Review: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, cheapest S20 is the best for many

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The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, Fan Edition in full, is the newest addition to the S20 line-up. This smartphone, which is mainly targeted towards the consumer market, is also the cheapest of the bunch. This low price, combined with its good allround performance, makes the Galaxy S20 FE perhaps the most interesting version of the Galaxy S20 for business use as well. In this review, Techzine will tell you all about it.

It’s the first time that Samsung releases a high-end smartphone for a more affordable price. Samsung has managed to cut down the price by saving on a couple of non-essential components. For example, less luxurious materials have been used, and the screen resolution is a bit lower. On the other side, the base specs are identical to its more expensive brothers, and the extensive list of features can still be found. All this makes for an exciting option for companies that need a solid, reliable, complete and fast smartphone for their employees. The fact that it’s a bit less luxurious won’t matter that much in most cases.

Just like with its own high-end smartphones, Samsung offers a 4G and a 5G version of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition. The one we’re looking at here is the 5G version, which we think is the most interesting one anyways. This is because, apart from 5G support, it’s equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, which is faster and more efficient than its Exynos counterpart. These two factors combined, more than make up the extra cost of about 70 euros.

Main specifications

Display6,5″ AMOLED, 1080×2400 pixels. 120Hz refresh rate
Network support4G or 5G
ProcessorSamsung Exynos 990 (2,73GHz octacore; 4G version) or
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (2,84GHz octacore; 5G version)
Memory6GB/8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB storage space, SD card slot
Battery4500mAh, 25W quick charge, 15W wireless charging
SoftwareAndroid 10 with OneUI 2.5
Camera12-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel 3x zoom camera,
12-megapixel ultrawide camera, 32-megapixel front camera

Design: robustness over luxury

There are two options for saving money on the design on a high-end smartphone: cut down on functionality or make it less luxurious. Samsung chose the latter option with the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition and it actually works out very well. The glass back and sublime finish of the Galaxy S20 has been switched for a plastic back and a somewhat rougher design without curved screen edges. It’s less pretty to look at, but it also has its advantages. The chance that you end up with a broken back is negligible, and the screen is easier to operate because of the rougher finish. You have more grip on the phone when you hold it in your hand. For extra sturdiness and some semblance of luxury, the frame of the phone is still made of aluminium.

More importantly, many parts that do matter have been retained in the design. For example, the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition still has complete IP68 water resistance, has stereo speakers and is equipped with a pretty good fingerprint sensor in the display. The bezels are small, and the same can be said about the hole punch camera in the top of the display. One small disadvantage is the small shiny edge around the front camera, also found in the Galaxy A51. This can be really distracting when the sun shines directly onto it.

Overall, the design of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is done very well. It may not be as luxurious as many other high-end smartphones, but it well-built and complete. It’s also offered in many different colours, so there’s something for everyone.

Large and fast display

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE’s display is a tad bigger than the one found in the regular S20: 6.5 inches compared to 6.2 inches. At the same time, the resolution has been lowered from Quad HD+ to Full HD+. The difference is visible, especially because the AMOLED display uses a PenTile pixel structure. We are used to a somewhat lower display resolution in this price bracket, and it’s not very distracting.

What’s more important is that the display is still beautiful. The 120Hz refresh rate makes it very smooth, it has high brightness, and infinite contrast and the colour reproduction is good. Samsung has chosen to calibrate the panel to a fairly cold colour temperature, making the colours pop even more. It looks flashy, but also a bit less realistic.

Performance: better than the S20

Strangely, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition performs better than it’s more expensive brothers. This is because of the chipset used. Samsung traditionally uses its own Exynos chipset in Europe. In the case of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition 5G, the company chose to offer a Snapdragon 865 chipset as well. This is still the fastest SoC you can currently get in an Android smartphone, and it performs better than the Exynos 990 chip that’s available in the 4G version of the phone and the rest of the S20 lineup. The only downside in terms of performance is that the base version of the S20 FE only has 6GB of memory. This didn’t cause any problems during our testing period, but it may be a bit on the small side for people that use their phone very heavily.

