If a regular Samsung Galaxy S20 is too expensive for you, and you are absolutely sure that you want a device from this series, then pay attention to the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition (or S20 FE). This is a really good smartphone for a reasonable price.
Do I need a flagship?
A few years ago, flagship devices cost $400-500, but over time, the situation has changed. Premium smartphones have been rising in price every year, causing outrage among users. Then we crossed the psychological $1000 line, which once seemed inconceivable. But this is nothing new.
But let’s be honest – not all users can afford to buy a flagship device, although they really want to. Even if we used to buy them because they seemed like a good investment, now everything has changed.
That is why Samsung decided to create the Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition) smartphone. It provides a flagship-like experience but costs much less.
Rumors about this smartphone circulated on the eve of the premiere of the Galaxy S20 series of smartphones, but nothing was shown at the event. Then, after the reveal of the Galaxy Z Flip, Galaxy Z Fold2, and the Galaxy Note20 series with their wonderful S-Pen, we were finally shown the Galaxy Fan Edition. The name itself speaks for itself. The smartphone was created for the Samsung fans, as well as those who want a quality flagship, but are not ready to spend extra money. Galaxy FE is like a continuation of the successful Galaxy 10e, but without significant savings.
Why makes Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition interesting?
I believe that it was a great idea, even for ordinary users. I mean, this really is a wonderful smartphone. After all, Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has the advantages of a flagship at a much lower price, so it can be the best choice for most of us.
The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is fast, modern and feature-rich. It has a wonderful AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, uses modern Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 processors with 5G support depending on the configuration, is equipped with modern cameras that take great photos and are capable of recording 4K video at 60 frames per second. Of course, this is not a perfect smartphone. It does have some significant flaws that you may not like, but it really is the new flagship device in the Galaxy S20 series.
So let’s take a closer look. But first I propose to get acquainted with the full technical characteristics of the device.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Full Specifications
|Network||Technology||GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE|
|Launch||Announced||2020, September 23|
|Status||Available. Released 2020, October 02|
|Body||Dimensions||159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4 mm (6.29 x 2.93 x 0.33 in)|
|Weight||190 g (6.70 oz)|
|Build||Glass front, plastic back, aluminum frame|
|SIM||Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)|
|Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified)
IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)
|Display||Type||Super AMOLED, 120Hz, HDR10+|
|Size||6.5 inches, 101.0 cm2 (~84.8% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Resolution||1080 x 2400 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~407 ppi density)|
|Platform||OS||Android 10, One UI 2.5|
|Chipset||Exynos 990 (7 nm+)|
|CPU||Octa-core (2×2.73 GHz Mongoose M5 & 2×2.50 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55)|
|Memory||Card slot||microSDXC (uses shared SIM slot)|
|Internal||128GB 6GB RAM, 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 8GB RAM|
|Main Camera||Triple||12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.76″, 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
8 MP, f/2.4, 76mm (telephoto), 1/4.5″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
12 MP, f/2.2, 123˚, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/3.0″, 1.12µm
|Features||LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama|
|Video||4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60fps, gyro-EIS|
|Selfie camera||Single||32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.74″, 0.8µm|
|Video||4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60fps (gyro-EIS)|
|Sound||Loudspeaker||Yes, with stereo speakers|
Tuned by AKG
|Comms||WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot|
|Bluetooth||5.0, A2DP, LE|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO|
|USB||USB Type-C 3.2, USB On-The-Go|
|Features||Sensors||Fingerprint (under display, optical), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass|
|Bixby natural language commands and dictation|
|Battery||Type||Li-Po 4500 mAh, non-removable|
|Charging||Fast charging 25W
Fast wireless charging 15W
Reverse wireless charging 4.5W
USB Power Delivery 3.0
|Misc||Colors||Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Navy, Cloud White, Cloud Red, Cloud Orange|
|SAR EU||0.24 W/kg (head) 1.45 W/kg (body)|
Samsung listens to fans: Snapdragon or Exynos to choose from
Before I tell you about my impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, I will make a small but pleasant digression for fans. Do you remember the wave of indignation, controversy and bewilderment caused by the use of its own Exynos 990 processor in the Galaxy S20 series instead of the Snapdragon 865? Many examples indicated that Samsung’s processor is slightly weaker, heats up quickly and uses up battery faster. This is why a lot of people almost demanded that Samsung start selling the Snapdragon version.
