Everything you’d expect from a modern flagship without the modern price.
Android Central Verdict
The Galaxy S20 FE offers nearly everything you’d find on Samsung’s more expensive models, with high-end specs and impressive cameras. The screen is totally flat, which means fewer accidental touches, and the back of the phone is made of sturdy plastic.
- Flat 120Hz display is terrific
- All-day battery life
- Promised three years of software updates
- Impressive cameras with 3x optical zoom
- Sturdy design with fun color options
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For years, there’s been a stigma around using plastic designs in high-end, expensive phones. Consumers have come to expect more luxurious materials like metal and glass, which, despite being more fragile than plastic, typically have a more “premium” feel.
I’m definitely guilty of shying away from devices whose spec sheets feature the word polycarbonate. I was reluctant to try the Galaxy Note 20 for precisely that reason. But once my review unit came in, my concerns surrounding creakiness and a cheap in-hand feel disappeared. Build quality, in general, has massively improved since the days when plastic flagships were commonplace, and the Note 20 felt just as solid as any other phone I’d tested in recent memory.
The story is similar to the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition — better known as the S20 FE. This phone is the latest in Samsung’s crusade to dominate every pricing tier with a well-rounded device that makes the appropriate sacrifices while maintaining the company’s standards for quality and performance. In short, it’s like any other phone in the S20 lineup, save for a plastic back and a flat display that brings it to a significantly lower price.
The Galaxy S20 FE has since been supplanted by the Galaxy S21 FE. But right up until the newest Fan Edition arrived, we still considered the S20 FE one of the best Android phones that we’d recommend to just about anyone. Now the flagship killer is a bit out of date if you want to buy a new phone; but if you can snag a used or new model at a low price, it’s absolutely still worth using.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Pricing availability
The Galaxy S20 FE launched on October 2, 2020, with a single configuration in the U.S. offering 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM for 699.99. It’s gone on sale several times since its launch, often reaching as low as 600. Additionally, Samsung sometimes offers generous trade-in promotions, knocking hundreds off of the phone’s total cost depending on your existing device and its condition.
There are six color options available: Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Orange, Cloud Red, and Cloud White. Specific colors like Cloud Red are getting harder to find as stock runs out, but you’ll always find some models available if you aren’t picky about colors.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: What I like
Anyone who’s used an S20 series device before will feel right at home on the S20 FE. It’s slightly larger than the baseline Galaxy S20, but it’s still a reasonable size with roughly the same footprint as the S20 and a nearly identical design language. Of course, the main difference is the polycarbonate (read: plastic) backing, which features a matte texture and comes in a variety of vibrant, almost pastel colors.
Just like the on the Note 20, Samsung also ditched the curved glass on the front of the S20 FE, instead opting for a totally flat display that, while a bit less flashy, is a massive functional improvement if you ask me. This means slightly larger bezels around the perimeter of the screen, but in exchange, you’ll experience zero accidental touches. Like the rest of the S20 series, the FE features a 120Hz refresh rate that makes every action on-screen feel buttery smooth.
|Android 11 / One UI 3.1|
|6.5 inches, 20:9 aspect ratio, 2400×1080 (407 PPI) resolution, Super AMOLED|
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 865|
|Yes (up to 1TB)|
|12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8μm (wide)12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.12μm (ultra-wide)8MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.0μm (telephoto)|
|32MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.8μm|
|Optical fingerprint sensor|
|159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4mm|
|Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Orange, Cloud Red, Cloud White|
There’s only one specs configuration of the S20 FE, at least in the States, with 128GB of expandable storage and 6GB of RAM, though Verizon sells its own variant (with the totally consumer-friendly name of Galaxy S20 FE 5G UW) that’s optimized for its Ultra Wideband network. I think 128GB is totally fine for most people, especially since you can expand it with microSD, though it’s worth noting that the 6GB of RAM is a slight step down from the 8GB and up on the rest of the S20 series.
It’s quite remarkable how much Samsung was able to make the Fan Edition fit in with the rest of the S20 lineup, despite a starting price that’s 300 below the retail value of its peers. You get the same Snapdragon 865 processor, the same One UI 3.1 and Android 11 experience, and the same gorgeous Super AMOLED display tech.
