Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Review: Revolutionizing the Cell Phone Camera at a Hefty Price

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Provided by Forbes

A pair of Samsung's new Galaxy S20 Ultra line of cell phones. Photo provided by Forbes.com

Gordon Tuomikoski, Features and Photography Editor

Every year countless phone companies release what seems like the same copy-paste phones with a few new features, but Samsung’s newest entry into their high-end phone series breaks that chain. 

With a 108 megapixel rear camera, 100x space-zoom, incredible night mode, 8K video, a 120hz refresh rate and top of the line performance; this is the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Despite rumors circulating around the S20 Ultra before Samsung’s official announcement at their Unpacked event in early February, many fans were questionable on whether the phone would really feature a 100x zoom lens, but all fears were stifled after the incredible announcement showing off the 10x optical zoom combined with 10x digital zoom to provide a blurry but incredible 100x zoom image which uses A.I. to sharpen and improve the image. The Ultra’s 10x zoom features lossless quality which is one of the only phones except for Huawei’s to feature an optical zoom, which is a huge precedent when other top-of-the-line phones still use a mere 8x digital zoom.

Among the zoom, the camera features other incredible technology. The night mode on the S20 Ultra surprised me the most. I took a picture in a very dark room, let it capture the long exposure for 8 seconds, and in a few seconds I had a bright photo that captured more information than my eyes could see. Sure, it was pretty fuzzy, but the phone captured more light than the naked eye could see. Night photography on cell phones has come a long way in only a few generations.

The S20 Ultra includes an almost obscene 8K video camera. It still sounds ridiculous in a world where 4K is still not a standard for the general public, but this doesn’t stop the 8K video from looking absolutely stunning. It’s crisp, clear, and captures so much data you can pause and zoom in and see a ton of detail. The video technology on the camera’s sensors is definitely a futureproof way to ensure Samsung’s phones don’t become obsolete in the future, and it allows for cinematic moments to be captured in beautiful detail, at the cost of storage of course.

The only other real company who has implemented a 120hz refresh rate on their phone is Razor on their Phone 2, there are a handful of other small indie companies who have experimented with the technology, but Samsung is pushing it mainstream. Most standard cell phones are 60hz which means the screen refreshes 60 times per second. This sounds really quick, and we become so accustomed to it that when introduced to the world of 120hz displays, it is like night and day. Samsung’s entire S20 line, which includes the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra all feature 120hz displays as a feature. This comes at a cost, meaning you can’t use the 4K screen resolution while this is enabled, but when you see the smoothness and speed of a 120hz display, it’s a cost that is worth taking. While it is a minor annoyance that you can’t use 4K, it’s not that huge of a deal for the benefits of 120hz.

With a Snapdragon 865 processor, a Adreno 650 graphics card, and an option of 12 or 16GB of RAM, the S20 Ultra is a powerhouse of a phone. It features top of the line performance whether you’re gaming or using multiple tabs, the phone can handle it and keep it consistently fast. For comparison, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max only has 4GB of RAM, which is half of the 8GB that is standard in nearly all modern computers. The S20 Ultra might very well be the most powerful phone on the market at the moment with its top-of-the-line hardware.

Apple’s newest high-end cell phone, the iPhone 11 Pro Max for comparison, which was released last year only has a 12-megapixel sensor in each of its cameras; the telephoto, ultra wide, and wide-angle sensors. Where as Samsung’s S20 Ultra features a 108-megapixel rear sensor, a 48-megapixel front camera, 48-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide. While it may sound like fancy spec-talk, megapixels are very important to the quality of an image. They measure the density of pixels on the screen, the higher the megapixel count, the crisper and clearer the image will appear as it captures more information.

I could go on raving about the impressive specs of the S20 Ultra, but it would be too long. The Ultra is more of a phone from 2030 than 2020 in terms of its specs. It’s futureproofed technology that will hold up for years to come, and if this is how good Samsung can do now, imagine how much future iterations will improve in the future. Apple has a long way to play catchup behind Samsung, and only time will tell if the new iPhone announcement will be able to compete with Samsung in terms of hardware and camera technology. At a hefty price of  $1399, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is truly a powerful, premium phone from a decade in the future.

10/10