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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: Should you upgrade?

Samsung has made a few tradeoffs to keep the S23 FE firmly in mid-range territory.
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Published onJanuary 24, 2024

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
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Positives
Affordable
Excellent screen
Zippy performance
Solid battery life
Negatives
Less premium design
Cameras only average
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
MSRP: $599.99
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Positives
Bright OLED screen
Good build quality
Solid cameras
Excellent software update policy
A decent value
Negatives
Older, hotter processor
Larger than S23 Plus with a smaller screen
Finicky fingerprint reader
Aging Gorilla Glass

For the patient, Samsung’s FE models can be a way of getting many of the features of the company’s flagship phones without paying flagship prices. The last great FE was the Galaxy S20 FE however, and Samsung skipped the option entirely with the S22 series. So now that we have the Galaxy S23 FE, should you consider an upgrade?

Update, Jan. 2024: We’ve included info from our final S23 FE review, and noted the launch of the Galaxy S24 series.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: At a glance

  • One of the biggest changes is the S23 FE's physical design, including Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back.
  • The S23 FE's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip (or an Exynos 2200 in many markets) offers substantial speed improvements.
  • The S20 FE is stuck with Android 13, so if you want Android 14 or later, you'll need to upgrade.
  • The S23 FE supports Samsung-specific features that the S20 FE doesn't, such as Vision Booster and DeX.
  • Only the S20 FE offers removable storage.
  • The S23 FE's main wide camera jumps from 12 to 50MP.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: Specs

Samsung Galaxy S23 FESamsung Galaxy S20 FE
Display
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED
FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080)
120Hz refresh rate
Gorilla Glass 5
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
6.5-inch Super AMOLED
FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080)
120Hz refresh rate
Gorilla Glass 3
Processor
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (US)
or
Exynos 2200 (Global)
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
5G models:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865

4G models:
Samsung Exynos 990
RAM
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
8GB
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
6GB (base 128GB storage model)
8GB (128 and 256GB storage models)
Storage
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
128GB or 256GB
No expandable storage
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
128GB or 256GB
microSD support up to 1TB
Battery and power
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
4,500mAh
25W wired charging
15W wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
No charger in box
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
4,500mAh battery
25W wired charging
15W wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
15W charger in box
Cameras
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Rear:
- 50MP wide (f/1.8, OIS)
- 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2, 123-degree FoV)
- 8MP telephoto (f/2.4, 3x optical zoom)

Front:
- 10MP single (f/2.4)
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Rear:
- 12MP wide (f/1.8, OIS)
- 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2)
- 8MP telephoto (f/2.4, 3x optical zoom, OIS)

Front:
- 32MP (binned to 8MP)
f/2.2
Audio
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
No 3.5mm headphone jack
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
No 3.5mm headphone jack
Water resistance
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
IP68 rating
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
IP68 rating
Connectivity
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Wi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC support
USB 3.2 Gen 1
eSIM
Dual-SIM (varies by region)
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC support
USB 3.2 Gen 1
Single SIM or Dual-SIM
Materials
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Gorilla Glass 5 front
Aluminum frame
Gorilla Glass 5 back
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Gorilla Glass 3 front
Aluminum frame
Plastic back
Software
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Android 13 (upgradeable to Android 14)
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Android 13 (last update)
Dimensions and weight
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
157.9 x 76.5 x 8.1mm
209g
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
74.5 x 159.8 x 8.4mm
190g
Colors
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Cream
Graphite
Indigo (Samsung exclusive)
Mint
Purple
Tangerine (Samsung exclusive)
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Cloud Navy
Cloud Red
Cloud Lavender
Cloud Mint
Cloud White
Cloud Orange

It might surprise some people to learn that there are actually a few downgrades in the S23 FE. As you can see, there’s a slightly smaller screen, no microSD slot for expandable storage, and a 10MP selfie camera, although the S20 FE’s camera was binned down from 32 to 8MP anyway. The only thing you’re really going to miss is that microSD slot, but that tech is unfortunately rare on any modern phone.

Otherwise, it’s all good news. The biggest upgrade is the leap to a new processor — a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 if you’re lucky, or an Exynos 2200 in most of the world. Either way the S23 FE should feel significantly faster, although that’s what you’d expect from a phone released three years later.

Connectivity has also improved. You don’t have to buy a separate 5G version of the phone, and depending on where you live, you may have access to eSIM, not just dual SIM slots. For local-area connections, you can take advantage of Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 if you’ve got compatible devices.

The main wide-angle camera on the rear has leapt ahead from 12 megapixels to 50. That offers the potential for a lot more detail, and you’ll get Samsung’s advances in low-light shooting as well. We’ll talk more about camera tech in a minute.

Build quality has evolved, with Gorilla Glass 5 replacing plastic on the back and Gorilla Glass 3 on the front. We would’ve preferred Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and you’ll still need a case to protect against cracking, but the design is tougher overall.

