I never did get to review the 'regular' S20, but I'm getting what they feel is their 'fan favourite'. As I can't compare what you gain or lose with this over the 'normie', I'll just have to make up what I think the perceived difference will be.
The name is pretty well synonymous with Android now, even possibly surpassed it as a 'not-iPhone' entity, and probably for most people the only 2 out there. Either you have an iPhone or you have a Samsung.
Getting to that 'top' didn't come by chance, Sammy has earned that by continuing to provide a top notch phone at every step of the way. Even with the 'battery non-incident' they still came out on top. Lesser companies would have just ceased to exist.
Let's look at the latest version of their flagship, and not just any version, the one they felt embodied exactly what their 'fans' wanted. And, it seems that the even higher end "Note" series, the model that comes after the S lineup and usually ups the ante, well, it looks like it won't be anymore, this will be that first step to a new Galaxy S series.
So, let's digest the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
First up, let's look at the specs.. what do you get for $1200CAD (compared to the $1650 for the non FE)
- 6.5" @ 2400x1080 @120Hz (+0.3", -QuadHD)
- Snapdragon 865 (2.84GHz + 2.42GHz x3 + 1.8GHz x4)
- 6GB RAM (-2GB)
- 128GB storage + microSD
- Rear Camera:
- 12MP (f/1.8, 26mm, 1/1.76", 1.8µm)
- 8MP (f/2.4, 76mm, 1/4.5", 1.0µm)
- 12MP (f/2.2, 13mm, 123°, 1/3.0", 1.12µm)
- 32MP (f/2.2, 26mm, 1/2.74", 0.8µm)
- 4500mAh (+500mAh) w/ reverse Qi
- In display fingerprint reader
Now, there's a bit of a bigger difference with the cameras, and I didn't want to get all 'spec crazy' and go over the minutiae, but you can look over GSMArena's comparison to do the hairsplitting there. For the main camera, it's the same, for the zoom, ultrawide and selfie, it's all a teeny downgrade... not that we'd notice much.
But look over the specs overall, and it's still a huge punch packer. Especially for the battery, it has more, the top end processor and a big screen with a super high refresh rate.
But, let's put it in our hand now.
Immediately, I'm noticing that it's ... big. It feels big. Not just taller because of the display, it feels thicker, like it already has a case on it. And it feels heavy too. I mean it helps to make it feel like it's sturdy, but definitely a noticeable heft to it compared to other devices (and not just because I'm toting the smaller Pixel 5).
|compared to my Pixel 5, you can see how much bigger it is... but, I also found that at lower brightness settings the S20 was better than the Pixel 5. Crank them both up to 100% and the Pixel looked better.|
Also, from some of the previous Samsung devices they always had a punch out camera that was in a corner, whereas this guy has it smackdab in the centre, which where I still feel is the ideal spot, so that's nice.
Turning the phone over in my hand you go over what else this has. Traditionally the controls for volume and power on the right hand side, there's the single speaker on the bottom, downward facing (the earpiece is hideden behind the glass and acts as the stereo spaker when needed), there's the USB-C port on the bottom, the top has the SIM port, and no headphone jack at all (I think that's really telling that the fan edition doesn't even carry it, it's a dead tech folks, deal with it).
And then there's the camera bump.
Not super huge, but a definite noticeable 'chunk' back there.
What I found interesting tho' for the physicality of it was the back. It has that plasticy feel to it (understandable for the Qi, I'm not knocking that, it still feels nice), but I really notice that bit of a 'whoosh' of the curve of how it the back and front meet. Really reminiscent of the S3, I thought. It was a nice touch.
But let's turn it on.
In typical Samsung fashion there's nothing really we haven't already seen in the dozen other Samsung devices beofre. All feels really 'familiar' and it would be hard for you to put the S8 or the S10 or the S20 and me to really tell the difference of what device I'm using.
Wait, before I go to that, turning on I have to mention, that the fingerprint sensor works really well. Like really well. In almost 2 weeks of use, I only had 1 time I could recall to try again. A huge improvement over any other Samsung in-display fingerprint sensor I'd used. That was really nice. It helps to have a good experience upon starting up the phone.
Okay, so we're in, and we're looking around how it works.
First off, that screen. It's awesome. It's also SO MUCH screen because of the little bezel, it really gives the illusion that it feels like you're just holding only the screen. Coo.
Now it's also the 120Hz display.
A super high refresh rate, and I have to admit I'd never really seen any difference. And not that because I'm used to a 90Hz refresh rate on my Pixel... I would try games, with and without. I didn't see the difference. But it's nice to have.
It's got a lot of Sammy apps, but hey, I also have a lot of Google apps... if you're like me, you just push those aside, because try as I might, I really didn't find any advantage using the Samsung Contacts or Calendar app versus using the Google counterparts, because that's what I use.