The Snapdragon chipset is not only faster, but it’s also more power-efficient. And that’s noticeable: the 4500mAh battery will easily get you through the day. It might even last you two days with some effort, which is exceptional for a high-end Samsung phone. We didn’t get the chance to try the 4G version of the Galaxy S20 FE. We expect that to have a slightly worse battery life than the 5G version, but still better than the standard Galaxy S20, due to the bigger battery and lower screen resolution.

The 25W quick charge feature is a bit slow when compared to its peers, but the large battery makes that less of an issue. The Galaxy S20 FE supports up to 15W wireless charging and also supports reverse wireless charging so you can top up your earbuds or watch on the go.

Familiar software

There’s not much news to be shared about the software. The Samsung Galaxy S20 still runs Android 10 with Samsung’s OneUI software. This is a heavily modified skin that does offer many advantages. Samsung added its fair share of features and OneUI is pleasing to the eye.

The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition also scores on the business side of things. Samsung’s Knox platform gives IT administrators a full set of tools to manage and secure the devices within a company. This is linked to a secure storage chip that stores sensitive data. Samsung DeX allows all of the phone to be controlled from a computer, including all files and folders with support for drag and drop. It even allows the phone itself to function as a makeshift computer.

And finally, Samsung’s update policy has improved a lot. Samsung already promised this summer that all phones in the S and Note lines get at least three years of full software support. This means the Galaxy S20 FE will at least be updated to Android 13. Not many Android manufacturers make that promise.

Three good cameras

In the back of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, you will find three cameras. A 12-megapixel main shooter, an 8-megapixel camera with a 3x zoom lens a 12-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens. You won’t find any useless depth sensors or macro cameras that hardly produce any usable images, but only three useful ones.

The good news is that all three sensors produce good pictures. When the lighting is good, the main camera is clearly able to capture more detail than the other two cameras. That makes sense, as it has the best sensor. For the most part, however, the pictures look similar on all cameras, including colour and dynamic range. That’s an impressive performance.

When it gets dark, though, the wide-angle and zoom cameras clearly perform worse than the main camera. This is where this S20 Fan Edition is clearly different from the best camera phones, but that is to be expected at this price tag. Still, because of the stellar night mode, the main camera also takes good and detailed pictures with little light, making the camera setup as a whole usable in a wide set of scenarios. Well done, Samsung.

In the front of the smartphone there is a 32-megapixel camera that also has a night mode, but doesn’t profit a lot from it. It will make acceptable pictures in the dark, but they aren’t great. The front camera does perform well in good lighting conditions, and it will also more than suffice for video meetings.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition has had a few clear downgrades when compared to the rest of the S20 line-up. The luxurious design made of glass and aluminium has been swapped out for a more sober design with a plastic back, the screen resolution has been decreased to Full HD+ and the memory isn’t that exceptional for a high-end smartphone. Those downgrades did make for a major drop in the suggested retail price: about 250 euros. In practice, however, the difference is only a few tens of euros right now, so that’s not a major argument in favor of the Fan Edition as of yet.

Nevertheless, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is a good choice. Because of the excellent battery and the improved performance, this phone scores a bit better allround than the regular Galaxy S20. Important properties of the S20 line, like the waterproof housing, the beautiful screen, the good camera and promise of three years of updates are still there in the Fan Edition. The phone doesn’t have any real disadvantages, though we would have preferred if the shiny edge around the frontcamera wouldn’t be there. The memory is a bit on the low side with only 6GB, but that won’t cause much of a problem for most users. In short, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is an excellent allround smartphone. Despite the confusing name of the device, this verdict also applies to business users, since Knox is also included.

9
  • Excellent display
  • Wide feature set
  • 3 years of updates
  • Good battery
  • Shining border around front camera
  • 6GB memory in base model