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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: This phone packs a punch

By Koh Wanzi - 18 Apr 2020
Launch SRP: S$1898

Performance & battery life

Benchmark performance

The Galaxy S20 Ultra has two processor variants, comprising either the Snapdragon 865 or Samsung's Exynos 990 chip. Territories outside of North America, China, and Japan will get the Exynos 990, which includes Singapore.

This is Samsung's flagship SoC for 2020, and it is built on the 7nm EUV process. Like the mid-range Exynos 980 announced last year, it also adds 5G connectivity, courtesy of a new Exynos Modem 5123. The phone supports both mmWave, which typically gives the fastest speeds, and the sub-6 GHz spectrum. In comparison, the Galaxy S20 5G only supports sub-6 5G. mmWave is faster because it utilises higher and less crowded frequency bands where there's more bandwidth available, so a phone that only supports sub-6 5G might not have access to the full potential of 5G.

On the CPU front, the SoC employs a tri-cluster design in the following configuration:

  • 2x ARM Cortex-A76 @ 2.73GHz
  • 4x ARM Cortex-A55 @ 2.5GHz
  • 2x Samsung M5 @ 2.0GHz

Samsung has deployed its new Exynos M5 microarchitecture here, which is supposedly up to 20 per cent faster than the Exynos M4 in the 9820 SoC. These function as the "big" cores, and Samsung is mixing its custom CPU design with two "middle" Cortex-A76 cores and four "little" A55 cores.  

Elsewhere, the GPU is getting a big upgrade too in the form of the Mali-G77 in an MP11 configuration. This GPU uses ARM's new Valhall architecture, and Samsung is claiming performance gains of up to 20 per cent and similar improvements to power efficiency.

Exynos 990 also transitions from LPDDR4X memory to LPDDR5, which the S20 Ultra has a whopping 12GB of. This is more memory than some laptops and desktop PCs have, making the S20 Ultra a truly extravagant offering. Samsung's LPDDR5 chips offer some compelling benefits over LPDDR4X as well, including up to 50 per cent more bandwidth and 20 per cent lower power consumption.

