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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Review

What is the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE?

Verdict

I can’t say enough good things about the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and if you want a phone that feels very much like a flagship without spending over £699 then this is the best that’s currently on offer.

Pros

  • Snapdragon 865 even in the UK model
  • Better battery life than other S20 models
  • Nice range of colours
  • Flat 120Hz display

Cons

  • You have to pay more for the faster charger
  • Secondary cameras aren't the most detailed

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £599
  • 6.5-inch OLED 120Hz
  • 4500mAh battery
  • Multiple colours
  • Snpadragon 865 (5G)

The Samsung  Galaxy S20 FE 5G is currently discounted in a Black Friday sale (use code TRUSTED10)


Samsung’s year of phone releases doesn’t seem to be slowing down, with the South Korean brand finally unveiling the much leaked Galaxy S20 FE.

The ‘FE’ moniker here stands for ‘Fan Edition’ and it’s very much a cheaper, mid-year update for the brand’s flagship Galaxy S20 – with a bit of the Note 20’s DNA thrown in for good measure.

The biggest surprise is that this is a fantastic phone, arguably easier to recommend than any other Samsung mobile this year. Especially if you’re in the UK and want a Samsung Galaxy phone with the Snapdragon 865.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition) is available now for £599 (4G, Exynos 990) and £699 for the 5G Snapdragon model. The 4G version won’t be coming to the States.

This pricing puts it directly in competition with the OnePlus 8 (and likely OnePlus 8T), Moto Edge and LG Velvet. It’s also a similar price to the iPhone 11, which will likely be replaced by an iPhone 12 very soon.

Related: Best phones

Screen – Flat, with 120Hz refresh and the usual OLED quality

Samsung has kept a high-quality 120Hz panel for the S20 FE, giving you super-smooth scrolling. It has a 240Hz sampling rate too, for very responsive gaming. Why Samsung didn’t add this feature to the Note 20 feels bizarre to me.

Related: Best mid-range phone 

The FE retains an OLED panel with a small cutout at the top for the front camera, however it tops out at FHD+ rather than WQHD+ like on the Galaxy S20. As you couldn’t combine 120hz and the higher-res anyway, this change seems fine to me. 

The screen isn’t quite as colour accurate as of that on the S20 and it lacks HDR 10 support in apps like Netflix, however unless you place both phones next to each other it can be hard to spot. This is still a really nice panel, with enough brightness to combat a harshly sunny day.

There’s an in-display fingerprint scanner here, rather than a physical button like you’ll find on the Pixel 5. It’s slightly different to the sensors Samsung usually uses, as it’s optical as opposed to ultrasonic and as a result needs light to function. You’ll notice a bright light around your finger when you press in and it can be a little annoying if you’re unlocking late at night in a dark room. Still, it’s fast and responsive and there’s face unlock if you’d prefer.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

At 6.5-inches, the FE sits between the smaller S20 and the larger S20 Plus. For me, it feels like the perfect size and I really appreciate the flat display which is far superior for gaming than a curved panel.

Design – A multitude of colours and plastic back

Like the Galaxy Note 20, the S20 FE ditches the glass back for a tough plastic one. I don’t mind the plastic feel, especially on a more affordable phone like this and I really like the frosted finish which isn’t as prone to picking up fingerprints as glass – always a nice touch. The front remains Gorilla Glass and the sides are constructed from aluminium for a rigid frame.

What’s more important to me is that the phone remains IP68 rated for water resistance and still packs Qi wireless charging. Two features more than often ditched at this price. What is missing is a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you’ll be using the USB-C connector or wireless Bluetooth for audio.

It comes in a number of nice colours too, including a very on-trend navy blue and a striking red. These are far more interesting hues than you can find the S20 in, and Samsung said they all be available from various networks without the usual exclusivity.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Performance – A Snapdragon 865 makes the Galaxy S20 FE tempting for the UK

One of the true highlights of the Galaxy S20 FE is that the UK 5G version comes with the Snapdragon 865 platform, rather than the usual Exynos chipset you’ll find in the high-end Note 20 series and Galaxy S20. 

