I know this title concept has been done to death but I have actually never done it because I believe that if a product pretty much does what it says on the box there is someone out there who will love it. Otherwise, why would they make it? And there’s a lot that I have found to like about the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra over the last two weeks. Not gonna skip over that stuff but the truth of the matter is I’m gonna be shelving this phone as soon as I am done filming this video. Let’s talk about why. Today’s video is brought to you by iFixit. iFixit’s Mahi Driver Kit includes their quarter inch aluminum screwdriver handle as a magnetic bit socket, neural grip, and swivel top, plus 48 driver bits. My immediate impression of the S20 Ultra 5G were mostly positive. It’s generally chunkier than the iPhone 11 Pro Max despite being a little bit lighter. But it is superbly balanced as all things should be. And the slimmer 20 by nine display makes it easier for me to wrap my fingers around it. The materials are also great and remind me more of an iPhone 10 or 11 series than anything else that I’ve held today. But with all the right Samsung flare added to it. The bezels are much thinner than Apple’s. And I think Samsung has finally perfected both the curve of the edge of the display and the width of their bezels so that distortion and reflections around the edges of onscreen content are nonexistent and I almost never manage to accidentally activate the touchscreen with my palm while I was reaching across it. Even the hole punch display, which I still hate and would immediately trade for a popup selfie camera like OnePlus’ Pro Series, is obviously better than Apple’s. Now very dated looking forehead nudge. I did miss having the earpiece a little bit lower down. I find it more comfortable to hold against my ear. But if the mandated Samsung is maximum screen coverage, I’d prefer a proper grill even if it’s a weirdly positioned one to a vibrating screen like on the LG G8.
Even though I normally use my AirPods Pros these days, when I do wanna listen out loud like in the bath it makes a big difference for watching movies and videos on the go to have an amplified earpiece speaker that doesn’t vibrate your phone. As a quick aside by the way guys, I get a lot of flack for constantly bringing up the movie watching experience in my phone reviews. And I’m finally at the point where I’m just not gonna take it anymore. I’ve gotta defend that. Look guys. Not everyone has the income, or the lifestyle to allow them to settle down for two hours at time on the couch with their big screen HDR TV and watch a movie. So yeah, the phone is small and there’s gonna be directors and filmmakers out there that are giving me a hard time for watching their movies on it but given how awesome phones screens have gotten, this one in particular, I don’t think it’s much of stretch to say that a Galaxy S20 Ultra is probably going to be the best HDR display in the house of most of the people who end up buying one. The white point of the natural mode is a little warm for my preference but after a short adjustment, the S20 Ultra screen looks great under basically any conditions. At night in bed all the way to under direct sunlight. So yeah, if your close up vision is still goodI see nothing wrong with throwing on a pair of, like, Drop + THX Panda’s, and firing up a movie on your phone. I had no difficulty even streaming my heaviest BluRay rips from my plex server over wifi, and the good news about the screen gets even better, 120 Hertz support is basically the icing on the cake here. Sweet, delicious, long awaited icing. It was actually kind of funny seeing the reviewers who obviously mostly use main stream phones, heralding 120 Hertz as the next big thing. Guys, it was the last big thing. To be clear, it’s great, but here’s some kid back in 2011, explaining how it improves the smoothness of game animations and makes your device feel snappier and more responsive, but hey, at least we finally got there, right? So gamers and performance enthusiasts, rejoice. I have seen some complaints about poor battery life, particularly with 120 Hertz enabled and especially on the Exynos models, as well as about the lack of support for high refresh rate at the native resolution, but Samsung’s Flachy plus mode didn’t bother me at all, and I managed to get through the last two weeks with everything enabled. No dark mode, everything at 120 Hertz, always on display, and that includes one really long day with over seven hours of screen time, love it. The only thing I ended up not loving about the screen is the in screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. It’s much better than when it first launched on the S10 series and most people probably won’t notice or care, but when it comes to raw, quick draw speed, Apple’s Face ID and competing fingerprint unlocks, are still a hair faster.Something people are noticing and caring about is the significant differences this time around between the Exynos and Snapdragon versions of the S20 Ultra. I have seen outlier results for both, with users reporting more than 10 hours of screen on time, with various optimizations, but for the most part, the ones who are complaining about really bad battery life are only Exynos users.
