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Best phone in the US 2021: the top 15 smartphones you can buy right now

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

5. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The 5x optical camera zoom crushes it

Specifications
Release date: August 2020
Weight: 208g
Dimensions: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.9-inch
CPU: Exynos 990 / Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 128GB/256/512GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 108MP/12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Amazing camera zoom+Handy S Pen stylus
Reasons to avoid
-'Ultra' expensive-Photos exhibit skin smoothing

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is Samsung's most expensive non-foldable phone, and generation's big perk of the Note is that it comes with an amazing camera. Get ready for extreme close-ups with the 5x optical zoom and 50x digital zoom. The S Pen returns with new tricks like recording voice notes and syncing them with handwritten notes.

Why it's ranked 5th: This is one of Samsung's most powerful phones, but it's more expensive than most of the S21 series. You get it all with the Note 20 Ultra: a stylus, a camera with a 5x optical zoom and 50x digital zoom, a faster chipset (at least in the US version) and a 6.9-inch 120Hz screen. Not everyone needs an 'everything phone' like this, but if you want it all and don't want to wait for the Galaxy Z Fold 2, this is one of Samsung's best.

Screen: The 6.9-inch Note 20 Ultra display is massive, but only is a fraction of an inch larger than 2019's 6.8-inch Note 10 Plus screen. A big difference is in the fluidity of the screen via a 120Hz refresh rate. No, you can't enable both the WQHD+ resolution and 120Hz at the same time, but the pixels look fine at 1080p on a screen of this size vs having to go back to 60Hz. Another literally small perk: the front-facing camera punch hole is smaller than ever.

Battery life: The Note 20 Ultra has a solid 4,500mAh battery, and we found that it goes more than a day with normal use without a problem. Even power users won't have a problem, based on our tests. Samsung includes a 25W fast wired charger in the box and offers compatibility with 15W fast wireless charging, but it has backed off of supporting 45W wired charging for some reason.

Camera: The Note 20 Ultra has one of the best cameras on an Android phone, and that's in part because of its 5x optical zoom and 50x digital zoom. It makes 2x optical zooms from the iPhone seem like minor cropping at the edges of 1x photos. With 5x optical and, in good light, 10x digital, Samsung punches in with a dramatic zoom and usable photos on Instagram (50x zoom is mostly a party trick). We also found this phone to have the best ultrawide camera, and the regular 12MP camera is sharp. You don't need the 108MP camera and should watch out for skin softening in low-light.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review