The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (LTE) presented last year has so far been a solid competitor in the low-cost flagship segment. While it did well in most of our tests, there were a few downsides. Under stress it got a bit warm and the battery life was only average; both things that the OnePlus 8T (test report) can handle better at the same price level.
In 2021, Samsung decided to launch the 5G version of the Galaxy S20 FE (Review) in India and it is called the Galaxy S20 FE 5G. It’s basically the same phone, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor (and X55 5G modem) instead of the Exynos 990. Does switching to a Qualcomm processor fix the shortcomings we had with the LTE variant? And more importantly, does it make sense to invest in a smartphone with a year old processor at this price point in 2021? Let’s find out!
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G price in India
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G costs Rs. 47,999 in India. Unlike the 4G model, it comes in a single configuration with 8GB of RAM + 128GB of storage. Buyers can choose between the versions Cloud Navy, Cloud Mint and Cloud Lavender. At a competitive price, the Galaxy S20 FE 5G takes on the OnePlus 9 (review), ASUS ROG Phone 5 (first impression), and Vivo X60 Pro (review), all starting at around Rs. 49,999.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G design
There are no cosmetic changes between the 4G and 5G models of the Galaxy S20 FE. The phone looks identical to the 4G model and has the same button layout, with the power and volume buttons on the right. The main speaker is at the bottom next to the USB Type-C port and microphone. The earphone speaker is hidden in a tiny slot at the top of the display and doubles as a second speaker for loud and clear stereo sound.
The overall design looks clean and minimalist, with a color-coordinated camera module that barely protrudes from the rear wall. The Galaxy S20 FE 5G has a metal frame that lies between a display glass panel on the front and a plastic plate on the back. The back wall is arched on all four sides to meet the frame and has a smooth matte finish that feels great to the touch. The glass that covers the display is flat, which seemed like an odd choice last year, but feels right at home alongside the premium smartphones Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 + (review), which will also have flat displays in 2021.
My test device was delivered in the Cloud Mint finish and shows a mild yellow gradient when viewed from an angle. The matte texture is non-slip and rejects fingerprints well, but picks up dust relatively easily.
The Galaxy S20 FE 5G, like the 4G model, is rated IP68 for dust and water resistance, which is a big deal as some competing smartphones (which are slightly higher priced) don’t offer it.
Samsung Galaxy S20 specifications and software
Compared to other phones available in this price range today, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G’s processor is basically a year old. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor was announced in 2019 and appeared in smartphones in the first half of 2020. It was the flagship processor used by almost all smartphone manufacturers who wanted to push the first wave of 5G smartphones in India.
While a year-old SoC isn’t a big deal for the casual user, the leap from the Snapdragon 865 processor to the Snapdragon 888 is quite big in terms of performance, and other manufacturers are offering the latter for just Rs. 2,000.
Nevertheless, Samsung can justify its price because the Galaxy S20 FE 5G offers functions that other smartphones in this price segment do not offer. Thanks to the IP68 protection rating, you can take your smartphone with you into a pool, and wireless charging with 15 W is very practical. You can even invert other 4.5W smartphones or accessories. While these features may not be essential for most users, they enhance the premium smartphone experience.
Samsung’s One UI 3.1, which is based on Android 11, runs on the Galaxy S20 FE 5G. In combination with the 120 Hz refresh rate display, the Galaxy S20 FE 5G felt quite fluid in daily use. I didn’t have any issues with running native apps, third-party apps, or switching between the two. There are many Samsung apps pre-installed. The phone also comes with some third-party apps from Microsoft and Facebook, but they can be uninstalled along with several Samsung apps (like Samsung Shop, Samsung Members, Samsung Global Goals, Notes, Internet, etc.) if they are not needed . During the review period, I was not bombarded with advertisements or commercials. I have occasionally received notifications from the Galaxy App Store, but these can be turned off in System Preferences.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G performance and battery life
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 may be a year old, but it’s not lazy and delivers reliable flagship-grade performance when it comes to normal tasks and gaming. The phone performed much better than the Exynos 990 powered Galaxy S20 FE in our tests (although some results may not be directly comparable due to benchmark updates).
AnTuTu reported a score of 6,41,038, while Geekbench’s single-core and multi-core scores were 560 and 3,136, respectively. These are higher than what the Exynos-based model achieved (4.62.330 in AnTuTu; 517 and 2.573 in Geekbench) but lower than the performance values we’ve seen from Snapdragon 888-based smartphones in the same price segment.
Asphalt 9: Legends ran smoothly, the graphics were set to high quality and the 60fps mode was activated. The phone warmed up a bit during the game but didn’t get hot.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 can also handle a game like Call of Duty: Mobile graphically. The game ran with very high graphics and frame rates with no hiccups. However, I’ve encountered some touch sensitivity issues, which dampens the experience in games that require a high level of accuracy. There was a noticeable lag while playing Call of Duty: Mobile and it seems that the 120Hz display (with a 180Hz touch sampling rate) was unable to keep up with my fingers. With this inability to accurately aim a target, I lost most of the matches I played during the testing process.
The 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display shows oversaturated colors when the standard Vivid screen mode is used. Switch to Natural and the colors look pretty dull, but I thought that was a lot better. I wish there was a preset between the two modes that could have provided slightly more subdued colors, especially for watching movies or shows.
