Why the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is totally worth buying

At a price tag of $1,400+ is the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra worth it?
That’s a question tech bloggers are tackling with mixed results. The overwhelming majority are finding reasons you shouldn’t buy the Galaxy S20 Ultra, and while those arguments have some merit, I have a much different point of view. I bought the Galaxy S20 Ultra myself (two of them actually) and I’m excited to share my reasons for declaring the Galaxy S20 Ultra as totally worth buying.
The “Ridiculous” Price
There is no denying that the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is expensive – that’s a fair point. But Ultra critics cherry-pick specs by pointing out “comparable devices” for half the price or less:

The S20 Ultra has a periscope optical zoom but so does the Huawei P30 Pro ($700) and Oppo Reno 10X Zoom ($630) for half the price
The S20 Ultra has a 5,000 mAh battery but so does the Moto G7 Power ($175), Zenfone 6 ($750), and Nubia Red Magic 3 ($540)

Yes, you can find S20 Ultra specs and features on other much cheaper devices, but put the entire S20 Ultra spec sheet side-by-side with any phone on the market and it’s easy to understand why it costs so much more. There isn’t a single area in which Samsung skimps on specs. There is no weak point.
It’s important to distinguish between budget phones, value phones, flagship phones, and premium phones. Different devices target different types of customers at different price points. The S20 Ultra is intentionally expensive but if you want the top of the line smartphone, care about photo and video quality, and can afford $1,400 – you’re not going to find a better device.
This is the exact same reason that MKBHD spent $42,399 on a Mac Pro with zero regrets. And it’s why YouTubers like Austin Evans insist you should “Stop buying expensive smartphones” and then confirm the $1,400 Ultra is worthy of the price tag:

You’ll always pay a premium for the best of the best. In this case, the S20 Ultra is the best of the best. It might not be the best value, but that’s not what makes something “worth it”. If the $1,400 doesn’t make you flinch and you’re mostly interested in buying the absolute best phone with the best camera? The S20 Ultra is worth it.
The DSLR Replacement
I’ve been waiting for an Android device to replace my DSLR since I blogged about the original Samsung Galaxy Camera way back in 2012. That article started off with this very telling sentence: “On a scale from 1 to Awesome, I rate the Samsung Galaxy Camera a 12.”
The Samsung Galaxy Camera wasn’t an Android phone but a camera running Android.

It was discontinued after 2 years but not long after they filled the gap between DSLRs and Smartphones with the likes of the Galaxy K Zoom:

Unfortunately, that experiment didn’t fare too well, either.
Let me be clear: I understand that smartphones won’t replace the quality of a DSLR and that’s not what I’m expecting. What I’m suggesting is that – as a person who loves traveling and taking photos and videos, I want a smartphone that makes me feel good about leaving my DSLR at home. I want to do away with the burden of lugging around a bulky camera and be happy with the single electronic device that I always carry with me everywhere I go. Better the camera, the happier I am.
To that end, no device outperforms the Galaxy S20 Ultra. If you’re like me and love your DSLR but find yourself leaving it at home because it seems like more trouble than it’s worth? Yes, the S20 Ultra is worth it. Especially considering the cost of a DSLR.
The 100X Space Zoom Fake News Gimmick
Samsung is catching a lot of heat for the marketing behind the Galaxy S20 Ultra camera specs. The biggest complaint is surrounding the “100X Space Zoom” which is supposed to “change photography forever”.
Does the name overhype the feature? Perhaps… but maybe that’s just good marketing. Or consider that maybe it’s called Space Zoom because the images look like they came from a satellite or a Google Earth screenshot.
The feature is supposed to be more fun than useful and this is clearly illustrated in Samsung’s own ads for the Galaxy S20 Ultra:

See the guy in the hot air balloon? Kinda sorta. That’s the point. The Galaxy S20 Ultra 100X Zoom allows you to see something you normally would never be able to see and capture it if you’d like. If anything, it’s a pretty good replacement for a pair of binoculars.
Unfortunately, sensationalism goes both ways and many news outlets (including the Wall Street Journal) are covering the S20 Ultra as a privacy-invading tool for creepers. And while you’re at it turn off that rap music and get off my lawn? Sheesh.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra has icons for each zoom level:

