Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs. Galaxy S20: What's the difference and which should you buy?

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Mint
Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Mint (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Mint

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the new hotness and shows that you can get incredible value without sacrificing much. Between the flat display, fun colors, and larger battery, Samsung has shown the market how to make an upper mid-range device.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Value king

Flat display
More color options
Less expensive
4,500mAh battery
Color options are not available everywhere
Plastic back, Gorilla Glass 3 front
Lower telephoto and ultrawide quality than S20
Slower 15W charger in the box

Samsung Galaxy S20

Samsung Galaxy S20

It's going to be tough to recommend the Galaxy S20 to anyone unless that person really needs the extra RAM or wants a smaller display. The S20 misses out with a smaller battery and a higher price, but its telephoto and ultrawide cameras are better than then FE. Plus, it has more RAM for better multitasking.

Samsung Galaxy S20

True flagship

Improved cameras over the FE
More RAM than the FE
Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and back
Display has a higher resolution
Faster 25W charger included in the box
More expensive
Smaller battery

When it comes to the Galaxy S20 FE vs S20, there are enough differences that warrant taking a step back for potential buyers. The biggest difference is price, but the S20 FE provides such a great value that it feels like this is what the S20 should have been.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs. S20: What are the differences?

Galaxy S20 Review Bamboo Cloud Blue Reflections

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

In a world with flagship devices priced at $999 or higher, there's a new market opening up for those who want to spend less than $1,000 but still want a flagship experience. We've seen other phone makers try to fill the void, but with the Galaxy S20 FE, Samsung has surprised everyone.

When the Galaxy S20 launched early in 2020, it marked the first major flagship release of the year and brought almost all of the specs one would expect, from the Super AMOLED curved display, equipped with 1440p resolution and 120Hz refresh rate, to the camera system that makes you want to leave that old point and shoot behind. There wasn't too much to really complain about when the S20 was released outside of the price tag. Then again, this is what we have come to expect from flagships in 2020 as the prices of devices with the best specifications continues to rise.

Part of the reasoning behind the price hikes can be associated with Qualcomm's newer 5G-only Snapdragon 865 processor. However, Samsung also makes some impressive upgrades to the Galaxy S20's hardware, including outfitting it with Gorilla Glass 6 on both sides, that add to the cost.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy S20 FESamsung Galaxy S20
Display6.5-inch Super AMOLED (flat)6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
ResolutionFHD+ (2400 x 1800)QHD+ (3200 x 1440)
Refresh RateUp to 120HzUp to 120Hz
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 865Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
MicroSD Card SupportUp to 1TBUp to 1TB
Rear Camera 112MP Wide12MP Wide
Rear Camera 28MP Telephoto64MP Telephoto
Rear Camera 312MP Ultra-wide12MP Ultra-wide
Front Camera32MP10MP
5G Connectivity5G sub-6 and mmWaveNon Standalone (NSA) 5G Sub-6
Charging25W wired charging, Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare25W wired charging, Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare
Water ResistanceIP68IP68
Dimensions74.5 x 159.8 x 8.4mm69.1 x 151.7 x 7.9mm
ColorsCloud Red, Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Orange, Cloud White, Cloud MintCloud Blue, Cosmic Grey, Cloud Pink

The Galaxy S20 is supposed to be the flagship for the masses, as users flock to new Samsung products similarly to how Apple fans flock to the annual iPhone release. While many Samsung fans did go for the S20, its higher price forced people to reconsider their buying decision (especially during a pandemic).

Google is attempting to fill that void with the $700 Pixel 5, and we are expecting OnePlus to offer something similar with the OnePlus 8T. But instead of just waiting until the Galaxy S30, Samsung opted to hit the same price point as the others, beating everyone to the punch with the Galaxy S20 FE.

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Mint

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

This phone offers a combination of specs and hardware "compromises" to hit a lower price point. You won't find up to 12GB of RAM or the best cameras on a smartphone, but you'll get a solid FHD+ Super AMOLED display that's actually flat, not curved, removing the annoyances of palm rejection that users have been dealing with for years.

Although the S20 brought some new colors to the scene, the S20 FE took things up a notch thanks to Samsung moving away from a glass sandwich and reintroducing a plastic build. This makes it easier for Samsung to provide more color options, even if they aren't all available in every market where the phone is sold.

Both the Galaxy S20 and S20 FE are capable of taking advantage of 5G once your carrier is ready.

Both the Galaxy S20 and S20 FE share the same network banding, meaning that the unlocked versions and the T-Mobile and AT&T models support Sub-6 5G while dedicated UW models support mmWave at Verizon. That's different from the Galaxy S20+ and Galaxy S20 Ultra, which include mmWave antennas on all models, making them compatible with every U.S. carrier out of the box.

