Samsung Galaxy S20 FE second opinion: The best value flagship of 2020

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos review
(Image: © Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: The Galaxy S20 FE offers all the core features of the Galaxy S20 at a much more affordable price point. You're getting a stunning 120Hz AMOLED panel, flagship-grade camera, IP68 rating, wireless charging, and three Android updates. Samsung hasn't left out any features here, and that makes the S20 FE a truly incredible phone.


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    Outstanding value

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    Vibrant 120Hz AMOLED screen

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    Flagship-tier camera

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    IP68 water resistance

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    Wireless charging

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    Three years of platform updates


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    Plastic back

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    Still on Android 10

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Samsung understands the value market better than just about every other manufacturer. The company now sells phones from $100 all the way to $2,000, and it is this diversification that has allowed the South Korean manufacturer to dominate global sales charts.

And while Samsung offers a lot of devices in the value segment, it's not often we see the manufacturer go up against the likes of OnePlus and Xiaomi and win. That's what makes the Galaxy S20 FE so exciting. As a value flagship, it is unchallenged right now.

Samsung is basically offering most of the core features of the Galaxy S20 for $300 to $500 less, and that makes the S20 FE stand out against just about every value flagship. That's the case in the global markets like the UK and India as well, where Samsung is selling the Exynos 990 version of the Galaxy S20 FE.

I've used the Galaxy S20 FE for just over a month now, and I'm ready to call it one of my favorite phones of 2020.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Design

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

When I started using the Galaxy S20 FE, the first thing I noticed was how similar it is to the regular S20. The phone is taller and wider than the S20 because of the larger 6.5-inch screen, but it shares an identical design. That means you get the same rectangular camera housing at the back, the same flowing curves where the back meets the mid-frame — resulting in great in-hand feel — and ultra-thin bezels at the front.

The Galaxy S20 FE feels every bit as premium as the S20 series — despite a plastic back.

That said, there are two notable differences. The Galaxy S20 FE features a polycarbonate back instead of the glass finish that's a mainstay on the regular S20 series, and Samsung went with a flat display in lieu of a curved panel. The result is that the S20 FE is easier to use than the S20 or S20+ — and just that little bit more durable.

A plastic back means you don't have to worry about another layer of glass that can potentially break, and in the month I've used the S20 FE, the phone took a half-dozen tumbles and came away unscathed. The phone has a matte finish at the back, which, when combined with the subtle curves, makes it easy to hold and use the phone.

I'm not a fan of curved screens; that's one of the reasons why I liked the OnePlus 8T and its flat 120Hz AMOLED panel so much. Samsung offers a similar flat display on the S20 FE, and the 6.5-inch screen size is perfect for consuming content.

The phone has all the ports and buttons in the same configuration as the S20: you'll find the power and volume buttons on the right, the primary speaker at the bottom next to the USB-C charging port, and the SIM card slot at the top. Samsung offers a dedicated dual SIM tray along with a MicroSD slot on the S20, but the S20 FE comes with a hybrid slot — you can either use two SIM cards or a single SIM and a MicroSD card.

Samsung offers the S20 FE in a variety of colors, and the Cloud Mint model I'm testing has a dull luster thanks to the matte finish. The pastel colors make the S20 FE stand out, and the phone itself feels just as premium as the S20 or S20+. Samsung has done a great job differentiating the design while retaining the same aesthetic as the standard S20 series.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Display

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

A marquee addition to Samsung's 2020 flagship portfolio is 120Hz refresh rate, and the Galaxy S20 FE doesn't miss out in this area. The device has the same 120Hz screen as the regular S20, and the 6.5-inch AMOLED panel is one of the best in this category.

The S20 FE misses out on a QHD+ panel, but you get the same 120Hz refresh rate as the S20.

The 6.5-inch screen has an FHD+ resolution (2400 x 1080), and while the regular S20 series have QHD+ panels, you're not missing out on much here. For one thing, you can only use the 120Hz refresh rate at FHD+ resolution anyway, and Samsung made the right trade-off here. Like the regular S20 series, the S20 FE offers HDR10+, and the 6.5-inch screen is great for playing games and streaming videos.

