Samsung GALAXY S20 ultra

Samsung Galaxy s20 Ultra review...

...Big photos, big zoom range and big price

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra goes big in every way imaginable, with 108MP photos, a 100x camera zoom, 40MP selfies, and a 6.9-inch 120Hz display. With over-the-top internal specs on a par with laptops, you'll pay more for this phone than any non-foldable phone before it, but that's not surprising – what is surprising are some of the bugs we've encountered that keep the Ultra from reaching its full potential.

  • Impressive camera zoom range
  • Samsung’s best display yet
  • Fast 5G speeds confirmed

It appears the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra's cameras aren't quite ready yet – Samsung confirmed to us that "we are working on a future update to improve the camera experience".

As we've noted issues with overexposure and autofocus, we're not going to score this phone just yet – however, if the update hasn't landed before the US launch date of March 6 we'll be delivering our final verdict to help you decide if you should buy the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is Samsung’s biggest Android phone, and its most daring sales pitch: you can own the world’s most advanced 5G phone with massive camera specs... if you’re prepared to spend more money than ever on a non-foldable smartphone.

The Ultra is designed for early adopters, and three things stand out: it has a massive 6.9-inch display with next-gen fluid-scrolling tech that will stretch your hand; five cameras to capture 108MP photos, 40MP selfies and 8K video, and 5G antennas with peak speeds 66 times as fast as 4G LTE.

It's a nice jump from the Galaxy S10 and S10 plus cameras, although issues with inconsistent autofocus and overexposure keep the Ultra from being the best camera.

The 48MP telephoto lens allowed us to get up close and personal with far away subjects thanks to an impressive variety of zoom lenses. It far surpasses the 2x optical and 10x digital zoom of previous Samsung phones, and the limited 8x digital zoom on the Google pixel 4- although 100x zoom snaps were hardly Instagram-worthy.

Samsung's 'single-take mode' helps you answer an everyday question: should I take photos or a video?

Take both. Its new ‘single-take mode’ captures a variety of shots over a 10-second span: photos, ultra-wides, portraits, hyperlapse video, regular video, and so on. It kept us out of the settings menus and in the moment, plus you can also clip 33MP photos from video, which proved handy.

The S20 Ultra has a monster spec list: 12GB or 16GB of RAM and 128GB or 512GB of internal storage kick things off.

There’s also a huge 5,000mAh battery for pulling down battery-intensive 5G signal, although we found it could only last more than 24 hours in 4G mode.

There is a return of the in-screen fingerprint sensor from last year’s phones, but it sadly is the first S phone without a 3.5mm headphone jack.

It’s impossible to justify the Galaxy S20 Ultra price for everyone – even those who bought the S9 Plus or S10 Plus, and intended to get the next ‘big one’ from Samsung.

For others, though, the word ‘upgrade’ means a completely different thing: they want a phone that pushes new boundaries, and they don’t mind if that pushes the price tag further into Galaxy Fold territory.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is Samsung’s own version of Tesla’s ‘Ludicrous Mode’ in its electric cars, and even if the camera is a bit overhyped and inconsistent at the moment, early adopters will love showing off how its cameras go from 0.5x to 100x zoom real quick.

Five cameras

  • 108MP main camera lets you crop into photos while minimizing quality loss
  • Most 108MP shots we took ended up having autofocus and overexposure issues
  • The 100x zoom is a neat party trick, but not Instagram-worthy; 10x is where the magic happens
  • The is the best selfie camera, but not the best camera – at least not with the current software

Issues with the cameras: As you can see at the start of this review, there are apparently issues with the S20 Ultra's cameras, and Samsung has asked us to hold off scoring our review until it's rolled out an update. We're presenting our current findings below, but these may change/improve as and when the update lands.

We've also carried out an in-depth Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra camera test, which includes more sample photos, and side-by-side comparisons with images from last year's Galaxy phones and from rival handsets, if you want a super-deep dive into how the larger sensors currently perform.

We could write a whole review of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra’s cameras, there’s so much to say about them – and that’s good news if you want something fresh out of your smartphone’s photos. It’s Samsung’s biggest camera sensor upgrade since the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.

We found the hyped-up 108MP camera mode captures photos that don't look much different than snaps taken in the main camera's default 12MP mode, but the extra-large pictures do offer the ability to crop in without as much quality loss. It makes sense for the same reason recording 8K video is often a good idea even if you don’t own anything more than a 4K TV: you can crop and edit without sacrificing detail. It gives you creative latitude, even if you ultimately output to a 12MP photo and 1080p video.