Another consideration when choosing between these phones is their physical size. The Galaxy S20 FE comes in with a 6.5-inch display and weighs around 190 grams, while the S20 sports a 6.2-inch display and weighs just 163g. On paper, a 0.3-inch difference may not seem like much, but in terms of pocketability, the Galaxy S20 takes the crown.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs. S20: The proof is in the cameras

Samsung Galaxy S20 camera

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

As we've already mentioned, there are places where Samsung had to cut corners in order to reach the $700 price tag for the Galaxy S20 FE. Another area this was done was with the different camera modules despite both models featuring a wide-angle, telephoto, and ultrawide camera sensor.

When it comes to the selfie camera, the differences are just minor, but could mean quite a bit if you take a lot of selfies. The S20 FE features a 32MP sensor compared to the 8MP camera on the S20, but this is a lesser-quality sensor leaving you to deal with Samsung's software, which tends to smooth out your facial features much more on the former versus the flagship. Both the Galaxy S20 FE vs S20 feature the same primary 12MP wide-angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture and Optical Image Stabilization.

The selfie camera on the S20 FE isn't terrible, but Samsung's software tries to do too much.

The differences arrive when comparing the Galaxy S20's telephoto and ultrawide sensors. For the flagship, you'll find a 64MP telephoto lens, capable of 1.1x optical zoom and 3x hybrid zoom to go along with an f/2.0 aperture.

This provides a focal length of 29mm compared to the 76mm focal length found in the 8MP sensor from the S20 FE. While the telephoto sensor from the S20 FE does include Optical Image Stabilization and 3x optical zoom, it only features an f/2.4 aperture, which means that the standard Galaxy S20 will let more light in to get much better night-mode photos.

The final difference for the rear camera setup between the Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S20 is with the Ultrawide sensor. Both of these are 12MP, have a focal length of 13mm, and sport an f/2.2 aperture. However, the Galaxy S20 gets the upper hand with Super Steady Video functionality, so you no longer need to grab a tripod or gimbal to take an ultrawide video.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs. S20: Why the hype for the FE?

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud White

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

If you've pondered the question of Galaxy S20 FE vs. S20, then chances are you've been seeing a lot of coverage for the newer device. It's definitely one of the best Android phones on the market. Samsung and Android fans alike are excited for this new handset, as it could mark a shift in Samsung's future strategies, similar to what the Pixel 3a did for Google. Instead of only focusing on the flagship specs and extras, the S20 FE shows that Samsung is willing to pump the brakes and just release a good phone for everyone.

There's no $1,000 price tag to be concerned about, you'll get the same Snapdragon 865 chipset as its brethren, the cameras are good for most people, and it has a bigger battery. Battery life is another reason why the S20 FE could just end up being the best phone of 2020. When Samsung doesn't have to throw the kitchen sink into a device just to dominate headlines, you end up getting a pretty good experience and chances are that you'll never even use many of those features.

Samsung Galaxy S20

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

Another way to equate what the Galaxy S20 FE means to the market is to look at the gaming PC market. Instead of springing for one of the best graphics cards overall, along with the best processor for gaming, the price to performance on an AMD 3000 series processor paired with something like the 5700 XT GPU is just as good. No, you can't run every AAA game at max settings, but you can still run every game and the performance will still be great.

Price to performance is the name of the game. Samsung is providing users with enough of the flagship specs to entice the user while keeping the cost lower. Then, Samsung is throwing in extra goodies like more color options and a flat display (instead of the annoying curved one) while even keeping 120Hz as an option. At just $700, the S20 FE comes in at $300 less than the Galaxy S20 — think about everything you could do with that extra cash.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs. S20: Which one should you buy?

Galaxy S20 FE in-hand

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

A lot of this comparison has been highlighting how the Galaxy S20 FE vs. S20 is more than just a phone-to-phone comparison. The S20 FE could help to shift the Android smartphone market as a whole by encouraging other smartphone makers to follow in a similar path. At the end of the day, there's no such thing as having too many choices, and Samsung is leading the way in that regard.

Why spend $1,000 on a phone when you get 90% of that device for much less?

None of this is to say that the Galaxy S20 is a bad phone. With up to 12GB of RAM, a glass sandwich design with some pretty sweet-looking colorways, along with a 120Hz refresh rate on a QHD+ Super AMOLED panel, it's a home run from every way you look at it. The camera system is top-notch and while the battery is a bit smaller, it should still get you through most of, if not all of, the day.

However, it's also $300 more expensive than the S20 FE, and why spend $1,000 on a phone when you get 90% of that device for just $600? That's why the Galaxy S20 FE is a better option, in our opinion, and why it will quickly join the ranks of the best Android phones in no time.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.