Samsung Galaxy Note 20 hands-on review: A bronze medal smartphone

It’s that time of year again, where we reach the final months of Summer and Samsung treats us to a second flagship smartphone. The Galaxy Note 20 is the South Korean giant’s stylus-supporting phablet and compared to last year’s Note 10, it’s bigger, it’s faster and there’s a bit more zoom in the camera department.

The Note 20 is available for preorder from £849 inc VAT and IT Pro got a first look at the handset ahead of its launch.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 hands-on review: Design

The Note has always been a little square and its edges have become sharper in recent years. This does help the Note 20 stand out in a market full of devices with softly rounded edges, but it also prevents it from just looking like a Galaxy S20 replica, as its specs are almost like-for-like. There is little, however, to differentiate from the larger ‘Ultra’ model. For size, there is just 2mm difference in height and the standard model is oddly thicker at 8.3mm. The only noticeable difference between the two is the curved edge the Note 20 Ultra has down one side of the screen.

To begin with, the standard-sized Note 20 will come in three different colours that all start with ‘Mystic’. These are ‘Mystic Bronze’, ‘Mystic Grey’ and ‘Mystic Green’ - which is arguably the best of the bunch. The larger Note 20 Ultra comes in both black and white, as well as the bronze.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 hands-on review: Display

Although the Note 20 is the standard sized model, it houses a 6.7in FHD+ display. That’s just 0.2in shorter than the Ultra and bigger than most other plus-sized flagships - Huawei’s P40 Pro Plus is a puny 6.58in by comparison.

Two Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series devices beside one another

(Image credit: IT Pro)

The Note 20’s display isn’t packing the same specs as the Ultra, with its 60Hz refresh rate and 20:9 aspect ratio, but on first impression, it’s still a high-quality screen. Only a rigorous test will tell us its true capabilities, but Samsung always produces fantastic displays with smartphones, and we don’t expect anything less here.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 hands-on review: Specs and performance

Like the larger Ultra and S20 models, the Note 20 has an in-house Octa-core 2.73GHz Exynos 990 processor. Samsung will tell you this has more power than the previous model, but that isn’t necessarily a bonus. Modern smartphones have more power than the average user really needs these days, and more of it isn’t really much of a selling point.

Furthermore, there isn’t much else on the Note 20 that’s better than the Note 10, aside from greater cameras (more on that later). It supports Wi-Fi 6, has an IP68 waterproof rating and comes with Samsung DeX support. There’s a 4,300mAh battery, which can reach 50% charge in half an hour thanks to Samsung’s fast-charging, but aside from the handset and stylus now being colour-coordinated, little has changed in a year.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 hands-on review: Camera(s)

In the camera department, Samsung has shown plenty of technical power in recent years, matching the likes of Huawei and Google. This is arguable the most hotly contested area in the smartphone market and thankfully, the Note 20 can hold its own.

It is actually packing the exact same triple camera array as the S20. The triple-lens setup now features a 30x hybrid zoom or ‘Space Zoom’ as Samsung is calling it. The three lenses consist of a 12MP f/1.8 lens, an ultrawide 12MP f/2.2 lens and a 64MP f/2.0 3x telephoto lens - which is where the super zoom comes in. There’s also a 10MP f/2.2 selfie camera.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 hands-on review: Early verdict

The Note 20 is a superb handset. It’s bigger and faster than the Note 10. It has a wonderful triple camera array and a fairly good display, both of which hold their own in a competitive market. It just lacks a little magic, is all.

There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but with the Note 10 being so good, consumers will need a little more to entice them to shell out £849 on an upgrade. This may be a wider problem for an industry that mostly launches two handsets a year, particularly as the phones released two, three and even four years ago are still desirable. The Note 20 is good, but it’s just not as special as you’d expect a Samsung smartphone to be.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 specifications

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ProcessorOcta-core Exynos 990 (2.73GHz)
Screen size6.7in
Screen resolution2,088 x 1,440
Pixel density494ppi
Screen typeAMOLED
Front camera10MP
Rear cameraPrimary: 64MP, ultrawide: 12MP, 50x telephoto: 12MP
FlashDual LED
Dust and water resistanceIP68
3.5mm headphone jackNo
Wireless chargingNo
USB connection typeUSB Type C with 30W Warp Charge
Storage options256GB
Memory card slot (supplied)Yes
Operating SystemAndroid 10
Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.