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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Review: Good Alternative To Premium Galaxy S20/S20+
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition) has garnered a lot of attention from technology enthusiasts across the globe for the hardware and features it brings to the table. In India, the brand has introduced the handset in 4G-only version at Rs. 49,999 for the 8GB RAM + 128GB ROM variant and Rs. 53,999 for the 8GB RAM+ 256 GB ROM variant. You can avail a cashback of Rs. 4,000 on HDFC Bank cards and Rs. 4,000 voucher on Samsung e-store, which makes the deal even more exciting.
- Premium Aesthetics
- 120Hz AMOLED Display Is Super Fluid
- MicroSD Card Support And IP68 Rated
- Versatile Camera Setup
- Swift Performance
- Decent Battery Life
- AMOLED Display Lacks Good Peak Brightness
- Only 15W Charger In Box, No Case Either
- No 5G-Connectivity
- Camera Fails To Impress In Low-Light
Having used the Galaxy S20+ for over three months as my daily driver, I started testing the Galaxy S20 FE to find out the performance and user-experience differences.
The following review will help you understand the performance and user experience metrics of using the Galaxy S20 FE as an alternative to Samsung's 2020 flagship handsets.
Design- Lacks Premium Glass Back But Doesn’t Feel Cheap At All
Samsung had to cut corners somewhere to keep price in check and the design and display had to bear the cost, but only to some extent. This is a still a premium looking phone which will not spoil your style statement; however, it fails to match the sophistication of an all-metal or a metal-glass made smartphone.
For instance, the OnePlus 8-series phones look and give a more premium in-hand feel than the Galaxy S20 FE. Both OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8T are priced lower than the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition; however, the Galaxy S20 FE still offers a microSD card slot that OnePlus phones lack. It's a feature I would happily trade for a glass or metal back.
Five Interesting Colors, IP68 Rating And Wireless Charging
You can choose to buy the Galaxy S20 FE in five color options- Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Red, and Cloud White. I am testing the Cloud Mint variant it looks striking. The matte finish back feels amazing to touch and does not gather smudges as easily as a glass panel. The Galaxy S20 FE also maintains good ergonomics. It isn't heavy nor does it feel feather-light in hands. The weight distribution is just about right for a comfortable user experience. The phone has a Type-C port and a speaker unit at the bottom and a hybrid SIM card tray along with a microphone at the top. The Galaxy S20 FE supports wireless charging and comes equipped with IP68 rating for protection against water and dust.
Display- 6.5-inch Full HD+ 120Hz AMOLED Display
The Galaxy S20 FE flaunts a 6.5-inch AMOLED screen. It's a flat OLED panel with the traditional Full HD+ resolution (1080 x 2,400 pixels), unlike the premium siblings that offer QHD+ AMOLED displays. The display protection is also compromised to keep the price low. The Fan Edition lacks the latest Corning Gorilla Glass protection and only ships with the dated Gorilla Glass 3, which is a bit of a bummer when you realize that even some sub-15K phones offer the Gorilla Glass 5 protection.
Thankfully, Samsung hasn't made any compromises in the screen's refresh rate to give you something to appreciate. Similar to its premium siblings, the Galaxy S20 FE's screen can also be set to run at 120Hz refresh rate for a fluid and responsive user-experience. But you must know that it takes a toll on the battery lie. Moving on, the Galaxy S20 FE's display is vivid and gets fairly bright for a comfortable outdoor user-experience; however, the screen feels a bit dull if you are using the device under direct sunlight. Also, the color accuracy and contrast levels aren't very inspiring, and so does the viewing angles.
I found the OnePlus 8T's FHD+ AMOLED display (HDR10+ Enabled) giving a better overall user experience in daily routine. The OnePlus 8T's screen also has superior peak brightness level (1,100 nits) as compared to the AMOLED display on the Galaxy S0 FE (~700 nits). Overall, Samsung has made the most number of compromises in the display department and the effect on performance is quite visible.
The Galaxy S20 FE has a very basic yet functional camera setup that gets the job done wonderfully. The phone flaunts a three-lens rear camera featuring a 12MP main camera (Same as Galaxy S20/S20+) which uses the 12MP Samsung ISOCELL sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. The OIS-enabled lens supports Dual Pixel PDAF and has impressive auto-focusing capabilities. It is aided by another 12MP lens, but of ultra-wide-angle nature with 123-degree field-of-view. The wide-angle lens has fixed-focus and works on f/2.2 aperture. The third lens in the configuration is an 8MP f/2.4 3x telephoto lens (2.9x to be precise) which gets PDAF and is also OIS-enabled. The telephoto lens allows you to zoom in digitally to 30x. For selfies, the Galaxy S20 FE has a 32MP front-facing camera.
The three lenses capture excellent shots in daylight. The color science is accurate, images show good details and highlights and dynamic range is also decent if not matching the premium Galaxy S20-series devices. The 12MP primary sensor and the telephoto lens capture crisp details when the light is abundant. The images are mostly noise-free and textures are retained in outdoor lighting as long as you are not clicking close-up shots of faces. Because similar to most Samsung devices, the Galaxy S20 FE's camera also tends to smoothen the facial textures, both indoors and outdoors. Even the selfie camera performs some skin smoothening algorithms on default settings leading to very unrealistic image output.