It has true 4X Optical Zoom
It has 10X Hybrid Zoom (optical + software magic)
Up to 30X Zoom still looks pretty darn good
At 100X Space Zoom it’s mostly blurry blobs

The bottom line is that the Galaxy S20 beats every other smartphone’s zoom by a landslide. Even Dieter Bohn from the Verge claims that it “embarrasses the iPhone”:

His complaints about 100X Space Zoom are spot on. They might not be something you use for social media shots or YouTube vlogs, but it’s a powerful and fun tool to have at your disposal. I don’t think it’s the type of thing you use with specific moments in mind, but instead, you have it in your arsenal for when those unpredictable moments arise.
It’s Too Damn Big & Ugly!
The Galaxy S20 Ultra is gigantic! The phone has a 6.9-inch screen and weighs nearly half a pound. This is a fact and a legitimate complaint from which we can’t escape. Simply put, if you hate large devices, the Galaxy S20 Ultra isn’t worth it for you. For me, the pros outweigh this con.
The screen is gorgeous but critics have also complained that it only comes in two boring color options: black or grey. On top of that, the rear of the device doesn’t exactly turn heads. I’d argue that 99% of users will slap a case on the phone, rendering the color limitations meaningless. More importantly you’ll be protecting the Ultra from the inevitable falls when you fumble and bumble and ultimately drop it on the ground… it’s going to happen, accept it. But in this case the $1,400+ spent is for the specs and camera features, not it’s sleek and sexy design.
Although this “it’s too big” criticism has the most merit, it’s one of the tradeoffs that come with the territory. When it comes to stuffing all the highest-end specs into one device you either go big or go home. That’s up to you.
No 3.5mm Headset Jack?
The lack of a 3.5mm headset jack might be a deal-breaker for you. I was the same way for a long time but recently jumped ship. Three months ago I got fed up with the wires and upgraded:

From the wired Bose QC35 (Series I) to Bluetooth Bose QC35 (Series II) at my desk
From the old-school Sony behind the head headphones to the Powerbeats Pro on the go

I couldn’t be happier. My only complaint is the QC35 MicroUSB charging port is not Type-C, forcing me to carry around an extra charging cable or dongle. The growing pains of technological progress can be annoying but it’s usually for the better, and in this case, I’d urge you to make the leap. I don’t think you’ll look back.
If you’re in the 3.5mm tribe then perhaps this is a deal-breaker for you. And that’s fine. But if the fact that you don’t own Bluetooth headphones is what’s holding you back, consider that Samsung is offering free Galaxy Buds with the purchase of the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
The Bottom Line
The $1,400 price tag makes the Galaxy S20 Ultra seem stupid for anyone focused on value. For half the price you can find a smartphone that’s almost as good in nearly every category: nice screen, great camera, large battery, plenty of storage, yada yada yada. But the Galaxy S20 Ultra isn’t for people seeking the best value. It’s for people seeking the best.
The zoom features blow every other smartphone camera out of the water and when comparing basic photo/video quality, the S20 Ultra fares well against the perennial favorites (iPhone & Pixel). In perhaps the most critical and thorough look at the S20 Ultra vs iPhone 11 Pro Max, you’ll see it holds up very well in side-by-side examples:

The world of smartphones is crowded and the outstanding value offered in mid-range devices has made things seem a bit boring at times. Phones like the Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy S20 Ultra are re-imagining what a smartphone can be and re-energizing consumers, including me.
If you love tech, you’re in the market for a new phone, and you want to take the best photos and videos possible: the Galaxy S20 Ultra is definitely worth it. Even at $1,400 bucks.