To cap things off, the S20 Ultra will come with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage. The 512GB model even comes with 16GB of RAM, but only the 128GB version is available to buy locally. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra specs
  Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (128GB) Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (512GB) Samsung Galaxy Note10+ (256GB) Samsung Galaxy S10+ (512GB) Google Pixel 4 XL (64GB) Huawei P30 Pro OnePlus 7 Pro (12GB/256GB) Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
  Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (128GB) Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (512GB) Samsung Galaxy Note10+ (256GB) Samsung Galaxy S10+ (512GB) Google Pixel 4 XL (64GB) Huawei P30 Pro OnePlus 7 Pro (12GB/256GB) Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
Operating system
  • Android 10 (One UI 2.1)
  • iOS 13
  • Android 9.0 Pie with Samsung One UI
  • Android 9.0 Pie with Samsung One UI
  • Android 10
  • Android 9.0 with EMUI 9.1
  • Android 9.0 with Oxygen OS
  • ColorOS 6, based on Android 9 Pie
Processor
  • Exynos 990
  • Apple A13 Bionic
  • Samsung Exynos 9825 octa-core (2x2.73 GHz Mongoose M4 & 2x2.4 GHz Cortex-A75 & 4x1.9 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Samsung Exynos 9820 8nm octa-core (2x2.7 GHz Mongoose M4 & 2x2.3 GHz Cortex-A75 & 4x1.9 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Snapdragon 855
  • Hisilicon Kirin 980 octa-core (2 x 2.6GHz Cortex-A76 & 2 x 1.92GHz Cortex-A76 & 4 x 1.8GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Octa-core (1x2.84 GHz Kryo 485 & 3x2.42 GHz Kryo 485 & 4x1.8 GHz Kryo 485) with Adreno 640 GPU
Built-in Memory
  • 12GB
  • 6GB
  • 12GB RAM
  • 8GB RAM
  • 6GB LPDDR4X
  • 8GB RAM
  • 12GB RAM
  • 8GB RAM
Display
  • 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O display
  • 3,200 x 1,440 pixels
  • 511ppi
  • 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR display
  • 2,688 x 1,242 pixels
  • 458ppi
  • 6.8-inch / 3,040 x 1,440 pixels (498 ppi) / 19:9 ratio / Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.4-inch / 3,040 x 1,440 pixels (526 ppi) / 19:9 ratio / Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.3-inch flexible OLED
  • 3040 x 1440 pixels
  • 537ppi
  • 6.47-inches 2,340 x 1,080 pixels (398 ppi) OLED 19.5:9 ratio
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.67-inch / 3120 x 1440 pixels (516ppi) / 19.5:9 ratio / Fluid AMOLED
  • 6.6-inch / 2,340 x 1,080 pixels (387 ppi) / 19.5:9 ratio / AMOLED Display
Camera
  • Rear:
  • 12MP, 120°, f/2.2, 13mm (ultra-wide), 1.4µm
  • 108MP, 79°, f/1.8, 26mm (wide-angle), 1/1.33", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
  • 48MP, 24°, f/3.5, 103mm (telephoto), 1/2.0", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 10x hybrid optical zoom
  • 0.3MP, f/1.0, time-of-flight 3D, (depth)
  • Front:
  • 40MP, 80°, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 0.7µm, PDAF
  • Rear:
  • 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55", 1.4µm, PDAF, OIS
  • 12 MP, f/2.0, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.4", 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 2x optical zoom
  • 12 MP, f/2.4, 13mm (ultrawide)
  • Front:
  • 12 MP, f/2.2
  • Rear: 12-megapixel f/1.5-2.4, 26mm wide + 12-megapixel f/2.1, 52mm telephoto, 2x optical zoom + 16-megapixel, f/2.2, 12mm ultrawide, TOF 3D VGA camera
  • Front: 10-megapixel, f/2.2, 26mm (wide),Dual Pixel PDAF
  • Rear: Triple 12-megapixel dual f/1.5 and 2.4, 26mm wide + 12-megapixel f/2.4, 52mm telephoto, 2x optical zoom + 16-megapixel, f/2.2, 12mm ultrawide
  • Front: Dual 10-megapixel, f/1.9 + 8-megapixel, f/2.2 depth sensor
  • Rear:
  • 12.2 MP, f/1.7, 28mm (wide), 1/2.55", 1.4µm, PDAF, OIS + EIS
  • 16 MP, f/2.4, 45mm (telephoto), 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS + EIS, 2x optical zoom
  • Front:
  • 8 MP, f/2.0, 22mm (wide), 1.22µm, no AF
  • Rear: Quad: 40-megapixel f/1.6 wide with SuperSpectrum sensor, 20-megapixel f/2.2 ultra wide, 8-megapixel f/3.4 telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom and 10x Hybrid zoom, and Time-of-Flight (ToF) 3D lens
  • Front: 32-megapixel, f/2.0
  • Rear:48 MP, f/1.6, (wide), 1/2", 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
  • 8 MP, f/2.4, 78mm (telephoto), 3x zoom, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
  • 16 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide)
  • Front:Motorized pop-up 16 MP, f/2.0, 25mm (wide), 1/3.0", 1.0µm
  • Rear: 48 MP, f/1.7, 26mm, Periscope 13 MP, f/3.0, 160mm (telephoto), 5x optical zoom, 8 MP, f/2.2, 16mm (ultrawide)
  • Front: 16-megapixel, f/2.0
Video Support
  • 4320p@24fps, 2160p@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+
  • Rear:
  • 1080p @ 30 FPS, 60 FPS, 120 FPS
  • 720p @ 240 FPS
  • 4K @ 30 FPS
  • Front:
  • 1080p @ 30 FPS
Audio Support
  • 32-bit/384kHz audio
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax/ac/n/b/g/n/a)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax/ac/n/b/g/n/a)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 18 (up to 1200Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 20 (up to 2000Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G+ LTE-A (3CA) Cat 21 (up to 1400Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, DLNA, Bluetooth v5, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, USB 3.1 Type-C
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot ,Bluetooth v5, NFC, 4G LTE Cat 18 (up to 1.2Gbps)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac , dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, EDR, LE, aptX HD, dual-band A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS, NFC
Storage Type
  • 128GB internal storage
  • 512GB internal storage
  • 256GB internal storage
  • microSD expansion (up to 1TB)
  • 512GB internal storage
  • 512GB (MicroSD)
  • 64GB internal storage
  • 256GB internal storage
  • Huawei Nano Memory expansion (up to 256GB)
  • 256GB
  • 256GB internal storage;
Battery
  • 5,000mAh Li-Po
  • 3,500mAh lithium-ion
  • 4,300mAh
  • Samsung Super Fast Charging
  • Wireless charging
  • 4,100mAh
  • 15W Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
  • 15W Fast Wireless charging
  • 9W Reverse Wireless charging
  • 3,700mAh lithium-ion
  • 4,200mAh
  • 40W Huawei SuperCharge
  • 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge (Qi wireless charging)
  • Reverse wireless charging
  • 4,000mAh
  • Warp Charge 30 Fast Charging
  • 4,065mAh
  • VOOC Flash Charge
Dimensions
  • 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm
  • 158 x 77.8 x 8.1
  • 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9 mm
  • 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm
  • 160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2 mm
  • 158 x 73.4 x 8.4 mm
  • 162.6×75.9×8.8mm
  • 162.0 x 77.2 x 9.3 mm
Weight
  • 220g
  • 226g
  • 196g
  • 175g / 198g (ceramic)
  • 193g
  • 192g
  • 206g
  • 215g

