The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the “lite” edition of the Samsung Galaxy S20 series that targets those who know the value of a dollar. With a solid spec sheet and an appealing price point, is the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE the right phone for you? Find out in the Android Authority Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review.
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Update, January 2021: Updated with details about the One UI 3.0 update, new alternatives, and the 2020 Editor’s Pick award.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Who is it for?
Today’s flagship smartphones are overpriced. With retail costs topping $1,400 for some variants, the S20 line from Samsung is absurdly expensive no matter your budget. Some are willing to pay to get the best, however, not everyone can afford to.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is for people who want top performance at a reasonable price point. The S20 FE offers 2020’s best in terms of processing power, but comes in at hundreds of dollars less than flagship phones. It delivers most of the flagship experience at a mid-range price. It’s the smartphone for smart people.
Design and display
- 6.5-inch flat Super AMOLED Infinity-O
- FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080), 407ppi
- 120Hz refresh rate
- HDR 10+
- Gorilla Glass 3 cover
- 74.5 x 159.8 x 8.4mm
- Cloud Navy, Cloud Red, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud White, Cloud Orange
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE carries over the basic design elements of the S20 range but it is obviously and decidedly less premium than its pricier brethren. It offers the same squared-off corners, the same camera bump, and the same buttons and ports arrangement. The big departure as far as the design is concerned is the rear panel, which switches from glass to plastic.
There’s no mistaking the “glasstic” (as Samsung calls it) for anything other than what it is: a cheaper substitute for glass. That’s not to say it’s terrible. The plastic rear panel has a frosted coat of paint that gives the FE a premium appearance. From a distance, you’d never know it’s plastic.
The one thing that really bugs me is the fit and finish. Upon closer inspection, you’ll note a fine ledge along the metal frame where it meets the plastic. It’s enough that you can feel it. The glass of the pricer S20 line has a finer finish and a more flush joint with the aluminum frame. Samsung had to save money somewhere, however, and the rear panel helped it meet its cost goals. On the plus side, the FE is far more durable than its glass-clad peers. Moreover, it’s offered in six different appealing colors.
The metal chassis comes across as rigid and strong. There are no functional elements built into the left edge of the phone; everything is focused on the right side. That’s where you’ll find the screen lock/power button and volume toggle. The buttons are a bit thin and plasticky in feel but offer good travel and feedback. You’ll find the combined SIM/memory card tray tucked into the top edge, while the USB-C port and speaker are on the bottom. There’s no headphone jack.
I found the size to be quite manageable. It’s thin, light, and easy to carry around and use. The phone is smaller than both the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra thanks to its 6.5-inch display.
Speaking of the display, Samsung opted for a flat piece of Gorilla Glass 3. Gone is the curved, high-end glass of the main S20 line. Some people prefer a flat display glass, but I’m not one of them. The Infinity-O panel means the selfie camera is a small punch hole centered near the top. It’s small enough that it’s not overly noticeable. This design allowed Samsung to keep the bezels in check, though they are not the thinnest we’ve seen.
The screen is totally fine. I found it to be bright and usable under direct sunlight. Colors are pushed a little, as per the norm for Samsung, but the display is bright, sharp, and clean looking. Additionally, the screen carries over the best feature from its peers: the 120Hz refresh rate. It’s a variable refresh rate, which means it changes depending on the task at hand. Most of the time it simply looks luscious and smooth. I don’t have any complaints about the FE’s screen. It’s a winner.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
- Adreno 650
- 6GB LPDDR5
- 128GB UFS 3.0
- microSD support up to 1TB
- 4,500mAh battery
- 15W wired charging (in-box)
- 25W wired charging (optional)
- 15W wireless charging
- Wireless PowerShare
If there’s one important spec that the FE carries over from the S20 series, it’s the premiere Snapdragon 865 processor. The 865, along with the Adreno 650 GPU and 6GB of RAM, allow the FE to deliver outstanding performance. The phone blasts through tasks with ease. It never slowed down, lagged, or otherwise felt mucky during my time with it. The FE offered stellar gaming, social networking, and media consumption power. Though we believe 6GB is the least amount of RAM modern Android phones should have, you’d never know it’s not the 8GB or 12GB that are available to the S20.
