The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra uses lasers to fix the S20 Ultra's biggest flaw: the camera autofocus

Hell yeah! The Note 20 Ultra also has Xbox Games Pass Ultimate, improved S Pen features, and better integration with Windows 10.

Samsung’s got two Galaxy Note 20 — the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra — arriving later this month on August 21. Both Note 20 phones come with an S Pen, but there are some major differences. Notably, the screen and the cameras are a little bit different.

The smaller Note 20 has a 6.7-inch display with flat edges and the larger Note 20 Ultra has a 6.9-inch 120Hz screen with curved sides. Curved glass has long been a signature design on Samsung phones and it looks like the company is at least considering a change.

But the one thing I’m most excited for is the Note 20 Ultra’s 108-megapixel camera. This is the same image sensor on the S20 Ultra with one important change: a laser sensor that enables faster autofocusing. In other words: Samsung says it has fixed the S20 Ultra’s autofocusing issues on the Note 20 Ultra. I’ll test that out soon enough to verify the claim, but for now, here’s everything else you need to know about the Note 20 phones.

It's a big phone!Input

Under normal circumstances, this would be a hands-on. I’d be telling you how the Note 20 and 20 Ultra compare; how well they feel; if the S Pen features are any good; and how good the cameras are. But since we’re still in a pandemic, I haven’t had an opportunity to try it myself. My colleague Evan got to take some photos with the pre-production devices that you see in this story, but Samsung says the hardware and software may not be complete.

The good news is that you already know what to expect from the S20Ultra if you’ve held any glass-and-metal phone before. The Note 20 is weirder since it's plastic; the last time a Note was plastic was Galaxy Note 4. The bad news is you need to wait until I get the Note 20 Ultra in my hands before I can tell you if something isn’t right. Samsung did tell me one thing: the glass back is supposed to have a “haze effect” that reduces fingerprints.

Let’s not waste any more time and get to phone bits.

Galaxy Note 20 — It’s wider, taller, and thicker than the Note 10. The Note 20 comes in three colors: Mystic Bronze, Mystic Green, and Mystic Gray. It starts at $999.

  • 6.7-inch flat FHD+ display (2,400 x 1,080)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 128GB of storage
  • 4,300 mAh battery
  • 5G
  • 12-megapixel f/1.8 main camera with “super speed dual pixel AF” and optical image stabilization
  • 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide camera
  • 64-megapixel f/2.0 telephoto camera with 3x hybrid optical zoom and 30x space zoom, OIS
  • 10-megapixel f/2.2 selfie camera
The S Pen has lower latency now.Input

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — Also larger, but only slightly in height and thickness compared to the Note 10+. The Note 20 Ultra comes in Mystic Black, Mystic Bronze, and Mystic White. It starts at $1,299 for the 128GB model; the 512GB model only comes in black.

  • 6.9-inch curved Quad HD+ display (3,088 x 1,440)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
  • 8GB or 12GB of RAM
  • 128GB or 512GB of storage (expandable to 1TB via microSD)
  • 4,500 mAh battery
  • 5G
  • 108-megapixel f/1.8 main camera with “phase-detection autofocus” and optical image stabilization
  • 8K video recording at 24 fps in 21:9 aspect ratio
  • 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide camera
  • 12-megapixel f/3.0 telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom and 50x space zoom, OIS
  • Laser autofocus sensor
  • 10-megapixel f/2.2 selfie camera

So both phones are very similar. All of the usual staples like IP68 water- and dust-resistance, fast wired and wireless charging, Wireless PowerShare, Dolby Atmos support, HDR10+, are present and accounted for. Both phones also run Android 10 (no word on when Android 11 will arrive). Samsung is usually slow to push out software updates.

The Note 20 Ultra (left) and the Note 20 (right).Input

New S Pen tricks — Hardware differences aside, Samsung says it’s made several improvements to the S Pen on both Note 20 and 20 Ultra. Latency has been reduced by 40 percent with 26ms response time on the Note 20; the S Pen on the Note 20 Ultra is even faster with a 9ms response time.

The S Pen also supports new “Anywhere actions” that let you use gestures to do things like take a screenshot or return to the Android home screen.

Samsung Notes now has an auto-save and real-time syncing feature (how was this not already a feature?) and saves written and typed notes across phone, tablet, and PC. There’s also better handwriting-to-text conversion, improved PDF annotation, and a feature that lets you record and sync audio recordings to certain text within notes (useful for students, I guess).

Might wanna get a case to make that bump flush.Input

Expand to a TV with DeX — In addition to plugging your Note 20 into a laptop or monitor to turn it into a desktop-like computer experience with DeX mode, Note 20 users can wirelessly connect to a TV with Miracast support. Samsung says all of its 2019 and newer smart TVs support the wireless DeX mode.

Smarter Windows integration — Samsung’s growing partnership with Microsoft is yielding even tighter synergy between its devices and Windows 10. Samsung says Windows 10 will let you run multiple Note 20 apps simultaneously later this year and has better drag-and-drop support between devices. (In case you’re that kinda person.)

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — If you’re a gamer, you’ll be able to stream over 100 Xbox games directly to the Note 20 phones with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. This feature doesn’t go live until September 15.

Ultra-wideband — Like the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, the Note 20 phones have an ultra-wideband chip inside. Samsung says UWB will allow people to share files to another UWB-supported device by pointing them at each other. UWB can also be used to unlock smart locks (for homes or cars).

Peep the laser autofocus module on the Note 20 Ultra (left).Input

Modest upgrades

On paper, the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are pretty modest upgrades. It may be that Samsung’s hitting a ceiling when it comes to innovating with the S Pen. Realistically speaking, there's only so much you can do with to expand on a glass slab.

Still, I’m looking forward to the laser autofocus sensor the most. The bad autofocus was the only real complaint I had about the S20 Ultra’s monster 108-megapixel camera sensor. I pray it's on-point this time.

Pre-orders for the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra start on August 6 with availability on August 21. They're pricey phones so if you're looking to save tons of money, maybe consider the OnePlus Nord or Google Pixel 4a.

The display edges are flat, but the bezels are thicker.Samsung
Mystic Green is nice.Samsung
This the Note that we know.Samsung

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