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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Is it only for Samsung fans?

By Liu Hongzuo - 5 Dec 2020
Launch SRP: S$1068

Benchmark Performance, Battery, Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset. That’s one of the most up-to-date flagship-tier processors you can get (aside from the Snapdragon 865+ that resides in Samsung’s luxury-flagship tier Z Fold2). This puts the Galaxy S20 FE on par with other SD865-powered flagship smartphones in our market, like the OnePlus 8, Huawei P40 Pro, Oppo Find X2 Pro. The Galaxy S20 FE also lets us glimpse into the difference between Exynos- and Qualcomm-powered Samsung flagship, so we’re including the regular Galaxy S20 for comparison. 

Note: The review unit we’ve received came with 6GB of RAM. Retail-ready units of the S20 FE come with more - at 8GB.

  Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Vivo X50 Pro Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra Huawei P40 Pro+ OnePlus 8 Pro Oppo Find X2 Pro 5G Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy S20+
  Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Vivo X50 Pro Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra Huawei P40 Pro+ OnePlus 8 Pro Oppo Find X2 Pro 5G Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy S20+
Launch SRP
  • From S$1068
  • From S$1099
  • From S$1898
  • From S$1898
  • From S$1298
  • From S$1699
  • From S$1298
  • From S$1498
Operating system
  • Android 10 (One UI 2.1)
  • Android 10 with Funtouch 10
  • One UI, based on Android 10
  • Android 10 with EMUI 10.1
  • OxygenOS 10, based on Android 10
  • ColorOS 7.1, based on Android 10
  • Android 10 (One UI 2.1)
  • Android 10 (One UI 2.1)
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (2.8GHz)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
  • Samsung Exynos 990
  • HUAWEI Kirin 990 5G octa-core (2 x 2.86GHz Cortex-A76 & 2 x 2.36GHz Cortex-A76 & 4 x 1.95GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Octa-core up to 2.84GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Octa-core up to 2.84GHz
  • Exynos 990
  • Exynos 990
Built-in Memory
  • 8GB (LPDDR5)
  • 8GB RAM
  • 12GB RAM
  • LPDDR5
  • 8GB RAM
  • 8GB RAM
  • LPDDR5
  • 12GB RAM
  • LPDDR5
  • 8GB
  • 8GB
Display
  • 6.5-inch, Super AMOLED, Infinity-O
  • 2,400 x 1,080 pixels (407ppi)
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 6.56-inch / 2,376 x 1,080 pixels (~398 ppi) / 90Hz refresh rate / HDR10/HDR10+ / AMOLED Display
  • 6.9-inch / 3,088 x 1,440 pixels (496 ppi) / 120Hz refresh rate / 240Hz touch sampling rate / HDR10+ / Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O Display
  • 6.58-inches 2,640 x 1,200 pixels (~441 ppi) OLED, 90Hz
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.78-inch / 3,168 x 1,440 pixels (513 ppi) / 120Hz refresh rate / AMOLED Display
  • 6.7-inch / 3,168 x 1,440 pixels (513 ppi) / 120Hz refresh rate / OLED Display
  • 6.2-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, Infinity-O
  • 3,200 x 1,440 pixels
  • 563ppi
  • 6.7-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, Infinity-O
  • 3,200 x 1,440 pixels
  • 525ppi
Camera
  • Rear:
  • 12MP, f/1.8, wide-angle 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
  • 12MP, f/2.2, ultra-wide, 1.12µm, 123° FOV,
  • 8MP, f/2.4, telephoto, 1.0µm, 3x Optical Zoom
  • Front:
  • 32MP, f/2.2, portrait, 0.8µm, tetra-binning, re-mosiac algorithm
  • Rear:
  • 48MP main camera, f/1.6, Gimbal Camera System
  • 13MP portrait, f/2.46, EIS
  • 8MP telephoto, 5x optical zoom, f/3.4, OIS
  • 8MP ultra-wide-angle, f/2.2, EIS
  • Front:
  • 32MP main, f/2.45
  • Rear:
  • 12MP Ultra Wide Camera, 1.4μm pixel size, 120 ̊ FOV, f/2.2 aperture
  • 108MP Wide-Angle Camera with PDAF and OIS, 1.4μm, 79 ̊ FOV, f/1.8
  • 12MP Telephoto Camera, 1.0μm, 20 ̊ FOV, f/3.0
  • Laser Autofocus Sensor
  • 5x Optical Zoom
  • 50x Super Resolution Zoom
  • Front:
  • 10MP Selfie Camera with Dual Pixel AF, 1.22μm, 80 ̊ FOV, f/2.2
  • Rear: Quad: 50-megapixel Ultra Vision Camera f/1.9 + OIS, 40-megapixel Cine Camera ultra-wide angle f/1.8, 8-megapixel SuperZoom Camera, 10x Optical Zoom, f/4.4 + OIS, 8-megapixel Telephoto Camera, 3x optical, f/2.4 aperture + OIS, 3D Depth Sensing Camera
  • Front: 32-megapixel, f/2.2 + Depth Camera
  • Rear:
  • 48MP, Sony IMX689 1/1.4-inch sensor size, f/1.78
  • 48MP, Ultra-Wide-Angle, f/2.2, 120° FOV
