Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Sturdy design, smooth performance

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is a flagship in its own right and a solid alternative to the Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20+.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is what you get when you make a smartphone for the fans. It’s a smartphone with everything you need, and nothing else, at an affordable price point. With the Galaxy S20 FE you get a 120Hz display, triple-camera setup (with 30x Space Zoom) and a Super AMOLED display at a starting price of Rs 49,999 (as compared to the regular Galaxy S20’s price tag of Rs 70,499).

The Galaxy S20 FE’s development began immediately after the Galaxy S20 Series was launched in March. Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, not everyone was willing to spend upwards of Rs 70,000 for a flagship smartphone. Consumers still wanted the experience without having to shell out a bomb. Samsung quickly thought on its feet. They decided to bring what consumers loved about the Galaxy S20 Series, trim the fat and bring down the price point. The entry level Galaxy S20 smartphone is now at a price point that is far more accessible to the consumer.

Was this a good move though? I’ve spent a few weeks with the smartphone and here’s what I think of it.

Design: Sturdy and solid

The Galaxy S20 FE looks and feels like the original Galaxy S20 but the former has a few new tricks up its sleeve. To begin with, there are a lot more colour options to choose from. There’s Cloud Red, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Navy, and Cloud White. I’ve been using the Cloud Mint model and the pastel effect is to my liking.

The matte plastic rear panel feels sturdy and solid. There’s a metal chassis along the edges and in the front. It may not use glass, like the earlier Galaxy S20 variants but that doesn’t take away from the design aesthetics at all. It’s glasstic as Samsung likes to call it. It’s still got a high-quality build and the rear is soft to feel with a firm grip.

At 190 grams, it’s a tad heavier than the Galaxy S20, but it’s barely noticeable in day-to-day usage.

Display: sAMOLED display for the win!

The Galaxy S20 FE houses a 6.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display (1080x2400 pixels). The display may only be limited to 1080p but, in exchange, you get a 120Hz high refresh rate. The high refresh rate makes scrolling smoother and games look far better.

There’s a hole-punch selfie camera on the front that has a chrome ring surrounding it. The display, despite having a lower resolution than the other Galaxy S20 devices, is still very bright and vibrant. As a standalone product, the display on the Galaxy S20 FE stands on its own feet. 

Samsung has opted for Gorilla Glass 3 (one wishes they’d have gone with Gorilla Glass 5, but they have to cut corners somewhere) and it is a flat piece. The bezels are super-thin as well.

Performance: Buttery smooth

The one complaint that Indian consumers of Samsung products have is that the company houses their in-house Exynos processor and not Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon chipsets. The Galaxy S20 FE features an Exynos 990 processor and, for the most part, it runs buttery smooth. Coupled with 8GB of RAM and 128GB/256GB (expandable via microSD card) of storage, the phone chugged along just fine for daily tasks.

With a medium-to-heavy usage of browsing the web, taking notes, clicking plenty of pictures, playing games, watching videos, and just texting all day long, the phone never froze. The only time it lagged slightly was when I was switching between high-intensity games like Call of Duty and Asphalt 9 and my WhatsApp messages.

Software: One UI 2.5

I’m a fan of Samsung's One UI 2.5’s (can’t wait for One UI 3.0 that is based on Android 11) clean interface. It’s easy to navigate and the animations are speedy. There isn’t much bloatware with One UI 2.5 but there are a few ads here and there which can be annoying. The app icons are appealing and there are a lot of customisation options for themes and other aspects of the phone. Overall, it’s far improved and on the road to being the best.

Battery life and charging

The Galaxy S20 FE is backed by a 4,500 mAh battery. With a FHD+ display rather than a QHD+ panel, the power consumption is far less. This means that the battery will last longer. With a moderate-to-heavy usage as mentioned above, the Galaxy S20 FE lasts a full day without a problem.

The Galaxy S20 FE may support 25W fast charging but it only ships with a 15W power adapter in the box. This is definitely disappointing. With the 15W power adapter, it took two hours to go from 0 to 100%. The Galaxy S20 FE supports wireless charging, which is very good!

Camera: Worthy cameras

The camera is mainly where the costs were cut. Samsung didn’t include any high-megapixel sensors in the Galaxy S20 FE. Instead, it ships with three standard 12-megapixel sensors. The main 12-megapixel sensor dishes out clean, vivid and crisp photos with good dynamic range in good lighting conditions. The photos weren’t oversaturated for the most part. The 30x Zoom is quite surprisingly good if there is something you’d want to read. For the most part though, 30x zoom shots have a lot of noise.

All the three cameras - wide, ultra wide and telephoto - take good shots in good conditions. In night mode, the images are far improved. It’s still not close to a Pixel, but does quite a good job. Video, is where I wasn’t exactly impressed. This has not improved vis-a-vis the earlier Galaxy S20 models. 

There are a plethora of camera modes like Pro, Panorama, Food, Night, Live Focus, Live Focus Video, Pro Video, Super-Slow-Mo, Slow Motion, Hyperlapse and Single Take.

Selfies are quite impressive on the Galaxy S20 FE. The colour reproduction is on point and the photos are bright and vivid.

Verdict: A flagship with everything we need

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is a flagship in its own right. It has a premium build, 120Hz refresh rate display, buttery smooth performance and great cameras.

The Galaxy S20 FE is a solid alternative to the Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20+. If you can snag the Galaxy S20+ at a discount, then I’d say go for that without a doubt, but for being under Rs 50,000, the Galaxy S20 FE wins out of the lot.

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