With the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Samsung is once again relying on superlatives: the Galaxy S series has never been faster, bigger and, above all, more expensive. t-online.de has tested the device and reveals who is better off keeping their hands off the supercell phone.
Galaxy S20 Ultra first impression
As soon as you take the Galaxy S20 Ultra out of its packaging, a thought immediately arises: wow that’s big! With its 6.9-inch display, it is even larger than the bulky Galaxy Note 10+ from 2019. However, it is a bit narrower, so that it can still be held quite well in the hand.
The size is rather annoying when you put it in your pocket: The S20 Ultra sticks out of most trouser pockets – users may have to adjust their wearing habits here.
This display breaks records
All this is forgotten as soon as you switch on the smartphone. Because the display is – as usual with Samsung – excellent. The display edges are extremely narrow, but as in the previous year, there is a hole in the upper area of the screen for the selfie camera – Samsung calls this Infinity-O-Display.
The resolution of 1,440 by 3,200 pixels is ridiculously high. Samsung is setting new records in terms of color accuracy, brightness and precise contrasts with the OLED display. In everyday life, these are more theoretical values - for the user it is simply said: It is the best mobile phone display that you can currently buy. Even in bright sunshine, it offered excellent image quality in the test.
If required, the refresh rate can be doubled from 60 Hertz to 120 Hertz. If you scroll, for example, on a website, fonts and graphics stay so sharp. It is bearable that the resolution has to be reduced to 1,080 by 2,400 pixels – probably for reasons of energy saving. We couldn’t tell the difference with the naked eye.
The camera: a giant pixel man
In addition to a larger battery, the camera is the main distinguishing feature compared to the cheaper models S20 and S20 +. The wide-angle main camera contains a sensor developed by Samsung with a resolution of 108 megapixels (MP), and a periscope camera with 48 MP is used for zoomed-in pictures. There is also an ultra-wide-angle camera with 12 MP resolution and a so-called time-of-flight sensor for depth perception.
The camera system of the S20 Ultra is undoubtedly impressive – but you shouldn’t be fooled by the bare numbers: due to the high number of pixels, the sensor surface of the individual pixels shrinks significantly. Correspondingly less light is captured per pixel.
To compensate for this, the S20 Ultra combines nine pixels into one pixel as standard. The resolution shrinks by 12 MP, but overall the light output increases. If you want, you can manually increase the resolution to the full number of pixels.
Great pictures – but not unique
In our tests, images with the main camera look very good. However, in normal lighting conditions, the smartphone is only at eye level with devices such as the Huawei Mate 30 Pro or the iPhone 11 Pro. In very good lighting conditions, images with full 108 MP resolution show impressive details – but even in moderate light, subtleties are largely lost in shady areas.
The main camera of the Mate 30 takes slightly sharper pictures in 10 MP mode than the S20 Ultra, while that of the iPhone 11 Pro stands out from the competition when reproducing fine structures.
The S20 Ultra shines in the zoom range: The iPhone is clearly inferior with its double zoom, the Huawei Mate 30 is roughly on a par with similar technology – but the software smoothing makes the recording unrealistically flat. Samsung’s zoom photo is more lifelike. The night mode is very good in itself – but Google’s Pixel 4 or the Mate 30 Pro do their job better here.
The performance of the selfie camera is impressive: the 40 MP sensor shoots razor-sharp images – you can see this especially when the automatic beauty functions are deactivated.
In the overall package, the camera system of the S20 Ultra is one of the absolute top systems on the market – but the most expensive Galaxy model cannot really set itself apart from its competitors in any area – a shame.
Other equipment: the best of the best
In all other areas, Samsung uses almost only state-of-the-art hardware: the huge battery holds 5,000 milliampere-hours (mAh) – but with the 120 Hz display activated, the energy reserves can also be used well. Although we always got through the day well, two full days are only possible for frugal people despite the large battery.
The processor is currently one of the fastest on the market – and the memory configuration of 12 or even 16 gigabytes (GB) offers wasteful reserves.
5G, Wifi 6, Bluetooth 5, ANT + (for the connection to heart rate belts and other smart fitness equipment) and fast wireless charging: the S20 does not owe almost any equipment details – only a secure face recognition such as that missing from Huawei, Google or Apple.
Instead, Samsung again uses a fingerprint scanner integrated into the display. It works well and is also quite reliable – but feels sluggish compared to classic fingerprint sensors.
Conclusion: a superhero without a real assignment
The Samsung S20 Ultra is bursting with power and performance – and it’s not uncommon to wonder if a little less wouldn’t have done it. This is illustrated almost symbolically in the camera system, which presses against the cell phone housing, which is too small, like the tense bodybuilder biceps against the too-tight shirt. The whole force should often remain unused in everyday life – a superhero without a real assignment.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is right for those who would like to have the best overall smartphone package currently available, even if you don’t necessarily need such a super device in everyday life – at least today. Thus, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is at least a good investment in the future.
Another question is whether you should really go for the expensive Ultra model – because the S20 largely offers the same performance – and costs hundreds of euros less. If you can do without the larger battery (the S20 offers 4,000 mAh, the S20 + 4500 mAh) and the periscope zoom, you save up to 450 euros and still get real performance monsters – those in the case of the Galaxy S20 (6.2-inch) are reasonably handy.