The panel on the S20 FE is just as vibrant as the regular S20, and I had no issues with visibility under harsh sunlight. You get the same set of customization options, including the ability to tailor the color profile to your tastes, switch between 60 or 120Hz, schedule the blue light filter, set up edge screen, and configure always-on mode.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Hardware

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

I'm testing the Exynos 990 variant of the Galaxy S20 FE, which is the default option in most countries worldwide. Samsung also sells a variant powered by the Snapdragon 865 in North America and Korea. The Exynos 990 isn't as robust as the Snapdragon 865, but for what it's worth, it is a better showing than we've seen in the past.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
SpecsSamsung Galaxy S20 FE
SoftwareAndroid 10, One UI 2.5
Display6.5-inch 120Hz AMOLED
Chipset2.73GHz Exynos 990
Rear Camera 112MP ƒ/1.8 (primary)
Rear Camera 212MP ƒ/2.2 (wide-angle)
Rear Camera 38MP ƒ/2.4 (telephoto)
Front Camera32MP ƒ/2.2
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6, BT 5.0, NFC
Battery4500mAh, 25W wired, 15W wireless
SecurityIn-screen fingerprint
ColorsCloud Mint, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Navy, Cloud Red, Cloud Orange, Cloud White
Dimensions159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4 mm

In day-to-day use, the Exynos-powered Galaxy S20 FE holds up just as well as the Snapdragon version. I had overheating issues on my regular S20, but that wasn't the case on the S20 FE — the larger chassis is better at thermal dissipation.

I didn't see any slowdowns whatsoever in the month I used the S20 FE, and the phone handled intensive games with aplomb. The 120Hz panel makes a huge difference in day-to-day use, and there are zero issues on the hardware front with the S20 FE.

The phone is available with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, with both variants featuring the latest UFS 3.1 storage modules. Samsung also retained Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC here, with the phone offering Samsung Pay. That bears mentioning because Samsung used the feature as a differentiator in previous years — limiting it to flagships — but that's thankfully not the case in 2020.

One area where the S20 FE clearly wins out against the regular S20 series is fingerprint authentication. Samsung switched to an optical module with the S20 FE, and it is much more reliable and significantly faster than the problematic ultrasonic sensor on the S20 and Note 20 series.

Samsung traditionally limits features like wireless charging to its flagships, but the S20 FE gets 15W wireless charging and IP68 dust and water resistance, making it that much more enticing. The phone has a 4500mAh battery that easily delivers a day's worth of use without any issues, and I averaged anywhere between five to six hours of screen-on-time over the course of 16 hours.

The S20 FE has 25W wired charging, and it takes just under 75 minutes to charge the phone fully. The fact that you get wireless charging is a real differentiator, and Samsung hasn't really left out any features from the regular S20 series. It isn't often that Samsung undercuts the likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus, but that's exactly what it is doing with the Galaxy S20 FE.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The Galaxy S20 FE features the same 12MP primary camera as the regular S20, and you get a 12MP wide-angle lens and an 8MP zoom module that hits 3x optical zoom. Both the 12MP primary module and the zoom lens have OIS, and there's a 32MP camera up front.

The Galaxy S20 FE takes fabulous photos in any lighting condition.

The S20 FE has 4K video recording at up to 60fps for the front and rear cameras. Unlike the S20 series, you won't find 8K video here, but that's not a big omission. The camera interface itself is unchanged from the S20 series. The shooting modes are easily accessible via a ribbon at the bottom and toggles for flash, timers, filters, AI-assisted scene recognition, and more.

Seeing as how the S20 FE has the same primary lens as the S20, it manages to take outstanding photos in just about any lighting scenario. The resultant photos have accurate colors, and while they miss out on the saturated look that has been a characteristic of Samsung phones for a long time, they have great dynamic range and a lot of detail.

The Galaxy S20 FE also does a great job in low-light scenarios, with the phone retaining plenty of detail and minimizing noise. The wide-angle lens does a wonderful job retaining the same color profile as the main lens, and while I haven't used the zoom lens too much, the few shots I've taken at a 3x zoom factor came out usable.

Overall, the S20 FE offers one of the best cameras in this segment. Only the Pixel 5 manages to do a better job, and Samsung's decision to use the same primary lens as the S20 has allowed the S20 FE to hold its own in the value flagship category.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Software

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The S20 FE comes with One UI 2.5 based on Android 10 out of the box — the same as the Note 20 series. One UI 2.5 retains the same UI as One UI 2.0. Still, you do get a slate of new features, including the ability to use gesture navigation with custom launchers, video search within Samsung Keyboard, more options for the built-in screen recorder, wireless DeX, and handwriting recognition in Samsung Notes.

