The quad camera setup on the Samsung S20 Ultra produces photos that are replete with detail and low on noise, even in tricky lighting conditions.

Samsung S20 Ultra review Is the stunning camera worth the price tag
Atom Tech Shorts Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - 17:04

How do you review Samsung’s biggest flagship for the year - a smartphone that’s supersized in every conceivable manner with its 108megapixel 100x zoom camera and an over-the-top 6.9-inch 120Hz display – when you’re all but locked down with a fast-spreading pandemic?

Rather easily, one could say. The Galaxy S20 Ultra has been nothing short of a gift during this lockdown, but this smartphone does not come without its share of sticker shock…and a couple of shortcomings.

Screen

The S20 Ultra has a 6.9-inch quad-HD+ resolution, HDR10+ AMOLED display that’s arguably the best in the business, and the sheer size and quality of the screen is perfect for all those late evening binge-sessions of Netflix after a long day of working from home… as long as you’re okay handling something this sizeable (166mm) and heavy(220g).

The screen boasts of a 120Hz refresh rate – that’s twice the refresh rate of the current crop of iPhones, and faster still than last year’s OnePlus 7T Pro, which gives a visceral sense of fluidity when you’re scrolling through menus and web pages, playing games or even watching the regular Android animations while navigating the interface. Of course, the snappier refresh rate tends to chew through battery life, so Samsung limits the resolution to full HD+ at 120Hz.

Performance

For a phone that’s already redefining smartphone excess, performance is right up there as well, thanks to the Samsung Exynos 990 chip paired with 12GB of fast LPDDR5 memory and 128GB of the speedier UFS 3.0 internal storage (expandable to 1TB). Spec nerds might note the variant you can buy in India doesn’t ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chip, but the difference between the two lies at the very top end of the gaming and multi-tasking spectrum, with little to tell the two apart in regular usage. Whether you are on a PUBG mission or getting your daily dose of Asphalt, the S20 Ultra won’t let you down over time – certainly hasn’t over the lockdown - and the screen is such a joy to game on.

The 5000mAh battery, which in itself is rather capacious for a premium flagship, does well to sustain the display at full QHD+ resolution for a full workday, though switching to the super slick 120Hz will have you hunting for your charger by the late evening. The good bit is that the included 45W charger juices up this huge battery in a little over an hour, and there’s 15W wireless charging and 9W reverse wireless charging for your accessories.

Camera

Then there’s the star of the show: Samsung’s new monster of a quad camera imaging system. An insanely large 108-megapixel primary camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle a 48-megapixel telephoto with periscopic optical zoom and a depth sensor, taking you all the way from a ultrawide 0.5x to 4x optical zoom and 10x hybrid zoom, and then all the way forward via what Samsung calls “Space Zoom”, digital cropping all the way up to 100x zoom!

Needless to say, the zoom is the marquee attraction, and shots between 4x and 10x are really good and edge past our previous favourite, Huawei’s P30 Pro. Even zooming up to 50x still gives you somewhat usable shots, but the 100x headline grabbing space is really only good for looking at distant objects, not shooting them (way too many artefacts in the images). Take a look at some of the shots we shot during the lockdown, and you’ll appreciate the extra reach (and detail) the S20 Ultra afforded in each case.

The ultrawide takes pleasing shots in most lighting conditions and gets more in the scene, but it’s the main 108-megapixel camera that really shines. It takes nine adjoining pixels and joins them into a final 12-megapixel image, and the resulting photos are replete with detail and low on noise, even in tricky lighting conditions. You can shoot full 108-megapixel shots as well, should you need, and there’s 8K video recording – inarguably the best you can get on an Android.

What could be better?

So, what lets the mighty S20 Ultra down? The design, to begin with. For something with the Ultra moniker, this phone looks a lot like the rest of Samsung’s range, and the grey finish is somewhat staid. It is massive to carry around, and if you hated the camera bump on the iPhones, the S20 Ultra’s bump is way more protrusive.

It also begs the question, is it worth the pretty penny…all Rs 97,999 of them? The price is a lot, even factoring in how much of a super phone with over the top specs you’re getting for the price. For some, the choice of chipset and the design may sway the choice towards the new OnePlus and Xiaomi devices…or to an equally expensive iPhone. Don’t get us wrong, the S20 Ultra is a solid phone, among the best Samsung has turned out, but one wishes all this camera tech could make its way into something that would fit more pockets…and budgets!

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is available for Rs. 97,999 for the 12GB RAM + 128GB storage variant, only in Cosmic Gray.

Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator.

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