  • 8MP Telephoto, f/2.44, 30x Hybrid Zoom
  • 5MP, Colour Filter, f/2.4
  • Front:
  • 16MP, Sony IMX471, f/2.45
  • Rear:
  • 48MP, Sony IMX689 1/1.4-inch sensor size, f/1.7, All Pixel Omni-Directional PDAF
  • 48MP, Sony IMX586 1/2-inch sensor size, f/2.2, 120° FOV, 3cm Macro
  • 13MP Periscope Telephoto, f/3.0, 10x Hybrid Zoom, 60x Digital Zoom
  • Front:
  • 32MP, f/2.4
  • 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.76", 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
  • 64 MP, f/2.0, (telephoto), 1/1.72", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 3x hybrid optical zoom
  • 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1.4µm, Super Steady video
  • 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.76", 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
  • 64 MP, f/2.0, (telephoto), 1/1.72", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 3x hybrid optical zoom
  • 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1.4µm, Super Steady video
  • 0.3 MP, TOF 3D, f/1.0, (depth)
Connectivity
  • LTE / 5G (Sub6)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
  • NFC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz, 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, A GPS, OTG, Type-C
  • 5G (NSA, SA, mmWave), LTE (4x4 MIMO up to Cat 20), Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4GHz, 5GHz, MIMO), NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, BeiDou, Ultra Wide Band
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, 5G NR (primary SIM), 4G FDD LTE, dual-band, hotspot, DLNA, Bluetooth 5.1, A2DP, LE, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, NFC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4G, 5G, 2x2 MIMO), NFC, Bluetooth 5.1 (aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, AAC, SBC), A-GPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, GPS (L1+L5 Dual Band)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4Ghz, 5.1Ghz, 5/8Ghz(, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.1, A-GPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, GPS
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
  • NFC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
  • NFC
Storage Type
  • 128GB or 256GB
  • microSDXC up to 1TB (uses shared SIM slot)
  • 256GB internal storage
  • 256GB internal storage
  • 512GB internal storage
  • Huawei Nano Memory expansion (up to 256GB)
  • 128GB internal storage
  • UFS 3.0
  • 512GB internal storage
  • UFS 3.0
  • Internal 128GB, UFS 3.0
  • microSDXC (uses shared SIM slot)
  • Internal 128GB, UFS 3.0
  • microSDXC (uses shared SIM slot)
Battery
  • 4,500mAh
  • 25W Super Fast Charging
  • 15W Wireless Fast Charging
  • Wireless PowerShare
  • 4,315mAh
  • 33W fast-charging
  • 4,500mAh
  • USB PD 3.0 Fast Charging, AFC, QC 2.0
  • Samsung Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 (15W)
  • 4,200mAh
  • 40W Huawei SuperCharge
  • 40W Huawei Wireless SuperCharge
  • 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge (Qi wireless charging)
  • Reverse wireless charging
  • 4,510mAh
  • 30W Fast Charging (5V/6A)
  • 30W Wireless Charging
  • 4,260mAh
  • 65W SuperVOOC 2.0 Flash Charge
  • 4,000mAh Li-Po
  • 4,500mAh Li-Po
Dimensions
  • 74.5 x 159.8 x 8.4mm
  • 158.46 x 72.8 x 8.04mm
  • 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm
  • 158.2 x 72.6 x 9.0 mm
  • 165.3 x 74.3 x 8.5mm
  • 165.2 x 74.4 x 8.8mm
  • 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9 mm
  • 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm
Weight
  • 190g
  • 181.5g
  • 208g
  • 226g
  • 199g
  • 217g
  • 163g
  • 168g
Network:
  • 5G (NSA/SA), 4G, 3G

 

JetStream 2.0

JetStream 2 is a combination of a variety of JavaScript and Web Assembly benchmarks, including benchmarks that came before like SunSpider and Octane. It primarily tests for a system’s and browser’s ability in delivering a good web experience. It runs a total of 64 subtests, each weighted equally, with multiple iterations, and takes the geometric mean to compute the overall score.

 

AnTuTu 

Note: As of 9th March 2020, all AnTuTu benchmarks were removed from the Google Play Store. This move likely arose from Google's attempts to relieve the Play Store of apps that violate their policies. AnTuTu is working with Google to restore their app listing. For this review, we used the APK file that was available on AnTuTu's website.

