Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Review – Superb Performer

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Samsung spins the new Galaxy S20 FE, or “Fan Edition”, as a model that offers all the features that fans care most about in a more affordable package. As the prices of flagship phones have skyrocketed to well over Rs. 1,00,000 over the past few years, the “flagship killer” segment at around Rs. 40,000 to 50,000 has become more and more important. Rather than let competitors such as OnePlus and Xiaomi eat its lunch, the Korean giant has decided to fight back with a watered-down version of the Galaxy S20.

Samsung has dabbled with several ways to sell more affordable versions of its flagship phones without cannibalising sales. Last year, we had the physically smaller Galaxy S10e which proved to be a hit in the same vein as the “mini” versions of some older models. 

In an effort to reconcile its range, Samsung has just recently announced price cuts down to Rs. 44,999 and Rs. 48,999 for the 128GB and 256GB variants. This will undoubtedly annoy early adopters, coming less than two weeks after the Galaxy S20 FE first went on sale. As far as offering consumers value for money, this is hardly the most conducive environment in which to promote a model with more modest specifications.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE design

The Galaxy S20 FE does fit in with its siblings. It has the same basic proportions but interestingly is larger than the Galaxy S20 thanks to its 6.5-inch screen. You don’t get curved edges on the screen, which in my opinion is actually a good thing. The frame is shiny and metallic, while the rear panel is made of a matte polycarbonate. The 128GB version of this phone is available in five colours, ranging from the bold Cloud Red and Cloud Navy to the much softer pastel Cloud Mint and Cloud Lavender, plus a neutral Cloud White.

The rounded sides of the rear panel make the Galaxy S20 FE very easy to hold, and the non-slip texture is much appreciated. You also don’t have to worry at all about fingerprints, but mild smudges can be seen after use. You don’t get any kind of case in the box with this phone.

Contributing to the premium feel, the screen borders are quite slim. The earpiece is so narrow it can barely even be seen. The front camera is embedded right in the centre of the top – it’s fairly small but is still a little distracting not only because of its position but also because there’s a highly reflective silver ring around it. Samsung will ship this phone with a screen protector pre-applied, and the one on my review unit was slightly misaligned.

The power and volume buttons are on the left, and are within easy reach. Samsung has dropped its dedicated Bixby button and I don’t miss it at all. There’s a USB Type-C port on the bottom and no 3.5mm audio socket. The tray on the top can accommodate either two Nano-SIMs or one Nano-SIM and a microSD card.

Measuring 8.4mm thick and weighing 190g, the Galaxy S20 FE is fairly easy to handle and live with. It’s rated IP68 for water and dust resistance, so it should be able to withstand exposure to the elements. Despite being not exactly flagship-level, construction quality is excellent and there’s no doubt that this feels like a premium phone.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE specifications and software

The Galaxy S20 FE gets the same top-tier Exynos 990 processor as its siblings in the S20 family. This is an octa-core SoC with two custom Samsung performance cores running at 2.73GHz, two more ARM Cortex-A76 cores running at 2.5GHz, and four more power-efficient 2GHz Cortex-A55 cores.

There’s 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage, plus support for up to a 1TB microSD card using the hybrid slot. The battery capacity is 4500mAh and wireless charging is supported in both directions. You only get a 15W adapter in the box, though this phone can take advantage of up to 25W chargers.

Samsung has gone with a 6.5-inch 1080×2400-pixel Super AMOLED screen. There’s no official mention of HDR but it does seem to be supported. There is also an always-on mode that’s disabled by default. One pleasant surprise is a 120Hz refresh rate, though there doesn’t seem to be any way to enable this dynamically – it’s either 60Hz or 120Hz all the time. A workaround is to enable Adaptive Power Saving, which will toggle the refresh rate along with several other settings based on your usage patterns.

There are various shortcut gestures, a Game Launcher with optimisations, UI themes, a Dual Messenger feature for using two accounts with certain apps, a screen recorder, expandable notification bubbles, and plenty of options for home screen customisation. Edge Panels give you quick access to various shortcuts and mini apps with a swipe in from either edge of the screen, and you can download many more free and paid panels from the Galaxy Store.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE performance

As expected, there’s no lag whatsoever when swiping through the One UI interface and when multitasking between apps. The Galaxy S20 FE felt snappy, thanks to the high refresh rate panel as well as the capable SoC and large amount of RAM. The in-display fingerprint sensor and face recognition aren’t as quick as I would have liked, but this shouldn’t be much of a problem. This is the kind of phone that you’d be more than happy to use for everyday apps and tasks. Battery life was particularly impressive. I was able to get a full day’s use out of a charge. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE cameras

Considering how heavily Samsung emphasised camera quality as the defining feature of the Galaxy S20 family, it will be interesting to see how this lower-priced model fits in. The Galaxy S20 FE has a scaled-down set of cameras, starting with a 12-megapixel f/1.8 primary camera with OIS. There’s also a 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide camera and an 8-megapixel f/2.4 3X optical telephoto camera. For selfies, you get a 32-megapixel f/2.2 camera.

Unsurprisingly, the camera app is jammed with features and options. Modes include Samsung’s Single Take composition tool, pro mode, food mode, night mode, live focus for stills and video, slow motion and super slow motion, and hyperlapse. You can download additional filters or create your own based on the colour profile of any photo, if the default selection ever gets boring.

The Galaxy S20 FE locked focus quickly and metered scenes quite well during the day. Colours were vibrant, verging on oversaturated in some instances. Shots came out looking sharp and subjects were well defined. Detail on objects at a distance was also quite good. Close-up shots were excellent, with minute details reproduced very well and a very pleasant natural depth of field.

In fact, close-ups taken in the default Photo mode were often better than when using the Live Focus mode, which requires you to stand back quite a distance from your subject. If you do use this mode though, you can refocus shots, adjust the blur intensity and type, and remove all colour except for the object in focus.

The front camera takes 8-megapixel binned shots by default. A wide-angle mode essentially reverse-crops the frame, but the difference is very slight. Selfies came out looking crisp with good detail and exposure, but beautification is turned on by default and it takes several taps to disable it. Night mode works here as well, and can definitely help when there isn’t enough light falling on your face.

As for video, the Galaxy S20 FE was able to capture smooth 1080p footage with all three cameras in the daytime. Whether standing still, panning, or walking, video looked good and there was no jerkiness. At 4K, motion was a little less smooth especially with the telephoto camera. Low-light video shot with the primary camera was good enough, but quality suffered with the telephoto and wide-angle cameras. 

Final Verdict

What Samsung has got perfectly right with this device – is the balance of cost and features. You don’t get the full flagship experience, but if people are happy with so-called flagship killers, you now have a pretty good choice within the Samsung lineup. What works for the Galaxy S20 FE is its fit and finish, high-quality screen, and useful cameras.

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