Samsung has just announced the Galaxy S20 ultra, and it’s an absolute mammoth of a smartphone. This phone has 16GB of RAM and a camera with 100 times zoom. It’s not just better than any flagship phone they’ve ever released before. It is a tier above. You could almost call it a superphone. So today, we’re answering the big question. Does the Galaxy S20 ultra destroy the iPhone 11Pro Max? I think the results might surprise you.
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The first thing you’ll notice, putting both these two devices side by side, is an ultra is an absolute unit of a phone. It’s massive for most people’s hands. The iPhone 11 Pro max is a large device, but Samsung takes that and then adds about 5% more height and almost 10% more thickness. To be honest, though, I don’t think that in itself is a problem. It’s large enough that you can forget about it being a one-handed experience. But as long as you go in with that as an expectation, you’ll spend more time at gawping at the magnificent display you get than worrying about how you’re going to hold it. But more on that in a minute.What is weird, though! is that even though Samsung’s phone towers above Apple’s in size? It’s lighter. And I’m going; being honest, it feels a little bit cheaper. While Samsung has upgraded the metal, they use in their phone rim from 7000 series aluminum to something that’s now 1.2 times stronger. Apple uses stainless steel, which has many times the mechanical strength of aluminum.
Anyways, it’ll be far more resistant to dents and scratches. Plus, I just like the density of the material. The iPhone’s weight just makes it feel a touch more premium. And while it is a little early for me to try it myself, if we dropped both phones on their sides, my money would be on the iPhone, surviving with far less damage. That said, though, while it only feels okay, I think the Samsung S20 ultra looks fantastic compared to the standard S20, which visually looks not too distinct from the company’s mid-range phones. This beefy camera module makes the ultra look. When you’re holding it, you feel like your holding cutting edge technology. I love that idea, but I will say that the design is a little sheltie compared to the iPhone. It’s got an enormous camera module with text. Just highlight its new space zoom feature. But the iPhone is a little more understated, classier. Its matte finish gets instant plus points for me because of its ability to resist fingerprints and avoid that kind of stickiness. You can sometimes get with glass. Samsungs camera module is protected by Gorilla Glass 6. Still, its sheer size means that it’s going to cause significant wobble if you put the phone on a flat surface, and both phones have IP68 water industry resistance ratings, and neither has a headphone jack. Slight bummer. Yeah, that wireless is where we’re headed.
I think having a headphone jack on a mainstream flagship 2020 smartphone is going to be a rarity anyways. So design and build wise. I would slightly side with Apple, but now is where the tables start to turn.
The display on the Galaxy S20 Ultra is the best display on a smartphone period. I could just leave it at that, but it is better than the iPhones in so many ways that I think we should talk about it for starters. What they have in common is that both use OLED technology for deep contrast, and they both have an almost identical brightness of 800 nits across the whole display. But then while S20 Ultra’s panel is just colossal, we say that every single year because somehow each generation these screens just keep getting bigger. And this time around, you’re looking at a whopping 6.9.” That might not sound like a big jump vs. the 6.5 inch iPhone screen. But in terms of screen area, that’s a difference. You’ll feel Samsung’s tiny hole-punch camera, which is 40% smaller than past generations, combined with small bezels all the way around, means that the ultra fields’ almost borderless and futuristic compared to Apple’s large notch and thick black rim.
Now, back when the iPhone 10 came out, which is the first time we saw Apple use this front design, we thought it looked slick and futuristic because fair enough, up against Galaxy S8. That was Samsung’s equivalent at the time. It was. But since then, while Apple is using the same design, Samsung has come so far and to put a number on it. The S20 Ultra’s screen to body ratio sits at around 90% vs. Apple’s approximately 84% What is interesting though, speaking of borders, is that the S20 lineup is the first time Samsung has backtracked on curved displays compared to the Samsung Galaxy S10 and other previous flagships. These new displays look almost flat. There’s still a slight curve, which is more than you can say for the iPhone, but it’s nowhere near as dramatic as before. I’d say it’s fair enough. The curves didn’t have any functional benefit, and I don’t think there’ll be that many people that missed them. There is more to this Ultra’s display, though. It’s a quad HD plus panel, giving it around 30% percent more pixels on the iPhone’s screen. But the best bet is that its refresh rate is double, while the eleven pros panel refreshes at a pretty standard 60 times per second. Samsungs does 120, and it changes things. Apple has always had this reputation for buttery smoothness that its Android rivals just haven’t been able to replicate all the S20 completely reverse. The trend for me using both. Side by the side.