I’ve spent a lot of time with Samsung devices this year, and this one feels no different from the rest; performance is top-notch, and there are plenty of software perks like Edge Panels and even Wireless DeX — a relatively new feature that first debuted on the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra.
Battery life proved great on the S20 FE, as well. In the 10 days I’ve tested the phone, the 4500mAh cell was more than enough to last through each day without a problem. In addition, it averaged about 5 to 7 hours of screen-on time. The S20 FE supports 25W Fast Charging, though Samsung only includes a 15W brick in the box.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Cameras
The S20 FE features three rear cameras in the de facto standard grouping of wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses. The main sensor is the same one found on the standard S20: a 12MP ƒ/1.8 camera with all of the typical Samsung qualities you’d expect, both good and bad. Deeply saturated colors, a strong tendency to lift shadows, and a preference for warm tones.
Unsurprisingly, that means that it’s great for the most part, and the vast majority of users will love the photos it takes. If you’re a pickier photographer, you might take issue with the often very harsh haloing effect in bright outdoor lighting or the strong HDR effect that overly flattens daytime shots, but of course, you can take a bit of control over these problems by switching over to a manual shooting mode if you prefer.
Samsung seems to have changed up its telephoto lens choice with every new release this year, and on the S20 FE, that means an accurate 3X sensor that can reach up to 30X through Space Zoom, Samsung’s coined term for its combination of optical and digital zoom.
Of course, the telephoto sensor isn’t quite as sharp as the main one, but I’ve still been very happy with it overall. It’s great for snapping a closer shot without a second thought, and of course, digital zoom on the primary sensor helps fill out the 2X gap between cameras.
The ultra-wide seems to be nearly identical in performance to that of almost every other high-end phone Samsung has released this year — which isn’t a bad thing by any stretch. The S20 FE does a great job at minimalizing barrel distortion, though haloing is even worse on the ultra-wide.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: What I don’t like
It’s impressive just how much the S20 FE feels like any other S20 model, but it isn’t without its faults. The reduced 6GB of RAM is plenty for most tasks, but it can hang up at times when you’re running multiple heavy apps in split-screen view. I’ve also found that the S20 FE is relatively slow to launch the camera and always seems to lag a bit for the first second or two. That may not sound like much, but a second is all it takes to miss your shot.
It’s a bit odd that the S20 FE only includes a 15W charger in the box, as well. Even the maximum supported 25W is a bit slim by today’s standards (though it’s in line with the rest of Samsung’s selection), but I’m doubtful that there was indeed a massive cost savings in reducing the in-box charging speeds.
Of course, if you’re a fan of glass backs and curved screens, the S20 FE will feel like a downgrade in that regard from even the baseline S20. I think most people will be pleased with the build quality of the S20 FE, though. Switching over from devices like the Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Z Fold 2, I never once found myself wishing the S20 FE had used different materials.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: The competition
If you compare the Galaxy S21 FE vs. the Galaxy S20 FE, you’d be surprised how well the older phone holds up to scrutiny. Both phones have a 120Hz AMOLED display, with the S20 FE’s 0.1-inch larger. They share the same cameras, base 6GB of RAM, 4,500mAh battery, IP68 protection, and in-display fingerprint sensor. Plus, only the S20 FE offers a microSD slot for expandable storage. But because it launched with Android 10, it’ll lose support at Android 13. Whereas the S21 FE launched with Android 12, giving the newer phone an extra two OS updates for much better longevity and trade-in value. Plus, of course, it has a revamped processor in the Snapdragon 888 for slightly improved performance.
Of course, we’ve also seen the recent arrival of the Galaxy S22, with cutting-edge processing speed, improved camera sensors, and a new iPhone-esque design with a glass back. While the S20 FE falls short in many ways, you’ll certainly prefer saving hundreds on the price, and its larger display, expandable storage, and much larger battery (4,800mAh vs. 4,000mAh) could put the older phone on top for select shoppers.
