Yeah, it’s another Note to the Galaxy series, and it’s exactly what we all think and expect. It’s going to be better than the previous one. It’s true to a degree, but to own the Note20 5G required me to do a little more deep thinking, especially in the aspect of, what are you upgrading from? An S20? Note 10 Plus? Or even any mid-ranger because you felt it’s time to finally have a stylus on your phone? To have a Note20 in your life, requires more consideration than you think. Priced at a smart RM 4299, can its improvements over the previous generation convince you into its value proposition?
Matted Up with a stellar display
From what I see, the Note20 is not exactly a leap into new design. It feels like my Note 10 wrapped in matte, with a variety of great colors. I personally appreciate the finish, as I could easily take good shots of it without constantly having to wipe my fingerprints off. It’s no glass back like its older brother, but it doesn’t bother me, as by now we should know what the Note20 is focused on. The size is actually great for someone like me compared to the Note20 Ultra, but design alone is not the determinant here. The feature gap between the two flagships is vast, and paves the way to help you answer the burning question: Which Note20 is for me?
Although it’s the ‘smaller’ note, 6.7-inches of screen real estate is not by any means small. Notes have always been large phablets that pack plenty in terms of features. At the usual, the FHD+ resolution Super AMOLED panel has always produced quality results for all kinds of media consumption, and that’s exactly what the Note20 is able to do best. Everything looks neatly cut out and crystal clear, with OneUI 2.5 being one of my top Android OS experiences I could confidently recommend to people. There’s no curved screen, so everything’s flat so prevent weird ghosting movements and further enhances drawing experience on the device.
The stellar part falls short when it comes to the refresh rate. You’re stuck with just 60Hz, whereas if you ponied-up the extra shekels for the Ultra, you’ll gain access to double of that (120Hz), including a much faster response time from the stylus (9ms on Ultra, 47ms on Note 20). It’s a seemingly understandable move business-wise, as we’ve seen the S20+ and S20 Ultra both featuring the same 120Hz experience, and the mass would opt for the more affordable option if they weren’t caring for the cameras (among other things). It’s simply trying to prevent either model being killed by similarity. A 90Hz panel could have easily circumvented this, but I guess they needed to widen the gap more to make the Ultra more attractive. Regardless, the 60Hz proved to be a battery-friendly option which I will elaborate more on later.
The Workaholic’s Tool
Every time I get a Note, I always somehow feel that I should be getting more work done. The S Pen has always been something I use immediately and for good reason. It’s gotten better, and you’ll feel the speed boost over the Note 10 almost instantly. We’ve gotten used to the little delays we get when using the previous note, and it’s no sweat to get used to the boost here. It’s 47ms in latency now, a sharp 40% faster. Samsung’s put in even more work for the Notes app, with features like auto-straighten to align things together and the exporting those notes out into common formats for easy sharing. I keep things organized, and I found myself spending a lot of time on the new folder system tidying everything up. Signing in via your Samsung Account is essential here, as it’ll import everything from previous devices that have saved Notes from the cloud. Doodling is still fun, and the sole benefit drawn here is just the reduction in latency. You’ll simply get an overall better writing/doodling experience on the Note20, with the ultimate being the Note20 Ultra, flexing about with its insane 9ms response time and 120hz smoothness.
DeX and Link To Windows are features I’ve come to use on the daily ever since the S20 days, and it’s gotten a little better here. Wireless DeX allows a compatible Smart TV to use youe Note20 on a bigger screen. I found this pretty ideal for presentations, where I whip out my S Pen for navigation. I still take photos of sites I visit and draw over it immediately before sending them out to highlight a specific part of it. I’m looking at your property agents and document readers. Your workflow’s gonna speed up real good here.
Less Bump, More Camera
The Note20 has a steady set of cameras:
- Main (26mm): 12-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, 1/1.76in sensor size (0.8µm pixel size), Optical Stabilisation (OIS)
- Zoom (3x optical; 80mm): 64MP, f/2.0, 1/1.76in / 0.8µm, OIS, 30x hybrid zoom
- Wide (0.5x; 13mm): 12MP, f/2.2, 1.4µm
- Front-facing (26mm): 10MP, f/2.2, 1.22µm
I switched from my S20 Ultra to the Note20 5G and I welcomed the lesser protrusion of the camera system, as seen on my previous phone and the Note20 Ultra. It’s all neatly aligned and the chrome finish on the lenses is a nice touch in style. Definitely brings out more bronze to my Mystic Bronze color. Compared to the Note20 Ultra, you’re missing out on a laser autofocus, higher pixel count and superior zoom capabilities. It’s not a loss on your end per se, in fact, you might feel compelled to love the Note20 5G’s camera system just as much (and also the space you save from a smaller bump)
The main sensor takes really great photos. For a phone this size, it managed to impress me as much as the S20 Ultra did when it first came out. From here, you aren’t going to miss that 100x Zoom. I enjoyed taking every possible shot I had in all the possible environments KL had to offer me. I managed to capture some casual shots of different environments and managed to observe the consistent photo quality that is akin to the Samsung brand. Colors, dynamic range and clarity are great all across the board, and leaves me with a higher expectation of the Note20 Ultra and what it could offer me in the imaging department.
Selfie were always useful on a Note, taking out the stylus and using it to capture photos and even videos. It’s a feature i’ve adored since the Note 9 and it’s no different here. Front shots were good, and with a moderate level of beautification, I was able to exude more confidence with myself on social media. Live focus was on point, remaining constant to my face, but that’s about it. Group photos were alright, with the occasional edges being blurred as seen in the group photo above.
Single Take is on board too, being able to quickly deliver you a good mix of photo and video in a moments notice.I couldn’t get it to focus properly if I held a product on-hand during a video, but that could be fixed in the future, but if you’re using it just for vlogs that need to focus on your face as the subject, you won’t go wrong with the Live Focus mode.
One Day, Charge Once
Battery life is the game of optimization, and not always about capacity. Here, the Note20 managed to push through a full 24-hours on a single charge, with about 30-35% left in the tank. If you’re going to just leave it as is, you’ll wake up with about 25-30% and that’s within a reasonable drop rate in deep sleep. The included 25W fast charge will top you up to about back to a safe 75-78% in an hour when you’re getting ready. The 4,300mAh battery pack is an upgrade from the Note 10, which only had 3500mAh. The battery also lasted longer thanks to its 60Hz-only restriction, and I’m all for it since I recognize it as a productivity device more than a media/gaming device (although it can definitely perform in that respect).
If you’re a doer and an organizer, this should be yours.
I officially recognize the Note20 5G to be a great upgrade path from the Note 10 and maybe even the S20, but please focus on the core principle of what this phone is all about before you add to cart.
You’re not here to chase specs, but to chase for an experience. The system of a more reliable stylus, better battery life and DeX works, and you’ll see yourself falling in love with the idea of a stylus phone all over again. It draws and writes better than before, and is capable of taking great photo and video. If you aim to be actually productive with your handheld device, the Note series has always been a staple choice.
The real question is, are the features gap pushing you to save some money and settle for this, or pushes you further into the Note20 Ultra for its higher end features and capabilities over its smaller brother?