Samsung’s 2020 flagship smartphone places the emphasis on the camera, with the top-of-the-range S20 Ultra 5G the biggest and most powerful offering.
The 5G-enabled device has a brand new camera set-up, including a Space Zoom feature which allows for up to 100 times digital zoom on images and a bigger battery for longer life.
But how does the new device hold up as a flagship phone?
As is to be expected from a Samsung flagship, the S20 Ultra is very well put together – the glass front and back neatly bordered by a thin metal on the sides, top and bottom of the device.
There are a few noticeable changes from last year’s S10, the most striking being the moving of the front camera at the top of the display being moved to the centre. It now takes up less space and generally looks neater.
The other major change is the camera array on the back of the device – which has more lenses to house than last year.
The S20 Ultra has four lenses in total, including the 48-megapixel telephoto camera which supports the 100 times Space Zoom.
The result is a camera bump larger than any you’re likely to have seen before, taking up a significant portion of the top half of the back of the device. Using a case does reduce the impact, but it does take some getting used to, even if bumps are popular across smartphone brands these days.
Overall though, the S20 Ultra looks good – it’s also lighter than it looks, so despite being “taller” than the iPhone 11 Pro Max it is lighter in the hand and does indeed fit into jean pockets.
In pure appearance terms, it’s a strong start.
To use every day, the S20 Ultra is excellent – with much of this great experience driven by the 6.9in Quad HD+ AMOLED Infinity-O display.
In simple terms, the screen is clear, bright and smooth. Everything from scrolling through your photos to watching video or fast-paced gaming works well here.
In terms of size, it’s more than big enough to stream video on, yet isn’t too bulky or heavy to hold while doing so.
Elsewhere, there’s 5G connectivity to enable faster up and downloading where it’s available, and the huge battery – which Samsung says is “smart” and optimises to your use – also comfortably lasts a day during testing.
That final point on battery life is a crucial one, as some modern flagships with a lot of processing power have struggled to always meet this target. In contrast, in testing, the S20 Ultra did it comfortably.
The centrepiece of this phone though is the camera system, which has several new strings to its bow.
Firstly, there is the new 108-megapixel wide-angle camera, which means zooming in on images you’ve captured still keeps a huge amount of detail and clarity intact.
One of the other big new additions is the Space Zoom feature, which offers up to 100 times digital zoom when looking to capture photos.
As you might expect, image quality does fall away when using this feature in general, and it is best suited to when you have a tripod to hand to help keep things steady – although there is a handy viewfinder that appears on-screen to help you navigate when zooming in.
In the right settings, Space Zoom is fun and interesting, but those settings aren’t in regular day-to-day use.
In truth, Space Zoom feels more like a party trick feature – one to show off the ability of the S20 Ultra’s camera to someone who hasn’t seen it before, rather than a camera tool you will repeatedly return to to take photos.
There’s also the new Single Take feature. This is a fun addition for those who are all about getting the best content for their social media pages.
It works by capturing up to 10 seconds of footage, which built-in AI then turns into a range of short clips and still images which users can then choose from depending on what they’re looking for and where they want to post it to.
There are short video clips for TikTok or Snapchat, as well as stills for your next Instagram post.
But much like Space Zoom, this again feels like a feature which needs the right setting to work at its best, rather than something you could turn to constantly, as the results can be mixed.
Other highlights include the improved low-light photography – with photos taken in dark settings appearing brighter than some rivals, while the 8K video capture and its ability to pull high-resolution still images out of the footage is also a handy addition for photo and video lovers.
In terms of build quality, you won’t find a better phone on the market right now than the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.
The camera bump on the rear of the device won’t be to everyone’s taste and that’s understandable given its size, but the camera’s performance more than makes up for it.
It is steeply priced at £1,199, but given the 5G connectivity, the screen size and battery life, it stands up against any competition in the 2020 flagship category.
Modern smartphones are built around the camera and the results that the array of lenses provide. On this basis, the S20 Ultra is the best phone around right now.