The Galaxy S21 takes considerable inspiration from the Galaxy S20 FE, featuring a similar polycarbonate design and flat Full HD display for just 100 more. We’ve compared the S21 vs. the S20 FE, and while they’re pretty evenly matched, the Galaxy S20 FE is still the cheaper option, especially since you don’t need to pay extra for more storage thanks to its microSD slot. It also has a larger display and battery. But the Galaxy S21 has a more powerful processor, 2 extra GB of RAM, more pixels per inch, and one more planned OS update. The Galaxy S21 tends to sell out more frequently, making the S20 FE a good alternative.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Still a true flagship killer | Android Central
The S20 FE’s aggressive pricing puts it in direct competition with devices like the OnePlus 9 and the Pixel 6. However, in terms of pricing and carrier incentives, the S20 FE has a distinct advantage over the OnePlus 9 with its overall better cameras, faster updates — man, the tables have turned in that department, haven’t they? — and wider availability in the U.S., but the OnePlus 9’s OxygenOS still appeals to many over One UI 3.1 on the S20 FE.
The Pixel 6 could be the S20 FE’s most deadly competitor, much newer but costing 100 less at launch. Its new Google Tensor chipset gives the Pixel 6 snazzy AI tools, powerful camera processing, and more Android support. In terms of raw performance, the S20 FE’s Snapdragon 865 and Pixel 6 Tensor are probably on par with one another. And the S20 FE has a larger and brighter display, plus a telephoto camera (which the Pixel 6 lacks).
You should buy this if.
You don’t need fancy build materials
The Galaxy S20 FE is a fantastic phone at a great price, but if you’re after a curved glass design like Samsung’s higher-end models, you won’t find it here. The S20 FE instead uses polycarbonate for its back panel, though it still relies on an aluminum frame for durability.
You want the S20 experience without spending four figures
Samsung designed the S20 FE as a flagship-tier device for a slightly tighter budget. However, you’ll still get all of the same great features you’d expect on an S20, including great cameras, 5G support, and a gorgeous 120Hz display, without having to spend an arm and a leg to get there.
You want all-day battery life
The S20 FE comes equipped with a 4500mAh battery, which is more than enough to provide all-day longevity, even with the 120Hz refresh rate enabled. Of course, you’ll need to provide your own charger to reach the full 25W charging speeds, but the 15W brick included in the box will keep you topped up without a problem.
You should not buy this if.
You want the best of the best
There are few compromises with the S20 FE, but at nearly half the price of the Note 20 Ultra and S21 Ultra, it’s still missing some premium features like S Pen support, Samsung’s massive new cameras, and even foldable display tech.
You want something that’ll last you 3 years
The Galaxy S20 FE is a fantastic 2020 phone, but we’re well into 2022 now. If you own the S20 FE, you should be able to use it happily for another year or two; but new buyers may want to look elsewhere unless they’re not particularly invested in keeping their phone updated with the latest tech.
All in all, the Galaxy S20 FE makes few concessions to reach its lower price point, offering the same level of quality and performance you’d expect from a modern Samsung device. It’s a fantastic value, priced hundreds below Samsung’s other flagship devices, and even with the Galaxy S21 out for only 100 more, the S20 FE offers a better value and a bigger screen for less.
The six colors also give you some vibrant style, which you can take even further with the best Galaxy S20 FE cases for a Samsung experience that’s bold and unique, inside and out. So while the S21 FE might be on the horizon, the S20 FE remains one of the better smartphone deals from Samsung.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: The phone to beat for under 700
There’s no getting around it — phones are getting really expensive. But as flagship devices get increasingly pricey, a whole new segment of the market has popped up: The premium midrange. That’s exactly where the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition lives, and if you’re looking for a premium Samsung experience without paying an arm and a leg, it’s one of the best Android phones.
The name “Fan Edition” doesn’t really describe what the phone really is. A better name would be the Galaxy S20 Lite. You’re not really getting everything that the Galaxy S20 has to offer. But you’re getting all the important stuff, with a few added bonus features along the way, with an enticing price cut.