For the first time, Samsung felt like a more fluid experience. And it’s not just that Samsungs display refreshes twice as fast. But it also has twice the touch response rates. That means that it’s faster at registering your touches, which makes everything just feel more instant and responsive. I should clarify here, the display on the iPhone 11 pro max is top shelf, but the show on the ultra is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Now I mentioned Apple’s sizable notch. And so while we’re here, it’s worth noting that it’s not there for show. It has all the sensors needed for face ID, which, if you’ve never used, it works incredibly. And if you have, you’ll know what I mean just by scanning your face. Face ID is secure enough to make bank transactions. Autofill your passwords, and so on. Samsung’s face scanner is fast but only uses a 2D camera. So it’s more of a tool for convenience than it is a safety measure. The phone does, though, have an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, pretty much the same as the one seen on the note10 last year. Now, just before we get 2 cameras, which is arguably the main event of this new S20 Ultra, there is something else I always like to keep track of with new phones.
The main takeaway is that both are kind of on par, depending on your region. Someone uses either the Exynos 990 or the Snapdragon 865 chipset, so versus last year S10, that’s around a fifteen percent faster CPU, a 25% faster GPU and AI engine that’s at least twice as good. But that puts it slightly behind the A13 Bionic chip in the iPhone. There will be some tasks that Samsung does better, but for most games and apps, I’d expect them to run a tiny bit faster on the iPhone. Samsung does kind of make up for this though with an absurd amount of ram. 12GB on the base model and up to 16GB. And when you factor in that, this is the fastest ram we’ve ever seen on the phone. The performance ceiling here is sky-high.
The iPhone, by comparison, only has 4GB. So Samsung will have an edge when you’re juggling heavy tasks. But just bear in mind that because IOS is optimized not to need as much RAM, the difference won’t be as noticeable as it sounds on paper. I’ve tried opening apps flicking between them, and there is a tangible difference between the performance of the S20 ultra and even Samsung’s phones from just a few months ago. But something I noticed, even more, was just how fantastic the haptics is here. The ultra uses the same vibration motors as the Galaxy Note 10+ before it, but it’s been further tuned to offer. What I’m going to say is the most satisfying physical response to touches you’ve seen on the phone.
I really would recommend you go into a store. You try to phone because I would rank it above Apple in this aspect.
It’s no secret that the camera is an essential part of S20 Ultra’s proposition. I mean, this is quite possibly the most extensive camera module I’ve ever seen. So to start with side by side, looking at specs, Samsung’s camera makes the iPhones look a bit like a toy. But we have to be careful here because the specs can be a little bit misleading. Its primary camera has a 108 MP resolution VS. 12 MP on the iPhone and it has a 48 MP telephoto camera with support for 100 times space zoom VS. The iPhone’s max of 10 times zoom. The ultra-light cameras then are almost identically Specht with both having a full 120-degree field of view.
But on top of that, something has an additional depth efficient sensor, which the iPhone doesn’t. This kind of gives you the impression that these two phones are in entirely different leagues like they’re not even comparable. And that is kind of the case, but also not really. So that primary camera is 108 MP. You can take 108-MP photos, but most of the time, you probably won’t. The benefit comes mainly because of something called a pixel binning. There are quite a few firms out there that can do this. They merge 4 smaller pixels into one bigger one to make those resulting pixels cleaner and more noise-free.
The S20 Ultra uses something called Nona Binning, converting not 4 but 9 pixels into one. And so while you do still end up with a 12-MP photo from this 108-MP camera, the size of those pixels and the resulting quality is three times greater than the iPhone. So Samsung’s 12-MP photos have an incredibly crisp finish. And this translates to its night mode, too. When you take a nightmare shot now, you can hold your phone still for 8 sec, and capture way more light than you used to with a Samsung. Apple’s night mode is excellent, but Samsung’s is now better, in my opinion. For the first time, you can record 8K videos at a proper frame rate. It’s only 24 frames per second, which means you’ll benefit from sticking it on a tripod when capturing. But just the fact that you can shoot a crucial video is staggering. 8K is four times the resolution of 4K. And to give you some idea, this shot right here is a still image taken from an 8K video shot on this phone. And just this screengrab alone is a 33-MP image in its own right that you can then zoom into.
Aside from the low frame rate, though, this 8K footage also takes quite a long time to render on these new phones before you can. Watch it back in 8K. So it may not be a feature you keep on.
What about the zoom, though, 100 times? That sounds almost unbelievable. And it kind of is. The numbers don’t tell the full story. See, in my briefing, someone only talked about their hybrid zoom capabilities. Not once did they disclose the actual optical zoom value of the camera, which is the figure we usually use to compare phones. They say the phone can use lossless the zoom in 10 times, but from what I can see, the actual optical zoom range is only about 4-5 times. That’s still impressive. Mind you, and certainly dwarfs the iPhone’s 2-time zoom. But it does mean that if you were going to try zooming in 100 times like it suggests doing right on the back of the phone, most of that zoom is digital, and the result is just not going to be all that sharp. And then you got the ultra-right, which has seen some small but significant improvements to the field of view, is now actually slightly lower than past some Samsung phones but has the benefit of almost none of that. We’re distorting fisheye effects that we’re used to seeing on ultralight cameras, and switching between the lenses on Samsung’s phone no longer feels like switching between lenses, which is something the iPhone has done well from the start. So as far as the user is concerned, using these cameras on both phones just feels like using one camera, but one with a whole load of options. And that’s how it should be.
