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The Samsung Galaxy S20 is the most basic of the company’s latest flagships. It is considerably smaller and lighter than the others but the question is: can it deliver a similar experience?
The 6.2-inch screen is visually stunning, the three cameras on the back will suffice for almost everyone, especially combined with the ability to record 8K video.
All this is possible thanks to the new 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset (or Samsung Exynos 990 depending on the region), 8Gb or 12GB of RAM [4G (Check on Amazon) and 5G variant (Check on Amazon) respectively] and 128GB of internal storage that can be expanded via a micro-SD memory card.
The device is also waterproof and dust proof according to the IP68 certification.
The 4,000mAh battery seems big enough on paper, although it will not last more than a full day, no flagship really does…
Sadly the S20 — similar to the Plus (Check on Amazon) and Ultra (Check on Amazon) — is the first S-series cell phone that doesn’t have a headphone jack. Thankfully, Samsung provides a pair of good AKG USB-C earbuds. In addition, you can enjoy the sound coming out of the excellent stereo speakers.
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ review: the best 2020 flagship
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: redefines the term “flagship”
Samsung Galaxy S20 – Design
The S10e (Check on Amazon) attracted a large audience for two reasons: it’s a compact mobile phone and its screen is not curved at the edges, something very rare in recent Samsung flagships.
The S20 kind of follows that same line and shows a more gentle curvature at the edges. The design is similar to the rest of the S family, but this one is much more compact and lightweight. With its 6.2 inch screen, it is not a compact phone, but we find it way handier than its bigger siblings. In fact, its limited width of 6.91 cm makes it the second easiest mobile to hold behind the Google Pixel 4 (6.88 cm). The Galaxy S20 sits comfortably in the hand and weighs just 163 grams – this is especially noticeable compared to the hefty Ultra model.
Unlike last year’s affordable flagship model, this time you don’t get a limited device. We find exactly the same technologies here and its the two bigger versions that instead have something more to offer (a bigger screen, a larger battery, and a ToF sensor).
Since this is a true flagship, Samsung used high-quality materials and the workmanship is unparalleled. Glass is used at the front and back, and the frame is made of aluminum. In addition, the edges have been shaved some more: the bezels measure just two millimeters to the left and right and there is only a small punch hole notch at the top of the screen that interferes with the uniform look.
By opting for a screen with a 20:9 form factor (instead of 19:9), Samsung succeeds in offering a larger screen than the Galaxy S10 (Check on Amazon) (6.1 inches) in a smartphone that is easier to handle with just one hand. The absence of curved edges also improves the user experience, since the palm of your hand no longer comes into contact with the screen.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S10 review: finally complete
One change that may come as a surprise but we loved is that Samsung finally removed the dedicated Bixby button. If you still use Samsung’s virtual assistant you will have to press and hold the power button for a few seconds, and if you don’t you can remap the button to its previous function.
Samsung Galaxy S20 – Display
This is the best screen we have ever used! Do I need to say more? Samsung has been improving its AMOLED panel with every generation and the S20 sports the exact same panel as its more expensive siblings: with the same crisp QHD+ (3040×1440 pixels) resolution, high brightness, stunning color reproduction, HDR10+ support, and wide viewing angles.
Of course, the real highlight is its refresh rate of 120Hz. It is not “ON” by default and can only be activated if you dial down the resolution to Full HD+ (2220×1080 pixels). This is mandatory in order to avoid excessive battery use. Using the higher refresh rate ensures a much smoother experience when using the UI, surfing the web and of course gaming.
We have really fallen in love with this technology and returning to the standard 60Hz refresh rate is like returning to the Stone Age.
Another minor improvement is the 240Hz touch sensitivity sampling rate (the standard rate is 120Hz). That means improved handling in games, at least in theory since i couldn’t tell the difference, but i am no gamer.
The only fault is the 120 Hz option that has a significant impact on battery life. According to our measurements, there is two hours difference between the 60 Hz mode and the 120 Hz mode. It’s huge. Given the small endurance of the smartphone (to which we will return in a few lines), it is perhaps wiser to stay at the maximum on the 60 Hz. That’s too bad.