Hardware, design, and display
It’s clear that the Galaxy S20 FE is a derivative of the original Galaxy S20 — it looks just like the standard device. But it’s also made from slightly different materials. Gone is the glass back, in favor of the plastic back found on the standard Galaxy Note 20. But while in theory it’s not as premium, I actually kind of like the soft-touch feel it offers, and I didn’t really miss the glass.
The device also sets itself apart from the standard Galaxy S20, in that it’s available in a larger range of colors. I’m reviewing the Cloud Navy model, but it’s also available in more interesting colors, like Cloud Red, Cloud Lavender, and Cloud Orange. Safe to say, there should be something there for everyone.
On paper, the specs aren’t quite up to the standard Galaxy S20, but photos seemed to be pretty much as good in day to day use. They’re still colorful and crisp, with enough dynamic range to make for a punchy photo, but not so much as to wander into unnatural territory. These days, photo quality may have more to do with post-processing than sensor quality, so it makes sense that the slightly inferior specs don’t really make for much worse photos than the Galaxy S20.
In low light, photos are pretty good. As is expected, really low light photos can get noisy, but generally speaking, the phone is good at capturing enough detail to make for decent shots. The same is true of really zoomed-in photos. The telephoto camera offers 3x optical zoom and up to 10x digital zoom — and as a result, you’ll get up to 30x hybrid zoom. Photos at that level of zoom aren’t as crisp, obviously, but Samsung has been seriously investing in cleaning up zoomed shots on its photos, and it shows. The 3-10x shots are solid, but you’ll rarely care to use 30x.
The selfie cam looks pretty solid too. The front-facing camera is 32MP, and it doesn’t have the dual phase detection autofocus found on the original Galaxy S20, but it still captured colorful selfies with more than enough detail. The higher resolution selfie cam is here for a reason — when you’re not using the wide-angle sensor, it really just crops the image, and as a result, the photo is just lower resolution.
One feature that is missing from the Galaxy S20 FE is the ability to record video in 8K. That’s because you need a higher resolution camera to do so. Still, the camera can record 4K video at 60 frames per second, which should be more than enough for most, and will save you from maxing out your storage.
Battery life and charging
Powering it all is a 4,500mAh battery, which seemed to be able to get through a full day of use without issue. I ended a day of heavy use with around 20% of the battery remaining, which isn’t a ton, but it’s still fine. If you’re used to charging your phone every night, you shouldn’t have any issues.
As you would expect, the Galaxy S20 FE comes with Samsung’s One UI 2.5, which is Android 10. I’m not going to dive into the ins and outs of the Android customizations — you can read comprehensive takes in our Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20 reviews — but I will say that the bloatware seems to have been pared back a little on this phone compared to some others. That’s mostly because of the fact that you can select which apps are installed on your device out of the box, and while all the extra Samsung apps and Microsoft apps are checked by default, simply taking the extra few moments to customize the pre-installs when you set your phone up is worth it.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE puts the flagship phone experience in a 700 phone. You’re really not missing much here. Sure, a 1440p display resolution is always nice, and some of the camera specs don’t reach the heights of the standard Galaxy S20, Note 20, or new Galaxy S21. But with a premium processor, still awesome display, premium feel, and great camera system, you can’t do much better in the price range.
I would have liked if Samsung had released this phone alongside the rest of the Galaxy S20 lineup, but it makes sense why it didn’t in order to capture those high-dollar sales first. That said, if Samsung intends to continue releasing phones of this quality in this price range, the likes of OnePlus should be very worried.
Is there a better alternative?
It depends on what you’re looking for. The OnePlus 8 is the main competitor here, and while it’s a great phone, it doesn’t quite have the same camera quality, it doesn’t reach the 120Hz display refresh rate, and it doesn’t have wireless charging. But OnePlus does deliver a cleaner and arguably better software experience. It could also be a toss-up between the Google Pixel 5 or OnePlus 8 as the primary competitor.
If you’re really on a budget, it’s also worth considering the Pixel 4a or waiting for the Pixel 4a 5G. They have amazing cameras and simpler software, though the specs and performance don’t match the Galaxy S20 FE, nor do the displays.
