Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Still a true flagship killer

Everything you'd expect from a modern flagship without the modern price.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
(Image: © Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

The Galaxy S20 FE offers nearly everything you'd find on Samsung's more expensive models, with high-end specs and impressive cameras. The screen is totally flat, which means fewer accidental touches, and the back of the phone is made of sturdy plastic.

Pros

  • +

    Flat 120Hz display is terrific

  • +

    All-day battery life

  • +

    Promised three years of software updates

  • +

    Impressive cameras with 3x optical zoom

  • +

    Sturdy design with fun color options

Cons

  • -

    Not every color option is available everywhere

  • -

    Camera can be slow to load

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For years, there's been a stigma around using plastic designs in high-end, expensive phones. Consumers have come to expect more luxurious materials like metal and glass, which, despite being more fragile than plastic, typically have a more "premium" feel.

I'm definitely guilty of shying away from devices whose spec sheets feature the word polycarbonate. I was reluctant to try the Galaxy Note 20 for precisely that reason. But once my review unit came in, my concerns surrounding creakiness and a cheap in-hand feel disappeared. Build quality, in general, has massively improved since the days when plastic flagships were commonplace, and the Note 20 felt just as solid as any other phone I'd tested in recent memory.

The story is similar to the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition — better known as the S20 FE. This phone is the latest in Samsung's crusade to dominate every pricing tier with a well-rounded device that makes the appropriate sacrifices while maintaining the company's standards for quality and performance. In short, it's like any other phone in the S20 lineup, save for a plastic back and a flat display that brings it to a significantly lower price.

The Galaxy S20 FE has since been supplanted by the Galaxy S21 FE. But right up until the newest Fan Edition arrived, we still considered the S20 FE one of the best Android phones that we'd recommend to just about anyone. Now the flagship killer is a bit out of date if you want to buy a new phone; but if you can snag a used or new model at a low price, it's absolutely still worth using.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Pricing & availability

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

(Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

The Galaxy S20 FE launched on October 2, 2020, with a single configuration in the U.S. offering 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM for $699.99. It's gone on sale several times since its launch, often reaching as low as $600. Additionally, Samsung sometimes offers generous trade-in promotions, knocking hundreds off of the phone's total cost depending on your existing device and its condition.

There are six color options available: Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Orange, Cloud Red, and Cloud White. Specific colors like Cloud Red are getting harder to find as stock runs out, but you'll always find some models available if you aren't picky about colors.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: What I like

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

(Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Anyone who's used an S20 series device before will feel right at home on the S20 FE. It's slightly larger than the baseline Galaxy S20, but it's still a reasonable size with roughly the same footprint as the S20+ and a nearly identical design language. Of course, the main difference is the polycarbonate (read: plastic) backing, which features a matte texture and comes in a variety of vibrant, almost pastel colors.

This signals trouble for Google and OnePlus.

This isn't the same flimsy plastic we saw on the Galaxy S5 years back. The S20 FE doesn't creak or give under pressure; it feels just as solid as the rest of the S20 lineup, thanks in no small part to the aluminum frame, and likely won't crack if dropped. With how many matte devices Samsung has released as of late, it's also easy to forget that the S20 series was entirely glossy — this is a very welcome change.

I really love the color options on the S20 FE, too. Instead of a physical briefing, Samsung sent over one of every color for photo purposes, which gave me a chance to really appreciate each shade without the guesswork of relying on heavily touched-up photos. The Cloud Mint is by far my favorite — it matches my guitar! — but they're all gorgeous, muted colors that add a fun element to the phone.

Just like the on the Note 20, Samsung also ditched the curved glass on the front of the S20 FE, instead opting for a totally flat display that, while a bit less flashy, is a massive functional improvement if you ask me. This means slightly larger bezels around the perimeter of the screen, but in exchange, you'll experience zero accidental touches. Like the rest of the S20 series, the FE features a 120Hz refresh rate that makes every action on-screen feel buttery smooth.

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