Benchmark apps showed the phone at its best. We saw top numbers from 3DMark and GeekBench, though in AnTuTu, the phone bested only 82% of competing phones. The bottom line is that the Galaxy S20 FE performs like a flagship should and has the numbers to back it up.
In certain regions, the Galaxy S20 FE is instead powered by the Exynos 990 SoC. While this can’t match Qualcomm’s best, our own Dhruv Bhutani has extensively tested the 4G-only Exynos model and found it to be more than capable as an everyday performer. You can read more about the Exynos variant here.
Samsung aimed for the middle of the pack as far as the battery is concerned. Where the S20 has a 4,000mAh battery, the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra have 4,500mAh and 5,000mAh power cells, respectively. Therefore, the S20 FE’s 4,500mAh capacity splits the difference and covers its bases.
In our testing, we found the phone to last a full day and then some. Even after watching YouTube for hours, social networking, shooting pictures, and checking email, the phone still often had 25% of a charge left in the tank at the end of the day. It easily goes from 8AM one day to 8AM the next day with enough of a charge to get you to the office or to school. Screen-on time hovered around seven hours.
Wireless charging is a nice feature to have at any price point.
It’s nice that the phone supports 25W wired charging, but it would be nicer if a 25W brick shipped with the phone. Instead, you’re stuck with a 15W charger. It doesn’t power up the phone very quickly. The Galaxy S20 FE reached just 30% after 30 minutes, 55% after 60 minutes, and 88% after 90 minutes. It took just over two hours to charge fully.
Wireless charging is a nice feature to have at any price point, and we’re pleased with the 15W speed here, which matches that of the wired charger. Toss in Wireless Power Share to top up your accessories and you have a well-rounded phone when it comes to battery features.
- Android 11
- Samsung One UI 3.0
Samsung’s One UI 2.5 forms the basic user experience for the Galaxy S20 FE out of the box, but it can now be updated to One UI 3.0 based on Android 11. This is the same software that’s available on the Note 20 and S20 series phones.
The screenshots here show the phone running One UI 2.5. The main tweaks in One UI 3.0 impact the notifications bar, widgets, and the lock screen. There are also new feature additions such as message bubbles. You can read all about these changes in our One UI 3.0 features rundown.
More generally, you’ve got several home screens to play with, with the left-most home screen reserved for the Samsung Daily feed. It still irks me that Samsung doesn’t allow people to swap out Samsung Daily for the Google Discover feed, which is much more useful to me. That said, Samsung Daily is better than ever and more customizable than in the past.
Samsung allows for plenty of customization. Not only can you alter how many apps appear on the main screens and app drawer, but you can also change themes, fonts, and other aspects of the design to make it your own.
- Main: 12MP Dual-Pixel, OIS, ƒ1.8, 1/1.76in
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ2.2, 1/3.06in
- Telephoto: 8MP, OIS, 3x optical zoom, 30x Space Zoom, ƒ2.4, 1/4.4in
- 32MP (binned to 8MP), ƒ2.2, 1/2.8in
- 4K at 60fps
A triple-camera system is expected on today’s top phones, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE was sure to include one. With standard, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses on offer, users have plenty of flexibility to grab the shot they want.
Let’s start with the camera app. The app is a direct carryover from the S20/Note20 series. That means it has Samsung’s signature feature, Single Take. This mode allows you to capture up to nine different types of photos/videos with a single press of the button. Beyond Single Take, you’ve got pro mode, panorama, food, night, live focus, live focus video, pro video, super slow-mo, slow-mo, and hyperlapse. That covers the basics and then some. A zoom picker makes it simple to jump between the three lenses and tools that float along the left edge of the viewfinder. You can quickly adjust resolution, the flash, aspect ratio, and more. It’s a fine app.
Photography terms explained: ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and more
The S20 FE takes solid shots with the main camera. I thought color, which is pushed just a hair, looked good overall. White balance was accurate and the phone didn’t have the yellowing issue we saw with the S20 earlier this year. The focus was sharp, producing clean shots with little or no noise in daylight. Shots taken in low light had more noise and sharpening but were still good enough for sharing.
