2020 has been a hectic journey, and as such, it is easy to forget the S20 range of smartphones only launched earlier in the year. While they still very much hold up and, especially with software updates, are better today; the price point could have stopped many buyers from taking the plunge. With this in mind, Samsung has listened to the fans and released a new offering that strips out the bloat, keeps what makes the S20 range exciting, and is set at a price even skeptics have to appreciate.
On the surface the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE feels like a response to the phones of OnePlus and other Chinese manufacturers. With so many of them looking to trim the fat to hit price targets, it makes phones like the Galaxy S20 Ultra feel like luxury items we can only dream of. But Samsung, being the agile smartphone giant it is, used these lessons and, in record time, built a new iteration of the S20 that feels modern, powerful, and stylish; while cutting features that most fans do not need.
From a design perspective, the S20 FE feels in line with what Samsung has been doing with their A-Series of devices. It offers a plastic body, and a screen that forgoes the curved edges we have come to expect from high-end Samsung devices. The bezels are a bit more noticeable, and the overall feel of the device does lack some of that “wow” factor Samsung boasts in many of its advertising and keynotes. That is not to say the S20 FE is ugly, but it does feel noticeably cheaper just at a glance.
Although, despite being made of plastic, the S20 FE manages to stay classy and modern. The single power button and volume rocker on the right side of the device are subtle and feel comfortable when held in one hand. The phone does lack the 3.5mm headphone jack seen on some of Samsung’s other mid-range devices, and unlike the S20 Ultra and other Galaxy S20 flagship phones, you won’t find USB-C headphones in the box.
Looking to the back of the Galaxy S20 FE the all plastic construction brings with it a range of colours including Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Red, Cloud White and more. It is hard to say why Samsung opted to name everything “Cloud,” but from the look of things, all the colours have a nice pleasing look to them, and all feel premium, even if it does lack the flair of the other phones in the S20 range.
You will also find the camera bump, as with other Galaxy S20 phones, it is noticeable and a focal point for the back of the phone. The camera array includes a 12-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel telephoto with 3X optical zoom, and a 12-megapixel ultra wide to capture the group shops and stunning landscapes should you want to take this phone hiking or just to the local pub with friends—once it is safe to do so. It should be noted that the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE does lack a depth sensor, but from testing, it still manages to take acceptable photos, but more on that in a moment.
For now, let’s move onto the screen. The S20 FE features a 1080 x 2400 pixel 120Hz Super AMOLED screen that is simply stunning to look at, especially for a phone at this price point. It feels responsive and smooth with animation and video looking sharp, clear and crisp. It is not as vibrant or clear as the panel seen on the S20 Ultra, but it comes close, making it easy to experience with it never feeling budget or like a massive step down for most people.
Under the hood, the Samsung S20 FE feels snappy, but does lack some of the performance you will find in the more “flagship” variants of the range. Samsung opted for a less powerful, more power efficient option in the Snapdragon 865 SoC with 6 GB RAM. With this you will be able to play most of the modern Android games, including Fortnite, PUBG or even Call of Duty Mobile without any issue with stuttering.
While the 865 SoC may be less impressive than other options, it does mean the S20 FE will get through a day of use without any issue, especially in combination with the 4500mAh battery it comes with. Never in testing did we see any issue making it through a full, busy day—with moderate to heavy use of the phone and internet; and even when we threw in some gaming and Bluetooth music we still made it to the nightstand with at least 20% battery to spare. It is a fantastic all day phone, that many, depending on their needs, should be able to push to a day and a half should the need arise.
Returning to the camera, and the Samsung S20 FE fared well overall. It does not have the monster camera specs other phones in the lineup offer, but overall it offers a good balance of features and processing that should make the majority of people happy. Shots feel crisp, vibrant and clear, and while the “Samsung processing” feel is alive and well in the FE, it should not be overpowering for most people and offers good photos overall.
All the features on offer work for the most part as expected. While skin tones are sometimes a bit too light, and it does have issues over-saturating photos at times; for most use cases, people should have no problem getting good, to great photos out of the phone. Sadly, it will not compete with an iPhone, or even the bigger brothers in the S20 lineup, but for the price, it fairs better than most phones from a few years back, and should be fantastic for Instagram. Twitter or other social media.
The night mode works better than expected, and while I find the S20 Ultra fares better overall, the FE manages to capture some great night shots. I am also happy to see an Ultrawide lens on the FE, since I always find this far more useful compared to a Telephoto lens—and with this phone you get both. Again, none of these cameras will win any awards, but they offer enough for most people’s needs, and can capture some great shots given the right setting and time put into the photos.
At the $949 price point, the Samsung S20 FE 5G is a great offering from the Korean tech giant. It delivers in all the areas we have come to expect from Samsung, while cutting the right corners to hit a price that is competitive and exciting. With the Pixel 5 launching soon at $799 and other devices clawing for that mid-range market, Samsung have knocked it out of the park, and found the perfect balance between flagship features and midrange appeal.
If you are looking for a new phone, but the ultra-premium devices have scared you away from an upgrade, give the Galaxy S20 FE a look, it packs a lot of phone in its small colourful plastic package.