With the pandemic still raging and the economy battered, many consumers are likely to be tightening their purse strings.
Perhaps keeping that in mind, Samsung has delivered a ”lite” version of its flagship smartphone – the Galaxy S20 FE. This ”Fan Edition” gets an $800 price cut from the flagship S20 Ultra ($1,898) launched in March.
This means Samsung has had to shed some features from the S20 Ultra. The FE comes with 8GB of system memory instead of the 12GB found in the S20 Ultra; a lower- resolution display, at 2,400 x 1,080 pixels instead of 3,200 x 1,400 pixels; a plastic rear instead of the more durable Gorilla Glass and an optical in-display fingerprint sensor instead of an ultrasonic one.
The camera also gets a downgrade. The S20 FE features a rear triple-camera system instead of S20 Ultra’s quad-camera system, which has a high-resolution 108-megapixel (MP) wide-angle camera. The S20 FE’s telephoto camera has only a 3x optical zoom, compared with the S20 Ultra’s 4x optical zoom.
Images shot by the S20 FE are good, but not as good as those taken by the flagship model. I snap photos of a scene on the same day using both phones and find that the one taken by the S20 FE is not as sharp as the other.
But the S20 FE’s night mode feature is on a par with the flagship’s, with photos taken by both phones of the same night scene showing little difference in quality.
The S20 FE comes in six colours – blue (tested here), red, lavender, green, white and orange. The S20 Ultra is available only in grey and black.
Regardless of the colour you choose, you get a nice matte rear finish that is resistant to fingerprints and smudges. Plus, there is not much of a camera bulge at the back, unlike the flagship phones.
I also like that the S20 FE’s flat display has no curved sides, which prevents accidental touching of the screen. And, with the smaller display, one-handed usage is more deft than with giant smartphones such as the S20 Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra.
The S20 FE features Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon 865 processor and supports 5G networks, but only the Sub-6GHz bandwidth and not the mmWave bandwidth.
•Superb value for money
•Great 120Hz display
•Display has no curved sides that may trigger accidental touches
•Matte back resists smudges
•Images not as good as those taken by flagship phones
PRICE: $1,098 (128GB, version tested), $1,168 (256GB)
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (Quad-core 1.8GHz, Triple-core 2.4GHz, single-core 2.8GHz)
DISPLAY: 6.5-inch FHD+ Super Amoled, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 10
REAR CAMERAS: 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 12MP f/1.8 wide-angle, 8MP f/2.4 telephoto
FRONT CAMERA: 32MP f/2.2 (front)
MEMORY: 128GB/256GB (microSD expandable up to 1TB); 8GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 4,500mAh
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5
It is also rated at IP68, meaning that it is water-resistant to a depth of 1.5m for 30 minutes. In other words, it can withstand a drop into the pool.
The S20 FE has an optical in- display fingerprint sensor, which is supposed to be slower in recognising fingerprints than the ultrasonic one in the S20 Ultra. However, I find that the optical sensor works just as well.
On the downside, the bezels of the S20 FE display are visibly thick compared with its almost bezelless flagship cousins.
You can set the display’s refresh rate at between the standard 60Hz and the much smoother 120Hz.
Despite the lower resolution, the display still looks great, with vivid colours and sharp details. I can feel the smoothness of the 120Hz refresh rate when playing games – for example, when throwing a Pokeball in the Pokemon Go mobile game. In-game transitions also load faster.
Shooter games such as Free Fire and racing games such as Asphalt 9 also feel smooth and speedy.
Performance-wise, the S20 FE is almost on a par with the S20 Ultra. In the Geekbench 5 benchmark tests, the S20 FE chalks up 903 (singlecore) and 3,191 (multi-core). In comparison, the S20 Ultra scores 917 (single-core) and 2,769 (multi-core).
Apps launch quickly and I do not experience lags in any of the operations I try, be they mobile Web browsers or social media apps.
Packed with a battery of 4,500mAh – lower than the S20 Ultra’s 5,000mAh – the S20 FE has a battery life that is, predictably, not as good as other models’.
With the display set at the standard refresh rate of 60Hz, the S20 FE clocks 17 hours and 40 minutes – an hour less than the S20 Ultra.
Still, its battery life is better than most smartphones. After my 12-hour work day with regular checking of e-mails, Facebook and Instagram, there is still around 55 per cent of juice left.
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