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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE hands-on: S20 for the masses? (Video!)
Every year, Samsung raises the price of its Samsung Galaxy S series by a considerable amount. From the S10 to the S20 alone, the standard model went from $899 to $999, and the S10 Plus to the S20 Plus went from $999 to $1199. That’s a lot.
Your other options from Samsung include the Note, Z Flip, and Z Fold series, each of which come in at $1,000 or more. Otherwise, you’ve got the A-series, which generally come in at less than $400. This leaves a pretty huge gap in the $500-$1,000 segments of the market, which caters to people who want something premium but don’t want to spend $1,000 to get it.
Enter the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.
What’s different with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE?
The “FE” in Galaxy S20 FE stands for “Fan Editon.” Supposedly, this means it’s meant for people who are fans of the Samsung brand but didn’t have the opportunity to buy an S20 at launch, due to pricing or some other reason. While the Galaxy S20 FE maintains a lot of the same features from the regular S20 series, there are a few tweaks that Samsung has made to bring the price down to $699.
The S20 FE looks strikingly similar to the standard S20 series, but the first thing you’ll probably notice is that it comes in a lot more colors. There are six colors in total, and each of them is fairly striking. Based on the advertising, Samsung is targeting this device at the Millennial crowd, though I feel as if anyone would like the colors. I’m a big fan of the Cloud Orange colorway, but Samsung sent Android Authority the Cloud Navy color, and I think it looks great as well.
With these new colors, though, come some changes in materials to keep costs down. While the body of the original S20 was made of glass, the S20 FE is plastic (or as Samsung likes to call it, “glasstic”). That being said, in my opinion, it feels nicer than the glasstic on the Galaxy A51. The frosted material Samsung used on this device makes it feel fairly premium, though you’ll know it’s cheaper purely because it’s lighter than most high-end phones.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has a larger display than the standard Galaxy S20, but a smaller display than the S20 Plus. It’s 6.5 inches, and has a bit of a chin at the bottom, unlike the standard Galaxy S20. Samsung also reduced the resolution to FHD+ from QHD+. It also uses a flat display versus the curved panel from the S20. I quite like flat displays and this one looks and feels great, but you might be disappointed if you liked the curved display on the Galaxy S20.
The S20 FE also reduces RAM to 6GB, instead of the 8GB and 12GB models we saw in the S20 series.
The cameras are also slightly different
The cameras have also changed in the S20 FE. This time around, we’ve got three cameras on the back, and one in the hole-punch cutout in the front. There’s a 12MP standard lens, a 12MP wide-angle lens, and an 8MP telephoto camera. The front-facing camera is now 32MP (up from 10MP), but it loses the dual phase-detect autofocus we saw on the standard S20.
Because the primary camera is a 12MP sensor, the S20 FE can’t shoot video in 8K. To get that, you’ll need about 33MP. That being said, the S20 FE still has many of the same camera features from the S20 series such as single-take mode, which captures a variety of different stills and video clips with one tap.
What’s the same with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE?
Considering Samsung is marketing this device as a more affordable alternative to the S20 series, you’re probably wondering how much of the S20 you’re getting in the S20 FE.
Probably the most important spec that the S20 FE maintains is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor. This means performance on the S20 FE should fly, just as it would on the standard S20 series of devices. We’ll need to see if 6GB of RAM is enough to keep apps in memory, as it skirts the minimum for RAM capacity in 2020. As far as general performance goes, though, the S20 FE should perform about the same. Stay tuned for our independent testing coming soon.
Samsung has also maintained the 120Hz refresh rate on the S20 FE. This is a big deal for people who want a phone that feels fluid. It also uses a 4,500mAh battery, which is the same capacity as the S20 Plus. Considering this phone has a smaller, lower-resolution display compared to that device, we’re hoping it will get even better battery life. Once again, we’ll need to wait for our full review to confirm that.
As far as storage is concerned, Samsung has included 128GB of internal storage as the only option, but it kept the option for expandable storage, up to 1TB.
You’ve also got a lot of the little things, such as IP68 water and dust resistance and wireless charging, which still isn’t present in every device of this price range. That’s nice to see.
Does the value match the price?
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE comes in at $699. While this isn’t exactly cheap, it does fill the void Samsung left as its flagship devices crept over $1,000. While the low-end and ultra-premium markets are quite filled-out right now, Samsung has room to compete in the upper mid-range too, and the S20 FE slots in there quite well.
I think the most awkward thing about the S20 FE is its timing. Samsung devices rarely stay at full price for long, and now that the S20 series has been out for seven months, the price of that device lineup has dropped considerably. At the time of publishing, you can get a brand new Samsung Galaxy S20 unlocked for $672 on Amazon. This is cheaper than what Samsung is asking for the S20 FE. It would have made a lot more sense to release this device alongside the S20 series like Samsung did last year with the cheaper Galaxy S10e.
Of course, there are benefits to the S20 FE. There are far more color options, the battery life will likely be better than the standard models, and the trade-in offers Samsung has when purchasing the device can be quite enticing. Samsung will give you up to $500 off the device if you trade-in the right phone, and that can make the switch a lot more seamless. If you were planning to buy one of these at full retail value though, you’d likely be better-suited grabbing an original S20 for less cash.
Pre-orders are open now
If you want to get your hands on an S20 FE, you can pre-order it now, and it will be available on October 2. You’ll be able to get it unlocked from Samsung and other retailers, or head to your carrier’s store to grab one. Verizon will carry an exclusive variant of the phone called the Galaxy S20 FE 5G UW which costs $50 more.
In the United Kingdom, there will be both a 5G variant and a 4G-only variant. The 5G model will cost £699 (~$890) while the 4G-only model will cost £599 (~$763). In Europe, the 4G-only Galaxy S20 FE will start at €659 (~$769) while the 5G version will cost €759 (~$886).
Of course, the real value of a device comes from usability, and we’ll need to test the S20 FE much more before we come to a conclusion. Stay tuned for our full review coming soon!