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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Review - Bang-for-the-buck Samsung flagship of 2020?

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How does the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition fare after 2 months of use? Let's find out.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Review - Bang-for-the-buck flagship of 2020?
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

In October 2020 Samsung surprised the world with the announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition. It features flagship specs like the Super 120Hz AMOLED display, 7nm Exynos 990 octa-core processor, Mali-G77 GPU, 8GB LPDDR5 RAM, 4500mAh battery with 25W Adaptive fast charging, and stereo speakers.

However, to achieve an affordable price point, the Galaxy S20 FE features a flat 1080p display, a frosted glasstic back, a polycarbonate frame, and the 15W charger in the box. Surprisingly, the PH model is 4G only.

In short, Samsung kept all the features that were loved by fans on the S20 series and placed it in a more affordable package.

It is priced at PHP 35,990.

Multimedia Experience

Netflix and George Clooney
Netflix and George Clooney

In front of the S20 Fan Edition is the 6.5-inc Gorilla Glass 5 protected Super AMOLED display with 120Hz and 2400 x 1080p resolution. Unlike the rest of the S20 series curved displays, the S20 Fan edition's display is flat.

The S20 series and Note20 Ultra 5G featured 120Hz and had to switch to 1080p to achieve it while the Fan Edition is a fixed 1080p panel with the choice of 60Hz or 120Hz.

The 120Hz refresh rate is one of the best features that carried over from the rest of the S20 series. It makes using the phone feel a lot faster than 60Hz. At max brightness, the display isn't as bright as the S20 Ultra 5G or Note20 Ultra 5G but it is brighter or on par with similarly priced value flagship smartphones.
Bottom and top
Bottom and top

Above the display is a super slim slit with the earpiece and at the bottom side of the phone is the speaker grill. These two speakers produce a decent smartphone stereo experience. The sound isn't as powerful as the Note20 Ultra 5G nor the S20 Ultra 5G but it is significantly better than similarly priced smartphones with stereo or mono speakers.

The microphone recording with the S20 FE is very good. It has great noise cancellation that gives our callers little to complain about voice quality. Nothing beats a dedicated external microphone but the S20 FE's microphones are on par with the competition.


Cameras

Triple rear cameras
Triple rear cameras

At the back of the S20 FE are a 12MP f/1.8 main camera with OIS, 12MP f/2.2 123-degree ultra-wide-angle camera, 8MP f/2.4 3x Hybrid Optical Zoom with OIS, and an LED flash.

Like the S20 and S20+, it features the tried and true 12MP from previous generation S series flagships that produce great and reliable images and it doesn't suffer from the S20 Ultra 5G's AF issues.
Camera UI
Camera UI

Included camera modes are Pro, Panorama, Food, Night, Live Focus, Live Focus Video, Pro Video, Super Slow-Mo, Slow Motion, and Hyperlapse.

The Pro mode allows for control of ISO (50-3200), Shutter Speed (1/12000-30 secs), White Balance, and exposure compensation (+-2 stops).


Like the rest of the S20 series, it features the "Single Take" camera mode. Once you press the shutter button, the S20 FE will take photos and videos with all cameras. It will then pick the best from all the photos and videos and put them all in one album.

In our experience with the S20 series and Note20 series, Single Take is best used when you want to capture a precious split-second once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Because of the ability to shoot both photos and videos at the same time, you can capture the moment in both forms and pick which you like better.

Rear Camera Samples

Rear ultra-wide camera in daylight
Rear ultra-wide camera in daylight
Rear main camera in daylight
Rear main camera in daylight
Rear telephoto camera in daylight
Rear telephoto camera in daylight

In daylight, the main, telephoto, and ultra-wide cameras produce stunning images that are sharp, detailed, and vibrant. Almost no discernable noise or grain. The post-processing adds a hint of extra saturation while the contrast is strong. Quite impressive.
Close-up shot with the main camera
Close-up shot with the main camera

The main camera can also take pictures at a near macro-level of distance to the subject and is able to produce a natural bokeh along with sharp details.
Rear main camera indoors
Rear main camera indoors
Rear telephoto camera indoors
Rear telephoto camera indoors
Rear camera indoors 30x zoom
Rear camera indoors 30x zoom
Rear ultra-wide camera indoors
Rear ultra-wide camera indoors

