Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, S20 Ultra Hands On: New Cameras, 8K, and 5G

Etched on the back of Samsung’s new phone, the Galaxy S20 Ultra, are the following words: “Space Zoom 100X.”Space Zoom! Sadly, you can't zoom in and see all the galaxies far, far away, but you can zoom in on a subject up to 100x in the camera app. Naturally, it’s the first thing I tried when I briefly got my hands on Samsung's new high-end phone. Boy, was I disappointed—unsurprised but disappointed nonetheless. Just because you can zoom in all the way to a seemingly infinite degree, doesn’t mean you should. The results resemble a crayon drawing from a 5-year old more than they resemble a photograph.
Dial the S20 Ultra down to 10x zoom though, and it's a different story. I snapped a pic of a plant on the other end of a room and the S20 Ultra managed to keep it looking pristine. With exceptions from some Chinese phone makers like Huawei and Oppo, most smartphones with zoom lenses only offer 2x optical zoom, which I always thought fell a little flat because they don't put you significantly closer to the subject compared to the standard lens. Sure, you can zoom in even further than 2x on one of those phones, but you'd be using digital zoom, which reduces the quality of the image.
That's what's happening with the S20 Ultra's 100x zoom, but at 10x, the quality is great, and the possibilities seem endless. You can snap a clearer shot of your son at a recital, despite sitting at the back of the room; or take better photos of the concert stage, even if you've got balcony seats. Unfortunately, there's a high price for this new feature: The phone costs $1,400. Samsung has two other new phones, the Galaxy S20 ($1,000) and S20+ ($1,100), but you don't get the same level of zoom on those.

All three are packed to the brim with the latest tech , from 8K video recording and 5G connectivity to 120 Hz screen refresh rates. I'd be remiss not to mention another phone that Samsung has teased that looks a good deal more interesting—the Galaxy Z Flip. It flips! It folds! Alas, I haven't had a chance to spend time with the foldable phone yet, but we expect to get a closer look now that we know it exists.

Cosmetic Changes

Last year's Galaxy Note 10 had an irresistible Aura Glow color that to this day looks magnificent. It was the talk of the town! To follow it up, Samsung's bold new colors for the S20 Ultra are, er ... gray and black. I'm not quite sure what went wrong there, but the colors are a little bland; even the Cloud Blue and Cloud Pink colors for the smaller S20 don't pop as much as I'd like.
Otherwise, these phones don't look drastically different from last year's Galaxy S10 range , outside of bigger screens and rotated camera modules. The S20's screen measures 6.2 inches, the S20+ is 6.7 inches, and the S20 Ultra feels mammoth-sized at 6.9 inches. Seriously—I have big hands, and I had trouble wrapping my palms around the Ultra. The regular S20 is much more comfortable.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra has a large camera array on the back that includes a lens-sensor combo capable of capturing a 100x magnified image. Photograph: Samsung