The Galaxy Note series has always been a popular choice among consumers, although the company recently took things in a different direction.

When you’re looking for the next upgrade from the Note line, it’s time to compare the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the S21 Ultra.

Samsung stopped using the Note name after the Note 20 Ultra release, but the S Pen found its way to the S21 Ultra. While these two flagship smartphones were released less than 6 months apart, you’ll notice a difference in performance, battery life, and overall design.

Note 20 Ultra vs. S21 Ultra: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 UltraSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
What is it?SmartphoneSmartphone
ManufacturerSamsungSamsung
Release DateAugust 21, 2020January 29, 2021
PlatformAndroid 11, One UI 3.0Android 12, One UI
Display Size6.9 inches6.8 inches
Screen-to-Body Ratio91.7%89.8%
Resolution1,440 x 3,088p, 496 ppi1,440 x 3,200p, 515 ppi
ProcessorOcta-Core Snapdragon 865 SM8250Octa-Core Snapdragon 888 SM8350
GPUAdreno 650Adreno 660
Memory8GB, 12GB12GB, 16GB
Storage128GB, 256GB, 516GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Expandable StorageYesNo
Rear Camera108 MP Triple Camera108 MP Quad-Camera
Front Camera10 MP40 MP
Battery4,500mAh5,000mAh
Dimensions6.49 x 3.04 x 0.32 inches6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches
Weight208 grams229 grams

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. S21 Ultra: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • There are three Galaxy S21 variants: the S21+, S21 Ultra, and S21 FE.
  • Headphones and wall chargers were not included with the Galaxy S21 as a way to cut down on E-waste.
  • The first Galaxy Note smartphone from Samsung only had a 5.3-inch display.
  • The Galaxy Note 7 was discontinued over safety concerns and replaced by the Note FE.
  • Samsung’s S Pen stylus is also found on Galaxy Tablets, select Chromebooks, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Note 20 Ultra vs. S21 Ultra: What’s the Difference?

When you purchase a premium smartphone from Samsung, it’s hard to go wrong. Given the price of these devices when bought outright or through upgrades, it’s important to compare one generation against the next.

One of the biggest differences between these smartphones is the S Pen. The Galaxy S20 Note has one that slides into the phone’s chassis. With the S21 Ultra, you’ll need to purchase the stylus separately. There’s no slot for the stylus, which means you’ll need to carry it around or buy a case with S Pen storage.

That can be an inconvenience, but not necessarily a deal-breaker. To better understand the differences between the Note 20 Ultra and S21 Ultra, you have to take a closer look at the hardware, displays, cameras, and battery life.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra does not come with a stylus, but the S Pen is compatible with this phone.

Display Technology  

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a monumental leap in resolution within the Galaxy smartphone series, and nothing changed with these two flagships. Both have excellent displays, although one is slightly sharper.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a 6.9-inch display with a resolution of 1,440 x 3,088 and a pixel density of 496 ppi. It’s a large phone with a big screen and thin bezels, thanks to a screen-to-body ratio of 91.7%. On the newer Galaxy S21 Ultra, you’ll find a 6.8-inch display with a resolution of 1,440 x 3,200 at 515 ppi. The screen-to-body ratio on this model is 89.8%.

The display technology used in these smartphones is close. You may not notice an uptick in resolution on the S21 Ultra, but you may see a difference in brightness and depth. The S21 Ultra can also support FHD at 120Hz through a variable refresh rate compared to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which is capped at 60Hz.

Performance

The displays may be close between the Note 20 Ultra and the S21 Ultra, but these phones have different processors under the hood. They also offer different amounts of RAM and storage, which can complicate things if you’re considering an upgrade.

As the newer phone, the S21 Ultra has a more powerful processor with the Snapdragon 888, and a better GPU. It also comes with 12GB of memory out of the box and has a 16GB variant. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra specifications show the Snapdragon 865 and only 8GB of RAM on the base model and 12GB for the variant.

Benchmark tests have proven the Galaxy S21 Ultra to be the faster device, but whether it’s the best in this area depends on your needs. Both phones have the same storage capacities, which are capped at 516GB. The Note 20 Ultra has a microSD card slot, which is a significant advantage if you value storage space over speed.  

Camera Comparison

Samsung may not update its display technology often, but they always bring something new to the table with the cameras on their flagship smartphones. These devices both have Space Zoom and optical zoom, but the S21 Ultra has newer components and better software.

Samsung added a sensor to the back of the S21 Ultra giving it a total of five cameras including the 40 MP sensor on the front. The main camera for both devices is 108 megapixels and they each have a 12 MP ultra-wide sensor as well. The S21 Ultra has two telephoto cameras compared to one on the Note 20 Ultra.

The main telephoto lens has 10x optical zoom while the Note 20 Ultra’s zoom is only 5x. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and S21 Ultra will take stunning photos in a variety of conditions and can shoot 4K videos. With that in mind, the S21 Ultra has significantly better front and rear cameras.

Battery Life

Gauging battery life is challenging on any smartphone, whether it’s produced by Apple or a small Android smartphone manufacturer. That’s due in part to usage and applications that can pull power in the background, although the size of the battery gives you a good place to start.

The S21 Ultra has a larger 5,000 mAh battery than the Note 20 Ultra and better battery optimization. The phones also have wireless and quick charging capabilities at the same rate. You can get through a day on a full charge with either device, but the S21 Ultra will give you at least an extra hour.

The S Pen

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and S21 Ultra have a similar design, although that’s not something we focused on in this breakdown. The screens are slightly different, but the biggest change in the design comes into play with the S Pen.

One of the reasons to purchase the Galaxy Note Ultra 20 was the S Pen stylus. Samsung added stylus capabilities to the S21 Ultra, so both work with the S Pen. Only one phone comes with it, which means you’ll need to purchase a stylus separately for the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The S21 Ultra also doesn’t have a holder for the S Pen like the Note 20 Ultra. While it has a few new software features, the Note 20 Ultra provides better support for Samsung’s high-tech stylus.

Note 20 Ultra vs. S21 Ultra: Which One is Better? 

The Note 20 Ultra wins against the S21 Ultra on paper, considering it has improved cameras, newer hardware, and better all-around specifications. It’s a clear choice if you’re upgrading or choosing a phone because of the camera, but you won’t be disappointed by the performance.

If you plan to use the stylus frequently, the Note 20 Ultra is a better choice than the S21 Ultra. You don’t have to pay extra for the S Pen, and you’re able to store it within the phone’s housing. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra takes care of that problem, however, and beats its predecessor in several key areas.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. S21 Ultra: Full Comparison with Specs, Price, and More FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra waterproof?

It’s rated IP68, which means it’s resistant to dust and water to a degree. With water, you can submerge the phone in freshwater in depths up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes or less.

Does the Galaxy S21 Ultra have reverse charging capabilities?

Yes, the S21 and Note 20 Ultra both have reverse wireless charging rated at 4.5W.

How large of a microSD card will the Note 20 Ultra accept?

The phone will work with cards up to 1TB in size.

Is the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra discontinued?

The phone is still sold and in stock, but is no longer in production, as the Note line has been phased out in favor of the Galaxy Z series.

What’s different with the international variant of the Note 20 Ultra and S21 Ultra?

The differences are in the hardware. The international versions have Exynos processors and Mali GPUs compared to the Qualcomm chips and Adreno graphics on the North American model.

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