Samsung Galaxy S20 – Camera
The S20 has the same cameras as the Plus variant, the only difference is the ToF sensor present in the bigger model. And as expected, the photo quality is identical in both. The key factor is that the sensors are much larger, this way they can capture more light and this translates in better clarity, especially in adverse lighting conditions.
The main camera has the same 12MP as the one on the previous S10, but it now features a much larger sensor and bigger pixels (1.8μ vs 1.4μ) capable of capturing more details and light.
Overall, the camera of the S20 manages to record more details, saturate less the colors and deliver better results. The problem lies in the way your HDR works. He tries so hard to avoid overflow in points with a strong light that he ends up destroying all the shadows.
The ultra-wide has also evolved compared to the previous one delivering photos of higher quality and with lower lens distortion. It cannot match the main sensor, but the difference is smaller in this generation.
The biggest highlight here is the telephoto lens. The sensor is now 64MP, way more than the previous 12MP. The result is lossless 3x hybrid optical zoom and clean images full of detail using the 10x digital zoom. The maximum digital zoom of 30x is unusable and just for marketing purposes.
Last but not least the 10MP selfie camera with autofocus. Unfortunately, such a feature is still missing on most other smartphones, no matter the price. Thus the S20 ensures excellent selfies and if you deactivate the Beauty mode they will also look natural.
The photos, in general, are great: under good lighting conditions, there is hardly any criticism, but even under scarce light this flagship hardly shows any weaknesses, there is some noticeable noise but that is to be expected.
There is also a Night mode that can help with exposure but the heavy processing results in unrealistic colors. If you want a more faithful picture you can skip the Night mode and use the excellent Automatic mode instead.
As already noted, the Galaxy S20 features 8K video at 24fps that lets you export to 4K or 1080p without loosing detail. it also incorporates Samsung’s new Super Steady image stabilization technology. Sadly you cannot use it with 8K recording (it only works at 1080p).
Samsung’s camera app is still the best striking the perfect balance between ease of use and versatility. A great example is the new Single Take mode that uses all three rear camera and cycles through all shooting (both photo and video) modes for a 10-second shoot. Once done it automatically selects the best photos and clips that you can choose from. It seems silly at first until but this mode made me focus more on the subject and worry less about the different modes I could use.
Samsung Galaxy S20 – Software
The S20 runs Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI 2.1 on top. Here we find cornerstones such as Samsung Pay and Samsung DeX. There is also a pop-up display for certain apps, Smart Reply, dual account functionality for social and chat apps, the ability to connect two Bluetooth devices at the same time and better privacy controls. Also present is the new system-wide dark mode that can be synchronized with the sunrise.
A special mention goes to Samsung’s integration with Google Duo (Google’s answer to FaceTime).
With each new generation of its Galaxy S series, Samsung also improves performance. However, the SoC used differs depending on where you buy the device. People in the US will receive a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, while everyone else will have to make do with Samsung’s in-house Exynos 990.
Also thanks to the 120 Hertz display, all operations on the Galaxy S20 seem to run extremely smoothly. Apps load lighting fast and switching between them when multitasking is without delay thanks to the 8GB (or 12GB) of RAM.
Just to be clear: the Galaxy S20 is a powerhouse and the fastest Android smartphone yet.
The battery jumped from a measly 3,400mAh unit to a 4,000mAh one. The main reason for this is 5G connectivity, which consumes more power than 4G and the 120Hz display.
With the display in 60Hz mode, the S20 will last you a full day and then some. If you take advantage of the 120Hz mode, you will notice a considerable drop in autonomy, but it should still manage a full day.
The S20 also comes with a 25W charger inside the box. It can charge your device from 0 to 100% in about 1 hour. The device also supports wireless charging compatible with Qi-standard up to 15W (0-100% in about 3 hours). Likewise, you can take advantage of the device’s reverse wireless charging in order to charge your Qi-enabled gadgets – such as wireless headphones.
In the category of compact “small format” smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S20 is undoubtedly the king. This device offers unparalleled comfort without compromising on the features. The Galaxy S20 is a true flagship, equipped with a state-of-the-art processor, a great camera and 5G connectivity as optional.
The price will be the defining factor for the success of this device. (Check on Amazon) for the 4G variant is a lot of money but, for us at least, it deserves every penny. The 5G version on the other hand costs (Check on Amazon).