5 reasons you shouldn’t buy the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

By now you’re up to speed on Samsung’s S20 lineup for the year. Samsung’s didn’t bother to replace last year’s Galaxy S10e, but kept its 3-device lineup intact with the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra at the very high end of the spectrum.
If you’re in the market for a killer flagship smartphone, on paper, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra appears to be perfect.  That being said, there are a few issues worth considering which may keep you from buying this phone. I’ve put together a list of items to consider before purchasing the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Ridiculous price

I can’t be the only one to think that smartphone prices are out of control. Not only does the Galaxy S20 base model now cost $999, but the Galaxy S20 Ultra comes in at $1399. That’s completely absurd!
Sure, you get a ton of RAM 16GB to be precise), a periscope Zoom camera lens and a massive 5,000 mAh battery, but there’s no reason why the price tag needs to be that high. Oppo included a 10x optical zoom in an 800 euro phone and 5,000 mAh batteries are becoming increasingly more common in mid-range devices that cost one third the price of the S20 Ultra.
Ultra-large

We all know that smartphones have gotten bigger and bigger with each new generation, but I think we can all agree that there’s limited payoff when a phone weighs half a pound. The Galaxy S20 Ultra has a massive 6.9-inch display, roughly the size of a small tablet. Yes, it’ll still fit in your pocket, but you’ll want to pull it out every time you sit down if you don’t want it to stab you.
The phone also weighs in at 7.83 ounces, (222 grams) just shy of half a pound. If you thought last year’s galaxy S10+ was heavy, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is 26% heavier.
A lot of people interested in this phone are looking forward to it’s immense power and battery life for gaming, but they probably haven’t factored in the extra hand fatigue they’re looking at due to the phone’s weight.
100x zoom is 100% gimmick

The marketing hype Samsung is trying to push with the Galaxy S20 Ultra is beyond ridiculous. Samsung’s delivered a phone with 10x hybrid zoom thanks to its periscope lens, but they’re marketing it as having 100x zoom.
Samsung has even printed “Space Zoom 100X” on the phone’s rear camera module. Seriously?
Samsung claims that with a steady hand, you’ll be able to take up-close photos of objects that are miles away and they even did a demo at the launch event. There’s just one catch, the results are a blurry mess, even when you’re using a tripod.
You’d probably be better off snapping a picture with the 108MP main camera sensors and then cropping it. That being said, the 10x zoom feature seems to work quite well and I’m honestly excited to use it more
You deserve a headphone jack
We all have our list of personal complaints we bring to the table. While I’ve been using Bluetooth headphones for years, but it still irks me when a phone of this size comes out without headphone jack.
The phone is 1mm thicker than the S10+ and as I’ve already pointed out, the phone is practically the size of a tablet. There’s no reason why they couldn’t throw in a 3.5mm headphone jack as well, especially thing they’ve charging nearly a grand and a half for this thing. What makes things worse is that the new Sony Xperia 1 II and the LG V60 both include a 3.5mm headphone jack, making them better (and cheaper) options for audiophiles.
Bland color options

For the past few years, we’ve seen some incredible new colors when it comes to smartphones. Changing build materials from metal to glass has produced some of the most incredible looking gadgets I’ve ever seen. I don’t think anyone can deny that the prism glass back of the Note 10 last year was jaw-dropping and the orange, green and yellow finishes of last year’s S10 lineup were fantastic as well.
But if you’re going to spend $1400 on the S20 Ultra, you’ll only be able to choose between grey and black. Tow of the most boring color options we’ve seen in a very long time. Now I know that this phone isn’t going to be a huge seller, so having a half dozen color options really isn’t needed, but there should at least be one color that matches what you’ll be paying for the phone.
Final thoughts
And there you have it, my five reasons why you shouldn’t buy the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. There’s nothing fundamentally bad about the phone, but Samsung could have made it much more compelling with a few minor tweaks. It’ll be interesting to see how well the phone sells since Samsung has already shown that its flagship lineup is no longer accounting for the bulk of its smartphone sales. With more and people opting for mid-range devices, I don’t see how the Samsung Galaxy Ultra and its $1,400 price point will help reverse that trend.