The S20 FE will get three Android updates, but it won't be updated to Android 11 until 2021.

Not everyone likes Samsung's UI, but the South Korean manufacturer has done a great job offering a wealth of features that you won't find anywhere else. The UI customization has been pared back from previous years, and the result is a clean interface that's easy to use.

While it is good to see Samsung offer One UI 2.5 out of the box, there is the fact that the S20 FE won't be updated to Android 11 until 2021. Samsung is currently beta testing One UI 3.0, but it is limited to the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 series, and the stable update will make its way to Samsung's flagships first.

That means the S20 FE is further down in the list, so you will have to wait a while to switch to the latest version of Android. Having said that, the S20 FE will receive three guaranteed Android updates, with Samsung making that commitment for all flagships and select mid-range devices.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE The competition

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

There are a few alternatives to the Galaxy S20 FE based on the country you're in. The Pixel 5 is the ideal challenger to Samsung's value flagship for customers in the U.S. and UK. The phone misses out on a flagship chipset, but you get an outstanding camera, 90Hz screen, wireless charging, and Android 11 out of the box for $700. The phone retails for the same £699 price point as the S20 FE in the UK.

The Xiaomi Mi 10 is also a decent alternative to the S20 FE in the UK and India. The phone has a 90Hz AMOLED screen, is powered by the Snapdragon 865, and features a 108MP camera along with 30W wired and wireless charging. The phone is available for £650 ($855) in the UK and costs ₹44,999 ($608) in India.

The OnePlus 8T is also a viable option, with the device offering the latest internal hardware along with 65W wired charging. It doesn't have wireless charging or an IP rating, and the camera doesn't measure up to the S20 FE, but it is available for ₹42,999 ($581) in India and just £527 ($694) in the UK, making it a real bargain.

Then there's the Galaxy S20+. The phone is now available at a lucrative discount, and you can pick one up for just ₹54,999 ($745) in India. That said, you are better off with the S20 FE in the UK, as the S20+ costs £889 ($1,185) in that particular market. The same goes for the U.S. market, with the S20+ available for $1,100+, or $500 or so more than the S20 FE.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

You should buy this if ...

You're in the market for value

Interested in what the S20 has to offer but don't want to spend too much money? The S20 FE delivers the same core features for several hundred dollars less.

You want a phone with the latest hardware

The S20 FE has a 120Hz AMOLED screen, features the Exynos 990 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and a 4500mAh battery with 25W fast charging,15W wireless charging, and IP68 water resistance. If you're looking for flagship-tier hardware, the S20 FE has you covered.

You need a great camera

The Galaxy S20 FE has the same 12MP primary camera as the S20, and it takes fantastic photos in any lighting condition.

You should not buy this if ...

You want a phone with Android 11

It's unlikely the S20 FE will get the Android 11 update before the end of the year, with Samsung focusing on delivering the update to the S20 and Note 20 series first.

The Galaxy S20 FE is proof that Samsung can deliver an incredible value flagship if it's in the mood to do so. While the manufacturer has several enticing phones in the mid-range segment in the likes of the Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A71, we haven't seen a value flagship that goes up against Xiaomi and OnePlus.

But with the S20 FE, Samsung has managed to deliver just that. The phone doesn't miss out on any features: you're getting a great 120Hz AMOLED screen, a fantastic camera, robust internal hardware with IP68 water resistance, and wireless charging.

4.5 out of 5

Honestly, there's very little wrong with the Galaxy S20 FE. That's what makes the phone so alluring; I can't think of any negatives other than the plastic back, and that's not a big trade-off, all things considered. The only drawback is that the phone won't make the switch to Android 11 before the end of 2020, but the fact that it will receive three guaranteed version updates offsets that to an extent.

Overall, the Galaxy S20 FE is one of the best Android phones around, and you're getting an incredible bargain here.

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Mint

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Bottom line: With a sublime 120Hz display backed by robust hardware and excellent cameras, the Galaxy S20 FE is a true gem. Samsung has done a magnificent job here, and if you're in the market for a value flagship in 2020, the Galaxy S20 FE should be at the top of your list.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.