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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: A value triumph

The Galaxy S20 FE is what happens when you make a phone with the stuff people want for a good price. Samsung gives you a 120Hz display, 5G and triple cameras with 30x Space Zoom for just $699. That’s $100 cheaper than the newer Samsung Galaxy S21.

You can tell that Samsung is gearing the Galaxy S20 FE toward younger shoppers. For one, the 32MP selfie camera is sharper than the front camera on the Galaxy S20. And you can get the S20 FE in six colors. But it’s really for anyone who wants a great phone for an affordable price.

As you might expect, Samsung had to cut corners in a few places to keep the price down, from the display resolution and RAM to the charger and plastic back. And the newer $799 Samsung Galaxy S21 offers faster performance, a dynamic 120Hz display and more advanced cameras. But based on my testing for this Galaxy S20 FE review, it’s one of the best phones for the money.

 

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has a price of $699 and had a release date of Oct. 2, 2020. It comes in just one configuration, with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM, though owners can expand storage by up to 1TB with a microSD card.

The Galaxy S20 FE is available through AT&TT-Mobile and Verizon. The Verizon variant, dubbed Galaxy S20 FE 5G UW, supports the carrier’s millimeter-wave 5G network for much faster speeds in urban areas.

Some retailers already have the Galaxy S20 FE on sale for $599, or $100 off. And we’ve seen the Galaxy S20 FE for as low as $529. Check out the best Galaxy S20 FE deals so far.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Design and colors

The Galaxy S20 FE will stand out in a crowd with its six color options. You can take your pick from Navy, Lavender, Mint, Red, White and Orange. We checked out the Navy option, which has a sophisticated sheen to it. Just note that the color selection will vary by carrier.

Samsung makes a couple of design concessions in the name of affordability, but this phone doesn’t look or feel cheap. The back uses polycarbonate (plastic) instead of glass, but Samsung did a nice job curving it around the sides to make the handset feel unified and solid.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review

(Image credit: Future)

When you put the Galaxy S20 FE side by side with the regular Galaxy S20, it’s easy to tell that the former has thicker bezels. However, once you start using the S20 FE it’s fairly close to a full-screen experience. It also helps that the cutout from the S20 FE’s front camera is smaller than on the regular S20.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review display cutout

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S20 FE doesn’t cut corners when it comes to water resistance. The handset is IP68 rated, which means it can handle a dunk with ease.

Measuring 6.29 x 2.93 x 0.33 inches and weighing 6.7 ounces, the Galaxy S20 FE is a bit thicker and heavier than the regular Galaxy S20 (5.9 x 3 x 0.31 inches, 5.7 ounces), but that’s not a surprise given the FE has a larger display than the S20 (6.5 vs 6.2 inches).

I do have one complaint about the Galaxy S20 FE’s design, and it’s the choice of fingerprint reader. Unlike the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20 series, the S20 FE uses an optical sensor embedded in the display instead of a more accurate ultrasonic sensor. As a result, I encountered more false negatives trying to unlock the phone than I would like. I found that I had to be more deliberate when pressing down with this phone.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Display

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review display

(Image credit: Future)

I’m glad that the Galaxy S20 FE features a 120Hz display, which I think is a better feature to bring over from the regular Galaxy S20 than its sharper quad HD resolution. The S20 FE makes do with a full HD+ screen with 2400 x 1800 pixels.

The 120Hz setting delivers smoother scrolling and better gameplay in a growing array of titles that support 120Hz panels. Thumbing through NYTimes.com was buttery smooth, and I enjoyed fluid animation when playing Marvel Contest of Champions as I used Iron Man to fire a laser at The Punisher.

Samsung’s OLED panel really shined when watching an episode of Cobra Kai. As Sam LaRusso crashed into a dessert table, the explosion of color really came through, with pops of green, blue, brown and orange.

The Galaxy S20 FE’s display performed well in our lab tests. It hit a peak of 679 nits of brightness with Adaptive brightness turned on. Anything above 600 nits is good, but the regular Galaxy S20 reached a max of 857 nits.

This screen is also quite colorful, as the S20 FE registered 133.3% of the DCI-P3 color space, which is shy of the regular S20’s 162.5%. In terms of color accuracy, the Galaxy S20 FE fared slightly better than the Galaxy S20, notching a score of 0.3; a score of zero is perfect. The regular S20 hit 0.37, and the iPhone 11 a better 0.22.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE cameras

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S20 FE is one of the most versatile camera phones for the price, offering a trio of rear lenses, plus a front 32MP camera for selfies.

The back cameras consist of a 12MP ultra-wide shooter with a f/2.2 aperture and 123-degree field of view. There’s also a main 12MP camera (f/1.8) and a 8MP telephoto lens with a 3x optical zoom and 30x Space Zoom (digital).

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