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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