Good Bokeh Camera But Poor Night Photography Results
The Galaxy S20 FE captures pleasing bokeh shots. The live focus mode ensures impressive depth-of-filed and subject-background segmentation is very accurate, both on objects and humans. The live focus mode is very consistent on the Galaxy S20 FE and can help you capture some high-quality portraits in daylight.
Moving on, the Galaxy S20 FE captures decent low-light shots but disappoints with its night time photography capabilities. The dedicated night mode over processes images by adding unwanted contrast and sharpness thus creating highly unnatural images. Even the Pixel 4a captures better low-light and night-time shots than the Galaxy S20 FE. It seems Samsung is just not able to crack the low-light, especially night photography, no matter how hard it tries.
Impressive 3x Telephoto Lens
The Galaxy S20 FE has a very capable telephoto lens that delivers good results. The 3x shots come out crisp and retain fine details. The dynamic range could have been slightly better but vivid colors and good exposure ensures satisfactory results. You can also zoom in to 30x, digitally, but don't expect good results from 30x digital pictures. As far as video recording is concerned, the Galaxy S20 FE can record crisp 4k 60fps videos, 4k 30fps videos, 1080 60/30fps videos, and 1080p slow-motion videos at 960fps. You can also record videos in HDR10+ format or HEVC format. Similar to images, videos also show good dynamic range and vivid colors. The stabilization comes handy in shooting steady videos but it only works with 1080 30fps mode.
Hardware And Software Performance
Processing and multitasking performance is top notch as the Galaxy S20 FE is also powered by the Exynos 990 SoC, the same flagship chipset that powers the Indian versions of the premium Galaxy S20 series devices. The processor is aided by ARM's Mali-G77MP11 GPU, 8GB RAM and 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 ROM. The combination ensures smooth day-to-day processing, multitasking and gaming performance. Importantly, the Galaxy S20 FE also did not show any major heat signatures in our review duration, something we don't usually see on an Exynos-powered variant. Having used the premium Galaxy S20-series, I can say that the hardware-software optimization seems to be working seamlessly on the Fan Edition device.
The Galaxy S20 FE runs on the One UI 2.5 based on Android 10. The software is responsive and free of lags even when you push the device to its limits. With the screen set to run at 120Hz, the Galaxy S20 FE performs just like its premium siblings. The phone even manages to match the high-quality haptic feedback which is very crucial for a premium user-experience. The in-screen fingerprint scanner isn't very fast but it's consistent and gets the job done. Last but not the least; you can also expand the internal memory to up to 1TB via microSD card slot, something not many devices allow you to do in this price bracket.
Overall, the Galaxy S20 FE has impressed us with its hardware and software performance. It's what you expect from a 50K smartphone in the year 2020.
Battery Life And Connectivity
Similar to the Galaxy S20+, the Galaxy S20 FE is also backed by a modest 4,500 mAh battery cell; however, the battery now has to support a FHD+ screen rather than a QHD+ panel. This translates to a decent battery life, something to keep you going throughout the day without much trouble. If you stream videos and play games on a stretch, you would need a refuel by the end of the day. I would recommend you to run the AMOLED screen at 60Hz if you don't have a charger handy and the battery power has been dropped to 40%.
The Galaxy S20 FE supports 25W Fast-Charging but the device ships with a 15W power adaptor, which is a disappointment. The bundled adaptor took almost two hours to recharge the batter from flat to 100%. In comparison, the OnePlus 8T ships with a 65W fast-charger in the box that can refuel the phone's battery from flat to 100% in just 40 minutes. If fast-charging is important for you, the Galaxy S0 FE will disappoint you.
Most importantly, the Galaxy S20 FE is a 4G-only device which means it's not future proof. This can be a deal-breaker because if you are making an investment of Rs. 50,000, which is a huge sum in India, especially in today's time when economy is at its lowest, I am expecting you to at least use the device for two to three years. In that case, the Galaxy S20 FE will become a dated device overnight once the 5G arrives in India.
If you want to explore the market, the OnePlus 8, OnePlus 8 Pro, OnePlus 8T 5G, Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro/10T, Xiaomi Mi 10 5G, Vivo X50 Pro, Realme X50 Pro and the OnePlus Nord are 5G-enabled devices that fall in your budget.
The Galaxy S20 FE is no doubt a great alternative to the Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20+, only if you are planning to buy the phone after the festive season sale. If you are about to make a purchase, it makes very less sense to go for the Galaxy S20 FE when the big brother- Galaxy S20+ is up for grabs at the same price-point. The Galaxy S20+ at 50K is without any shadow of doubt a deal you shouldn't miss. It is any day a better device than the Galaxy S20 FE and the discounted price just makes it ‘Deal of the year' in the Android world. However, the sale price is not permanent and the Galaxy S20+ will soon start selling at its original price which is considerably higher than the asking price of the Galaxy S20 FE. In that case, the Galaxy S20 FE at Rs. 49,999 is a good buy for anyone looking for a flagship-grade performance at a comparatively low price-point.