The phone supports plenty of zoom options. You’ve got 0.5x with the wide-angle lens, 1x with the main lens, 3x optical zoom with the telephoto lens, and blended hybrid zoom up to 30x. The results up to 3x were excellent, while hybrid zoom past 10x began to suffer from noise and pixelization. The wide-angle lens does produce some optical distortion too.
The selfie camera can take regular and wide-angle shots, as well as normal selfies and portraits. The selfies I captured looked decent but didn’t bowl me over. Focus, color, and white balance were mostly good, but I saw little pop in the pictures. The portrait mode managed to offer up clean edge detection.
Video is limited to 4K at 60fps, but the results look really good. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is more than adequate for your everyday video needs.
Full-resolution samples of the photos are available here.
|Samsung Galaxy S20 FE||Samsung Galaxy S20|
|Display||6.5-inch flat Super AMOLED
Infinity-O cutout, centered
FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080) resolution
120Hz refresh rate
Gorilla Glass 3 cover
|6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
3,200 x 1,440
120Hz refresh rate at 1080p
60Hz refresh rate at 1440p
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
|RAM||6GB LPDDR5||12GB LPDDR5|
microSD support up to 1TB
microSD support up to 1TB
15W wired charging (in-box adapter)
25W wired charging (add’l adapter needed)
15W wireless charging
Fast wired and wireless charging
32MP (binned to 8MP)
– Wide-angle: 12MP, 1/1.76″, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm
– Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, .8µm
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm
3x hybrid optical/digital zoom, Super Resolution Zoom up to 30x
1.5m water depth for 30 min.
1.5m water depth for 30 min.
|Security||Optical in-display fingerprint||Optical in-display fingerprint|
|Connectivity||5G support (both sub-6GHz and mmWave)
USB-C with USB 3.2 speeds
NFC and MST
Samsung Dex support
|4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, DSS, TDD/FDD, SA and NSA, no mmWave)
Dolby Atmos support
No headphone jack
Dolby Atmos support
No headphone jack
|OS||Android 10||One UI 2.0
|Dimensions and weight||74.5 x 159.8 x 8.4mm
|Colors||Cloud Navy, Cloud Red, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud White, Cloud Orange||Cosmic Grey, Cloud Blue, Cloud Pink|
Value and competition
- Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: 6GB RAM, 128GB storage — $699.99/£699/€699
At $700, the price of the S20 FE feels right. The phone may have a plastic rear panel, but you’re getting a 120Hz display and the Snapdragon 865 for excellent performance. Samsung chose the FE’s features with care. It covers just the right selection of must-haves. The screen looks great, and there’s no questioning how fast the phone is. Toss in the decent cameras, solid software, and extras such as wireless charging and 5G, and you have a compelling value in hand.
The colorful flagship for fans
However, there is so much competition in the $700 space. First and foremost, Samsung is competing with itself. The original S20 range was first released more than six months ago and as such the prices have come way down. The S20, for example, can sometimes be found in the sub-$700 space when on sale. If seven Benjamins is a bit too rich for your blood, perhaps consider the Samsung Galaxy A71 5G, which is a really solid offering and available from US carriers to boot.
There’s hot competition in the ~$700 space.
Away from Samsung, the Google Pixel 5 is a compelling alternative for Android enthusiasts that want clean software, a great camera experience, and all the flagship bells and whistles, albeit without true flagship power. There’s also the OnePlus 8T to consider, though while it matches the S20 FE for power, the cameras are below par.
Of course, there’s also the iPhone 12 series. If you can stomach iOS, the iPhone 12 Mini ($699) and iPhone 12 ($799) are both amazing phones with blazing-fast processors and sublime cameras.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: The verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is a very fine phone, though it stops just short of being perfect. The design and materials are a bit less refined than I was hoping, but the glasstic rear is more durable than even Gorilla Glass would be. The flat display glass may turn off some, but the 120Hz refresh rate turned me on. I really liked the overall size and usability of the phone, and the six different colors mean you’ll likely find a version to suit your personal style. Other pros include solid performance, excellent battery life, and straightforward software. Some cons might include the relatively average cameras and the lack of headphone jack.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review second opinion
Pricing doesn’t make the decision easy. With so many phones competing at the same or similar price point, it’s hard to say the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the best of the bunch. However, for the Samsung fan, the Fan Edition complements the S20 lineup in a way that makes it worth saving a few hundred dollars.