Samsung Galaxy Note 20 review: Exceeding my Ultra-high expectations
Samsung's most misunderstood phone of the year caught me by surprise.
The Galaxy Note 20 is one of Samsung's most perplexing devices in years. It has most of the modern appointments of a 2020 flagship, including 5G support, a top-of-the-line processor, and a trio of high-quality cameras, but it also ditches the luxe glass backing of its Ultra counterpart in favor of a plastic one, and features a relatively dated 60Hz 1080p display.
On paper, these compromises can make the Note 20's $1000 asking price seem hard to justify, especially given the abundance of comparably high-end options like the OnePlus 8 Pro at lower price points. But in my time with the Galaxy Note 20, I've come to appreciate it as a more practical device than even the pricier Note 20 Ultra that I used just before it. As it turns out, those hardware tradeoffs aren't so bad.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20: What I like
It's easy to get caught up in the debate around Samsung's decision to use a plastic backing on the Note 20, but I was surprised by how solid the phone still feels in the hand. There's the slightest bit of give in the plastic if you apply enough pressure, but the Note 20 doesn't creak or feel at all cheap, and the matte finish feels reminiscent of the frosted glass on the Mystic Bronze Note 20 Ultra. In case you're worried about long-term durability, the Galaxy Note 20 also has an aluminum midframe.
The flat display is a fantastic change of pace for Samsung's high-end lineup.
The plastic design also helps the Note 20 feel a bit lighter than the Note 20 Ultra, and while the rounded corners are a bit odd to see on a Galaxy Note device (most of which feature a more squared-off look), they keep the phone from poking uncomfortably into your hand.
By far the thing I was most excited to try on the Galaxy Note 20 was its completely flat display — something that's otherwise been phased out of Samsung's high-end lineup. After encountering far too many accidental touches on the Note 20 Ultra's curved glass, I was curious to see how this screen would fare by comparison.
To my delight, accidental touch input hasn't been an issue whatsoever on the Note 20. It's really made me think about how unnecessary curved displays still feel at times; they certainly feel look and feel nice, but I'm still not convinced they bring much functional benefit to the table. I'd be happy to see more flat displays on future Galaxy S and Note devices.