And fans’ suggestions were heard. Now you can choose from either Exynos 990 with 4G connectivity or Snapdragon 865 with 5G connectivity. Of course, the latter costs a little more, but it’s worth it, because the Snapdragon 865 is a great processor.
Unfortunately, in some countries the smartphone from Samsung comes only with Exynos 990. This is based on whether there is support for 5G or not.
Waterproofing, colors, plastic
“The back of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is made of plastic.” When I first heard this at the presentation of a Korean company, I was unpleasantly surprised. Of course, this news did not arouse positive emotions and enthusiasm. How so? In 2020, a smartphone of the flagship segment and made of plastic? Although at the presentation we were told that this is not ordinary plastic, but something more advanced than the Glasstic, which we saw in the Galaxy A series, I could not consider it a flagship model until I took the Galaxy S20 FE in my hands.
It turns out that the backplate is made of reinforced polycarbonate, similar to the one used on the Note20 case. But it is glass that is associated with premium smartphones, so this material seems a little less noble, in theory – but in practice, I find it an excellent choice.
I can’t say that I did not like the look of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. Thin bezels around the flat display, metal frame and even plastic don’t look cheap. Perhaps the transition between frame and back is not as perfect as we would like. After all, in the Galaxy S20 Ultra, this transition is almost perfect. Plastic reminded me of old Nokia smartphones. Also, plastic has one advantage: it’s not cold, and the phone is surprisingly comfortable to use.
The matte back is durable, does not collect fingerprints or dust particles, and does not give the impression of artificiality, like the Glasstic in the Galaxy A series smartphones. But a real wave of nostalgia hit me when I saw the variety of colors of the Galaxy S20 FE case. Let me remind you that smartphones are available in 6 colors: blue, green, orange, red, light purple and white. There is no black color, which only emphasizes the playful character of this model.
Here I immediately remembered the good old Lumia and Nokia aesthetics. This design had its own large army of fans.
The triple camera at the back protrudes slightly from the body, but not as noticeably as on the Note 20 Ultra. It is clear that the case will cover the camera somewhat, but I would like here a smoother transition between the camera unit and the backplate.
I tested a light purple smartphone that looks pretty good. The inner structure and edges are made of aluminum and are quite rigid. Only the back is plastic, but thanks to the matte surface, small scratches are not visible on it. Of course, it does not give such a premium feeling as frosted glass, but if the phone falls, it will not turn into a cobweb.
To summarize the most controversial topic of discussion, I will say that the plastic back panel looks pretty good, is pleasant to the touch and does not pose problems with wireless charging, since it is here.
When it comes to the shape and layout of controls, the Galaxy S20 FE is no surprise – it’s a Samsung classic. The screen is surrounded by small bezels, although compared to other Galaxy S20s, they look less impressive because they are slightly thicker.
The front camera is located in the central circular notch at the top of the display. The edges are made of aluminum and coated with varnish. This particular element is actually not very good, as sometimes the Galaxy S20 FE slips a little in the hand. Despite this, it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand, even if it is quite large.
On the edge to the right, at thumb height, is the power button, and above it is the volume control. The left side is absolutely clean, which I really like about Samsung smartphones.
On the upper edge there is a slot for two SIM-cards and an additional microphone.
But below there is also the main microphone for conversations, the familiar USB Type-C port and a speaker grill. As you can see, no changes.
You guessed it, the fingerprint scanner is built into the screen. It’s an optical scanner, not an ultrasonic scanner like the Galaxy S20 series.
It works quickly and accurately, but if the finger is wet, the problems manifest themselves more than with the scanners that are located on the case.
The IP68 water resistance should also be praised, since there is no chance of damaging the phone when it’s raining outside.
AMOLED display with 120 Hz refresh rate
The display is one of the biggest advantages of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE smartphone. Mainly because it has a 120Hz refresh rate, which, combined with an efficient processor and fast memory, keeps the system and apps running smoothly. All animations, switching between apps and scrolling through pages are extremely smooth. As befits a modern premium smartphone.
Let me remind you that the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE boasts a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED screen with Full HD+ resolution (1080 × 2400 pixels). This is another concession over the Galaxy S20 glass QHD screens. As a result, the pixel density is around 407 ppi, which is standard on many smartphones but still far from the 6.2-inch Galaxy S20 (around 563 ppi in QHD mode at 60Hz). The difference in the image may and will be noticeable to someone, but most of people won’t mind.
