Samsung's Galaxy Note20 Ultra packs in plenty of high-end specs like a Snapdragon 865+, big 120Hz display, one of the biggest camera sensors you can get, plus a periscope-style telephoto camera, laser autofocus, and the well-known S Pen. But before you go dropping $1,300 on a pre-order, you might want to consider what you're looking for in a phone, and the OnePlus 8 Pro might also be on your radar.
|Galaxy Note20 Ultra||OnePlus 8 Pro|
|Chipset||Snapdragon 865+||Snapdragon 865|
|Display||6.9" 3,088 x 1,440 120Hz OLED (19.3:9)||6.78" 3168 x 1440 120Hz OLED (19.8:9)|
|RAM||12GB||8 or 12GB|
|Storage||128 or 512GB, microSD expandable||128 or 256 GB, not microSD expandable|
|Charging speed||25W wired, 15W wireless||30W wired, 30W wireless|
|Rear primary camera||108MP f/1.8 w/ OIS and laser autofocus||48MP f/1.7 w/OIS|
|Rear wide-angle camera||12MP f/2.2||48MP f/2.4|
|Rear telephoto camera||12MP f/3, 5x optical "zoom," up to 50x "Space Zoom")||8MP f/2.44|
|Front camera||10MP f/2.2||16MP f/2.45|
|Software||One UI 2.5/Android 10||Oxygen OS/Android 10|
|Misc.||IP68, in-display fingerprint sensor, Ultra Wideband, S Pen||IP68, in-display fingerprint sensor, "Comfort Tone" ambient color adaptation,|
The Note20 Ultra and OnePlus 8 Pro have a lot in common, but they're also pretty different phones. Starting on the inside, you've got similar chipsets powering each. The Note20 Ultra uses a slightly newer (and slightly faster) Snapdragon 865+, while the OnePlus 8 Pro has the original Snapdragon 865. In practical terms, you're probably not likely to notice much of a difference outside particularly demanding games, where the higher-clocked GPU could make a small difference —but technically the Note20 Ultra is slightly faster.
That said, software can also make a difference in your perception of speed, and while some of OnePlus' decisions have been unfortunate, Oxygen OS is closer to stock than OneUI, and historically it "feels" a bit faster on the same hardware. Oxygen OS is also a little less confusing to navigate if you decide to go mucking about with settings — sometimes Samsung's software feels like you need a degree in the company's phones to understand it all, there are so many tweaks and customizations in so many hard-to-find places. Power users willing to take the time to learn may appreciate the extra bells and whistles, though.
The base models of both phones come with 128GB of storage, which is probably enough for most folks, but if you know you're a data hoarder, the Note20 Ultra can be configured with up to half a terabyte of storage, and it has microSD expandability for even more. The difference in base model RAM of 8GB for the 8 Pro and 12GB for the Note20 Ultra probably won't make much difference in real-world performance, though we might feel differently in two or three years. You can also get the 8 Pro in a 12GB/256GB configuration, though, if you're concerned.
Battery capacity between the two phones is just about identical, though wired charging speeds favor the OnePlus 8 Pro by a small margin. When it comes to wireless charging, though, the 8 Pro beats Samsung, offering up to 30W Warp Charge Wireless with the company's own charger. OnePlus also claims its phone is compatible with slower standard 5W and 10W Qi charging.
When it comes to screens, both phones are 120Hz and OLED. The display on the Note20 Ultra is 0.2" larger, but resolutions are otherwise about identical. What isn't identical is the effective resolution at a given refresh rate: The Note20 Ultra caps you at 1080p in software if you want the full 120Hz experience, while the OnePlus 8 Pro can reach its full native resolution at 120Hz. I would argue the visual difference is actually slight, and you probably won't notice a difference, but it might matter to you.
Things get a little more complicated when you talk about cameras — remember, this isn't a pure numbers discussion comparing megapixels, other details matter. You should also take any judgment here with a grain of salt since photo quality is subjective and we can't do a side-by-side comparison (yet).
The primary camera in Samsung's Note20 Ultra packs one of the biggest sensors you can get, with a crazy 108MP pixel count and fast laser autofocus. The 8 Pro, on the other hand, has "just" 48MP. Taking into account pixel binning (where pixels in the sensor are combined in software to make "bigger" pixels that gather light better), both phones ultimately take 12MP photos. However, the Note20 Ultra's light-gathering ability should beat the 8 Pro, resulting in less potential noise in poor lighting conditions.
The Note20 Ultra's periscope-style telephoto camera also probably beats the 8 Pro soundly, offering greater optical zoom before digital effects kick in, and reaching a higher maximum via digital zoom. The wide-angle camera, on the other hand, may slightly favor the 8 Pro: Both capture 12MP photos at a near-identical FoV, but the 8 Pro's pixel binning gives it slightly larger pixels and potentially improved low-light performance.
However, by far, the most important thing in a camera is processing, it's how Google manages to give Pixels some of the best cameras out there, even with an older sensor. When it comes to processing, OnePlus and Samsung take different approaches, but I can't dictate your tastes to you. I'd encourage you to check out our review of the OnePlus 8 Pro and the upcoming Note20 Ultra, — though a look at the previous S20 Ultra might give you an idea of what to expect since it will probably be similar outside improved autofocus and telephoto. The 8 Pro also has a "color filter" camera that's been in the news but does basically nothing. I wouldn't factor it into your decision at all — though the 8 Pro's super macro mode is pretty awesome.
There are a few last perks to consider as well, like accessory support: Samsung sells a ton of phones and has a ton of partners, so you'll get your pick when it comes to things like cases, screen protectors, and other device-specific accouterments. OnePlus, on the other hand, doesn't get as much in the way of third-party help — though its first-party cases are pretty good. The Note series also has the S Pen, which is a definite perk for those that use it. The OnePlus 8 Pro, on the other hand, does get the Comfort Tone feature that matches the display temperature to ambient lighting, and it is pretty snazzy — I don't understand how Samsung hasn't done its own version of that yet.
Lastly, there's perhaps the biggest difference to consider: Price. Samsung's Note20 Ultra comes in at a whopping $1,300 for the base model, and the OnePlus 8 Pro starts at $400 less when purchased outright. It's up to you if the differences are worth $400 more. Do note that you get an effective discount in the form of Samsung Credit with a pre-order, which might make a difference in your purchasing plans. Carriers are also promoting Note20 series with BOGO offers and heavily discounted on-contract deals, so if you aren't buying outright, the Note20 could actually be cheaper. It's up to your situation and you'll need to do the math.
If you're still on the fence about pre-ordering a Note20 Ultra, look forward to our upcoming review.