Of course, if you’re not married to Android, it’s also worth considering the iPhone 11, which comes at a similar price, has even better performance, and an awesome camera. That said, you won’t get the same display. Nor will you get 5G, and you’ll have to deal with the iPhone notch.
Last but not least, the Galaxy S21 series is now here, but while the Galaxy S21 will offer better performance, it’s also more expensive — and arguably not worth the extra cash.
How long will it last?
With the Snapdragon 865 and IP68 water resistance, the Galaxy S20 FE should easily last through a normal two-year phone cycle, and longer if you want or need it to. The plastic back helps here too — while it doesn’t feel as premium, it does help ensure that the phone is more likely to remain crack-free throughout its lifespan.
Should you buy it?
Yes. Sure, you could spend another 300 for a marginally better phone, but if you want flagship-level quality for 700, this is currently the phone to beat.
If you’re on the hunt for lower for smartphones, here are the best Samsung Galaxy deals and best smartphone deals currently available.
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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review
The Samsung Galaxy S20 is billed as the flagship phone experience for 2020, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s likely “too much” phone for most people. The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition (FE), arrived a few months after the standard bearer, bringing about most of the S20’s top features, but with a price that’s a few hundred bucks cheaper.
How does the Galaxy S20 FE fare? Is it worth spending the extra money to pick up those extra features or does this work for typical users? Read on to see what I thought of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.
The Galaxy S20 FE is Samsung’s budget flagship device for 2020, and as such, some corners have been cut. The most noticeable of these has to do with the design of the phone.
For starters, the back is plastic, and this is undoubtedly the thing most people will notice when looking at the S20 FE. While I’ve always found metal and glass backs add to the premium feel of a smartphone, I’ve also never been one to look down on a smartphone for using plastic when it makes sense.
In this case, plastic makes perfect sense for the Galaxy S20 FE. It’s lightweight, durable, won’t show scratches, allows for good signal strength, works with wireless charging, and it helps keep the cost down. Plus, the S20 FE is still IP68 water-resistant so you’re not giving up much at all. The only real downside is the lack of “premium feel”, and that’s something I can live with at this price point. If you’re like me you’re going to put a case on it anyway.
While the back is plastic, Samsung did use a metal frame and that still provides the S20 FE with a superior feel you wouldn’t get from a full plastic build.
Around the top of the device, you’ll find the nano-SIM slot that also includes a cutout for a microSD card allowing you to expand the storage on the S20 FE. The bottom houses your main speaker supplemented by the earpiece speaker that produces clear loud audio for streaming videos or playing games.
No Headphone Jack or Dongle
Finally, the only port on the phone is the USB-C port at the bottom. Unfortunately, you won’t find a headphone jack on the S20 FE. As a massive fan of headphones, I’m still salty over the removal of the headphone jack, and will forever hate Apple for making this the standard.
Even worse, the Galaxy S20 FE doesn’t include a dongle, something I found out on the first night when I wanted to plug in my favorite pair of IEMs and listen to some music. Instead, I had to wait a couple of days for Amazon to deliver a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter before I could do this. The two other headphone dongles in my possession wouldn’t work with the S20 FE because they lacked an audio processor.
Just another reason I am still salty about the removal of the headphone jack. If you’re looking for a compatible headphone dongle for the Galaxy S20 FE, then I recommend the official one I ordered from Amazon linked here. It has worked perfectly for me.
One reason I’ve always gravitated towards Samsung phones is the incredible displays. The S20 FE is no exception here, sure the bezels are larger, it’s not curved, and the display is only FHD instead of QHD, but it looks stunning.
The display gets extremely bright, the blacks are inky, and the colors are vibrant–everything you’ve come to expect from a quality AMOLED panel from Samsung. Videos and games looked fantastic, and the 120Hz refresh rate made everything buttery smooth.
There’s something about scrolling and watching animations in 120Hz which makes the phone feel so much more responsive. Plus, for years I’ve been irked by the black smear you’d see when scrolling on AMOLED panels. The high refresh rate makes this nearly unnoticeable.
