Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE initial review: The pick of the bunch?

Samsung’s latest version of the Galaxy S20 says that it’s going to offer the fans what they want. That’s behind the name – Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, or Fan Edition – while strategically, it gives Samsung another roll of the S20 dice.

Make no mistake, this is a flagship phone that’s been pulled back slightly to land at a much more appealing price. We’ve had the device for the weekend and while we’re working on our full review, we thought we’d share our early impressions.

Let’s talk about the glasstic design

  • 74.5 x 159.8 x 8.4mm, 190g
  • Six colours
  • Plastic back, IP68

A lot is said about the switch from glass to plastic. There’s a seam of criticism that’s outspoken on social media about what constitutes premium and what doesn’t. For the Galaxy Note 20, a lot of people (who had never seen the phone, let alone held it), dismissed it as wrong because it was plastic, not glass.

That’s a hard position to take, in reality, because the durability of plastic so good. Cutting the number of glass surfaces in half means there’s less to smash and having now lived with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE for a couple of days, it’s easy to see the materials debate as a storm in a teacup.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

The plastic back is warmer to the touch, it feels softer, it has a matte finish and it’s a lot easier to keep clean. There’s barely a smudge or smear on the thing, unlike the glass back of so many other phones. It’s cheaper, sure, but the phone is cheaper too.

But importantly the fit, finish, look and feel of this device isn’t cheap. In fact, we prefer it, along with that assurance that if we do drop it, we’re unlikely to see a catastrophic shattering of the back of the phone. Yes, we’ve broken plenty of glass phones in our time.

The other big thing you’ll notice from a design point of view is that the display is flat. That makes the bezels more visible, but they’re actually very neat. It’s slightly strange that the punch hole camera seems to have a reflective ring around it; it doesn’t look deliberate, but it certainly catches the eye and that means it doesn’t blend in quite as well as some do.

samsung galaxy s20 fe

Otherwise it’s very much an execution of Samsung design, wrapped in a package with IP68 protection.

Display

  • 6.5-inches, 120Hz refresh rate, 2400 x 1080 pixels
  • Flat, AMOLED
  • Under display fingerprint sensor

Samsung is known for its display panels and the S20 FE doesn’t disappoint. With the curved edges gone, there’s perhaps slightly less wow factor to this phone, but at the same time, it avoids the downsides of curves screens – namely that they can introduce phantom touches around the edges or that the extreme edges are less responsive. There’a a factory-fitted screen protector which we’ve left on the device, we might remove it later.

That’s something we’ve noticed in games in the past and having put the S20 FE through a couple of hours of Call of Duty Mobile, we’re actually very happy with it. The size, too, is great, because it feels like this is the sweet spot for us, remaining manageable while giving content enough space to shine.

samsung galaxy s20 fe

It’s a 1080p with 120Hz, not that we’ve really seen anything that takes advantage of that faster refresh rate yet – the forthcoming Call of Duty Mobile update will certainly be welcomed, but we’re only getting started with this phone.

As with all Samsung devices, the brightness and pop to the display really makes a difference. Moving to this phone from a mid-range (albeit good mid-range) phone, there’s still a quality difference here between Samsung panels and some alternatives.

We’ve mentioned the punch hole and that’s was something we noticed immediately – that reflection catches the light so it never really vanishes into the background quite as well as one might hope. First impressions, overall, are good, however.

Hardware and specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, 5G
  • 6GB RAM, 128GB storage
  • 4500mAh battery

Before we talk about the hardware, let’s talk about the fingerprint scanner. This is an optical scanner rather than the ultrasonic scanner that Samsung uses in it’s higher-spec S20 devices, and you can tell the difference.

So far we’ve found it less reliable and slower to unlock that some other implementations. There’s always a learning curve with fingerprint scanners and it might be that this gets better with practice, but at the moment, it might stand-out as one of the negatives.

samsung galaxy s20 fe

What does stand-out is that this is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Samsung phone – something that’s a rarity in the UK and Europe. That was part of the reasoning behind this device, as globally, the 5G version is Snapdragon 865. It’s paired with 6GB RAM, slightly less than the Galaxy S20 models, but so far we’ve not noticed that to make any difference.

That’s a key thing to look out for on this phone, however, as the 4G version (if the 4G version is available in your market, which it is in Europe), will be the Exynos 990 version. Just make sure you know what you’re buying and what you want.

The Qualcomm vs Exynos debate is one that’s been raging amongst Samsung fans for many years. In reality, the difference is only slight and in most situations, you’d have no idea what was powering your phone unless someone told you.

That said, having closely followed Qualcomm’s developments over the past few years and used a good number of Snapdragon 865 devices in 2020, we’ve been impressed by the performance. Importantly, it gives you a more direct comparison to other devices you might be looking at. Companies like OnePlus and Xiaomi offer aggressively-priced Snapdragon 865 devices – and now Samsung feels a little more competitive.

The 128GB storage is pretty standard and the support for up to 1TB of microSD means that future expansion is open to you.

The battery capacity at 4500mAh sounds reasonable – the same as the Galaxy S20+ this phone directly rivals – and so far it’s been a good performer, but we’ve not been using it long enough to fully assess it.

Cameras

  • Triple rear:
    • Main: 12MP, 1.8µm, f/1.8, OIS
    • Ultra-wide: 12MP, 1.12µm, f/2.2
    • Telephoto: 8MP, 1.0µm, f/2.4 OIS, 3x
  • Front: 32MP, 0.8µm, f/2.2 fixed focus

What we like about the camera arrangement on this phone is that there are few gimmicks. There’s no macro or depth sensor, just three usable, good quality lenses. The main camera is the same 12-megapixel that we saw on the Galaxy S20 and we were impressed with the performance, although we’ve not fully tested it on the S20 FE yet.

It’s joined by a ultra-wide camera and telephoto, both very usable, but spec spotters will notice that the telephoto here is just 8-megapixels here, rather than 64-megapixels on the S20 models. On those models launched earlier in the year, the 64-megapixel sensor was also used to capture 8K video, which the S20 FE doesn’t offer. As it sticks to 4K, that video is captured through the main sensor instead.

We’ve barely used the camera so far, but from what we’ve seen, it looks like a solid performer. We’ll spend a lot more time testing it before we publish our full review.

Original Article