As for how to explain the difference, Andrei Frumusanu’s preliminary reporting on anandtech.com seems to contain some strong clues. Users who predominantly watch video, which uses efficient fixed function decoding hardware, or who browse the web might see just a 10% deficit while users who occasionally run heavier apps, could fall behind by 25% or more due to Exynos’s inferior power efficiency. Now I get it, there’s a reason everyone does it, but cost saving and supply chain management rationales behind dual sourcing parts for a high volume product like this make a lot of sense but the issue is that they have to be built to the same spec, and right now, with the state that things are in, if I’m a customer who’s in an Exynos region, this kind of battery life performance makes Samsung’s entire S20 lineup a no go for me right out of the gate and downright embarrassing honestly, when you consider Samsung’s all day battery marketing. As for the camera, it’s cool. No, it’s super cool. It’s still a Samsung camera so the colors might lean a little a little on the cooler side, especially side by side against an iPhone, which tends to lean warmer, and their over sharpening is ever present, but at reasonable zoom levels, like 5X, there is no doubt that you’re gonna end up with images that contain a lot more detail than if you were just trying to use software to punch in on a 2X zoom shot on an iPhone.
Combined with the 12 megapixel wide angle, you’ve got a lot of shooting options and I think most people are gonna find something to love about it. I do wish they hadn’t quite hyped it up as hard though. Video recording quality is still way behind Apple, and some of the touted features, like the 100X zoom and 8K recording are honestly useless as anything other than a party trick. The 100X zoom adds so much processing that I would rather move my face closer to my phone and let my brain do the guess work, and the 8K video recording mode isn’t so much bad, it gets fine, it’s just entirely unnecessary. With the sensor and the processing power that can be crammed into a cellphone you’re just better off with decently encoded 4K than with 8K. And as for Samsung’s assertion that you can pull 33 megapixel stills out of their 8K video, that is laughable. Even the example they show on the website looks like hot garbage because of the motion blur that’s inherent in video capture. Why would anybody do that? Especially when the camera app support just taking a still while you’re recording video. I also didn’t find myself using the 108MP mode at all. Under ideal circumstances in direct sunlight it might be worth switching to. But you better hope there’s absolutely no shadows in your shot because its dynamic range is much worse compared to when you allow all of the cameras to work together even though both modes support HDR. On to software. Samsung’s Android skin has improved so much that people rarely complain about it. And in fact when we did our recent video highlighting the top new features of Android 11, the comments section got absolutely flooded with people who apparently didn’t realize that yes, I get it, those features are already built in to your Samsung phone, but they are not yet part of the Stock Android experience. I’ve actually even been uncharacteristically happy with the software support that I’ve gotten on my daily driver Note 9, which is coming up on two years old now. However, notifications have been and continued to be a problem for me.
Samsung in general needs to expose notification order controls either via allowing app priorities to be manually tuned or by enabling an option to just put everything in in reverse chronological order because I am constantly getting pings on my phone that are for like, my garage door opening, and I need to scroll all the way down through a list of messages people have sent me to find out what buzzed my phone. Not to mention that most of the notifications don’t have a timestamp on them for some reason. Also, nothing that I did made my Microsoft Teams notifications come through on the S20 Ultra. Now, this could easily be Microsoft’s fault since Teams is a hot pile of steaming garbage. But it does mean that I’m gonna have to dump this phone immediately no matter how much I like it because I use that for work. Bottom line then. The S20 Ultra is great in a lot of ways. The quality of the materials, the specs, the performance, all topnotch. And I’m not usually one to complain about a price. Customer for anything remember?
But the thing is it starts at $1400. That is $300 more than the base model and just $50 less than the top spec iPhone 11 Pro Max with four times the storage. That would be fine if it was utterly flawless or if it had some space age new technology that needed an early adopter subsidy. Remember guys, I defended the Fold. But it’s not, and it doesn’t. At this price, where literally anything else is in play, if you want a head turner, get a Fold. If you want a status symbol, buy an iPhone. If you wanna take pictures get a Pixel or an iPhone. If you shoot a lot of video, get an iPhone. If you actually work for your money, here’s the thing, I didn’t notice a significant day to day difference in experience between this and my old daily driver, Note 9, if however you’re a rich kid, and you wanna play with the zoom, something I can pretty much guarantee you’ll get bored of within a few days, hey for you though, there’s the S20 Ultra. And it’s brought to you by dbrand, dbrand is making me say this. The dbrand grip is super grippy, you will never drop your phone again. Even if you’re me haha, see that’ll show you dbrand, what where’d it go? It includes military grade impact protection, absorbing technology, it’s ultra low profile, and at just two millimeters thick, it’s got super tactile buttons, with their spree polymer, and full compatibility with dbrand’s skins. Hey, check this out dbrand, I improved your skin, I put a Linus Tech Tip sticker on top of it, so check out dbrand.com/LinusDropTips, we’re gonna have that linked below, so check out their line up. If you want my impressions of the Z Flip by the way, check out our Short Circuit channel, where I unboxed it, I am not gonna do a full review on here ’cause I didn’t wanna use it for that long, so I sent it back to dbrand as soon as I was done, I’m gonna link that video down below,make sure you subscribe by the way.