My only real complaints was the lack of curved edges, lack of HDR support, and the larger bezels around the edge. I know many people will see the flat display as a pro, but I’ve never had any issues with the curved displays on Samsung’s phones and I’ve always preferred that aesthetic. It also went a long way towards making the bezels seem slimmer, and the S20 FE could have used some help in that department.
As far as HDR support goes, the Netflix app shows the S20 FE doesn’t support HDR. YouTube and Prime Video both supposedly support it, but when compared to other phones I have that support HDR playback, the S20 FE looks muted.
Don’t get me wrong, the display still looks beautiful when playing videos, but HDR would make it look all that much better.
Naturally, I can’t mention the display without referencing what’s underneath it, and that’s the fingerprint sensor. This is one other area Samsung saved some money by using an optical sensor instead of an ultrasonic one.
Optical sensors have come a long way and are much quicker than they used to be, however, they are generally less secure than ultrasonic sensors. Despite being less secure, optical scanners are some of the most widely used fingerprint sensors in phones these days, so I find it to be an acceptable cost-cutting measure on the S20 FE.
Samsung’s software has had its fans and critics over the years. However, most seem to agree that One UI has matured into a well thought out and designed skin. It puts an emphasis on one-handed use and positioning elements within reach for an enhanced user experience.
The Flagship Killer Smartphone is BACK
Furthermore, Samsung tosses in tons of extra features and settings that help you personalize your phone. There are themes, custom always-on display graphics, a one-handed mode, double-tap to wake, dual messenger, and the list goes on and on.
Some might say this makes Samsung’s software bloated, and they wouldn’t be wrong. There are many features here that I never touch and I don’t care for, Bixby anyone? Regardless, I love the extra features and flexibility One UI provides me.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE camera setup consists of a 12MP f/1.8 wide camera, an 8MP f/2.4 3x telephoto camera, and a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera with a 123-degree view. This selection of focal lengths is perfect for almost any occasion. The 3x telephoto gives just enough reach to justify its existence, while the ultrawide and wide camera ensure you can capture everything in the frame that your eye sees and more.
I’d describe photos taken by the S20 FE as overly bright and sharp. They don’t look bad by any means, but you can tell Samsung’s processing has been tweaked to make photos look super bright and crispy because that’s what most people tend to gravitate towards in camera shootouts.
Personally, I would have preferred the processing to be a bit more subtle, because you lose some shadows that can really add a nice mood to your photos or give a sense of dynamic range. Plus, it doesn’t match what I’m seeing with my eyes in the scene.
In the end, the S20 FE still produces good photos, even in low-light situations. Furthermore, there is optical image stabilization on the wide and telephoto lenses, and you get plenty of shooting modes and options to choose from, including pro, panorama, live FOCUS, super slow-mo, and night mode.
Speaking of night mode, the S20 FE does an impressive job of retaining detail and balancing the exposure in extreme night scenes. For example, it’s able to balance the exposure between the Christmas lights here, the night sky, and a mix of outdoor and indoor lighting. That’s a big challenge and one it was able to pass with flying colors.
The front-facing camera is a 32MP f/2.2 shooter that uses pixel binning. That means, it’s technically capable of taking photos at 32MP, but unless you specifically choose that option, your photos will be at 6.5MP or 10MP if you choose the wide-angle option. Also, if you decide to shoot at 32MP you’re going to lose the ability to capture in HDR. In my opinion, the extra resolution isn’t worth the extra storage space or losing HDR.
Overall, I was disappointed in the front-facing camera. It suffers mostly from Samsung’s processing which applies face smoothing and brightness, even if you disable it. This has been an issue with Samsung selfie cameras for years now. You can often get around it by using the Google Camera app, and then you see just how much more detail the camera is capable of capturing.
However, I haven’t noticed the lack of that 2GB of RAM to be that limiting while using the S20 FE, but I have noticed how blazing fast it feels with Qualcomm’s latest processor and the 120Hz display.
In other words, Samsung cut corners in all the right places and made a phone that is capable of speeding through most tasks, including loading up large mobile games. The only downside is that it will drop some larger apps from memory more quickly than phones with 8GB and you’ll have to wait for them to reload.