 

 

JetStream 2.0

JetStream 2 is a combination of a variety of JavaScript and Web Assembly benchmarks, including benchmarks that came before like SunSpider and Octane. It primarily tests for a system’s and browser’s ability in delivering a good web experience. It runs a total of 64 subtests, each weighted equally, with multiple iterations, and takes the geometric mean to compute the overall score.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra was on par with most other Android phones here, coming slightly ahead of the Galaxy S10+ and Note10+. It lost out to the Pixel 4 XL and OnePlus 7 Pro however, and like the other Android devices, was way behind the new iPhones. 

 

AnTuTu

AnTuTu is an all-in-one benchmark that tests CPU, GPU, memory, and storage. The CPU benchmark evaluates both integer and floating-point performance, the GPU tests assess 2D and 3D performance, the memory test measures available memory bandwidth and latency, and the storage tests gauge the read and write speeds of a device's flash memory.

The S20 Ultra did well in AnTuTu, surprisingly beating even the iPhone 11 Pro. This amounts to quite a significant improvement over last year's Note10+ too, and it was around 33 per cent faster.

 

Geekbench 5

Geekbench CPU is a cross-platform processor benchmark that tests both single-core and multi-core performance with workloads that simulate real-world usage. Geekbench 5 scores are calibrated against a baseline score of 1000, which is the score of an Intel Core i3-8100. As a result, Geekbench 5 scores are not comparable against those of Geekbench 4, whose baseline score is derived from an Intel Core i7-6600 processor.

The Exynos 990 in the S20 Ultra outpaces the Exynos 9825 in the Note10+ by around 26 per cent in the multi-core benchmark. In the single-core test, it was roughly 5 per cent faster. It is still quite a distance behind Apple's A13 Bionic chip though, underscoring Apple's lead with its mobile processors. 

 

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We're running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.

The S20 Ultra and its Mali-G77 GPU was around 32 per cent quicker than the Note10+, a decent improvement. The iPhone 11 Pro remains way ahead though, but this is otherwise a good showing for an Android phone. 

 

Battery Life & Charging

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email

I tested the S20 Ultra at its full 3,400 x 1,440-pixel resolution, and battery life was still absolutely stellar. The beefy 5,000mAh battery kept it going for over 13 hours, and I don't think you'll have any trouble getting the phone to last you a full work day. It's the best performing phone so far, at least among the latest crop of phones we've reviewed.

The S20 Ultra ships with a 25W adapter, but it does also support an optional 45W charger that will juice it up even quicker. That said, the included charger is still plenty fast, and I got to around 63 per cent of charge in 30 minutes, and up to a 100 per cent in an hour flat.

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9.0
  • Design 9
  • Features 9.5
  • User-Friendliness 9
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 7.5
The Good
Bright edge-to-edge 120Hz display
Large 5,000mAh battery
Great camera with standout features
One UI 2.1 adds far more intuitive gestures
eSIM support
The Bad
Large and thick camera bump
Very expensive
Headphone jack is gone
Glass back is a fingerprint magnet
128GB internal storage could be limiting
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