The FHD + resolution delivers a crisp 407 ppi, which means everything from text to images to videos looks pretty sharp. While the brightness was sufficient indoors, the display was barely legible outdoors in the afternoon sun. Samsung doesn’t mention HDR in its datasheet, but it does appear to be supported.
The screen refresh rate can be adjusted in the display settings, but it can only be set to 60 Hz (for longer battery life) or 120 Hz (for a smoother experience). During the test period, I typically ran the display at 120 Hz.
The Galaxy S20 FE 5G achieved 18 hours and 22 minutes in our HD video loop battery test, which is quite good for a premium smartphone. The Exynos model with the same 4500mAh battery capacity ran the same video loop test for 12 hours and 44 minutes, which is a bit on the low side. In normal use, which included running social media apps, checking emails, an hour of calls, and an hour or two of gaming with the display set to 120Hz, I usually ended the day around 20-30 percent, which is pretty impressive.
In 2021, finding a premium Android smartphone with just a 15W charger in the box will be a bit of a surprise. Still, the charging times weren’t too bad, with the battery charged 33 percent in 30 minutes, 51 percent in an hour, and 100 percent in 1 hour and 38 minutes. The smartphone supports 25W charging, but you need to buy your own charger.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G cameras
The camera setup remains the same as with the LTE model, but swapping the processor from an Exynos 990 to a Snapdragon 865 can lead to slight differences in image processing and thus in the end result. So I decided to put the Galaxy S20 FE 5G’s cameras through their paces. As expected, the results didn’t deviate too much from what we saw in our review of the 4G model.
The rear module consists of a 12-megapixel f / 1.8 wide-angle camera, an 8-megapixel f / 2.4 telephoto camera (3x optical zoom) and a 12-megapixel f / 2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera. Selfies are processed by a 32-megapixel f / 2.2 camera that takes 8-megapixel binned images.
The camera interface remains the same as any other premium Samsung phone with One UI 3.1. There are easily accessible controls that let you adjust the aspect ratio, timer, flash, and switch between cameras. The list of standard modes is customizable and the slots can be interchanged and personalized according to the needs of the user.
In video mode, you can change the video resolution with just two taps, which is very convenient. The back near the camera module gets a little hot if the viewfinder is left on for about 10 minutes, but it cools down quickly when you exit the camera app.
Photos taken in daylight are bright, vivid, and fairly saturated. Whether you’re photographing flowers, fruits, or even landscapes, the colors pop quite a bit, which is typical of most Samsung smartphones. The dynamic range is quite good, but the HDR processing sometimes goes overboard, resulting in a dreamlike effect. The sharpness and details in photos are quite impressive for a smartphone in this price segment. Image quality and white balance remain constant even when switching between cameras.
The smartphone has a telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom that shoots razor-sharp images in daylight. The same camera doubles as a macro shooter as you get closer to the subject compared to the main camera. This is important as there is no dedicated macro camera.
Portrait photos come out quite clean with good edge detection, but the Galaxy S20 FE 5G sometimes falters (with a noticeable halo) if the subject does not stand still.
After sunset, the photos were a bit cloudy with a slightly reduced dynamic range in the shadows, but they still looked pretty good. Night mode takes care of these small imperfections and prevents street lights and bright spots from being overexposed while increasing brightness and detail. The phone took crisp photos in low light when night mode was used with the primary wide-angle camera, but only gave passable photos when used with the ultra-wide-angle camera.
Selfies in standard and portrait mode were quite sharp and clean in daylight with good edge detection, but were indistinct in low light and lacked depth. Night mode is also available on the front camera and did a good job of preserving detail and adding a sense of depth to the selfies.
The Galaxy S20 FE 5G promises a lot in terms of video and surprisingly also delivers in terms of quality. Videos recorded with the primary rear camera at 1080p and 4K (30 and 60fps) were sharp and rich in detail and stabilized well even while walking. My only gripe was the ultra wide angle camera as it tended to overexpose scenes. The selfie camera also manages videos quite well and offers 1080p and 4K recording options. 4K videos captured with the selfie camera had no stabilization and looked quite jerky. In low-light scenarios, videos captured at any resolution were blurry and a little noisy, but the stabilization was decent.
For the casual user, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G doesn’t seem like a huge upgrade as it just adds 5G support to the datasheet. This would have been fine if this phone had launched in India in 2020 along with the 4G model, as it has in other parts of the world.
We tested the 4G model and it’s easy to see that the Snapdragon 865 silicon makes a big difference in terms of performance and also doesn’t heat up as much as Samsung’s own Exynos SoC.
The Galaxy S20 FE 5G is possibly the most complete low-cost flagship right now in terms of features, as it offers optical zoom, wireless charging, and an IP68 rating. These features, along with its vibrant OLED display, great cameras, good battery life, and solid day-to-day performance, make it a compelling option. However, it is hard to recommend to a gamer as there are touch sensitivity issues.
If performance is your thing, there are smartphones like the Xiaomi Mi 11X Pro (review) and the iQoo 7 Legend that give you the Snapdragon 888 processor and faster charging from Rs. 39,990. If your budget is around Rs. 2,000 there is the OnePlus 9 (Review) which, with the Snapdragon 888 processor, offers an excellent display that can handle bright sunlight, faster charging and no touch sensitivity issues when gaming.