With such a large 120Hz display on the Galaxy S20 FE, I was concerned about the battery life. After using it for the past few weeks, those concerns were completely unfounded. I was ending the day with the battery around half full, and that was with a mix of gaming, browsing Reddit, and streaming videos.
That all added up to a combined four hours of screen time most days, and still the battery never dipped below 40%. I was even able to make it last two days without a charge with moderate usage.
The Galaxy S20 FE is much more than a Fan Edition, it’s the phone that Samsung needed for 2020. The of the flagship phones has grown out of control, combine that with a worldwide pandemic, and it was clear something needed to be done. Fortunately, Samsung cut corners in all the right places to deliver a phone with flagship performance for a reasonable price.
For 700 or less with trade-in, you get a stunning display, top-notch performance, fantastic battery life, and a great set of cameras. Pretty much everything you’d expect from a high-end phone in 2020, with only a few drawbacks like thicker bezels or a plastic back.
The Galaxy S20 FE strikes a harmonious chord with only a few bad notes
For those keeping score, Samsung released yet another phone — its 15th this year. The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is a Frankenstein device, for which Samsung pulled what it deemed the “best” and “most important features” from the rest of the S20 family to build one monster of a device. And, at 699.99, it’s an affordable hodgepodge of a smartphone.
Budget and performance harmonize beautifully with the Galaxy S20 FE. After using it for 11 days, we’ve found that Android performs in the ways we’d expect. The camera is dependable. A flat screen is super nice and means no more accidental touches. And the design, while not super high-end, doesn’t feel like a cheap build.
It feels really good in the hand
Rather than a metal and glass build all around, Samsung swapped the glass back for a polycarbonate (read: plastic) back. It has a smooth matte finish that, at least with the Cloud Navy shade we tested, hides fingerprints pretty well (even when they were greasy after our all-important potato chip test). Dust and particles, though, do linger on top.
And let’s get a bit more specific on the 6.5-inch screen: It’s an FHD Super AMOLED Infinity-O display with a 1080 x 2400 resolution and 407 pixels per inch. In our tests, it’s sharp and vibrant.
Most important for video playback and gaming would be the 120 Hz refresh rate. This measurement describes how many times in a second the screen refreshes itself. The higher the number, the better, and 120 Hz is the standard we wish every phone would reach. Whether you’re watching a YouTube video or a feature film on the S20 FE, you’re getting a TV-level experience. We also didn’t experience any pixelation when zooming in on text. For most people, a 1080p display is just fine. It does feel a bit less vibrant than the S20 Ultra or Note 20 Ultra, though.
Toward the bottom of the display, in the center, is a fingerprint sensor. It’s the same ultrasonic sensor found on other Samsung devices, and it performs well here. The more you use it, the easier it is to get the hang of it. It’s a nice higher-end feature to have on this midrange device.
Rounding out the design is a volume rocker and power button on the right-hand side, a USB-C port and speaker on the bottom and a microSD card and SIM card slot on the top. The rear side does feature a slim camera bump with three cameras and an LED flash.
The S20 FE trucks along
The Galaxy S20 FE is powered by the same Qualcomm processor as the rest of the S20 family. The big difference is the amount of RAM, as the S20 FE features a modest 6GB of RAM compared to the rest of the S20s that feature up to 12GB. It’s still ample enough to provide a runway for intense apps, multitasking and everyday use cases.
It might seem like a big number drop, but we didn’t notice much performance difference when completing core tasks. Browsing social networks like TikTok, Instagram and was seamless. Productivity apps like Outlook, Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Trello, Slack and a few others worked just fine, even with multiple applications open in the background.
Real Racing 3, Call of Duty: Mobile and streaming titles from Xbox Game Pass (via the xCloud streaming service) all performed well. The first two run on-device, while the latter is streamed in via the internet. We didn’t notice any hangups with either approach, and the 120 Hz screen delivered a smooth experience.
Performance is really not a concern here, and it scored similarly to the rest of the S20 family in our tests. As with every CNN Underscored review, we ran the Galaxy S20 FE through a series of benchmarks to determine quantitative performance. In GeekBench 5 it scored a 900 on single-core and 3,197 on multi-core. In comparison, the Galaxy S20 scored a 911 on a single-core and a 3,233 on multi-core, while the S20 scored a 918 on single-core and a 3,274 on multi-core. So, yes, the quantitative matches up with the qualitative here.