AnTuTu is an all-in-one benchmark that tests CPU, GPU, memory, and storage. The CPU benchmark evaluates both integer and floating-point performance, and the GPU tests assess 2D and 3D performance, the memory test measures available memory bandwidth and latency, and the storage tests gauge the read and write speeds of a device's flash memory.

 

Geekbench 5

Geekbench CPU is a cross-platform processor benchmark that tests both single-core and multi-core performance with workloads that simulate real-world usage. Geekbench 5 scores are calibrated against a baseline score of 1000, which is the score of an Intel Core i3-8100.

 

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. The test's Unlimited mode ignores screen resolutions.


 

Battery life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email

At 4,500mAh, the Galaxy S20 FE is more generous than S20’s 4,000mAh capacity, while being on par with the S20+’s. Battery life performance is anything but identical. The S20 FE clocks in at least a hundred minutes more than either model.

We can chalk it up to a few factors - the better battery life could be credited to the lack of 1440p resolution on S20 FE, or the fact that the Snapdragon chipset is simply more efficient than the Exynos equivalent of the SD865. The other SD865 phones in the list tell us as much, too.

The battery on the S20 FE offers 25W Super Fast Charging while wired, and 15W Wireless Fast Charging. That’s the same wireless charging profile on the Galaxy Note20 Ultra. The S20 FE even comes with Wireless PowerShare where it can reverse-charge another device wirelessly. We were expecting another corner to be cut here, so it’s really heartening to see wireless charging available in this 'budget' flagship device.

It took 31 minutes to charge from 0% to 50%, and a total of 96 minutes to reach 100% while wired. The device starts off with fast-charging before tapering off to regular charging speeds as it approaches maximum capacity (likely due to safety protocols built into the battery).

 

Conclusion

Frankly, when Samsung first announced it was doing a Fan Edition of anything, my first thought was how the device is going to be a pale imitation of whatever flagship model it’s meant to emulate. Partly to blame is the incessant marketing from Android phone makers when they say they bring ‘flagship-tier features’ to lower-tier devices, and also because brands expect diehard fans to be willing to part with more for less - doing otherwise wouldn’t make them true fans, after all. 

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE defies both expectations. Firstly, the top-tier performance outclasses even their regular S20 models,  thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset they’ve chosen. Secondly, it’s S$100 cheaper than the most affordable Samsung Galaxy S20 variant (at official retail pricing) and also includes a 5G modem to support our local telco's latest 5G connectivity offering. It also competes well against OnePlus 8 Pro and Vivo X50 Pro, dethroning these devices from their budget flagship mantle - both in features and price. It’s really hard to compete against Samsung’s full suite of software enhancements, polish, at the budget flagship price point. 

We expected several corners to be cut when it came to the S20 FE’s overall offering. At S$1,068 and S$1,168 for the respective 128GB and 256GB models, something’s gotta give. I’m glad to say Samsung chose the right corners to cut. The plastic rear feels less premium, but it’s no less attractive. The curved sides on the regular models are sophisticated, but the S20 FE’s flat display is still a functional, fluid panel without the superfluous curvature. They’ve knocked down the telephoto lens quality, yet they left the main camera unspoiled. It doesn’t have 8K recording, but it still offers 4K recording at 60 FPS, which is more than enough for everyday use. There’s no 1440p resolution or HDR support, but 1080p isn’t too bad given its AMOLED display quality, and it can run at 120Hz refresh rate without a hitch. When you look at the other alternatives in the market, you really only have the OnePlus 8 Pro, and maybe the Vivo X50 Pro to think about - making Samsung a really easy choice out of the rest.

Of course, this device isn’t for everyone - especially if you value premium materials for the finish, or higher display resolutions, or if you want 8K recording or want the best imaging performance a smartphone can deliver. Which is why the S20 FE being ‘Fan Edition’ isn’t a bad name after all - this is what affordable, top-tier performance on a Samsung-backed phone looks like, so this is what you’ll get. If you’re a fan of anything else, you might have to look elsewhere.

In the budget flagship category, the Galaxy S20 FE is the 2020 phone to beat - from its usage experience, to its customisation, its performance, and price point. Because Samsung chose to cut the right corners, it’s going to be really tough for others who want to make their budget flagship shine. For this reason, we are bestowing the Editor's Choice accolade to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.

The phone doesn't yet hit retail until 16th October 2020, but meanwhile don’t forget to check out the Galaxy S20 FE pre-order details in our earlier article here to enjoy the pre-order specials.

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9.0
  • Design 8
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Performance 9.5
  • Value 9
The Good
Affordable Samsung flagship device
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset
Almost everything you expect from S20
5G-ready
Several colour options
Haze matte finish at its rear
The Bad
Lower-than S20's screen quality
Average audio
Non-premium appearance
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