Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G: Thanks for the memories

Doodling has never been easier

Price
£832 exc VAT
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Chic design
  • Great note-taking
  • Dual SIM-card slot
  • Gorgeous display
  • Poor screen luminance
  • No microSD card slot

In spite of some severe setbacks in the UK, the future of 5G connectivity is fast approaching. 2020 saw the launch of some impressive 5G-focused devices - from the Google Pixel 5 to the iPhone 12.

However, the 5G battle is a fight Samsung has definitely come prepared for. Here we test the Galaxy Note 20 5G and, with its three camera lenses, 20-hour battery life, and a stunning 6.7in display, it’s one piece of impressive hardware. With some help from the network, it might be able to keep up with all of your business needs.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G review: Design

We were charmed by the Note 20 from the moment we opened the box and saw its pink colour scheme. Although Samsung describes the shade as “Mystic Bronze”, it definitely deserves more than a third-place finish. The colour brought back happy memories of the rose gold iPhone 7, but updated to a more sophisticated, business-friendly aesthetic. For those not convinced by the superiority of pink smartphones, the Note 20 also comes in a just-as-fun “Mystic Green”, as well as a safer-but-boring “Mystic Grey”.

Although Samsung’s insistence on using plastic instead of glass for their high-end phones might be considered questionable, the Note 20’s polycarbonate back is perfect for maintaining its sleek and professional look by preserving it from fingerprints and dust. It also gives the device some grip, meaning that we felt reassured that it wouldn’t just slip out of our hands. One thing that we found surprising is its weight. After all, if you’re going to use plastic instead of glass, we would expect the device to be lighter than 198g.

On the upside, there isn’t much to complain about with the Note 20’s design. After all, it comes with sleek, rounded edges, a stunning 6.7in display protected by Gorilla Glass 5 (as opposed to the Note 20 Ultra’s Gorilla Glass Victus), and the discreet yet handy hiding place for the newly-improved S Pen at the bottom of the device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G review: S Pen

Speaking of the stylus, it might just be our favourite feature of the Note 20. The device can be used perfectly well without it, but it’s definitely worth a try. It might be that the S Pen unlocked some core memories of the Nintendo DS from our childhood, but we can’t ignore the fact that performing writing tasks, from doodling to signing documents, has never been easier and is almost as natural as handwriting on paper. 

The Note 20 is especially heavensent for users working on the go, who can make quick notes on a locked, black screen, and later export them to Microsoft apps like OneNote. Last but not least, the S Pen can also be used to control the screen without even touching it – you can open the camera just by miming in the air with your stylus. Although probably not the most necessary feature, it makes for a great party trick, and the other ‘Air Actions’ can be useful time-savers. However, this feature isn’t exclusive to the Note 20, and was also seen in earlier models such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G review: Display

Samsung’s displays are usually high-quality, but it’s worth noting that the Note 20’s 6.7in 1,080 x 2,400 Super AMOLED Plus display is one of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen, surprising us even weeks after we first set eyes on the device. This is borne out in its 100% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut - an excellent result by any stretch.

One potential downside to the Note 20, however, is its poor screen luminance. Our tests revealed a surprisingly low maximum brightness of 340cd/m², which is dimmer than we expected given Samsung’s history of producing blazing-bright displays. However, we didn’t find it dim nor hard-to-read in use. The maximum brightness also seemed to be able to withstand bright conditions even on sunnier days.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G review: Camera

Samsung is among the best in the industry when it comes to mobile photography, and the Galaxy Note 20’s three-lens camera setup proves this. Featuring two 12-megapixel ultra-wide and a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, it’s also great for those on the go, with handy AI-enhanced optical image stabilisation which will help save your pictures from any unwanted blurriness. 

However, although our wide shots came out beautifully, close-ups did produce some grainy imagery - the 30x maximum zoom sounds impressive, but use it at your own risk.

The front camera was nothing special, featuring the same single 10-megapixel lens which has featured on a few other recent Samsung phones, such as the latest Galaxy range. The front camera made us look rather unnatural with overly-smoothed skin tones, even with all Samsung’s beauty filters turned off; perhaps this is simply a reflection of our true selves, but in any case, we would rather not revisit the experience.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G review: Specs and hardware

The Note 20 runs on Android 10 and is powered by the Exynos 990 processor. In our Geekbench 5 tests, the device scored a perfectly capable 905 in single-core and 1,995 in multi-core results. As with the Note 20 Ultra, this is somewhat behind the very best the Android has to offer, but you’re unlikely to stress the processor to its limits and overall, we didn’t have any complaints about its performance.

Samsung knows how to distract us from any shortcomings, considering the 256GB of storage, 8GB RAM, and long-lasting 4300mAh battery. This last point is a particular selling point for the tech giant, as its smartphones have managed to maintain a strong reputation for impressive endurance. 

Samsung claims that the Note 20 5G can handle up to 21 hours of wireless video playback time - and in our battery test, the device lasted 20hrs 11min, just as promised. Its score was very close to its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, as well as another 5G-focused Samsung smartphone, the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. The result was also almost two hours longer than the 18hrs 26mins result of its larger stablemate, the Note 20 Ultra 5G –, although it wasn’t quite as impressive as the 30 hours offered by the Galaxy M31.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G review: Features

Th Note 20 5G has a handful of additional features which might not be groundbreaking, but are definitely useful. The user can set the screen to be unlocked using one of the two biometric security options: fingerprint or facial recognition. The device also comes with a dual SIM-card slot, which is especially useful for those aiming to balance their work and personal life, as well as frequent international travellers. Sadly, however, there’s no microSD card slot this time around - so that 256GB storage allocation is all you’re getting.

The blue light filter, which has become a fixture of laptops and monitors, will surely be welcome by those suffering from eye fatigue, while users who are tired of handling everything on a small screen can opt for Samsung’s DeX mode, which allows the device to be linked to a bigger monitor for desktop-style usage. 

Moreover, as opposed to its predecessor, the 5G iteration of the Note 20 comes equipped with wireless charging as well as, rather unsurprisingly, 5G connectivity. We managed to take full advantage of this enhanced networking, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Whether uploading posts to social media or surfing the web for research, loading time was minimal – if ever. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G review: Verdict

Despite not being the most pioneering smartphone release, the latest Note offering is one for the books. With a longer-than-average battery life, a beautiful design, and 5G connectivity, Samsung has released a perfectly good phone which was an absolute pleasure to use.

It may not be the best photography phone out there and its display might not be the brightest on the market, but it came to do what it does best: take notes. With its handy stylus pen and an array of useful features, it has the power to awaken a whole new spirit of creativity within you - one which will want to doodle on every screenshot you take. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G specifications

ProcessorExynos 990
RAM8GB
Screen6.7 inches, 1080 x 2400 pixels
Front camera10MP
Rear camer64MP, 12MP, 12MP
Dust and water resistanceYes, IP68
3.5mm headphone jackNo
Wireless chargingSupports 15W wireless charging
USB connection typeUSB Type-C 3.2, USB On-The-Go
Storage option256GB
Memory card slot (supplied)No
Wi-Fi802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2.4G+5GHz, HE80, MIMO, 1024-QAM
Bluetooth5.0, A2DP, LE, aptX
NFCYes
Cellular data5G
Dual SIMYes
Dimensions (WDH)161.6 x 75.2 x 8.3 mm
Weight198g
Operating systemAndroid 10
Battery size4300 mAh
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