I have already said that the 120 Hz refresh rate of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE may be more important, ensuring a smoother system animation, and above all in games that support it. It should be added that these 120 Hz are not always active. The smartphone automatically adjusts updates to save energy. In games, you can get over 100 frames per second, but when watching movies, it will be 30 – 60, and even less in static materials. But in my opinion, constant use of 120Hz doesn’t do much good, so it would be a good idea to turn this mode off. This will increase the battery life of the smartphone, so it will definitely be beneficial.
The display is protected by glass, a type that Samsung does not disclose, but unofficially it is Gorilla Glass 3, which is rather dated by this point. Fortunately, I managed not to scratch the screen during the tests, but this does not mean that it’s impossible.
The Galaxy S20 FE’s screen exhibits very pleasing colors that look beautiful when displaying photos and videos. A small amount of AMOLED pixels can sometimes be seen against a white background, but you quickly stop paying attention to it, especially with the dark theme active. The dark theme has another advantage: the pink effect on a white background is not noticeable when you rotate the screen. The pink stripe sometimes turns into blue, and when we look at the phone from an angle, we can see a real rainbow. In theory, this shouldn’t bother you since no one is looking at the screen from the side, but these color distortions are sometimes noticeable.
The display provides 100% sRGB, 91.3% Adobe RGB and 98% DCI P3 color space coverage.
The display brightness is good. After manually adjusting the brightness, it is only about 350 cd/m2, and turning on adaptive brightness allows you to achieve very good results, almost 800 cd/m2. The maximum value that I got in the room was 785 cd/m2, in the sun it could be even higher.
There are various additional options in the display settings. In addition to a smooth toggle for refresh rate (i.e. 60 or 120 Hz), we can find there the option to select real-time mode (default) or natural mode of the AMOLED matrix, but the latter certainly lacks saturation. If desired, you can adjust the white balance by adjusting the color temperature of the display. But the default settings seem to be the best.
Additional features include the dark mode, Edge mode (an additional sidebar of the screen with icons), navigation bar settings, or options such as protection against accidental touches and increased sensitivity. Of course, there is also Always on Display mode. Therefore, the user gets a large selection of settings, and at the same time is not overwhelmed by them.
I wrote above that there are two versions of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: with support for the new 5G cellular standard and 4G/LTE connectivity. I had the latest version. The Galaxy S20 FE has a small tray for nanoSIM cards that are stacked on top of each other, one of the slots can be used to replace a microSD card. Talking on a smartphone is quite comfortable.
In addition to 4G/LTE, the smartphone offers a range of other communication solutions required today. It’s ideal for 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual-band Wi-Fi connections, it also supports Wi-Fi 6, VoLTE and VoWiFi calls, works reliably with Bluetooth accessories, and GPS.
What about the sound?
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE features original audio capabilities. The phone speakers create a stereo scene that uses the main speaker at the bottom and the earpiece speaker, which is visible in a very narrow opening above the screen. There is no 3.5mm audio jack, so you can use headphones that connect via USB Type-C, but this is offset by the excellent sound quality thanks to AKG and support for Dolby Atmos.
The sound from the speakers makes a pretty good impression, it sounds nice both in movies and in games. I used to listen to Spotify on my smartphone a lot and was happy with the sound at first, as it is rare for smartphones to provide such good sound out of the box. However, after a while, music can appear a bit boring. This is when you should use the equalizer settings, some songs sound much better after that.
Dolby Atmos also works really well. The difference after turning this mode on and off is colossal, it adds a sense of space and the sound is vastly improved.
The experience after plugging in the headphones can vary greatly depending on the model selected. I tested several via USB and Bluetooth, the overall feel was as good as possible, but sometimes it lacked bass. In addition, the sound was too quiet, but this is all subjective. If you wish, you can use the Adapt Sound individual sound setting.
An interesting solution is the Dual Audio function, which allows you to connect two speakers via Bluetooth and play music simultaneously on each of them.
Performance: It’s Exynos 990 alright
The hero of my review runs on eight-core Samsung Exynos 990 processors, along with a Mali-G77 MP11 graphics chipset. Yes, this is the same processor that was introduced in spring 2020 and that we saw in the Galaxy S20 smartphones. Let me remind you that the eight-core chipset consists of two high-performance proprietary M5 cores operating at frequencies up to 2.73 GHz, as well as two ARM Cortex-A76 cores with a frequency of up to 2.5 GHz and four energy-efficient ARM-Cortex A55 cores with a frequency of up to 2 GHz.