They kept their neat 'edge' feature which brings up a side window of some simple apps or widgets.
I love the concept, but I never onced used it.
There were a few features I really liked, like the game centre.
It seems to be amped up and now has add on to the little button when certain games load up; but also now you have a bit of a dashboard hwere you can see how much you've played of various games, which is also pretty handy if you're a parent wanting to really see how much time some games are eating up.
|notice now with the plugin for gif maker there's a button to capture|
|you can make GIFs!!|
Another option I liked was that DeX was built into the device. For those that haven't seen DeX, it's essentially a Desktop Environment (think Windows) version of the phone. On smaller screens it's not so grand, as it's meant to be plunked into a monitor of some sort, and they now have a 'wireless DeX' so you can just mirror it up to a wireless option.
It wouldn't work with my Chromecast or hubs, but it did say it could work with my Roku.
That would have been neat, except that it never seemed to work. I would have liked to try how it could work with just the display (what's the mouse?). Plugging it in with any of the adapters for HDMI and mouse/keyboard and it worked just fine.
One other I liked was the means to pair with a Samsung tablet (in my case my Tab S4) for phone calls and texts to be routed to the tablet when I wanted.
So I could come home, toss the phone on table, pick up the tablet, plop in my ear buds and not worry if texts or calls came in and have to go grab my phone.
One of the items that I really found slightly odd, that I don't recall in others was that to power off the device, you no longer long press power -that just brings up Bixby, which is a whole other discussion point.
(Why do we have to have another assistant that really doesn't match up to Google's, but that's my opinion).
Another oddity was that I tended to have some issues casting to some of the items in my house... eventually it went away, but then it might come back. Go into YTM and try to cast, never seemed like the same thing. Just odd.
All in all, a lot of how much you're going to like this phone (because if you don't like their version, it's Android, you can go and get a ton of other options elsewhere) is the camera. Sure, not THE feature, but a bad camera really can make you hate it.
This camera holds up with the Samsung tradition of performing well. Its interface is pretty cluttered, but can also be super simple. Notably, what I find is funny that there's no notion of 'how many MP' you'll take a photo, rather you pick whether you want it in ratios; but it doesn't tell you that doing so changes you ultimate megapixel count - if that matters anyways. I guess it just goes to show that the numbers sometimes don't count in the end.
It has all the standard filters and effects for you to play with, nothing exciting there.
There is the simple method to switch between your lenses. You have your standard lens, a 3x telephoto and a super wide Sure, you can pinch to zoom in and out as you please, or just tap one of the 3 levesl to auto switch. It's intuitive, and I like it.
What really caught me here with the camera was the feature called 'single take'. I thought this was pretty brilliant. The idea is that sometimes a moment might be best captured as a photo, others as a video, but it's hard to know which is which until after. Sure there's the 'live photo' feature (they call it motion photo), but that's a totally brief clip without sound usually.
Single Take you just pick and click. You essentially have a camera rolling for up to 10 seconds. Okay, so it's a short Vine then?
The outcome is that in the gallery you now have a 'hub' from that take.
In that hub is a collection of some stills it took, maybe one adding some special filter, then you get the video, you get a timelapse... essentially uses some AI to take from that clip what it thinks might be the best representation of it. It's really cool.
That was neat, but overall, the photos - despite being awesome, still weren't as breath-taking as I thought they could be.
Sure, great, but only about as good as my Pixel I found, and even then I give the edge to the Pixel. But, here, you at least have more lenses to play with.
So those are the features, but how does it handle?
Well, even though it has 'only 6GB of RAM, it's still more than enough, that no matter what I did with it, ther was no lag. Playing at the top end of PUBG, it handled just fine. Forced it into ALWAYS 120Hz and still just didn't blink. All thanks to that top end Snapdragon.
It just thrums along all the games and apps you're using. Now and again there may be a bit of a slower load, but it didn't seem slow (i.e. changing from one menu screen to another), it felt more like it was trying to show off the transition animation rather than it having a a tough time to compute the change.
All the while, it has a MASSIVE battery, if you thought the Pixel 5 battery was good, this is better! Really. It's just long lasting and do what you need, don't worry about it dying.
I don't think you'll get 2 days use out of it (if you're me), but for most people they should be able to easily.
Is it really worth the $1200? Well, it's definitely a nice savings from the $1650 from the nonFE model, and you can get it for free on a plan...
I think it's a great bridge between a top end flagship and a middling device. You can still play in that 'flagship' sandbox. You save a few sheckels, but you really don't sacrifice all that much (at least to the point that 99% wouldn't even notice). You gain more screen and more battery, that's easily noticeable by anybody. You lose the QuadHD and some of the lens quality on the telephoto; I don't think too many people are going to see that difference. Same with the drop in 2GB of RAM. It still hums along just fine.
Now, just how are you going to pay for it.