REVIEW | Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra


Big bold and super quick is just the beginning. Samsung’s Galaxy phones have been Android market leaders for years. As mobile technology matures it has become harder to differentiate mobile phones, Samsung has pulled out all the technological stops to exceed the best and bring new capabilities to their current flagship Galaxy S20 series.

The recently launched Samsung S20 range continues Samsung’s leadership status for high end leading technology mobile phones. The flagship of the flagship range is the entirely over specified S20 Ultra. Samsung has introduced several technologies and capabilities that push the envelope as far as is currently possible.

The hardware

Diving right into the Ultra features of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is easy. It is a massive device in every possible way. The 6.9” 120HZ screen completely dominates and sets the tone for size and capability. The screen features minimal bezels and a small central opening for the front camera.

The Ultra feature is the 120HZ refresh rate for the screen. A high refresh rate makes the screen performance buttery smooth, and transitions, as well as scrolling, is impressive. The downside is that due to the high refresh rate battery life can take a significant hit.

This feature is settable via the control panel and lower screen refresh rates extend battery life but once experienced, and it is hard to go back to a lower rate. 120HZ only works at a lower screen resolution as well I did find that I like the smoothness of 120HZ and did not notice the slight lack of resolution.

The screen itself is outstanding with brilliant colours and brightness. Samsung makes some of the best AMOLED screens in the business. Colour saturation can be set, and the automatic brightness adjustment was smooth and effective.

Samsung’s build quality is impeccable with a solid feel and smooth finishes that are every bit as high end as any other device available. The all-glass front and back are fingerprint magnets, and you will need a cover as don’t even think about dropping your phone unprotected.

The camera

Turn the Samsung S20 Ultra over, and you cannot miss the huge camera bump. I think it is the least appealing feature of the phone. The Camera bump sticks out as it is on the left of the device, placing the S20 Ultra on its back and trying to use it on a table is uncomfortable as it rocks. Using a case helps.

The upside to this huge camera bump is the Ultra zoom camera. You can Zoom up to 100X, with a combination of 10X lossless and 100X computer-assisted zoom. The primary sensor is a 108MP high sensitivity sensor.

There are a host of innovative technology features such as Pixel Binning which simply means the 108MP sensor allows additional pixels to be combined to increase resolution and low light sensitivity. The front 40MP selfie camera uses the same technology. AI software features are also utilised throughout to improve picture quality.

In a word, the Samsung S20 Ultra is a superb camera. Using the rear camera in all lighting conditions from near dark to directly in the sun resulted in great pictures. Low light photography is excellent with good contrast detail and very low noise. The Samsung S20 Ultra seems to create light from the darkest of scenes. Fast-moving items, like kids at play, as well as bright and dark backgrounds in one shot, come out exceptionally well.

The 100X zoom is a genuinely usable feature with the ability to zoom into objects far away, allows for usable pictures. The quality of images at maximum Zoom is reduced, but in most instances was perfectly acceptable. Overall, the S20 Ultra is the most flexible camera on a smartphone yet and matches if not exceeds all other smartphone cameras in almost every aspect, from resolution ease of use to quality.

Software and performance

The Samsung S20 Ultra comes out of the box with the latest version of Android 10 with Samsung offering regular updates to both the operating system and hardware very regularly.

Samsung has added it’s One UI 2 overlay to Android 10. In use, I find that the integration is seamless, and for the most part, the Samsung UI adds functionality and smoothness to Android with minimal bloat and or complication.

Samsung cannot stop themselves from adding duplicate apps to Android stock, and there are, as always with Samsung devices, multiple browsers, mail apps and other apps. For the most part, using stock android Apps is my preference, but the Samsung apps are well thought out and easy to use.

The performance of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is outstanding. The versions sold in South Africa feature the Samsung built Exynos chip. 128 GB of storage is standard, along with 12GB of RAM. The storage can be extended to 1TB via Micro SD chips.

At no time during testing did I feel I was running out of horsepower, the optimised chip memory and screen offered nothing less than a seamless experience. The S20 Ultra booted quickly and ran everything at the fastest possible speed from games to massive spreadsheets. Combined with the enormous sharp screen, the performance was often closer to a high-power laptop experience than a mobile phone.

Editing Videos and pictures were fast and straightforward and large files were handled with ease. In many respects, basic video editing and creation were quicker and more manageable and shorter on the Samsung S20 Ultra than using a MacBook Pro.

Battery life

The Samsung S20 Ultra has a massive 5000 mAh battery as big as many external battery packs. The enormous screen with its super-fast refresh rate does need lots of power. Yet despite this, I was able to easily get through a busy day of mailing watching YouTube playing games and some solid social media on the S20 Ultra. The battery life is similar to all other 2020 flagships and can be extended if you choose the lower screen refresh rate.

The other side of the equation is the speed at which the S20 Ultra charges. A 25w charger is standard in the box, and the S20 Ultra can use up to an optional 45w charger. 15w fast wireless charging is also supported. Using the included 25w charger, I was able to go from flat to over 60% in just less than 30 minutes. Using a 45-watt charger that took only 15 minutes.


Quality has no real price, and if you are looking for the most of everything that mobile technology must supply, then Samsung has thrown everything into the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The camera setup is exceptional. The battery life is very good. The screen itself is the best available on a mobile device currently. The Samsung S20 Ultra also offers one of the most massive screens in its class.

All the technological goodness is wrapped in a high-quality glass and steel body that oozes class. In use, the S20 Ultra is a pleasure. The interface is fluid smooth and fast with the 120HZ screen making scrolling buttery smooth.

The drawbacks of the S20 Ultra are as Ultra as its positive features. The S20 Ultra is huge, and it cannot be used one-handed. The Camera bump is merely big and ugly, and the price is very high.

Is the Samsung S20 Ultra the best mobile device out there? That is is up to you to decide. As a technological showcase Samsung have outdone themselves and the size and price decision are entirely in the hands of the purchaser. In many respects the Galaxy S20 and S20 plus offer similar features barring the 100X zoom and may be the better buy.

As always try before you commit.

Available from dealers and networks countrywide from R24,999.00.

For more information

Steven Ambrose | Techhuman | @ambio | mail me |



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