The last thing to mention here is that the S20 FE is at the end of its rope in terms of software updates. Some Samsung-exclusive features like DeX and Vision Booster are already off-limits, and you can’t update it beyond Android 13. If you want to install Android 14 or later, you’ll have to upgrade, whether to an S23 FE or something else.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: Size comparison

samsung galaxy s23 fe back in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The S23 FE is a bit shorter and thinner than the S20 FE, yet slightly wider and heavier. Corners are a little more rounded, which should help it feel better in the hand.

Otherwise there’s not much to say here. We will point out that the S23 FE is a lot more aesthetically appealing from the back, thanks to Gorilla Glass and separate cutouts for each lens and the flash. The S20 FE lumps everything under a single camera bump, which isn’t a terrible idea, but doesn’t look as “premium” as Samsung’s latest designs.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE red colorway
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: Cameras

samsung galaxy s23 fe cameras close up
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

As mentioned, the only serious camera upgrade on the S23 FE is its wide-angle sensor, which rockets from 12 megapixels to 50. Max aperture is unchanged at f/1.8, and both phones have optical image stabilization (OIS) to combat blur. You’ll want to check out our S23 FE review for sample galleries, but suffice it to say that you’ll enjoy the detail and flexibility of 50MP, especially if you want to crop or use digital zoom (which simply blows up an image, unlike optical zoom).

The phone’s telephoto and ultra-wide cameras are effectively unchanged, coming in at 12MP f/2.2 and 8MP f/2.4 respectively. They’re nothing remarkable, although it’s nice to have any kind of telephoto option on a non-flagship device, and keeping some specs frozen is how Samsung is keeping prices in check. The 10MP selfie camera is even technically a downgrade. As pros know, however, a 10MP camera based on excellent lens and sensor technology is worth more than a 100MP camera that struggles in dim lighting. Samsung is promising quality low-light selfies with its Dual Pixel tech.

Check out some samples from the S20 FE below.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: Battery life and charging

samsung galaxy s23 fe usb c port
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

There’s literally nothing different here in terms of specs. Both phones have 4,500mAh batteries, and are capable of 25W wired charging, or up to 15W in wireless mode. There’s reverse wireless support if you want to top up accessories like earbuds. Confusingly enough however, that’s not an option with the Galaxy Buds FE.

The only change is that whereas the S20 FE bundled a 15W charger in the box, you’ll need to get your own charger for the S23 FE. You should be able to use anything that supports USB-C, though if you’re upgrading from the S20 FE, we’d strongly suggest buying something rated at 25W or higher. 15W is slow for wired top-ups.

In our own testing, we’ve found that the S23 FE has no trouble making it through a whole day, with about 5 to 6 hours of screen time.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: Price and availability

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Starts at $172 (refurbished)

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Starts at $599

Samsung no longer sells the S20 FE, as you might imagine, and it’s increasingly hard to find elsewhere. Refurbished units are sometimes available. In fact if you still want the phone, it’s best to avoid “new” units from places like Amazon, since prices are artificially inflated due to scarcity.

The S23 FE launched in the US on October 26, 2023, with a $599 pricetag, but arrived earlier in some other countries such as India. Note that the US price is a full $100 lower than what the S20 FE 5G cost at launch in October 2020.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: Should you upgrade?

samsung galaxy s23 fe standing by a rainy window
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

If you need a new phone and want one from Samsung, but don’t want to pay for a Galaxy S24, the answer is yes. The S23 FE should feel like a pretty substantial leap in performance and build quality, and camera tech has improved in meaningful ways, if not dramatically. It’s even a better-looking phone, and if you want the latest version of Android, you can’t stay with the S20 FE.

The real question is whether your next phone should come from Samsung. Google recently released the Pixel 8, and while that phone costs $699, you might find the overall package more impressive, particularly when it comes to AI and photography tech. Google is even promising 7 years of OS upgrades and feature drops, which is matched only by the S24. Forget about Android 14 — your Pixel could eventually be running Android 21.

Are you planning to upgrade to the Galaxy S23 FE?

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Slightly larger than S23
Good size battery
Competitively priced
See price at Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
14%off
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Affordable
Excellent screen
Zippy performance
Solid battery life

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE: FAQ

To a degree. They each have an IP68 rating, which means they can be submerged to a depth of 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) for 30 minutes. Just don’t take them swimming or in the shower, at least without a water-sealed case, and avoid exposing them to chlorine or salt water.

The S20 FE has a microSD slot, but the S23 FE doesn’t.

The S20 FE is available in single- and dual-SIM versions. The S23 FE is typically dual-SIM, and may support eSIM in your region. Check your local Samsung website to be sure.

Yes, both are capable of charging up to 15W, and also support reverse charging.

Neither phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack.

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