Indoors, the image quality remains the same as in daylight. Sharp, detailed, vibrant, and almost no noise or grain.
Rear main camera low light
Rear main camera low light
Rear telephoto camera low light
Rear telephoto camera low light
Rear ultra-wide camera low light
Rear ultra-wide camera low light

In low-light, all three cameras have slightly more grain in shadow areas than in daylight and in indoors. The main camera is able to produce sharp and detailed images with vibrant colors. The telephoto and ultra-wide cameras are noticeably softer. If you look at the ultra-wide low light image, the lens of the camera is prone to lens flare when there are light sources in the frame.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE selfie camera
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE selfie camera

On the front display's punch hole is the 32MP f/2.2 selfie camera modes include Photo, Video, Live Focus, Live Focus Video, Single Take, and Selfie Night Mode.

The Live Focus and Live Focus Video modes have up to 7 levels of blur and up to 8 levels of face smoothening. There is no Pro Mode with the front-facing cameras.

Selfie Camera Samples

daylight selfie
Daylight selfie
indoor selfie
Indoor selfie
Low light selfie
Low light selfie
Night Mode selfie

For selfies, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE's 32MP selfie camera is able to take very sharp and detailed images. The color on the daylight and indoor shots is vibrant and somewhat accurate and the contrast is good. In low light, grain and softness are introduced. The skin tones aren't as accurate and the colors of some objects in the frame aren't as accurate as in daylight. Otherwise, selfies are impressive. Very minimal grain even in low light.

The rear-facing camera can capture up to 4K at 60fps with stabilization while the front-facing camera can shoot up to 4K 60fps without stabilization and 4K 30fps with stabilization. This is an upgrade as when the S20 series launched, all three models record 8k at 24fps or 4K at 60fps without stabilization. 

Samsung's Super Steady mode is present but will limit resolution to only 1080p at 60fps.

We recommend Shooting at 4K at 60fps with stabilization as it has a good balance between detail, crop, and file size from the front-facing camera. For the selfie camera, we recommend shooting at 1080 60fps with Stabilization for the best balance of steadiness and detail.

Video footage from the front-facing camera at 1080p is sharp but with minimal grain. We do recommend using image stabilization because the video can be very shaky without it.

In summary, the S20 Fan Edition takes compelling stills and video that is on par with the S20 and S20+ but at on the more affordable package.

Performance

Galaxy S20 FE AnTuTu and GeekBench scores
Galaxy S20 FE AnTuTu and GeekBench scores

Our review unit from Samsung features the Snapdragon 865 and it features 5G. Inside the Philippine version of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is the 7nm Exynos 990 octa-core processor, Mali-G77 MP 11 GPU, 8GB LPDDR5 RAM, and 128GB of storage and it features LTE only.

The Snapdragon model got a score of 575,473 in AnTuTu and it scored 878 in single-core and 2970 in multi-core tests in GeekBench.
3D Mark and PCMark
3D Mark and PCMark

In Slingshot extreme, S20 FE with Snapdragon 865 scored 6,693 in 3DMark's OpenGL and scored 6,330 in 3DMark's Vulkan tests. In PCMark, the same phone scored 11433 in the Work productivity benchmark.
NBA Live graphics settings
NBA Live graphics settings
Genshin Impact graphics settings
Genshin Impact graphics settings
Call of Duty graphics settings
Call of Duty graphics settings

With the latest games like Call of Duty: Mobile, NBA Live, and Genshin Impact, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 pushed the graphics settings of each game at maximum. But we do not recommend to put all graphics settings at max as after around 30 minutes of play with Genshin Impact, the Galaxy S20 FE started warming up. It never became uncomfortably hot to the touch but we recommend tweaking it to a good balance between graphics and smoothness.


We were able to play Call of Duty: Mobile at Max graphic quality and max frame rate for an hour without alarming temperatures. We recommend trying out the settings on your device and see for yourself which settings work best for you. But, there is no question that the Galaxy S20 FE can handle the most demanding games of 2020 without a hitch.
PCMark Battery test
PCMark Battery test

Inside the S20 FE is a large 4,500mAh battery and is on par with the S20+ and Note20 Ultra 5G in size. It supports up to 25W Adaptive fast charging as opposed to the 45W Super Fast Adaptive fast charging of the S20 Ultra 5G and Note20 Ultra 5G. 

In our daily usage where we were constantly connected to WiFi and LTE while doing our normal tasks where we use the phone to call, text, web surf, e-mail, stream music and video, play games, and navigate with Waze, the S20 Fan Edition was able to last a full day of use. We would unplug the phone from the charger at 8 AM and at 8 PM we would get around 20 to 25 percent of the battery left. 

