Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: The ‘affordable’ flagship is a winner in every sense
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: It’s a complete phone with a 120Hz display, faster Exynos 990 processor, impressive triple cameras, and a battery that lasts all day long.
Buying a flagship during a pandemic is a bit complicated and selling one becomes way more difficult. But Samsung has a solution to sell a flagship device at an affordable price without cutting too many corners. Its Galaxy S20 FE (which stands for “fan edition”) seems to be the perfect pandemic flagship smartphone you might want in 2020. This isn’t a cheaper Galaxy S20 as many had initially hoped it would be. Instead, the Galaxy S20 FE is a different phone that could be Samsung’s testing ground for a new class of “affordable flagships” in the future. I used the Galaxy S20 FE for a few days and was surprised by its performance. Here is my assessment of the Galaxy S20 FE.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE price in India: Rs 49,999
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: What’s new?
The Galaxy S20 FE’s design language is in line with other phones in the Galaxy S20 family, and that’s a good thing. The S20 FE is identical to the Galaxy S20 with a metal frame and a display with slim bezels that has a centered hole punch cutout, but its back is made from plastic. I thought the phone had a glass back but it’s actually a high-quality, matte plastic rather than glossy glass. Does that really bother me? My answer to your question is a big ‘No’. Look, glass backs are easy to break and hell, the cost of replacing them is astronomically high. The other issue with glass is just how easily it scratches.
Despite the glasstic back, the Galaxy S2- FE doesn’t feel cheap. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
The point I am trying to make is that there is nothing wrong with a plastic back. The rear of the phone looks like glass to me, thanks to its frosted finish. Best of all, the Galaxy S20 FE still comes with Qi wireless charging with support for Wireless PowerShare. What’s more, the Galaxy S20 FE is IP68 water-resistant so your phone won’t get damaged even if it accidentally slips into a pool of water.
The good thing about the Galaxy S20 FE is that it doesn’t like a cheap phone. It feels solid in the hand, and it’s comfortable to use despite having a 6.5-inch screen. My review unit came in a cloud mint colour, but you can buy the phone in four more splashy colour options, including a lavender purple, cloud blue, cloud red and cloud white.
The Galaxy S20 FE uses a Full HD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
There are two physical buttons on the Galaxy S20 FE, a volume rocker near the top, and then a power or Bixby button. The 3.5mm headphone jack has been removed on the Galaxy S20 FE but Samsung includes a pair of USB-C earbuds with the phone. On top of the device, there’s a slot to accommodate a SIM card as well as a microSD card. On the back of the phone is a rectangular-shaped camera array. There are a total of three cameras on the back of the device, one of which is an ultra-wide-angle lens.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: What’s good?
Samsung is using a 6.5-inch 2,400×1,080-pixel super AMOLED display. I am not a big fan of large screens-sized smartphones but most people will love the huge 6.5-inch display on the S20 FE. It’s colorful and gets very bright even in direct sunlight. A large screen makes a huge difference when you want to watch videos or play games. Watching Netflix’s Enola Holmes on the S20 FE shows what the screen is capable of. Samsung also includes a new 120Hz mode that’s off by default but can be turned on. It makes everything appear smooth, be it Twitter, Facebook or games. This is the same tech that can also be found in Apple’s iPad Pro – but unfortunately, the iPhone 12 still has a 60Hz display.
I didn’t experience stutter or slowness with apps or even running games on the Galaxy S20 FE. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
At the heart of the Galaxy S20 FE is an Exynos 990 processor (Samsung is only selling a 4G model in India) – the same processor that also powers the flagship Galaxy S20 Ultra. The Galaxy S20 FE loaned to me came with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. Throughout my testing, which lasted over a week, I didn’t experience stutter or slowness with apps or even running games. I could open multiple apps at the same time, watch YouTube and converse with a friend on Facebook Messenger using apps in split-screen mode and the phone never froze. The device can run a bit hot, but only after a long gaming session.
The Galaxy S20 FE packs a 4500mAh battery. During daily use, I never had to charge the phone before the end of the day. It could last even longer, had I not been a demanding user. The inclusion of Qi wireless charging with support for Wireless PowerShare is a clever move, though I prefer wired charging over wireless charging anyway, given how long it takes to charge the phone using a wireless charger.
The camera app is simple and easy to operate. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
Perhaps my favourite feature of the Galaxy S20 FE is its cameras. In total, there are four cameras. The rear camera setup includes a 12MP wide-angle camera, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera and a 12MP telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom. On the front, you will find a 32MP camera for selfies and video calling. The S20 FE doesn’t offer the 100x zoom as the S20 Ultra, and I bet you don’t care about the 100x “Space zoom” much. Instead, the S20 FE can go all the way up to 30x zoom using a combination of hardware and AI, though it only supports optical zoom up to 3x. I got excellent results using the 3x optical zoom. But anything above 10x digital zoom will impact quality. You can see the difference between 3x and 10x photos below.
In bright light, the S20 FE’s main camera captures images with good detail. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) The Galaxy S20 FE’s camera does a great job with colour and dynamic range. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) 5x digital zoom. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) Portrait mode. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) 10x digital zoom. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) 20x digital zoom. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) 30x digital zoom. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) This shot was taken by the Galaxy S20 FE in the dusk. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) Night photos taken by the S20 FE are just so excellent. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
The wide-angle lens captures plenty of details, especially when shooting outdoors. Colours are saturated and the sensor delivers excellent image quality. The added Night mode takes images shot in dark environments and uses software processing to make up for the details that usually get lost in low-light. The ultra-wide lens can snap great pictures. The front-facing 32MP camera produces decent selfies. The captured shots are good enough for Instagram and Facebook. There is also a “Single Shot” feature that automatically takes a bunch of pictures and videos over 10 seconds. It’s fun to use.
The Galaxy S20 FE comes with Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI 2 running on top of that. The interface is simple, and I found it highly customisable. The in-screen optical fingerprint sensor resides in the display. It’s fast and quick, though I prefer a side-mounted sensor on the Galaxy M31s.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: What’s bad?
While I mostly liked the Galaxy S20 FE, I did find one big issue with the phone. Samsung includes a 15-watt charger in the box, which is not acceptable. It’s a bummer that the Galaxy S20 FE doesn’t come with a fast charger brick, even though it supports up to 25-watt wired charging.
The Galaxy S20 FE includes wireless charging, and is water and dust resistant with an IP68 rating. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Should you buy it?
The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is a flagship in every sense. It’s a complete phone with a 120Hz display, faster Exynos 990 processor, impressive triple cameras, and a battery that lasts all day long. The 5G connectivity is missing, but most users won’t miss that. For Rs 49,999, you are getting a flagship at a compelling price, and that’s a big deal in the pandemic.