Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra May Pack More RAM Than Typical PCs

 

According to rumor, Samsung’s next-generation phone won’t be the Galaxy S11. It’ll be the Galaxy S20, presumably because it’s 2020 and Samsung wants a bigger number than Apple. The new device will ship in different flavors, as has been typical for the past few years, but the specs on the supposed top-end model are truly something to behold.

Yesterday, Samsung confirmed the Galaxy S20 name of the device family and the overall design, as covered by my colleague Ryan Whitwam. Today, Max Weinbach of XDA Developers leaked the specs on the hardware. The S20 family will ship as the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra, with the S20 and S20+ offering LTE and the S20 Ultra as a 5G product. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 SoCs are only available when paired with the X55 5G modem, which means the S20 and S20 Ultra might use Samsung’s own custom CPU cores and its LTE modem technology. Historically, Samsung has used its own CPU cores for some Korean and international versions of Galaxy S-class products, but bought from Qualcomm for the US variant. Here are the rumored specs on the upcoming phones:

 

With integrated storage up to 512GB, support for a 1TB SSD, and 16GB of RAM, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is packing PC-like specs in several regards. Of course, the actual experience of using an Android device is nothing like a PC, and thus far we’ve seen only limited attempts to give Android devices an actual PC-like experience or UI. An article earlier this year at Android Police argued that Chrome OS has stalled out precisely because Android apps are not designed for Chrome OS and the experience of using them in that manner is subpar. Samsung has its DeX software, but software development isn’t exactly Samsung’s thing, if you take my meaning.

The statement that the S20 Ultra will “keep” the SD slot may imply that the lower-end devices in the tier are dropping it entirely — it’s hard to parse. The 16GB of RAM is an enormous amount that’s clearly meant to impress more on paper than to offer any kind of practical use. Large amounts of RAM doesn’t guarantee that applications are left open in the background, for example. We’ve seen bugs on various devices where phones were closing apps too aggressively, leading to annoying lag times when switching from application to application.

The RAM loadout on smartphones has begun to remind me of the low-end graphics card market. Historically, OEMs would often load more RAM on a low-end GPU than it could ever possibly make use of. If “High” detail requires 4GB of RAM and your GPU can only run things at “Low,” which requires 2GB, then putting 4GB of RAM on the card is useless. OEMs did it because they could sell the 4GB flavor for an extra $15 – $25, which was less than the cost of putting the RAM chips on in the first place. It’ll be interesting to see if Samsung can articulate a use-case for stuffing a desktop’s worth of RAM into a smartphone.

There’s been a lot of back-and-forth on how much the shift to 5G will hit power consumption on these devices. I’m not willing to take a guess until we see actual power consumption figures. I’ve never been a fan of pushing more RAM into smartphones than they can practically use; higher density RAM configurations typically require more chips, and more chips typically consume more power. Granted, yes, the difference in power consumption between an 8GB and a 16GB device is going to be very small — but in a product where every milliwatt counts, I’d sooner have less RAM if it isn’t actually being used for something useful.

The 5000 mAh battery and 74-minute charge time should both be welcome, but there’s no mention of battery life. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of balance Samsung has struck between temperature, performance, and longevity. It certainly looks like the company has gone for broke on the spec sheet side of the equation.

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