Many have complained about the decreased performance and battery skills of the Exynos version vs the Qualcomm so it’s great to see Samsung deciding to give a wider launch to the arguably superior model.

Now, if you do go for the cheaper 4G version then you will get the Samsung Exynos 990. This variation won’t be available in the States. Paired with that chipset you’ve got 6GB of fast RAM, and 128GB of expandable storage.

The Snapdragon 865 performs better in benchmark tests than the Exynos variation, but the real wins come with the improved battery life – something you can read more on below. As you’d expect from the flagship chipset, performance is top-drawer. Whether you’re gaming on the device, streaming Xbox titles via GamePass or pushing the phone in any other ways it’ll handle everything without getting hot or slowing down.

Audio from the speakers is good, if slightly easily blocked for the bottom speaker, and call quality is typical Samsung standard.

Out-of-the-box the S20 comes with Android 10 and the latest version of One UI. Samsung’s interface has improved immeasurably over the past few years and while it’s very much different from Google’s own vision of Android, I still like how it looks and works. Samsung has also indicated you’ll get three years of system updates, starting with Android 11, which is always good news.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Battery life – Better than the Galaxy S20, at least in the UK

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has a 4500mAh battery, matching the Galaxy S20 Plus and outperforming all the other S20 models in my tests. This is almost certainly down to the Snapdragon 865 chip, which seems to be far more efficient than its Exynos counterpart.

While I often struggled to make it through do with the S20 and S20 Plus, doing so with the S20 FE is easy and I can easily achieve more than six hours of screen on time – often more than an hour more.

When it comes to charging there is support for 25w, however in the box there’s a 15w brick – something of a shame. Still, a full charge takes just over 90 minutes so it’s too bad. There’s wireless charging too, and reverse wireless charging.

Camera – A lot of inspiration from the S20 and Note 20

On the back of the S20 FE you’ll find three cameras: the same main 12MP dual pixel sensor from the S20, which has an f/1.8 aperture and OIS, along with a 12MP ultra wide and 8MP 3x tele camera with OIS. There’s also a 32MP camera around the front.

The main 12MP sensor takes some really great snaps, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as it’s a camera we’ve seen multiple times before and been impressed with on each occasion. Samsung remains the king when it comes to colour-rich, deeply saturated and slightly oversharpened shots and those traits are clear to see here. These images are primed for social media and I can completely understand why they’re so popular.

Are the pictures better than the Pixel 4a? For me, no. But that’s subjective and you certainly do get crispier details and brighter colours here. The Pixel 4a still pips it for dynamic range, natural bokeh and, importantly, night mode.

Low light performance is fine and you can get good shots without great light either in the default mode or the more specific Night option. I find Samsung’s Night mode a little behind some of the rivals, tending to over-brighten and blow out highlights. Still, it’s there if you’re in a very dark situation.

Flipping between focal lengths is easy and the S20 FE takes good snaps at both ultra wide and 3x zoom. Neither of these are of the same quality as the main sensor and the results can be soft, especially when zooming, but they offer a nice bit of versatility. It’s also good to see Samsung not cramming in another sensor for the sake of it, some other brands offering cheaper Android phones should take note…

The 32MP front camera is good for those selfies and it has some software skills to push out a bit and cram more faces in. Video is strong too, even if it doesn’t possess the 8K skills of the regular S20.

See below for some camera samples:

You’ll get seriously bright colours even from the wide angle camera

There’s plenty of detail and the focusing works even up close

3x zoom: This isn’t a zoom king, but it’ll get the job done

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE?

I can’t say enough good things about the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and if you want a phone that feels very much like a flagship without spending over £699 then this is the best that’s currently on offer.

It’s got top-end internals, good cameras, 120Hz screen and a nice build. What more could you ask for, Using the S20 FE has me asking the same question again: Who needs a flagship anymore?

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