Samsung’s 4th additional sensor is just a depth camera, meaning that when you take a portrait mode shop, for example, you’re just getting a bit more information about how far away your background is. The phone also has a 40-MP selfie camera VS. Apple’s 12-MP.
They’re both delicious. And I should say at this point when it comes to cameras; the battle is not won with hardware, it’s earned with software. And Samsung’s camera software is catching up rapidly with apples. But at the same time, their equipment has just leapfrogged apples for something that is a high position to be in.
Then speaking of software, with either of these 2 phones, you’re buying into a completely different smartphone ecosystem. Android VS. IOS, in itself, could be an entire video. But there’s a couple of things worth noting with this comparison. In particular, Samsung’s phones, ships with Android 10 combined with one UI, 2.1 skin. And this delivers quick share. It’s one-touch sharing between Samsung phones and tablets. Finally, an Android equivalent to Apple’s airdrop. A couple of other smaller things like help.
Samsung has increased the vibrancy of their icons, but mostly not a massive shift from the software you’d find on the Note 10. Last year, the iPhone 11 Pro Max looked like an iPhone, and that’s either a great thing for you or not such a great job. You’ll benefit from a lot of IOS traditional advantages, like getting a lot of games and apps a little early, but generally getting less bloatware on the phone compared to the Samsung, which comes with a whole suite of apps you’ll probably never touch.
And iPhones have fantastic integration with Macs if you’re a Mac user. Plus, what you lose is the lack of customization you gain in software support. The very nature of Apple only releasing a few phones per year means that they can focus on delivering updates. You can expect a new iPhone to stay up to date for around five years after launch, wheres only give the S20 ultra out too now. Just before we conclude here, there’s a couple of things I want to touch on.
I love the fact that companies are finally paying attention to the battery. No matter how great a phone is, it’s camera performance. If the battery’s dead, it’s useless. So with that in mind, something’s fitted their device with their most massive battery ever. I believe the 5000 mAh and Apple have done theirs at 3969 mAh. That sounds like a clear win for Samsung. But I can tell you right now with Apple’s battery optimization and the fact that Samsung’s new display will suck battery like a vampire, this is anyone’s game, and you don’t have to wait for the full battery comparison to see the actual winner.
You will get a 25-watt charger with the Samsung, and you get an 18-watt with the iPhone. It’s good that the S20 Ultra can theoretically support 45-watt charging. That’s very fast. But it’s a bit of a shame that when you’re buying a phone at this price, you have to pay extra to get a charger that can do that.
Also, spend some time with the speakers on this new phone, and they’re right. Pretty much the same deal as with past Samsung flagships. You’ve got the main chunk of audio that comes from the bottom-firing speaker. But then also through this sliver of an air piece at the top. I would lean slightly towards the iPhone in terms of overall speaker quality.
Then Samsung is leagues ahead in connectivity. For starters, it has a hybrid dual SIM slot by default, which means that you can have one SIM under a micro SD card at the same time up to an extra terabyte of storage and 5G. No Apple phone. As of now supports 5G. But with the S20 ultra, you’re getting pretty much the complete package of 5G connectivity. Even for wireless charging. Samsung’s phone can wirelessly charge faster than apples, and it can reverse wireless charge other phones. That’s something that has not yet come to the iPhone 11 Pro. So bringing this all together. Where do we stand? Well, the S20 Ultra is undoubtedly phenomenal. It has so many new and impressive things all at once.
The one thing that will count against it is the fact that for the first time, Samsung is more expensive at the final confirmed. Prices of time are filming right now, but I’m told that you can end up paying as much as $200-300 more for Galaxy S20 ultra and over 11 pro-Max.
To be honest, though, I think that’s the fair game that you’re getting. And it leads me to quite an exciting outcome for quite a few years now. My firm recommendation has been if you want a Samsung phone, buy the latest Samsung. If you’re on an iPhone, buy the newest iPhone, because neither company’s phones have been so far ahead of the others that it makes sense to go through all the hassle of switching ecosystems. But the S20 ultra now offers so much more than its iPhone counterpart that for some users, this might make sense. Its camera, its display, its storage. We’re talking about a phone that can have 1.5 TB of data stored on it with a micro SD card slot. It is just a nuts phone. And so what I’m saying is for the first time, this is a device I can recommend to not only Samsung and Android enthusiasts but even iPhone ones too.