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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: What should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra
(Image credit: Future)

Samsung now has two ultra-premium, big-screen beasts to choose from in the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Ultra. And while both sport 6.9-inch displays and top-end specs, there are plenty of differences between these phablets, from the price and specs to special features.

In a nutshell, the Note 20 Ultra is optimized for productivity because of its S Pen, while the S20 Ultra is a better bet for entertainment. But both big phones are designed for work and play. 

Some may want to wait for Samsung to introduce the Galaxy S21 series, which will presumably feature a faster Snapdragon chip and other upgrades. But that's not expected until January at the earliest. Use this Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra guide to help you decide which phone is right for you.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra specs

Galaxy Note 20 UltraGalaxy S20 Ultra
Price$1,299, $1,449$1,399, $1,599
Screen size6.9 inches (3096 x 1444)6.9 inches (3200 x 1440)
Screen refresh rate120Hz dynamic120Hz
CPUSnapdragon 865 Plus/Exynos 990Snapdragon 865
RAM12GB12GB
Storage128GB, 512GB128GB, 512GB
Rear cameras108MP main, 12MP telephoto, 12MP ultrawide, laser focus sensor108MP main, 48MP telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide, VGA ToF
Zoom5x optical, 50x digital4x optical, 100x Space Zoom
Front camera10MP40MP
Battery size4,500 mAh5,000 mAh
Charging25W25W, 45W (optional)
5G?YesYes
Size6.48 x 3.04 x 0.32 inches6.6 x 2.7 x 0.34 inches
Weight7.33 ounces7.77 ounces

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Price 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra starts at $1,299 for 128GB of storage and goes up to $1,449 for 512GB. The Galaxy S20 Ultra is the pricier of these two handsets. It starts at $1,399 for 128GB model and goes up to $1,599 for the 512GB version.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Design

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra delivers a huge 6.9-inch screen in a smaller package than the S20 Ultra. The Note 20 Ultra measures 6.48 x 3.04 x 0.32 inches and weighs 7.33 ounces, compared to 6.6 x 2.7 x 0.34 inches and 7.77 ounces for the S20 Ultra. Our guess is that the Space Zoom camera on the S20 Ultra adds to its heft.

(Image credit: Future)

The Note 20 Ultra is a sleek phablet with a professional vibe, and it's available in three colors: Mystic Bronze, Mystic White and Mystic Black. The S20 Ultra comes in just to colors: Cosmic Gray and Cosmic Black.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Display

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review display

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Ultra both have 6.9-inch displays with a 120Hz refresh rate, but the Note 20 Ultra has an advantage. Because the panel is dynamic on the Note 20 Ultra, it's smart enough to adjust its refresh rate on the fly based on the content that's on screen. With the S20 Ultra, you have to manually toggle between 60Hz and 120Hz. 

(Image credit: Future)

Otherwise, both OLED displays are gorgeous, and the S20 Ultra's screen is a little bit sharper at 3200 x 1440 pixels versus 3096 x 1444 for the Note 20 Ultra. You can also expect a wide color range from both phones and ultra-wide viewing angles.

Both panels are quite bright, as they each hit 662 nits using our light meter and are easy to see outdoors (if you put adaptive brightness on). 

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Cameras

Best camera phone: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Note 20 Ultra takes a slightly different approach to its cameras than the S20 Ultra. While it offers the same 108MP main camera, it complements it with a laser auto focus sensor that results in faster focusing, especially when shooting video. The Galaxy S20 Ultra lacks this feature.

(Image credit: Future)

On the other hand, the Galaxy S20 Ultra has a bigger Space Zoom that goes up to 100x, compared to a 50x digital zoom for the Note 20 Ultra. Still, the Note 20 Ultra's 5x optical zoom is better than the 4x optical zoom on the S20 Ultra.

Up front, the S20 Ultra has the sharper selfie camera at 40MP, compared to 10MP for the Note 20 Ultra.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: S Pen

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra S Pen 9 ms

(Image credit: Future)

The biggest difference between the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and S20 Ultra is that the Note features an S Pen. This stylus lets you take notes, draw and sketch on the go, and Samsung has included some new features this time around to boost the productivity of this phablet.

The new Samsung Notes app automatically syncs your notes to the cloud, so you can access them from any device. And if you're taking voice memos, your scribbles will be in sync with your recordings, which is convenient for meetings or classes. Plus, the S Pen in the Note 20 Ultra now supports a bunch of new air gestures for things like returning to the home screen or quickly taking screen shots.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Performance

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review 120Hz display Dead Trigger 2

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a slight edge here, thanks to the new Snapdragon 865 Plus chip. This provides a clock speed bump over 3 GHz while improving graphics performance by 10%. It's not a huge leap, but power users will probably appreciate the extra oomph.

On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra hit a mult-core score of 3,294, compared to 3,076 for the S20 Ultra. On the GFXBench graphics test, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra scored 1,455 frames on the Aztec Ruins (High Tier) off-screen benchmark, compared to 1,319 for the S20 Ultra.

Both the Note 20 Ultra and S20 Ultra come with a robust 12GB of RAM, as well as 128GB of storage standard. You can upgrade to 512GB if you're willing to pay more. And both phones let you expand the storage via a microSD card.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Battery life 

(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has an edge over the Galaxy Note 20 on battery capacity, as the former phablet packs a 5,000 mAh battery into its chassis. The Note 20 Ultra has a 4,500 mAh battery. 

On our web surfing battery test, the Galaxy S20 Ultra lasted 11 hours and 58 minutes in 120Hz mode and 9:13 in 60Hz mode.  The Note 20 Ultra lasted a shorter 10 hours and 26 minutes and 7:59, respectively, at 60Hz and 120Hz.

In terms of charging, the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra both support 25W fast charging, but only the S20 Ultra supports even faster 45W charging as an option. 

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Verdict

If I were spending my own money, I would buy the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra over the Galaxy S20 Ultra. For $100 less, you get a dynamic 120Hz display, a laser auto focus sensor for the camera, and a smaller than lighter design. Even if you don't really need the S Pen, the Note 20 Ultra is the better phone.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra has a couple of things going for it with its more powerful Space Zoom and especially beefier battery. And that's really the only reason to opt for the S20 Ultra: longer endurance.

There are some who may want to wait for the Galaxy S21 series, but that likely won't launch until early 2021. If you want a Samsung super flagship right now, the Note 20 Ultra is my choice.