Inside the Galaxy S20 FE is a large 4,500mAh battery. That’s bigger than the battery in the A71 5G or Galaxy S20 from Samsung. We had no issues getting through a full day with 10 to 12 hours of use. It does support fast charging via a 25-watt brick, but Samsung only includes a 15-watt in the box. You can also charge it wirelessly or charge another device on the back with Wireless PowerShare.
And a quick note on 5G. As we always say, don’t buy a device just for the 5G connectivity — networks are still young in the United States. If anything, buy a device that has appeal, and if it has 5G support, you’re future-proofing yourself. The 699.99 Galaxy S20 FE only supports the sub6 connectivity, which is more prominent but a bit slower. There’s a 749.99 Galaxy S20 FE that supports sub6 and mmWave, but it’s exclusive to Verizon in the US.
Four cameras make for a solid shooting experience
- A 32-megapixel front-facing lens: Perfect for selfies and video calls.
- A 12-megapixel ultrawide lens: Similar to other Samsung devices, this lens is great for capturing a wider frame of view with a FOCUS on details.
- A 12-megapixel wide-angle lens: This is the default lens on the S20 FE and is also similar to other Samsung devices.
- An 8-megapixel telephoto lens: This was the big question, as it’s the lowest-megapixel lens on any Samsung device that is powering Space Zoom (Samsung tech combining optical and digital zoom for getting extreme shots). The Galaxy S20 FE supports up to 30x Space Zoom.
You can see a full gallery of images shot on the Galaxy S20 FE below, along with a video test. On the latter, the Galaxy S20 FE supports up to 4K video recording. There’s no 8K here like on the Note 20 Ultra, but most users won’t really miss that.
Similarly, we were impressed with the 50x and 100x Space Zoom on the Note 20 Ultra and S20 Ultra. The Note 20 Ultra’s addition of laser autofocus made it usable, but even at 50x it seems more like a party trick, as images still contain some blurs and quality losses. We found the 30x function to be the most reliable, along with 10x optical zoom.
So how does the 30x Space Zoom perform on the S20 FE? Well, it performs pretty admirably. Most 30x shots we captured indoors, zooming into a small object — like a Lego figure — resulted in a loss of quality. This can depend on lighting, but it’s clear that the sensor here performs a little less than what we would have hoped for. You’re much better off sticking with the 10x zoom function or the 3x optical zoom.
Don’t get us wrong, though — the S20 FE still captures some nice shots and gives you the advantages that come with three lenses in your Just take a look at our test photos below. There’s some weirdness with how Samsung handles colors, saturation and white balance, though. Images often skew to warmer colors and up the saturation to high levels. The iPhone still offers the best capturing. Pixel follows close behind.
It’s clear Samsung struck a harmony with some wrong tones. Namely, with the camera, we think the Pixel 4a (a 349.99 smartphone), the iPhone SE (a 399 smartphone) and the iPhone 11 (a 699 smartphone) do a better job of just snapping the shot. Even still, if you practice a bit and play around with the settings, you can get a nice photo or video.
The rest of the S20 FE is up to snuff, though — performance is zippy, the screen is sharp, you won’t struggle with the battery and the build is quite nice. For 699.99, you’re getting value, and it will likely make a good gift this holiday season. Especially if it gets a deep price cut.
It’s launching at an unusual time, though. The Pixel 5 (699) and Pixel 4a 5G (499) are launching soon, and there’s likely a new iPhone in town that will hit this same price point. For many of you as well, if you don’t care about the modern design, the iPhone SE and Pixel 4a are tremendously great phones.
If you don’t want a flagship like a Note 20 Ultra or iPhone 11 Pro, the S20 FE has a clear space and offers the most value of any Samsung phone announced this year. You’ll just need to decide if this lower-end flagship works or if it’s better to wait for the Pixels or a new iPhone.
Note: The above reflect the retailers’ listed price at the time of publication.