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 ReviewThere are flagship phones, and then there are flagship phones. Even among the roster of top of the line phones, there are some that still stand out—by dint of their design, special features, and so on.

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra surely qualifies as one of these standout phones, most especially because of its extremely powerful camera. This is a phone that’s out to make a statement on behalf of the Galaxy brand and Samsung as well. The rest of the phone, as befits a phone at this level, is quite the standout too.

Check out this review to see what we mean!

Of big bodies and high refresh rates

Okay, there’s no getting around it—no ifs, and or buts, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is a big phone. Its gorgeous Dynamic AMOLED screen is all of 6.9” inches and as such is larger than even that of Samsung’s Note 10+, which isn’t at all a small phone. 

The S20 Ultra’s screen curves down towards the edges of this phone, which helps keep the bezels nice and thin. You get beautifully curved front glass arching down towards the metal frame of the phone, a design element that helps this phone sit in the hand relatively well. (By the way, if you’re into a phone that you can use with one hand, this might not be the phone for you.) 

A word regarding the S20 Ultra’s screen. It has a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. This is significant because high refresh rates help ensure that animations and motion are seamless and smooth, which is particularly useful for gamers who want to eke out the best possible experience for their games. You would just need to up the refresh rate in the settings once you get started with it, which is what we did upon setting it up for the first time. We loved how much smoother the 120Hz setting made this phone feel. But even with that mode not selected you can still enjoy how vivid the colors are, how deep the blacks are, and how bright and easily viewed text and pictures are even in sunlight.

The S20 Ultra is only available in two understated colors, Cosmic Gray and Cosmic Black. Our test unit came in the former; both are clean and classy, but Cosmic Gray is our pic of the two.

It’s all about those cameras

But we won’t keep you waiting any longer—here we go with our comments on the S20 Ultra’s camera setup.

First off we have a peek at the selfie camera. Samsung has stuck to the hole-punch setup for the front camera to minimize its impact on that lovely screen, but take note that this camera is deceptively small; it has a 40MP resolution! Selfies we snapped were beautiful, bright, and clear, as can well be expected.

But when you flip the phone over, you’ll come face to face with its enormous main camera module, which takes up a fair amount of the real estate back there and contains four cameras: a 108MP wide-angle lens, a 48MP periscope telephoto camera, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a VGA camera. (We wonder if the irony isn’t lost on you—a tiny hole-punch up front, and a truly gigantic camera module outback.)

As expected, shots from this rear camera set proved to be great in the usual Samsung manner, which is to say, rather heavy on the saturation but still excellent in terms of detail. The phone seems to be at its best-taking photos of landscape images, images of food, and pictures of people whether individual shots or group shots; all nicely put together and very vibrant as far as colors go.

And what about the 100x Space Zoom (which Samsung couldn’t help but tout on the rear of the phone)? It’s really capable—we tested it on all manner of things, from buildings we were far away from to the moon itself, and we really were able to zoom in very closely—it’s really true that you can end up seeing and taking pictures of far-away subjects that had not been possible before this phone. However, this isn’t really a feature we found ourselves using all that often; it was enough for us to test it initially just to see what was what.

A note about the phone’s camera’s Night Mode settings, we were pleased to see that pictures of subjects in the dark were handled with aplomb. Samsung’s Night Mode does a lot to brighten up dark areas in order to make them visible and we were happy to see how well it works on this phone.

Lastly as far as the cameras go, we were impressed to see that the S20 Ultra is capable of taking up to 8K video, which is massive for a smartphone, with the main camera set and up to 4K video with the selfie camera. The detail the main set is able to achieve is exemplary; however, we found that Samsung still needs to make the phone a little better in terms of video stabilization, for one.

Snappy performance

A phone like the S20 Ultra demands top-level hardware and Samsung didn’t skimp at all in this department. It runs Samsung’s new Exynos 990 octa-core processor which maxes out at 2.73GHz and also comes with up to 16GB of RAM (our test unit came with 12GB, which is still very far from being slow). This is a muscular chipset that can handle anything and everything you want it to in the snap of a finger, if not faster.

You might be wondering about the battery. Well, it’s a 5000mAh unit; this level of juice helps make sure that you can get through a whole day of moderate usage, more if you don’t use it much. Heavy usage, especially with the display set at 120Hz and/or the main camera settings being used extensively, will of course up the consumption heavily.

Oh, and one more thing, the S20 Ultra is a 5G phone, but that’s the one thing we weren’t able to take on for you, because 5G isn’t currently available in the Philippines.

The verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is a beast of a phone that’s being marketed primarily for its ‘big gun’ of a main camera set. Aside from this, the phone is every inch a Samsung flagship—great to look at and use in many ways. If you want the ultimate in mobile photography, at least as of this writing, this is the phone for you.

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