You’ve seen the ads. Samsung has Korean power behind them with BTS and is not shy in displaying it to market their new Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. But does it really “light it up like dynamite” for the fans as the ad’s song emphatically proclaims?
Indeed, calling it the Fan Edition is a curious naming scheme on Samsung’s part. True fans would’ve already gotten the original S20 series when they came out earlier this year. And this isn’t necessarily for the budget-conscious as well since they have the A series for that.
But I digress. After all, names do not make a good smartphone, it is the hardware and performance that does, so we will be looking at the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE as a whole to see if it is indeed a fan’s choice.
Design and build
Those who enjoy a good variety of colour in the smartphones will like what they see in Samsung’s offering. There are five of them to choose from — Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Red, Cloud Orange, Cloud White and Cloud Navy — and they are all distinct from one another, with some looking really vivid and eye-catching; it is sure to attract some attention.
Our unit came with the Cloud Navy variant, which is probably one of the more “normal” colours out of the options but still has a nice look to it. It is deceptively dark though and more akin to black than navy.
There is a deviation for the build of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, utilising a plastic material instead of their usual glass for their S20 series. Plastic backs may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it personally is inoffensive to me as a material. It may perhaps dampen the luxurious look that the Samsung flagships are known for, but it still is plenty sturdy, and you can always place a case to mask the inferior look of its facade.
If you aren’t a case user though, be warned that you will have to do maintenance to keep up your phone’s look. While it features a nice matte textured feel, it is a haven for fingerprints and can look decidedly dirty and unsightly if you let it accumulate too much.
Samsung is synonymous for popularising the curved-edge display on smartphone screens, but curiously chose a more conservative implementation for their S20 line. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE altogether forgoes it all together instead utilises a traditional flat-screen display.
As a consequence of going back to basics for the screen, the bezels are now a lot thicker and prominent. Aesthetics-wise, it definitely doesn’t look as good as the original line-up and also seems somewhat outdated, especially considering it carries the same flagship name. Many would appreciate the return to a completely flat screen since it is less prone to breaking and doesn’t present the problem of accidental touches.
The screen’s size sits right in between the S20 and the S20+ with a 6.5-inch display. I’ve never been a fan of big phones, but the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE was relatively comfortable to use one-handed. If the S20’s 6.1-inch display is too small, but the 6.7-inch one on the S20+ is too big in your opinion, the S20 FE should be perfect for you.
Samsung has always been near the top in terms of display technology, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is no different. Despite only having a 1080p resolution, the OLED display that it uses still makes colours look brilliantly vivid on the screen.
In addition to the great visuals from the display, it also comes with a 120Hz refresh rate for a smoother experience when using the phone. As you would expect from a high refresh rate screen, the experience is a definite improvement over the usual 60Hz with web browsing and gaming looking and feeling more appealing due to the smoothness.
Samsung was still able to pack in the Snapdragon 865 processor into the phone, a high-end chipset that also gets you 5G capability. I couldn’t test out the phone’s 5G features, but it is a feature to keep in mind once 5G becomes more widely available.
The processor was, however, something that I was able to try out and it performs precisely to what you would expect out of a high-end processor.
There wasn’t any visible slow-down — which is something that mobile gamers would appreciate — even when multiple apps are running in the background. Apps were also to load up fairly quickly when being launched. Curiously, I ran into a slight issue with zooming. Pinching the screen would cause the phone to weird out on me about half the time, which can get annoying.
A small caveat has to be mentioned since the RAM for the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has been reduced to 6GB. Though that didn’t translate into any major issues that I’ve seen, it could affect certain people who are big into multi-tasking with their phone; the drop in RAM could turn out to be a step back too far to cope with that lifestyle.
The S20 Ultra went big on its cameras when released, using a quad-camera system that included a 108 MP Ultra wide-angle camera. However, cost-cutting measures have meant that the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE won’t be able to have that same set-up.
Instead, it has a three-camera set-up, with a regular 12 MP primary camera along with a telephoto and ultra-wide cameras.
If you are merely a casual phone photographer, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE should serve you well enough. Photos come out relatively sharp at a nice balanced colour for whatever shots you get with it.
However, if you are a major Instagrammer that shoots many photos and are also migrating over from a phone that has a great camera, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE wouldn’t be offering many improvements, if any. There’s a disparity that can be seen between the quality of the flagship phone cameras and this.
The battery performance for the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is great overall.
Packing in a 4500 mAh battery, I was able to garner a full day’s worth of use and still had enough juice to power through till the middle of the next day; usage consisted of doing a mixture of browsing, watching media and gaming in between. Of course, if you reduce the refresh rate back down to 60Hz, you should be able to squeeze out a little more.
Among the phone’s charging features are wireless charging and fast charging, though the latter comes with an asterisk.
Strangely, the device doesn’t come with a fast charger out of the box despite being able to support it. Instead, you are stuck with the standard 15W adapter that they give which takes slightly over an hour and a half to fully charge the phone. It’s a sneaky trick by Samsung to perhaps “encourage” you to buy their 25W adapters, and it is something that I did not appreciate.
There’s no doubt that concessions were made to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE in order to produce that attractive price, but it doesn’t seem to have an adverse effect on how the device performs. If you aren’t already a fan of Samsung phones, perhaps this will be the entry for you to become one.
Photos by Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC team.