All this is complemented by 6 GB of LPDDR5 RAM, as well as 128 GB of flash memory for data storage, but not UFS 3.0, as in the usual flagship, but UFS 3.1. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. During testing, there were no performance issues, and the high refresh screen enhances the feeling of speed. There are also 8/128 and 8/256 GB variants of the Galaxy S20 FE available in the global market.
Keep in mind that the Exynos 990 is one of the most powerful processors in the mobile market. It may be slightly inferior to the competitor Snapdragon 865, but the synthetic benchmarks are very decent.
By default, the Galaxy S20 FE runs in the optimal power efficient mode, but you can also enable the full mode. Differences in speed are almost imperceptible, only in the next mode – the average power saving of the processor slows down to 70%.
Yes, the smartphone heats up a little when used for daily activities at full SoC performance. But not very much. Thus, the standard temperature is about 35°. The temperature rises when the device is actively working. I was able to warm up the Galaxy S20 FE to its maximum, around 55°. This temperature, measured on the outside of the case, can cause discomfort if the phone is held by the top of the case, but these are unusual situations that are reproduced during throttling tests. However, I did not have to reach that temperature with my phone on a daily basis.
After the phone heats up to about 40 °, the clock speed drop is still negligible, and after a 15-minute test, the SoC efficiency dropped to just 93%. A clear decrease was seen only after an hour of stress test and reaching 55°, then the chipset efficiency dropped to 74%. However, the smartphone is such a beast that it is not noticeable to the user and does not affect the operation of apps. Heating of the case can be a more alarming sign.
Android 10 with Samsung One UI 2.5
The Galaxy S20 FE runs Android 10 with the latest One UI 2.5 at the time of writing. The design and operation of the system are similar to previous releases, so Samsung users should feel right at home.
The manufacturer overdid it a little with preinstalled apps. Samsung has added apps such as OneDrive, Facebook, Netflix to the basic set of standard tools, as well as its own like AR Zone and the ill-fated Bixby, which by default can be activated by pressing the power button and which, fortunately, can be turned off. Swiping from left to right on the Home screen will take you to the Samsung Daily page.
Among the interesting additions, it is worth noting the ability to quickly switch functions between two SIM-cards. Now you can change, for example, the Internet card with two clicks. This item is available in the shortcut bar at the top.
There are also some other interesting tools: Windows connection (i.e. easy access to the phone from the computer), Dex with wireless mode (it has been working without issues even on a Samsung TV for several years), Safe tool (protected copies of the app), Music Share (quick access to the speaker for other users) or Samsung Kids (safe mode for children). These add-ons are multiplying, and while their full benefits aren’t always apparent, they all make for a solid set for both serious work (with Samsung KNOX support) and entertainment.
A new set of cameras, but the photos and videos are almost the same
The Samsung-specific module has a triple camera layout. But this set is slightly different from what we know from the base Galaxy S20 series. The main camera remains the same as that of the flagship S20: a combination of a 12-megapixel matrix (1.8 μm, 1 / 1.76″, Dual Pixel AF) with 26 mm optics and f/1.8, with OIS support.
The second camera, wide-angle, 12 MP (f/2.2, 123 °), is also obviously similar to the Galaxy S20. Although I have not found exact data and explanations anywhere. Whereas the differences can be seen in a telephoto camera. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has 8 megapixels (f/2.4, OIS, 1.0 μm) instead of the 64 megapixel module in the S20.
The camera allows you to get 3x optical zoom, as well as 30x digital (Space Zoom).
The camera app hasn’t changed significantly. Here everything is just like in other Samsung flagships. The default mode allows you to take pictures with the main camera, on the left there is a One shot tab, on the right are video and other modes.
There is room for manual mode, panorama, food photo mode, night mode, live focus (the ability to take photos with bokeh effect) and live video focus. Maybe someone will be interested in using other video modes like very slow motion, slow motion, hyperlapse and the advanced Video Pro mode.
In the main camera mode, we get access to zoom switches that include modes like 0.5x (wide-angle camera icon), 1x, 2x, 3x (tele icon), 4x, 10x, 20x and 30x, optimization of scenery using artificial intelligence, filters and others similar basic settings. The menu also has options such as HDR or the scan function, which, by the way, is automatically triggered when you point the camera at the desired document.
