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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. iPhone 11 Pro Max: Titanic Flagships Clash

Like last year, Samsung launched two new Galaxy Note phones. This year the Note 20 will be complemented by the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The new and beautiful phablet from Samsung is aimed at anyone looking for a high-performance phone with all modern conveniences, including the S Pen, the powerful Snapdragon 865 Plus and an extremely powerful camera module with three lenses.

It’s not the only big, powerful phone with a terrific name, however. The big iPhone of the moment is the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and Apple’s formidable beast is a triumph of technology, with stunning design, a gorgeous display, and more power than you can imagine. Both devices have starting prices well in excess of $ 1,000, so it’s unlikely that you can own both of them. Which should you spend your money on and why? We found out.

Technical specifications

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Apple iPhone 11 Pro max
size 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1 mm (6.48 x 3.04 x 0.32 in) 158 x 77.8 x 8.1 mm (6.22 x 3.06 x 0.32 in)
Weight 208 grams (7.34 ounces) 226 grams (7.97 ounces)
Screen size 6.9 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
Screen resolution WQHD + 2,688 x 1,242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
operating system Android 10 (under One UI 2.0) iOS 13
storage room 256 GB, 512 GB 64 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
MicroSD card slot Yes, up to 1 TB No
Tap-to-pay services Samsung Pay, Google Pay Apple Pay
processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus Apple A13 Bionic Chip
R.A.M. 12 GB 4GB
camera Triple lens 108 megapixels, 12MP telephoto lens and 12MP ultrawide lens at the rear, 10MP at the front Triple lens 12 MP wide, 12 MP ultra wide and 12 MP telephoto rear; 12MP TrueDepth on the front
Video 8K at 24 frames per second, 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in the display No, face recognition instead
Water resistance IP68 IP68
battery 4,500 mAh

Fast charge (25W)

Qi wireless charging

Wireless powershare


Fast charge (18W)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon
Colours Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic White Midnight green, space gray, silver, gold
price $ 1,299 $ 1,100
Buy from Samsung, AT & T. Apple, Best Buy
Review rating 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Design, display and durability

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a stunning design, especially in the Mystic Bronze color. The massive 6.9-inch AMOLED display stretches from edge to edge with barely a bezel, and there is a front-facing camera in a hole in the center of the display. The edges are gently curved, and the buttons and S Pen dock have been moved to make the phone more ergonomic. The iPhone takes a different approach to design, and while it has a similarly slim bezel, the chunky notch at the top of the screen is far more noticeable than the Note 20 Ultra’s hole. It doesn’t look bad as a result, however, and the new matte texture on the back feels and looks great.

Every phone also has a large OLED display, so you get a big screen with crisp resolution. The Note 20 Ultra’s display has a sharp edge, but you will likely have to put your face right next to the phones to tell the difference. However, you will definitely feel the difference between the refresh rates. The Note 20 Ultra has a super-smooth refresh rate of 120Hz, which means it updates twice as often as the iPhone’s 60Hz display. That means the note feels more responsive and looks more fluid.

In terms of durability, there is less to separate the two. Both are rated IP68 for water and dust resistance and both have slim glass bodies. However, the iPhone has a stainless steel frame, which makes it heavier and more durable than the Note 20 Ultra’s aluminum frame. However, we do believe that both phones require a protective case so it shouldn’t be too important.

Both phones look incredible, but it’s the 120Hz display that gives the Note 20 Ultra an edge that the iPhone just can’t match.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Performance, battery life and charging

iPhone 11 Pro Max game
Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

These two phones are powerful flagships. So you know you will get an amazing performance no matter which one you choose. The Note 20 Ultra is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus, and this chip can easily handle any number of app swaps, 3D games, and anything you can throw at them. The A13 Bionic processor on the iPhone is similar, and while the A13 tends to score higher on benchmarks, it likely doesn’t make a noticeable difference in real life. It’s similar with RAM – since iOS uses RAM differently than Android, the big difference between the two doesn’t have too much of an impact.

The Note 20 Ultra has the larger battery of the two, and we’ve found that it can withstand pretty heavy use and still make it through the end of the day. However, it is against a monster. The iPhone 11 Pro Max showed amazing longevity in our test, and it’s not hard to see that with modest use, it will run for two days. The Note 20 Ultra has faster charging and wireless powershare for charging other devices. However, it is obvious that the best battery is the one that you need to charge the least. The Note 20 Ultra’s battery is impressive, but that of the iPhone 11 Pro Max is almost unique.

Winner: iPhone 11 Pro max


Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Cam module
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

With each new iteration of a flagship phone, there are generally some camera improvements made, and these phones are no exception. The Note 20 Ultra has a triple lens rear module with a 108-megapixel main lens, a 12-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens. There is also a 10MP selfie camera on the front. When you add in Samsung’s great single take software, you have a great camera. Great, color-soaked images are captured, and the night mode is a worthy shot too.

Can it beat the iPhone 11 Pro Max? Apple’s new iPhone was only upgraded from the Huawei P40 Pro and was at the top of our list of the best camera phones until the release of the new Chinese flagship. Needless to say, the three 12-megapixel lenses capture exceptional still images and superb video. Which one is better? We tend to the iPhone for having the better photos, but there’s a lot to love about the saturated images that the Note creates. It’s a tie.

Winner: tie

Software and updates

iPhone 11 Pro Max iOS 13
iPhone 11 Pro max Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Personal taste is the key when deciding between Android and iOS. The two operating systems have their pros and cons, and you probably already know or guess which one you prefer. On the upside, the barriers between the two have fallen over the years (which culminated this year with the addition of widgets in iOS 14), so switching between the two isn’t the seismic change it used to be could. It’s worth noting that Samsung uses its own proprietary manufacturer skin for Android on its devices, One UI 2. It offers a number of additional customization options for Android, but it’s by no means one of our favorite skins.

While there are some good additions out there, One UI 2 is probably why updates on Samsung phones take so long. It has been known that it takes Samsung up to six months to ship the latest versions of Android – which it doesn’t when switching to the iPhone. Apple releases updates to its phones on the same day of release and has supported iPhones for much longer than any other manufacturer. The 2015 iPhone 6S will get iOS 14, and you won’t get that support from any Android manufacturer.

Winner: iPhone 11 Pro max

Special features

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra S pen back
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is certainly not lacking in special features. The first is Face ID, Apple’s unlocking method that allows you to scan your face in 3D and use it to open your phone. The same feature also supports the Memoji and Animoji feature and allows you to create a cartoon version of yourself or an animal head that copies your head movements. iOS 13 has added an excellent system-wide dark mode that is perfect when the lights go out.

However, the iPhone is up against a Galaxy Note, a line of phones known for their special features. They have all of the features you’d expect from a Samsung flagship, including Bixby, Dex desktop mode, and 5G – but you have the S-pen too. This nifty little pen can operate your phone as a remote or with air gestures, scribble quick notes on the phone’s display, and add a level of precision that you can’t achieve with a finger. The note takes this pretty handy.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Price and availability

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is currently available from most major US retailers and stores. Prices start at $ 1,100. The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is also available, and prices start at a staggering $ 1,299.

Overall winner: iPhone 11 Pro max

As always, the battle between Apple and Samsung is close, and this time around, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max comes out on top. Thanks to its first-class processor, fantastic camera, and several days of battery life, Apple’s giant is the winner here. It’s the better of the two phones when viewed side by side.

However, you do not have to accept this result. If you prefer an Android phone or if the S Pen’s utility has you spellbound, you should seriously invest in the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It’s an amazing phone and you probably won’t regret your decision. But if the S Pen doesn’t seem that special, buy the iPhone.

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