Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G: Quick Camera Check-In

Posted on March 7, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 14 Comments

My Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G arrived this past Monday, but I wasn’t able to switch over the SIM and use it full-time until Thursday. It’s absolutely not worth $1400—no phone is—but it’s already clear that I’d probably be happy using it for the foreseeable future. That said, my wife’s need for a new phone is more acute. It will find a good home either way.

My slowness in moving to the S20 Ultra was triggered by the need for a case: Thanks to Samsung’s liberal pre-order bonuses, I’m getting a free case (and a free pair of Galaxy Buds+ earbuds), but they didn’t arrive with the phone. So I ordered a cheap but durable case from Amazon; that arrived Wednesday, but I was busy with some other things that night and I drove to Boston on Thursday. So I finally made the switch Thursday night. (Go figure, but the Samsung freebie case and earbuds were delivered yesterday, so I’ll check those out when I get home.)

Switching over to the Google Fi network I use was pretty straightforward, but I needed to find my SIM card first: The Google Pixel 4 XL I had been using previously has a Fi-compatible eSIM, so it wasn’t in that phone. I eventually found it in my iPhone, so I swapped the SIM before I drove to Boston. And then I activated it from here. As always, this required a phone reboot, but whatever. It’s been working fine here in Massachusetts, and I’ve been driving around a lot, using Google Maps and so on.

The case I bought and am using (probably) temporarily is made of silicone gel so it’s reasonably protective, and I’m sure it adds a bit of bulk. But this phone is regardless big and bulky all on its own, and you can really feel the weight of its huge 5000 mAh battery. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but the Pixel 4 XL is a featherweight by comparison. The case does at least even out crazy-big camera bulge on the handset’s back, allowing it to lay flat on tables and other surfaces.

The display, as noted previously, is gorgeous, but I’m not even using any of its high-end features yet: By default, it uses a standard 60 Hz refresh rate, and not the elevated 120 Hz refresh rate it’s capable of. It’s also configured by default for a Full HD+ (2400 x 1080) resolution rather than its maximum possible WQHD+ (3200 x 1400) resolution. Both choices are aimed, no doubt, at improving battery life. And while I’ll test both changes, I’m honestly not sure I see the need.

Performance and connectivity have both been seamless so far. But I saw something in my wife’s car—which I drove to Boston—I’d never seen before: Its in-car display showed my wife’s contact image when we were talking on the phone through the Bluetooth system. I asked her about this, and she’d never seen it either, so I called back and took a picture. It’s a nice touch, but I’d love to know why it’s never happened with other phones.

The big question, of course, is the camera. I’ve not had any good opportunities to test the zoom functionality very much—it features both 10X hybrid zoom 100X digital zoom—but my initial forays into food photography have been quite pleasing, with the vivid HDR-like picture quality I like and a nice depth of field effect when I tap to focus manually. You can see its shots throughout this post; all of the photos were taken with the S20 Ultra.

Would I be happy with this camera? It’s early. But so far, yeah, I think so. I need to do some Night Mode shots and, of course, test zoom more thoroughly. But I like what I see.

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G: Quick Camera Check-In”

  1. ames

    The camera can take some great pictures. But definitely has problems focusing at times. Even scanning my Google Messages qr code took work to get focused...

  2. anderb

    Which part of the first photo is supposed to be in focus?

  3. paulkbiba

    The depth of field in these shots looks extremely shallow. It looks like they were taken with a telephoto lens using a wide aperture. Weird, and not encouraging.

  4. Shane

    In my car. The oneplus 6 displays contact pictures on the car screen. Its a ford focus.

  5. wright_is

    I ordered a Spigen Air case and a leather "wallet" style case for my S20+, both arrived last week, the phone is due for release next Friday here... So I've got a pair of cases and no phone.

  6. ndelena

    Google just needs to stop making the Pixel lineup and sell it's camera tech to other OEMs. Samsung displays and build quality + Pixel cameras and imaging processing would be an incredible combination.

    • wright_is

      In reply to ndelena:

      It is the camera software. Their sensors and lenses aren't better than the others. It is what they do with the information afterwards. Pair the Google ML camera software with the Huawei/Leica or Sony sensors and you'd have some really amazing results.

      The Huawei cameras are much better, but their ML processing leaves a lot to be desired. The same for Samsung.

    • wolters

      In reply to ndelena:

      I cannot agree more. I want a Samsung Phone that takes photos as good as Pixel and even with Paul's thoughts above, I am still wary of the S20 Ultra.

  7. wolters

    I am actually surprised to hear this...I've been waiting for a follow up and almost expected you to say it was going to be returned. I am looking forward to additional follow ups. This may be instrumental if I look into upgrading to the Note 20 this fall.

    I love the camera and simplicity of the Pixel but I love the hardware and "ecosystem" (Galaxy Watch / Tab S6 / Gear 360 / Samsung Pay) of Samsung. I have a Note 10+ and it's camera was "almost good enough" for me to use day to day. But I tend to miss the consistency of the Pixel and end up back on one.

  8. eric_rasmussen

    I'm beginning to wonder if we've hit the peak for phone pricing yet, or if they'll eventually climb to the $2000 mark. Part of me loves it because I love pushing the boundaries of what it means to be state of the art, but another part of me wants to save cash for the Ryzen 4000 and GeForce 3080 instead. :)

    The processing power of this phone is amazing, so much so that it actually deserves a different name. Pocket PC is trademarked, but is what this device is. Seeing the display in person changed my opinion on the phone. It's expensive, but it's beautiful and butter smooth in games. It's a very nice device, I'm looking forward to your in-depth review!

  9. bleeman

    I've always had contact pictures in my Chevy vehicles with their systems all the way back to my Lumia 1520 as well as my Galaxy Note 5, 8, and 10+.

  10. dremy1011

    I'm on the fence between the S20 Ultra and Pixel 4 XL. Nicer hardware vs photo quality and timely Android updates.

  11. lilmoe

    Just turn Scene Optimizer off, Paul. This should take care of everything you don't like about the processing.

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