with a gripper/cruncher to keep up with it.

Why is it so big and heavy? — Ah, good question. There are multiple reasons and all of them are quite logical, actually. Really, it comes down to component size. As iFixit's teardown (via ArsTechnica) of the S20 Ultra has revealed, the parts inside of the phone are quite large.

The three main camera lenses, especially the 48-megapixel foldable/periscope lens system occupies quite a large chunk of space. Ditto for the 5,000 mAh battery. The most interesting revelation from the teardown is that the motherboard is stacked. Instead of a single board, Samsung stacked modules on top of each other to save space.

Three 5G antennas to support both Sub-6 and mmWave (millimeter wave) 5G also occupy more space than previous Android phones.

Like all technologies, the goal is for these components to shrink down over time so that phones can get thinner and lighter again. But for now, new technologies like 5G, displays with faster 120Hz refresh rates, and serious zoom lenses require bigger batteries to power them all and bigger footprints are the unfortunate byproduct of it all. Whether these features are worth the tradeoff is a different question.

Big phone falls short in key areas — We've been doing our own extensive testing of the S20 Ultra and putting it through its paces in various scenarios and while it's a powerful phone, it still falls short in some places.

As mentioned earlier, the S20 camera has major autofocusing issues due to its use of phase-detection autofocus instead of the faster dual-pixel autofocus system used on the S20 and S20+ (and older Galaxy phones). Samsung says it's working on a software update to "improve" the camera, but hasn't said when the patch will be released (launch day maybe?) or whether it can fix the autofocusing problems or not.

The S20 Ultra camera system also can't replace a premium compact point-and-shoot like Sony's RX100 or Canon's G7X Mark II. Though image quality can be great, things like skin tones, hair, and color accuracy are heavily processed in a very Samsung-y way.