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Hands on: Galaxy Note 20 Review

Samsung's super-sized new Galaxy Note 20 is finally here, and it looks like a solid, albeit slightly by the numbers phablet compared to its Ultra sibling

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £849
  • 6.7-inches, OLED, 60Hz screen
  • Android 10
  • 4300mAh battery
  • 12MP dual pixel main, 64MP telephoto, 12MP ultrawide triple sensor rear camera
  • Snapdragon 865+ (North America and others) or Exynos 990 CPU

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 might not have a ‘Lite’ suffix in its name, but there’s no denying it feels like a far less interesting device than its Ultra stablemate.

That’s not to say it’s not a good phone, however, as it manages to pack a few tweaks I would have liked to see on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which make it a fairly compelling option for buyers that can’t afford to shell out £1000-plus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 will come in three colours (Mystic Bronze, Mystic Grey and Mystic Green), with prices starting from £849. There are a number of pre-order incentives, including free Galaxy Buds Live.

You can pre-order now (August 5) with the release date on August 21.

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A flat 60Hz display sits on the Note 20

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the first Android phone to have a truly variable 120Hz refresh rate. Which is why we’re currently listing it as 2020’s most interesting release and super sad it hasn’t made its way onto the regular Galaxy Note 20.

The Note 20 has 60Hz FHD+ panel in its place, and the back is now plastic, as opposed to glass. The battery is slightly smaller, 5G is not the only option and it lacks some of the more higher-end additions of the Ultra.

The display feels like the biggest step backwards here. It’s still big, at 6.7-inches, and OLED, but it lacks the silky adaptive 120Hz refresh rate and it just feels like a standard panel you’d get on any A series phone. Yes, it’s bright and colourful, but without the improved refresh rate it can’t match the Ultra.

One benefit I do much prefer is the flat display, which is just so much nicer to use and hold than a curved one. It makes the Note 20 less slippery and not feel quite so delicate.

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The Galaxy Note 20 has a plastic back, a glass front and the S Pen

I’d also say that the delicate feeling is removed by the switch from a glass back to a plastic one. I was a bit shocked Samsung would ship an £849 phone with a plastic casing. Even though the front remains glass and sides metal, it does leave the whole thing feeling a bit hollow. The plastic isn’t slimy or horrible to touch, and it has a matte finish in a trio of really nice colours, but it neabs tge 20 doesn’t feel like a Note device, and that’s a shame.

It’s still an IP68 rated device which is good to see, even if the MicroSD slot is nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully it does still feature the Note series iconic S Pen, which is slotted in at the bottom. The pen doesn’t match the 9ms latency of the Ultra, but it’s still faster and more responsive than the stylus from last year’s Note and the difference is very noticeable. Jotting and drawing is also far nicer on the flat screen, although that may just be a personal preference.

Three cameras sit on the back of the Galaxy Note 20. Another big difference between the two new Note devices is the camera array housed in the distinctive rectangle on the back.

The regular Note 20 ditches the 108MP main sensor for a 12MP dual pixel f/1.8 camera, likely very similar to the one you’ll find on the Galaxy S20.

It’s paired with a 64MP telephoto for 3x hybrid zoom and a 12MP ultrawide. For me, this is the ideal trio of cameras and I am glad Samsung hasn’t swapped out, say, the ultrawide for a macro or depth sensor. I had a short time with the camera and it seemed typical Samsung: bright, saturated colours with heavy sharpening and a really appealing overall look.

It has the same video features as the Ultra, with 24fps 8k recording and improved manual controls. If you do shoot 8K video you will be doing it through the telephoto camera, so it’ll more be cropped in.

Finally, you’ve got a 10MP selfie camera around the front in a very small cutout.

The Note 20 is a real flagship inside

Beneath a Note 20’s ‘glasstic’ exterior (yes, that’s a real term Samsung used) there’s either a Snapdragon 865+ (North America and others) or an Exynos 990. I was using the latter, and while it felt seriously fast in the demo I wasn’t a huge fan of the battery life of previous Exynos 990 devices.

Speaking of battery, there’s a 4300mAh cell here with 25w fast charging and 15w wireless charging. They’ll also be 8GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB storage.

Sub-6Ghz 5G versions are available, but unlike the Ultra you’ll be able to pick this is up in certain places  in a 4G only flavour.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 – First impressions

The Note 20 is a device with sacrifices I wouldn’t have thought Samsung would make. A plastic back? Hamstrung display? This does feel, in parts, like a Note 20 Lite. But then you see the high-end chipset, likely very good camera system and far improved S Pen and you wonder whether the sacrifices might have just been worth it.

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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