With the 15W charger, it takes under 90 minutes to fully charge the battery for 0 percent and with the 25W charger, it takes around 70 minutes to fully charge the battery from zero. If charging speed is important for you, we recommend getting a separate 25W Samsung charger.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE with OneUI 2.5
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE with OneUI 2.5

Under the hood is One UI 2.5 based on Android 10. It offers minor improvements to OneUI 2.1 that was first found on the S20 series. Minor changes and some tweaks were done in the UI and under the hood. Overall, it is still a feature-packed skin of Android. Because of the long list of features, it can be hard to find the feature you are looking for. The search bar helps but It would be great if Samsung could slim it down by compartmentalizing features and just allow us to download the feature we want and need.

Other than that, OneUI 2.5 has been running smoothly, In our two months with the S20 FE, we didn't experience slowdowns, stuttering, and crashes. Since the phone's arrival, we've been having monthly updates. We have to stress that our model is the Snapdragon 865 model and the Exynos 990 version could offer a different experience.

The S20 Fan Edition connects wirelessly via WiFi, 4G LTE, and Bluetooth 5.1 and connects wired through the USB Type-C. The USB Type-C port supports OTG while the wireless connection via WiFi, 4G LTE, and Bluetooth 5 is stable and as fast as you would expect from a flagship Exynos chipset.

Both the Face Unlock and the In-Display Fingerprint scanner set-up process are fast and straightforward. The Face Unlock quickly detects my face and unlocks the phone as soon as the display is active. It is also able to detect my face even if I take off my glasses. It does struggle when you are trying to Face Unlock in a dim environment. The display brightens up to be able to compensate for this.

When we first got the S20 Fan Edition, the optical fingerprint scanner was slower and less accurate than the rest of the S20 and Note20 series but after a December OTA update, the fingerprint scanner was able to read our fingerprints quickly and accurately.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Specs

Display: 6.5-inch 3D curved Gorilla Glass 5 protected Super AMOLED 120Hz screen w/ FHD+ 2400 x 1080 resolution at 405 ppi
CPU: 2.7GHz 7nm Exynos 990 octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-G77 MP11
RAM: 8GB LPDDR5
ROM: 128GB expandable via microSD card up to 1TB
Back Camera: 12MP f/1.8 w/ Dual Pixel and OIS + 12MP f/2.2 123-degree ultra-wide-angle + 8MP f/2.4 w/ 3x Hybrid Optic Zoom and OIS + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 32MP f/2.2
Battery: 4,500mAh w/ 25W fast charging, wireless charging, reverse wireless charging
OS: Android 10.0 w/ One UI 2.5
Connectivity: WiFi 6, 4G LTE Cat 20, Bluetooth 5.0, OTG, NFC, dual-band GPS, dual SIM (hybrid)
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic, pressure,
Others: Plastic body, Optical fingerprint sensor, face unlock, IP68 water and dust resistance, USB-C, UHQ 32-bit/DSD audio support, AKG stereo speakers, Colors: Cloud White, Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Red, Cloud Orange, Cloud Mint
Dimensions: 159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4 mm
Weight: 190 g
Price: PHP 35,990

Verdict

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE with Cat and flowers

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition surprised us. We were impressed that Samsung was able to offer the best and fan-favorite features of the flagship S20 series and pack it in a more affordable price point.

Performance-wise, the S20 Fan Edition 5G with the Snapdragon 865 is able to offer a great real-world experience that we had hoped that Samsung had brought the Snapdragon 865 5G version instead of the Exynos 990 4G only version even if it would have been priced higher.

Like the S20 and S20+, the cameras can take compelling stills and 4K videos that will make users happy in bright and dark situations.

And even though the S20 FE only has a polycarbonate frame, glasstic back, flat display, and 15W charger, we can not discount what it achieved in offering nearly all things about the S20 series in a significantly better package.

It is worth noting that the S20+ is now priced under PHP 40K in the Philippines and it may be a better offer if you can still find stock as it has 5G connectivity, 1440p display, and 25W charger.

For us, this is still a bang-for-the-buck Samsung flagship of 2020.

Build/Design - 4.5
Multimedia Experience - 4.5
Cameras - 4.5
Performance - 4.5
Average - 4.5/5
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