The Galaxy S20 FE captures reasonably good quality photos, especially in optimal conditions, but it’s hard to say that this camera stands out especially among other flagship Samsung models.
The main camera has good sharpness, reproduces colors clearly, but the wide-angle camera is mediocre, which disappointed me the most. Photos are often blurry, especially around the edges.
Photos with zoom look much better. On small scales, the quality is really good, and some of the footage can compete with the best smartphones with more advanced zooms and good optics. However, don’t expect miracles from the Space Zoom.
Yes, it is possible to capture very distant objects even manually, which is helped by an additional viewfinder on the viewing screen, but the quality of such a photo is not always great. You can take such a photo by hand, and thanks to stabilization, the subject will not run away from the camera, but the result is not very good, it is difficult to get acceptable clarity. It’s worth a try though, sometimes you can even capture good footage at full 30x zoom. But I still recommend using a tripod for such purposes.
Photos taken after dark in night mode are decent enough even without good processing. The software can be too sensitive to the incident light, so street lamp, for example, can ruin the picture and cause a halo effect. It also happens that part of the photo is blurred. Even photos taken at high zoom work well, but wide-angle ones can be very bad here.
After switching to Video mode, the Galaxy S20 FE will allow you to record video in maximum UHD resolution at 60 fps. In the settings, you can additionally choose to record in HEVC or HDR10+ format, although in the latter case it’s limited to 30 fps. When we add slow motion and hyperlapse modes mentioned above, as well as the professional mode with settings such as white balance, sensitivity or clarity, and the ability to select a stereo source, we get a video that most users won’t even be able to take advantage of. Recording quality will tend to lag behind these features and I have to admit I was hoping for more.
The stabilization is pretty decent too. Videos recorded manually while walking, or in general in motion, are smooth, and sometimes it even seems that additional stabilization has been applied. Of course, you can’t shoot a full-length movie with the S20 FE, but for most tasks it’s more than enough.
Decent battery life
Galaxy S20 Fan Edition almost always worked for 1.5 days on a single battery charge. In fact, I never used it up in one day, and once it reached almost two days of work. I would like to point out that I do not play mobile games, but used the 120Hz refresh rate and Always on Display almost all the time. However, I often use the camera outside the home.
I usually achieved a total display-on time of 6-8 hours between full charges, sometimes even longer. I think this is just a good figure for a 4500mAh battery.
Unfortunately, my Samsung Galaxy S20 FE arrived without a charger, so I can’t say anything about the state of the charging process.
It should be added that the phone can be charged wirelessly, it also has a reverse charging function. Reverse charging works quite efficiently. You can transfer energy, for example, to a smartwatch, even while the phone is charging with a cable. Testing with the Galaxy Watch passed without major issues, but the watch had to be carefully positioned in a specific spot on the back of the phone.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE?
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, both in LTE and 5G versions, has been praised by many fans of the brand as an inexpensive but very well equipped phone with flagship features. And this is so because this model has a lot of pros, but few cons. However, one has to put up with some concerns since the manufacturer somehow had to save on components in order to move away from the high price point. So we end up with a medium-sized device, mediocre charger and headphones, with the screen protected by outdated glass, and the display matrix that is not as good as the Galaxy S20 series with QHD screen. The camera is more modest, and the quality of photos and videos, while good overall, could be better. Also, the optical fingerprint scanner is not always efficient.
However, even with these small flaws, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is a powerful flagship with a very competent processor full of advanced features. It would seem that the polycarbonate case will cause a lot of criticism, but it can also be an advantage. Yes, the back panel doesn’t look as impressive as the glass panels, but it’s durable, pleasantly tactile, and waterproof.
So, should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE? It’s hard to give a simple answer. Each of us have our own criteria and financial capabilities. But I believe that if you buy this new product from Samsung, you will not regret it for a minute.
- excellent build quality;
- interesting color options for the case;
- excellent AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 120 Hz;
- high-performance, proven Exynos 990 processor;
- speed and high performance in games;
- UFS 3.1, high-speed storage;
- hybrid dual SIM with microSD storage;
- 5G connectivity (optional) and Wi-Fi 6 support;
- two stereo speakers and high quality sound;
- good photo quality;
- records 4K video at 60 fps;
- decent (though not ideal) battery life;
- relatively affordable price (for Samsung).
- older version of Gorilla Glass;
- heats up;
- weak, slow fingerprint scanner;
- the plastic backplate does not seem premium.
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